Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Face of Defense: Wounded Soldier Hopes to ‘Pay It Forward’

By Elaine Sanchez
Brooke Army Medical Center

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Jan. 22, 2014 – It took a devastating loss in Afghanistan for an Army officer to find his new calling.

Maj. Will Lyles, a bilateral amputee, is preparing night and day so he can ace the entry exams for medical school and become a doctor. It’s a path this athlete and Special Forces soldier never would have dreamed of just a few years earlier.

“I feel like being a doctor would allow me to continue to serve in the best possible way,” said Lyles, who had just stepped off a treadmill at the Center for the Intrepid here. “It’s my way of paying it forward after countless nurses, doctors and case managers [from Brooke Army Medical Center] worked so tirelessly to help me.”

From an early age, Lyles said, he aspired to be a professional baseball player. He secured a baseball scholarship to Virginia Military Institute, but a shoulder injury put a swift end to that dream. After college, Lyles decided a military career would put him on the right track. He joined the Army in 2003, and deployed twice to Iraq as an infantry officer.

Always striving for excellence, Lyles was accepted into the Special Forces Qualification Course in March 2009. “I wanted to work with the best of the best -- the 1 percent of the 1 percent,” he said.

After graduation in April 2010, Lyles was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., and soon deployed to Afghanistan. That summer, Lyles and his unit were en route to a key leader engagement in an Afghan village when they came under heavy insurgent fire on the outskirts of town. Lyles headed up a hill to assess the situation. It wasn’t until he was moving back down that he stepped on an improvised explosive device.

The moment, he said, was strangely surreal. He looked down at his mangled legs and shouted for a medic while fighting to stay calm.

“I kept thinking, ‘Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out,’” Lyles recalled. “But at the same time, I’m also thinking, ‘I’m going to die.’”

Fearing the worst, the father of four said, he thought of his children and his family and felt a “desperate calm” wash over him. Moments later, the medevac helicopter arrived, and he blacked out. He had lost his left leg above the knee and his right leg just below, had suffered burns on his lower body, and broke his femur and hand.

After being flown to Germany for medical care, Lyles became critically ill from an infection in his right leg. He then was flown to Brooke Army Medical Center, where it took the removal of his knee and the bottom of his femur before the infection finally broke.

“I felt very fortunate to be alive,” he said.

Finally stable, this avid athlete and elite soldier now had to come to terms with his future as a bilateral above-the-knee amputee.

“It was a big adjustment at first,” he said. “I remember lying in bed thinking, ‘I’m going to have to be dependent on others for the rest of my life.’ That was huge for someone as independent as me.”

As he recovered in the hospital, Lyles said, he began to receive a steady stream of visits from other wounded service members. He watched them stride in on prosthetic legs, and felt a glimmer of hope for his future.

“These guys were driving, running, living their lives independently,” he said. “Their visits helped me reach a turning point. I could either feel sorry for myself or move on. I decided to move on.”

As an outpatient, Lyles’ persistence was tested daily as he underwent treatment at the Center for the Intrepid, the medical center’s state-of-the-art rehabilitation center. It was there, surrounded by his comrades, that he strengthened his body and learned to walk on prosthetic legs. Today, he walks briskly on a treadmill without a misstep while discussing his military career.

With his physical recovery on track, Lyles began to consider his future and how he could make the biggest difference. He thought back on the four years of care he’d received here and how much it meant to him.

“From the medics in the battlefield to doctors and nurses in every level [of care] along the way, they all had a profound effect on me,” he said. “I decided I could do great things as a doctor.”

He said he pictures himself walking into a fellow amputee’s room as a physician, his presence serving as a silent affirmation that anything is possible. “I can let them know that they have a lot to offer,” he added. “They can be productive citizens and achieve great things.”

In preparation, Lyles has been gaining real-world experience by shadowing orthopedic surgeons at BAMC. Next, he said, he plans to medically retire and work with retired Army Col. John Holcomb, former commander of the Institute of Surgical Research at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, where he’ll continue to strengthen his application for medical school.

