Military News

Monday, June 30, 2014

67th CW welcomes new commander

by 1st Lt. Meredith Hein
24th Air Force Public Affairs


6/30/2014 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- The 67th Cyberspace Wing welcomed a new commander June 20 during a ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Col. David W. Snoddy assumed command from Col. William J. Poirier, who led the unit since July 10, 2012.

The 67th CW operates, manages and defends Air Force networks around the world. In addition, the wing provides network operations and network warfare capabilities to Air Force, joint task force and combatant commanders.

Maj. Gen. J. Kevin McLaughlin, 24th Air Force commander, officiated the ceremony.

"Col. Poirier took the 67th CW to new heights and the success of the wing is a true testament to his leadership. His expertise will serve him well in his future roles," said McLaughlin. "I am confident that, going forward under Col Snoddy's leadership, this wing will continue to meet the cyber challenges of both the Air Force and our nation with success."

Under Poirier's leadership, the 67th CW was awarded the Omaha Trophy in 2013 for global operations, and earned two Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards.

"It has truly been an honor to serve the Airmen of this wing as their commander," said Poirier. "I cannot say enough about the people--they have amazing talent and drive. I thank them for all they do for our great nation."

Snoddy comes to the 67th CW from Washington, D.C., where he was part of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Fellows program.

"I am so grateful for the opportunity to work in this great wing and in this great community," said Snoddy. "This domain is so critical to our nation and I am humbled by the chance to be a part of its growth."

KC-46A groundbreaking ceremony marks giant step forward for air refueling

by Airman 1st Class John Linzmeier
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


6/30/2014 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- A new era in Air Force air refueling capabilities took a giant step forward June 30, 2014.

Shovels overturned the first piles of dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new KC-46A Pegasus at McConnell Air Force Base. The ceremony symbolized significant progress in the KC-46A program and that construction in preparation for the Pegasus' arrival has officially started.

The construction includes a two-bay corrosion control and fuel cell hangar, a three-bay general maintenance hangar, a one-bay general maintenance hangar and an aircraft parking apron.

Gen. Darren McDew, Air Mobility Command commander; Brig. Gen. John Flournoy, Jr., 4th Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command commander; Col. Joel Jackson, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander; and other distinguished visitors had the honor of shoveling the first clumps of earth.

While the official party broke ground on the project, McDew acknowledged that the mission is really carried out by the McConnell community.

"Air Refueling is vital to Rapid Global Mobility - the AMC Airmen that maintain, operate and support our tanker fleet put the 'global' in global reach, vigilance and power. The KC-46A Pegasus will ensure we can continue to provide our nation with this amazing capability. The success of our global air mobility enterprise depends on strong leaders, and this ceremony is about the men and women of McConnell boldly forging the future of our air refueling operations," said McDew. "I have faith and trust they will exceed my expectations."

McConnell AFB will be the first active duty-led main operating base for the new KC-46A, which is part of a three phase effort to recapitalize the Air Force's tanker fleet.  Jackson reflected on the current tanker's history.

"Since 1971, McConnell has been the Air Force's premier tanker base flying the venerable KC-135," said Jackson. "In 1995, we became one of three Air Force super tanker wings, and would eventually become the largest tanker base in the Air Force."

McConnell will be the first base to beddown the Pegasus, expected in 2016. It has a larger refueling capacity, improved efficiency and increased capabilities for cargo and aeromedical evacuation.

The new tanker will help to expand the Air Force's war fighting capabilities supporting the Navy, Army, Marine Corps as well as allied nation coalition forces and even other KC-46As.

Along with the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and the Long Range Bomber, development of the KC-46A is amongst the Air Force's top three acquisition priorities.
                                                                            
While the Air Force is preparing a new generation of tankers, McConnell's mission will stay the same - to deliver warfighting capability today and tomorrow.

"Be it the past or the future, our mission success has, and will always, depend on the men and women of Team McConnell," said Jackson. "We are prepared and honored as a Total Force Team to forge the future of aerial refueling with the arrival of the KC-46A fleet."

