Friday, November 22, 2013

Maintainers corral FOD at Texas rodeo

by Tech Sgt. Carlos J. Trevino
433rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

11/19/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-Lackland -- "This is a competition, don't miss anything," Col. Jeffrey T. Pennington, 433rd Airlift Wing commander, told maintainers Nov. 16 in a huddle-like briefing before starting the Foreign Object Damage and Dropped Object Prevention Rodeo.

Maintainers from the 433rd Airlift Wing's maintenance and aircraft maintenance squadrons were selected to participate on 15 five-man teams to search for and annotate discrepancies on three C-5A Galaxy Aircrafts. Teams that placed, first, second and third-place were recognized at an awards ceremony on Nov.17.

The rodeo was part of a three day stand down to prepare for a follow up inspection in February 2014.

"The goal is to instill pride. This rodeo brings to their attention all of the different things that need to be looked at every day," Col. Charles Combs, 433rd Maintenance Group commander.

"This is practical, and it reinforces the points more than sitting in a classroom. Because many of us are traditional reservists, we don't get the enough exposure to maintain the proficiency," he said.

Since teams were composed of Airmen from different units, communication was very important. "We communicated very well. I picked up a few tips from their systems, said Tech. Sgt. Arthur Flores, 433rd AMXS. This was fun and needs to be done quarterly to get everyone involved. It was a team effort. It brings everybody together."

Like at any western rodeo, there was a barbeque, AMXS and MXS leadership cooked burgers and hot dogs over a mesquite fire in the fuel cell after the rodeo.

The participants had the chance to eat at picnic tables with their new friends and their shops, a rare treat on a UTA weekend.

"This is great for morale. It gives us a chance to talk outside of a maintenance atmosphere," said Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Campbell from MXS.

"This is a healthy competition. You have 15 teams of Airman, and everybody wants to be the best," Campbell said.

On Sunday, the last day of the stand down, there was a wing wide FOD walk with over 300 participants.

While it may seem like a meaningless stroll on a humid morning on the flight line, FOD walks are an important part of the mission to provide combat ready forces.

"FOD management is everyone's responsibility," Combs said.

"The smallest piece of FOD can cause damage equipment, cause personal injury, or worse, cause an aircraft to crash," he said.

"A five-cent washer can lodge itself into the throttle linkage and bring a jet down. That's why we conduct weekly FOD walks," the colonel said.

"Some people say it's a huge waste of time and money to do these sweeps, but if it will save a million dollar engine, then it's worth it," Combs said.

After the walk, Pennington spoke with the maintainers about the future of the wing.

At the conclusion of his remarks, Col. Aaron Vangelisti, the wing's vice commander and FOD program manager was on hand to present the awards for the FOD and DOP Rodeo.

"FOD and DOP are important. It's important that every single one of you pay attention to every single detail and piece of work you do on that aircraft," he said.

"I need you to give your very best every time you go out there," Pennington said encouragingly, at the end of the rodeo. "I'm proud of you and I am proud of your leadership"

Youngstown to lose planes, people with AF structure changes

by Master Sgt. Bob Barko Jr.
910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

11/20/2013 - YOUNGSTOWN AIR RESERVE STATION, Ohio -- The 910th Airlift Wing here will lose four aircraft and approximately 50 full time and 150 part-time positions during Fiscal Year 2014 as a result of Air Force structure changes.

On Oct.1, the wing permanently transferred two C-130s to training facility at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., leaving the wing with 10 primary inventory aircraft.

Two additional aircraft are scheduled to transfer out by March 31, reducing the wing's aircraft inventory to eight C-130s. The air wing will also lose approximately 50 full-time and 150 part-time positions associated with the reduction of the permanent aircraft inventory. The position reductions will take place throughout the fiscal year which ends September 30, 2014. The eight remaining aircraft include six C-130s modified to carry out the Department of Defense's only large-area, fixed-wing aerial spray mission.

Col. James Dignan, 910th Airlift Wing commander, said while the wing could not control changes to the Air Force structure; the unit would make every effort to keep its personnel informed about what the future could hold for them.

"We will do everything possible to let our Citizen Airmen and DOD civilians know what changes lie ahead and how they will be affected," said Dignan. "We will assist in any way we can to make these transitions as painless as possible in these uncertain times."

In addition, the commander said the 910th would do everything possible to keep people in the valley and beyond informed about the mission and capabilities the air wing and installation provide to the nation.

"We have a duty to the American people and Congress to keep them informed about how tax dollars are spent here. We have many assets unique to our installation and we will continue to spread the word about what the 910th and YARS provides to the national defense," Dignan said.

Back-to-School Guide Aids Service Members, Veterans With Brain Injuries

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

Silver Spring , Nov. 21, 2013 – Reading, writing and arithmetic might be easier for some people than others, but for service members and veterans with traumatic brain injuries, returning to school can be challenging.

Whether it’s attending college, technical school or honing skills to re-enter the workplace, service members and veterans now have access to a comprehensive guide that covers topics from A to Z to help them go back to school, said Public Health Service Lt. Cmdr. Cathleen Shields, acting director of education at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.

Recently developed and released by the center, “Back to School: A Guide to Academic Success After Traumatic Brain Injury,” is now available for the spring semester, Shields said.