“I’m determined to chase down this dream,” Lyles said. “[After] the phenomenal help I received medically and personally after my injury, … I’m so grateful and now want to pass on that care to others.”

Air Force Transports Rwandan Troops to Central African Republic

by Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

1/22/2014 - WASHINGTON -- U.S. airlift operations are continuing in the Central African Republic, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said today.

Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft initially began operations Dec. 12 in response to a French request for limited support in the region. During those initial operations, small teams of U.S. airmen transported a Burundi light infantry battalion.

The troops are part of an African Union-led international support mission intended to help prevent the further spread of sectarian violence.

The United Nations estimates that thousands of people in the Central African Republic have been killed and 2.2 million are in need of humanitarian aid due to rebel violence.

Airlift operations to transport a Rwandan mechanized infantry unit began Jan. 14, Warren said. That operation, he said, is expected to take about three weeks to complete.

It will take longer to move the Rwandan soldiers and their equipment than it did to move the Burundi troops, he said, "because this is a mechanized battalion that we're moving this time, so there are just more pieces of equipment that have to be moved and they take up more space."

Since Jan. 14, the U.S. Air Force has transported a total of 131 Rwandan soldiers, 22 pallets of supplies and equipment, 13 vehicles and 1 forklift, Warren said.

Two small teams of U.S. Air Force personnel are on the ground in Kigali, Rwanda, and Bangui, Central African Republic, to help load and unload the aircraft. Security is being provided by French and African Union soldiers, a defense official said. About 100 additional Air Force personnel are in Entebbe, Uganda, to support flight operations.

Uganda supports US airlift missions

by Capt. Christine Guthrie
U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa Public Affairs

1/22/2014 - ENTEBBE, Uganda -- As U.S. airlift missions operating at the request of the French government and African Union authorities continue, Uganda maintains their role as a key U.S. strategic partner.

In just two months, the Ugandans allowed the U.S. military to stage at least three essential missions out of Entebbe.

"The Ugandans have been invaluable," Col. William Wyatt, Office of Security Cooperation Uganda chief said. "Both the Civil aviation authority and Ugandan People's Defense Force have been instrumental in helping us stage important missions out of Entebbe."

Most recently, the U.S. Air Force has been staging two C-17 Globemaster III aircraft out of Uganda to provide airlift support to a Rwandan mechanized battalion. The U.S. military is transporting equipment and soldiers to the Central African Republic in support of the African Union's effort to confront destabilizing forces and violence.

The ability to stage missions out of Uganda has been vital to mission success.

"Every day we coordinate with the Entebbe Handling Service and they provide us with crew buses and maintenance towing capabilities," said Maj. Micah Vander Veen Contingency Response Element Commander, and overall mission commander for the Entebbe stage. "They provide us with everything we need around the airfield, including security services."

The U.S. began the Rwandan airlifting mission January 16, 2014, and is scheduled to continue through the month.

In December of last year, the U.S. staged a Burundi airlift mission out of Uganda in support of the same African Union operation. The duration of the operation was approximately 10 days.

"With the rapid pace of events in East Africa the additional presence of the U.S. military was felt at Entebbe," said Wyatt. "However the Government of Uganda was very helpful in allowing U.S. forces to conduct these important missions in support of the African Union for the Central African Republic and evacuation of noncombatants from South Sudan."

The most notable support the Ugandans have shown to the U.S. occurred when three CV-22 Ospreys were forced to divert to Entebbe after being fired upon, wounding four personnel onboard. The aircraft were attempting to land in Bor, to evacuate Americans from South Sudan.

During this diversion the Ugandans were conducting their own noncombatant evacuation operations out of Juba, South Sudan.

"When the U.S. had to emergency land in Entebbe, they were forced to occupy the only area on the airfield with lights," said Wyatt. "It was difficult for the Ugandans to process their people in the dark."

The civil aviation authorities and Ugandan's People Defense Air Force worked closely with U.S. Department of Defense authorities to make this mission and others a success.

Uganda is located in the geographical heart of Africa and it is evident they have played a critical role in past and current operations.

