Military News

Thursday, January 16, 2014

352nd SOG conducts exercise at RAF Fairford

by Staff Sgt. Stephen Linch
352nd Special Operations Group Public Affairs


12/23/2013 - RAF FAIRFORD, England -- The 352nd Special Operations Group conducted an exercise involving approximately 130 Airmen and six aircraft at RAF Fairford, England from Dec. 9-12.

The exercise was designed to allow the 352nd SOG to practice and evaluate their ability to efficiently forward deploy their newest assets, the CV-22 Osprey and MC-130J Commando II.

"Before we ever did anything with these new aircraft - other than local training - we sat down and took a long time to think about all of the skill sets and all of the equipment that we would need to go on the road," said Lt. Col. Michael Thomas, 352nd Special Operations Support Squadron director of operations and exercise mission commander. "This exercise is a way to validate our efforts and identify those things before we look at venturing further from home."

The 352nd SOG received their first CV-22s and MC-130Js earlier this year. The CV-22 Osprey is flown by the 7th Special Operations Squadron and combines the vertical takeoff, hover and vertical-landing capabilities of a helicopter with the long range, fuel efficiency and speed of a turboprop aircraft. The MC-130J is flown by the 67th Special Operations Squadron and flies low-visibility, single or multi-ship low-level air refueling missions for helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft as well as resupply and transport of military forces via airdrop or airland.

According to Col. Christopher Ireland, 352nd SOG commander, they couldn't have picked a better location for the exercise.

"RAF Fairford is a perfect location for us to test our ability to forward deploy our new CV-22s and MC-130Js," Ireland said. "These new aircraft bring enhanced and new capabilities, and we greatly appreciate the opportunity to test ourselves so close to home."

The 352nd SOG is based at RAF Mildenhall, England. The unit plans and executes specialized and contingency operations using advanced aircraft, tactics and air refueling techniques to transport and resupply military forces.

Youngstwon confirms 'Thunder over the Valley 2014' air show

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


1/16/2014 - YOUNGSTOWN AIR RESERVE STATION, Ohio -- The 910th Airlift Wing recently received approval to host a 2014 air show and open house.

'Thunder over the Valley 2014' hosted by the 910th AW and presented by the Youngstown Air Reserve Base-Community Council, is scheduled for May 17-18. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, America's Ambassadors in Blue, is scheduled to headline the show. Additional flying acts and static displays will be featured and will be announced as they are confirmed by show coordinators.

"We are proud to open our gates to the public and highlight our world-class personnel and facilities," said Col. James D. Dignan, 910th AW commander. "It is more important now than ever to invite the residents of the Mahoning Valley and beyond to YARS and let them see not only what we bring to the national defense but to the local community as well."

For information on featured acts or participation as a flying act or static display, please visit the YARS public website at www.youngstown.afrc.af.mil or the YARS Facebook page at www.facebook.com/youngstownARS. This information is also available by e-mailing 910aw.pa@us.af.mil or 910airliftwing@gmail.com.

For more information on becoming a show sponsor or vendor, please contact the Youngstown Reserve Base Community Council at thunderoverthevalley@gmail.com.

Preparing Yokota

by Staff Sgt. Chad Strohmeyer
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


1/16/2014 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Security forces personnel have always played a vital role in Yokota's mission. However, one of the more unnoticed aspects of security forces is their commitment to ensuring that Yokota Airmen are proficient in combat arms.

Combat arms training instructors provide ground weapons training and inspections for all Air Force personnel. Yokota Air Base employs five skilled instructors who train 2,500 - 3,000 students annually.

"We are here to ensure Yokota Airmen have the ability to effectively and safely handle the weapons systems we train on," said Staff Sgt. Stephen Ceo, 374th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor. "Without us, service members would not deploy with the confidence and capability they need to protect resources and each other."

Combat arms instructors train Airmen on a variety of weapons to include pistols, submachine guns, shotguns, grenade launchers and rifles.

With recent changes to the qualification, students can expect to go a little more in-depth with their weapon than before.

"Recently, the Air Force has implemented new changes to the qualification process," said Senior Airman Dominique Adams, 374th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor. "We now instruct students on how to shoot and move quickly and effectively. Students are also required to communicate their status as they take cover, reload and conduct immediate actions," he said.

Though the job can be stressful for instructors, it still comes with many rewards.

"Watching a student who was nervous about handling weapons getting "expert" is a great feeling as an instructor," said Adams. "Knowing they accomplished something they could not have done without you is one of the reasons why I love my job."

