Military News

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Face of Defense: Native American Navy Veteran Paved Way for Women Sailors

By Shannon Collins
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

SOUTH GATE, Calif., Nov. 28, 2014 – The head woman dancer at a recent Native American Veterans Association pow-wow is a retired sailor who helped blaze the path for women in the Navy.

Retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Old Horn-Purdy, from the Crow tribe, took part in the annual Veterans Appreciation and Heritage Day here on Nov. 8-9, 2014. She was one of the first females in the Navy to serve on a combatant ship.

Long before she ever set out to sea, however, Horn-Purdy’s journey began on the Crow Agency reservation in Montana.

“I grew up around very traditional grandparents, and my father would pass down stories. We had oral history,” she said. “They would teach us from our ancestors. Nothing was written down. I grew up knowing some of my language, but my first language was English. I went to school off the reservation, so I lived in both worlds.”

She said it was a culture shock when she went to the school off the reservation, but she had to adapt.

Military Benefits

Horn-Purdy said she joined the military for the benefits, such as education, training and travel.

“I needed a place to sleep, something to eat and, for me, that was good enough,” she said, adding that she wanted to “learn, that was the main reason.”  She said she can relate to other military people coming from other countries who are just glad to have some place to sleep, eat and work.

When she got to her ship in 1985, she found out she was among the first group of women on her deployed ship. Then, in 1999, she found out that she was to be among the first group of women on a combatant ship.

“It was hard, but we had to adapt if we wanted to continue and learn and do our job,” she said. She was in engineering but wasn’t allowed to call herself a machinist at that time. She said that, at her three-year mark in service, the career field opened up to women.

One of the First

“I ended up becoming a machinist, one of the first women in there,” she said. “I ended up advancing quickly through that because not too many people wanted to be in there. I don’t know if it was because I was na├»ve or young, but I used to think, ‘I’m going to be tough. I’m Indian. I’m going to make it.’ It was hard to learn the theories and engineering principles. I’m thankful for the co-workers who helped me through it. It was hard, but I got through it.

“I’m appreciative of those particular men who would look beyond my race and gender and would try to teach me and help me to think the way I should think so I have a lot to be thankful for. They helped me learn,” she said.

Serving in the military is also a Native American tradition. Her paternal grandfather, Allen Old Horn served in the Army in World War II and her maternal grandfather, George Thompson, was in the Navy in World War II. Her great uncles Barney and Henry Old Coyote were code talkers in World War II, and great-grandfather James Red Fox was also one in World War I.

Old Horn-Purdy said her father, Sarge Old Horn Sr., encouraged her throughout her time in the military and is proud of her time in the uniform.

Since the Beginning

She said Native Americans have defended America since the beginning.

“Native Americans weren’t given medals or accolades that we get now for defending America,” she said. “But we still have to protect America, no matter what. It’s in our blood.”

She encourages people to attend pow wows in their communities to learn more about Native American culture.

“You don’t have to be Indian to be at a pow-wow,” she said. “Many people don’t know anything about Indians so it’s great to educate them about us, because Indians have a different viewpoint and different stories. It’s good for people to learn and see what we’re all about.”

Friday, November 28, 2014

Ebola risk low, but prevention still counts

by 673d Medical Group
News Release

11/28/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The recent import of the Ebola virus to the United States has highlighted one of the challenges of our global community - we are all connected to events in far-off places.

Locally, our risk is low; however we must ensure we have measures in place to detect this virus.

Similar to procedures you have seen across the nation, the Department of Defense has initiated screening procedures to assist in detecting any potential Ebola virus disease patients who may arrive at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Screening focuses on two key areas - symptoms, and the travel history of the patient and those they had contact with.

Patients complaining of fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or unexplained bleeding will be asked if they have traveled to West Africa (Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia), or have had contact with someone who is infected with Ebola virus disease.

If you are scheduling an appointment for any of the symptoms noted above, you  should expect to be asked about travel history and contacts.

As noted, our risk for Ebola virus disease is low.

