Military News

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"Cable Dawgs": Aviano's best-kept secret

by Senior Airman Briana Jones
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs


11/26/2013 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- To ensure mission success, Airmen must be able to communicate with each other at all times. The cable and antenna shop guarantees communication flows freely from squadron to squadron, flight to flight and Airman to Airman.

Hidden in a back shop behind the Alpine Golf Course, these Airmen are a well-kept secret. You will not find them sitting behind their desks, but rather climbing into manholes.

Known as "Cable Dawgs," cable and antenna maintainers are different than the typical 31st Communications Squadron Airmen. They monitor and analyze performance of buried and aerial cable and antenna networks in support of everyday communications, surveillance systems, weapons storage security and even NATO operations.

While some CS Airmen fix computers or phone issues, reset passwords and unblock websites, "Cable Dawgs" spend their day climbing into multiple man holes to install and maintain communication lines below and at ground level. They are responsible for maintaining the communication infrastructure for networking, telephones.

"People tend to confuse us with the other Airmen in our squadron and with the 31st Civil Engineer Squadron Airmen, mostly because of the equipment that we use," said Staff Sgt. Scott Gingrich 31st Communications Squadron cable maintenance supervisor. "We do not deal with network issues. We install cable from building to building - basically, laying down the groundwork for the 31st CS Airmen."

The most common job "Cable Dawgs" perform is running local area network cable through buildings and fiber optic repair, which can take up to a week to complete.

"If these Airmen and their job did not exist, we would have no way to communicate within the base or to anyone outside the base," said 2nd Lt. Chase Luedeke, 31st CS deputy flight commander. "These Airmen are not afraid to get down and dirty, and we wouldn't be able to get our communications back up without them."

The five Airmen shop maintains more than 20,000 miles of cable fiber throughout the base connecting Team Aviano to 14 geographically-separated units.

"Our work would be contracted out if we did not exist wasting time and a lot of money, therefore we are essential," said Senior Airman Kyle Ragan, 31st CS cable systems journeyman. "If we did not exist either would phone or internet connections. Everything on base is connected through some sort of physical cabling."

Recently, these Airmen helped the Italian Air Force form a new communication infrastructure system. The project helped save $20 million in contracting costs and was completed in just six months instead of the estimated five years.

The specialized skills of "Cable Dawgs" continue to be an essential part of not only Team Aviano's mission, but Air Force operations worldwide.

"Their job ensures that the rest of us can do what we need to do to complete the mission, each and every day," said Luedeke.

Last 'new' Phantom returns to service

by Ashley M. Wright
325th Fighter Wing Public Affiars


11/22/2013 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The 82nd Aerial Target Squadron received the last of the "new" QF-4 aerial targets Nov. 19 as the Vietnam-era aircraft landed here.

The QF-4, Aircraft 68-0599, spent more than 20 years in the Air Force "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. before being brought back to life for one last mission.

"It is bittersweet to receive the last QF-4," said Lt. Col. Ryan Inman, 82nd ATRS commander. "This aircraft has served the Air Force and the nation so well for so long. It is truly the end of an era."

The supersonic, reusable QF-4 provides a realistic full-scale target for air-to-air weapons system evaluation, development and testing. The 82nd ATRS will eventually launch the QF-4 on an unmanned flight where it will act as a target for a modern piloted jet. That last mission will provide vital data to American and allied forces.

Since the QF-4 replaced the QF-106 in 1998, more than 300 of the idle planes found a new purpose to continue to serve the Defense Department.

The Phantoms began returning to work after the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group reinstalled the parts to the aircrafts making them serviceable again, according to an April article from the Davis Monthan AFB website.

The next step involved contractors BAE Systems converting the F-4 to the QF-4, which would be flown remotely by highly trained civil service pilots with an average of 4,000 flight hours.

Jeff Percy, BAE Systems director of flight operations, has delivered close to 50 QF-4s in the last four years.

"It is a great flying airplane," Percy said after flying the aircraft into to base. "It was a team effort, and I was happy to deliver the last Phantom to Tyndall."

The teamwork of contractors, civilian and military members contributed to more than 16,000 manned and 600 unmanned QF-4 missions. Ultimately, 250 of the Phantoms succeeded in their missions and been successively destroyed over the Gulf of Mexico and the ranges near Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., with the information gathered going to help warfighters globally.