Students can feel confident when they enter each combat arms class. Each instructor attends a ten-week course specializing in professional firearms and spends several years learning the components of a variety of weapons. Not to mention comprehensive instructing techniques to better relay information to students.

"We will ensure the best possible training for each and every person who gets on the plane heading to war from Yokota," said Ceo. "We go through rigorous training so we are able to effectively prepare service members before they go downrange."

Force management guidance only clicks away

by Airman 1st Class Ashley J. Thum
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs


1/16/2014 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- Fiscal Year 2014 Force Management programs have been rolled out, and have raised more than a few questions from the Airmen affected by them.

Although the news may seem daunting, the Air Force Personnel Center and Osan's own 51st Force Support Squadron Manpower and Personnel Flight have several avenues for assistance.

Capt. Andrew Beidler, 51st FSS MPF commander, said he encourages everyone to visit myPers, accessible by clicking here, for the latest guidance.

"AFPC updates myPers weekly, and as new information becomes available," Beidler said.

Senior Master Sgt. Sharon Green, 51st FSS MPF superintendent, said the base MPF is here to help.

"We can visit individual squadrons and give briefings, or speak at commander's calls, to give an overview of the FY 14 Force Management programs," Green said. "If we can't answer a question right there, we'll contact AFPC and find an answer."

Beidler and Green added that a town hall is in the works for late January that will have segments tailored to the needs of Airmen who fall into different force management categories.

"I encourage everyone to look over the PSDMs (personnel services delivery memorandums) listed on myPers to see what they may be eligible for, and to review their records in the virtual MPF to make sure they're accurate" Beidler said. "If there is any inaccurate information, or a missing document in their Personnel Records Display, service members can contact the MPF for assistance. We are here to help!"

For local guidance on enlisted force management, contact Green at 784-2445, Master Sgt. Jermel Carter at 784-5792, or Master Sgt. Bonny Reyes at 784-7376.

For local guidance on officer force management, contact Beidler at 784-1091, or 1st Lt. Lana Moore at 784-2788.

Rescue center lynchpin to saving lives

by Staff Sgt. Wes Wright
JBER Public Affairs


1/16/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- It was a perfect sunny day the morning of Aug. 8, 2010. As a recreational bush pilot and avid golfer, Don Erbey's agenda called for a quick flight up to Knik Glacier with a handful of friends and then a tee time of 2 p.m. It was going to be a good day.

A Navy veteran and current 773d Civil Engineer Squadron power production section work leader, Erbey took off into the crisp morning air with clear skies and a planeload of excited tourists. Spirits were high and chatter abuzz as they climbed up the glacier approaching Lake George, located in a valley surrounded by jagged mountains.

Out of nowhere the weather changed. What were clear skies moments before was suddenly a fog that allowed near zero visibility. An experienced pilot, Erbey knew he had to get out of the area, and fast.

"Normally in a situation like that, you do a 180 and get out of there," Erbey said. "But due to the weather system that was settling in, the aircraft was being forced down. My altimeter showed I was dropping rapidly."

As Erbey started his turn, he hoped and prayed he had enough altitude to clear a turn over the glacier and get out of the valley. He did not.

The ground rose up fast. Erbey did his best to get the plane into some sort of landing position with only seconds to brace for collision.

Impact. The plane hit unevenly, ripping the right strut off the aircraft and causing the 300 horsepower Cherokee Six plane to skip across the glacier before coming to a stop.

Miraculously, the worst injury was a gash on Erbey's nose. All souls were still breathing.
Erbey took stock of his people and resources, analyzing what to do next. He noticed his emergency locator beacon, which is supposed to go off automatically, did not. He manually activated it and began calling for help. His calls were answered. A fellow pilot heard his calls and began relaying them to rescue officials.

His locator beacon was picked up by the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center located on JBER, setting off a chain of precise responses by highly trained military professionals. Weather and terrain made for hellish rescue conditions for the responders. In all, three different aircraft and four pararescuemen, or PJs, spent four days assisting Erbey and his passengers to get off the mountain.

Erbey missed his tee time that day, but everyone made it safely back to civilization with "more bruised pride than anything else," as Erbey put it.

Making it off the mountain would not have been possible without the hard work of everyone involved, but none more crucial than the coordination efforts of the Alaska Air Guardsmen with the AKRCC.

SAVING LIVES

Since 1994, the AKRCC has helped coordinate the rescue of more than 2,065 lives through 5,120 missions.