“The idea of going back to school is not easy for anybody. We find it’s harder for service members, [if they have] been deployed, because reacclimation is difficult,” she said, adding that suffering from TBI symptoms adds another layer to what can already be a daunting experience.

Shields said TBI symptoms can involve cognitive or thinking impairment, and attention and memory issues, so becoming distracted can be easy when trying to focus in school. TBI also can cause physiological symptoms, she said, such as headaches and sleep issues that can hamper school success.

Such symptoms shouldn’t be ignored, Shields said.

“Talk to your health-care team and your [school] adviser. Learn to be an advocate for yourself,” she said. Shields also noted that section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act mandates that “reasonable accommodations” must be made to help students in school. Most universities also offer veterans’ programs for support, she said.

The impetus for the guide began with service members returning home with TBIs who wanted to take advantage of their education benefits, Shields said, but had difficulty concentrating and organizing a successful return-to-school venture. The center wanted to create a guide that would empower service members and veterans with TBIs when they return to school, Shields said.

A panel was organized to develop the guide, comprising occupational therapists, speech pathologists, neuropsychologists, educators, psychological health specialists and members of academia, in addition to veterans who sustained TBIs and returned from deployments to take on the task of going back to school, Shields said. The Department of Veterans Affairs, she added, also was instrumental in its input for the guide.

Within a year, what began as a pamphlet for returning students grew to a booklet of more than 50 pages, conveniently organized into self-sustaining sections for ease of use, Shields said.

While print copies are available with tabs that divide sections, an electronic version can be downloaded at the center’s website.

“This is something that’s ideal for smartphones and tablets, which most people use nowadays,” Shields said of the download. The guide is “thoughtfully organized,” she said, with a checklist in one of the first sections of things that need to be taken care of when preparing to re-enter school.

“You don’t start school tomorrow -- you have to prepare [and coordinate factors such as] benefits,” Shields said, adding that those with TBIs should also ensure the time is right to re-enter school.

“Take a good look at yourself and ask, ‘Am I going to be able to do this? Am I ready -- knowing what’s going on with me? How do I prepare for this?’” Shields said.

The guide offers a section on how to get started, and how to stay on track to make returning to school a positive experience, she said.

“We wanted to give a lot of good information,” Shields said. “And this is a way to help service members and veterans meet success in school.”

New Zealand, United States Airmen collaborate on small part with big impact; get United States C-17 mission-ready

by Senior Master Sgt. Denise Johnson
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

11/20/2013 - OHAKEA, New Zealand  -- Royal New Zealand Air Force Airmen fabricated a 4-inch metal plate to repair a malfunction on a United States Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at RNZAF Base Ohakea here Nov. 15 during Exercise Kiwi Flag.

The auxiliary power unit inlet door target sensor was faulty which was causing a warning light to illuminate during preflight checks. The fault grounded one of the two C-17s deployed to New Zealand in support of Kiwi Flag and its overarching exercise, Southern Katipo.

"It's one small part with big repercussions," said Master Sgt. Adam Keele, 517th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron production superintendent. "We had to find a fix fast or wait for a part to be shipped from overseas, so we reached out to our Kiwi counterparts."

Keele, a Victor, Montana, native, reached out to a RNZAF liaison for assistance in contacting the local RNZAF Maintenance Support Squadron.

Corporal Gene Angus, RNZAF aircraft technician in the squadron's structural repair bay, was first to greet the American maintainer, "Sergeant Keele came over last night with one of our warrant officers and asked if we might be able to help out by fabricating this part," Angus explained. "We were happy to help out, so we began our research when they left."

The structural team stayed after hours to determine whether or not the fabrication was feasible. The following morning two U.S. Airmen delivered a technical drawing of the part.

"They handed us the paper and told us, 'This is what we actually want.' We looked over the specifications and told them it wouldn't be a problem to come up with a plan ... so we went to work," Angus said.

The RNZAF technician consulted RNZAF Leading Aircraftsman, Karl Waiariki, also from the structural repair bay. The two compared the specifications with the materials they had in-stock, determining they could fabricate the part with a slight difference in the grade of metal.

"We looked up the ultimate tensile strength; the technical drawing called for 155,000 PSI. The stock material we used, 301 half-hard stainless steel, is rated at 150,000 PSI, so it's not much difference at all -- though it still required an engineer to sign-off on [the disparity]," Waiaraki said.

The grade of steel indicates the different heat treatments which result in different temper states.

"It's my responsibility to make sure we maintain the integrity of the maintenance done on the aircraft," Keele said. "The difference, though nominal, had to be approved by an engineer from Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer."

Keele went to work on the approval process, while the RNZAF Airmen went to work building the part.

Waiaraki said he used a radius gauge to make sure he created an exact 5-degree angle ... "that had to be precise so we did a bit of maths to find the dimensions because the radius of the bend affects the length," he explained. "You're measuring the outside of the radiuses; you can't just put that number in and bend it -- you have to make it bigger or smaller depending on how you bend it, so you do the maths to figure it out."

The minimum bend radius came out to 160,000 according to Waiaraki's calculations. When he applied the part's technical specifications to the math equation, he got 170,000, a safe level above the minimum.

"You can't go any tighter than that because you'll be in danger of fatigue cracking," he said.

With the research, measurements and material collected, the RNZAF crafted the critical piece of metal into a new APU inlet door sensor target in less than 2 hours.

