Military News

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Air Force recruit earns coveted scarlet beret

by Annette Crawford
Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs

10/22/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Staff Sgt. Rene Ochoa is one happy recruiter, thanks to the achievements of Airman 1st Class Michael Guzman.

Guzman earned the coveted scarlet beret of a combat controller Sept.12 at Fort Bragg, N.C., after 16 months of intense military training.

"His achievement brings a welcome closure to and most importantly validation of nearly four years of hard work recruiting special ops applicants," Ochoa said. "I made one - just one operator - but this single graduate makes this four-year tour worth it."

Ochoa is an enlisted accessions recruiter in McAllen, Texas, with the 341st Recruiting Squadron.

"I've actually recruited 14 other special ops Airmen, and was my Squadron's No. 1 special ops recruiter for fiscal year 2013," he explained. "However, A1C Guzman is the only Airman of mine, to date, to make it through the entire course!"

The recruiter said Guzman was a Cross Fit champion before enlisting, so the main focus during training was swimming.

"We spent days in the pool, swimming thousands of meters, during the months leading up to his shipping out," Ochoa said.

Guzman, a native of Alamo, Texas, said the training was "definitely the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, but the end result makes it all worth it."

He added that "combat control has without a doubt some of the toughest training that the military has to offer. They're looking for quality over quantity."

With a washout rate near 90 percent, only four of the original 22 Airmen who started the class went on to earn the scarlet beret.

"I was looking for a challenge and wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself," said Guzman, a graduate of Sul Ross State University.

He is now at advanced skills training in Florida.

Blake Shelton lends voice to Air Force holiday radio program

by By Dale Eckroth
AFRS Strategic Marketing Division

10/22/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas  -- From growing up in Ada, Okla., to spending Christmas Eve with his father for the last time before his passing, country superstar Blake Shelton shares his favorite, and at times emotional, family holiday memories on this year's "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas" radio special.

Produced by Air Force Recruiting Service, the one-hour program features songs from Shelton's 2012 Christmas album "Cheers, It's Christmas." The program also gives listeners an up-close and personal glimpse into the life of the reigning Country Music Association's Entertainer and Male Vocalist of the Year, and of course, the "winningest" coach on NBC-TV's smash hit, "The Voice".

"He was just as cool as can be. He's courteous, gracious and deserving of all the success he's had," said program host Tech. Sgt. Harry Kibbe.

Kibbe interviewed Shelton at Spotland Productions in Nashville, Tenn., the same day the 2013 Country Music Association Awards were announced in September. Shelton received five nominations including their most prestigious honor, Entertainer of the Year along with nods for Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year. The CMA Awards will be broadcast live from Nashville Nov. 6.

About his childhood Christmases, Shelton recalled, "They were the greatest. It almost seems like they didn't happen now. They were so awesome. Everybody was happy. It was the perfect Christmas situation. You learn to appreciate those good times and you go out of your way to recreate that again."

There's one Christmas though that the singer holds near to his heart.

"The last Christmas Eve I spent with my dad was in the hospital room two years ago," Shelton said. "We watched a marathon of 'Dumbest Stuff on Wheels' on the Speed Channel for three hours in his hospital room. I wouldn't trade that Christmas Eve for anything because we got to spend it together."

Shelton's father passed away a few weeks later.

The singer, whose brother was killed in a car accident several years ago, credits his father for encouraging him to write a song about his brother's death. That song, "Over You" co-written with Shelton's wife and Grammy winner, Miranda Lambert, won the 2012 CMA Award for Song of the Year and is included on the "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas."

Although he's won numerous music industry awards for his chart topping hits, Shelton said he's always wanted to record a Christmas album but never got around to doing it until last year.

"Looking back, I'm glad it took this long because I was able to record a Christmas album that included other artist friends. Christmas has always been associated with friends and family and to me it made sense to have them on this record," said Shelton.
Shelton enlisted help from his mother, Dorothy Shackleford and wife, Miranda, as well as friends Reba McEntire and Michael Buble. Those duets are also included on the Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas.

Now in its 12th season, "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas" got its start 20 years ago as a holiday program called "The Gift."

"It was and still is the Air Force's gift to radio stations and their listeners to show our appreciation for all their support," said Jimmy Spacek, broadcast operations chief at Headquarters AFRS. "Country music fans have always gone out of their way to support military men and women serving around the world."

The Air Force special will be sent to more than 2,000 country stations in the United States and the American Forces Network by mid-November. The public service program, which is designed to help ease the programming load for station program directors during the holidays, includes spot breaks for stations to sell commercial time. According to Spacek, it's estimated the program generates more than $500,000 in Air Force awareness each year.