Because we are entering cold and flu season, we expect people will have fevers and other symptoms common to these illnesses.

The travel and contact history portion of the screening will help identify those who could have EVD instead of common illnesses like colds and influenza.

The most important way to combat illnesses, including Ebola, is good hand-washing practices and "cough etiquette."

This is even more important as our children have returned to school, and as we gather indoors as the temperatures get cooler.

The more we gather, the greater the opportunity to share whatever we have.

To combat the spread of diseases - from Ebola to the common cold - wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, stay home if you are sick, and get your flu vaccination.

We appreciate everyone's assistance in helping to keep our community healthy, and in providing some additional information should you need an appointment for symptoms associated with EVD.

Thanks for partnering with us to promote health and wellness year around across our entire JBER community.

Face of Defense: Native American Vietnam Vet Takes Spiritual Path

By Shannon Collins
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

SOUTH GATE, Calif., Nov. 28, 2014 – Cherokee tribe member Tony LittleHawk waved a bald-eagle-feather fan as he performed the Sun Dance at the Native American Veterans Association’s Annual Veterans Appreciation and Heritage Day Pow-wow held here Nov. 8-9.

The Sun Dance is a distinctive ceremony where Native Americans use intense dancing, fasting, piercing, sun-gazing and other spiritual devices to pray on behalf of their people for healing, according to the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains.

LittleHawk, who is also a Native American spiritual adviser, went from being a Los Angeles gang member, an Army Airborne combat medic and infantryman in Vietnam and motorcycle gang member to getting a calling to run sweat lodges and be a Sun Dancer. He also started performing counseling services for his Native American community.

Early Years

LittleHawk was born in Marshall, Texas, but he grew up in North Hollywood, California, with his mother and grandmother in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood.

“My grandmother always told me about my culture though,” he said of his Cherokee tribe. “My great grandmother was on the Trail of Tears in 1835.”

He joined a gang when he got older but got into trouble for fighting and joy-riding in the 1950s, so his probation officer encouraged him to join the military. He joined the Army for eight months and then re-enlisted.

LittleHawk said he was one of two Native Americans in his basic training unit.

“We were very few, even in basic. There was only one other Native beside myself,” he said, laughing. “We became friends right away. Even after basic, when I went to medical training and then jump school, there were very few Natives, few and far between.

“When I was in Vietnam, I ran into my next-door neighbor, who was Sioux,” he continued. “I used to go out with his sister. We ran into each other while I was out on patrol, and we were sitting in a foxhole together in Vietnam.”

After basic training, LittleHawk was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division and deployed to the Dominican Republic for three months.

Military Service in Vietnam

He said he picked up valuable skills, patching up civilians in the Dominican Republic by holding sick-call hours in an abandoned home. Afterward, LittleHawk volunteered twice to go to Vietnam, and since he was a jungle expert and pathfinder, his name was first on the list. He was assigned to the 173d Airborne Brigade and signed up for the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol.

“I loved the jungle, crawling around out there, being all secretive, trying not to get caught,” he said. “I was very patriotic, gung-ho. I was like, ‘Let’s go out and end this war the best way we can.’ I started volunteering for every mission.”

LittleHawk said he employed his first-aid kit to assist American troops and Vietnamese civilians.

“I’ve delivered babies, picked out shrapnel metal, you name it, whatever it was to be done,” he said. “If we were out on an operation, it was about finding the enemy and killing them or escaping them. But if we went through a village and there were civilians, I would treat them. I never lost that compassion to help people. It was a strange situation.”

LittleHawk said his fellow soldiers never treated him differently for being Native American.

“I got a lot of respect because I was very devoted to my job, and I would always tell them if you get hit, make sure you’re hit, because if they can see you when I go out there, they can see me,” he said, leaning forward. “My guys knew I was going to take care of them, and they took care of me. When we would pass through a town, it was like, ‘Doc, your money’s no good here.’