Vander Veen echoed positive sentiments as he spoke about the current airlift operation with the Rwandan soldiers, "Things are going extremely well, and the Ugandans have been strong partners in this operation."

45th FSS takes home AFSPC Awards

by 2nd Lt. Alicia Wallace
45th Space Wing Public Affairs

1/21/2014 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- The 45th Force Support Squadron swept 11 categories in the Air Force Space Command 2013 A1 Awards and also received the Major General Eugene L. Eubank Award for the small installation level Force Support Squadron.

"I could not be more proud of my squadron," said Lt. Col. Gregory Jones, 45th FSS commander. "While we never focus on winning awards, it does feel good to get recognized for the great work we are doing."

The 45th FSS is an integrated team of military, civilian, Non Appropriated Funds employees, and contractors, who on a daily basis provide outstanding support to the 45th Space Wing, mission partners and their families, said Jones. They intend to double their efforts to continue providing services and programs that meet the needs of their customers, he said.

The following individuals won legacy awards:

-Lt. Col. Gregory Jones: Lt. Gen. Norm Lezy Award for superior expertise and leadership qualities in the A1 Community
-Cynthia Dunn: Dr. Beverly L. Schmalzried Award for significant impact on an individual level in the A1 Community

The following civilians won their respective categories for the installation level:

-Pamela Jordan: Flight Chief of the Year
-Shelly Welker: Technician of the Year

The 45th FSS award-winning program and team awards:

-Child Development Program of the Year
-Civilian Personnel Program of the Year
-Enlisted Professional Military Education Team of the Year
-Golf Program of the Year
-Nathan Altschuler Outstanding Education and Training Program
-Operations Program of the Year
-Professional Development Program of the Year

Habitats built with hope

by Senior Airman Marcy Copeland
460th Space Wing Public Affairs

1/17/2014 - AURORA, Colo.  -- Beyond the construction fence, hammers nailing and saws buzzing are the sounds of hope for families in need.

Buckley Air Force Base members joined Habitat for Humanity Jan. 10 for a local project in Aurora. Nineteen members volunteered to saw windows and doorways while others climbed ladders three stories high to install roofing components.

"I think having 19 people show up, we just get a different kind of reaction from the community," said Staff Sgt. Eric Leyva, 460th Space Communications Squadron communications project manager. "It's a type of respect. Everyone acts professional. We get to have fun, of course, but I think that exposure is good for everyone on base. We don't always get an opportunity to interface with the community, and with this project, we did."

HFH is an international non-profit organization that has built or repaired more than 800,000 houses and serves more than 4 million people worldwide. HFH works with 1,500 partners in the U.S. and more than 70 organizations around the world to provide a safe and affordable place to live.

The HFH project does not just give away the homes. Each family that is unable to obtain financing must meet three eligibility requirements. To be eligible, a person's income must be 30 to 50 percent of an area's median income, must be living in a substandard or low income housing and contribute of 300-500 hours of "sweat equity" must be put into the build of their or someone else's home.

"These are people who have one, two, sometimes even three jobs," said Brady Nelson, senior construction supervisor. "These are hard-working folks who wouldn't be able to get a mortgage in the conventional setting."

The success of HFH has been achieved with donations of money, materials and land, but the true success is credited to the volunteers - men and women who are committed to helping the organization fight poverty and homelessness around the world. Military members, veteran, and civilians donate their time in aiding local, international and disaster relief projects.

Installing insulation in 20-mile-per-hour winds, trekking through snow and mud, and conquering a fear of heights was all worth the swollen hands and wind-burnt faces to know that efforts given by each volunteer brought HFH one day closer to giving a family a new home.

Our history on display

by Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

1/21/2014 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Gathering dust in the attic, a donation to a consignment store, or neatly packed away in a footlocker is where many military items find their final resting place.

Sometimes, however, these items end up being donated to a museum collection--getting a new lease on life--just as one retro uniform did at the Peterson Air and Space Museum.

"You never know what part of history you are going to represent during your time in the military. That uniform would have ended up in a bin somewhere at a Goodwill store; my friend talked me into donating it," said Ramon Duron, now a systems architect with U.S. Strategic Command.