The primary mission of the Alaska RCC is to provide a 24-hour rescue coordination capability in support of military and civil aviation search and rescue needs in the Alaska search and rescue region. Additionally, the center may provide assistance in the prosecution of humanitarian rescue in Alaska, other countries and to SAR agencies in other SRRs if it does not conflict with AKRCC's primary mission. Ultimately, the role of the center in civil rescue is in direct support of the National SAR Plan, a cabinet-level federal plan. Representing Alaska's federal inland search and rescue coordinator, the AKRCC serves as the single agency responsible for coordinating on-land and aviation federal SAR activities in the mainland of Alaska.

The Alaska RCC is located on JBER and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The center directly ties in to the Federal Aviation Administration's alerting system and the U.S. Mission Control Center. In addition to the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking information, the AKRCC computer system contains resource files that list federal, state and volunteer civilian organizations, which can conduct or assist in SAR efforts throughout the state and neighboring regions.

As one of only two Air Force rescue coordination centers in the U.S., the AKRCC operates differently than any other search and rescue program.

"The Alaska Search and Rescue program is one of the most highly sought after plans because we have excellent partner agency relationships," said Robert Carte, AKRCC superintendent and a 20-year Alaska Guard veteran. "In the Lower 48, SAR is controlled by county sheriffs, so there is a lot of coordination that has to go on, whereas in Alaska we are the central location to help out state agencies."

BEHIND THE SCENES

"We perform an active duty mission with title 32 Air Guard status," Carte said. "Twelve full time guardsmen - six rated officers pulling double duty that fly for the 176th Wing and six enlisted Airmen."

Those 12 Airmen perform the administrative actions that are critical to SAR.
"Many times, our end customers only see what happens at the ground level - the PJs getting off a helicopter, and they are amazing in their own right," Carte said. "But a lot of coordination happens in the background to make that happen."

Getting an emergency call sets off any one of a number of checklists at the AKRCC designed to most efficiently preserve life and limb and beat the "tyranny of time and distance," Carte said.

"When the phone rings, we start taking notes on that and start the process," Carte said. "But the key takeaway is the AKRCC has no tasking authority. We're responsible for coordinating SAR in the Alaska region, yes, but we use whoever will say yes."

The rescue center has many different assets at its disposal to include Civil Air Patrol, the Army National Guard, active-duty Army and Air Force, and the Coast Guard just to name a few, but their primary assets are the three rescue squadrons of the 176th Wing at JBER.
Air National Guard Lt. Col. Karl Westerlund, AKRCC director stressed the importance of all the agencies working in harmony to save lives.

"Whether it's a dedicated military SAR unit, a state organization or a local volunteer team, it takes people from all of the pages of our playbook to successfully execute SAR missions across Alaska and the Arctic," Westerlund said. "Without the assistance of our joint and partner agencies, none of it would be possible."

Carte said the positive relationships within the joint and total force are key to saving lives in Alaska.

"Relationships here matter and amplifies why we have citizen Airmen here in this job," Carte said. "When SAR happens in Alaska, it's a little more critical because of the extremes. Seconds matter and if we have to forge new relationships with the person on the other end of the line every time we make that phone call, it wastes time."

AHEAD OF THE GAME

A veteran of three different Air Force Specialty Codes, one of which was a helicopter flight engineer, Carte's experience allows him to be able to efficiently plan out rescue efforts.
"I have experience being out on the 'cold dark and stormy' as we call it," Carte said. "I know what they're going through out there. I know how to think ahead five or six steps so that the flight crews as my customers get the best service they need. If I know they're going to need gas and the usual place is snowed in, I'm going to find gas in three other locations and have it set up with somebody standing at the pump waiting for them."
From talking to frantic survivors to calling hospitals to arrange care for incoming patients, it's all in a day's work for Carte.

"This job is extremely rewarding," he said. "All of us here, we all do this because it's what we want to do. This isn't a job to us. This is our lives."

Westerlund summed up with the intangible rewards of saving lives.

"The business of SAR is a virtuous calling," Westerlund said. "Being part of a life-saving effort on a daily basis has no higher reward. The controllers of the AKRCC are the critical connection between those in peril, and those who have the capability to prosecute a rescue mission."

HAVE A PLAN

Carte stressed that while he and the crew at the rescue center are willing and eager to help save lives, if you have to call them, something went wrong.

"Having a plan and ensuring you have adequate survival supplies will go far in you helping yourself," Carte stressed.

The AKRCC has emergency locater beacons available to JBER personnel and highly encourages people to stop by and check one out free of charge before setting off on any trip or adventure in the Alaskan wilderness.

