Saturday, April 12, 2014

USAFE-AFAFRICA Airman wins missile defense award

by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Wilson

4/11/2014 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany  -- The Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance recognized Kenneth Dustin, 603rd Air and Space Operations Center senior ballistic missile defense program analyst, as an example of excellence during the first-ever European Missile Defender of the Year ceremony in Kaiserslautern, Germany, April 4.

Dustin was one of six people selected from multiple nations and service branches to be recognized for European missile defense during the ceremony, which took place on the 65th anniversary of the founding of NATO.

"I am truly humbled to have been selected for this award," he said. "It would not have been possible without the work by the folks responsible for ballistic missile defense operations in (U.S. Air Forces in Europe, U.S. Army in Europe, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, and U.S. European Command) coming together as a cohesive team. I am honored to have been nominated by my peers and selected by my superiors to receive this award on behalf of USAFE."

Prior to his tenure as a program analyst, Dustin spent almost 28 years in the U.S. Army specializing in air and missile defense.

During his assignment at the 603rd AOC, he has been part of a select team that shaped and evaluated the first-ever Integrated Air and Missile Defense Course at the 505th Training Group. He has also led more than 50 conferences in the European missile defense community and built a training course to certify flag officers as Regional Air Defense Commanders.

For those reasons and more, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa leadership selected Dustin for the award.

Lt. Gen. Tom Jones, USAFE-AFAFRICA vice commander, who represented the command during the ceremony, emphasized the importance of the event.

"This was an outstanding event that recognized the critical nature of the ballistic missile defense mission and the superb men and women of NATO who accomplish it daily," he said. "I'm extremely grateful to Mr. Ellison and MDAA for pulling this together."

According to the MDAA's website, the European ceremony was the first international event, with four nations represented, and the 10th Missile Defender of the year event worldwide.

Face of Defense: Marine Wife Writes of Military Lifestyle

By Marine Corps Cpl. Melissa Echenbrenner
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

MIRAMAR, Calif., April 11, 2014 – Adjusting to the stresses and challenges of the Marine Corps lifestyle may seem overwhelming, but for one spouse, finding peace amidst the struggles comes through creative expression.

Jessica Mastorakos, an active volunteer with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323 “Death Rattlers”, remained inspired by the people around her who share experiences unique to military couples. Through the strength of the community around her, Mastorakos wrote and published her own novel.

“The obstacles that I’ve faced as a Marine wife are probably pretty standard to many military spouses,” Mastorakos said. “We’ve been separated on birthdays and most holidays, cancelled planned trips and even our own wedding. But the single-biggest obstacle was having a complication-riddled pregnancy and the birth of our first son while my husband was deployed. You never know just how much you can handle or just how strong you are until you have no other option.”

She published her book and is working toward others, hoping to inspire military couples and teach civilians about the hardships associated with the military lifestyle.

“I wrote it for military spouses who, like me, were looking for a love story that was similar to their own,” she said. “Being in love with someone in the military offers unique struggles that civilian couples simply do not experience, and I feel that it is important to highlight these relationships.”

Mastorakos explained that the family readiness officer helped to support her during the difficult times. She hopes to “pay it forward” through her volunteer efforts and by making sure those who need help receive assistance.

“My favorite part of volunteering with the Marines is the feeling of paying it forward or everything coming full circle,” Mastorakos said. “We all need support at one time or another, and when I provide support to my fellow ‘Snake’ families I do it with a grateful heart knowing that I have been supported in the past as well. I like that I can repay those who helped me by also helping whereever I can.”

She hopes to encourage other spouses to volunteer or help out in any way possible.

“You don’t have to start with a marathon -- just go for a short jog,” she said. “There are many squadron-hosted events that would be fun to participate in. However, even just supporting fellow military families by being a good friend or neighbor can go a long way toward a productive unit. Start a girls’ night or join an established one, go to a L.I.N.K.S. (Lifestyle, Insights, Networking, Knowledge and Skills) class, or even bake cookies and send them to work with your Marine. All of these things can lift your spirits and connect you with others just like you.”

Mastorakos plans to continuing writing books and volunteering, with no foreseeable end in sight.

“I hope that as new Marines and their families join the Snake family, the sense of community will welcome them as it did for us,” she said. “All I want is for that spirit to continue.”