Duron donated his uniform, which is representative of the 1st Space Wing era and the early days of the stand-up of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson AFB, to the Peterson Air and Space Museum. The last time Duron saw what was then his daily uniform was when he picked it up from the cleaners after being starched in the early '80s.

Putting the uniform on display is part of the museum's mission to share history.

"This display here at the ID card center is a way to take things on the road, to show some of our history in other places here on base," said Jeff Nash, 21st Space Wing museum deputy director and curator. "This is a high-visibility area where people can see it, ask questions about it or walk across the street to the museum to see more."

Duron's blouse, featuring a sky-blue ascot and bearing the emblem of the 1st SW, is on display in a glass case located in the waiting area of the military personnel section in building 350.

"That was a part of my career, it meant a lot to me and to see the uniform come back out and be displayed - it is an honor to be a part of history. I have been a part of the 21st Space Wing family since the very beginning," said Duron.

But before you start rummaging through your collection of old military gear looking to donate something to the museum, keep in mind they can't accept everything.

"We get a lot of calls from people wanting to donate items and we do consider them all but we have to be very selective. The final decision on whether we can accept that item into the collection is based on the scope of what we are looking for," said Nash, "We have limited space ... we look more for items that represent time periods and missions associated to the base and our history here."

"We have a collections policy--a scope of collection--most of the time we are collecting items to support either a new exhibit we are creating at the museum or an existing exhibit that we are looking to update with newer artifacts."

Having an item accepted into the Peterson museum collection and displayed for all to see does not happen very often, but when it does, it's an honor.

"It brings back a lot of memories and now I can show my kids when I bring them over here to get their ID cards," said Duron.

"Every service branch has its own legacy; the Navy, Marine Corps and the Army. The Air Force has already found itself; we are building our on legacy and it sure is fun to be a part of it," he added.

CJCS' top enlisted advisor speaks to DOD initiatives

by Senior Airman Jose L. Hernandez-Domitilo
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

1/21/2014 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- On the cusp of one of Team Minot's most demanding inspections this year, Airmen here welcomed the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia.

Battaglia is charged with advising the CJCS on all matters involving joint and combined total force integration, utilization, health of the force and joint development for enlisted personnel. While at Minot, he had the opportunity to personally visit with Airmen of both the 5th Bomb Wing and 91st Missile Wing to learn more about their day-to-day contributions to the nuclear deterrence mission.

During his visit, he took the opportunity to address Airmen on initiatives the DOD is currently focusing on, including improving programs relevant to the transition of service members into the civilian sector, as well as the CJCS' outlook for maintaining a well trained, prepared, educated and relevant military.

He explained that as the military transitions from a decade of war, a reshaping of the forces is to be expected. This includes voluntary separations, retirements and a reduction in benefits or quality of life programs currently in existence.

"On the heels of every major conflict comes a downsizing of the force," Battaglia said.

Battaglia said it is a cycle that not one of the service branches is immune from.

For those and other reasons, he said the DOD is taking particular steps to provide adequate resources to service members separating or retiring. He went into detail about efforts to reinvigorate the Transition Assistance Program that supports service members to find employment, educational programs, small business opportunities and technical training necessary for success in the civilian sector.

"It is vital to help service members transition," Battaglia said.

Regardless of the environment any service member finds themselves in, he said a career in the military is a lot of hard work and with it comes a lot of sacrifice. For Battaglia, the fact that young veterans joined the armed forces while the country was at war speaks volumes about their character.

"The opportunity to serve is by far the greatest profession the country has to offer," said Battaglia.

During his visit to Minot Air Force Base, Battaglia said he had a lot of positive takeaways, but in particular he was impressed with the level of responsibility, trust and empowerment that is placed on its Airmen with confidence.

"I can see the focus of Airmen across all ranks," the sergeant major said, "both company grade officers and junior enlisted."

Thefocus from all the Airmen on the upcoming inspection stood out to him, which he described as evidence of the seriousness of the mission here.