"We knew the part was ready, so all we needed was the engineer approval -- which was in-work," Keele said.

Keele walked through the same doors less than 24 hours after his first visit to the structural repair bay to pick up the newly-crafted part, engineer approval safely in-hand.

"We'll have this part in before the morning and be up and running again," Keele said. "We couldn't have done it without these guys -- it's one of the benefits of exercises like these: we build relationships and learn who has what capability and how we can benefit one another. We also develop a deeper respect and appreciation for our fellow service members ... I think we will all take a lot away from Kiwi Flag, including some newfound friendships."

Waiaraki, who typically works on Iroquois helicopters, C-130 Hercules' and P-3 Orions, said he embraced the opportunity to work on the C-17 and to develop his skills further.

"I didn't think I'd get to touch any foreign aircraft when this exercise started," he said. "I certainly didn't expect anything like this, but it's standard for this bay: we're happy to step up to anything that comes our way and give it go. We can only get better by interacting with fellow professionals and overcoming challenges together."

Kiwi Flag is a multilateral RZNAF-sponsored tactical airlift exercise conducted annually in New Zealand. Service members from the USAF, RNZAF, Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Singapore Armed Forces and French Armed Forces of New Caledonia are participating. Air operations will be conducted out of RNZAF Base Ohakea, New Zealand. Kiwi Flag personnel will provide air support to Exercise Southern Katipo, New Zealand Defence Force's largest-ever multilateral joint force amphibious exercise with eight other nations participating: United States Army and Marines, Australia, Canada, France, Malaysia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.

"We are just glad to help out in any way we can," Angus said. "It shows we can support one another when called upon and that's what exercises like Kiwi Flag are all about. It's a win-win."

AMC takes PII breaches seriously

by Master Sgt. Kimberly Spinner
Air Mobility Command

11/21/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- Recently, 42 Air Mobility Command personnel suffered the consequences of incorrectly storing or transmitting personally identifiable information over the Air Force Network.

"All Airmen are responsible for the safe storage and transmittal of PII," said Gen. Paul Selva, Air Mobility Command commander. "These latest breaches have the potential to significantly impact our Airmen personally and professionally and ultimately our mission."

A PII breach is a loss of control, compromise, unauthorized disclosure, acquisition or access where persons other than authorized users have access or potential access to physical or electronic PII.

Those who inappropriately store and transmit personally identifiable information over the Air Force network are now, at a minimum, locked out of their AFNET accounts until information protection training is re-accomplished.

"Beginning Oct. 24, we began locking out the AFNET account of individuals who were found to be inappropriately transmitting PII data via the AFNET," explained Maj. Gen. J. Kevin McLaughlin, 24th Air Force and Air Forces Cyber commander." A violator's account will only be unlocked once the first O-6 in their chain of command certifies that the individual has accomplished all necessary actions, to include remedial training."

PII can include but is not limited to information such as a name, address, social security number, medical record, financial record, or any other data that can be used directly to identify, contact or locate a person.

"Protecting our fellow Airmen's PII is critical to our mobility mission and our Air Force," said Selva. "It takes just one distracted Airman who's had their personal information compromised to potentially jeopardize a mission."

The Privacy Act authorizes both civil and criminal penalties for individual violations of the statute. In addition, a PII violation of AFI 33-332 could result in administrative action, nonjudicial punishment or court-martial under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Installation privacy managers and the appointed inquiry official will conduct a legal review with the installation judge advocate general to determine if disciplinary action or a further criminal investigation is warranted. Ultimately, disciplinary actions are at the discretion of the unit commander where the breach occurred.

To avoid a breach, items such as performance reports, rosters, orders, or travel vouchers should not be stored in an area that could result in loss or theft of the information. Do not place PII on public websites or SharePoint. All emails that containing PII must be encrypted and include the FOUO statement. And finally, emails containing PII should not be sent to non .mil email accounts.

Protect PII and your wingmen.

Comm: Wired for war

by Senior Airman Siuta B. Ika
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

11/20/2013 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- For some, defending the base means donning 'battle rattle' and arming up with an M-4 rifle before heading out to the installation's perimeter.

But for members of one Team Osan squadron, whose tools of war include network-administrator rights and some of the most advanced pieces of equipment in the Air Force inventory, defending the base means ensuring that all of its communications assets remain up and running.

While some people may only see the client support teams that are dispatched throughout the base to deal with inoperable phones or computers, 51st Communications Squadron members are also working in the background in the network control center, comm focal point, and land mobile radio maintenance center, in addition to supporting the bases' information assurance, communication security, records, publications and forms programs.

"We are data transport providers - everything from airfield systems, weather systems, radar, to email and server security," said Maj. Scott Jensen, 51st CS director of operations. "Also, a lot of people don't think about Postal when they think comm squadron, but they are an interval part of our organization. So basically if there's a way to send a message from 'point A' to 'point B' we handle it."

The 51st CS not only enables 51st Fighter Wing units to accomplish its mission, but also provides support for 7th Air Force, the U.S. Army, and several other tenant units on Osan and throughout the peninsula.

Additionally, when exercises like Operational Readiness Exercise Beverly Bulldog 14-01 kicks off, the squadron's very own security team - the Installation Arming and Response Team - stands up to defend the comm building and all of its assets.