Force Improvement Program comes to 8th AF

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


6/30/2014 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --  Air Force Global Strike Command's Force Improvement Program team concluded their tour of the command's bomber bases and gathered to present their findings here, June 29.
The FIP team gathered an immense amount of data from the Airmen out in the field, conducting more than 1,700 interviews and nearly 4,500 surveys. These efforts are designed to give leadership a grass-roots perspective on the state of the command.
"Believe it or not, we don't know everything up here at the headquarters," Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, AFGSC commander, said. "The people out there doing the mission, the NCOs and company-grade officers and the Airmen out in the field, they know the mission better than anyone. So let's listen to them."
The Force Improvement Program, originally created to investigate challenges within the ICBM force and to make substantial and lasting changes, was recently adapted to the bomber community after it proved successful in the missile field.
At the heart of the FIP are the functional-cultural working groups, which sit down with Airmen in the field to have frank discussions about their concerns and to listen to suggestions, explained Lt. Col. Russell Williford, FIP director. Each working group focuses on a specific area of the bomber force, covering the areas of operations, security forces, mission support and maintenance. By going to each base and interviewing the people who are hands-on with the mission, the teams hope to get unfiltered feedback.
"My mantra has always been 'I can't fix something unless I know about it,'" said Maj. Gen. Scott VanderHamm, 8th Air Force commander. "So I look at this as another opportunity to get after the things I may not know about."
The FIP team also coordinated with members of Air Combat Command, U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and select U.S. Navy personnel. This allowed the FIP team to draw on a vastly larger pool of experience and expertise.
"This is really a following-up, to validate to the Secretary [of the Air Force] and the Chief [of Staff of the Air Force] and to the American public that we're doing things right," VanderHamm said.
The FIP survey of the ICBM field garnered more than 300 recommendations, 98 percent of which were approved for implementation. Air Force leaders hope the FIP will be just as successful in the bomber community.
"The biggest thing that will come out of this is empowerment. At the end of the day, it's about empowering our people to do their jobs," Wilson said. "When people believe in the change and you empower them, get out of the way because they can do just about anything."

Airmen and Soldiers participate in joint combat scenarios

by Senior Airman Kristin High
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs


6/30/2014 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Green Flag East provides unique training opportunities for the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., which trains soldiers in highly realistic combat environments. It is controlled by the 548th Combat Training Squadron, which is headquartered at Fort Polk and has a detachment here.

Green Flag East is one of two U.S. locations in charge of training and continuing the development of simulated combat operations held between Barksdale and Fort Polk, La., to employ close air support and hone communication between air and ground forces.

For the past few weeks, approximately 210 Airmen and 12 F-15E Strike Eagles from the 336th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., traveled to Barksdale to participate in Green Flag East, which took place June 8- 24.

"Green Flag East is a great exercise for the Air Force and Army to work together as a joint force," said 2nd Lt. Bethany Gross, Assistant Officer-In-Charge, 336th AMU. "Essentially, we're prepping for an upcoming deployment by practicing and simulating live-fire to support the troops on the ground and working on our communication skills with them as well."

The integration of Army and Air Force assets is vital to the overall mission, she added. While the Army trains at Ft. Polk, our F-15E Strike Eagles fly down to provide air support for these combat scenarios.

During Green Flag East, 150 Airmen from the maintenance side helped to keep the aircrafts going throughout the sorties.

"We are the eyes on the flightline," said Staff Sgt. Cory Prater, 336th AMU F-15E Strike Eagles dedicated crew chief. "My biggest job during Green Flag is keeping the jet flying. We have accessories such as bombs and pods to help with the guys on the ground but if the jets are not flying, there's nothing you can do to support them."

Everyone plays an important role throughout the exercise, he said. During the mission, the Soldiers communicate where and when to drop bombs, the Airmen drop the bombs.

"Overall, integrating with the other services effectively utilizes our resources," he said. "Participating in Green Flag East brings us together to develop skills we use during the fight."