A list of artists who've appeared on the Air Force holiday shows during the past two decades reads like a virtual who's who of country music. They include Reba McEntire, George Strait, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Toby Keith, Vince Gill, Clint Black, Lee Ann Womack, LeAnn Rimes, Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum.

Participating in this year's program was an easy decision for Shelton, since his father and brother served in the military.

"Both veterans in my life have passed on," he said. "I'm an American citizen and I believe we should all be proud of our military and be proud to do anything we can to step up and help. It's not about politics. It's about what's right."

"From Kathy Mattea, our very first guest on 'The Gift' to Blake Shelton on a 'Red,White and Air Force Blue Christmas,' we've enjoyed 20 great years of support from radio and country music fans all over the world," added Spacek. "And, we look forward to producing more holiday specials to share with them for years to come."

Maj. Gen. Vander Hamm takes helm of 8th AF

by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Raughton
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

10/23/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La.  -- Maj. Gen. Scott Vander Hamm took command of Eighth Air Force Oct. 23 in a ceremony here presided over by U.S. Strategic Command commander Gen. C. Robert Kehler.

Vander Hamm, who was also promoted to the rank of major general during the ceremony, replaces Maj. Gen. Stephen Wilson.

"I want you to know what a privilege it is to serve as your commander," Vander Hamm said. "I pledge my allegiance to you, the men and women serving to create an environment where you can train and fight, and provide you with the resources to accomplish your mission. It's onward and upward for the Eighth Air Force."

Kehler expressed confidence in Vander Hamm's and 8 AF's abilities to deter adversaries and assure allies.

"There is no other air force on the face of the planet that can do the kinds of operations that are routinely performed by the Mighty Eighth," Kehler said. "This is no longer 'one size fits all' deterrence and assurance. This is tailored deterrence that is shaped specifically for an adversary; that is shaped specifically for a target audience and done with tools that include our long-range strike capabilities and those capabilities that we have come to rely on for all these years."

Eighth Air Force has a storied past as being the greatest air armada in American history. At one point, the command was able to dispatch more than 2,000 bombers and 1,000 fighters and had an end-strength of more than 200,000 Airmen, earning it the nickname, "Mighty Eighth."

Vander Hamm has picked up a legacy built by Generals Ira Eaker and Jimmy Doolittle, who also commanded the numbered Air Force, to safeguard America's interests though deterrence and global combat power.

Today, 8AF accomplishes this with the B-52 Stratofortress fleet based at the 2nd Bomb Wing here and the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, N. D., and the B-2 Spirit of the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB, Mo.

8th Air Force total force assets also include the 307th and 131st Bomb Wings.

In addition to the 8AF, Vander Hamm will also command Task Force 204, which presents worldwide strategic bomber and reconnaissance capabilities to USSTRATCOM and actively monitors force generation for bomber and reconnaissance assets, weapons stockpiles and nuclear force training. Other partner units include the 102nd Air Operations Group and 102nd Air Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base, Mass.

Vander Hamm previously served as the director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments at Headquarters Air Education and Training Command at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.

Vander Hamm was commissioned in 1986 and is a command pilot with more than 4,500 flight hours spanning four aircraft, including the B-52.

Wilson takes command of AFGSC

by Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

10/23/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La.  -- Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson took command of Air Force Global Strike Command during a ceremony here Oct. 23, 2013, becoming the newest leader of the organization responsible for the nation's force of ICBMs and nuclear-capable bombers.

Presiding at the ceremony, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said Wilson "comes from a warrior family, and now he's going to lead one."

"This command, this commander and the 26,000 Airmen he leads are trusted with two-thirds of our nation's nuclear triad," Welsh said. "What you do is provide our nation with the ability to hold any target at risk, anywhere in the world, at any time. You know that, the rest of the world knows it and that's why strategic deterrence works."

Wilson addressed his new command at Barksdale's historic Hoban Hall.

"I fully understand the importance of our nuclear and global strike mission to provide safe, secure and effective deterrence for our nation," Wilson said. "It's the Air Force's most important mission -- one we can never get wrong."

"In our business, perfection is the standard, and there's no room for incomplete knowledge or substandard performance," Wilson said.

"I am extremely proud to be your commander, and I promise to give you my best effort every day," Wilson said. "I know I can count on you to do the same."

