Military News

Friday, April 18, 2014

U.S. Olympian, bronze medal winner visits 15th Wing

by Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez
15th Wing Public Affairs


4/16/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- As part of a morale tour sponsored by the American 300 Warrior Support Organization, U.S. Olympian and Sochi Olympics bronze medal winner Alex Deibold toured the 15th Wing and visited with Airmen April 15.

Deibold, a professional snowboarder from Manchester, Vermont, began his visit with a physical training session with Airmen from the 154th Operations Group, as well as Airmen from other operations support units.

"I appreciate you guys having me here," Deibold said. "Some people treat us kind of soft on these tours, so it's nice to get out here and actually work and break a sweat."

The tour also included a visit to the 15th Wing commander, Col. Johnny Roscoe, and stops at the 15th Medical Group, 15th Comptroller Squadron, 15th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosives Ordinance Disposal, the Binnicker Professional Military Education Center and the 15th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

Col. Virginia Garner, 15th MDG commander, said it was an honor to have Deibold visit the medical group Airmen.

"You are an example of perseverance and resiliency for our Airmen and we appreciate you sharing your stories and time with us," Garner expressed.

With the coveted bronze medal in hand, Deibold spoke with many Airmen during the tour about his experiences with snowboarding, the Sochi Olympics and other physical activities he participates in.

For more information on Deibold and his accomplishments, visit http://ussnowboarding.com/athletes/alex-deibold.

Pumping life through the Wolf Pack

by Staff Sgt. Clayton Lenhardt
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


4/17/2014 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The Wolf Pack is fueled by an important flight on base - one that enables the Wolf Pack to defend the base, accept follow-on forces and take the fight North.

"[The fuels management flight] is important because we fuel the base by receiving, storing, sampling and issuing clean, dry fuel to all aircraft, vehicles, generators and support equipment," said Master Sgt. Rocky Sasse, 8th Logistics Readiness Squadron distribution chief.

The 41 Airmen in the 8th LRS fuels management flight work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide the fuel needed for the rest of the Wolf Pack to perform its mission.

"I deliver the fuel directly to aircraft, vehicles and generators," said Senior Airman Jacob Rickard, 8th LRS fuels distribution operator. "If I don't deliver the fuel ..., they're going to be incredibly hard pressed to get any part of that mission done."

While delivering fuel may seem like an easy enough task, this Air Force job is nothing like being a gas station attendant.

"Technical school was two months and upgrade training was four to six months," said Rickard. "You have to be able to operate different refueling units, but those different units can fill different types of aircraft."

The fuels management flight delivers more than 1 million gallons of jet fuel each month, which is equivalent to filling almost two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Given the amount of fuel this unit works with on a weekly basis, there are many hazards and challenges associated with this necessary career field.

"You need to know emergency procedures in case of a fire, which is the greatest risk in our job," said Rickard. "The machinery hazards [and] the fuel itself - we just get trained on it all the time."

This job may have its hazards and challenges, but Rickard still feels satisfaction in knowing his job impacts the entire base.

"My favorite part about doing my job isn't anything I do individually or anything one section in my career field does," said Rickard. "Without us, nothing could get accomplished; nothing could move."

Sasse has a similar viewpoint on how his flight impacts the mission.

"We touch virtually every organization on Kunsan," said Sasse. "Every time we hear or see a jet taking off, it's evident the importance of POL to this base and the mission."

Historian shares passion for self-defense

by Senior Airman Zachary Perras
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


4/17/2014 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The thought of a historian often brings about the image of a scholar surrounded by dusty tomes, gathering information about the past to make decisions for the future.

In that sense, Jack Waid, 354th Fighter Wing historian, serves the part and has the responsibility to preserve the past in order to pave the path to the future. Outside of that realm, however, Waid isn't the typical historian.

Other than his love for history, Waid has an intense passion for martial arts, specifically Krav Maga, a self-defense system originally developed for the Israeli military.

Waid began his journey in Krav Maga after he enrolled his son into a class while he was stationed at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, in 2011. While watching his son learn the basics, Waid said it piqued his interest.

"There's a certain ease and simplicity found in Krav Maga," he said. "It's not about fighting; it's about defending yourself and those who are around you. It teaches you to neutralize the threat while protecting what matters to you."

