Military News

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

First Rivet Joint delivered to the Royal Air Force

11/19/2013 - ROYAL AIR FORCE WADDINGTON, England -- The first of three RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft was officially delivered to the U.K. during a special ceremony at Royal Air Force Waddington, England, on Nov. 12.

The historic occasion is the culmination of a 2010 agreement between the Department of Defense and the U.K. Ministry of Defense for the RAF to purchase three RJs.

This first aircraft is scheduled to enter service with the 51 Squadron after it reaches full operational capability in late 2014.

"This is a fantastic day for 51 Squadron and marks the start of a new era in our long and illustrious history," said RAF Wing Commander Tom Talbot, 51 Squadron commander.

As the sole provider of Rivet Joint initial qualification training, the 55th Wing has trained more than 140 aircrew and ground maintenance personnel from the RAF since the programs initiation in 2010.

"Following three years of training and preparation with our U.S. Air Force brethren, the Rivet Joint brings with it a step change in airborne signals intelligence capability for the U.K.," Talbot said.

Upon graduation, RAF aircrews are allowed to fly on U.S. Rivet Joints as part of a co-manning agreement. Their first operational mission flown on June 21, 2011, and since then RAF crews have flown more than more than 1,800 sorties and achieved in excess of 32,000 flying hours with the Fightin' Fifty-Fifth.

"Everyone is aware of the special relationship our two countries have and it's been an absolute honor for the wing to have RAF Airmen here training with us," said Col. Gregory Guillot, 55th Wing commander. "The end result is an increase in our ISR capabilities and we are looking forward to continuing this relationship for years to come."

Known as project AIRSEEKER, the U.K.'s procurement of three Rivet Joints will provide the U.K. with world class airborne signals intelligence capability. Once in service, the aircraft will provide real time on-scene intelligence, collection, surveillance and analysis to coalition forces in the air and on the ground.

"I am delighted that the first RJ aircraft has been delivered to the U.K., an important milestone in the procurement pathway for the future AIRSEEKER signals intelligence capability for U.K. Defence," said RAF Air Vice-Marshal Peter Ewen, director air support at Defence Equipment & Support, who are responsible for the procurement of the aircraft.

"A testament to the ongoing and highly effective U.K. and U.S. co-operation in the procurement program, support and RAF aircrew training, this first of three aircraft, will form a vital component of the nation's future ISTAR capabilities," he added.

The first Rivet Joint was delivered ahead of its original planned arrival date of early 2014 as the contractor has completed the conversion ahead of schedule.

Innovation vs. Invention

by Gen Paul J. Selva
Commander, Air Mobility Command


11/19/2013 - Winter 2013/2014 -- This past October marked our twelfth year of sustained combat operations in Afghanistan. During more than a decade of war, you've proven you are part of the best trained and equipped Air Force the world has ever known. You've attained that distinction by doing things right. Doing things right includes following a disciplined approach to executing your mission such as following checklists, established procedures, policies, and guidance. However, as your commander, I challenge you not just to do things right, but to do the right things, a more difficult, but absolutely essential element of military service. Doing the right things includes making informed, deliberate decisions as we seek ways to improve mission execution. Put another way, I challenge you to work with your first line supervisors, non-commissioned officers, senior noncommissioned officers, and commanders to find new, better, more efficient ways to execute our mission. Accept only the risks you are empowered to accept, but work aggressively to find efficiency and eliminate inefficiency.

Earlier this fall during the Air Force Association's Air and Space Conference, General Welsh asked what keeps me up at night. My answer was simple: "Invention versus Innovation." My greatest worry is that, after 12 years of continuous combat operations, some Airmen have become accustomed to accepting invention as the approved way of doing business. Mishap investigation boards frequently cite inattention, complacency, and poor judgment as causal factors in accidents. The first two can get you into a bind; unfortunately poor judgment often follows as Airmen believe they need to create a new way out of trouble. Ultimately, executing tasks in a non-standard fashion or executing unapproved or "on-the-fly" techniques presents a real risk to our Airmen, our resources, and our mission. 