Chief Master Sgt. David Nordel, 20th Air Force command chief, who also accompanied the command sergeant major on his visit, said he is confident Battaglia is walking away with the impression that Minot stands the test of maintaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear-capable mission, and he will be able to convey that to senior leaders in Washington D.C.

"Everybody should be proud of how they presented themselves," Nordel said. "Minot is a great place be and a great assignment to have."

Battaglia ended remarks with Airmen during an all-call the McAdoo Sports and Fitness Center by lauding the efforts of all at Minot.

"Regardless of your position, or role ... you make a difference," Battaglia said. "Don't let anyone tell you different."

12th AF commander receives firsthand look at ISR mission

by Staff Sgt. N.B.
432nd Wing, 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

1/22/2014 - LAS VEGAS -- The Hunters of the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing welcomed the 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) commander, Lt. Gen. Tod D. Wolters during a two-day visit Jan. 13-14.

The visit gave the commander the opportunity to meet the Airmen who perform the Air Force's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission flying remotely piloted aircraft.

"It's a privilege and an honor to be standing in front of you today, the men and women of the 432nd Wing," said Wolters. "I'm impressed with the quality and exceptional performance of all of you."

He explained that the Air Force is an institution that never stops caring about one another, and that commitment begins with developing the best leaders we can.

Wolters encouraged leaders to exercise analog leadership by getting out, talking to Airmen, and asking the tough questions in order to help solve problems.

Wolters challenged Airmen to take care of each other and shared the story of Master Sgt. Gonzo Gonzalez, who passed away in October 2013 when his aircraft crashed during a mission overseas.

Gonzalez was responsible for preventing more than $9 billion of cocaine from hitting the streets of America during his career. Today, his family shares that their closest Air Force friends are like family.

"If things go bad and the environment isn't perfect, [the Air Force] will go to the ends of the earth to fix the environment and find a way to ensure it doesn't happen again," said Wolters. "This is a great enterprise to be a part of."

Wolters also took time to discuss some of the biggest challenges facing the Air Force today, including sexual assault and suicide.

"You have two choices for the remainder of your time in the service: you can ignore the problem and therefore become a part of it; or you can be part of the solution," said Walters. "We have to fix the environment."

Col. James Cluff, 432nd Wing/432nd AEW commander, explained that visits like these help remind Airmen of the important role they play in today's Air Force.

"It's important that Airmen understand the roles they play, in not only their futures, but also in the future of the greatest Air Force the world has ever known," said Cluff. "When visitors like Gen. Wolters come here, it helps our Airmen realize that everyone, from the top to the bottom, plays a key role in helping solve these issues."

The visit left a lasting impression on the wing's newest and youngest Airman.

"General Wolters' all-call really helped to put things into perspective. Stopping problems like suicide or sexual assault starts with each and every Airman," said Airman 1st Class Christian, 432nd Wing Public Affairs photojournalist. "We all play a part in making the Air Force the greatest it can be, regardless of what our duty title is."

Christian continued on to say he had learned a valuable lesson during his first duty day in the operational Air Force, one that he will strive to teach others during his career.

Wolters concluded his visit by also reiterating the importance of the Air Force's ISR mission and the work 432nd Wing Airmen do every day.

"It's an honor to continue to serve with you," said Wolters. "I can comfortably say I pity the enemy because if they have to fight you, they're just going to lose."

DOD Releases New Religious Accommodation Instruction

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2014 – The Defense Department today released a new instruction that details its updated policy on making religious accommodations requested by service members, Pentagon spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan J. Christensen said today.

A DOD instruction implements a policy or prescribes the manner or plan of action used to carry out a policy, operate a program or activity, and assign responsibilities.

“The new policy states that military departments will accommodate religious requests of service members,” Christensen said, “unless a request would have an adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion and good order and discipline.”

When a service member requests such an accommodation, he added, department officials balance the need of the service member against the need to accomplish the military mission. Such a request is denied only if an official determines that mission accomplishment needs outweigh the need of the service member, Christensen said.

Requests to accommodate religious practices will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, the spokesman noted.