With nearly 15 years of various martial arts experience, Waid eventually elevated to a brown belt in Krav Maga and found himself in the position of assistant instructor at Laughlin, training newcomers and advising students on form and technique.

"I was able to take what I learned and give it back to others," Waid said. "I would be out there correcting people, watching over students to make sure they have control and that they're being aggressive with their control."

Upon arriving at Eielson, Waid made it a goal to begin a weekly Krav Maga class to pass along his passion to others and to teach them how to defend themselves should they ever come into a physical altercation.

"I like sharing self-defense with others," Waid said. "You can see a difference after the first class that people feel more confident. There's a spark in the eye and you see it - they walk out of there knowing they're bettering themselves."

Waid explained that Krav Maga isn't just something to remember at home; it could be beneficial for those who are in deployed environments as well. Regardless of where one might be, it's about knowing how to defend yourself, he said.

"Krav Maga is like no other martial art," Waid said. "It gets in your blood, and I want as many people as possible to learn this so they have something more to fall back on if the situation arises."

Waid teaches his class at the fitness center every Tuesday and Thursday from 7-8 p.m. For more information, contact Waid at 377-1136.

Airman consumed by alcohol fights back

by Airman 1st Class Alexis Millican
23d Wing Public Affairs


4/16/2014 - MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, GA. -- (Editor's note: This is the second article in a series highlighting the dangers of drinking and driving, alcohol abuse, and the negative effects those behaviors can have on someone's life. The Airman in this article wishes to share his story in effort to prevent it from happening in the future, but requests to remain anonymous.)

With his suicide note placed neatly on the bed, he got dressed and headed to work. His plan was to pretend everything was OK, arm up for training, and then take his own life.

In his note, the Airman wrote to his friends, family, supervisor, leadership and himself.
He apologized for taking his life and reassured everyone it was not their fault.

Following nine years of heavy drinking, the then 23-year-old Airman felt as if he had drank himself into a hole with no way out. He considered himself a failure and was ready to bring his life to an end.

He took his first drink when he was just 14 after hanging out with the "wrong crowd". Soon after, alcohol began to consume him.

"Before I knew it, I was too far under with no way up," he said.

He attended college for three years but failed out due to excessive drinking and partying. The constant drinking led him to gain nearly 100 pounds.

"Alcohol affected every aspect of my life ... especially my finances. I was spending nearly $600 on alcohol every pay check, which only left me with about $200 for my bills."

After failing out of college, he decided to join the Air Force. The local recruiter told him he needed to lose at least 60 pounds before he was eligible to join. After months of hard work and dedication, he lost 65 pounds and enlisted. Basic Military Training proved to be a struggle without access to alcohol, which his body depended on daily.

"Staying sober during basic training was a struggle," the Airman said. "A lot of nights I spent sitting in the bathroom stall crying. I wasn't crying because I missed my family, which was the bad part. I missed the booze. I would cry at times for 30 minutes. It was a very difficult eight weeks."

After completing basic training, he returned to his old drinking habits and steadily increased the amount ingested. By the time he recognized he needed help, he was drinking nearly 100 beers every week, in addition to a countless number of shots.

"It was such a routine to get up, drink, go to the gym, drink some more, go on lunch break, have a few, go back home and drink the night away," he said, adding if he woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, he would drink another beer before going back to bed.

Most days, he was legally intoxicated, yet needed the alcohol to perform day to day tasks. He said he could not park his car while sober, but rather filled his camelback with liquor and taped it to the back of his seat for a trip to Jacksonville, Fla. To mask the odor of alcohol, he shaved his body and coated himself in a mint-scented sports cream. To combat the smell on his breath, he shaved his tongue.

Aside from the alcohol, he was a model Airman who did what he was told and did his job well. His supervisor had no idea his Airman was literally drinking himself to death.

"The problem was serious," his supervisor said. "At one point in time, it was nothing for him to drink a case of beer a night. He told me he used to crave alcohol."

After years of hiding his secret, the day after writing his suicide note, it only took a matter of minutes for an NCO to notice something was off and sensed he was in desperate need of help.