During the exercise, 218 sorties were successfully accomplished, simulating the elimination of 20 tanks and 46 threatening personnel.

The overall mission effectiveness was flawless during this exercise, Prater added.

The efforts were recognized with more than 25 top and superior performers.

'No Guts, No Glory': 334th FS honors legendary fighter pilot

by Airman 1st Class Aaron J. Jenne
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


6/30/2014 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Excellence: the state or quality of excelling or being exceptionally good; extreme merit; superiority.

The Air Force is no stranger to excellence. It is a virtue engrained into the service's core values and is an integral part of each Airman's life. According to those who knew and served with, Maj. Gen. Frederick "Boots" Blesse, a former Air Force ace pilot, he exemplified excellence during his service.

Current and former Airmen alike, assembled to recognize the accomplishments of Blesse during a memorial dedication ceremony June 27, 2014, at the 334th Fighter Squadron on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.

Due to his distinguished career and legacy, the 334th FS felt that it was only fitting they create a memorial commemorating the accomplishments of their former ace pilot.

During the ceremony Blesse's widowed wife, Betty, joined Lt. Col. Donn Yates, the current 334th FS commander, to unveil a memorial statue in Blesse's honor. The nearly six-foot tall stone monument boldly stands at the entrance of the 334th FS building depicted a bust of Blesse and an inscription which says, "334th Fighter Squadron; Gateway to the Combat Air Forces; Following in the footsteps of legends ... Maj. Gen. Frederick C. "Boots" Blesse; Double Ace; 'No Guts, No Glory.'"

"We established this memorial to remind our incoming students as well as our outgoing graduates that it is our warrior spirit that will often be decisive in any future conflict," said Lt. Col. Donn Yates, 334th FS commander. "Their mindset must rely on the training they received here as well as their aggressiveness during the performance of their duties."

Blesse made a name for himself while serving as the operations officer of the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron during the Korean War. During his voluntary assignment at Kimpo Air Base, Korea, the then major revolutionized the air-to-air combat tactics of the squadron. At the conclusion of his tour, Blesse was widely recognized as one of the Air Force's top aces, having destroyed or irreparably damaged more than 15 enemy aircraft. He went on to serve more than 30 years in the Air Force, including a tour in Vietnam, before retiring as the Air Force' deputy inspector general. He passed away in October 2012

The ceremony also featured a flyover consisting of current and past aircraft assigned to the wing. Two F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft flew over the dedication ceremony, followed by two F-4 Phantoms II aircraft, to honor Blesse, who flew the Phantom II during his tour in Vietnam.

"The legacy of Gen. Blesse is something for us to look up to and try to emulate in our careers," said 1st Lt. Joshua Judy, 334th FS pilot in training, who is set to graduate from B-Course on June 27. "Flying with the 334th and knowing what he's done for our squadron's history, it gives me pride to know where we came from and the leaders that were here before us."

Yates hopes that the memorial will serve as a motivator to those who serve in the squadron in the future as well as a reminder of how much Blesse has done for the Air Force.

"General Blesse is precisely the type of warrior we seek to emulate and produce in our students," Yates added. "This monument will serve as a lasting testament of Gen. Blesse's life and service and will inspire Airmen for generations to come. We will all remember his legacy of excellence."

Betty also expressed her gratitude for her husband's recognition.

"I'm so humbled to be here," Betty said. "To think they would do all this to recognize my husband is amazing. I know he would have loved it."

Anything but a tanker: the first KC-135 story

by Airman 1st Class David Bernal Del Agua
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


6/27/2014 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Three static displays of retired aircraft lie exhibited at the entrance of McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Each model symbolizes a different phase in the base's history.

While many members of McConnell drive past the displays on a daily basis, they may not know the history of the tanker standing guard.

Aircraft 55-3118, once nicknamed "The City of Renton," first rolled out of Boeing Co.'s Renton, Washington, plant in 1956. The first KC-135 Stratotanker never flew a refueling mission; instead, it was used for many other diverse missions.