There are only about 60 QF-4s remaining in the program both at Tyndall and Holloman.

The limited availability of F-4s and the continuing advancement of fighter aircraft such as the F-22 Raptors are forcing a shift to the fourth generation QF-16, a converted F-16 Fighting Falcon that should be ready for use in 2014.

"It is a more fitting end for the F-4 to go out in service instead of rusting in a field," said Vincent Farrell, 82nd ATRS instructor pilot and controller who flew the F-4 during his active duty career.

The U.S. Air Force first flew the F-4 in 1963 with the aircraft seeing first combat in 1965 against North Vietnamese fighters, according to the National Museum of the Air Force Factsheet.

The 82nd ATRS is part of the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, which falls under the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The group provides the personnel and infrastructure to test and evaluate weapons utilized by the combat air forces of the United States and its allies. It operates the only full-scale aerial targets in the DOD.

Face of Defense: Fort Hood Cooks Prepare for Thanksgiving



By Army Sgt. Kimberly Browne
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division

FORT HOOD, Texas, Nov. 26, 2013 – A day of turkey, cranberry sauce and getting stuffed pretty much sums up Thanksgiving for many soldiers and their families. But before the turkey coma can set in, an average family will typically prepare a turkey or ham, a few pounds of mashed potatoes, a dozen or more dinner rolls and a special delicacy a day or two before Thanksgiving.

However, cooking Thanksgiving dinner for around 700 people takes a tad longer than a couple of days to prepare. With that many people to serve, the Operation Iraqi Freedom Dining Facility, run by 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, began preparations in mid-October for Thanksgiving.

It’s one of the staff’s biggest cooking days of the year.

“This is not just your normal day,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Curtis Carson, the dining facility’s assistant manager. “It’s a day where we have to prep, to prep, before the prep.”

The dining facility’s staff estimated an average of 700 people would attend Thanksgiving dinner this year. That meant a big food order and some serious cooking would have to take place.

Thanksgiving today has taken on a more modern approach than the original Thanksgiving feast in 1621. The Pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe consumed a variety of dishes including swan, goose, venison, lobster and pumpkin. This year’s Thanksgiving meal here will be based on contemporary family home cooking traditions.

“We ask ourselves, ‘What would Momma fix?’ and that’s what we’ll prepare,” Carson said.

Turkey is the staple for most American Thanksgivings and the dining facility ordered 12 large turkeys, weighing an average of 15 pounds, and 10 smaller, 9–pound birds.

Accompanying the turkeys are 12 hams and two beef steamship roasts. Carson refers to the steamships as “brontosaurus roasts,” because of their size.

“We have to make it like home,” said Carson, a native of Laurel, Md.

The preparation of the meat starts about four days before Thanksgiving Day. The roasts marinate in a top-secret recipe. The turkeys and hams are laid out for thawing while some members of the dining facility’s staff start decorating.

Fall-colored streamers, small cartoon turkeys and other decorations line the dining facility’s walls and hang above the tables.

The preparation of large quantities of conventional side dishes also begins before Thanksgiving.

There are 60 pounds of ingredients used to make rolls. Other popular sides on the menu include 200 pounds of yams, 100 pounds of potatoes, and 80 pounds of shrimp for shrimp cocktails.

And no Thanksgiving meal would be complete without dessert. Pies will be in abundance -- 25 pumpkin and another 25 pecan pies along with cakes, cookies and gallons of punch.

Around-the-clock operations will commence the day before Thanksgiving. Soldiers will make final preparations, finish hanging decorations and begin cooking the meats and side dishes.

Soldiers are split into teams responsible for cooking, for placing decorations, and for preparing a normal breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. Yet another team is on hand for any last-minute details that may come up just before the doors are opened for Thanksgiving lunch.

Senior leadership will be on hand in their Army service uniforms and Stetsons to serve Thanksgiving dinner.

Carson said the goal for the day will be to get the troops as full as can be.

“If we can get these soldiers to unbutton the top button of their pants, then we know we did our job,” he said.

Pave Hawks dodge radar threats

by Airman 1st Class Trevor T. McBride
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


11/26/2013 - ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England  -- In the early morning darkness and below-freezing temperatures of northern England, most people wouldn't be caught outside of their heated homes; however, Airmen from the 56th Rescue Squadron and 748th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aren't like most people.

