Tuesday, May 06, 2014

What I learned from amputees: it wasn't what I expected

By Chaplain (Maj.) Jeff Granger, 65th Air Base Wing Chapel / Published May 06, 2014

LAJES FIELD, Azores (AFNS) -- This story is part of the "Commentaries" section on AF.mil. These stories capture the experiences of Airmen from a first-person perspective.

A number of years ago, I had the privilege to serve as a chaplain in a training program at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Texas, formerly known as Brooke General Hospital. The program included rotations through a number of different sections on the medical campus. I served two rotations at the Center for the Intrepid, a world-class rehabilitation center. Due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I met a number of amputees and burn survivors who were adjusting to life after their injuries.

I was new to the hospital ministry and had a lot to learn. As their chaplain, I assumed that my role with these men and women would be to help them through the grief experienced from their loss. My first week there, I felt like I was a visitor at a funeral parlor -- you know the awkward feeling you get there? You realize it's important to be there but you don't really know what to say. I was uncomfortable. But, I soon learned my preconceptions were actually misconceptions.

These men and women at the Center for the Intrepid were determined to go on with life and had similar concerns to others I have met and counseled. Their concerns included navigating the military medical system, planning for life after the military, waiting for medical evaluation board determinations and relationship issues that began growing even before the deployment that was cut short.

Some were celebrating life events; one had recently become engaged, and one man was home to see his child who was born while he was deployed. These service members all faced the normal challenges that are common in our military communities.

At the Center for the Intrepid, adjusting to life's newest challenges was a shared experience.

I remember a particular conversation with a group of amputees who were sharing what it was like getting used to the new normal. One mentioned that he had gotten out of bed at night and forgotten he was missing a leg and fell down. As others chuckled, many confessed they had done the same. It seems it's a rite of passage for those who lose a leg. I wouldn't have expected to hear them laughing together, but the conversations flowed very naturally between these wounded warriors. The conversation illustrated for me the attitude they shared -- these men and women were facing a challenge, not dealing with defeat.

I read a text on positive psychology that year and it referenced a study to understand how cancer patients dealt with grief. Interestingly, the researchers encountered a problem: in their cancer treatment center, they were unable to find a large enough sample of patients struggling with grief. Just the opposite was true of their population: these patients became stronger as they focused their energies and rearranged their lives to battle cancer. Extraneous activities that may amuse, but ultimately distract from meaningful life were abandoned. Significant relationships too often neglected when life is smooth quickly become a high priority and these relationships become closer and more meaningful.

Just like the cancer patient study, my experience with wounded warriors at the Center for the Intrepid proved uniquely instructive.

I learned that, oddly enough, life's challenges can actually make life richer and more fulfilling.

Survival by Luck

by Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman
12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs

5/6/2014 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB, Ariz. -- It started on Sept. 1, 1939, more than 2,000 tanks and over 1,000 planes, broke through Polish defenses along the border and advanced on Warsaw. Within weeks the Polish army was defeated.

Pawel Lichter, a survivor of the German invasion of Poland, shared his life story with the members of 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) during the Holocaust Day of Remembrance May 2, 2014.

The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation's annual commemoration of the Holocaust. This year the Holocaust Days of Remembrance goes from April 27-May 4, 2014.

"What inspired me to speak about my experiences and why I joined this group of survivors, was I wanted to let people know what happened," said Lichter.

Lichter recounted his story to the members of 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern). His story includes descriptions about his uncle being tortured and murdered, his family being granted permits allowing them to relocate, narrowly escaping a firing squad, as well as his journey from Poland to Eastern Europe, Asia, Central American, and the U.S.

"Mine is a story about luck, and more luck," said Lichter. "I was able to make it through with most of my family. My grandparents and several of my friends were not so lucky and didn't make it out of Poland."

Events throughout Davis-Monthan AFB were targeted at reminding base members of this moment in history and to honor the memory of the more than 9 million victims who perished in the Holocaust.

When asked about the lessons he passes down to children and grandchildren based on his experiences Lichter responded with, "Respect and live in peace."

This year's theme for the Holocaust Days of Remembrance is Confronting the Holocaust. For more information about this year's official theme and annual commemoration of the Holocaust, please visit http://www.ushmm.org/remember/days-of-remembrance/2014-days-of-remembrance.