“They took care of me because they knew I had their backs when we were out there,” LittleHawk continued. “I didn’t care if I was under fire or what. I was going because I wasn’t going to leave my guys out there suffering.”

Difficult Experiences

He said his most difficult experiences in Vietnam occurred when he’d “look into somebody’s eyes when they got hit, and they’re going, ‘Doc, help me’ and you’re looking at them, and I’m going, ‘I got you’ but I already know they’re going to die from their wound and you could just see it in their eyes.

“But you have to go, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got you,’ and then in a few minutes, they’re dead,” he continued. “It was hard not to be able to do something for them.”

LittleHawk said while he was there, he never thought he was going to die until shortly before he was to leave Vietnam.

“Even though I worked on a lot of guys who died and patched guys up, sucking chest wounds, slapping them with morphine, whatever I had to do, the thought never entered my mind that I was going to die,” he said. “I’m going to get out of here. When I got short, I had less than 30 days to go in-country over there. They wanted to send me out on a mission. I finally told them, ‘No, I’m not going.’ Something made me feel like I wasn’t going to make it this time.”

Return to Civilian Life

LittleHawk said because he had volunteered for so many missions, he didn’t get any reprisals and was able to return home.

He got out of the Army as a buck sergeant with a few broken bones, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and a Vietnam Cross of Gallantry and caught a ride home to California with a Marine.

Decades later, in 2000, after encouragement from fellow Native American veterans, LittleHawk started receiving treatment and disability for his post-traumatic stress from his time in Vietnam.

Motorcycle Club Member

After his military service concluded, LittleHawk said, he didn’t want to put on a suit and sit behind a desk every day. He said he wanted an experience that provided a shot of adrenalin like during his military days, so he decided to join a motorcycle club. He ended up riding with the club for 16 years and was an officer for 12 of them.

“Almost all of the guys in my chapter were ex-military. They were all reconnaissance, Navy SEALs, Airborne or whatever,” LittleHawk said. “I was right at home. I retired out of the club, though, because I didn’t see my life going anywhere. It was all about partying, riding and whatever.”

Immersed in Native American Culture

LittleHawk went back to college to learn technical illustration and substance abuse counseling. Then, a friend took him to a pow-wow. He said when he first heard the beat of the drums, he was hooked and has been going to pow-wows ever since.

“I would’ve never thought 30 years ago that I would be doing what I do right now,” LittleHawk said. “It was like it was all about me for the first 40 years of my life and then the Creator said, ‘You’ve done your thing; now it’s my turn.’ I sold my motorcycle, retired out of the club, everything. In a year of my life everything changed -- 180-degrees. I have no regrets.”

LittleHawk said his Uncle Matt in Montana adopted him into the Gros Ventre Nation on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, and he started going to the Pipe Ceremony. On his fourth year, he made a new pipe and while he was in the Sun Dance arena, he offered the pipe up and committed to 16 years.

“When I Sun Dance, I suffer for the people, so they don’t,” LittleHawk said. “Somebody always needs help. Creator helps them -- I’m just the instrument.”

LittleHawk will be 72 years old in January but said he won’t be finished with Sun Dancing for three more years. He gets pierced several times a year on behalf of his people.

“I’m the oldest Sun Dancer around here right now,” he said with a barking laugh. “Even my aunt and uncle said, ‘We’re thinking about 86’ing you because you’re getting too old for this. Why don’t you let the youngsters do it?’ I have a commitment for 16 years. If I can give the motorcycle club 16 years of my life, I can make a 16-year commitment to Sun Dance. I’m going to keep giving back to the community.”

Helping Fellow Veterans

LittleHawk has also worked with United American Indian Involvement as a counselor and is the Native American Veterans Association spiritual adviser. He also became ordained online so he could sign marriage contracts after performing traditional Native American weddings.

“I’ve been doing marriages now for over 10 years,” he said. “When they want somebody to do a traditional wedding, they call me. A lot of people call me for funerals too. When a church is involved, I go talk to the priest or minister or whoever, and I let him do the inside part, and I do the gravesite part. I do the traditional part, singing Native songs and giving Native blessings.”