"This unit has done a lot of things very successfully for a very long time, and I'm proud to be part of the 51st FW and the 51st CS," Jensen said. "We're still growing with the new network constructs and the global constructs, but we're still going to do whatever it takes to take care of the mission so that folks can do their jobs. We are enablers, but in a down and dirty sense, we like to consider ourselves wired for war and ready to go take it to the enemy."

Army, Air Force come together during BB 14-01

by Senior Airman Siuta B. Ika
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

11/20/2013 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- For the first time during an operational readiness exercise here, the Army's 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade teamed up with 51st Fighter Wing and 7th Air Force units during ORE Beverly Bulldog 14-01 Nov. 15-21.

Army Col. Thomas Nguyen, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade commander, said his soldiers bring a unique capability to the fight.

"Day in and day out, you see our soldiers amongst you," he said. "We take pride in our ability to provide you a defensive umbrella against asymmetrical attacks from theater ballistic missiles to enable 51st FW and 7th AF the ability to generate air combat power. In addition to defending TBM threats, we have the ability to help defend the base from ground attacks."

Nguyen also said the 35th ADA Brigade is proud to fight alongside the men and women of the 51st FW.

"We have an unstoppable team here that's ready to deter, defend, and if necessary, defeat our enemy," Nguyen said. "From 'Readiness Radio' to the fighter jets working around the clock, to security forces neutralizing ground threats, I'm proud of what you are doing. I'm proud of what you have done and proud of what you will do to prepare us to fight tonight."

Exercising as a team is the only way Team Osan can truly be ready to fight tonight, said Air Force Col. Brook Leonard, 51st FW commander.

"You play like you practice, so what we wanted to do here is work on our combined skills to get after our number one priority, which is to be ready to defend the base and our Korean hosts against all conceivable threats," Leonard said. "The only way we can be successful is if we are at full strength, which means every Team Osan member doing their part to the best of their ability. We have a very important job here and are all very fortunate to be part of a great team."

Sentry Flying at Night

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Joe Chignola
962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron

11/20/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- With the onset of winter and the longer periods of darkness that accompany it, the 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron has begun preparing for low-light and nighttime operations. The E-3 Sentry fleet at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson must be prepared to launch on short notice at any hour of the day to accomplish its command-and-control mission.

"Because of the inherent risks of night flying, our regulations are more restrictive when it comes to night operations," said Air Force Capt. Joshua Izakson, 962nd AACS instructor pilot. "But [night flying] also presents us with opportunities for currency and training under challenging circumstances."

The E-3 Sentry flight crews are trained to recognize and mitigate threats common to nighttime flying. One danger to overcome is the threat of the "black hole effect," where otherwise competent pilots can land short of the runway due to a visual illusion and lack of perceptual cues.

Night time spatial disorientation is also a challenge to overcome. Keeping an eye on the aircraft's instruments can keep a pilot clued in to their relative position to the ground and other objects.

"We train to recognize [spatial disorientation] ahead of time before it becomes incapacitation," Izakson said.

One of the most critical aspects of flying at night is being able to safely refuel the E-3 in flight. Continual training helps pilot mitigate night air refueling challenges, such as fewer visual cues from the tanker, which can make it difficult for a pilot to judge relative position and motion.

"Air refueling at night is a necessary part of our flight currency requirements and training due to the possibility of a long-duration sortie and other scenarios," Izakson said.

While the mission crew aboard the E-3 does not have any specific requirements or regulations for night flying, it is still important for all crew members to recognize the additional risks inherent in operations under darkness, said Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Page, 962nd AACS computer display maintenance technician.

"Disturbing your circadian rhythm due to long nighttime missions or very early missions can hinder your ability to perform tasks correctly. All crewmembers must remain vigilant about their level of alertness," Page said.

Crew members must also observe all group safety precautions while transiting to and from the aircraft, such as wearing reflective belts and watching for flightline traffic that may not see crew members clearly.

"No matter the conditions or time of day, the E-3 and the 962nd AACS must continue its legacy and mission of providing world-class command and control," Page said.

AtHoc emergency notification system goes live on JBER

by Air Force Staff Sgt. John Wright
JBER Public Affairs

11/21/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- What do you do when you are on base and severe weather is fast approaching or a potentially life-threatening emergency situation is developing?

Enter the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson AtHoc Installation Warning System Alerts - a network-centric emergency mass-notification system capable of alerting base personnel within minutes of an emergency from a single, centralized, web-based system.

AtHoc, introduced at JBER in September, allows the installation command post
to warn and provide instructions simultaneously to all government computers, telephones, building public address systems and the outside 'giant voice' public address system.

A small purple globe in the lower right-hand toolbar on JBER computer workstations is the icon for the AtHoc system. Within the software, users can check for new alerts and update their information -- a step crucial to successfully receiving notifications, according to Richard Kohler, 673d Air Base Wing command post chief.

Base personnel can update their information by using the AtHoc Interactive Warning System-Alerts self service module; right click on the purple globe icon at bottom of the screen and select "Access Self Service" and update accordingly.

Air Force Master Sgt. Shawna Hovestadt, 673d ABW command post superintendent, pointed out that though the system provides robust notification capabilities, everyone must remember their Wingman responsibilities to ensure the 100-percent solution.