"Our most important mission was escorting fighters," said retired Lt. Col. Ted Buck. "We flew with squadrons at a time from state side to Vietnam and back."

"The City of Renton" was retrofitted with bunks, seats, tables, carpeting, soundproofing, and communication equipment after initial testing was complete to fit its new mission.

"Every 90 days we had to spit-shine that plane in the hangars," said retired Master Sgt. Gene De Forest. "Everyone below captain or master sergeant had to polish. The rule was 'if you don't polish, you don't fly.'"

Command and control was the next mission of 55-3118, it was as a modern satellite for tactical air command.

"We're talking 45 or 50 years ago," said Buck. At the time, the capabilities were amazing. We kept radio contact with fighter aircraft no matter where they went. We were very useful and needed."

It was once used to carry Dr. Henry Kissinger, preceding President Richard Nixon's trip to China.

"The White House needed a plane that could take Kissinger where he needed to go without the press knowing what he was doing, so they called us," said Buck. "That was the first diplomatic contact with China since World War II."

The tanker was brought to McConnell after its retirement in 1998, where it was restored with all its original parts.

"The City of Renton" will continue to greet the past, present, and future generations of refuelers, except now it has come to be called "The Keeper of The Plains" to reflect its location in Kansas.

The Air Force's KC-97 Stratofreighter was introduced to the new KC-135 in 1956, and the KC-135 would eventually replace it.

And now the KC-46A will slowly start replacing the KC-135, just like it replaced its predecessor. The life cycle of this KC-135 is complete now.

"This aircraft is the most beautiful display in the Air Force," said Buck.

USS Pennsylvania Sets Patrol Record



By Navy Chief Petty Officer Ahron Arendes
Commander, Submarine Group 9

BANGOR, Wash., June 30, 2014 – The Trident strategic missile submarine USS Pennsylvania manned by its “Gold” crew returned home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor here June 14 following a 140-day, record-breaking patrol.

Tridents are nuclear-powered, Ohio-class submarines. The Pennsylvania set a new record for the longest patrol completed by an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.

The Ohio-class submarines have two crews, called Blue and Gold, which rotate patrols. One crew is at sea usually for 60 to 90 days, while the other trains ashore. In this way, the vessels can be employed at sea 70 percent of the time, when not undergoing scheduled maintenance in port.

The Pennsylvania’s “Gold” crew patrol, which began in January, is not only the longest for an Ohio-class submarine, but the longest since beginning of the Poseidon C3 ballistic missile program in the early 1970s, according to records maintained by the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Weapon System Evaluation program.

"It's an honor. It was a challenge. The job kept calling for us to stay at sea but we were ready, willing and able. So we stayed at sea and finished the mission," said Navy Cmdr. Tiger Pittman, the Pennsylvania’s “Gold” crew commanding officer.

"I'm incredibly proud of my crew,” Pittman added. “I've been amazed by their resiliency throughout the entire time, and not only the crew, but the families. We leave and we serve, but they stay home and they serve as well."

Trident submarines -- nicknamed “Boomers” -- carry as many as 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear ballistic missiles. At 560 feet long and 42 feet wide, they are the largest submarines in the U.S. Navy’s inventory.

The Pennsylvania’s Navy hull classification symbol is SSBN 735. The SS denotes “Ship, Submersible.” The B denotes “ballistic missile,” and the N denotes “nuclear powered.”

As Pennsylvania emerged from an extended maintenance period in 2013, the patrol had originally been planned to be longer than is considered normal for Trident strategic missile submarine. The crew spent nearly the entire patrol underway, since unlike most other Navy vessels, Trident submarines don't make routine port visits except when returning to home port.

"USS Pennsylvania ‘Gold's’ patrol is an exceptional example of the flexibility and capability of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine. We had always expected this to be a longer than normal patrol and a highly-capable crew made it happen," said Navy Capt. Mark VanYe, chief of staff at Commander, Submarine Group 9. "When operational commitments changed, we knew the exceptional sailors serving on Pennsylvania and their families back home were up to the task.