Don Erbey discovered the importance of having some sort of emergency locator beacon firsthand.

"When I went down, my radio still worked for a little bit, but I don't know what we would have done without an emergency locator beacon," he said. "Anybody going out should always have a plan and have emergency supplies like that."

For more information on the AKRCC or to request an emergency locator beacon, please call 551-7236.

An Airman's journey following destruction and devastation

by Senior Airman Chelsea Smith
514th Air Mobility Wing public affairs


1/16/2014 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Hurricane Sandy's punch brought a long aftermath of recovery efforts to rebuild, renew and regenerate livelihoods and a sense of normalcy to the victims. Now remembered as one of the strongest and probably most brutal hurricanes on record to ravish the East Coast, many were forced to start from scratch, tirelessly rebuilding homes, businesses and replacing a life's worth of belongings.

Several Freedom Wing Airmen were affected by Sandy and many participated in the relief efforts following its aftermath. One Airman's unique journey required him to recuperate amid a two-month shipment to basic military training, four months of technical school training and another three months of seasonal training, all within the one year anniversary.

October also marked two anniversaries for Senior Airman Julius Guest, a 514th Air Mobility Wing knowledge operations manager: The day he lost his home to an accidental fire and his first wedding anniversary with his longtime friend and confidante, Kathlyn Guest, who served as his motivator and supporter along his jarring journey.

A seasoned New Yorker and long-time Queens resident, Guest regularly attended unit training assemblies to prepare for BMT while serving as a member of the wing's development and training flight.

A month into his marriage, he was living the typical newlywed life building a foundation for his family, which included his wife and cat, Mischief, in their three-bedroom home situated on the second floor of a three-story complex. On the night of the storm, a freak accident would drastically change the trajectory of 2013 - a year pre-planned for new beginnings that would now include new challenges.

"I vividly remember the night of the storm because I was watching Monday Night Football," Guest said. "I was next to my stockpile of flashlights and batteries in case of any outages due to the impending storm."

Despite a fast approaching storm, his block stayed relatively calm and unaffected by the fierce winds which caused power outages. Before retiring to bed, he brewed a cup of tea but was confused by the burning smell permeating the room and the heavy footsteps prodding from above. The commotion concerning due to the arrival of the storm prompted him to wake his wife, retrieve their cat and leave the sanctuary of their home, he said.

"We went outside and saw our neighbors huddled beneath a tree," he said. "They were in a safe spot away from the flames. Smoke engulfed the top level of our housing complex then the fire started spreading to lower levels and to the adjacent houses."

Piercing sirens were heard from the fire trucks which descended upon the scene. Their home did not succumb to flooding or high force winds. Instead, the loss came from a candle flame that ignited a top floor curtain burning not only a building, but families' essentials and several years' worth of belongings. A neighbor's cat was the single fatality in the accident and conditions were unequivocally altered for residents of the housing complex.

"Going back into the house was terrible because there was so much damage," he said. "There was water damage in the living room and bedrooms, and we had no clothes left."

Only able to retrieve the few items they were able to salvage, Guest and his wife were forced to move in with their in-laws nearby until the Federal Emergency Management Agency evaluated their losses. The ensuing aftermath was a mandate for Guest to realign his priorities. He was initially hesitant to leave home amidst the chaos and confusion citing concerns about leaving his wife to search for a new home while spending eight and a half weeks more than 1500 miles away, he said.

However, with the encouragement of his wife and support from Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Gentile and Tech. Sgt. Timothy Mullin, 514th Air Mobility Wing development and training flight instructors, he prevailed. Guest said he could not be deterred by distance and the prospect of uncertainty and was eventually able to reclaim his ambition and enthusiasm for an aspiration he's desired for years - a career in the Reserves.

"The members here were very empathetic to my situation," he said. "I was able to go to my instructors for assistance and they were very helpful with coordinating assistance through the family readiness center here which supplied me with canned goods, clothing and other resources I needed help getting access to."

A component of the recovery process required Guest to follow through with obligations to his family and the Reserves. His wife was an integral piece of that realization and an enforcer of his commitment.

"One of the many lessons I learned from my relationship with Julius is that you have to support the healthy, positive dreams," said Kathlyn. "Julius has always wanted to join the Reserves and I felt like I would be doing our relationship a great injustice by holding him back. Julius is my best friend, and when he is happy, I am happy."

Challenges brought on by the uncertainty of home conditions stayed with him in January of this year when he arrived in San Antonio and found himself immersed in an intimidating new world known as BMT. Even without the burden of starting a life from scratch, BMT can be daunting for any new trainee under the watchful eye of virulent military training instructors and unfamiliar situations, but the greatest hindrance was scarce communication and updates from home.