For the daily user, with the exception of the desktop alerts, users will only be notified on their personal phone lines for actual emergency situations such as, but not limited to, severe weather events, evacuation orders, specialized recalls, and active shooter alerts.
"Ultimately, the goal of the installation command post is to provide a means of rapidly notifying JBER personnel during times of emergencies, through multiple avenues, and to accelerate the installation's response," Hovestadt said.

Since its implementation at JBER, AtHoc has been put into practice during simulated emergency situations and wartime scenarios. Air Force Lt. Col. David McCleese, 773d Civil Engineer Squadron commander and Emergency Operations Center director, said AtHoc is a vital tool in these circumstances.

"Emergency notifications are important to ensure preservation of life and property," McCleese said. "It allows us to quickly recover from whatever contingency is threatening the mission. It's important we get the word out so everyone understands the character of an emergency so people understand where to go or not go."

For more information or to address AtHoc technical issues, contact the installation command post at 552-3000.

Editor's note: information from Air Education Training Command Public Affairs contributed to this article.

Spartan riggers ready for success

by Sgt. Eric-James Estrada
4-25th IBCT Public Affairs

11/21/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- "I will be sure always," is the motto of the U.S. Army parachute rigger. Every rigger is Airborne qualified and by tradition required to be ready to jump any parachute, packed by any rigger.

Parachute rigging in the Army has been around since the first Airborne unit was established in 1940. In those days paratroopers prepared and cared for their own parachutes. At the onset of World War II the Army created five airborne divisions and created support organizations with a mission to maintain airborne delivery systems.
By 1950, Army riggers joined the Quartermaster Corps. The U.S. Army Quartermaster School has operated the parachute rigger course at Fort Lee, Va. since 1951.

Like thousands before, Army 1st Lt. Kelsie Cabrera began her career as a rigger on the historic grounds of Fort Lee.

"When I was at Fort Lee, I went through my basic officer course and I was assigned to the rigger school," said Cabrera, who currently serves as the rigger platoon leader for 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. "It was my first taste of rigging."

For Elizabeth, N.J. native Pfc. Thomas Perez, a rigger with the Centurion Battalion, being airborne was all he wanted to do when he joined the Army.

"I wanted to be airborne, anything that had to do with airborne," said Perez. "It was an exciting fulfillment for me. That's what I always wanted to do and I'm glad that I made that decision."

For Centurion riggers there are multiple steps when it comes to packing a personnel parachute.

For the main parachute there are 10 rigger checks and for the reserve there are 12 rigger checks. The procedure begins with laying out the parachute, ensuring the lines are in order, and inspecting for holes.

As a rigger packs a parachute, an inspector observes and ensures the process is correctly performed. An "in-processor"

and a final inspector further check the process and the parachute itself.
"These parachutes are a life line every single time someone goes out an airplane," said Cabrera, a native of Petoskey, Mich.

A rigger's job is one that goes beyond normal responsibility. For riggers, each day is not a training day; it's a life or death day.

"It's a lot of responsibility. Every single one of those parachutes that goes out, we're responsible for," said Cabrera. "These are privates first class, specialists, who are packing life support equipment. They work with life support equipment every day. ... They train for it all the time. These guys [the riggers] aren't training; they're doing it on a daily basis."
After each rigger check, the inspector verifies they followed each of the steps. For every single one of those 10 steps an instructor will walk up and verify that they've done each one.

At the end, once it's all rigged up, and the inspector has done the 10th check, the parachute is passed off to the final inspector, who actually walks through with their checklist ensuring everything is tucked in, the static line is stowed correctly and the log record book is filled out correctly.

The final inspector also reviews anything on the outside of the parachute that a jumpmaster would inspect, such as the static line.

"Its fun," said Perez. "It's a chance to put a piece of equipment on somebody's back that you put your hard work and time into, and you've given it your all to make sure that it is safe, it looks good, and it performs well."

When it comes to supporting the Spartan Brigade in airborne missions, riggers work together as a team to live up to the rigger motto, "I will be sure always."

"It was the most fun I had in the Army so far," said Cabrera. "That's why I'm here and why I come in every day because I love these guys and I love what they do."

USARAK focuses on Ready and Resilient Campaign

by Jim Hart
JBER Public Affairs

11/21/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Akaska -- The class

The stories seemed to be from horror films rather than war movies. Guts falling off stretchers, maimed bodies and ghastly images of remains frozen in their last moments of life; many screaming in agony, now silent.

He recounted all their names.

The brief was part of the 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne)'s resiliency training. The stories were recollections from Army Lt. Col. Andrew DeKever's tour in Afghanistan several years ago with the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).

They were not fun "there I was" stories to share down at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall; not even good ones to share with the family. Sadly, as he would find out, stories not terribly fun for anyone to listen to.

DeKever told the class of how isolated he felt, even ostracized.

At that time, he was a mortuary affairs officer. He didn't fall under the dark spell of combat stress in the traditionally understood way, so several in his command dismissed his plight.
He explained how he and his staff saw the gruesome results over and over again, month after month, searing horrible memories into their very being.

"This has to end," DeKever concluded. "Even if it ends badly, it has to end."

As the brief continued, he explained his experiences, and a parallel story of a Soldier, Spc. Jacob Andrews, who did not survive his post-traumatic stress disorder.

In DeKever's words, Jake looked a little too far over the edge.

