Tuesday, March 18, 2014

AETC the “First Command” for Air Force Women

by Capt. Jennifer Richard
Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

3/18/2014 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- In the 67-year history of the Air Force, women have achieved countless milestones, from breaking the sound barrier, entering the Air Force Academy, operating forward deployed in combat roles, to reaching the ranks of Chief Master Sgt. and General.

The women who broke many of these barriers share a common history--a membership in Air Education and Training Command, a command comprised of Air University and the former Air Training Command.

AETC today is known as the "first command," since it is the first command to touch the lives of almost every Airman. For female Airmen throughout history, AETC (or ATC and AU) often served as the command through which they achieved several "firsts" for women.

Following are just a few examples of trail-blazing Air Force women and their experiences as part of AETC:

Esther Blake - First woman to enlist in the Air Force (1948)
Blake enlisted on the first minute of the first day regular Air Force duty was authorized for women, representing the many women who served continuously during the transition from the Army Air Forces to the Air Force. In October 1948, Lackland AFB began basic training for the newly authorized Women in the Air Force.

Jane Leslie Holly - First female commissioned through AF Reserve Officer Training Corps program (1971)
Holly graduated from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala. Auburn University was one of four universities selected as initial test programs for commissioning women through Air Force ROTC.

First female Basic Military Training Instructors (1975)
Three female instructors participated in a test program to serve as BMT instructors at Lackland AFB.

Joan Olsen - First female U.S. Air Force Academy cadet (1976)
Olsen was the first female admitted into the Air Force Academy, making the Air Force the first of the three service branches to admit women into its academy.

First female class of Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training trainees (1977)
Ten women became members of the first group of female undergraduate pilot students, completing Phase II T-37 training and then beginning Phase III, flying the supersonic T-38 Talon.

Capt. Jacqueline Parker - First female to graduate from Test Pilot School (1989)
Parker completed Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, Calif., becoming the first female graduate. She also became the first female F-16 pilot in the Air National Guard in 1994.

Lt. Jeannie Flynn - First female selected for combat pilot training (1994)
Flynn was the first mission-qualified female fighter pilot after she successfully completed training in the F-15 Eagle. Flynn was also the first female fighter pilot to graduate from the USAF Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nev.

Col. Teresa Peterson - First active duty woman to command an operational flying wing (1998)
Peterson served as commander of the 14th Flying Training Wing at Columbus AFB, Miss., from July 1998 to June 2000. Peterson later commanded the 305th Air Mobility Wing at McGuire AFB, N.J.

Capt. Jammie Jamieson - First combat-ready female F-22 fighter pilot (2008)
Jamieson completed the F-22A Transition Qualification Course at Tyndall in April 2008 after three years of flying the F-15C.

Laughlin firefighter wins AETC civilian firefighter award

by Senior Airman Nathan Maysonet
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

3/17/2014 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- A Laughlin firefighter was named the Air Education and Training Command's 2013 Civilian Firefighter of the Year.

Miguel Chacon, 47th Civil Engineer Squadron lead firefighter, was selected for the honor from amongst his peers across AETC for his skills, lifesaving work and the training he provides his fellow firefighters in firefighting techniques.

"I'm humbled by the selection, but I've never been one for attention," said Chacon. "I just do my job, I don't chase medals. Just give me stuff to do, and I'll do it."

Chacon is a native of Eagle Pass, Texas, and began his career as an Air Force firefighter in 1998 at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. In 2002 he was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, where he worked as a tech school instructor before leaving the service and joining the base's civilian run fire house in 2006. Four years later, Chacon jumped at the opportunity to join Laughlin's fire house.

"I always wanted to be closer to home, so I saw the opening at Laughlin and took it," said Chacon. "It's taken time to get used to working with military firefighters again, but it makes an older civilian like me feel young again since there is always something going on."

Since arriving at Laughlin, Chacon has worked as a driver operator where his number one concern each day is to ensure his fire engine is equipped and ready for the variety of emergencies the responders may face, and that they arrive quickly and safely to their destination, explained Chacon.

"I've responded to all manner of situations at Laughlin helping to save lives and protect property," said Chacon. "A couple of in-flight emergencies and a few medical calls are all in a day's work."

In addition to his life saving work with the department, Chacon is best known by his coworkers as an expert instructor who has brought his years of teaching at the school house with him to Laughlin.