Wilson comes to the position after serving as the Eighth Air Force commander since 2011. In that position, he oversaw and managed three bomb wings and a headquarters staff supporting more than 12,000 personnel in maintaining nuclear readiness for the bomber leg of the United States' nuclear triad.

Wilson succeeds Lt. Gen. Jim Kowalski, who has been an integral part of AFGSC since the command's beginning.

In his farewell address, Kowalski praised the Global Strike Airmen for their hard work and dedication.

"You, the Airmen of Global Strike Command, delivered," Kowalski said. "You improved readiness by 37% during a time when the rest of the Air Force was just able to hold its own. You achieved nearly a 50% reduction in outstanding security objectives. You won the General Creech award for the best aircraft maintenance of any Air Force major command. You stood up the first-ever 24/7 tactical response force alert, while pushing ICBM on-alert levels to the highest numbers since 2001. And in 2011, you led U.S. Strategic Command's first-ever combat action during Operation Odyssey Dawn, decimating the Libyan Air Force."

"It has been an incredible privilege to serve you as the Global Strike commander," Kowalski continued. "I look forward to watching all of you take this command, and our Air Force, to the next level under the leadership of General Wilson."

Kowalski will become the deputy commander at U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

Fairchild rumored to be haunted

by Airman 1st Class Sam Fogleman
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

10/22/2013 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- The 92nd and 141st Air Refueling Wing Headquarters building, known as "the White House," is widely thought to be haunted by at least one ghost.

Airmen have been known to proceed uneasily when called back to the office during the hours of darkness.

"If I ever forget something when I leave for the day, I pretty much wince when I realize I have to go back in there," said an Airman who works at the White House, preferring not to be named directly. "Once I get in there, I make sure to get out as fast as I can."

Mysterious footsteps can be heard in the hallways, computer monitors are found to be turned on when they were off beforehand and doors slam without explanation.

Fairchild's aircraft also come under ghostly influence. Tanker 58-0050, known as "Spook 50," appears to have its own unassigned personnel. Reports exist of unexplained shadows in an unoccupied cockpit and someone being in the boom pod. No one was there upon inspection. For these reasons, many Airmen prefer not to work on the aircraft.

A crew chief formerly stationed at Fairchild described hearing voices on the aircraft without any explanation. The voices were faint enough that no distinct words could be understood. However, the crew chief described that the voices were definitely human in nature. No one else was on the aircraft.

Regardless of true or imagined perspectives or opinions of the paranormal, Fairchild has certainly been the subject of many stories in its 71 years.

POTFF to help Air Commandos, families: future initiatives

by Airman 1st Class Andrea Posey
1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

10/16/2013 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Editor's note: This is the second article in a series about Preservation of the Force and Family, a special operations command initiative, and how it will help Air Commandos and their families at Hurlburt Field within the next year.

Preservation of the Force and Family is an initiative throughout the base which showcases tools and resources available to help with physical, spiritual, mental and social issues potentially found in those who work in special operations.

Within the next fiscal year, POTFF will set up teams in each special operations group, according to Sue Nelson, 1st Special Operations Wing community support coordinator.

Each group will have a resiliency team provided by POTFF with personnel to support it, Nelson said. These teams include psychological and physical providers, physical therapists and technicians, and family support coordinators for spiritual and social assistance.

Nelson said providers are placing providers in the unit, and these providers will continuously be available for walk-in appointments.

"This takes that resource and puts it in the unit because we know the help is needed," she said. "It's how you get people to have that trust and habitual relationship to where they will go seek help. That's what POTFF is doing; it's putting these people in the unit where they have day-to-day contact with these individuals."

POTFF will also have a central location, Nelson said.

"[The resiliency center] will consolidate the same programs on the active-duty side such as the family advocacy program, the chapel and the health and wellness center, with the POTFF providers to see issues within these programs and keep statistics on what type of concerns that are found," she said.

POTFF also has some standalone projects, according to Adm. William McRaven, commander of United States Special Operations Command.

"We have worked with the Department of Defense to sponsor legislative changes that will enable the Special Operations Command to accept charitable contributions to promote the resiliency of our forces and their families," he said in an email to Air Commandos. "We're engaging with academia, government agencies, and industry to identify techniques and technologies which will help to optimize the psychological, physical and social performance of SOF."

For example, next year Hurlburt Field plans to expand POTFF programs as long as funding is secured, Nelson said. Day trips for youth of deployed members, anti-bullying classes, resiliency classes for spouses and family members are on the horizon, she said.

The next article in this series will focus on a POTFF licensed clinical psychologist, and her experiences so far at Hurlburt Field.