Memorial honors three fallen Fairchild Airmen

by Staff Sgt. Veronica Montes
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

5/5/2014 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash -- Service members, community leaders, friends and family gathered May 3, 2014, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., to commemorate the year anniversary of an aircraft crash where three Team Fairchild Airmen lost their lives.

Capt. Mark "Tyler" Voss, Capt. Victoria "Tory" Pinckney and Tech. Sgt. Herman "Tre" Mackey III lost their lives May 3, 2013 in a KC-135 Stratotanker crash in Kyrgyzstan.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Glass opened the ceremony with a prayer, saying the wounds of last year's crash are slowly starting to heal, but the scars will remain forever. Col. Brian Newberry, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander, then spoke about the crew who perished in the tragic accident.

"Today we stand together to remember 3 May, 2013, a day many of us will never forget, a day we forever lost three Fairchild Airmen serving the cause of freedom," he said. "I did certainly acknowledge this windy morning that those wounds can never completely heal, but we can in time become stronger by remembering and emulation Shell 77's crew's strength."

During the ceremony a 5-foot engraved monument was unveiled in Fairchild Memorial Grove Park, signifying the crew contributions. Surrounding the monument stand three benches, each one engraved with one of the Airmen's names to recognize their individual accomplishments.

"Fairchild lost three mighty warriors and America lost three noble and powerful patriots," Newberry said. "We can never fill in the hole left in the American tapestry by their loss, but today we stand together to vow as a community to never forget them."

Newberry recollected memories of each one of the Airmen. He said Tyler was a pilot's pilot who really knew how to fly and was a leader. He said Tori was smart and skilled, fighting for simulator time during her pregnancy to stay the best of the best. Tre spoke to him of the love of flight and the love of his family, he said meeting Tre reminded him of why he loves flying and why he loves this great base.

"With their ultimate sacrifice they reinforced a lesson history teaches us daily, freedom isn't free. They gave their tomorrows so we could have our todays," Newberry concluded. "This monument ensures that we will always remember our happy few, Shell 77 we will never forget you."

Whiteman Reserve leaders applaud Yellow Ribbon training

by Chief Master Sgt. Matt Proietti
Air Force Reserve Command Yellow Ribbon Program

5/5/2014 - ROBINS AFB, Ga. -- Reservists from the 442nd Fighter Wing, an A-10 Thunderbolt unit in Missouri, attended Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Program training events prior to their mass deployment to Afghanistan this spring.

"I knew it was a good program and it's even better than I expected," said Col. Hubert C. Hegtvedt, commander of the wing at Whiteman AFB 70 miles southeast of Kansas City. He attended a Yellow Ribbon training weekend, his first, in California to support 442nd reservists before they leave for duty in Afghanistan.

Yellow Ribbon promotes the well-being of reservists and their families by connecting them with resources before and after deployments. It began in 2008 following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to assist reservists and National Guard members maintain resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles.

Chief Master Sgt. Jim Nudd, the 442nd's command chief, attended the California training, too, but he had been to others before, including two after his own deployments as a munitions superintendent. The program -- which he called "crucial" and said has improved by "leaps and bounds" since he first attended a Yellow Ribbon event five years ago -- demonstrates the commitment of Air Force Reserve leaders to their Airmen, he said.

"The old days of turning the Reserve on and off with a key are gone," said Nudd. "They know we're more sincere, that we're not just offering an empty handshake."

Nudd, the wing's senior enlisted leader since June 2012, serves as the primary adviser to Hegtvedt on matters concerning the mission effectiveness, readiness, training, health, welfare and morale of more than 1,800 assigned military members and 48 A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft at Whiteman AFB and sub-units, the 476th Fighter Group, Moody AFB, Ga., and the 917th Fighter Group, Barksdale AFB, La. The A-10 provides front-line support for U.S. and allied ground forces, provides forward air control, and conducts combat search and rescue missions.

Reservists from the 442nd attended Yellow Ribbon training weekends throughout the winter to prepare for their upcoming mass deployment to Bagram Airfield, the latest in a recent burst of overseas duty for the Whiteman AFB reservists. Firefighters and security forces from the wing completed deployments in late 2013, as did two maintenance squadron commanders from the unit. At one Yellow Ribbon event this winter, more than a third of the 250 participants were either members of the 442nd or their loved ones. The program trains 7,000 reservists and family members annually in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more.