"Chacon goes out of his way to train airmen and to make sure they know their jobs inside and out," said Olin Jensen, 47th CES station chief. "He seeks out those around him who are in need of help rather than waiting for people to seek him out after something goes wrong."

It's these things that have led to Chacon's selection as AETC's Civilian Firefighter of the Year.

"Honestly, I just do my job while maintaining high standards for myself," said Chacon. "I wish everyone around me the best and work to help them succeed. I want to use what I know to make the next generation better than me."

Laughlin Airmen take home three Musclemania awards

by Senior Airman John D. Partlow
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

3/18/2014 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Two Laughlin Airmen recently competed and placed in Musclemania All Forces, a natural bodybuilding competition open to all servicemembers, firefighters, policemen and their families.

Tech. Sgt. Robert Niter III, 47th Medical Group NCO in charge of optometry, took home first place in both the Men's Model and Men's Physic competition. Airman 1st Class Samuel Hahn, 47th MDG Public Health technician, won second place in Men's Physic while competing in a different weight class than Niter.

"Winning first place doesn't mean you're better than anyone else, it only validates that you've successfully competed against yourself," said Niter. "It's not about going on stage and saying, 'I think I'm bigger than this guy,' or 'I have more definition that this person.' It's about waking up and saying, 'Can I beat myself today?' It takes dedication, it takes discipline, and it takes sticking to your fitness regimen."

Dedication is one thing Hahn used to push himself to win his award.

"I think I can do anything I set my mind to," he said. "I knew that if I really tried and set my mind towards the competition, I would succeed."

Both men use their training and fitness towards improving the Air Force as a whole, as well.

"As an NCO, I'm expected to show an example," said Niter. "I know people are watching me and airmen are looking towards NCOs to make good decisions. I think working out shows good dedication and a strong drive towards fitness."

"I believe working towards my fitness goals shows strong determination to others," said Hahn. "With going to school, being the dorm president and working towards Below the Zone, I sometimes felt overwhelmed, but it came down to determination and how much I really wanted it."

As far as winning the award two years in a row, Niter said that it's a lot more than just hitting the gym every day.

"Fitness is a three-part project," said Niter. "You can't just go to the gym, just eat right or just sleep for eight hours. You have to combine all of those things to get the results you want. Staying the course, eating the right food, making sure you sleep enough, going to the gym even when you don't want to: that's the recipe for success."

As for next year, both men plan to return to Musclemania and show their level of commitment.

"I definitely plan on going back and placing higher than I did this year," said Hahn. "I don't have to beat the other competitors on just that one day; I have to beat myself every day."

Recruiters provide assistance at New Mexico crash scene

by Master Sgt. Andy Stephens
Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs

3/17/2014 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Three Air Force recruiters in Albuquerque, N.M., assigned to the 367th Recruiting Squadron put their military training to the test Feb. 24 after they witnessed a motor vehicle collide with a motorcycle, injuring the two riders. The recruiters secured the scene and provided first aid until ambulances arrived.

Master Sgt. Damian Vandevender, Tech. Sgt. Ruben Torres and Staff Sgt. Jose Diaz De Lopediaz had left a science fair in Albuquerque and were about to return to their Cottonwood Mall recruiting station when they witnessed the collision.

"When we saw it happen, we just reacted as we've been trained to help out any Airman in distress," said Vandevender, D-Flight chief. "It's amazing sometimes how our reflexes and training work together in a crisis. All of us hope we were able to make a difference and that the couple makes a speedy recovery."

Lt. Col. Darrell L. Smith, 367th Recruiting Squadron commander, said it was the recruiters' Air Force training that made the difference between being witnesses to such a scene and actually knowing how to save a life.

"Anyone who thinks that a recruiter is just a salesperson for the Air Force is wrong," Smith said. "Our recruiters are the best the Air Force has to offer in their career fields and we complete annual training for everything from critical life-saving to working with local first responders.

"Sometimes, our recruiters have additional skills," Smith continued. "Tech Sergeant Torres was a trained Air Force firefighter prior to becoming a recruiter, while Master Sergeant Vandevender and Staff Sergeant Diaz De Lopediaz have completed their annual skills training. These recruiters represent the epitome of service before self - calm under pressure, delivering lifesaving aid while in uniform and demonstrating the quality of their training in a real life-or-death situation."

