Military News

Thursday, December 05, 2013

A little taste of home

by Casey Andrysiak
2d Engineer Brigade


12/5/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The beginning of December brought a surprise for troops living in barracks and dorms around Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in the form of a decorated bag adorning each doorknob.

Inside were homemade cookies, baked by volunteers across base.

"It was awesome surprise to come home to the barracks and get some cookies I didn't expect to get," said Pfc. Antonio Tolefree of the 205th Ordnance Company.

"They tasted awesome - my favorites are the chocolate chip and the peanut butter.
"I was walking to my room and there was a bag - it looks like an elementary student decorated the bag; it was awesome," Tolefree said. "There was a candy cane and a little message, 'From the JBER family.' It really made me feel special, made me appreciate that someone thought about the guys that live in the barracks."

JBER's 2013 "Spread the Warmth, Share a Cookie" campaign started from a simple, two-step equation.

First, determine the number of recipients - 2600 single Soldiers and 600 single Airmen.
Second, multiply that number by one dozen. Answer? 40,000 cookies.

The annual cookie drive here began 18 years ago on Elmendorf Air Force Base; similar cookie campaigns occur on almost every military base during the winter holiday season.
JBER's cookie drive was unique this year in that it included cookie distribution to all single Soldiers and Airmen - a reflection of how joint-basing principles are implemented at all levels of an installation.

"It didn't matter if you were Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine, or Coast Guard," said JoAnn Handy, wife of Air Force Lt. Gen. Russell Handy, commander of Alaskan Command. "The goal was to bring a taste of home to all single military members living in the dorms and barracks on JBER - something that could not have been achieved without volunteers across all military communities."

Military and civilian bakers had the monumental task of baking the 40,000 cookies and delivering them to volunteers at the Arctic Warrior Events Center and Warrior Zone collection points.

Thousands of carefully baked cookies - chocolate chip, sugar, gingerbread, peanut butter; iced, sprinkled, sugared - were collected from generous, thoughtful chefs.

Army and Air Force leadership were on hand to receive the cookies and undertake rigorous quality inspections including flavor, texture and overall palatability.

Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan Lynch, senior enlisted advisor for the 2d Engineer Brigade, dropped off 52 bags of cookies, each bag containing six sugar and six gingerbread cookies.

"On Sunday, I started up the oven and the TV," Lynch said. "I used the oven timer so I could watch some football, and baked."

Volunteers at the AWEC were charged with sorting, organizing and packaging the cookies into about 3,200 bags, each tagged with a holiday message.

The bags, designed for hanging on a barracks door handle, were decorated by children from JBER schools including Mt. Spurr, Orion, Aurora, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor elementary schools, as well as the Torch Club of the Ketchikan School Age Program.

On Wednesday, Air Force Master Sgt. Jeffrey Urbanski orchestrated the cookie delivery to the Soldiers and Airmen in unaccompanied housing. Army and Air Force non-commissioned officers distributed more than 3,000 bags of cookies.

This year's cookie drive, led by the Air Force 3rd Wing, was a joint-volunteer effort supported by many organizations and individual volunteers including the Elmendorf Officers' Spouse's Club, the Armed Services YMCA, Army Community Services, Army Family Readiness Groups and the JBER First Sergeant's Association.

Minneapolis Guard, Reserve units team up for eight-ship night training mission

by Capt. Ethan Bryant
96th Airlift Squadron


12/5/2013 - MINNEAPOLIS-ST PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION  -- Shrinking budgets and continuing resolutions present huge obstacles to Reserve and Guard aircrews maintaining a high level of flying proficiency. Despite these barriers, Citizen Airmen flying C-130s are tasked to regularly deploy to fly in combat. To properly prepare individuals to execute this mission units are looking for new ways to gain experience usually obtained at costly large-scale exercises.

On Nov. 15 the Air Force Reserve's 934th Airlift Wing and the Minnesota Air National Guard's 133rd Airlift Wing combined to execute a night training mission with a formation of eight C-130H aircraft. Both units, co-located at the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, took advantage of their proximity to achieve training for aircrews and support agencies. With each wing participating with four aircraft, aircrews were able to train in large formation operations for a fraction of the cost it would take for one wing to launch eight aircraft on their own.