As the Whiteman reservists prepared for the deployment, the Defense Department announced budget plans that include retiring 27 A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from the 442nd and replace them with 21 F-16 Fighting Falcon in 2018.

Dempsey Stresses Need for Military Balance in Senate Hearing

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 6, 2014 – Pay and compensation are only one part of a broader challenge to the Defense Department to maintain the balance the military needs to fight the nation’s wars, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and the rest of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified before the committee to ask the senators to support recommendations to slow the growth of military compensation. The senior enlisted leaders of the services sat behind the chiefs to express their solidarity to the proposals.

“We’re working to make sure that the joint force is in the right balance to preserve military options for the nation in the face of a changing security environment and a declining budget,” the chairman told the senators. “We’ve been tasked to reduce the defense budget by up to $1 trillion over 10 years while upholding our sacred obligation to properly train, equip and prepare the force.”

Doing this means the department must carefully allocate resources to ensure that if service members are sent into harm’s way, they are the best-led, best-trained and best-equipped force on the battlefield. This requires balance among competing fiscal accounts.

Making fiscal choices requires certainty, time and flexibility, Dempsey said. “While we have a degree of certainty in our budget for the next two years, really for this year, we still don’t have a predictable funding stream or the flexibility and time we need to reset the force for the challenges ahead,” he said.

The military needs Congress to step forward and help, Dempsey said. “Our recommendations have lacked congressional support -- notably, our request to reduce base infrastructure and retire weapons systems that we no longer need and cannot afford,” the chairman told the senators. “In the meantime, we are continuing to hemorrhage readiness and cutting further into modernization. [This means] risk to the performance of our mission and risk to those who serve continues to grow.”

Dempsey told the senators that all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all of the services’ senior enlisted leaders support the three departmentwide principles to rebalance military compensation.

“First, we’re not advocating direct cuts to troops’ pay,” Dempsey said. “Rather, this package slows the growth of basic pay and housing allowances while reducing commissary subsidies and modernizing our health care system.”

Second, military leaders will ensure that the compensation package allows the services to continue to attract and retain the quality people needed, Dempsey said. “We’ll watch the way the force reacts, and if it reacts, we’ll be back to you with recommendations on how to adjust,” he added. “But we have to take that step.”

Finally, Dempsey told the Senate panel, savings from this will be invested in force readiness and modernization.

The chairman emphasized that none of these recommendations would impinge on care for wounded warriors or on the mental health challenges facing the force.

“We’re seeking $31 billion in savings in pay compensation and health care over the future-year defense program,” the general said. “If we don’t get it, we’ll have to take $31 billion out of readiness, modernization and force structure over that same period.”

Delaying the decision until next year will mean a two-year delay in implementation, Dempsey said, which would force the department to restore about $18 billion in lost savings.

“In short, we have submitted a balanced package that meets budgetary limits, enables us to fulfill the current defense strategy and allows us to recruit and retain the exceptional talent that we need,” Dempsey said. “Our people are our greatest strength and they do deserve the best support we can provide.”

Reservist's incident commander experience helpful following killer tornado

by Master Sgt. Chris A. Durney
22nd AF, Det 1. Public Affairs

5/6/2014 - LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark -- Christopher Gimbert's military training and Air Force Reserve experience helped him focus on commanding efforts to save lives and secure the scene in the aftermath of a killer tornado that ripped through central Arkansas April 27.

The 35-year-old Air Force Reservist and volunteer firefighter stood outside of his Natural Steps, Arkansas, home and watched the deadly funnel form on Pinnacle Mountain, just across picturesque Lake Maumelle. When he realized it was headed right for his small community, and nearby Roland, he and his family took refuge.

It missed his house, but not 11 nearby homes before going on to devastate Mayflower and Vilonia. "We could hear the freight train, but we didn't feel as much pressure from it," said Gimbert, who is a member of the Lake Maumelle Volunteer Fire Department and a full-time radio account executive.

As soon as the storm passed, his military senses and firefighting experience kicked in, and he soon found himself as the incident commander. It was his first experience with a tornado. It was a big step up from car crash scenes.

"I went outside just as the captain of the [volunteer] fire department drove up. We drove out to immediately see what had happened," said Gimbert. "At first we thought that everything looked good, that we were good, but then we popped over a hill and there it was. Trees and [power] lines spaghettied everywhere, and we could see one house in the distance that was mostly gone. I took command of the scene and the captain started working, and it was just 'wow.'"

