Friday, June 06, 2014

Denali cavalrymen take rite of passage during spur ride

by Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith
4-25th IBCT Public Affairs

6/6/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Paratroopers with the 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment, earned their "Order of the Spur" certificates as they tested endurance and knowledge in cavalry history during the squadron's spur ride May 28 and 29 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The event started in the early morning hours May 28 and culminated with nearly a hundred paratroopers earning their silver spurs at the spur dinner barbecue the following morning.
The purpose of the Denali squadron's spur ride was to enhance the unit's esprit de corps while building on cavalry traditions and promoting knowledge in both unit and cavalry history.

Physically demanding foot marches, boat movements, airmobile operations, and other various physical fitness performance measures were coupled with individual tasks such as weapons knowledge, call for fire, communications and combat casualty

The final test was a grueling march to the top of the mountain where the Site Summit finish point awaited.

The proud tradition of the Army cavalry was honored and upheld during the event, said Command Sgt Maj. Shane Pospisil.

"It's all about the tradition," he said. "and it's important because of the tradition."
"You're not a true cavalryman until you get your spurs, and going through all of the cavalry tasks and challenges of a spur ride," Pospisil said. "It validates a cavalryman's individual tasks and [collective] tasks."

He said that due to the constant rotations in and out of the theaters of war, the Army has decreased in the number of spur holders within its ranks.

This holds true for the Denali squadron. The majority of the participants in this spur ride were made up of the squadron's leadership. The intent is to get these leaders certified to help facilitate more spur rides in the near future.

Sgt. Maj. Aaron Arzamarski, the squadron's operations sergeant major, said spur rides are a great way to learn both unit and cavalry history, but the physically demanding course impedes the brain's ability to quickly react to challenging questions.

"It forces people to study up and learn cavalry history, but you may be good at reciting a historical fact at zero-four-thirty (4:30 a.m.), but come noon, after you've been moving constantly to include a boat movement, a forced march, suicide sprints and a bunch of pushups, then it's not as clear, and it's much more difficult to remember."

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Hoefler, a cavalry scout who has been a spur holder since 2004, ran the waterborne lane where cavalry troopers had to traverse a lake using an F470 Zodiac Combat Rubber Raiding Craft.

"They had to organize their team, load all of their equipment and team members, and navigate the lake from the north end to the south end," Hoefler said.

"Most of it was about just having the heart to go the distance all the way through, and be able to answer questions that were associated with cavalry history," Hoefler said.

Hoefler said it's a proud tradition of the cavalry to earn The Order of the Spur.

"It's important to me, because it shows that I'm the best at my job," he said. "It shows that I'm able to go the distance and I'm not going to give up, that I'm one of those leaders that my guys can come to, and they know that I'm never going to give up on them, and I'm never going to give up on the mission."

Hoefler said the day was grueling, but the final test was the hardest for the cavalry troopers.

"The toughest part was the last leg," he said. "It was like six miles straight up to the top of the mountain."

At the top of that mountain awaited their prize; dinner and the awarding of their spurs in time-honored tradition.

Spartan team attempts Denali summit

by Sgt. Eric-James Estrada
4-25th IBCT Public Affairs

6/6/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Arctic paratroopers are testing their might and strength tackling the tallest peak in North America as they began their climb May 29.

Mount McKinley - or "Denali" as it's frequently called in Alaska - stands at 20,237 feet. From its base to its peak, it rises 18,000 feet and is considered the tallest mountain in the world (Mount Everest is the highest).

A five-man Spartan team from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, will climb Denali to showcase their abilities as arctic warriors trained by U.S. Army Alaska northern warfare experts.

Additional team members include one Soldier from the Northern Warfare Training Center in Black Rapids, Alaska and two Soldiers from the Vermont National Guard's Army Mountain Warfare School based in Jericho, Vt.

The Spartan team conducted an air insertion into the Kahiltna Glacier Base Camp, which sits at 7,600 feet, on Wednesday, May 28.

A typical ascent to the summit following the standard and most popular route along the West Buttress has a 55-percent success rate among climbers and can take anywhere from 18 to 23 days to negotiate the 13,000 foot change in elevation. Common hazards in attempting to reach the top include extreme cold (even in summer), altitude illness, crevasses, avalanches, ice and rock fall, and extreme weather.

Army Capt. Matthew Hickey, a field artillery officer with the brigade and a native of St. Paul, Minn., is the Spartan expedition team leader. He is no stranger to Denali, having successfully reached the summit in 2011, but states that just because he's made it to the summit before doesn't mean this climb will be easier.