In both cases, the stories illustrated shortfalls in each person's command and social situation; each of the stories were drawing a road map for those in the class to know how serious even little things can be.

The turning point for DeKever was a specialist in his section who recognized the signs and told a behavioral health practitioner. It's something DeKever admits was very gutsy, but also something that saved his life.

The discussion was very frank, even by military standards.

DeKever's story, and scores like his, are what the Army's Ready and Resilient Campaign is meant to address. To incorporate resiliency training into the very fabric of the training matrix, rather than inserting it haphazardly between ranges and during crisis periods; to synchronize the various agencies and programs into a tool commanders can more readily use.

"It's been effective for me and my family," said Sgt. 1st Class John Ripple, master resiliency trainer with the 725th BSB. "Over the last couple years I've been faced with a lot of challenges - from my wife and son's health to all kinds of different stuff in the Army. I try to apply some of this Comprehensive Soldier Fitness to my own situations, and it's helped me."

The command

Several weeks earlier, in the planning phase for 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry's iteration of the Ready and Resilient Campaign, squadron commander Army Lt. Col. Richard Scott was looking at a monthly brief in which he and his staff pored over the Risk Working Group List.

From this report, he saw trends and numbers, but he also saw names and the troubles vexing them - he saw souls attached to the statistics. He also saw a list of any program or assistance the individual troops have received or been referred to.

The list includes everything from alcohol-related problems to suicide. Anything the command is aware of which is, even potentially, related to resiliency is there. He's able to track trends all the way down to the platoon level in a unit of 575 Soldiers.

It is from these stats and reports he was able to target specific areas he would like to remedy. While the list of individual effects would be long, his has a longer-term goal than just the one week of R2C - for him, it's a matter of unit effectiveness, and one that will take much more time.

While his squadron may be well-trained in their combat roles, many of his Soldiers are suffering from resilience-related issues.

The way Scott sees it, the statistics show one-third of his unit is combat ineffective - something no commander wants.

"Our focus is to reduce this number and get more Soldiers to perform optimally and therefore increase unit readiness," Scott said. "We are leveraging all our available resources on JBER to help us meet this goal. We are teaching and showing our Soldiers and leaders the tools and resources available to them.

"One of the things that's interesting is we spend 12 months to prepare for combat," Scott said. "But if you look at it conversely, we spend just a fraction of that time preparing our Soldiers and families to come back from combat. That is causing a lot of issues."

Scott also said his battalion has been leaning forward on resiliency over the last year or so, incorporating much of what R2C is advocating into their normal training and policy.
It's this kind of high-fidelity awareness that makes it advantageous for battalion and company commanders to select tailor-made training plans for their specific unit challenges.

And that's what U.S. Army Alaska did - but it didn't happen in a vacuum.

This kind of training program requires tremendous resources, and without coordination and planning it can become impracticable.

The support and planning

In mid-summer, USARAK started planning how to best train their Soldiers during R2C week.

During phase one of R2C, they conducted an outreach to senior leaders to get an idea of what leadership was seeing. They also surveyed 2,000 leaders and 2,700 Soldiers about alcohol and indiscipline.

The planning then continued with a "ready and resilient" team who then put together a concept of operations - essentially a course catalog.

From this list of ready-made training modules, the commanders could then assemble a training staffing horsepower and services of several entities from the 673d Air Base Wing to flesh out the training.

To herd such a gathering of resources might present a monumental task - if they weren't already working together, as the Joint Installation Prevention Team.

The JIPT comprises representatives from Army Community Service, the Health and Wellness Center, the JBER hospital, Family Advocacy and many others.

It's this team Petersen turned to for resources.

"Julia Petersen brought this challenge (R2C)," said Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Knight, JIPT team leader. "The (JIPT) was the perfect forum to introduce that, with all the key players there, which is what the prevention team is about. They were able to tap into all that expertise and help build that program, working with the USARAK-unique requirements
and tailor programs to meet them."

"Even though services and service providers are known and try to get their information out, it's hard to connect with (customers) and provide services that meet the needs and don't conflict with training schedules already in place," said Tamera Randolf, 673d Air Base Wing customer service officer.

Randolf also said the training had a dual role - one was to get the training in, but also to introduce leaders to the services and providers so they know what tools they have available.

Looking ahead

The Army's Ready and Resilient Campaign integrates and synchronizes multiple efforts and programs to improve the readiness and resilience of the Army, including families, Soldiers and civilians. It's a broad program that aims at problems ranging from sexual harassment to suicide. It is meant to start long-term solutions, and the lessons learned from this week will be watched by both USARAK and the air base wing.

In the third phase, USARAK will review data and results, and commanders will adjust training accordingly.

In all, the goal is to help people cope with the kind of soul-searing experiences DeKever spoke about - but in the healthiest way possible

Otter Lake cabin conflagration brings out the best in JBER Airmen

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf
JBER Public Affairs

11/21/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Flames spread on the floor and start climbing up the walls. Everyone inside is asleep, unaware of the danger that they are in. A dog barks and scratches the bed in the back room where a pregnant woman and another mother sleep by their children. They wake up to a horrible realization -- the fire has spread and they are trapped in the back room.
A group of friends of the 673d Force Support Squadron decided to rent cabins at Otter Lake for a family event, to relax after a long week at the dining facility that was busy due to Red Flag-Alaska.