In fact, these Airmen spent a week in the elements at Royal Air Force Leeming, England, hustling to prepare 56th RQS pilots for electronic warfare training missions over the RAF Speadeadam test range Nov. 18-22.

"The training is designed to give aircrew the opportunity to train against real radar threats," said Maj. Daran Guas, 56th RQS weapons and tactics chief.

Capt. Sky Jensen, 56th RQS weapons and tactics officer, reflected on the amount of opportunities to participate in electronic warfare training.

"This is my first time in four and a half years of flying helicopters that I have had to chance to do this training," said Jensen.

"It's not unheard-of, but oh man, it's super rare for us," added Guas.

Throughout the week, the 56th RQS employed missions and used tactics to engage potential electronic warfare threats.

Jensen said the most exciting part of the training was watching the junior guys learn and understand why they strategize the ways they do.

Guas praised the work of the support staff that made the 56th RQS mission a success.

"We [pilots] came up here to fight electronic warfare threats, but that doesn't happen in a vacuum," said Guas. "Our maintainers were tireless in their efforts to provide us aircraft every day."

Along with 748th AMXS Airmen, 56th RQS support, intelligence and aircrew flight equipment personnel contributed to the exercise.

"Stuff like this would not be possible without the behind-the-scenes work our [56th RQS] support provides," added Guas.

One AFE staff member spoke on what his job provides.

According to Staff Sgt. Robert Neal, 56th RQS aircrew flight equipment technician, the behind-the-scenes jobs play important roles.

"For example, I provide fully-functional, serviceable gear for the pilots and aircrew members by providing helmets, survival vests, gunner's belts, night-vision goggles or any other equipment they would need to train or fly," said Neal. "Without gear, they can't fly, so this job keeps flying operations up from an aircrew standpoint.

According to Airmen throughout the 56th RQS, the electronic warfare training proved to enhance abilities of all the personnel involved.

"The training has better prepared the 56th RQS to maintain their ability to deploy worldwide, and they are prepared to face any future conflicts," said Jensen.

Air Force wins top honors at international film festival

By Tech. Sgt. Eric Burks, 2nd Combat Camera Squadron

 HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AFNS) -- Two Air Force video productions won awards at the 23rd International Defence Film Festival in Rome last week, including the "Grand Prix - Plaque of the President of the Italian Republic” award for best overall production, according to a festival press release.

The “Grand Prix” award went to the “2nd Combat Camera in Action” mission video, while the Air Force also won top honors for the “Hispanic Recruiting" production in the "Promotion" category, both of which were produced by the 2nd Combat Camera Squadron here.

Forty-five productions from 13 nations were judged by an international panel of filmmakers at this year’s festival, organized by the cultural association Eserciti e Popoli (Armies and Peoples).

The awards were presented to a delegate of the American Embassy in Rome, said Italian Maj. Paolo Insalata, the IDFF executive director.

"It's a tremendous honor for the Air Force to earn this distinction," said Maj. Greg Hignite, the 2nd CTCS commander. "Our Airmen are always seeking new and compelling ways to communicate with our force. This recognition solidifies that commitment to their craft."

Adam White, a 2nd CTCS producer and director of the Grand Prix-winning production, said a lot of work went into the project, and the squadron is honored to be recognized at the festival. He went on to say that the goal of the mission video was to demonstrate the squadron’s unique capabilities through creative storytelling, rather than straight documentation.

“I think what’s interesting is the angle that was taken with this video, said Staff Sgt. Michael McCool, a 2nd CTCS broadcaster. “It had a fictional story that was laid out of a scenario that took place."

He added, “It was in all actuality an informative video saying ‘Here’s what we do as a squadron,’ but it did it in a fun, interesting and creative way.”

McCool, who shot much of the footage for the mission video, said, “We enjoy our jobs and we have a passion for it. I think when you watch the video, you see that passion.”

White said that work ethic and pride are evident in all the squadron’s efforts, not just those that result in awards.

“We’re honored to receive this award, and we’re proud of that video,” he said. “But we’re proud of all the work we do here, and so we’ll continue to come in, work hard, and love what we do.”