"The mountain changes," Hickey said. "The people you're with are different, even yourself; you change. You look at the mountain differently every time you go. If anything, I would think that this would mean more because I've had the opportunity to share the experience with Soldiers and try to climb it for a bigger reason than just a goal."

Hickey and the rest of the Spartan expedition are climbing Denali to demonstrate USARAK is the foremost command to transform Soldiers into cold-weather operators.

"USARAK as a whole is trying to get back to its roots as the world's premier location for arctic warriors," Hickey said. "To climb Mount McKinley is a way to demonstrate not only USARAK's intention, but it kind of showcases our ability to [be] arctic warriors."

The training for the expedition has been long and grueling, Hickey said, with everything from a seven-mile sprint on the first day of training to various mountaineering training events to include skiing, hiking and glacier traversing.

Fellow Spartan team member, Spc. Matthew Tucker, a cavalry scout with the 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment, and a native of Grandfalls, Texas said he needed to add skills to an already impressive repertoire.

"I have a lot of technical ice climbing and rock climbing that I've done, but I was horrible on skis and I really didn't know anything about glacier travelling," Tucker said.

After completing the mountaineer course at Alaska's Northern Warfare Training Center, Tucker said he felt more confident in his abilities.

"By the end [of the course,] I was comfortable and more confident," Tucker said. "I just have to improve on skiing."

"We're there representing 4/25, and USARAK and the Army," Hickey added. "As far as other people are concerned, we're Soldiers. That's what we have to be on the mountain."

American Airmen participate in annual RCAF Run

by Staff Sgt. David Dobrydney
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

6/6/2014 - WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Canada  -- American Airmen stationed in Canada recently represented their home country in a friendly competition with their northern colleagues.

Six members of Detachment 1, 1st Air Force, ran in the sixth annual Royal Canadian Air Force Run May 25. This event included a 5K, a 10K and Canada's platinum certified half marathon equivalent to the annual U.S. Air Force marathon.

"It's a great way to highlight our community involvement," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Roberto Andino, Detatchment 1 strategy planner. "Although we have a small presence in terms of numbers, we make a concerted effort to make our presence felt."

Besides the six Airmen who ran in the event, all 12 detachment members volunteered in the preparations and promotion of the event, which hosted 2,500 participants and raised $30,000 for the Soldier On and Military Families Funds.

Of the six Airmen from the Detachment that ran the half marathon, Staff Sgt. Abraham Walker ran a best time of 1:39:13, finishing 19th overall.

These programs are similar to the USAF's Air Force Assistance Fund, and provide RCAF commanders with a quick means to assist military families when faced with an unexpected need, and support injured and ill Canadian Forces soldiers to attain and maintain a healthy lifestyle through participation in physical fitness, sports and recreational activities.

As the U.S. component of the Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command region Combined Air Operations Center, Detachment 1 operates throughout the 1st Canadian Air Division's Headquarters element providing liaison and USAF expertise to their Canadian counterparts in support of the NORAD bi-national agreement.

Guardian Angels Receive Bronze Star with Valor and a Personal Thank You

by Maj. Sarah Schwennesen
12th Air Force Public Affairs

6/6/2014 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz  -- It's not every day you get to thank your Guardian Angels for saving your life, but on Monday, retired Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Stringer was able to do just that.

In a ceremony Monday, two 48th Rescue Squadron Guardian Angels were presented the Bronze Star with Valor for their rescue of Stringer in February 2012, when the Marine sergeant was critically injured by an improvised explosive device. Against all-odds, Stringer was at the ceremony and able to personally thank his rescuers for their heroism.

Capt. Kevin Epstein, 48th Rescue Squadron Combat Rescue Officer, and Tech. Sgt. Brandon Daugherty, 48th Rescue Squadron Pararescuemen, recalled Feb. 21, 2012, when their lives intersected and they heroically overcame countless obstacles to save Stringer.

The Bronze Star is the fourth-highest individual military award, and is awarded with Valor for acts of heroism in a combat zone; Stringer whole heartedly agreed that this medal was well-deserved.

"I would not be here at all if it wasn't for these gentlemen," said Stringer.

Colonel Sean Choquette, the 563rd Rescue Group commander, presented the medals.

"These two are exceptional Airmen and leaders," Choquette said. "They are consummate professionals and combat seasoned veterans, recognized universally by their teammates for their excellence."