"I needed reassurance that I could make it through BMT but at the same time I had to stay positive for my family because my wife was still living with her mother, dealing with FEMA, working full-time, and trying to secure a new home for us," he said. "The distance was hard because I didn't want her to feel like she was neglected, but we both needed comforting during that time."

Although the anxiety of his absence brought worries, Kathlyn said she redirected her energy towards stabilizing the situation at home. In March, she moved into a three-bedroom home just five months after the storm, spending time organizing their possessions and decorating her canvass to prepare for her husband's return. She also continued working professionally as an international relations specialist with Credit Suisse. However, her emotional scars still needed nurturing after being temporarily separated from her husband and forever losing some of her most precious belongings.

"Coping was hard after the fire," she said. "In some ways, I'm still deeply affected. I panic if I smell an unfamiliar scent in the house or if I hear a fire truck nearby. But the humbling lesson from this experience was to appreciate life's treasures found in people and relationships. Realize how sudden your life and loved ones can be taken away from you and cherish the time you have with them."

In June, they were reunited when Guest returned from technical school, but the reunion was abbreviated once Guest subsequently began a three-month seasoning training obligation here. However, the devastating consequences of the most life-altering event either of them had endured brought the pair closer together and equipped them to face adversity in the future, said Guest.

"This ordeal was a learning experience for both of us," he said. "As soon as my wife found a new home, we immediately purchased renter's insurance, educated ourselves on fire prevention and home safety measures, and committed to save more money."

Guest and his wife bestow a great deal of credit toward their network of supportive family and friends, including service members here, who carried them through the roughest period of their lives. On the weekend of their first anniversary, they celebrated with dinner and a movie, capped off by a relaxing evening in their new home.

"We had a great double anniversary weekend," said Guest. "I hope going forward things only get better. We are still planning our honeymoon and hopefully, we can avoid any hurricanes."

Wounded Warriors participate in adaptive surf session

by Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez
15th Wing Public Affairs


1/15/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- For their last full day in Hawaii, several participants and volunteers of the 2014 Wounded Warrior Pacific Invitational participated in an adaptive surf session at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, Jan. 11.

Under the instruction and supervision of trained surf professionals, the participants received training on how surf, specific to their comfort level, and hit the waves.

Tony Jasso, program manager for the Air Force Adaptive Sports Program, said he was impressed at how well the participants did during the surf activities.

"I think today has given the Warriors another sport that can have a healing effect on their lives," Jasso said. "There's something about the ocean that helps bring an inner peace they might not be able to get in the gym or on the track."

Retired Army Sgt. Kari Miller, a WWPI participant, said surfing was challenging and forced her out of her comfort zone.

"Surfing gave me a sense of excitement and another challenge to take on," Miller, a double amputee athlete, said. "Getting out there and confronting the big waves and animals in the water - it's a way for us to get over our fears. Instead of thinking about all the things that could go wrong, I just focused on having fun and catching a wave or two. It was a great time."

The surfing day wrapped up a week of adaptive athletic events including cycling, seated volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball.

Jasso said he feels confident the athletes grew mentally, physically and emotionally over the past week.

"This week the athletes learned more about teamwork, selflessness, and service to their fellow teammates," he said. "It's been a time where there has been a lot of growing, healing, and raising the bar in regards to what these athletes want in their recovery. It's been an important week helping them forget about what they can't do because, instead, they're learning what they can."

JBER 673d CES firefighters conduct annual ice water rescue training

by Airman 1st Class Ty-Rico Lea
JBER Public Affairs


1/16/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- The alarm bell clangs in the fire station: ice water rescue. Firefighters scramble to the truck and are out the door in less than 60 seconds. Conditions permitting, they can reach some of the remote lakes on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in seven to 10 minutes. In water at the freezing point, even an experienced swimmer in good condition could die or become incapacitated in less than 15 minutes.

One minute to dress, seven to get to the water's edge: eight minutes. The responders have about seven minutes to make the difference between life and death - rescue or recovery.

This small window of time to make a difference in extreme temperatures is why members of the 673d Civil Engineer Squadron conducted ice water rescue training Jan. 11 at Upper Otter Lake on JBER. The training prepared firefighters on the proper methods of water rescue; when minutes and seconds count, it pays to be ready to act instinctively.