Luckily two Airmen were awake and noticed a glow coming from a cabin. Tech. Sgt. Daniel Park, 176th Force Support Flight shift supervisor, and Senior Airman Gary Heath, 673 FSS storeroom operations technician, had stayed up around the bonfire while all the other families went back to their cabins to get some sleep.

"I saw a glow and I just knew something was out of place," Park, said.

When they got closer, they knew what that glow was and went to action.

They bashed in the front door and went in; the fire flared.

They pulled Staff Sgt. Kevin Warren, 703rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, from the front room; he had been trying to get through to the back room where his wife and daughter were.

"We couldn't get past the fire to the door that separated the two rooms so we both left the cabin and went to other cabins to find fire extinguishers," Park said.

After an unsuccessful search for the extinguishers, Heath and Park ran back to the cabin that was on fire and tried the side windows. Giving up, Heath ran around back where the window was open and the children had already been lowered to the ground. Kat Warren was the last one in the cabin but the window wouldn't accommodate her pregnant belly.
Park pulled the window back forcing it to open wider as Heath helped Mrs. Warren, the pregnant mother, out the window.

"I talked to Kat and she said as I was pulling her out, the fire was already hitting her feet," Heath said.

While Kat was being pulled to safety, another Airman noticed the fire.

Senior Airman Nathan Bonner, 673 FSS fitness specialist, woke up to screams.

"I heard Kevin screaming after they (Heath and Park) pulled him out and that's when I got up and realized something was wrong," Bonner said. "I heard him screaming his wife and daughter's name over and over again and I didn't even hesitate; I didn't even put a shirt or shoes on, ran right to the front door through the fire to the back room to make sure everyone was out."

After Bonner got out of the house, he called 911 while Heath attempted to use a fire extinguisher to quench the flames, but had no effect.

Emergency personnel were already on the way when Bonner called.

"I knew who was in there, it's a human life, I would have done it for anyone; burnt feet is better than having someone dying in a fire," Bonner said.

No one was seriously injured in the fire but Trooper, the dog, that initially warned the campers in the back room, didn't make it.

Bonner said that the only thing he regretted while he ran into the burning cabin
was that he didn't look under the bed for Trooper.

"It's funny how it happened because none of us were planning on going in," Bonner said. "We all decided to go last minute. If we hadn't gone, it could have ended up completely different; it could have ended up a lot worse."

Park, Heath and Bonner shared the same sentiments in explaining why they did this.
"You weren't really in fear for yourself at all; it was fear for everyone else's life," Heath said.

This wasn't the first fire Heath has run into to save a life. During his deployment from 2011 to 2012, Heath ran into a burning building to save the life of a civilian.

"To be honest, you are not thinking it at the time, but it would be way worse to realize that you didn't do something when you could," Heath said.

All three Airmen had singed hair, but otherwise were unharmed.

"It's your character; it's who you are, when it happens," Heath said. "You don't think 'Hey this is something I am going to do or this is something I'm not; you either do it or you don't. You won't know if you are that type of person until you are in that situation."

That type of person is one their commander is proud of.

"Our Airmen embody the Air Force core value of 'service before self' and demonstrated their heroism in helping to save these members' lives," said Air Force Capt. Heather Simone, 673d Force Support Squadron sustainment services flight commander. "I definitely applaud their efforts and it is no surprise they acted in such a manner; they are exemplary Airmen and I'm proud to serve with them."

All three Airmen agreed the incident has brought them closer together.

"It's a bonding experience to know that you are surrounded by people that would do the same good deed you would," Heath said.

"It was more the realization that we all put others before ourselves, and share that character; that is what brought us closer," Park added.

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Hagel Visits First Zumwalt-class Destroyer

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

BATH, Maine, Nov. 21, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the not-yet-launched Zumwalt-class destroyer he toured here today “represents the cutting edge of our naval capabilities.”

The ship, now known as the Pre-Commissioning Unit, or PCU, Zumwalt, will become the USS Zumwalt, named for former Navy Adm. Elmo Zumwalt. Officials said the ship is about a year away from joining the fleet.

Now littered with large protective crates storing systems not yet installed, the ship is being fitted with new automated systems. The Zumwalt, Navy officials explained, has highly accurate long-range weapons, an impressive power generation capability and a design emphasizing “stealthy” radar-defeating materials and shapes.

The ship will be home ported in San Diego, Hagel noted, and it “represents an important shift … in America’s interests to the Asia-Pacific,” he told a mixed crowd of sailors, government civilians and General Dynamics employees assembled near where the ship is docked.

Hagel thanked General Dynamics and its workforce at Bath Iron Works, which will produce all three of the Zumwalt-class ships planned for production. The secretary called the facility “a magnificent institution that’s been part of the security of this country for 130 years.”

The secretary also spoke to a number of sailors and defense civilians present, who are working to get the ship ready for active duty. Hagel thanked them and their families for their service.

Sharon E. Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs, accompanied Hagel’s delegation on the ship tour. Later, she spoke to reporters while en route to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Hagel landed later in the day for an international security forum that starts tomorrow.

Burke said that the ship’s power generation capacity -- 78 megawatts, impressed her. One megawatt of power can power about 1,000 American homes.