"When I went into work the next morning, a sergeant ... noticed something was wrong," he said. "I had no intention of telling anybody. I was going to play it off as if it were a regular day. But for some reason that day, I just lost it, and I told him everything.

"My supervisor at the time took me to lunch, where I opened up about everything that I was going through. About 45 minutes later, I was in the ADAPT (Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment) program and later that day, I was in a detox facility for five days."

Alcohol was overpowering his life and beginning to take its toll. He credits the ADAPT program and his fellow wingmen for helping him overcome his alcohol addiction and for saving his life.

"There was a staff sergeant there that stayed by my side and believed in me," he recalled. "The people at work, my leadership, supervisor and close friends never let me put myself in a bad position. When I got two or three months sober, I finally realized I could do it without relapsing. That's really what pushed me: good leadership and a great program."

Alcohol was a key contributor to the Airman's daily routine, and although he no longer drinks he says he wouldn't be surprised if he needed a liver transplant one day.

Knowing the toll his addiction put on him mentally and physically, he now spends as much time away from his dorm as he can, and stays active by going to the gym multiple times a day.

"Seeing him now as opposed to before, I can definitely tell he has taken this seriously and is performing well," his supervisor said. "He is a role model for his peers."

With nearly two years sober, he's reenrolled in college and wants to use his experience to help others. He eventually sees himself in a career where he can help counsel people who are considering suicide and battling addiction.

"I want to be that guy who understands their burden and helps them," he said. "Talking about my problems helps me to realize how severe of a problem I had. It also helps me to never go back to the way I was when I was drinking."

President Awards Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to Naval Academy



American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2014 – The U.S. Naval Academy football team visited the White House today to receive the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy from President Barack Obama.

The annual trophy goes to the team that wins the most games in head-to-head football competition among the Naval Academy, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

The president noted that the Naval Academy team has some experience in this regard -- it’s the ninth time Navy has won the trophy in the last 11 years.

“This is the second time these seniors have come here to claim the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. If you guys have your punch cards with you, the next one is free,” the president joked.

The team had a good season, Obama noted, but he added that “the fact that for these outstanding young men, football isn’t even the main thing” is more impressive.

“When you sign up to play at Annapolis, you know you’re in for a different experience,” the president said. “A typical day starts at 6 a.m. in the training room. Breakfast is at 7 a.m. After that, it’s class, lunch and football meetings. Then more class, football practice, dinner. Free time starts at 8 p.m., which most players use to study until midnight. And when students at other colleges are enjoying summer vacation, these guys are busy with military training and summer school and offseason workouts.

“So, yes, it's about learning to be a good football player,” he continued, “but more importantly, it’s about learning how to be a good leader and to be a good man. And that’s what these outstanding Americans are and will continue to be.”

Obama noted that 14 of midshipmen on the football team will be commissioned as ensigns in the Navy next month, and eight others will become second lieutenants in the Marine Corps.

“That’s their commitment to service,” he said. “That's the commitment to country and to each other that sets this team apart.”

Battaglia Fields Questions on ‘Troop Talk’ Program



By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2014 – Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answered questions from the total force on the premiere of the Pentagon Channel’s “Troop Talk” program today, covering topics from women’s roles in combat to hiring veterans.

Battaglia answered questions submitted through social media outlets and from studio audience members.

One of the top queries from the audience concerned the extent of women’s roles in combat. Battaglia noted that full implementation of women into combat ranks is scheduled to take place in 2016.

“Everything is tracking fine,” he said of the services allotting billets for women in frontline positions. “Women are part of the team -- one team, one fight.”

In the arena of sexual assault, the sergeant major said the Defense Department is making strides toward eliminating the crime from its ranks.

“Sexual assault is a continuing challenge in the military,” Battaglia said. “We’ve made vast, significant efforts. We’ve equipped commanders with more investigation techniques to build evidence to help prosecute the perpetrators. We have a robust victim’s assistance program.”

Affording dignity and respect to sexual assault victims is important when cases are being investigated, he said, and officials are continuing to work the issue.

“We’re not going to give up,” he said.

Battaglia also emphasized the importance of hiring veterans, noting that “an appetite” exists among small to large corporations to hire former service members.