"They have excelled across their entire mission set," VanYe added. "We are glad now to have them home and congratulate them on a job well-done."

Upon their return home, Pennsylvania’s “Gold” crew was greeted by Commander of Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet Navy Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer, who wanted to personally thank them and congratulate them on a job well-done.

"The SSBN strategic deterrent patrol is the most important unit mission in the submarine force and vital to the defense our nation," Sawyer said. "The Pennsylvania ‘Gold’ crew was on the front line of deterrence, conducting critical missions from the time the ship got underway until returning home and I couldn't be prouder of what they have accomplished."

The USS Pennsylvania, part of the nation’s strategic deterrence forces, is one of eight Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines home-ported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

Mission assurance exercise concludes

by Airman 1st Class Erin O'Shea
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


6/27/2014 - ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- A three-day mission assurance exercise here wrapped up in the late afternoon, June 25, as base operations returned to normal.

RAF Lakenheath conducted the exercise to test the base's overall readiness and preparedness. The training was designed to emphasize the importance of combat skills effectiveness training and ensure 48th Fighter Wing Airmen are fully prepared for any contingencies.

"These exercises ensure Airmen can accomplish the mission during a heightened state of alert while providing combat-ready forces for close air and ground support," said Col. Kyle Robinson, 48th FW commander. "Striving for readiness is crucial to ensuring we are able to stand with our allies and defend our assets."

Throughout the exercise, Airmen prepared for emerging threats by responding to a variety of challenges, including a suspicious package, hostile engagements, hazardous material explosions and even dangerous weather conditions. Airmen were tested by the Wing Inspection Team on several areas vital to mission success, whether in a deployed environment or at their home duty station.

"These exercises help us prepare for real-world scenarios by coming up with creative ways to adapt and overcome shortfalls through medial training," said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Hill, 48th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department station chief.

All units across the base played a crucial role in making this exercise run smoothly.

"Over the past several days we've risen to the challenges placed before us," Robinson said. "All the Airmen involved have shown a great sense of urgency and the ability to respond and save lives in these types of events."

As part of the 48th FW's top priorities, Airmen train like they fight to sharpen combat capabilities. This training assists in ensuring Airmen are ready to respond to real-world threats at a moment's notice.

"If we can be ready on our home station, it will make it easier to be ready on a deployment," Hill concluded.

Soldiers Scale North America’s Highest Peak



By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith
4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska, June 30, 2014 – Driven by determination and trained in arctic survival, five paratroopers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, along with one soldier from the Army's Northern Warfare Training Center and two soldiers from the Vermont Army National Guard, scaled the highest point in North America June 15.

Mount McKinley, in Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve, rises to an elevation of 20,237 feet above sea level. It has an 18,000-foot base-to-peak rise in elevation -- the highest in the world in that category.

Athabaskan Alaska Natives' name for the mountain is Denali -- "The High One."

Weather conditions on the mountain are often extreme. Bitter cold, blinding sunlight, and high winds create very difficult climbing conditions.

Dangerous crevasses concealed by snow bridges present treacherous obstacles for climbers.

This climbing season has been particularly difficult. The 4/25 IBCT's climb team leader, Army Capt. Matthew Hickey, said he'd seen fewer than 30 percent of climbers reach the summit so far.

Hickey credits the discipline, training and equipment he and his team employed on their way up as key to their success. He said the team's mountaineering skills, cold-weather operations training, teamwork, and conditioning allowed them to keep their momentum as they pressed forward.

The other soldiers who made up the eight-member climbing team included Staff Sgt. John Harris, Sgt. Lucanus Fechter, Spc. Matthew Tucker, and Spc. Tyler Campbell. They joined forces with 1st Sgt. Nathan Chipman and Staff Sgt. Taylor Ward, from the Army's Mountain Warfare School in Jericho, Vt., and Staff Sgt. Stephon Flynn from the Northern Warfare Training Center in Black Rapids, Alaska.