Even though he said he’s retired, LittleHawk continues to perform ceremonies, conduct sweat lodges, and provide counseling to whoever needs it. He said everyone calls him “uncle” out of respect but he won’t let them call him “spiritual leader” until he hits his 80’s and has white hair.

LittleHawk said he’ll continue to visit hospitals and pray with Native American veterans and help them however he can.

“I pray for a lot of people,” he said. “I’m proud of my people, and I love my people to death. I’ll be doing what I do until the day I die.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

JBER mechanics maintain mission posture

by Tech. Sgt. Raymond Mills
JBER Public Affairs

11/26/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson vehicle mechanics work to ensure vehicle fleets are operationally ready for any mission.

"The mission of the JBER mechanics is to ensure the world's greatest fighting force has the ability to train, deploy and sustain the fight at any time and in any condition," said Jeremy Henry, 404th Army Field Support Brigade Logistics Readiness Center mechanic.

Without vehicles, many missions supported on JBER would come to a halt.
"The types of military vehicles we work on include, but aren't limited to, Humvees, heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks, mine-resistant ambush protected, family of medium tactical vehicles, tractors and various forklifts," Henry said. "Each of the above mentioned also include the various configurations they come in, from wreckers to load handling systems and electrical and hydraulic subsets. We also service and repair generators, lawn mowers, various earth-moving equipment and off-road vehicles, such as snowmachines and side-by-sides," Henry said.

Tactical vehicles offer a unique set of maintenance challenges.

"Here at the special purpose equipment repair section, we work on almost every piece of tactical equipment that the arctic warriors employ," Henry said. "There is no such thing as a typical day in our line of work any more than there is a typical day for the Soldiers we assist. Some days can be as simple as winterizing a Humvee to the polar opposite of replacing the power packs in the heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks. We have also been known to recover vehicles in the field and to support the offloading of vehicles coming off Army ships at the port of Anchorage."

While Army mechanics focus more on tactical vehicles, Air Force vehicle maintainers sustain base-support vehicles.

Senior Master Sergeant Ronald Cole, 673d Logistics Readiness Squadron Vehicle Management flight chief, said his unit has their hands on every non-tactical vehicle on JBER. 

"We maintain the vehicle fleet and oversee the management of the Government Support Agency fleet," Cole said. "I have 125 personnel; each and every one of them is a professional and each and every one of them is good at their job."

He said his Vehicle Maintenance and Vehicle Management and Analysis shops work together to track the preventive maintenance program for 1,700 vehicles on base, of which 950 are government owned and repaired by vehicle management. Cole said the fleet is valued at $155 million.

According to Cole, base support vehicle maintainers are particularly busy during the winter. During these times vehicle maintainers are on the flightline and in the streets repairing vehicles that move snow and ice.

"They give 100 percent all the time," Cole said. "If a de-icer goes down, my guys will come in at any time; even if it's non-duty hours. We support 24-hour operations because my personnel understand the importance of those assets and what they mean to the base.  They understand that no matter what you are doing or what time it is, you respond and take care of the problem."

Unlike their Army counterparts, who employ a variety of specialists in specific vehicle systems, the 673d LRS vehicle maintainers have to absorb a broad spectrum of training.

"VM is bumper to bumper," Cole said. "We are responsible for every system on the vehicle. It doesn't matter if it's hydraulics, fuels systems, body works, brakes ... all of it. One mechanic is given a work order and is told 'here, go fix that.'"

Although the Air Force and Army has different approaches, their end goal remains the same.

"The people who work here are dedicated employees who do their job to the best of their ability," Henry said. "Most are driven to success both in their profession and in support of the mission. There's a wide variety of skills in this shop, and where one might be weak in an area, they may excel in another. When it comes to getting the vehicles out on time, I think that the team here really comes together to help each other achieve the overall goal of the mission."