Choquette also recognized Stringer as one of many unsung heroes in the Explosive Ordinance Disposal field.

"He and his teammate's lay their lives on the line daily to protect those who follow them ... it is incredibly courageous work," Choquette said.

During the ceremony, Daugherty recalled the events leading up to Stringer's rescue.

"It was a mission that wasn't even supposed to happen," Daugherty said. "Our crews were conducting another rescue, so when the call came in about an MRAP that hit an IED and had four trapped individuals inside, we were only allowed to launch after the [squadron] leadership made some quick coordination and a British helicopter was able to provide transport. We rushed out within minutes, with some very basic extraction tools."

Both Daugherty and Epstein recalled that smoke was billowing from the vehicle when they arrived, and they had to work quickly or it would soon become impossible to recover the individuals trapped inside. Epstein conducted command and control of the situation and Daugherty directed the team to use the Jaws of Life to open the damaged vehicle and rescue the trapped personnel.

"We were going in and out on breath holds because smoke was still billowing," Daugherty said.

While the rescue team was assisting the wounded and attempting to extinguish the vehicle fire, a secondary IED exploded, severely wounding Stringer, who was the EOD Marine on the scene.

"I bit an IED pretty well, and these guys also got bit," Stringer said. "They were still able to revert back to their training and save my life."

Daugherty and Epstein, five meters from the blast, were knocked down and Epstein's helmet and radios went flying. They quickly assessed the situation and Daugherty discovered Stringer, who was only 10 feet away from the blast and had been blown over the team when it detonated.

Epstein emphasized the importance of the whole team in mission success that day.

"I had an outstanding team while I was out there and I was fortunate enough to be part of that team. I think today is a culmination of that, we went through a lot of training and we went through a lot out there, today is recognition of everything coming together," Epstein said.

Daugherty recalled that Stringer's face had been so mangled by the blast he could not breathe. Epstein called in another medical evacuation, while Daugherty and his team conducted critical lifesaving care.

"It was the worst trauma I've ever seen in my life. He was twitching and trembling and you could tell he was suffocating," Daugherty said.

The team first conducted a cricothyrotomy, making an incision in his throat to open an airway.,

"When we put the tube in and I heard a gasp of air, I thought for the first time that this guy might make it," Daugherty said.

The team continued breathing for Stringer, providing him with stabilizing medicine and conducting every medical procedure possible to save his life, before carrying him on a stretcher to the 55th RQS HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter that arrived to evacuate him.

Many months later, Daugherty was at work when he received an unexpected call from Stringer.

"I couldn't believe it," Daugherty said.

Incredibly enough, after weeks in a coma, several reconstructive surgeries and continued therapy, Stringer was able to personally thank the person instrumental in saving his life.

Daugherty remains humble about his role in the rescue.

"It is not anything I deserve over anybody else in our community, any pararescueman would have reacted the same way," Daugherty said.

Choquette reflected on the heroism of Epstein and Daugherty.

"What drove these men two years ago?" Choquette asked. " Many things probably ... training, discipline, their warrior ethos, their loyalty to one another and the mission, our Rescue motto. All of these, but I would sum it up in one word: "Jack." "Jack" is the reason we as a force exist. In the Rescue lexicon, "Jack" is the survivor we are sent to save from isolation and injury; the teammate we help live to see another day. We are fortunate that "Jack"" on that February day, is here. Sergeant Stringer is here because of these men's efforts."

Fourth but First; the 4th FW and its effect on D-Day 70 years later

by Staff Sgt. Michael Charles
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/6/2014 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, NORTH CAROLINA -- On June 6, 1944, Col. Donald Blakeslee, then 4th Fighter Group commanding officer, sounded the recall alarm. The blaring speaker system located at the center of Royal Air Force North Weald Airfield in Debden, England, alerted all awake and asleep alike of the pending meeting.

"Emergency briefing at 0300 hours," a voice roared through the speaker as it echoed across the installation.

The pilots dressed quickly and filed into the briefing hall. They were no stranger to these types of midnight recalls and some expressed their excitement about the random meeting. They had grown weary of the short and uneventful missions escorting bombers to Pas de Calo, a small area of France, which they'd been conducting for nearly a week leading up to that day.

During the briefing, they viewed a secret film showing potential bombing targets along the shores of France. The pilots astutely realized that those subtle escorts were all in preparation of this mission.