Gimbert has been a firefighter for 17 years, and honed his skills during more than six years as a U.S. Navy Damage Controlman (firefighter). For the past two years he has served as a traditional Reservist in the 22nd Air Force, Detachment 1, at Little Rock Air Force Base.

"The military experience worked for me more than anything, being able to give orders and stay very structured," said Gimbert.

According to Gimbert, among the 11 damaged homes, he and his crew had to perform four search and rescue operations.

"One of them I personally did," said Gimbert. "It was the worst of the houses and everybody was fine. They were working their way out of their safe room as I got to them. It was a quarter-mile hike up a hillside and because of all of the down trees it was very difficult getting to them."

Over the 24 hour operation, the reservist only got one hour of sleep. "I ran command for the first three hours and then I turned command over to get some rest. I had joint command for the rest of the time," said Gimbert.

"We made our response quickly and got everything coordinated," said Gimbert. "We got the lines removed and the lanes opened, and got full power restored to the area in about 24 hours. We had 50 people total that I was working with, including 10 to 15 firefighters

"I've been a firefighter for a very long time and I have great military experience so I don't get freaked out," said Gimbert calmly. "I was very delegative in what I was doing."

SecAF visits Airmen at Pease

by 1st Lt. Alec Vargus
157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

5/3/2014 - PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H.  -- Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James visited here to meet with Airmen and senior leaders of the New Hampshire Air National Guard, the 64th Air Refueling Squadron, as well as N.H. state representatives May 2.

During her trip James spoke with airmen about her key priorities as SecAF, which included discussing the future of the Air Force and specifically the concept of Total Force Integration.

TFI integrates the active duty and reserve components' operations, support and maintenance functions, leveraging the capabilities of both components for more effective and efficient operations.

The 157th Air Refueling Wing represents the Air National Guard at Pease, while the 64th Air Refueling Squadron represents the active duty Air Force. The 64th has been integrated within Pease Air National Guard base since 2009.

"I'm a big believer in TFI, and Pease has been a model for total force integration," said James during an all-call. "TFI has given us a high aircraft utilization rate for contingency operations overseas, as well as for critical response to domestic emergencies like floods, ice storms, and Hurricane Katrina."

Lt. Col. Scot Heathman, 64th Air Refueling Squadron commander, discussed what he believes are the critical elements for TFI success during a briefing with James.

"We've succeeded because leadership at all levels wants to define a new, more efficient model for our future Air Force," said Heathman. "Most importantly though, our success has come from developing lasting relationships that are grounded in trust. Trust is the required ingredient in our recipe for Total Force success."

James asked Heathman and the other members of the 64th to keep her apprised of the integration effort and to let her know how she can help.

The briefing was also an opportunity for New Hampshire Air National Guard leadership to highlight the capabilities of Pease Air National Guard Base before the Air Force makes the final selection of the KC-46 next generation refueling aircraft in July. Pease had been selected as the preferred alternative for basing the KC-46 in May of last year.

Col. Paul Hutchinson, 157th Air Refueling Wing commander, emphasized the base's ramp capacity which is the largest ANG ramp in the northeast, access to a deep water port and strategic location just 12 minutes from refueling routes to U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command. That makes Pease 22 to 62 percent more efficient than other northeast units for refueling missions.

Expanding on the concept of efficiency, Hutchinson also spoke to the value of the full motion, three-axis flight simulator located at Pease.

"We are one of just four Air National Guard bases with a simulator. We fly the simulator around 2,000 hours a year, which results in around a 16 million dollar cost avoidance," said Hutchinson. "It costs around 1,500 dollars an hour to fly the simulator versus around 10,000 dollars an hour for our actual aircraft. It's also more environmentally friendly and safer."

During an all-call with airmen, James spoke about refocusing on the Air Force Core Values of integrity, service, and excellence and listed her priorities as SecAF. She explained that her priorities are taking care of airmen, balancing current and future mission needs, and making every dollar count.

In regards to the third priority, James provided some specific actions she has planned.

"The way I intend to bring leadership to the matter is to conduct regular program reviews and audits, bring down headquarters headcount and overhead by 20 percent, and reduce training that is no longer relevant to the current force," she said.

James asked airmen to look for other ways to innovate and increase efficiency.