Over the course of the past year, we've had nine Class A mishaps. As a result, we've lost nine Airmen--five on-duty and four off-duty. These are men and women we will never get back. In some of these mishaps, the Airmen involved perceived a sense of urgency not justified by the situation, incorrectly weighed risk versus reward leading to the acceptance of risk they were not empowered to accept, and ultimately made decisions characterized by development of new, untested, "on-the-fly" techniques with devastating consequences. So, put simply, I am concerned that we have Airmen "inventing" new, untested procedures, placing themselves and their fellow Airmen at risk when it isn't necessary.


This year, Gen Welsh released our Air Force's Vision, World's Greatest Air Force - Powered by Airmen, Fueled by Innovation. In conducting your daily activities you should feel empowered to be innovators. Innovation is a deliberate process of seeking ways to do things more effectively and efficiently through informed decision making and within the margin of safety provided by Air Force policies and guidance. We need innovators, not inventors. There is a critical difference between innovation and invention. As you might have surmised, I consider invention to be creation on-the-fly--an uninformed, last minute, hurried choice that often conflicts with or willfully violates established procedures. We need all Airmen to critically evaluate their assigned tasks and missions and engage their leadership if they have a better way to get the job done.


As with most intellectual discussions, it's useful to look to a clear example for clarification. Innovation can occur anywhere as two Airmen recently proved with the KC-135. Staff Sergeants Alex Aguayo and Michael Rogers from the 6th Maintenance Squadron at MacDill AFB, FL improved an anti-corrosive paint process for KC-135 wheels. Until now, KC-135 wheels were painted and cured one side at a time--a process requiring 26 hours. Confident there was a better way, these aircraft metal technicians designed and built a 360-degree plane rotation turn table wheel stand that allows both sides of the wheel to be painted at the same time. Their design cuts a time-intensive painting and curing process in half! I believe their new design will become a KC-135 fleet benchmark very soon. 


These Airmen knew their jobs and guiding regulations through and through, but found a more efficient and effective way to get the work done. If Airmen can find innovations within a 57-year old airframe and established procedures, I am confident more Airmen will find innovations within everything we do. The Air Force needs you to be innovators. My message to you as the professional, seasoned, or aspiring experts in your craft is to always understand and adhere to AFI and TO guidance. Speak up when you need help or see room for improvement in any process. Don't invent, innovate. In this time of fiscal uncertainty, our Air Force must be able to provide capabilities our nation can afford. We need to continue to seek innovations and savings where feasible. You are the key to that process and to the continued success of our Air Force and our nation. Be safe. We cannot afford to squander our most precious resource--you!

Word Power: How Code Talkers Helped to Win Wars



By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2013 – Over the static of crackling radios and phone lines, a little-known group of dedicated Native American warriors joined the call to arms in both world wars with what would prove to be among the United States’ most powerful weapons: language.

Known as Code Talkers, Native Americans learned early on the advantages of their tribal tongues, using indecipherable messages to confuse the enemy and bring combat victory to the United States. The code talker mission remained classified for decades after World War II.

In observance of National Native American Heritage Month, the collaboration between the Defense Department’s Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity and the Smithsonian Institution recently brought “Native Words, Native Warriors” to the Pentagon for a two-day exhibit.

Developed by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the 15-panel display includes writing, images and videos depicting battlefield experiences and telling the remarkable story of a dozen tribes who offered their language in support of the U.S. military.

“The displays really tell the personal contribution that each of the Code Talkers made with each other as a team,” said Keevin Lewis, National Museum of the American Indian outreach coordinator.

“Navajo Code Talkers … created a code that was within the Navajo language -- so even another Navajo speaker would not be able to determine what was being talked about,” Lewis said.

Others tribes, he said, also coded their languages, and others used original form, though typically most languages were not written. Lewis said the U.S. government surprisingly soon recognized many native languages, despite the fact that in reservation boarding schools, many Native American children were instead encouraged to speak English.

“It's strange, but growing up as a child, I was forbidden to speak my native language at school,” said Charles Chibitty, a Comanche Code Talker with the U.S. Army. “Later, my country asked me to. My language helped win the war, and that makes me very proud -- very proud.”