Col. Blakeslee was quoted as telling pilots at the briefing he was prepared to lose the whole group if it was to ensure this particular mission's success. He also emphasized the importance of the role the 4th FG was to play going forward.

Their assignment; sweep the area around Rouen, France, in preparation for Operation Overlord, or what many know as the invasion of Normandy. The most important event in the war had just begun and the 4th FG would be the one to lay the course for this pivotal moment in American history.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the invasion of the infamous Normandy Beach. Across the world, men and women from every nation remember the event that marked the turning point in the war. While many know the legacy of the 4th Fighter Wing and its influence throughout history, few know how deep that impact truly goes.

Prior to D-Day, the group had already been responsible for destroying more enemy planes in the air and ground than any other fighter group assigned to the Eighth Air Force. On many occasions they were asked to escort bombers to attack factories, submarine pens and other targets in France or Germany. But this one was different. This unique assignment would lay the framework for all future operations in Europe. Without their success, there is a possibility that the war would have ended drastically different than it did.

By 7 a.m., more than 50 P-51 Mustang aircrafts assigned to the group's 334, 335th and 336 Fighter Squadrons were en-route to their mission. They would continue to fly interdiction and counter-air missions during the entirety of the operation.

According to the accounts of those who participated in the operation, it was a chaotic atmosphere but one that was necessary to ensure the safety of the troops on the ground and the operation's success. They were also told their group had fired some of the first shots during the operation. Information, the group would later curtail into its motto; Fourth but First.

More than 209,000 allied members died during the invasion at Normandy, however, without the dedication of the 4th FG that number could have easily been doubled.

Flash-forward, the 4th FW continues to uphold the standard that was set 70 years ago. It provides airpower dominance at a moment's notice anytime, anyplace. However, one of its earliest and most cherished accomplishments was those of the brave men and women on that day. A day the world would later nickname D-Day.

*The information in this article was provided by historical accounts taken directly from the 4th Fighter Wing historical archives.

When you're in need of rescue, who you gonna call? Air Rescue!

Commentary by Col. Jeffrey Macrander
920th Rescue Wing Commander

6/5/2014 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- An Air Force pilot is flying an F-117 Nighthawk back to base after a bombing mission near Belgrade, Serbia when a surface-to-air missile explodes just outside the aircraft. The blast severely damages the aircraft, sending it into a violent spin. As the Nighthawk tumbles uncontrollably out of the sky, the pilot ejects, and floats slowly down into enemy territory...

A Navy SEAL is isolated deep in Northeast Afghanistan after the rest of his team was killed in an ambush. He's badly wounded from the attack - multiple fractures and numerous shrapnel wounds, and a group of Taliban militia are closing in on him...

A civilian is on a fishing trip with four friends 15 miles off the coast of Jacksonville when his boat capsizes. He and three others decide to put on life jackets and swim to shore while the fifth stays with the crippled boat. But he becomes separated from his friends, and more than 24 hours later, he's still floating, miles from shore. All four of his companions have now been found, yet he's still treading water, exhausted and hypothermic, in a stretch of Atlantic Ocean home to some of the world's deadliest sharks...

Four civilians are in south Melbourne speeding along the St. Johns River on an airboat at dusk when their boat hits a tree root and overturns. One of the passengers, a 50-yr-old man, is launched into the alligator-infested waters. He's in critical condition, but the accident site isn't accessible by road, and his life depends on whether or not he can get to a hospital--and fast...

All of these are actual events. All the people in need of rescue in these stories are still alive today because of Air Rescue. And all of them were saved by reservists from the 920th Rescue Wing, who were simply doing a job we do here every day.

The 920th is composed of roughly 2,000 highly-dedicated men and women, all of whom stand ready to help save a life at a moment's notice. It's a call that may come while deployed to a forward location overseas or from a civil agency while we're here at home. We're the Air Force Reserve's only Rescue Wing, and we make up nearly 20 percent of all Air Combat Command's combat rescue forces.

In order to be able to answer the call to save a life, anywhere, anytime, our Airmen train constantly. Not only the traditional elements of rescue--HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, HC-130P/N long-range aerial refuelers, and pararescuemen--but our force support personnel as well; communications, maintenance, security forces and aeromedical personnel all contribute a critical piece to this life-saving mission.

In fact, as this article is published, we have security forces personnel on deployment overseas, both a pararescue squadron and helicopter rescue squadron on yearlong deployments to Africa, and we're preparing to send an HC-130 package out the door as well. One thing is for sure - Air Force rescue's operational tempo isn't slowing down.