"I'm asking all of you, and I ask everywhere I go, to bubble up ideas. Together we can free up time and money and invest that more intelligently," she continued.

She ended the all-call by thanking the audience members for their service, and sharing her vision of the Air Force operating in a difficult fiscal environment.

"What we are trying to do is to make tough choices, but make the right choices. It will be smaller, but it needs to be innovative, ready and a total force," said James. "If we get that right then we will have a great service for the country."

Arizona Air Guardsmen keep rescue mission aloft

by 1st Lt. Rebecca Garcia
161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

5/5/2014 - PHOENIX SKY HARBOR AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ariz. -- Airmen from the Arizona Air National Guard's 161st Air Refueling Wing here kept multiple aircraft airborne during a rescue mission over the Pacific Ocean May 3.

The Guardsmen and their AIr Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft worked in concert with Airmen from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base who parachuted into the water Saturday to save two critically-injured Chinese sailors off the coast of Mexico.

The sailors were hoisted from a Venezuelan fishing boat into Air Force HH-60G Pavehawk helicopters and transported to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

At the outset, the seven-man tanker crew sprang to support the highly-complex mission. "Within a matter of minutes we were ready to deploy in support of this rescue," said Master Sgt. Dennis Abraham, 161st Air Refueling Wing crew chief.

Flight planning plays an essential role with the coordination of fuel, altitude, duration, arrival time, and the exact objective area. The plans were constantly updating the rendezvous point due to the drifting location of the sailors.

"We received the notice through a phone call Friday night and we assembled an augmented crew, which gives us twenty-four hours of crew duty to respond to a real-world emergency," said Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey Madorski, 161st Air Refueling Wing boom operator.

An augmented crew differentiates from a basic crew because of the longer hours that they are available to stay on station for any type of search and rescue mission. A basic crew is comprised of two pilots and one boom operator, whereas an augmented crew has three pilots, two boom operators and two crew chiefs.

"Even though we have never done this kind of mission, we train diligently to execute difficult missions all the time. We are always ready, always there," said 1st Lt. Julie Keeney, KC-135 pilot. "During April drill the wing participated in a generation exercise, where we practiced a quick response. I think it allowed us enhanced our readiness to provide a quick response for real world events."

"The most impressive part to this rescue mission was the joint effort from the United States Air Force, the Arizona Air National Guard, and the other countries involved. We supported the rescue of injured Chinese sailors aboard a Venezuelan fishing vessel and I think that goes to show that we, the United States of America, are willing to deploy a rescue mission without hesitation to save anyone, anywhere, to include foreign nationals," said pilot Maj. Erik Wichmann.

"We did experience mechanical issues and they made repairs expeditiously so we could depart on time," said pilot Capt. Britton Bates.

The wing's communication navigation avionics shop diagnosed and replaced a faulty embedded navigation unit. "On short notice the Airmen rapidly changed out the entire unit with a sense of urgency knowing there was a real world situation. This is routine maintenance activity for them; however, their sense of urgency was heightened and within a matter of minutes they changed out our GPS and we were able to depart on time," said Bates.

Services Meet Fiscal Year Recruiting Goals Through March

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 6, 2014 – All four active services met or exceeded their numerical accession goals for the first six months of fiscal year 2014, Defense Department officials announced today.

Here are the fiscal year accession numbers through March for the services:

-- Army: 27,886 accessions, 101.5 percent of its goal of 27,485;

-- Navy: 15,699 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 15,699;

-- Marine Corps: 10,571 accessions, 100.1 percent of its goal of 10,558; and

-- Air Force: 12,982 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 12,982.

All four services exhibited strong retention numbers for the sixth month of fiscal 2014, officials said.

Four of the six reserve components met or exceeded their numerical accession goals for the first six months of the fiscal year, and all six met or exceeded the Defense Department’s quality benchmarks, officials said.

Here are the reserve-component numbers:

-- Army National Guard: 25,781 accessions,

97.2 percent of its goal of 26,521;

-- Army Reserve: 13,719 accessions, 94.4 percent of its goal of 14,526;

-- Navy Reserve: 2,032 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 2,032;

-- Marine Corps Reserve: – 4,082 accessions, 102.9 percent of its goal of 3,967;

-- Air National Guard: 4,920 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 4,920; and

-- Air Force Reserve: 3,217 accessions, 120.4 percent of its goal of 2,673.