According to the Smithsonian’s website, although the United States did not consider American Indians citizens until as late as 1924, the military first enlisted American Indians to relay messages in their native languages during World War I. The Navajo language, among other Native American tongues, became formalized and recognized as a program which expanded during World War II.

Soldiers from the Comanche, Meskwaki, Sioux, Crow, Hopi and Cree nations, among others, took part in the effort, said Lewis, adding that out of more than 500 tribes, each with distinct languages, about 200 to 250 dialects remain in use today.

One display video depicts the Marines, who used Navajo language to create their code in 1942. As noted in the narration, “the encoded messages proved to be a fast, accurate and indecipherable-to-the-enemy alternative, which suited the demands of the battlefield better than the painfully slow military devices that had been standard.”

The National Museum of the American Indian is one of 18 museums within the Smithsonian Institution and has affiliate locations at the Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Md., the National Museum on the mall in Washington, D.C., and in the lower Manhattan region of New York.

“To have the Smithsonian recognize this accomplishment is remarkable,” Lewis said.

Combined Resolve Reflects Post-2014 NATO Training



By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2013 – A training rotation underway at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, offers a glimpse at the direction NATO training is expected to take as the alliance concludes its mission in Afghanistan next year and implements a new strategy focused on the future.

For more than a decade, the training center has centered on preparing U.S. and European militaries for combat rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army Col. John Norris, the JMRC commander, told American Forces Press Service during a phone interview from Hohenfels, Germany.

That training focused predominantly on counterinsurgency operations, Norris said. Over time, it evolved to include stability operations and to prepare International Security Assistance Force members to train and mentor Iraqi and Afghan national security forces. But with the Iraq mission now completed and ISAF drawing down in Afghanistan, Norris said, it’s time for NATO to revamp how it trains its own forces.

So the JMRC cadre kicked off the first iteration of the new Combined Resolve series last week, reintroducing the full spectrum of combat operations into a multinational rotation for the first time in more than a decade.

“This is a paradigm shift,” Norris said. “This is now introducing our multinational partners to the post-ISAF, post-2014 environment and what is next. This rotation is clearly a pilot and example of that.”

Combined Resolve integrates armored vehicle, artillery and aviation maneuvers and other high-end operations into training that includes more than 2,200 U.S., Czech, Slovenian, Norwegian and French forces.

The U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade headquarters deployed from Vicenza, Italy, to serve as the rotational command element. A mechanized task force from the Czech Republic arrived with T-72 battle tanks, BMP-3 amphibious infantry fighting vehicles, engineer vehicles and artillery batteries. The Norwegian army deployed a mechanized task force, complete with Leopard-2 main battle tanks and other tracked vehicles, to serve as the opposing force. The Slovenians deployed about 190 members of the 10th Slovenian Mountain Regiment.

In addition, U.S. Navy SEALS and a French special operations team are supporting the rotation.

Together, they are conducting combined-arms maneuvers that Norris said had been sidelined for years due to real-world requirements that focused predominantly on lower-end operations.

“We have lost some key skill sets and operational talent to be able to do that, because it is probably one of the most difficult and challenging forms of maneuver,” he said. “To be able to synchronize all those assets -- attack aviation, fixed wing with the ground maneuver elements -- is no easy task. It is very, very difficult and very, very challenging.”

NATO defense and military leaders recognized this gap when they adopted the Connected Forces Initiative last month. Part of the NATO Forces 2020 concept, the initiative aims to enhance NATO’s overall readiness and combat effectiveness, in part through tailored and expanded training.

“What we have going on right now in Hohenfels is in fact a living example, a proof of principle on the vision of the Connected Forces Initiative,” Norris said.

With the first week of training dedicated to situational training exercises, the participants are kicking off the “force-on-force” training today.

“This is powerful,” Norris said. “It is live, it is free play and it is 24 hours. You have a live enemy, you have a live friendly, and they both want to win.”

When Combined Resolve wraps up Nov. 24, Norris said, he’s confident the participants will take home valuable lessons and insights into what’s ahead for military training.