In all, Air Force Reservists at Patrick, and at geographically-separated units in Arizona, Virginia and Oregon, have saved more than 3,000 lives since the wing's activation in 1956. That number includes more than 850 combat rescues and 1,043 lives saved in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Those numbers include the people mentioned at the beginning of this article:

The F-117 pilot was Lt. Col. Dale Zelko, who was saved by some of our pararescuemen roughly six hours after he bailed out of his aircraft during the Kosovo War.

The Navy SEAL was Marcus Luttrell, whose story was documented in the book and major motion picture "Lone Survivor." Our rescue crews saved Luttrell, then returned in the days after to recover the bodies of his fallen SEAL teammates.

The fisherman was Clinton Daughtry, who we pulled from the ocean Oct. 2, 2006 after more than a full day at sea. Daughtry traveled to Patrick AFB with his family three weeks after the accident to thank those involved with the rescue.

The 60-yr-old airboater was Mark Byers, who our helicopter crews located and delivered to Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne Feb. 7, 2012 within an hour of receiving the call for help.

So, whether you're a combat pilot, a Navy SEAL or an average citizen, the next time you're in trouble and in need of rescue, who you gonna call?

Whoever you are, wherever you are, we'll be waiting, trained and ready, to answer your call.

U.S., Honduras to Conduct Hurricane Response Exercise

U.S. Southern Command News Release

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, June 6, 2014 – The United States and Honduras are joining efforts in Tegucigalpa and Soto Cano Air Base, June 9-12 to demonstrate and assess a mapping tool designed to revolutionize the way governmental and nongovernmental organizations from across the globe collaborate in response to disasters and humanitarian crises.

Known as GeoSHAPE, the open-source, open-standard software, integrates data from multiple sources and displays it in a dynamic Internet-based map to provide situational awareness and facilitate the decision-making process.

“GeoSHAPE bridges the geospatial information sharing gaps we witnessed during the international response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, providing a tool for military and civil organizations, local and international, to efficiently coordinate their activities and, in turn, save more lives,” said Juan Hurtado, Southcom’s science advisor.

This two-year technology development effort will be put through the test during a simulated hurricane event impacting Central America and requiring a large multi-organizational response. Role players in this hypothetical scenario will include Honduras’ Permanent Contingency Commission, the local Red Cross, Plan Internacional (a local nongovernmental organization) and U.S. Joint Task Force-Bravo, among other organizations that usually respond to these events.

The GeoSHAPE solution comprises a web-based platform for creating, updating, and sharing geospatially tagged events, as well as a mobile application for capturing data and photos in the field. Through these tools, organizations collaboratively create a picture of both the resources at hand and the extent of the damage. The availability of hospitals, helicopter landing zones, food, water and medical supplies, the condition of roads and bridges, and the deployment of rescue personnel to affected areas, among other key elements are plotted in a map that authorized users can see from anywhere in the world.

The level of fidelity that this tool will offer will prevent redundancy of relief efforts, facilitate informed decision making among aid and resource planners, and alleviate congestion at logistical hubs.

The development of GeoSHAPE is part of a technology project sponsored by the Defense Department’s Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Emerging Capabilities and Prototyping and managed by the Southcom’s Science, Technology and Experimentation Division. Other organizations involved in the program are the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, the U.S. Department of State’s Humanitarian Information Unit, the Pacific Disaster Center, and LMN Solutions, an information technology company.

Throughout the years, the relationship between Southcom’s Science, Technology and Experimentation Division, JTF-B and Honduras’s COPECO has proven successful in the development and implementation of technologies such as the Pre-positioned Expeditionary Assistance Kits, a modular system that provides potable water, renewable energy, situational awareness, as well as local and global communications to first responders during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

After the final demonstration and evaluation in Honduras, if GeoSHAPE proves to add value to the response to disasters and humanitarian crises, it will be integrated with the Pacific Disaster Center’s DisasterAWARE platform, which provides continuously updated hazard information worldwide and functions as a hub for accessing, updating and sharing relevant data before, during and after a disaster. Since the software is open-source, through the Open-Geo Consortium, it will be available for integration by governmental and non-governmental organizations from all over the world.

According to Hurtado, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance are only two of the many potential applications for the GeoSHAPE developed capability, which can also be used in any situation where individuals or organizations need to create and share geospatial information, such as peacekeeping missions and border security, as well as many others.