According to Smith, Torres checked the motorcyclists for bleeding and broken bones while Vandevender and Diaz helped keep the couple calm and guide traffic around the scene until paramedics arrived. The recruiters then apprised the paramedics of the extent of the injuries to expedite care.

Vandevender credits Torres for his quick thinking, describing the 12-year Air Force veteran (in his second month as a recruiter) as "springing into action without hesitation." The flight chief added that it felt good to be able to make such an important difference in the lives of people in their community.

"Recruiters are invested in the communities they serve," Vandevender said. "While many people might see Airmen like us as apart from civilian society, in reality, we're their neighbors too. We live down the street from you, our kids are friends with yours and we will do everything we can to protect you and your family. On Feb. 24, we were able to prove the spirit of our service to the Albuquerque community, and nothing feels better than when you know you've done the right thing when it's needed most."

Smith said he plans to recognize the Cottonwood Mall station recruiting team for their quick thinking and resourcefulness.

JBSA-Randolph's 560th FTS hosts 41st Annual Freedom Flyer Reunion

from 12th Flying Training Wing

3/18/2014 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH -- The 560th Flying Training Squadron will host the 41st Freedom Flyer Reunion, an annual gathering of Vietnam War prisoner of war pilots, 9 a. m. to 5:30 p.m. March 28 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. Since 1973, the 560th FTS has hosted the event, honoring the sacrifices of the POWs and their families, and providing a unique opportunity for others to learn about their experiences.

Public events include a POW/Missing in Action Symposium beginning 9 a.m. at the Fleenor Auditorium, with presentations by former POWs, spouses and those involved in the repatriation process. Speakers include retired Col. Ken Cordier, POW from December 1966 to March 1973; retired Lt. Col. Rocco DeFelice, 560th FTS director of operations during Operation Homecoming; retired Col. Edward Hubbard, POW from July 1966 to March 1973.

The wreath-laying ceremony will begin at noon at the Missing Man Monument in Washington Circle. All Department of Defense ID card holders and their families are invited to attend.

For more information contact Maj. Edward Balzer at 652-0789 or edward.balzer@us.af.mil.

Culture, clay and the fleur-de-lis: Cope Tiger Air Forces give back to Thai village

by 2Lt. Michael Harrington
Multilateral Exercise Cope Tiger 2014

3/18/2014 - KORAT ROYAL THAI AIR FORCE BASE, Thailand -- More than nine thousand miles stand between Korat, Thailand and New Orleans, Louisiana, yet even sitting on opposite sides of the globe certain bonds link the Thai tigers and their Bayou counterparts: hot food, hot weather and a love for community even thicker than the humidity. It was in this muggy, amicable atmosphere that American, Thai and Singapore Air Force members with Multilateral Exercise Cope Tiger 2014 participated in a community engagement day Wednesday at Dan Kwian Wittaya School in a small village near Korat.

U.S. doctors and medical technicians arrived early in the morning, pausing in their normal routine of keeping the exercise's 27 American flyers combat ready to assist their Thai and Singapore hosts in providing basic services to underprivileged rural Thais.

The day's cultural activities included painting the finishing touches on a Cope Tiger 2014 mural reading "peace and friendship" as well as traditional dances, music and pottery exhibitions performed by the students of Dan Kwian. School brochures note the village is famous in the region and internationally for the pottery it crafts from the black, bronzed clay of the nearby Moun River.

The U.S. Air Force exercise director, Col. John "Zoomba" Traettino from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii cut the ribbon for a new multi-purpose athletic court with his Thai and Singapore counterparts. Later, he presented the students with toys, supplies and sports equipment--all purchased with the personal donations of Louisiana Air National Guard and Cope Tiger participants.

"I have a son about your size back home, and I told him before I left for this long trip to 'live his dream,'" Traettino said.

That helped him some, Traettino said, but what he really wanted from me was a toy car--before gifting just such cars to the Thai students.
The event served to build relationships between Thais, American and Singaporeans beyond high-flying dogfighting in the hazy heat of northern Thailand's skies.

"The locals got real medical attention, mostly eyeglasses and help for aches and pains they've never had the means to talk to someone about," said Staff Sgt. Tasia Bradley, Cope Tiger exercise medical technician from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans.