“This represents the future of warfare and how we will fight our nation’s wars,” he said. “We will always fight in a multinational environment. That’s why this training mission, Combined Resolve, focuses on sustaining the partnerships and the interoperability we have achieved during the last 12 years of war.”

JMRC represents the perfect site to do this, not only because of its vast training opportunities, but also because of its proximity to many multinational partners, Norris said. That makes the training affordable -- a major consideration, he said, as all struggle with defense budget cuts.

The goal, Norris said, is to ensure NATO forces are prepared for the challenges they will face together post-2014.

“We want them to be compatible and interoperable so that we can all form a security blanket and work together in the future,” he said.

Thunderbirds honor fallen pilot with dedication of restored F-105 replica

by Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Public Affairs


11/19/2013 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.  -- It endured a dozen Las Vegas summers and as many cold, dry winters. More than 150 months of gusty desert wind and never-ending desert dust. It had a purpose of the highest order, but for almost 13 years, it sat unnoticed in a remote area of base property.

Its wait is finally over. The one-twelfth-scale F-105 "Thunderchief" replica, along with its memorial plaque, was officially dedicated Nov. 15 in its new location in front of the Thunderbirds hangar. Hundreds of active and former demonstration team members attended the ceremony, which honored one of their fallen comrades.

The display bears the name of Capt. Gene Devlin, a Thunderbirds pilot who lost his life in 1964, when his F-105 exploded in the skies over Hamilton AFB, Calif. About 10 years later, the red, white and blue Thunderchief model was placed on a matching, diagonal 17-foot post at Nellis' front gate.

The 600-pound structure was removed in 1999 to accommodate the realigning of base access roads. It was later replaced by a four-jet F-16 formation display, which is still mounted near the base visitors' center. Meanwhile, the F-105 replica was set aside near an old bunker, and with the frequent turnover of Thunderbirds personnel, it was forgotten.

Then, in the summer of 2012, a call came from the RED HORSE civil engineer squadron. They had found an old Thunderbirds-painted model, and they didn't know what to do with it.

Tech. Sgt. Anthony Graham, a former Thunderbirds maintenance professional, went to take a look.

"I had no idea what it was," Graham said. "I looked at it again, and I saw Captain Devlin's name on it...and it had the memorial on it."

The plaque that accompanied the model and its pillar was inscribed with words familiar to Thunderbirds past and present: "In the honor of Captain Gene Devlin, who lost his life on May 9, 1964, while serving his country as a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird. This memorial is dedicated to all whose common bond is uncommon devotion to duty."

Almost 50 years later, as a tribute to Devlin's sacrifice, the squadron's orientation for new members still includes mandatory memorization of those words. Graham had no idea the words had ever appeared anywhere outside the newcomers' training booklet, until he saw them on the memorial plaque.

"It took my breath. It honestly did," Graham said. "(I thought) why is it here? (And) how long is it going to sit here before we do something about it?"

It wasn't long before Graham remembered that one of the country's most prominent antique restorers did business less than 10 miles away from Nellis. Several phone calls later, Graham had an agreement from Rick Dale - star of History Channel's "American Restoration" - to give the model jet a much-needed makeover.

The Thunderbirds Alumni Association fronted the $10,000 cost of the restoration. The entire project was featured in an episode of the national television program in November 2012. The official dedication ceremony was put on hold for a year to accommodate the 2013 TBAA reunion, which celebrated the Thunderbirds 60th anniversary year.

Devlin's widow, Shirley Buckley, and their three sons were the guests of honor at the ceremony. Mark Devlin, who was two years old in 1964, doesn't remember his father at all. For him, the legacy of the F-105 model is an important aspect of his pieced-together image of his dad.

"The level of respect even the new team members have for my father and all the ones who flew before them is just so impressive," Mark Devlin said. "I've always been extremely proud of my dad. This just kind of cements everything."

Airmen return from Brazilian-led CRUZEX exercise

by Capt. Justin Brockhoff
12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs


11/19/2013 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS)  -- Airmen and Air National Guardsmen participated in Cruzeiro do Sul, a Brazilian-hosted air force exercise testing air-to-air maneuvers, mission planning, airdrop operations, and search and rescue skills, Nov. 4-15 in Brazil.