Spartan shines at the U.S. Army Long Range Championships

by Sgt. Brian Ragin
4/25th IBCT Public Affairs

11/26/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Thompson, a native of Anchorage and infantryman with the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, competed at the 2014 U.S. Army Long Range Championships at Fort Benning, Georgia, placing third overall.

The championship is an advanced-combat live-fire training event, which is hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. The championship requires Soldiers to fire at ranges of 800, 900 and 1,000 yards. Soldiers either fire the M24 Sniper Rifle .308 or the XM 2010 Sniper Rifle .300 Win-Mag. The competition consisted of individual and two-man team events.

Thompson, an accomplished shooter, was the only competitor in the top 10 who used the .300 Win-Mag. Adding to Thompson's challenges at the competition, the weapon he used was loaned to him from a unit at Fort Benning, and because he was a last-minute addition to the team, he had little time to prepare.

Thompson and several other Spartans from the 4/25th IBCT were among more than 50 contestants who traveled from across the U.S. and were representing units from the National Guard, the Army Reserve, and the active-duty Army.

Thompson said he looks forward to more competitions like this in the future, so arctic paratroopers can demonstrate their abilities in an Army-wide competition.

Aircraft metals technician turns material into mission

by David Bedard
JBER Public Affairs

11/26/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Ancient Rome, 2nd Century C.E. A blacksmith stretches his arm toward a fiery forge, plucking out a rod of iron - tip glowing red with accumulated heat. He places the rod over an immovable anvil and hammers on it until it's transformed from a shapeless billet into the recognizable shape of a four-blade arrowhead. It takes 20 minutes for the smith to craft the arrowhead, and his trade demands he is able to replicate the process with precise repeatability.

Once mated to a wooden shaft and feathery fletching, the arrow becomes an aerial weapon able to take flight over the heads of friendly infantry, arcing over city walls and finding its mark in the defending enemy ranks.

The melding of weaponry and warrior demonstrated how a metal worker's careful attention to his craft - miles away from the battlefield - ensured the success of a Roman archer embroiled in the heat of warfare.

On the modern battlefield, metalwork is no less important than it was 2,000 years ago, though it has become more precise - influenced as much by the digital age as the Iron Age.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel Baker, 3rd Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight aircraft metals technician, carries on the tradition of metal craftsmanship in support of 3rd Wing and other units at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Baker's job is to machine and weld parts for aircraft and ground-support equipment. His ability to make parts from blueprints and billets of material prevents the need for evacuation of equipment to depot-level maintenance, saving downtime for mission-critical equipment.

Though most parts can be sourced through the supply system, there are occasions when only the Fabrication Flight can get a fighter or an auxiliary power unit back into action.

"Our role isn't very big [compared to traditional parts supply], because we don't have a lot of parts all the time," Baker said. "But when there is something, it's pretty important. We like to say we're the last line of maintenance defense. If we can't fix it, then it has to be sent to depot or ordered new."

Baker, like his blacksmith forebear, takes a billet of metal and forms it into something useful. But instead of using fire and a hammer to bang the material into shape, the Airman machines parts from billets, removing unnecessary material to craft a useful item.

Michelangelo is credited with having said of his craft, "Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it." The idea isn't dissimilar to what Baker does with a lathe or a mill in his efforts to reveal a bracket or a fastener hiding in a silvery cylinder.

According to Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Baldwin, 3rd MXS Aircraft Metals Technology noncommissioned officer-in-charge and Baker's supervisor, a metals fabrication job starts when an aircraft crew chief or equipment mechanic identifies a maintenance fault requiring a part replacement. They check technical data to determine if the part is procurable through the Fabrication Flight. If approved, the part request is routed through supply channels to Baldwin's office.

The Fabrication Flight determines if they have the capability to make the part. They work up a cost estimate based on the item blueprints, and send the information back to the unit. The metals technicians will ensure they have the necessary materials, ordering anything needed to complete the job. The blueprints stipulate materials, specifications and tolerances for the final product. A technician will then mill or lathe the part using manual (by-hand) machining or computer-numerical control, which is a computer-driven machining process.