"If anything, I wish we got to do more of this, going out into the local area and seeing patients, getting to do the job with the extra reward of seeing people who otherwise wouldn't be seen," Bradley said.

"The people here are so welcoming and authentically grateful," said Ivy Songham, an English teacher at the school from Cape Town, South Africa. "There's no ruse to it; they are so happy to see role models from far-off places."

"This is their chance to meet the foreigners and, even more, to share the pride of their village so the Americans admire them, too," Songham said.

The highly-photographed formalities of three nations' ranking officials visiting a village fell to the background in a school full of children translating in three languages between the services. The visit marked the 21st iteration of the Korat community building event, fostering good relationships amongst the tri-national participants and local Thai communities.

Cope Tiger 2014 leadership and medical team members offered services again at Ban Khao Tian Mitrapap 134 School in the Lop Buri province Friday.

Tiger, tiger burning bright

Air National Guard service links U.S. Cope Tiger Airmen with Royal Thai, Singapore brethren

by 2Lt. Michael Harrington
Multilateral Exercise Cope Tiger 2014

3/18/2014 - KORAT ROYAL THAI AIR FORCE BASE, Thailand -- The Big Easy expression "Laissez les bon temps rouler (Let the good times roll)" works just fine with fighter jets rolling down a steaming Thai runway and the 159th Fighter Wing's Bayou Militia soaring above jungles halfway around the globe. The long-term relationships of an Air National Guard unit--here the fathers and sons, siblings and born-and-raised citizen Airmen of Louisiana--especially one with the flavor and bonds of a "NOLA" family, are paying dividends with Thai and Singapore counterparts serving their countries in a remarkably similar fashion.

The three countries began a second week of flying and fixing jets Monday for Cope Tiger 2014, an annual exercise that brings the U.S. Air Force together with the Royal Thai and Republic of Singapore Air Forces in Thailand, many of whom attend the exercise after being likewise "called up" to active duty themselves.

"A lot of our Airmen are traditional guardsmen their entire careers, sometimes here in the same NOLA Guard unit," said Air Force Col. Shawn Coco, 159 FW vice wing commander. "This kind of dramatic departure from going to work every day at the same place down the road, it's exceptionally valuable for a Guard unit to be able to do that."

The Air National Guard's presence in Nakhon Ratchasima--or "Korat," a short form of its pronunciation in Thai--might seem like a dramatic departure from the norm, yet for Coco and his unit, the chance to pack up from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans is a great opportunity for the Guard to flex its logistical muscles, to go and do its job halfway around the world.

Common service binds the U.S., RTAF and RSAF airmen in unexpected ways. Many of the Americans', Thai and Singapore counterparts are guardsmen themselves. Many Singapore airmen in Cope Tiger serve as reservists on a voluntary extended reserve scheme, or "Rovers," according to an RSAF press release. Some Thai airmen rival their U.S. Cope Tiger crew chiefs counterparts with upwards of two decades of military service. One RSAF aeromedical technician is a high school economics teacher, blending well with U.S. Airmen who are doctors, police officers and commercial pilots during their average weeks in New Orleans.

The longevity of Guard service makes for unique encounters in Thailand's countryside. Two Thai maintenance officers on the flight line are brothers serving in distant parts of the country brought to Korat for Cope Tiger. Next door, Senior Airman Jason Ripp, crew chief with 159 Air Maintenance Squadron, serves in the same job and unit his father did. The Guard family is not a novel concept to any of the air forces involved here.

"We have half a dozen F-15 Guard patches and all of them are represented here alongside the New Orleans Airmen," said Coco. "The dynamics of a Guard unit are different, and this is how we share in supporting the mission elsewhere in the world."

This year's exercise involves 800 service members from Thailand, Singapore and the United States. Nearly 160 U.S. Airmen are participating in the event, which concludes Friday.

"The 159th FW stepped up to this tasking and is helping provide peace and stability to the region," said U.S. Air Force exercise director, Col. John "Zoomba" Traettino from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. "They performed exceptionally well as the Expeditionary 122nd Fighter Squadron within the 13th Air Expeditionary Wing. They worked very well with our Thai and Singaporean coalition partners in every phase, leading the way in many areas."