In all, more than 150 Airmen, six F-16 Fighting Falcons, and a KC-135 Statotanker deployed to air bases Natal and Recife for the exercise, commonly referred to as CRUZEX.

The U.S. participants joined more than 2,000 military members from Canada and multiple South American countries where participants worked to promote interoperability in support of multinational operations.

The U.S.'s F-16 fighters flew 53 sorties during the event and KC-135 tankers flew another eight sorties to refuel the fighters in the air. In addition, two U.S. Air Force pararescue members conducted 10 parachute jumps along with Brazilian and Canadian airmen, and a U.S. MC-130 Combat Talon pilot was able to ride with other nation's mobility aircrews to exchange best practices in airlift and airdrop operations.

"CRUZEX was a fantastic opportunity for our Airmen from start to finish," said Col. Keith Colmer, the 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Air National Guard adviser, who served as the U.S. detachment commander at CRUZEX. "Not only did we get to use this as a training event for our U.S. participants, but more importantly we got to work alongside other air forces in a way that builds partnerships and makes us all better at what we do."

The participating nations trained alongside each other in fictitious scenarios to prepare for potential events across the world. These internationally-sanctioned actions might include supporting peacekeeping and stability operations, supporting civilian authorities during humanitarian response operations and assisting coalition neighbors in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

"The purpose of (participating) with other countries is to learn different techniques and expand our knowledge as well as theirs," said Capt. Kyle, a U.S. Air Force combat rescue officer that participated in the parachute jumps with other pararescue experts. "We can all learn something from each other."

CRUZEX also helps increase unit readiness by giving the U.S. participants the opportunity to deploy away from the U.S., operate in an unfamiliar location, and redeploy home once the exercise has concluded.

"This event is valuable to our Airmen in so many ways," Colmer said. "Each participating nation brings unique experiences to the table that are equally valuable to the success of CRUZEX. All of our Airmen are coming home with a few more friends and some valuable lessons learned."

(Senior Airman Camilla Elizeu contributed to this report.)

Global Strike commander visits China: Talks nuclear deterrence, bilateral cooperation

by Kate Blais
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs


11/19/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- In an effort to help foster Chinese-U.S. communication and mutual understanding, Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, attended the Fifth Annual Conference on China-U.S. Security Relations and Cooperation in Beijing, Nov. 13-14.

Wilson, the first operational commander from the U.S. military to participate in the conference, spoke to conference attendees, providing an Airman's perspective on nuclear deterrence and to communicate the importance of relationships between the two nations.

"We no longer live in the Cold War. As a result, the security environment has changed and so has deterrence," Wilson said. "The fundamental role of American nuclear weapons is to prevent nuclear attack on the United States, its allies and partners. Our goal is to create the conditions in which nuclear weapons are never used by U.S. adversaries or by the United States.

"As we continue to develop our bilateral relationship, including the military-to-military aspect, it is important that we find ways to build trust, reduce risk of miscalculation, and manage friction between our forces," he added.

The president and Air Force leadership have expressed how vital ongoing Chinese-U.S. dialogue is to strategic stability for both nations.

In a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this past summer, President Obama said he believes "both of us agree that continuous and candid and constructive conversation and communication is critically important to shaping our relationship for years to come."

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III met with People's Liberation Army military leaders in September, saying that opening up lines of communication with China is good for the United States.

"My biggest takeaway was I think we can communicate -- we can cooperate in a way that helps prevent misinformation and miscommunication (and) accidental confrontation," Welsh said to the Defense Writers Group Nov. 13. "There are opportunities to continue that kind of engagement. Any step forward is a good step right now."

The Global Strike commander, accompanied by Dirk Deverill, AFGSC political advisor, was invited to attend and speak at the conference by Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation.

"The China Institute of International Studies and Stanford's CISAC have hosted this conference over the years to bring together experts from both countries to discuss political and military issues in an academic setting," Deverill said.

In addition to discussing strategic deterrence, Wilson highlighted the command's efforts toward safe, secure and effective oversight of the nuclear mission. He noted both nations have a strong tradition of maintaining positive control of nuclear forces. However, he encouraged Chinese officials to share information on the measures they are developing to ensure positive control of their road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear submarine program.