“Each request must be considered based on its unique facts, the nature of the requested religious accommodation, the effect of approval or denial on the service member's exercise of religion, and the effect of approval or denial on mission accomplishment, including unit cohesion,” he added.

Immediate commanders may resolve religious accommodation requests that don’t require a waiver of military department or service policies that address wearing of military uniforms and religious apparel, grooming, appearance or body-art standards.

Accommodation requests that require a waiver will be forwarded to the respective military department for determination.

Christensen said that factors used to determine if religious apparel interferes with military duties include whether the item:

-- Impairs the safe and effective operation of weapons, military equipment or machinery;

-- Poses a health or safety hazard to the service member wearing the religious apparel;

-- Interferes with the wear or function of special or protective clothing or equipment such as helmets, flak jackets, flight suits, camouflaged uniforms, protective masks, wet suits and crash and rescue equipment; or

-- Otherwise impairs the accomplishment of the military mission.

The spokesman said department officials believe the new instruction will enhance commanders' and supervisors' ability to promote the climate needed to maintain good order and discipline, and will reduce the instances and perception of discrimination toward those whose religious expressions are less familiar to the command.

“The Department of Defense places a high value on the rights of members of the military services to observe the tenets of their respective religions and the rights of others to their own religious beliefs,” Christensen said, “including the right to hold no beliefs.”

Soldiers Earn Spots on U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team

By Tim Hipps
U.S. Army Installation Management Command

SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 22, 2014 – Five soldiers in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program have been selected for the U.S. Olympic men's bobsled team that will compete at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Capt. Chris Fogt, Sgt. Justin Olsen, Sgt. Nick Cunningham, Sgt. Dallas Robinson and Team USA assistant coach 1st Lt. Michael Kohn will represent the U.S. Army in Russia. With the exception of Robinson, everyone in the group has previously competed in the Olympics.

They will be joined by former WCAP, bobsledder Steven Holcomb, the reigning Olympic champion driver in the four-man event. Therefore, the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program had a hand in helping to produce about half of the U.S. Olympic men's bobsled squad.

Holcomb, who spent seven years in WCAP, will drive USA-1 with brakeman Fogt and civilians Curt Tomasevicz and Steve Langton aboard. Holcomb also will drive USA-1 in the two-man event.

Cunningham will drive USA-2 with WCAP teammates Olsen, Robinson and civilian Johnny Quinn aboard. Olsen was a member of Holcomb's four-man squad that struck gold at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Whistler, British Columbia.

Cunningham and Corey Butner also will pilot U.S. sleds in the two-man event. The two-man bobsled brakemen will be selected from the pool of six push athletes named to the four-man squads.

A number of components were considered when selecting the 2014 U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team push athletes, including combine test and U.S. National Push Championship results, U.S. National Team Trials finishes, driver input, proven international experience with a history of results and team combinations working well together, trend of push times, start rank and velocity, and current season results.

Nations were allocated Olympic quotas based on rank in international points following seven competitions during the 2013-2014 season. The United States was one of three nations that qualified to enter the maximum of three teams in men's two-man bobsled competition, and one of only two nations to qualify the maximum of three sleds in the women's race. The United States was not one of the top three nations in four-man bobsled standings and is limited to two crews.

The Olympic bobsled events are scheduled for a four-heat format over two days of racing. The men's two-man bobsled competition is slated for Feb. 16-17, followed by women's bobsled Feb. 18-19. The men's four-man bobsled competition will be one of the last events of the Olympic Games, set for Feb. 22-23.

Team McChord participates in GRE

by Staff Sgt. Jason Truskowski
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

1/21/2014 - POPE ARMY AIRFIELD, FORT BRAGG, N.C -- Deploying anywhere in the world on short notice is part of the intricate mission Airmen and Soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., train to do. Executing the mission flawlessly when the needs of the military and humanity arise is paramount. One way to perfect that skillset is by participating in realistic training exercises.

That is exactly what Airmen from the 62nd Airlift Wing did here, Jan. 10-20, when they integrated with multiple Army and Air Force units for a joint training exercise called Global Response Expeditor. GRE is designed to assess and strengthen the effectiveness of Army and Air Force units working and responding together to conduct joint forcible entry operations.