Representing Air Force and country through martial arts

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs

3/18/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- Adrenaline and heat from exertion caused sweat glands to build up moisture, forming drops of the liquid on Quinton Beach's forehead, dripping around his eyes as he stared at his opponent, Micah Foreman, 17, who executed a roundhouse kick aimed for Beach's chest.

A sharp cracking sound echoed through the room as Beach, 30, fired a cut kick and caught his opponent in the stomach before the roundhouse kick made contact.

When his foot touched the floor, Beach followed the move with an outside axe kick to Foreman's upper body, a second crack splitting the sound waves in the dojo, followed only by the thud of Foreman dropping to the mat.

Beach quickly helped his fellow martial arts practitioner up, and they carefully analyzed what had transpired as they brushed off their protective gear, made of condensed foam that makes a cracking sound on impact.

It was an average sparring match in the Taekwondo Elite USA class in Anchorage, filled with award-winning martial artists.

Tech. Sgt. Quinton Beach, a 3rd Munitions Squadron munitions technician on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, is a black belt.

The martial artist earned a third-degree black belt in tang soo do and first-degree black in taekwondo. He is a member of the United States Air Force Olympic Taekwondo team, a part of Armed Forces Sports, a program funded through non-appropriated funds such as Army and Air Force Exchange Service dividends.

"The AFS Program is designed to provide opportunities for Air Force personnel to train toward and participate in Armed Forces, National, Pan American, Conseil International du Sport Militaire and World Championships to include the Olympics," said Stephen Brown, chief of AFS out of Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

Program participants enhance recruiting and retention efforts of the Air Force, Brown said.

Teams and team members often conduct sports clinics for both our military and civilian youth sports participants, he said.

Beach began practicing martial arts roughly 21 years ago with tang soo do, hapkido and taekwondo. The martial artist has since been in nearly 300 tournaments. He has been married for 12 years and has four children.

"I am extremely overjoyed by all of my husband's accomplishments," said Vernita Beach. "Balancing family, career, training, teaching and obtaining a master's degree is no easy task. Yet, he does all of that and so much more. He gives a little extra push and accomplishes the extraordinary. After almost 13 years of marriage he never ceases to amaze me."

Beach also has his unit's support.

"I've been blessed to have the Air Force support my competitions," the native of Albany, Ga., said. "It's a great feeling to have your unit, from the top down, support those things. Everybody's always asking when my next competition is, or when I'm training and how they can help out."

In 2006, Beach was introduced to the World Taekwondo Federation. In 2007, he was invited to try out for the Olympic team. Although they don't actually compete in the Olympics, they train towards it and compete nationally and internationally in various competitions.

He has had to try out for the team every year.

"It's definitely motivating, especially when I have to go to the training camp," he said.

After several weeks of training, select few chosen and the rest go home. The chosen remain for a few extra weeks of advanced training, designed to prepare them for international competitions. They travel to different countries as they represent their respective branches of service and compete in their respective categories.

Currently, taekwondo, judo, wrestling and boxing are the only AFS that are combative, according to the AFS website.

"It's definitely motivating and empowering; you take pride knowing that you get to represent your service," Beach said. "There are people out there who want to train, who are just as good as you are, but who aren't able to make it there. It gives me a sense of 'I've got to get this done;' there are people counting on me; there are people picking up my slack while I'm gone. I've got to do the best I can, I've got to represent, to set the stage, to let everyone know that we've got a competitive force."

For Beach, representing the Air Force means living by integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.

"When other countries see us, they don't know individual names; they just see 'USA' on our uniforms," he said. "It turns heads; it makes people want to know who we are. Being that ambassador is critical. They see the proper military image."

But it goes beyond just representing the Air Force, the black belt said.

"When you win the competition, you see the United States flag being raised above the others, and you hear our anthem playing, it touches you," he said. "You feel patriotic; it's electrifying."

"3rd MUNS has always espoused a culture of the outstanding," said Air Force Maj. Joshua Trebon, 3rd MUNS maintenance operations officer and native of Wadena, Iowa. "Beach is an example of how that can be applied through off-duty sports and represent and reflect upon the culture of the squadron. He's representing us internationally; in my opinion it's worth it."