All reserve components met their attrition goals or were within the allowed variance, officials said, adding that data availability for this indicator lags behind accession information.

Spotlight Award: Rook 71 Crew


5/5/2014 - Summer 2014 -- ROOK 71 CREW 92 ARW, Fairchild AFB

Despite Obstacles, ROOK 71 Crew Lands Plane Flawlessly at Fairchild

Mission recap by MAJ ROBERT A. AIKMAN II 92d Air Refueling Wing

"The fuel panel, set to burn all mains, had about 5K in each tank and the reserves were full. However, all of the boost pumps in the main tanks were now inoperative."

Rook 71 was scheduled as an Operational Mission Evaluation (OME) for a pilot in upgrade training and as an overseas mission for a pilot in requalification training. The mission was scheduled to depart on Wednesday, 6 Nov 2013 and return the next day. The crew consisted of an evaluator pilot (EP), AC upgrade pilot (AC), IP requalification pilot (UP), instructor boom operator (IB) and a new boom operator (FB). The mission planning was completed by the AC, and everything was going as planned.

For the flight departing Fairchild to Hickam AFB in Hawaii, the AC was in the left seat and the UP was in the right seat for the preflight. The preflight check was conducted. The SKL battery aboard the KC-135 was dead, so the FB coordinated for a new battery. The EP got in the right seat for engine start. At engine start, the APU1 shut down. We used APU2, which also shut down. This delayed the mission 30 minutes, and the crew proceeded with the overseas portion of the flight.

Approximately halfway to Hickam, transformer rectifier (TR) #2 failed. Per the Dash 1, we configured the fuel panel to set up a cross feed condition to supply the needed fuel pressure, considering that one fuel boost pump in each main tank was inoperative. The landing light and stabilizer trim circuit breakers popped twice during the flight. The AC flew the approach and landing at Hickam, after which the #1 engine remained in flight idle. The AC shut down the #1 and #4 engines per the Dash 1.

Maintenance replaced TR#2 and fixed the #1 engine flight idle problem. On Thursday, during the preflight to leave Hickam, we turned on the landing light and ran the stabilizer trim. Circuit breakers popped, but Maintenance couldn't pinpoint the cause. Maintenance eventually switched the TR positions (TR#1 to position #2 and vice versa), and the jet tested good.

On Friday, the crew accomplished the preflight and taxied to the hold position. When we were cleared to line up and wait, TR#1 (which had been replaced) failed. We taxied in and gave the jet back to Maintenance. On Saturday, the main battery was dead. The AC coordinated with Fairchild Maintenance to get a new battery and send out a Maintenance Recovery Team for the electrical issue.

The jet was fixed the following Monday. The preflight and first half of the mission was normal. The UP was in the left seat, EP in the right seat, and AC in the jump seat. We discussed the possibility of losing a TR while oceanic and decided to drain fuel aft for center of gravity consideration and to have fuel to feed the engines from a hydraulically driven fuel pump if we lost a TR. Then EGI#2 failed. (An EGI is an embedded global positioning and inertial navigation system).

We also discussed Reduced Visual Separation Measure and Minimum Navigation Performance Specification considerations and continued the flight with the remaining EGI. Then TR#1 and TR#2 simultaneously failed. The TR fail light came on and immediately went off, and the switched DC bus failure light came on. The UP immediately put the battery power switch to the emergency position, the crew noted our heading and current position, and we noted a bright star at our 1 o'clock.

The UP flew the KC-135 using the standby Attitude Director Indicator (ADI) and the whiskey compass while the crew began to troubleshoot. Since EGI#2 was inoperative, copilots MFD showed the ADI and Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI), but the HSI did not provide a heading. There was a red HDG flag. The GPS (on the Central Display Unit) gave us latitude and longitude, but the mark point gave us erroneous data. Our only radio was UHF, and we couldn't reach anyone on 243.0 UHF guard, 282.8 maritime guard, or 311.0 frequencies. The IB gathered the survival radios from the rear of the aircraft, but attempts to contact anyone or to acquire a GPS signal were unsuccessful.

We had a Portable Flight Planning System computer with a GPS moving map, but the antenna was inoperable. However, we plotted our position and overlaid another flight plan from our last known position direct to Fairchild. The fuel panel, set to burn all mains, had about 5K in each tank and the reserves were full. However, all of the boost pumps in the main tanks were now inoperative. The fuel was gravity feeding, but the warning in the Dash 1 says to prevent possible engine flameout due to lack of fuel boost pressure, consider feeding engines from either forward or aft body tanks, if fuel is available.