Wilson said he appreciated his opportunity to engage on behalf of AFGSC and the American nuclear enterprise, experiencing two-way U.S.-Chinese dialogue first hand.

"I think our time interacting and collaborating with Chinese officials served as a productive platform for future discussions regarding strategic stability," Wilson said. "I sincerely appreciate the hospitality of our hosts and the invitation to participate."

He continued, "The United States is committed to maintaining strategic stability in our U.S.-China relationship, and supports dialogue on nuclear affairs aimed at building strategic trust and fostering a more stable and resilient security relationship. My sincere hope is this trip will contribute to the strengthening and deepening of U.S.-China relations."

Recovery Effort Takes on Great Energy, Task Force Commander Says




By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2013 – The goal of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines engaged in areas of the Philippines devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan is to restore normalcy to people’s lives, the commander of the U.S. military task force contributing to the relief effort said this morning.

The task force was officially activated yesterday to lead humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in support of the Philippine government.

“Our short-term goals are literally to get relief supplies to the Philippine people,” Wissler said. “We want to restore some normalcy in their lives, and what that particularly means is food, water and shelter.”

The general noted that numerous organizations are taking part.

“The recovery effort has taken on a great energy over the last two days and has shown a great infusion of Philippine military, government of the Philippines, international aid and [U.S. Agency for International Development] organization support through the ongoing operation.”

The general said the devastation wrought by the super typhoon looked to him as if an F5 tornado 60 miles wide tore through a great swath of the islands of Samar, Leyte and Cebu. Such destruction, he said, would have been difficult for any country to overcome.

“But the resilience of the Philippine people and the coordination of both the Philippine government with the U.S. military joint force that’s here, and also with the international and USAID organizations, is making a great difference every day,” Wissler said. “It’s saved lives.”

According to the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, 3,982 people have died, 18,266 have been injured, and 1,602 are missing as a result of the typhoon.

Wissler said 13,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are engaged in the relief effort. Troops have delivered 1,300 tons of relief supplies, logged nearly 1,000 flight hours moving 1,200 relief workers into Tacloban, and airlifted more than 8,000 survivors out of affected areas.

Wissler said U.S. service members have made a difference in the Philippines by going into the devastated areas, living very austere lives of their own and working exhaustively long hours to aid those who have been traumatized by the storm.

“They have assisted many injured and elderly onto aircraft so they could be evacuated from the heart of the disaster,” the general said, “and they’ve taken it on themselves to assist in local neighborhoods with the distribution of food and water and assessing how we can make lives better here in the Philippines.”

Relief efforts also are going well on the ground, Wissler said.

“We’d begun an air bridge between Manila and the city of Tacloban that had initiated a significant surge in the relief supplies,” the general explained. “From Tacloban we’ve pushed supplies to other areas, Ormoc and Guiuan, and from there … to people outside those major hubs, in a hub-and-spoke system that has worked very well.”

He said the World Food Program has performed significant work in reestablishing sea- and ground-based lines of communication and distributing food assets so the military forces could eliminate their early reliance on the air bridge between Manila and Tacloban.

“The use of aviation assets to deliver large amounts of supplies, while effective in time, is inefficient in quantity,” Wissler said, “and their ability to mobilize commercial trucks, ships and other capabilities in order to provide this has allowed them to provide great support to the people of the Philippines.”

The general said the biggest challenge facing the Philippine people is not the relief effort, which is going well, but rebuilding.

“The long, ongoing reconstruction is already beginning,” Wissler said, “with great planning by the Philippine government and with aid and assistance from the United States government and many other governments across the world, as well as international organizations that are bringing aid and support to begin that effort.”

Don’t Grab That! A Mishap of Atomic Proportion

by Kim Brumley
Staff Writer


11/19/2013 - Winter 2013/2014 -- The year was 1958 and the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a fierce arms race in the midst of the cold war. As tensions escalated between the two global superpowers, everyone hoped for the best but prepared for the worst. In preparation, the United States not only amped up weapons at home, but they reinforced training and defense with British allies as well.