Beach has won Air Force Male Athlete of the Year three times at the base level; once as a senior airman at Misawa Air Base, Japan; and twice as a staff sergeant at Diego Garcia and Aviano Air Base, Italy; and once since he's been stationed at JBER. He competed in the Alaska President's Cup in February, and will be competing in the Alaska State Championship in March, which determines who will continue on to U.S. National, then National Team Trials. He is also one of the Alaska State Athletic Representatives for Taekwondo.

Outside of competitions, practicing martial arts is a lifestyle of improving fitness and overall health and well-being, he said.

"It's all about wanting to pull the best out of you," the technical sergeant said. "Being a martial arts practitioner allows you to gain confidence in your abilities. As you work out and train, you're going to become smarter and stronger; your aerobic capacity, strength, endurance, and focus will improve. It changes the way you carry yourself as a child or as an adult. You're going to look at life and circumstances from a different perspective."

It benefits everyone, he said.

"It keeps you fit to fight, fit to live," the black belt said. "Excellence in all we do -- you look passed just meeting the minimum. You want to crush it, to far exceed it. As a martial artist, you want the triple digits on your Air Force fitness test. Once you get there, you want to see how much better you can do. You want to get that runtime down a few more seconds passed the maximum score, just for your own personal gain. We train to beat our previous best; we love it."

VAW-126 Holds Change of Command

By Mass Communication Seaman Pasquale Sena, USS Harry S. Truman Public Affairs

GULF OF OMAN (NNS) -- The "Seahawks" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126 (VAW-126) performed an airborne change of command ceremony above the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), March 18.

Cmdr. John Hewitt, who has commanded VAW-126 since January 2013, turned over with Cmdr. Przemyslaw Kaczynski.

"It has been a privilege and an honor to work with some of the finest sailors and officers and I am very grateful to have worked side-by-side with some of the best men and women our nation has to offer," said Hewitt.

While commanding officer, Hewitt led VAW-126 to win the 2013 Battle Efficiency Squadron during their 2013-2014 deployment.

"This was a huge accomplishment," said Hewitt. "Squadrons go years without winning the Battle "E" and this year the Seahawks earned it. I am very proud to have commanded such an amazing group."

While Hewitt was in command, VAW-126 flew 408 missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom providing airborne command and control, airborne early warning and a consistant air and maritime picture to Combined Task Force 50.

Kaczynski, who previously served as VAW-126's executive officer, took over as commanding officer.

"Cmdr. Hewitt is exceptionally motivated, has fantastic intuition and leads from the front every day," said Kaczynski. "I have big shoes to fill but I am ready to step up to the task."

Kaczynski said his main objective as commanding officer of VAW-126 is to execute their mission exceptionally well, succeed in Operation Enduring Freedom and bring all of his sailors and officers home safely with operational aircraft.

"It's a commanding officer's biggest task to keep the focus," said Kaczynski. "You need to keep everybody thinking that what we do out here is just as crucial today as it was the very first day we stepped onto the carrier. The environment doesn't know it's the end of deployment. We have to maintain the focus until the day we step off the ship."

Elmendorf fighters take up winter refuge at JBPH-H

by Tech. Sgt. Terri Paden
15th Wing Public Affairs

3/17/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Having 365 days of tropical weather makes Hawaii not only an ideal place for a beach vacation; it provides optimal working conditions for flying units needing to escape wintry weather impeding upon their training mission.

One such unit taking advantage of the warmer temperatures is the 525th Fighter Squadron out of Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on temporary duty to JBPH-H for "Operation Cope Thaw."

According to Maj. Ryan Wick, an F-22 Raptor pilot with the 525th FS, prior to arriving at JBPH-H for Cope Thaw on March 1, not a single pilot in their unit at home was combat-mission ready for various reasons - one of them being weather related cancellation of sorties.

"Alaska is a great place to fly.  The airspace is unmatched and the local community is extremely supportive," said Wick. "However, there are unique challenges when it comes to the weather.  On average our pilots fly eight sorties a month. That's what it takes to be considered combat mission ready. But due to weather attrition this season, we were averaging four or five sorties a month, so when we arrived here March 1 the entire squadron was Non-Combat Mission Ready."

Wick said the unit typically supports two flying periods a day, but due to weather conditions beyond their control, there are times when flying just isn't safe.