Inter-flying is nothing new to the "Flying Vikings" of the Air Force Reserve and the "Gophers" of the Air National Guard, who regularly combine to launch four-ship formations to maximize training, but launching eight aircraft out of a busy international airport took a little more than the usual coordination. "We really had great cooperation from all the agencies involved," said Capt. Aaron Kutschera, instructor navigator with the 934th and the mission commander for the flight. "Minneapolis tower and approach control, range control at Ray Miller Army Air Field, the approach and tower controllers at Duluth International Airport; they were all really excited to help us with this mission and it was really a good experience for everyone."

Launching a larger formation from a busy international airport was no easy task. "Fitting a five-plus mile formation in between the busy airline arrivals at Minneapolis was no small undertaking, but the controllers handled it easily and were excited to see all those airplanes get in the air at one time," said Capt Andy Thomas, a 934th pilot who was stationed in the Minneapolis control tower for the mission, acting as liaison to air traffic control.

The formation departed Minneapolis to the north after dark and executed an Adverse Weather Air Delivery System airdrop on Arno drop zone on Camp Ripley near Brainerd, Minn. This capability uses the on-board radar to ensure navigational precision, allowing the aircraft to deliver supplies, equipment, and personnel at low altitude while still completely enveloped in the clouds. Following the first airdrop, the formation conducted a low-level route into northern Minnesota using night vision goggles, concluding with a container delivery system airdrop. This method, which both the 934th and 133rd have used multiple times in Afghanistan, allows aerial re-supply to isolated ground forces.

All 16 airdrops were right on target, providing an impressive display to the drop zone control team on the ground. "I've been doing this for 30 years, but when I saw those planes go overhead one after another and the loads float right to the center of the zone, it had to be the coolest drop I've ever seen," said Master Sgt. James Courneya, an evaluator loadmaster with the 934th who served as the malfunction officer at the drop zone during the mission. Following a formation instrument approach into Duluth International, the aircraft returned for a visual approach to Minneapolis International.

More than 350 people from nearly every agency in the wing contributed their expertise to result in a successful mission. Reserve and Guard aircraft are always maintained to the highest standards, which resulted in all eight aircraft taking to the air with no problems.

Aerial port personnel gained valuable experience packing and loading the large number of heavy equipment platforms and container delivery system bundles while aircrew flight equipment prepared the large number of night vision goggles and life support systems required to safely fly in formation at night.

Despite its relatively small size, the facility at Minneapolis Air Reserve Station is a host to a large number of Joint Total Force agencies, including the Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, and Marine Corps Reserve. Its shared use with Minneapolis Airport allows it to operate at a fraction of the cost to the DOD as a stand-alone military base.

Daughters of American Revolution honor JBSA-Randolph Airmen

by Dona Fair
12th Flying Wing Public Affairs


12/5/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- (Editor's note: for security reasons, some personnel are referred to by their first names.)

Four 12th Flying Training Wing members were recently honored at the Daughters of the American Revolution's Instructor Pilot and Aviators of the Year Awards ceremony, here.

Capt. Jay Park, 435th Fighter Training Squadron, and Staff Sgt. Judd, 558th Flying Training Squadron, both of Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph; Capt. Brian Thalhofer, 455th Flying Training Squadron, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.; and Tech. Sgt. William C. Howell, 98th Flying Training Squadron, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. received this year's awards.

"Much has transpired in the past year for our military, but one thing that remains constant is the DAR's loyal and faithful support to our nation and military," said Col. Gerald Goodfellow, 12th Flying Training Wing commander.

The Instructor Navigator and Combat Systems Officer of the Year Award was presented to Park. A native of Moore, Okla., Park earned a degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Oklahoma.

He has accrued more than 300 combat hours by flying the T-6, T-1, T-38 and F-15E and has deployed to Afghanistan and Djibouti.

"As one of only three instructor combat system officers, I find that my biggest challenge, but reward, is teaching and mentoring the combat system officers to become the weapons system officers the Strike Eagle community needs," Park said. "I'm proud to have been associated with people like the DAR in this small way and I thank my leadership during these times in supporting this award."

The Instructor Pilot of the Year Award was presented to Thalhofer. Hailing from Portland, Ore., Thalhofer attended Washington State University where he received a degree in criminal justice before joining the Air Force.

"My job is busy, but endlessly rewarding whenever a student finally has that moment where the light bulb turns on," Thalhofer said. "You can literally see that instant where they finally truly understand something they have been struggling with. The other instructor pilots and I live for those moments."