DOD Announces Installation Excellence Award Winners

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2014 – The Office of the Secretary of Defense announced today the 2014 recipients of the Commander in Chief’s Annual Award for Installation Excellence.

The award recognizes the outstanding and innovative efforts of those who operate and maintain U.S. military installations. The five recipients of this highly competitive presidential award were selected for their exemplary support of DOD missions.

Recipients of the Commander in Chief’s Annual Award for Installation Excellence include:

-- U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii;

-- Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California;

-- Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia;

-- Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma; and

-- Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia.

Installation excellence enables better mission performance and enhances the quality of life for service members and their families. Each winning installation succeeded in providing excellent working, housing and recreational conditions.

Each winning installation will receive a commemorative Commander in Chief’s award trophy and flag, along with a congratulatory letter from the president.

391st Fighter Squadron Deploys

by Senior Airman Caitlin Guinazu
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/5/2014 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Bags packed, farewells made and the Airmen have prepared themselves to fly thousands of miles for their deployment.

Approximately ten F-15E Strike Eagles and hundreds of Airmen from the 366th Fighter Wing deployed to the Pacific Air Forces, demonstrating continued U.S. commitment to stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

"During this deployment, we can be called on at any moment to be re-tasked to go somewhere else within that theater," said Lt. Col. Richard Dickens, 391st Fighter Squadron commander. "Our forces have been made available to respond at any given time."

Air Combat Command continues to routinely deploy fighter aircraft to the region, providing Pacific Air Forces and the U.S. Pacific Command with rotational forces as well as deepening ties with our allies and our relationship with the international community.

"The deployment for us sends the signal that we are heavily postured in the region and we are committed to our partners," said Dickens. "By continuing our presence there, we'd be able to respond better to any crises that may develop. "

Since March 2014, U.S. fighter squadrons have routinely integrated movements into the U.S. Pacific Command, in order to maintain a prudent deterrent against threats to regional security and stability.

"We are excited for the opportunity to represent our base and show what Gunfighter airpower can do," said Senior Airman Jessica Reyes, 366th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster. "We will miss our family and friends but this is our job and what we train for each and every day. We are excited to use our unique capabilities in a joint-force environment."

Military members aren't the only ones missing family and friends during deployments.

"This is my husband's six or seventh deployment, but it's unlike any he's done before," said Michelle Cates, wife of Maj. Joshua Cates. "I'll of course miss him, but this is important to him and to the mission."

A little less than a year ago the Fighter Squadron was faced with challenges like sequestration and not having qualifications or credentials. Starting from scratch they trained hard in order to not only meet the standard, but to exceed it.

"I'm excited to get out there and show not only what the 391st Bold Tigers can do, but what the Wing as a whole is capable of," said Dickens. "Showcasing not only the training that we've been able to put together but also the incredible teamwork of the Wing."

Face of Defense: Culinary Competition Challenges Chefs

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Alejandro Bedoya
American Forces Press Service

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., June 6, 2014 – The aroma of chicken filled the kitchen here as the chefs hustled around the galley attempting to complete their menu before time was up. One by one they brought their dishes out to a buffet setting in front of candle-lit tables.

Each team set a couple of plates aside and added last-minute touches to the presentation. The judges took their seats at the head of the room as the first team anxiously waited to be called upon.

Combat Center Marine and civilian chefs fired up their grills and competed in a Chef of the Quarter Competition at Phelps Mess Hall, June 3-4. The chefs were tested in three different aspects of culinary arts.

“This competition gives the chefs a chance to prove their skills,” said John Rocha, Sodexo Government Services. Judges observe if the food is prepared safely and in a timely manner, Rocha added.

“The toughest part of the competition, for me, was the time limit,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kenneth Martin, food service specialist, Phelps Mess Hall. “Everything seemed so fast. People were scrambling around like crazy trying to meet the deadline.”

All chefs were given the same ingredients to choose from and were instructed to make an appetizer, entrée and dessert. The two main foods that were required to be used by each team were pizza and chicken wings.

The dishes were judged on multiple factors, including taste, presentation and an explanation of how it was prepared and how the ingredients were utilized.

“The competition was a lot of fun but it was also nerve-racking,” Martin said. “You don’t know what to expect. You just do your best to make the food and hope people enjoy it.”

The winners of the Chef of the Quarter Competition were Marine Corps Cpl. Melvin Banuelos, food service specialist, Phelps Mess Hall, and Martin.