"We'll fly in negative 30 degrees, but snow, fog, low clouds and freezing rain force us to ground the jets and it is difficult to get lost sorties back," he said.

But temporarily relocating operations to Hawaii has made all the difference. After only one week on island, the unit has already seen one pilot attain the required amount of flying time--an achievement Wick said is virtually unprecedented.

"We brought 12 pilots here, and if things go as planned we should leave here with 12 pilots fully combat mission ready," he said. "In only two weeks we'll accomplish what usually takes a month."
Wick attributes the unit's raging success during Cope Thaw to more than just blue skies.

"We haven't lost a single sortie due to maintenance," he said. "Our goal is to fly 100 percent of our maintenance contracted sorties and since we've been here, we've flown 100 percent. We've seen absolutely phenomenal maintenance work."

Though maintenance on the jets isn't directly impacted by the weather, Master Sgt. Jason Schmidt, 525th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron lead production superintendent, said being on temporary duty to Hawaii has boosted the team's productivity.

"The maintenance is all the same regardless of where we are, but I'm sure the warm weather makes us more productive," he said. "The guys' spirits are up, everybody's in a good mood ... you can't beat it. It's a morale booster. The winter in Alaska is long so it's nice to get to work in sunny weather in the middle of the winter."

In fact, being TDY to Hawaii has even brought the team closer together.

"There's been extraordinary teamwork to get the mission accomplished here," he said. "We're all here working together toward the same goal so some folks have had to step outside of their comfort zones to help out in other specialties. You've got folks from different career fields working together to learn what other people on the team do. It's been a good learning experience for everyone because the dynamic here is different than back home."

The coincidental timing of Cope Thaw also created another training opportunity for the unit to take full advantage of--participating in Sentry Aloha 2014. The ongoing aerial combat exercise provides an opportunity for the F-22 unit to maximize the weather here and to train with many of the dissimilar aircraft on the island in support of the exercise.

Capt. Patrick Kellerman, 525th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge, said Cope Thaw's success has truly been an all-around team effort.

"The host unit has been really supportive," he said. "We could not have done this without them. It's because of them we are even able to be at 100 percent of our sorties. They've helped us out by sharing their infrastructure and providing us equipment we weren't able to bring down here."

After seeing just how beneficial using the airspace in Hawaii can be, Wick said he hopes the unit is able to continue pursuing opportunities like this for many years to come. 

Social Security Launches Expedited Veteran Disability Process

From a Social Security Administration News Release

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2014 – Social Security claims from veterans with a Veterans Affairs Department disability compensation rating of 100 percent permanent and total have a new process that will treat their applications as high priority and issue expedited decisions.

Carolyn W. Colvin, acting Social Security commissioner, said the new process is similar to the way the agency currently handles disability claims from wounded warriors.

“We have reached another milestone for those who have sacrificed so much for our country and this process ensures they will get the benefits they need quickly,” Colvin said. “While we can never fully repay them for their sacrifices, we can be sure we provide them with the quality of service that they deserve. This initiative is truly a lifeline for those who need it most."

To receive the expedited service, veterans must tell Social Security they have a VA disability compensation rating of 100 percent permanent and total and must show proof of their disability rating with their VA notification letter.

The VA rating only expedites Social Security disability claims processing and does not guarantee an approval for Social Security disability benefits, officials emphasized, noting that these veterans still must meet the strict eligibility requirements for a disability allowance.

SECNAV Releases Washington Navy Yard Report

From Secretary of the Navy Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus released, today, the Department of the Navy's investigation into the circumstances surrounding the tragic events of Sept. 16, 2013, at the Washington Navy Yard.

The investigation team, led by Adm. John Richardson, focused on the prior military and employment history of the shooter, Aaron Alexis; the events of Sept. 16; and post-incident response. The team also assessed how well the Department of the Navy implemented programs and policies designed to safeguard people and protect mission capabilities.

Specific details of the shooting and Alexis' possible motives are the subject of the ongoing criminal investigation and are not part of this investigation.

The investigation was convened under the Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN), and is, therefore, commonly referred to as a "JAGMAN."

Mabus acknowledged acceptance of the JAGMAN investigation. A number of actions to deter insider threats and improve implementation of force protection, physical security, incident response and emergency management policies have already been taken. A comprehensive list of both completed and ongoing tasks is available on the Navy FOIA website.