"GRE reinforces necessary skillsets that enable our force to accomplish this very mission if needed in a real-world situation," said Sgt. 1st Class William Epps, U.S. Army Advanced Airborne School evaluations committee instructor. "Working with Air Force units gives us the ability to not only place paratroopers on an objective, but also the equipment that is vital to the success of our mission."

The joint training incorporates the unique talents of Airmen and Soldiers and puts their skills to the test. More than 2,000 service members came together to execute this training.

"Being able to work with the Army in their environment, with their equipment, is beneficial to us," said Staff Sgt. Scott Delano, 8th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. "When we run realistic training scenarios it ensures a seamless process when it comes time to execute missions that impact lives."

Whether aircrew members are preparing for the airdrop of cargo bundles or paratroopers, one thing that remains constant is that large formation airdrop is one of the most demanding mission mobility forces perform. Synchronizing efforts through routine training among Airmen and Soldiers heightens the overall global readiness and striking ability of the military.

Approximately three months of joint planning preceded the exercise.

"Planning an exercise of this magnitude is always a team effort that requires a great deal of thought and exertion on behalf of those involved," said Capt. David Tomlinson, 8th AS pilot and lead C-17 planner for the exercise. "In the end, we all come out with a better understanding of how our joint partners operate and how the various components should come together in the event that we are required to respond to a real-world scenario."

That planning made the successful airdrop of more than 1,200 Army paratroopers and the offload of more than 120 tons of cargo possible, and required a team effort.

"Beyond the aircrew flying 5 of the 10 participating C-17s, there were maintainers guaranteeing operational aircraft, intelligence support personnel and entire team of planners," said Lt. Col. Brian Wald, 62nd Operations Group deputy commander.

Exercises such at GRE are required in order to keep the unique skillsets of Airmen and Soldiers finely honed.

"The more difficult the skill, the more perishable it is," said Wald.

McChord Airman sworn to serve nation, community

by Tech. Sgt. Sean Tobin
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

1/21/2014 - YELM, Wash. -- Master Sgt. Phil Ryan received the call early in his shift. It concerned a young man who was sleeping in a car in a grocery store parking lot. The man's mother and girlfriend were concerned for his safety. They feared due to his prior drug abuse and his state of mind, the young man was in danger of hurting himself or someone else.

Ryan, the superintendent of complaint resolution for the 62nd Airlift Wing's Inspector General's office, responded to the call and located the vehicle in the crowded parking lot. As he stood by the open door of the vehicle talking to the young man in the back seat, the array of weekend grocery shoppers, busily going about their errands, slowed to a group of curious onlookers, craning their necks to see what was going on.

Ryan remained focused on the task at hand. After a half-hour discussion, the man agreed to exit the backseat of his own vehicle and get into the backseat of Ryan's. From there it was a half-hour drive to the hospital where Ryan helped the man get checked in to be evaluated by medical professionals.

If this sounds a bit beyond the scope of the Air Force IG's mission, there's a good reason for that. Ryan was not responding to the call as a member of the Air Force; he was responding under his role as a sworn peace officer, working for the Yelm Police Department in Yelm, Wash.

While not conducting investigations for the IG, Sergeant Ryan spends dozens of hours of his free time each month as Officer Ryan, patrolling the streets of Yelm as a reserve police officer. Not only does he do it in his free time, he also does it all for free - as in no pay.

Ryan has approximately 800 hours of experience patrolling the streets as a police officer. Prior to those hundreds of hours spent patrolling the streets, he spent approximately 400 hours training in the police academy. Again, all for free.

His experiences in his Air Force career have both helped, and been helped by, his experiences in law enforcement.

"I find the two jobs complement each other well," he said. "Like law enforcement, working in complaint resolution involves investigative work."

Both jobs require the ability to quickly assess a situation and determine the best approach when it comes time to speak with someone who may or may not want to be spoken to, he said.

That experience came in handy, as evidenced by his ability to talk the gentleman from the grocery store into calmly going in for a medical evaluation.