Baker, a native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said he is most comfortable with traditional machining, because he isn't particularly computer savvy. The Airman first put his hand on a machinist's lathe during his senior year in high school.

With experience in woodworking and other craftsman disciplines, Baker decided during his junior year that he would take the vocational technology option offered for his senior year. He made the decision too late, however, and machining was the only discipline available that appealed to him.

Though the career field didn't have the pizzazz of auto body or the day-to-day visibility of electrical wiring, Baker said he took to his new trade with enthusiasm.

"For some reason - I don't know what it was - it just clicked," he said. "So I stuck with it."

After graduation, Baker worked as a civilian machinist apprentice, often making parts for defense contracts. After two years in the civilian sector, he said he decided to join the Air Force and follow in the footsteps of his Airman father and service member grandfathers.

"I realized I wanted to do something special and use what I learned for a greater purpose," Baker recalled.

He surfed the recruiting websites, with Air Force Specialty Code 2A7X1, Aircraft Metals Technology, catching his eye because it included welding - something he didn't learn in high school. He attended technical school at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland - an Army post - where he broadened his machining skills alongside technicians representing every branch of service.

Baker said he was struck by the differences between his civilian shop and what he experienced in the Air Force.

"In the military, we check our tooling and make sure they're good, labeled and calibrated," he explained. "Everything has a designated location, everything is clean, everything is serviceable, everything has a place to go.

"In the civilian world, you can have a drawer full of wrenches. It's not very efficient, but so long as you can get it out the door in a timely manner, that's what matters."

After graduating technical school in 2009, Baker reported to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, where he primarily worked with KC-135 Stratotanker refuelers. During his assignment to McConnell, Baker deployed to Southwest Asia where he fabricated parts for KC-135s, B-1 Lancer bombers, and Navy P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft. He said it was especially rewarding to fabricate parts for the crew-entry doors of a B-1, allowing the crew to provide air support for ground forces in Afghanistan.

JBER is Baker's second duty station, an assignment that has proven equally challenging and rewarding, he said.

The machinist recently deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for Valiant Shield 2014 - a large exercise including all U.S. military services. Because the joint force didn't require any machine work during the exercise, Baker kept busy assisting aircrews in rebuilding five main landing-gear assemblies. The experience forced the Airman out of his comfort zone and gave him valuable insight into the Airmen he supports every day.

Back at home station, Baldwin makes a habit of pushing Baker and other aircraft metals technicians out of their comfort zones. Recently, Baldwin assigned Baker to a team tasked with making an awards board for 3rd Wing.

The 4- by 8-foot board is made of aluminum, birch wood and plexiglass, and incorporates LED lighting. As daunting as integrating non-metallic components was for Baker, perhaps the biggest challenge for the Luddite was fully graduating from manual to CNC machining.

Baker said he isn't particularly comfortable with digital technology such as smartphones or tablets, indicating he might have more in common with the Roman blacksmith than he does with technology belonging to the Fabrication Flight.

But Baker came to grips with CNC procedures, a process that starts with the machinist sitting behind a computer desk. Baker worked up the blueprints using computer-aided design software. The design was then sent to a computer-aided manufacturing file, which translated the CAD information into commands that could be interpreted by a machine tool. He loaded the tooling into a CNC mill and ensured the system made the frame parts to the required specifications.

Baldwin said the process required creativity and determination on Baker's part.

"That's the great thing about this job: you do have a lot of creative freedom, even when you're making something from a blueprint," the Spring Hill, Florida, native said. "The way you get to the end result is going to be different. Five different people are going to make it five different ways, but the end result is going to be the same."

Like the Roman blacksmith, Baker often uses his extensive skills to work on a small part of a weapons system. And like the Roman legionary, F-22 Raptor pilots and other customers rely on the skilled metal worker to stay in the fight.

"Being able to get the part, make it or weld it, and then send it back out in a timely fashion gets the aircraft off the ground," Baker explained. "There's no ordering or loss of mission capability. That's the most satisfying thing."