“We got to showcase our skills and get away from what we do every day at the chow hall,” Banuelos said. “We cook en masse for the chow hall, but today we had to pay attention to the flavor, presentation, and actually had to create a menu of what we were going to serve. We got to use our creative side and it feels good to come out on top.”

432nd AMXS surpasses ACC mission capable standards

by Staff Sgt. N.B.
432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing

6/5/2014 - CREECH AIR FORCE BASE,Nev. -- The 432nd Maintenance Group continues to dominate airpower by exceeding the Air Combat Command's mission capable standards eight years running. This achievement has led to the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper being some of the most reliable aircraft platforms in the Air Force today.

For more than 18 years, remotely piloted aircraft have played key roles in aircraft operations. None of which would have been possible without the aircraft maintenance personnel who played a vital role as the Air Force's RPA enterprise surpassed two million flight hours in October 2013.

"The Airmen who come off of legacy aircraft (define legacy aircraft) platforms and integrate flawlessly into the remotely piloted aircraft enterprise are phenomenal," said Maj. Joshua, 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron operations officer. "They have used lessons learned to improve mission capable rates from 60 to 80 percent on their traditional legacy aircraft and applied those lessons to now achieve 95 to 98 percent mission capable rates on RPAs."

Mission capable means the aircraft has no supply or maintenance issues preventing it from successfully completing a mission. The 432nd MXG has continuously exceeded the RPA standard mission capable rate of 86 percent set by Air Combat Command.

"We calculate our MC rates based on aircraft platforms and ground control station maintenance," said Joshua.

The MQ-1 Predator has achieved a 95.4 percent MC rate while its predecessor, the MQ-9 Reaper, has a 90.4 percent MC rate from April 2013 to April 2014.

There is no set standard by the major command for GCS maintenance, but the 432nd MXG has set, and surpassed, its own goal of 97 percent.

The hard work and dedication of maintenance crews is essential to mission success for hundreds of active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve Airmen, as well as joint and coalition partners involved in everyday RPA operations.

"This high MC rate is impressive because of the amount of hours these guys fly," said Chief Master Sgt. Alfredo, 432nd MXG quality assurance superintendent. "Sometimes they launch an MQ-1 and it's a 20-hour sortie, or launch an MQ-9 and it's a 16-hour sortie. Crews burn up the hours on these planes and we're still incredibly successful in terms of maintenance."

Providing this type of maintenance is no easy task and drastically differs from other Air Force aircraft platforms, according to seasoned maintenance personnel.

"This is a unique way of doing maintenance. With traditional legacy aircraft you are on the ground and can physically see the pilot and communicate with them," said Alfredo. "With the RPA platforms your pilot can be on the other side of base or thousands of miles away. Because of that, all our interaction is done all through radio communication, which adds a greater room for error."

Being geographically separated is a challenge that the maintenance personnel have been able to overcome.

"It's a true testament to the professionals that we have here, they have come up with creative solutions to get the job done," said DePaul.

The more than 400 Airmen assigned to the 432nd MXG are a mix of active duty Airmen, reservists, guardsmen, and contractors who provide aircraft and equipment maintenance in support of worldwide expeditionary operations, formal training units, and for operational test and evaluations on a 24/7, 365-day basis.

"With all the merging global requirements and the budget constraints, the men and women of Creech Air Force Base and the RPA enterprise work together to sustain and maintain this vital weapons system across the globe," said Joshua.

Aviano's Fighting Falcons sharpen CAS skills in Exercise Adriatic Strike

by Senior Airman Matthew Lotz
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/5/2014 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 31st Fighter Wing are conducting close air support training missions this week during Exercise Adriatic Strike in Postojna, Slovenia.

The CAS-focused, multinational exercise tests the interoperability and technical expertise of joint terminal attack controllers or JTACs from nine countries.

"Exercise Adriatic Strike is a perfectly tailored exercise to hone the Close Air Support skills of our pilots with international JTACs that they may operate with in real-world situations," said Colonel Anthony Abernathy, 31st Operations Group commander. "The multinational nature of many current operations demonstrates the utility of training with our allies in as realistic an environment as possible."

During the exercise, F-16s are sent each day to control the skies and simulate air strikes while international JTACs call in ordnances on simulated targets.

"Any exercise where pilots can train and interact with personnel on the ground, simulating a real-life scenario is the best training a pilot can get," said Capt. Jacob Rohrbach, 555th Fighter Squadron pilot.