“Veterans are commonly known for their talents, skills and work ethic, whether they served four years or four decades,” he said. “They are an investment. [The military] teaches them to fight, and then how to re-enter society to do many great things. Our responsibility as military leaders is to mold and develop them to do our nation’s [work], and then prepare America’s sons and daughters to go back into society.”

Battaglia also discussed a book titled, “The NCO and Petty Officer: The Backbone of The Armed Forces,” which he published with the help of a group of noncommissioned officers. “It’s an easy read,” he said, adding that it is free, and available.

NCOs want to continue to be leaders, he noted, so sharing the book is important. Battaglia said he wants young enlisted service members to read the book to realize they can aspire to become NCOs.

He added that he’d like to see officer corps members read it as well, because it may provide ideas on how they can empower their NCOs. It’s also important for parents of service members to read it, Battaglia said.

“A civilian can read it,” he added. “It’s not filled with military jargon.”

“Troop Talk” host Scott Howe asked Battaglia what “We will never forget” means to him.

“That’s a very emotional topic [to all service members],” Battaglia said. The number of casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars might be small when compared with World War I and World War II, but the wars of the last 13 years have been “up close and personal,” he said.

Stationed here in the nation’s capital, Battaglia said, he’s reminded daily to “never forget” when he drives every day past Arlington National Cemetery.

“When I jog by the Korean and World War II memorials, I drop a knee and say a prayer,” he said. “The price of freedom is not free.”

Enlisted Leader Visits Mayor, Transitional Housing, Clinic



By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., April 18, 2014 – The senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited city hall, a veterans center and a Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic here yesterday to learn about how veterans, citizens and elected officials take care of current and former military members.

At city hall, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia met with Mayor Alvin Brown and his staff to discuss veteran matters, with a particular focus on the homeless and disabled population.

“Through grants and partnerships, our team has been able to provide emergency financial assistance to veterans for rent, utilities, food and clothing,” said Harrison Conyers, the city’s veterans and community outreach manager. “We help people who need immediate assistance and who we can’t just refer out –- we’ve got to take care of ourselves.”

Conyers explained that his department develops monthly career exercises, ongoing resume and state workforce board assistance, free tax preparation and more.

“We’ve been able to expand what we’re doing without impacting the taxpayers,” he said. “In a short time, we’ve pretty much doubled the services we can provide to veterans.”

With Jacksonville’s densely populated veteran community, the need for assistance never wanes, said Victor Guillory, director of military affairs and veterans department in the mayor’s office.

“Through the generosity of grants and the local communities, we have funds to help veterans stay in their homes,” he said.

But the mayor’s office, Guillory noted, also works closely with the Five Star Veterans Center, a community resource and transitional center for veterans who need additional help maintaining a homestead. The facility holds 22 residents who are in various stages of phased rehabilitation customized for their situations.

The residents get a safe place to sleep, a continental breakfast, soup and a sandwich for lunch and a hot meal for dinner, said retired Marine Corps Col. Len Loving, the center’s chief executive officer.

The first phase involves an agreement to remain on the premises, abide by the rules and garner the necessary resume and computer training, Loving said. From there, the center’s staff works with local VA officials to assess residents’ physical and psychological issues before connecting them to a caseworker for further individual assistance, he said. “The resident will need to develop short- and long-term goals and commit to part-time school and work or full-time work,” he added.

The center’s staff and volunteers work with employers to identify issues, and they help the residents correct them to establish a steady, reliable work ethic.

Fourth phase residents have about three months to set up a bank or credit union account and develop an exit plan for independent living.

“We hope they’ll save enough to have about two months of expenses when they walk out of here,” Loving said. “We help them with a care package of clothing and furniture, and even tap into VA programs so they can handle their own expenses.”

Loving said that in his experience with thousands of veterans, there is typically a three-to-four-year delay after service before veterans who need help truly realize that they do. And the abrupt shift from a high-intensity environment to one of day-to-day life maintenance activities can be harrowing for those who suffer from post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury, he added.

If compounded with financial problems stemming from divorce, alimony or child support issues, the perfect storm and downward spiral intensifies, he said.

“If a military member gets a divorce while on active duty, a judge typically bases child support payments on their salary at that time, which becomes significantly reduced once they’re no longer in service,” Loving noted. And in Florida, he added, nonpayment of child support results in a driver’s license suspension.