Face of Defense: Airman Recalls Horrors of Bosnian Conflict



Face of Defense: Airman Recalls Horrors of Bosnian Conflict

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal
99th Air Base Wing

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev., Nov. 25, 2013 – As a 9-year-old girl growing up in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, now-Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Merima White had everything she needed: friends, family, a wonderful life. Until one day when she lost nearly everything.

White, who is now a 99th Medical Operations Squadron family medicine residency resident physician here, lived through the growing conflict of the Serbian paramilitary forces as they surrounded Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992.

During the Bosnian conflict, Serb forces bombarded the city with heavy artillery and snipers targeted civilians without hesitation, aiming at schools and hospitals inhabited by the young and the elderly.

"One morning I woke up and the city was surrounded," White said. "There were people shooting at kids and families. I really didn't understand it. I could never understand why people would do that but it happened. And this once Olympic city that was always a popular destination for travelers was reduced to shambles."

White described this era in her life as a time when each and every day was filled with uncertainty.

"You just lived in darkness awaiting the next artillery attack and insurgency," she added.

White was just a young child during the time and didn't quite know what to make of the situation. She recalls having to travel at great risk to obtain basic life essentials.

"I went from this life of what I considered having everything I wanted as a child to not knowing if I was going to wake up the next day," White said. "I remember running 10 miles to get water while evading snipers.

We had to wait for the fog to thicken so the snipers wouldn't pick us off while trying to get food and water,” she continued. “Sometimes you couldn't afford to wait anymore and you would just have to go out to get food and water for you and your family."

For White, this time of her life was about surviving and helping others when she could -- traits her father showcased on a daily basis. During her father's heroic acts he was injured twice.

"The first time was when we were in line to receive milk and bread because we had to shuttle food through the city as the resources were all depleted," White said. "Obviously they would figure out when the lines were forming and they would bomb the lines of kids and families waiting to get food. My father took shrapnel to his legs and was unable to walk for several months."

Despite the injuries to White's father, he immediately sought to help the community as soon as he regained his health.

"As soon as he got back on his feet he was trying to deliver water to families that couldn't get out of the area to get some," White said. "The truck was bombed and he was ejected, falling onto the railroad tracks resulting in a broken neck. We thought he was going to die in three to five days. Miraculously, he regained sensation in his body and Doctors Without Borders who were in the hospital at the time thought that evacuating him to the USA would give him the opportunity to walk again."

According to the Doctors Without Borders official website, the DWB is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. The organization is committed to bringing quality medical care to people in crisis regardless of their race, religion or political affiliation.

White's family took the recommendation to heart and made preparations to evacuate the city.

"For us to get out of the city we had to go through enemy territory," White said. "The Air Force at that time was flying in and dropping off humanitarian aid. It was towards the tail end of the war, December 1994, and we had to get to the airport to get out of the city. The only way to do that was to get help from the United Nations."

Despite the U.N.'s willingness to help, the situation presented dangers.

"We had to sign a paper that stated that if we were pulled over we would be handed over for execution," White said. "It was a scary thought because we knew that if we did get pulled over it wouldn't just be an execution. There were concentration camps and all sorts of horrific acts took place there. Thankfully we made it to the airport safe and sound and were able to board a plane."

In 1994, White and her family traveled from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Germany, Maryland, Texas and finally to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

White remembers her stop in Maryland the most. During one of the scariest times of her life, she experienced kindness of strangers that she had never witnessed before.

"I will never forget the kindness of people," White said. "There were airmen that stayed and played cards with me. I didn't speak any English and I was really scared. It was New Year’s Eve and I was still a kid so I was wandering the hallways with airmen who were trying to entertain me. It was the most human kindness from strangers that I had ever seen and it really made an impact on my life."

The treatment which the airmen provided White upon her family's arrival was part of the reason she decided to join the Air Force.

"I wanted to give back to the amazing men and women who helped me and my family, and to be a part of something that great is amazing," White said.

Through her experiences, White formed her own idea of what defines a warrior.

"Living a life of a warrior is working to preserve our way of life," White said. "We don't just fight for ourselves but we fight for the freedom that this nation provides. To keep our warriors healthy is to keep our entire nation healthy and safe."

White now works within the Family Medicine Residency Program at Nellis where she aims to give back to the men and women of the Air Force that helped her and her family nearly two decades ago.