After ensuring the young man was in good hands at the hospital, Ryan returned his attention to the streets of Yelm. He spent a good portion of the early afternoon making traffic stops for infractions such as speeding, license plates not being affixed properly, and illegal cell phone use.

"That's my pet peeve," he said, referring to cell phone use while driving. "Studies have shown that drivers distracted by their phones are 23 times more likely to be in a collision than undistracted drivers."

The majority of drivers he pulled over that day were let off with just a warning.

Even if he doesn't feel the need to give a citation to a driver, it's important to get out of the patrol car and talk with people, Ryan said.

"It's just good community policing to be interacting with as many people as possible during a shift," he said. "Besides, you never know what you may uncover during an otherwise routine traffic stop."

That approach to community-based policing came to fruition later in the evening as Ryan's shift drew to a close.

While speaking to the driver during a routine speeding stop, Ryan immediately determined the driver was under the influence of alcohol. The driver was arrested and placed in the back of Ryan's patrol car.

As Ryan drove the suspect to be booked into custody, the suspect expressed his confusion as to why he was being placed into custody.

"So I was driving under the influence," the suspect said. "What's the big deal? It's not like I killed someone."

The irony of the suspect's statement was not lost on Ryan.

"He doesn't even know what he doesn't know," Ryan later said. "That's the whole reason I'm out there - to stop dummies like him from killing someone."

Ryan said he plans to work full-time as a police officer once he retires from the Air Force.

"This wasn't always something I wanted to do," said Ryan. "But after nearly 800 hours of patrol, I've learned that this is what I was meant to do."

Ready to 'RoK' Red Flag

by Staff Sgt. Jessica Haas
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

1/21/2014 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Pilots and maintainers from both the Republic of Korea air force and the 8th Fighter Wing paired up and trained during exercise Buddy Wing 14-1 the week of Jan. 14-17, 2014.

This Buddy Wing exercise was geared specifically towards training for the upcoming Red Flag exercise in July.

"We are training with our RoKaf partners to learn from each other and ensure we are ready to fight together against any threat," said Lt. Col. Luther Cross, 8th FW chief of safety. "Every squadron going to Red Flag is involved in preparations prior to arrival, regardless of nationality."

Each Red Flag exercise normally involves a variety of interdiction, attack, air superiority, defense suppression, airlift, air refueling and reconnaissance aircraft. Red Flag provides a peacetime "battlefield" in which combat air forces can train. Inside this battlefield, aircrews train to fight together, survive together and win together.

"The main difference between Red Flag and other training scenarios is the large number of aircraft in each fight," said Cross. "Our normal fights here are usually four versus two aircraft, but Red Flag could possibly have more than 50 versus 12 aircraft."

Cross continued to say that having more than 60 aircraft in a fight is a very large challenge, but it gets everyone ready for robust wartime scenarios.

"They [RoKaf] are also getting used to having US controllers and the Red Flag-style briefings and debriefings," continued Cross. "They are very strictly structured to get through the massive amount of information required to pull the biggest lessons out of the flights."

The chief of safety also said that while RoKaf and U.S. Air Force share tactics and fly the same aircraft, there are always small differences in terminology and training.

"We want to train together so we understand these subtle differences and fight alongside each other seamlessly," said Cross. "You train like you fight. So to fight together, we need to train together."

"This has been a very helpful experience," said Capt. Jun-Mong Yang, RoKaf 20th Tactical Fighter Wing pilot and Buddy Wing participant. "I'm very happy to be here."

The RoKaf pilots aren't the only ones excited to be training for Red Flag as a combined team.

"Ever since I came to Korea, I've understood our joint role with them and exercising as a force together was pretty important," said 8th Operations Support Squadron chief of combat training, Capt. Philip Jackson. "I haven't actually been able to fly with them [RoKaf] yet, so I'm really excited about it."

The Buddy Wing exercise concluded Jan. 17 with all participants feeling confident about the training.

"They have been very professional and eager to learn," said Cross. "I know they [RoKaf] will enjoy Red Flag, and they will represent their country well."