Loving said he has received offers from lawyers to help veterans free of charge to manage child support payments and ask judges to grant restricted licenses for veterans to commute to work or school.

One resident said he confided in Battaglia to share his experiences and challenges with him during the visit.

“The sergeant major is a damn good Marine,” the resident said. “He’s a lot more knowledgeable and more open to listen to us than any other officer or enlisted person I’ve ever met.”

But as a growing number of veterans require ongoing medical and mental health care, the need for quality facilities to take care of them increases as well. The VA outpatient clinic here is “more than a doctor’s office, but short of a hospital,” said Dr. R. Daniel Morgann, chief medical officer. But the staff is trained to deal with emergencies, he added.

This clinic has about 37,000 patients in its care, and the staff sees 1,200 to 1,500 patients daily. Morgann said the VA’s unique mission there called for specialized design and planning.

“We wanted to make sure there was intimacy, but there was also a lot of space,” Morgann said. “We didn’t want anyone to feel corralled.”

The clinic, he explained, provides a broad range of general and specialized medical, dental, surgical, psychiatric, nursing and ancillary services and serves acute and chronically ill eligible veterans, without them having to visit more remote VA facilities.

“Our veterans require care that runs the gamut from minor health care needs to urgent care,” the doctor said, but he noted the clinic can stabilize veterans with physical or mental issues before transferring them to either local facilities or to the Gainesville or Lake City VA Medical Centers.

The doctor said he learned early on the disparity between business and care when it came to medicine.

“The VA was a way for me to deliver care and focus on the patients, not revenue,” he said. “The idea is to reduce costs through innovation, but not at the expense of quality, accessibility and personalized interaction.”

And while telemedicine -- remote, computerized patient care -- is a burgeoning technology that can expedite and facilitate some medical needs and therapies, Morgann said, it shouldn’t completely replace in-person engagement and care with veterans.

“We can leverage this technology, but we have to do it where and when it is smart,” he said.

Battaglia Reflects on Total Force, Military Appreciation



By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., April 18, 2014 – As he concludes his week-long visit here, gratitude has emerged as the lingering theme, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia’s schedule included engagements with multiple demographics ranging from adolescents to people in long-term care to learn more about their experiences in and with the military.

“Everywhere we stopped, there was always someone, regardless of whether they served in the past or not, who when they see you in uniform, exhausted all efforts to say, ‘Thank you for your service,’” the sergeant major said.

From Junior ROTC high school students to commissioned and noncommissioned officers, wounded warriors, volunteers, family members and senior retirees at a Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic, Battaglia reflected on how each group is an integral part of the total force.

“It’s the intent and scope of each one of my stops that I engage with the base or post, the community and the VA,” Battaglia said, “because those are three legs to the stool that, if missing a leg, can become very unstable.”

After interacting with high school Junior ROTC youth at Naval Air Station Mayport here, Battaglia visited the Jacksonville Military Entrance Processing Station. The sergeant major recounted that he got to engage not only with youth who were about to commit to the military, but also with people about the same age who were about to begin their careers.

“Administering the ceremonial oath and getting to meet with the MEPS staff was very educational,” Battaglia said. “While it was monumental for some of them to have me visit, it was even more monumental for me to be welcomed into their facility.”

This summer, Battaglia said, he will meet with Gold Star families who have lost a loved one to combat. “They’ll never be forgotten, and they’re part of the total force, too,” he said. The meetings, he added, are all part of the public-private partnership that bridges the gap between the military members and citizens and allows him to gauge the relationships among many entities.

“The base has to be open to its community, the community has to be open to its base, and the VA is a conduit as well,” Battaglia said. “I’m happy to report the relationships are strong in Jacksonville, and it’s really a model for the United States to work after.”

He said visits such as this enable him to make comparisons to other cities. “Should I see some best practices, I’m happy to share that with other communities to say that it’s not ‘the’ way, but perhaps ‘a’ way. … And I think our country can benefit from it,” Battaglia said.

The sergeant major said he will return here in early June.

“The city of Jacksonville appears to love its military men and women,” Battaglia said. “I got that by sitting with the mayor … all the way to talking with the employee on kitchen duty at the veterans homeless shelter.”