On the 11th of March, a crew consisting of pilot Capt Earl Koehler, co-pilot Capt Charles Woodruff, navigator/bombardier Capt Bruce Kulka, and crew chief Sgt Robert Screptock took off from Hunter Air Force Base in a B-47 en route to Bruntingthorpe Air Base in England for training exercises. Due to the potential looming crisis, this was not just any training exercise - it was a nuclear weapons training exercise, so a Mark 6 30-kiloton fission bomb was onboard.

Shortly into flight, the crew received an alert that there was a problem in the bomb bay area, and Capt Bruce Kulka worked his way to the back to investigate. He quickly realized the problem was with the locking pin, but the captain had difficulty pinpointing its exact location. After a 12-minute search, he realized the locking pin had to be somewhere above the device, but as a man of short stature, Capt Kulka was not able to see over the bomb. In an ill-fated move, the captain decided to climb high enough to get a good look, but in the process accidently grabbed the emergency release as a hand-hold. When Capt Kulka pulled the release, he and the three-ton bomb dropped down on the bay doors. Seconds later, the doors burst open, sending the bomb plummeting to earth. Kulka narrowly escaped sliding out after the bomb but managed to grab hold of something and pull himself back to safety.

The bomb struck the ground close to a farmhouse in Mars Bluff, North Carolina, leaving a 70-foot wide, 35-foot deep crater in its wake. The blast virtually destroyed the house, but all six individuals in close proximity miraculously survived with only minor injuries.
So how did the bomb not destroy all of North Carolina and its inhabitants? The nuclear core was not housed in the device due to Air Force standard procedure for transporting. Instead, it was stored onboard separately in the "birdcage." This mishap is a prime example of why standard procedures are in place. In this case, that one procedure prevented thousands of potential fatalities.

Not knowing the extent of the damage, the plane immediately circled back after the accidental drop to take aerial photos--yet another procedure. The crew continued to follow procedures by attempting to notify Hunter Air Force Base. There had never been a similar incident, so the base didn't recognize the coded transmission from the aircraft. But Hunter had to be immediately notified, so Capt Koehler radioed the closest airport in Florence, South Carolina, and asked on-duty personnel to call Hunter and let them know that "aircraft 53-1876A had lost a device."

In the meantime, help had arrived on the scene for the Gregg family: Mr. and Mrs. Gregg, their children Walter Jr., and Effie, and a young cousin named Ella Davies. Ella had gone to play with her cousins after school and was hit by debris from the playhouse. As a result, she required 31 stitches and was the only individual hospitalized due to the incident.

In an interview many years later, Ella reflected back on the events of that day. She said, "When the thing fell, I remember hearing it, it was the whistle of the bomb coming down. I thought it was an airplane or jet flying over."

When the incident occurred, the Gregg family had no idea what had happened, but because of all the media attention from the Cold War crisis, they assumed the farm had just been bombed by the Russians. It wasn't until the next day, that they discovered what had actually happened.

"After I left the hospital," recalls Ella, "the General from Shaw Air Force Base, where the plane was held, came over and visited. He had a book and doll for me. He sat around and talked with the family. He was there as a concerned person."

"At the time, we were all just glad to be alive and went on with our lives." Ella said. "I did a shoot 22 years later with a documentary crew, and I remember being amazed at how bitter my cousins were, whereas I walked away without any long-term effects except this amusing story. It was just something that happened."

The most important outcome of this mishap is that everyone involved did walk away. Since 1958, there have been many changes to policies and procedures. Planes have been outdated or upgraded, and what is commonly transported by AMC has greatly changed since the Cold War. Today, AMC transports cargo either at home or somewhere around the globe on a daily basis. So, if you happen to be onboard and have to go into the cargo bay in-flight, watch what you grab hold of so you don't have a mishap of atomic proportion.

***

The Florence Museum of Art, Science, and History, only a short distance from Mars Bluff, houses a large collection of photos, memorabilia, and articles from the incident. More information can be found at www.roadsideamerica.com/story/16444 or by visiting the museum located at 558 Spruce Street, Florence, South Carolina.