The JAGMAN investigation, the SECNAV memorandum accepting the JAGMAN investigation findings and recommendations and forwarding the JAGMAN investigation to the Secretary of Defense, and the SECNAV memorandum tasking DoN components, are also available on the Navy FOIA website listed above.

"Safeguarding our people remains critical to our national security," said Mabus. "Through all of the actions taken as a result of the investigation, we seek to improve our ability to protect our people, and reduce the likelihood that events like this will happen again."

100th LRS member transitions from military to civilian life

by Gina Randall
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

3/17/2014 - RAF MILDENHALL, England  -- At times it may seem young people in the military may not think about what they would do if they were no longer a service member.

For a former Team Mildenhall Airman, this was especially true.

"Once I left the military there was sort of an unknown factor," said Raymond Moss, 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron Quality Assurance inspector from Bentonville, Ark. He wondered, "What did I really want to do?"

Departing military members come from a variety of backgrounds, and they all have an assortment of stories to tell of their military careers.

"I retired from the military in 2010, after nearly 26 years service," Moss said.

Moss' military career led to a diverse range of roles. During his 26 years, he worked in flightline support equipment, tactical nuclear weapons systems, was a first sergeant for five years and was a flight chief for the 100th Maintenance Squadron.

Moss looks back on his career with fond memories.

"The best part was the people -- you hardly ever hear of somebody that has worked for a company and has had the opportunity to work with people from all over the U.S.," Moss said. "There is such a wide, diverse mix of people in the military. If I were to work in Florida, there would be a chance I would work with people who have lived there their whole lives. But in the military, I was able to work with people from New York, California, South Dakota, Mississippi -- all over."

As with every job, Moss encountered challenges while he served his country.

"The biggest challenges were a mixed blessing; the heavy deployments, being away from the family for months at a time, even a year at a time," he said. "But they were to support the mission, they had to happen and I can't -- or wouldn't want to -- take my dependents with me to a war zone."

However, as with every role in life, it must come to an end. In a regular job, upon retirement, you leave the job, but everything else remains the same. But for a service member, their whole lifestyle changes. They leave their house and area they call home, they leave their friends and colleagues, and usually they embark on a new career.

For Moss, the choice was clear, he wanted to continue working with the people who made his career in the military what it was. He wanted to become a civil servant.

"I am still able to serve my country as a civil servant," he said. "A lot of civilians don't get that opportunity."

The former Airman now works for 100th LRS Traffic Management Office. The office coordinates all the household goods and unaccompanied baggage shipments going in and out of this area. The QA office specifically evaluates the removal companies. One of Moss' responsibilities is to ensure the removal companies are complying with the standards the Air Force expects for its most valuable asset -- its people.

The QA team completes U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections each day. They check every shipment going back to the U.S. that may have any high-risk items, or items that might carry vegetation, as these items need to be inspected. The QA team tries to keep foreign, invasive species out of the U.S.

Moss enjoys his job and has adjusted well to civilian life, and he said the Air Force set him up well for any life he chose. Making the transition was a worrying time, but Moss said the skills he developed while serving as an Airman have served him well.

"In the military we are given all sorts of skills in resiliency. And those resiliency skills helped the transition and make it easier," he said. "I hear a lot of people are always sort of afraid, and I can't say I wasn't the same. But once you become a civilian and make the leap, you will appreciate it."

The Air Force trains and molds its members, and when they leave the service they can be valuable members of not only the society they live in, but to any work centers they enter.

During Moss' service, he said he received some important advice from a chief master sergeant.

"He told me civilian employers want military -- retired military -- because they are drug free, know how to take orders, show up to work on time, they have company loyalty and they don't have to pay quite so much into their retirement funds because they are not going to be employed quite as long," Moss said when he recalled a speech by a retired Chief Master sergeant of the Air Force given to the first sergeants' council when Moss was a first sergeant at Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

Retired service members can be beneficial members to any team. For the people who have sacrificed so much to serve their country, leaving the military can be daunting. Moss knew he wanted to find a way to continue serving his country and overcame this challenge.

"Transitioning from military to civilian life is much easier than you would think," Moss said.

For more information on civilian employment, contact the civilian personnel office at DSN 238-3540 or commercial at 01638 543540.