The team followed the West Buttress Route to the summit of Mount McKinley, with each soldier hauling about 140 pounds of gear. They ate Army-issue dehydrated meals twice a day, boiling the water they needed to prepare the meals from snow they collected on the mountainside. However, those meals were not enough for the massive energy expenditure; they also snacked for added energy and nourishment.

Key mission objectives were to test and strengthen tactics, techniques, and procedures, while operating in a mountainous, high-altitude, cold-weather environment.

The team, sponsored by U.S. Army Alaska, took 13 days to reach Denali's summit. The mountain's oxygen-poor air left them with headaches and fatigue, which they countered by stopping at intermediate camps along the way to acclimate to the altitude and weather conditions.

They reached the top of Denali using mostly Army-issue equipment. Harris, the assistant team leader, said the Army's pull-behind Akhio sled system is heavier than most similar sleds, but because of its rigid pulling poles, navigating downhill and along the sides of slopes was easier.

"We brought it along, despite the weight," Hickey said. "That was one of the reasons why we were on the mountain -- to test some of this new equipment, or equipment that has been in the inventory for a while that hasn't been used in an environment such as Mount McKinley."

The team's safety equipment was tested when Campbell fell into a snow-bridged crevasse. The safety harness and tethered line they wore every day saved him from plummeting to the bottom of the 80-foot-deep crevasse.

"Personally, I love this piece of equipment," Campbell said. "It's part of the reason why I'm still here today."

"I think it was our fourth day on the mountain, not too far in," he explained. "It was gray out, you know, [there] was a little drizzle, a little snow, and it just looked like a normal slope to me."

Campbell added, "We knew there were crevasses around, but we didn't see them. There was a snow bridge that I walked on, and it was just too weak to hold me up, and I just started falling.”

His fall was stopped about 15 feet down when the safety line rope went tight. He used his training in crevasse rescue to climb nearly to the top where he was assisted the rest of the way.

"[It was] probably one of the scariest experiences of my life," Campbell said. "We were doing everything as safely as we could, and I'm still here today because of the equipment we used."

The team agreed that safety training and risk-mitigation were key factors to their successful and safe journey. They also said that even though they were in a bitterly cold, unforgiving environment, turning back before reaching the summit never crossed their minds.

In all, the team spent 16 days on Mount McKinley.

On summit day, they reached the top of the mountain in a cloud. With limited visibility, nausea, fatigue and heads pounding, they celebrated and snapped some pictures -- but they didn't stay long.

Having conquered the summit, they began a rapid descent for a hot shower and a warm meal.

Friday, June 27, 2014

New commander to lead 65th Air Base Wing

by Capt. Mark Graff
65th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


6/26/2014 - LAJES FIELD, Azores -- Col. Martin Rothrock assumed command of the 65th Air Base Wing during a change of command ceremony here June 26. Rothrock took command from Col. Chris Bargery, who had commanded the wing since July 2012. Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, 3rd Air Force commander, presided over the ceremony.

Rothrock arrives at Lajes Field from the Republic of Korea where he was Chief of the Joint 3/4 Theater Antiterroism, Force Protection and Critical Infrastructure Division for United States Forces Korea. He is a career security forces officer and a veteran of six overseas assignments and deployments.

Rothrock is a 1990 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree. He has earned four Master's Degrees from various civilian and military institutions.

Bargery departs to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where he will command the Air Force Security Forces Center. He will direct the AFSFC's day-to-day operations and lead three Air Staff divisions and two geographically separated corrections facilities.

Check back to Lajes Link for updates to this story. 

The 65th Air Base Wing is the American unit stationed at Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal. This U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa unit is the largest U.S. military organization in the Azores. The wing plays a vital role in combat operations by enabling the expeditionary movement of war fighters, warplanes and global communications to combatant commanders and supporting Joint, Coalition and NATO operations as part of U.S. and Allied Air Expeditionary Forces.

US Olympian Graduates 'A' School in Mississippi



By Penny Randall, Naval Air Station Meridian Public Affairs

NAVAL AIR STATION MERIDIAN, Miss. (NNS) -- Rodney Martin may hold the title of U.S. Olympian, but he is now referred to as U.S. Navy Seaman Rodney Martin - a title he says is just as special.