The training is an annual requirement for military and civilian firefighters new to the concept of ice water rescue. It requires participants to travel out to a sheet of ice covering the lake and plunge in, one by one, in simulated rescue scenarios. Each scenario varied in conditions and required firefighters to perform specific rescue sequences with various tools. For example, using specialized survival suits, rescuers would break the ice at their feet, swim out to the deepest part of the lake, swim back and climb back onto the surface. Firefighters completed this process several times to ensure all members could effectively get in and out of frigid water.

"We came here today to learn the ice rescue technician course and it was a lot of fun," said Airman 1st Class Cody Burnett, 673d CES firefighter. "I learned a lot of stuff. We used things such as Mustang suits, which were insulated outfits that doubled as personal floatation devices, so we can float to the victim and back to land with very minimal effort."

As the training progressed, trainers implemented additional pieces of equipment for use.

The trainees used ropes to reel in victims and drag them to shore and sent an inflatable boat to retrieve multiple victims while trainers blew whistles to signal others for help.

Louis LaRousse, 673d CES firefighter, was the lead instructor for the training. He required the participants treat each exercise as if they were real rescues.

"I try to make it as realistic as possible," LaRousse said. "It's a service we provide to the people. When we do have an issue, emergency or real-world, members of the 673d CES fire department here on base can provide coverage for both the Air Force and the Army side."

Paying it forward

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
673d Air Base Wing Public Affairs


1/16/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- When Gaebriel Diaz left Eagle River for Basic Military Training in San Antonio, Texas, his wife, Samantha, was left with two small children and instructions to obtain her military identification card.

New to the military and unable to contact her husband to ask questions, she turned to social media for help.

"I had no idea where to go or what to do," Diaz said. "That's when I found the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Wives page on Facebook and I put up a post saying that I'm new and I don't know where to go. A few ladies answered and they referred me to Petra. She saw it, dropped everything and instantly asked to meet up. She said, 'I'll bring you on and show you around.' She signed me on base. I really appreciated it."

Petra Cooke, wife of Army Master Sgt. Travis Cooke, acting First Sergeant for Comanche Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, and a native of Paris, Texas, is an example of a military spouse who loves helping people, and hopes that feeling will rub off on others.

"It's not really volunteering," Cooke said. "It's more just serving the community. For example, with Samantha, I offered to help and thank God she took it. We got a lot of stuff done. I helped her get on base, we got her I.D. and we got her signed up on TRICARE."

They also used the opportunity and checked out some of the programs like Family Advocacy, she said.

"It can be challenging for military families to have the opportunity to gain knowledge about resources," said Jennifer Frysz, Family Advocacy Outreach manager and native of Buffalo, N.Y. "When we have seasoned spouses who have been around, they are one of our greatest assets. They help break down stigmas associated with some agencies. Our military spouses are a key point in getting communication out there."

Cooke doesn't just wait for someone to ask for help - she takes the initiative.

"Those are the things I do. I see a need, I roll up my sleeves and I do it," she said. "If someone says they have a really bad cold, I make some chicken soup and bring it over."

Cooke has created programs and events to fill needs, such as organizing morale packages for single Soldiers in her husband's company. They also provided a homemade Christmas dinner including cookies for the installation gate guards.
"I love just seeing them be happy having a little taste of Christmas in the barracks," said Cooke, a native of Berlin, Germany. "You leave your comfort bubble, you see a need and you just act on it. It doesn't hurt to offer help to somebody. What's the worst that will happen, they say no? At that moment, that person feels that you care."

Cooke said she hopes others will follow her example, and those she helps will pay it forward.

"If I can help one spouse at a time make that transition to being a pro at the military lifestyle, it needs to be done," she said. "I help Samantha and then maybe down the line, she pays it forward to the next one."

She recommended knowing what programs are where, such as what's offered in Building 600, the Arctic Chill, the Arctic Oasis and other facilities. She suggested keeping those phone numbers handy for yourself and others.

"I make it a point to help a different person every day," she said. "I would love for others to do that too."

"Petra bringing folks in here is a perfect example of connecting people and resources, which makes my job easier and helps families," Frysz said. "She's an example of a spouse who puts her best foot forward and gets people connected. She actually cares about people getting out of their house. She sees value in helping people."

HH-60 Accident report released

Release Number: 011614

1/16/2014 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- A civilian volunteer who fell to his death was not properly secured to his harness while he was being lowered from an HH-60G operated by the California Air National Guard. The accident occurred approximately 30 miles east of Visalia, California, Sept. 12, 2013, according to an Air Combat Command Accident Investigation Board report released today.