Air Force focuses on nuclear security, operations

by Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service


11/26/2013 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The Air Force's nuclear mission continues to have the attention of leaders across the discipline, the Air Force chief of staff said here yesterday.

Gen. Mark A. Welsh III categorically stated that he is not worried about the surety and security or the operational capability of the Air Force's nuclear force.

"It's fine," Welsh said during an interview.

This does not mean he is satisfied.

"I think you have to worry about the morale of your Air Force every day," Welsh said. "It's a tough business and we do it in some tough areas. The nuclear business is a very difficult job."

Welsh's first trip as chief of staff last year was to visit the Air Force units that maintain the nation's intercontinental ballistic missiles -- one third of America's nuclear triad.

"If you go to our nuclear bases, the great majority of our people are really proud of what they do and how they do it," he said. "They know how important they are to the nation."

The 20th Air Force -- the unit charged with the nuclear mission -- had worked diligently to improve readiness and capabilities of these units.

"The trend lines were moving in the right direction, but not as quickly as people wanted," Welsh said.

Leaders at Air Force Global Strike Command and the 20th Air Force spent years restoring an Air Force-wide focus on the nuclear business.

"I think that had gained a lot of traction in the process," the general said. "But they weren't satisfied with the speed of the process."

Commanders needed to look at all the signals to ensure the process is moving in the right direction. A team from Global Strike Command came in to look at the situation, build terms of reference and create a long-term plan to do better, Welsh said.

His question to the commanders was "Why wait?"

He brought in a team from the Rand Corporation to assess the situation and look at short-term improvements that could be made. That study would be briefed all the way up the chain of command to the chief of staff and to the Air Staff.

All the studies found that the nuclear program is on track and moving forward, the general said.

The trend lines on behavior and discipline are positive.

"I was looking at [the number of] Article 15s for the commands this year and the rate in 20th Air Force is below the Air Force average," he said.

Are there problems? Yes, Welsh said. But they are being dealt with.

"You are always going to have people when you are in tough climates, doing tough work, who are frustrated by little things -- the heater doesn't work in the truck, it's a 16-hour day once you figure in travel time and so on," he said. These and many other aspects are being studied and dealt with.

No one in the Air Force is ignoring anything about the nuclear force, Welsh said.

"To my mind, the fact that people get disciplined is actually a good thing," he said. "The fact that we have commanders saying, 'Yes, I know it's not a failing grade but it's not good enough for me,' is a good thing. This indicates there are commanders who are engaged and proactively seeking to improve performance."

Welsh said it is not just commanders taking ownership of the mission, but also supervisors and senior leaders on the officer and enlisted side.

"There are problems, but there are a lot of good things happening out there that we need to pay attention to," he said.

Farewell Q&A with AFGSC command chief

by Staff Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


11/25/2013 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The command chief of Air Force Global Strike Command visited Whiteman Nov. 14 to 16 to share his 28 years of experience and expertise with fellow Airmen one final time as a command chief.

Chief Master Sgt. Brian Hornback, an aircraft maintainer by trade who joined the Air Force in 1985 and plans to retire in early 2014, spent the majority of his career supporting bomb units around the world.

He sat down recently for some final words to the base where he served as command chief from 2007-2009 after being hired by the then-commander of the 509th Bomb Wing, Brig. Gen. Greg Biscone.

Why did you start your farewell tour here at Whiteman?
It was important for me to start the journey here because this is where I began my command chief journey. General Biscone hired me on in 2007 to be the "Mighty 509th" command chief and this place has always been special to me, like home to me. My youngest daughter was born here, so I had to come home to start the trip.

What will you remember most about Whiteman and the Airmen here?
Whiteman has so many memories. What resonates and what has always really stuck with me about Whiteman is everybody here is so professional. Even our worst Airmen are better than some of the best Airmen at other locations, and I've been around the world. There's something special about what the Mighty 509th is. Maybe it's the long history we have, and maybe every Airman recognizes their part in it.

Most of your career was spent supporting bomb units. As your career comes to an end, what effect do you hope you've left on the Air Force Global Strike community?
There are a couple things I learned along the way and a couple words that go with it that I will never define. One is whether I made a difference and two is whether or not whatever I did was successful. The Airmen of AFGSC own that definition. I can only hope I made a difference. I can only hope the efforts we went forward as a team to work on turn out successfully. That's all I can ask. I'll leave that up to you to define whether or not I made a difference or had some successes.