Martin, 31, was a member of the 4x100 relay team at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and earned a gold medal in track and field at the 2007 World Championships.

Martin, who calls Las Vegas home, holds a bachelor's degree in criminology from the University of South Carolina. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in February 2014, after boot camp he arrived at Naval Technical Training Center on board Naval Air Station Meridian to learn his job specialty.

"Most of the student population here is 18 years old, so I'm ancient - I'm a nerd," Martin said. "I love the yeoman rating. I got the highest GPA in the class. The instructors did a great job presenting the information. I'm confident know that when I get to the fleet I will know my job."

Martin's next step is to attend submarine school and begin paperwork for the All Navy Sports Team.

"I am equally proud of Martin's accomplishments on the athletic field as his commitment to our nation and Navy," said Cmdr. Robert Stockton, commanding officer of Naval Technical Training Center Meridian. "He is the embodiment of our core values, truly believes in being a part of something bigger than himself and represents the finest our nation has to offer."

Martin said he did his research before deciding on which branch of the service to join.

"My family is big on the military, but it's the Army that my father and grandfather served in. The Navy's ethos of Honor, Courage and Commitment really spoke to me - especially commitment. It takes a lot of commitment to reach the Olympics and the Navy is big on commitment."

Martin was recently asked to participate in the opening cermoney of the State Games of Mississippi. He took the stage with two other Olympian who are Mississippi natives. George Wilson earned a gold medal in basketball in the 1964 Tokyo games and Midrette Netter ran the third leg of the U.S.'s 4x100 women's relay team that won a gold medal in 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

"It was such an honor to stand along side two great Olympians," Martin said. "I did not earn a medal my year, but I'm extremely proud to have had the chance to reach the Olympics."

Martin said there is no greater pleasure for him than to be able to give back to his country, one that has given him so many opportunities.

In fact, his goal is to once again step onto the field with the U.S. All-Navy Sports Team.

"It's a time to pave another path for myself - the Navy offers a wealth of opportunities and I want to take advantage of them," Martin said. "I'm looking at the 2016 Olympics. It was disappointed to not earn a medal in 2008. I ran the first lead, but two guys dropped the baton and it costs us the medal."

Martin's fifth-place 100m finish at the 2008 Olympic trials placed him in the 4x100m relay pool for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Martin set personal bests in 2008 in the 100 meters (9.95).

An estimated 5,000 people packed downtown Meridian for the opening ceremonies June 20.

"The age range of the athletics was shocking," Martin said. "Kids came up to me wanted high-fives and to take photos with me. I told them all to keep up the hard work...athletics can take you far. It took me to the Olympics, paid for my college and gave me many, many opportunities to travel the world. But I also want to tell the athletes to have fun with it. I took my career very seriously - the way I ate, the way I trained - I missed out on activities in my youth. You can still have a normal life and be a great athlete. I know God gave me a gift, I can naturally run faster than most people. I don't think I realized it when I was young. Now I embrace it and hopefully I can do more great things with the All Navy Sports Team."

Former command chief remembers career

by Senior Airman Michael Battles
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs


6/26/2014 - Aviano Air BASE, Italy  -- Education is the foundation for every story written. As an Air Force chief master sergeant, education is a tool to write not only his story, but the story of every Airman he came into contact with.

For three decades, retired Chief Master Sgt. Don Schroeder moved through countless assignments, experienced both happy and painful moments and adapted to changes from a forever-growing Air Force, which guided him to his final position as a command chief.

On May 16, 1980, Schroeder a young 23-year-old, enlisted as a firefighter in the U.S. Air Force.

"I really wanted to do something different," Schroeder said. "I was a mailman at the time and loved it, but I couldn't see myself doing it for 20 years. I saw the Air Force and knew I had to do it."

After completion of basic and technical training, the new Air Force firefighter moved to his first duty location: Royal Air Force Greenham-Common. According to Schroeder, his inspiration to become a firefighter was the result of the May, 1979, Beverly Hills Supper Club fire tragedy in northern Kentucky that took the lives of 165 people. Schroeder is a native of Covington, Ky.