Shane Krogen, the founder and executive director of the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew, was being lowered by members of the 129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Federal Airfield, California. The helicopter, working as part of California Joint Task Force Domestic Support counterdrug operations, was participating in the environmental clean-up and restoration of a contaminated marijuana grow site in the Sequoia National Forest.

At the time of the mishap, the HH-60G was piloted by the copilot, and the hoist was being operated from the right side of the aircraft by an aircrew member from the Special Missions Aviation career field. The board president found, by clear and convincing evidence, the cause of the mishap was that Mr. Krogen mistakenly attached the aircraft's hoist to his self-procured, non-load-bearing, plastic D ring instead of to the metal load-bearing, metal D ring. When the plastic D ring broke, Mr. Krogen fell from the aircraft to the ground from an approximate forty-foot hover and sustained fatal injuries.

The board president found, by the preponderance of evidence, that one of the helicopter crewmembers did not maintain adequate oversight during flight and hoist operations and that Mr. Krogen's use of his personal equipment excessively cluttered the area around the load-bearing, metal D-ring, interfering with safe connection and visual inspection.

Additionally, personnel from the 129th RQW, JTFDS and the California National Guard did not follow established procedures for determining Mr. Krogen's status and gaining approval for his participation in the hoist operation. It is the board president's determination that these three factors substantially contributed to the mishap.

For more information, contact Air Combat Command Public Affairs at (757) 764-5007 or via e-mail accpa.operations@us.af.mil.

Aviation provides 'critical assistance' for civil support, consequence management, Guard official says

Click photo for screen-resolution imageBy Lisa Ferdinando
Army News Service

WASHINGTON (1/16/14) - From responding to wildfires and floods in the western United States to an earthquake on the other side of the globe, Army aviation has been an important part of response missions to save lives and help those in affected communities, said a National Guard official.

Army aviation has "unique capabilities" that allow it to provide critical assistance in humanitarian and disaster relief efforts, said Brig. Gen. Michael E. Bobeck, special assistant to the director, Army National Guard.

With helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned aerial systems, Army aviation in active, Guard and Reserve components can take on a range of missions to safeguard the health and well-being of affected populations, he said.

"We have a force of choice that can be utilized not only here at home, but around the world," he said.
Bobeck was part of a panel discussion on "Army Aviation in Civil Support and Consequence Management," at the Association of the United States Army Aviation Symposium, Jan. 14, in Arlington, Va.

During wildfires last year in California, he said, the California National Guard deployed remotely piloted unmanned aircraft, known as UASs, or unmanned aircraft systems, that provided critical situation awareness and aided firefighters in finding hot spots on the ground.

"This is probably the first time we've used a UAS in support of a wildfire," he said.

"The proliferation of UAS affords what I think is just the beginning of providing capability for both active and guard to use their UAS in a civil support and consequence management role," he said.

Other domestic missions of Army aviation include working with federal agents to secure the U.S. border, as well as responding to the floods in Colorado last year and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, he said.
Army aviation provided an "incredible response," he said, to Hurricane Sandy in helping the citizens of New York and New Jersey.

In addition, the Army National Guard also takes part in major national security events such as inaugurations, including the Jan. 11 installation of a new governor in Virginia.

"They do it quietly, professionally and they are on time and on target and they do it very well," said Col. Mark W. Weiss, the chief of the Army National Guard's aviation division.

The Army National Guard has aviation capacity and capability in each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia, Weiss told the forum.

"We are geographically dispersed. We are readily available and always accessible," he said.
In addition, Weiss noted that the Army National Guard has been involved in medical evacuations, tornado response, and counter-drug operations in the United States.

Army aviation regularly conducts search and rescue missions, he said. More than 1,600 people were saved or assisted domestically in fiscal year 2013 by Army aviation. He said most of the people helped were in the floods in Colorado.

More than $5 billion in drugs have been kept off the streets in fiscal year 2013, said Weiss, with Army aviation supporting and adding value to the counter-drug efforts by law enforcement agents.

Global examples of Army aviation providing support in times of crises include responding to earthquakes in Pakistan in 2005, and in Haiti in 2010, and for humanitarian assistance in Nicaragua in 2009, said Bobeck.

The general noted that after the earthquake struck Pakistan in 2005, that active-duty guard forces were deployed from Afghanistan to Pakistan to provide assistance.

Recruiting On Track, But Officials Worry About Future



By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2014 – Military recruiting is going well today, but economic and demographic changes will make the environment more difficult in the future, said Vee Penrod, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy.

Penrod and the armed services’ personnel chiefs testified today before the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee.