Training pays off as New York Guard sergeant aids building collapse victims

Click photo for screen-resolution imageBy Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Drumsta
New York National Guard

CAMP SMITH, N.Y. (11/19/13) - A New York Army National Guard Soldier and police officer credits his military training for helping him save the victim of a building collapse in 2011.

"Being in the military, being calm, cool and collected definitely helped," said Sgt. Martin Gonzalez, recounting the day that he and other officers gave first aid to Tariq Mohmood Guja and helped extricate him from under some fallen roof trusses. "In the Army you're trained to go toward the fight. That's what we did that day."

For his actions, Gonzalez was awarded the New York State Medal of Valor in a ceremony here on Nov. 17. Now a Fallsburg, N.Y., police officer, Gonzalez was working as police officer for the village of Liberty, N.Y. when the structure - a gas station under construction -- collapsed on the afternoon of Oct. 15, 2011.

It was very windy that day, and he saw them putting up the trusses when he drove by the site in the morning, said Gonzalez, a member of the 727th Military Police Detachment and resident of Woodburn, N.Y.

"I thought, 'it's a little windy to be doing that today," he recalled.

That afternoon, a person came into the lobby and told them that the gas station, which was about a block away, had collapsed, Gonzalez recalled. Though he didn't quite believe it, he and his fellow officer Devin Brust headed off on foot to investigate.

On the way, they saw a panicky construction worker running toward them, screaming, "My friends! My friends!" Gonzalez said.

"At that point I said, 'holy cow,' this is real," he recalled. The sight that greeted them when they arrived was "a disaster," he added.

"It was horrible," he recalled. "The building trusses were collapsed into the building itself." A construction worker told them the location of two people trapped under the wooden trusses, and he and Brust entered through a window.

They found Guja, the gas station owner, and Franco Suquilanda, a construction worker, trapped under the timber, Gonzalez recalled. Guja was bleeding heavily from a large gash on his forehead, and Gonzalez immediately thought, "without our help, they're not going to survive."

Guja was also in great pain and couldn't open his eyes because of his wound, Gonzalez said. As he and Brust crouched next to him in the closet-like space, Guja grabbed at his arms, moaned and asked if he was going to die, he recalled.

Gonzalez is an Army Combat Lifesaver -- a non-medical Soldier trained to provide life-saving measures as a secondary duty if primary or combat missions allow. He responded with these skills, used Guja's shirt to apply direct pressure to his wound, checked his pulse and breathing and reassured him.

"We were doing what I learned in that class," Gonzalez said.

Liberty Police Department Sgt. Scott McAfee arrived and began coordinating medical and other emergency aid, Gonzalez recalled, while Brust prevented other construction workers from trying to free Suquilanda.

As they worked, a broken window frame swayed dangerously over their heads, Gonzalez said.

"It seemed ready to fall down," he recalled. "It was windy, and it was moving back and forth over us."
Firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) arrived about 10 minutes later and took over first aid, Gonzalez said. Brust used a chainsaw to clear away beams so the EMTs would have room to move Guja to a stretcher, and both victims were flown to a hospital, he added.

About six months later he ran into Guja, who was still recovering, Gonzalez said. Though Guja didn't remember what happened, he was very grateful for the officers' help, he added.

The village of Liberty later gave their Meritorious Service Award to Gonzalez, Brust and McAfee.
Col. Reginald Sanders, commander of the 369th Sustainment Brigade, presented the New York State Medal of Valor to Gonzalez. The Medal of Valor is presented for acts of "valor, heroism, courage or gallantry" in either a civilian or a military capacity, and is the highest state award a member of the National Guard can receive.

Sanders and Gonzalez's fellow soldiers applauded him at the ceremony. He responded humbly, saying that Soldiers are a different breed who put others first.

"The desire to serve our community courses through our blood," Gonzalez remarked at the ceremony. "I don't consider what I did that day special. I responded to a call for help and I acted."

He advised his fellow Soldiers to rely on their training, trust their judgment, never give up, never give in and always fight.

"The Army gave us the skills to succeed, we always have the courage to get the job done," Gonzalez said.