What are your future plans?
We walked into a great opportunity in the Bossier/Shreveport (La.) area. I got a great job, I'm going to run operations for a local company. It's kind of cool, they're in six states and one of them happens to be Missouri, so I'll have opportunities to come back here in a different capacity. We're going to grow old and shoot archery as a family in Louisiana.

Will you stay involved with the Air Force? If so, how?
Because I'm staying in the area, for my first year, I think I am going to pull back and allow my replacement to do what they do. Eventually, I will be back involved in any way, shape or form I can. When I hit my second retirement, my plan is to volunteer at whatever installation I'm close to, whether it's at the pharmacy or the Airman and Family Readiness Center, someway to be in touch with Airmen.

What are your final words of advice to Airmen everywhere?
Enjoy your career. Make it one that when you look back on it, you go, "Wow." Nothing stops you, only you. You said yes once, and that's when you enlisted. Don't ever stop saying yes because on the other side of yes comes something that you have no clue what it's going to be about, but I can guarantee you that it will be exciting. Just enjoy it.

Senior Pentagon Official Urges Holiday Safety Awareness



By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2013 – A senior Pentagon official is urging military members to avoid the kinds of risky behavior that can spike during the holiday season.

Army Lt. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, military deputy to the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, cautioned against historically fatal factors such as distracted driving, or driving while fatigued or under the influence.

“The holidays are a special time for military members and their families to release, rejoice and recharge,” Linnington said. “They serve here and around the world, making a difference, which is all the more reason their safety and well-being is so critical.”

With off-duty time, leisure and travel inherently bring risk, the general said, particularly through vehicular mishaps from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. He encouraged proper planning to mitigate those risks, often exacerbated by weather.

“Basically we’re using the same principles of risk management that we use in combat to help reduce holiday accidents,” Linnington said. “Have a plan, execute the plan, and know your subordinates’ plans -– leadership is important.”

The Travel Risk Planning System is a DOD-wide tool sponsored by the Defense Safety Oversight Council to assist with long-distance travel planning and risk mitigation, especially to reduce the potential for fatigue-related risks.

New York Guard Helps Safeguard Holiday Travelers



By Army Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Drumsta
New York National Guard

NEW YORK, Nov. 26, 2013 – Thanksgiving week is no holiday for the New York National Guard's Joint Task Force Empire Shield, which will have all hands on deck during some of the busiest travel days of the year.

The task force of 240 New York National Guard soldiers and airmen helps to safeguard and aid holiday travelers in the New York City Metropolitan Area by augmenting and assisting civilian police in the city's major transit hubs.

During Thanksgiving, task force members normally assigned to training and administrative functions will be working security as well, said task force commander Army Lt. Col. Peter Riley, a member of the New York National Guard.

About 200 task force soldiers, airmen and naval militia members will be conducting patrols or manning fixed guard stations in Grand Central Station, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, JFK Airport, LaGuardia Airport, the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Site and the city's waterways, Riley explained.

The soldiers and airmen are called up on state active duty by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The New York National Guard has had a security force assisting police in New York City since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year.  "We're going to be extra vigilant. Most people are taking public transportation," Riley said.

Nearly three million commuters travel in and out of New York City on a normal business day, Riley said. Officials expect that amount of visitors for the annual Macy's Day Parade alone, he said, and the parade itself will have about 8,000 participants.

Officials plan to have their most robust security presence during the busiest hours -- meeting high-travel volume with manpower, Riley said. They'll also be out in force before, during and after the Parade, said New York Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Ed Mondezie, the task force’s senior enlisted advisor.

Task force members will be alert for anything suspicious, like unattended baggage, Riley said. They'll also be working closely with city and federal authorities.

Customer service is also part of the job and task force members often provide directions and other assistance to holiday travelers, Riley said.

"It's very important to have that public interaction," he said. "We always treat the public with courtesy and respect."

Task force soldiers and airmen also assisted in distributing turkey dinners to needy families in areas of New York City and the Hudson Valley badly hit by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

New York National Guard members packed the supplies for 3,000 turkey dinners at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. The supplies were then delivered to area distribution centers by Empire Shield soldiers and airmen and other Guard members from the 53rd Troop Command on Nov. 25.