Receiving the Non-Powered Flight Instructor of the Year Award was Howell, a native of Fayette, Ala.

Wanting to share his passion and give back to the skydiving community, he became a jump instructor for the Air Force Academy Airmanship Program. Howell said, "being a part of the cadets' growth from their first jump to winning medals at the U.S. Skydiving Nationals (competition) is extremely rewarding, but the best part is helping shape their character and leadership as they work toward becoming officers in the Air Force."

The final award, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Instructor of the Year, was awarded to Judd, who he holds three associate degrees from the Community College of the Air Force; in applied science in intelligence studies, air and space operations technology and an instructor of technology in military science.

Judd has flown the MQ-18 and the MQ-9A totaling more than 1,880 hours.

"I am incredibly happy to see that RPA aviation now has a category, giving a new breed of aviators a chance at recognition. We are only going to grow and evolve over time and I applaud the DAR for recognizing the importance of this new era in flight," said Judd. "Being the first enlisted member to be recognized in this way is a monumental honor and I hope to maintain the standard of excellence associated with this award."

According to the DAR website, the national society is a compilation of female descendants of any ancestor who with unfailing loyalty, rendered material aid to the cause of independence as a recognized patriot, as soldier or sailor, or as a civil officer in one of the several colonies or states. Since 1957, the Texas Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution has honored the 12th Flying Training Wing's Instructor Pilot of the Year.

An Air Force gatekeeper's day

by Airman 1st Class Tiffany DeNault
2nd Combat Camera Squadron


12/4/2013 - WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah  -- Ever wonder what a day in the life of an Air Force recruiter is like? How many people do they talk to versus how many will get to call themselves an airman?

Tech. Sgt. Michael Lundell is an Air Force recruiter in West Valley. His day-to-day routine is always busy, from going on school visits to work outs with his special operations selectees to Delayed Entry Program commanders' calls to simply meeting with people in his office. Lundell's love of the Air Force shows as he helps qualified people become our next generation's airmen.

Being the gatekeeper, walking billboard, and first person potential recruits see about a career in the Air Force, Lundell takes great pride in his duty. He is a liaison between the civilian world and the Air Force. When individuals leave for Basic Military Training, they go through a huge transformation, he said. They go from being a civilian to an Airman, or from a high school graduate to a professional. When they come back to his office, their confidence is much higher and they are usually happy with their new direction in life, he said.

Out of the 50 to 100 people Lundell talks to each week following all of his school visits, office consultations, and phone conversations, only 10 percent qualify to become airmen.

"The standards to the Air Force are higher than they have ever been: the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, height and weight, tattoo, moral and drug standards-- it is all pretty tight right now," Lundell explained. "The quality that's coming in is excellent, lots of really smart, good people."

Airman 1st Class Michael McLaughlin is one of Lundell's recruits who recently returned here to work with the sergeant through the Recruiter Assistance Program. McLaughlin joined the DEP in June 2011 and left for basic military training in December 2011. Lundell helped McLaughlin prepare for BMT by motivating him to meet and stay on top of his physical training, McLaughlin stated. Lundell also just kept him motivated in general about his future in the Air Force.

"Tech. Sgt. Lundell was extremely helpful and willing to help me start my Air Force career," said McLaughlin. "He is completely dedicated to his job."

Before Lundell was a recruiter he grew up in Utah County, Utah, and joined the Air Force in August 2003 as an aircrew life support Airman. His first duty station was Moody Air Force Base, Ga., where he worked for seven years. When he was selected to be a recruiter as a special duty assignment he was assigned to come back to Utah for the four-year assignment. Lundell said his family is very supportive of his career path and his parents are happy to have him so close to home.

While Lundell spends a lot of his time mentoring and training potential airmen, this special duty assignment has given him valuable lessons as well. The best lessons he's has learned, he said, have been gaining a greater appreciation of the core values, time management and prioritizing. His daily challenges consist of guiding, motivating and preparing the individuals in the DEP for BMT. Lundell said he is confident the individuals he puts into the Air Force are smart, top-notch airmen.

"I definitely do my best to help all the people I put in the Air Force know exactly what they are getting into from Military Entrance Processing Station all the way through the DEP and then, of course, into basic training, and what to expect in the experience," he said