After his second duty assignment, RAF Fairford, Schroeder decided he wanted another change in his life and cross-trained into education and training. Education would become the foundation for not only his military career, but his post-military life.

"While at Fairford, I started conducting fire prevention training for the base populace and really enjoyed it," Schroeder said. "Upon making staff sergeant, I had the opportunity to retrain into Education and Training under the Careers Program. I quickly volunteered so I could help Air Force personnel in more aspects than just fire prevention."

After cross-training, Schroeder transitioned through two more assignments including Robins AFB and RAF Lakenheath as an education and training manager before arriving at one of his favorite assignments -- Headquarters Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Bolling AFB.

"We would develop and create realistic scenarios to train the new agents," said Schroeder. "I loved playing the bad guy, it was the best part."

During the next several years, Schroeder progressed through the ranks and multiple education and training positions at Scott, McChord and Mountain Home air force bases. Mountain Home AFB became a particularly memorable duty station for him since it was where he was stationed on Sept. 11, 2001.

As a then newly promoted chief, Schroeder recalls the details of that day as if it were yesterday.

"Back then Mountain Home was known as one of two 911 wings for the Air Force," said Schroeder. "During 9/11 it was our turn to be the on-call wing, so as soon as the attack happened our base was activated to support the mission."

Working as a maintenance training flight chief at the time, Schroeder transitioned into war time operations, and with his staff assumed the role as the cargo deployment function.

"Our mission was to work with our aerial port to ensure the needed materials were getting processed and sent over to support the war," he said.

As the war overseas began to move forward, so did Schroeder. Leaving in Mountain Home AFB post 9/11, Schroeder moved on to his new position at RAF Alconbury as air mail terminal postal detachment chief, which meant he was responsible for all mail movement for Air Force military bases within the United Kingdom

RAF Alconbury would be Schroeder's last overseas assignment while on active duty, but he was elated to accept his next stateside assignment as the 17th Training Wing, Goodfellow AFB's command chief.

When asked how he felt about his selection for command chief Schroeder responded, "I was filled with both excitement and anticipation when I was selected to be a command chief, and completely humbled to have that opportunity."

Schroeder would serve as the command chief at two wings.

"I have always been about trying to make a difference and help people the best I can," he said. "First, and foremost, it has always been and continues to be about our Air Force and the people we serve."

While serving as the 17th TW command chief, Schroeder met two Airmen, SrA Brian Kolfage and A1C Elizabeth Jacobson who would change his outlook on the Air Force forever.

Jacobson lost her life and Kolfage sustained injuries, both in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"As the command chief, the commander and I had to notify the security forces squadron of Koflage's injuries and the death of Airman Jacobson," he said. "That was my first experience with that type of situation and the hardest. It really hit home of what we are here to do, and one reason why I continue to thank our SFS members for "doing what they do" as I enter any gate on our Air Force bases."

As if the responsibilities of being a command chief wasn't enough, between wing assignments Schroeder took an assignment as the vice commandant of the College for Enlisted Professional Military Education, which is now called the Barnes Center at Maxwell-Gunter AFB, Ala.

On June 1, 2010, after 12 assignments, Schroeder retired from U.S. Air Force as the command chief of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, Fairchild AFB.

After three decades of service, Schroeder said one of his proudest moments was watching his son and grandson follow in his Air Force footsteps.

As a civilian, he continues to serve the Air Force within the education world. Working in education center, Schroeder serves as an education services specialist where his duties include conducting education briefs throughout the wing, facilitating higher education workshops for transitioning personnel, discussing GI Bill benefits with military and veterans, and assisting customers with their off duty education goals.

After years in the education environment, Schroeder also left service members with one last piece of advice.

"Remember we are here to serve our country and it's not about us," he said. "Be the best Airman you can be both on and off duty, get involved in the community and get your education. The better you make yourself, the better you make the Air Force."