The multi-role capabilities of the F-16 allows JTACs to experience the most realistic training in a controlled environment. The Slovenian government invited Austrian, Belgian, Czech, Croatian, French, Montenegrin, Latvian and Hungarian militaries to participate, along with the U.S. Air Force F-16s.

"During the training, pilots are communicating with the JTACs on the ground to gain situational awareness," explained Rohrbach. "The pilot then receives target sets from the JTACS, who have the final control authority to direct whether to simulate employment on those targets."

A significant benefit to this exercise is the proximity of Aviano to the training range where the JTACs will be conducting training. The ability of the 31st Fighter Wing pilots, aircraft and support personnel to operate from home station maximizes training effectiveness while minimizing costs.

The event's primary focus is the JTAC training, but the benefit to the 31st Fighter Wing is equally valuable to Aviano's pilots. The training emphasizes the employment of valuable F-16 close air support techniques and maneuvers in a joint environment.

"Working with the Slovenian Air Force in the planning and execution of ADRIATIC STRIKE has been an invaluable experience for me as an officer, as well as a Viper wingman," said Rohrbach. "The more multinational, large-force exercises we can be involved with, the better prepared the 31st Fighter Wing will be when called into action."

SJ chaplain corps awarded for keeping Airmen in top spiritual shape

by Airman 1st Class Brittain Crolley
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/5/2014 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, North Carolina -- With the Air Force downsizing, both in funding and manning, the 4th Fighter Wing chapel has found a way to rise above these challenges and continue to provide outstanding service to the Airmen of Team Seymour.

Recently, the chapel was awarded the Terence P. Finnegan Award for Outstanding Medium Chapel Organization by Air Combat Command for their dedication to supporting the wing mission and the Airmen who preserve it every day.

"We have an award-winning team here, but they don't do what they do for the awards or recognition," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Dwayne Keener, 4th FW wing chaplain. "They do it for the Airmen and their families because they truly care about them."

According to Keener, three of the five chapel's strategic priorities are: warrior care, advisement to leadership and care for chaplain corps caregivers. The first, he explained, involves engaging with Airmen to provide them with spiritual guidance to keep them mentally healthy and focused on the mission. Chaplains offer 100 percent confidential counseling and opportunities to worship and participate in a faith community; all are a part of warrior care.

In addition, the chapel offers Airmen programs, such as individual and marital counseling, single and couple retreats and deployment aid, the chaplains have also teamed with local retirees on an initiative called ROC Seymour, or Retirees on Call. The program taps into the wealth of knowledge and experience of military veterans and links them with current Airmen and their families to help with their problems, both big and small.

"The ROC team is here to help you," Keener said. "Bring them your problems, challenge them, and see if they can help you. Chances are they're going to be able to in some facet. They're motivated and really just want to get connected with the Airmen."

Along with the retirees, Keener said the more than 400 volunteers the chapel recruited last year were crucial to their success. Collectively, the volunteers tallied more than 47,000 hours in support of the chapel by providing services such as ushering, teaching and spiritual support to the base and community.

According to Keener, the amount of hours the volunteers donated keyed the chapel's victory in overcoming their challenges of manning and financial support.

"Despite the many challenges, everything came out just fine." Keener said. "The volunteers helped out tremendously and we may have crumbled without them. We certainly would not have accomplished as much as we did without them. This award is for them just as much as it is for us."

The chapel's other missions, such as advising leadership and caring for chaplain corps caregivers, also fall in line with the chapel's strategic priorities. Leaders and chaplains alike are not able to properly take care of other Airmen unless they care for themselves first.

The dedication the entire chapel team has shown to these priorities and to the Airmen, Keener said, makes him proud to be part of such an incredible team.

Chaplain (Maj.) Jesus Navarrete, 4th FW chaplain, echoed the same sentiment in receiving the Edwin R. Chess Award for Outstanding Company Grade Chaplain.

"I am very proud to be a part of a special group we have at the chapel," Navarrete said. "Winning these awards means we are taking care of the Airmen and their families. We try our best every day and we enjoy helping others with their needs."

Since winning the award, the chapel has undergone a makeover, welcoming in three new chaplains to the award-winning team. According to Keener, even though he is losing some outstanding Airmen, he looks forward to getting busy with his new group and keeping them at the top of ACC's list.

"I can't wait to see what we can accomplish together this year," Keener said. "With new chaplains come new ideas and new ways to better serve our Airmen and their families. We're all looking forward to keeping Team Seymour in top spiritual shape."