We tried to drain the reserves but couldn't because the reserve valves are not on the switched DC bus. We decided to reset the TR circuit breakers to drain the reserve fuel tanks and communicate with anybody we could reach.

We assigned duties to each crewmember.
  • The UP would fly.
  • The EP would configure the fuel panel, call civilian airlines on 123.45, and try to get a Controller/Pilot Data Link Communications message to the Air Traffic Services Unit.
  • The AC would call on HF.
  • The IB would monitor the circuit breakers.
The EP finally reached an Allegiant Airlines aircraft. We relayed our emergency situation, position, altitude, heading, and intention to land at Fairchild. Allegiant said they could call our command post; they also relayed our situation to the Air Traffic Services Unit. We got the stick map flight plan back, which showed us 18 miles south of course. We noticed the star was around our 11:30 position; we immediately began to keep it at our 1 o'clock.

The aircraft required about 5 degrees of left bank to keep us on course, most likely due to winds. After about an hour, we reset the TR with the working fan again to communicate and get a position with respect to our stick map. We were about 8 miles south of course and starting to communicate with a commercial airliner when the TR failed again.

We discussed proceeding to Portland International Airport but kept Fairchild as our destination because it was only 25 minutes farther with VFR conditions. When we got a Coast Guard "unknown rider" call over UHF guard, we knew we were getting close to the coast. However, they were out of our UHF radio range when we tried to respond.

The IB began looking through the authentication documents and realized they were asking us to authenticate by squawking modes and codes, but we couldn't because of our emergency. We finally authenticated via voice and got a heading to Fairchild and a UHF frequency for Seattle Center, which gave us headings and UHF frequencies for the next controllers that we would be using. We stayed at 39,000 feet until about 120 miles from Fairchild to stay out of the weather and minimize trim changes since we had to manually trim the aircraft. The aircraft did not have any external lighting or landing lights, and the only working window heat was the copilot's window.

During the descent, the pilot's side window began to frost over, and the copilot's window started to fog up. The EP started flying the aircraft prior to level off so the UP could manually trim. We reviewed all items originally powered by the TR1 and TR2 and made note of what would affect the aircraft for landing. We caused the runway at Fairchild to be shut down due to our lack of lighting and limited visibility through the windows. At 11 miles out, the tower turned the airfield lights on high, and we acquired the runway for a visual straight in approach. The AC called out aircraft altitude during the approach, and the EP flew a flawless night approach and landing. Aircraft control was transferred to the UP for the speed brakes and braking, and we stopped the KC-135 on the runway and shut down.

The five member crew consisted of:
  • UP: Maj Robert A. Aikman II
  • AC: Capt Alexander W. Denton
  • EP: Maj Menola M. Guthrie
  • IB: SSgt Lauren A. Powell
  • FB: A1C Stephon A. Sharief

What Happened Aboard Shell 77?

by Rita Hess
Staff Writer

5/5/2014 - Summer 2014 -- The Mobility Forum Fall 2013 issue informed readers about the tragic loss of three Airmen when their KC-135R, call sign Shell 77, crashed shortly after takeoff in Kyrgyzstan. The aircraft was assigned to the 22d Air Refueling Wing at McConnell AFB, Kan., and was flown by members of the 92d Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild AFB, WA. The crew was flying out of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing at the Transit Center at Manas. Air Mobility Command (AMC) has released the results of the Accident Investigation Board (AIB).

AIB Determines Cause of KC-135 Crash

On May 3, 2013, a KC-135R crashed in the foothills of mountains located six miles south of Chaldovar, Kyrgyz Republic. The crew was departing from the Transit Center at Manas to Afghanistan on a combat aerial refueling mission. The aircraft exploded in flight, impacted the terrain at three main locations, and burned, costing the lives of Capt Mark Tyler Voss, Capt Victoria A. "Tori" Pinckney, and TSgt Herman "Tre" Mackey III.