The massive amount of available power makes the ship expandable for future weapon systems such as rail guns, which “take a lot of pulse power,” Burke noted.

“Also, you’re running a lot of very sophisticated systems on that ship,” she said. “It gives them a lot of room to be able to run all those systems.”

The ship can generate 78 megawatts of power, and can channel it to propulsion, shipboard use and weapons systems. Officials said the guided missile destroyer is the first Navy ship to be fully electrical, and it was designed to use automated systems as much as possible to decrease the number of sailors needed as crew.

For example, officials said, automatic systems route, store and load the 300 rounds of 24-pound ammunition each of the ship’s two 155mm guns can fire. The guns have, in testing, successfully fired at a rate of 10 rounds a minute and with 20- to 40-inch accuracy at a range of more than 60 nautical miles, officials noted.

Senate Hearing Targets Predatory Lending Practices

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2013 – While programs are in place to combat predatory lending practices that target service members and their families, better rules and enforcement are needed, witnesses told a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee yesterday.

Predatory lending practices impact not only a service member’s financial readiness, but also mission readiness, witnesses told lawmakers in a hearing about the lending practices targeted towards the military.

As a former military spouse and assistant director of the consumer financial protection bureau, office of service member affairs, Holly Petraeus recalled the history and subsequent changes of predatory lending.

“I've lived on or near military bases my entire life, and seen that strip outside the gates, offering everything from furniture to used cars to electronics to jewelry, and the high-cost credit to pay for them,” Petraeus said. She said an “alarming increase” occurred in the early 2000s in businesses offering payday loans and corresponding increases in service members taking advantage of “easy money,” often without the ability to repay what they borrowed.

“The Pentagon took note that indebtedness was beginning to take a serious toll on military readiness, as did the media,” Petraeus added.

The Defense Department, she said, published a report in 2006 on predatory lending practices directed at service members and their families. It found that predatory lending “undermines military readiness, harms the morale of troops and their families, and adds to the cost of fielding an all-volunteer fighting force," Petraeus said.

The result was the Military Lending Act of 2006, which caps the rate on consumer credit to a covered member of the armed forces or a dependent of a covered member at 36 percent and creates other consumer protections, she said.

DOD wrote the MLA’s regulations and defined "consumer credit" as only three types of loans that were narrowly defined, Petraeus said. They cover payday loans, closed-end loans with terms of 91 days or fewer for $2,000 or less; auto-title loans, closed-end loans with terms of 181 days or fewer; and tax refund anticipation loans which are closed-end credit, she testified.

“For those products that fall within [DOD’s] definitions, the law has had a positive impact,” she testified. “But the concern now is that lenders have easily found ways to get outside of the definitions.”

The spouse of a wounded warrior who took out an auto title loan of $2,575 at an APR of 300 percent was one example Petraeus gave in her testimony.

“The finance charges on the loan were over $5,000. The loan was not subject to the MLA because it was longer than 181 days,” she said.

She also acknowledged concerns about the existing rule’s effectiveness, which has led to renewed interest from Congress.

“This morning, the bureau announced an enforcement action against a large national payday lender, Cash America, which had made loans in violation of the MLA to hundreds of service members or their dependents,” Petraeus testified. “As part of the enforcement action, the lender refunded loan and loan-related fees for a total amount of approximately $33,550. It also put additional compliance mechanisms in place and agreed to increase training on the MLA for its customer service representatives.”

She called that action “a great example of what can be achieved through the combined efforts of the bureau's supervisory and enforcement areas,” and a significant change in a large payday lender's appreciation of and compliance with the MLA.

Petraeus said she still harbors “real concerns” about the ability of lenders to easily evade the existing MLA regulations.

“The original rule was effective for those products that it covered, but over the past six years, we have seen significant changes in the type of products offered and the contours of state law,” she said. “And I think it's critically important to ensure that the MLA protections keep up.”

Petraeus said she believes any approach with strict definitions that define individual products will fall victim to the same evasive tactics that are plaguing the existing rule.

“I also believe that from a military financial readiness point of view, it makes no difference whether the loan is made by a depository institution or a non-depository institution, nor does it matter whether the loan is structured and open- or closed-end,” she said. “A loan with a sky-high interest rate and burdensome fees has the same adverse impact on military financial readiness no matter who offers it.”

The underlying goals of protecting military and financial readiness that led to the MLA are as important today as they were when the act was originally passed, Petraeus said.

“I think we should all be indignant when we hear of service members trapped in outrageous loans and realize that there is little we can do under the current regulations because they are just longer than 91 days or structured as open-end credit,” she testified. “We owe it to our service members and their families to do the best possible job of crafting rules that properly implement the intent of the Military Lending Act.”

Dwain Alexander, legal assistant attorney at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., said the Navy is taking steps to educate its service members.

“Education will help avoid many debt traps,” Alexander testified. “However, some problems like arbitration and the Servicemember Civil Relief Act waiver, and aggressive debt collection, are beyond education.”

He said his office is working on videos to educate sailors and families on consumer issues while they’re in waiting rooms and similar environments, in addition to providing education to those returning from deployments.

Alexander said other awareness measures to avoid predatory lending being used in the Navy include mandatory military training on payday loans.

However, he said, some issues cannot be addressed such as the service member’s waiver and arbitration being in the contracts, because they are legal.

“We need help with that,” he said.