The U.S. all-volunteer force continues to be the strongest and most well-respected military in the world, Penrod said. It has been stressed through more than 12 years of war, but it has proven to be resilient.

New recruit quality is at an all-time high, “and in almost every category, we continue to achieve the numbers of volunteers required to sustain this professional force,” she said.

Recruiting the best young Americans remains the key to success of the military, and economic and demographic changes may make this more difficult.

“Despite our recent recruiting success, the process has inherent challenges,” she said.

The number of youth eligible to enlist is limited, she said. Roughly 75 percent of American youth are not qualified for military service. “There are a number of reasons for this, but the main reasons among them are health and fitness issues,” Penrod said.

The propensity to enlist is also down. “Since 2004, the percent of youths who associate military service with an attractive lifestyle is down approximately 20 percent,” she said.

The overall health of the economy also plays a role in attracting eligible youth. The last couple of years of relatively high youth unemployment have served as a driver for more people to consider military service. “As the economy improves, however, we expect youth interest in military service as an employment option to decline,” Penrod said.

“To expand the recruiting market, the department has long supported the enlistment of non-citizens, to the extent permitted by law, subject to these individuals to being otherwise qualified for service in the United States armed forces,” she said.

DOD is conducting a comprehensive review of immigration issues as they relate to serve in the armed forces. Penrod promised to share the conclusions of that review with Congress.

Fiscal realities also impact recruiting, requiring the services to continuously adjust recruiting programs. “To overcome potential challenges that may lie ahead, we must ensure our recruiters are trained and the appropriate recruiting resources are available to meet these challenges,” she said.

Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday: A day on, not a day off



 By Capt. Anthony Carter, 27th Special Operations Aerospace Medicine Squadron
Published January 16, 2014

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) -- As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, many of us are deciding which activities to participate in on our day off, that we forget to reflect on the meaning behind this special celebration. The purpose of the holiday is to empower people to see their role in continuing the legacy of King. This holiday is an instrument used to inspire individuals to use their strengths, passions and talents to better the lives of others and impact their local and global communities.

In 1983, legislation was signed creating a federal holiday marking the birth of King. This extraordinary holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is close to the birthday of King, Jan. 15. President Bill Clinton signed federal legislation into law Aug. 23, 1994, making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national day of service. The federal legislation challenges Americans to transform this holiday into a day of citizen action and volunteer service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

When I reflect on this day and what it means, a quote from the late widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. comes to mind.

"(The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday) is a day of interracial and intercultural cooperation and sharing," Coretta Scott King said. "No other day of the year brings so many peoples from different cultural backgrounds together in such a vibrant spirit of brother and sisterhood. Whether you are African-American, Hispanic or Native American, whether you are Caucasian or Asian-American, you are part of the great dream Martin Luther King, Jr. had for America. This is not a black holiday; it is a peoples' holiday. And it is the young people of all races and religions who hold the keys to the fulfillment of his dream."

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a holiday for everyone. It is a chance for everyone to honor the life and teachings of King through community service. That service may meet a tangible need, such as collecting food for the less fortunate, or it may exhibit the spirit of the holiday, such as building a sense of community. It is up to you to make a change. What mark will you leave on your community?

ICBM Retesting Continues, Hagel Open to Incentives for Missileers



By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2014 – Retesting of all ICBM launch crewmen will finish today, the Pentagon press secretary announced during a news conference.

Air Force officials ordered the retesting after discovering that nuclear launch crews cheated on proficiency exams. A total of 34 crewmen at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., have been suspended from duty due to the allegations.

Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said that as of last night, 277 out of the total of 497 ICBM crew had taken the test. This is about 55 percent of the entire force. Of these, 96 percent passed. A total of 11 airmen failed the exam.

“For those 11 who failed, they’ll be retrained and returned to duty following a second re-test,” Kirby said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is intensely interested in the matter and intends to follow it closely, Kirby said, adding that Hagel considers the security and effectiveness of the nuclear mission to be vital.

Hagel is open to any method to improve the nuclear force, Kirby said. The secretary visited ICBM crewmen last week and asked if new incentives would help recruit and retain them. “They acknowledged that it’s something that they talk about in the force – the potential value incentives,” Kirby said. “But they also said that they take great pride in what they do and … they weren’t sure whether incentives would make that much of a difference.”

The secretary indicated, however, that he is willing to think about incentives. “He didn’t make any decisions,” Kirby said. “He didn’t make any promises. But he expressed that he is willing to look at that. He considers the ICBM force – that leg of the triad – that vital, and he's not going to close any doors.”