According to the AIB, immediately after takeoff, a flight control system malfunction generated directional instability, causing the aircraft's nose to drift from side-to-side, or "rudder-hunt." This condition, not fully diagnosed by the crew, progressed into a more dangerous oscillatory instability known as "Dutch roll." The AIB identified that a poor layout of key information in the flight manual and insufficient crew training contributed to the mishap by detracting from the crew's ability to act on critical information while troubleshooting.

The AIB found the crew did not recognize the Dutch roll condition, initiated a left turn to remain on course, and used left rudder to coordinate the turn, thereby increasing the aircraft's oscillatory instability. The ensuing severe side-to-side movements of the aircraft varied the crew member's foot pressure on the rudder pedal, which caused inadvertent fluctuations in rudder position. These fluctuations, coupled with right rudder use while rolling out of the turn, compounded the Dutch roll severity and produced extreme airframe stress that caused the KC-135's tail section to separate from the aircraft. The subsequent, uncontrollable descent resulted in an in-flight explosion.

A combination of factors--flight control malfunctions, insufficient crew force training, incomplete checklist response, use of rudder while in a Dutch roll condition, crew composition, and procedural guidance--all came together during the flight, resulting in this accident. The crew encountered a condition they had not realistically experienced in training, which left them with an unrecognized hazardous situation that was difficult to overcome.

"Our hearts go out to the family members and friends of these Airmen," said Brig Gen Steve Arquiette, who led the accident investigation board. "Having attended the memorial service at Manas and later interviewing many co-workers, I know these Airmen were highly regarded and are greatly missed. The investigation team, with the help of our industry and Kyrgyz government partners, pushed through months of intense fact finding for the primary purposes of understanding what happened that day and to honor the crew's service to our nation."

The AMC way forward is clear--making immediate changes and improvements to checklists, to procedures, and to simulators. Specific actions include revised crew procedures for unscheduled rudder deflection and modifying KC-135 flight simulators and training syllabi to better prepare aircrews for Dutch roll and lateral flight control events. The command is also working with the airplane manufacturer and the AF Lifecycle Management Center to rewrite flight manual sections and conduct in-depth analysis of rudder system components to develop component and T.O. improvements. AMC plans to continue to refine and implement solutions to prevent any repeats of this tragedy and ensure the KC-135 remains a safe, effective, and capable aircraft for many years.

Alaska Air Force Reserve unit flies milestone sortie

by Capt. Ashley Conner
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

5/6/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- F-22 pilots from the 477th Fighter Group, Alaska's only Air Force Reserve unit, made history during the Unit Training Assembly weekend May 3.

With a combined total of 4000 flight hours, Col. David Piffarerio, Majs. Jonathan Gration, Ryan Pelkola and Chad Newkirk flew the most experienced four-ship flight in the history of the F-22.

"This is a milestone because it is the first time that pilots with this much experience have flown together making it a significant event for the maturation of the F-22 program but also for the 477th Fighter Group," said Piffarerio, 477th Fighter Group deputy group commander. "It is also a testament to the role the Air Force Reserve plays in defense of our country."

Typically active duty pilots will serve one or two assignments in a flying squadron before going to a non-flying assignment. In contrast, the Reserve is organized to allow Airmen to remain in place to train and bank experience while also maintaining civilian careers.

"The Air Force Reserve afforded me the opportunity to stay in Alaska and continue to fly the F-22," said Pelkola, 302nd Fighter Squadron F-22 pilot. "It really is the best of both worlds."

During the sortie, four pilots flew as "blue air" or good guys against four other "red air" or bad guys to defend the airspace. The eight strong sortie wouldn't have been possible without the meticulous oversight and dedication of the maintainers.

"Despite being at a base where the weather conditions can be harsh and create maintenance challenges, the F-22's at JBER have one of the best sortie generation rates in the combat Air Force," said Lt. Col. Aaron Heick, 477th Fighter Group deputy commander for maintenance. "The Reserve maintainers are a big piece of that since many of them have been taking care of the same planes since the unit stood up in 2007 and years of active duty experience before that."

The Reserve has a tremendous wealth of experience that is being leveraged in partnership with the active duty to ensure the Alaska F-22's are employed to meet U.S. objectives.

"It is an exciting time to see a weapon system mature to the point that we see the level of experience found in the pilots of the 477th Fighter Group," said Col. Tyler Otten, 477th Fighter Group commander. "The Raptor plays a crucial role in our national interests. The 477th Fighter Group stands ready in our partnership with the active duty's 3rd Wing to defend those interests."