Wednesday, June 25, 2014

USS Kidd Holds Change of Command at Sea

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Declan Barnes, USS Kidd Public Affairs

SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) -- A time-honored change of command ceremony was held aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) while underway in the South China Sea, June 25.

During the ceremony, Cmdr. Thomas Zerr assumed command of Kidd from Cmdr. Gabriel Varela, marking the end of three years as executive and commanding officer for Varela.

"It is extremely bitter-sweet that I leave behind the greatest crew I've ever had the privilege to serve with," said Varela. "Kidd has performed magnificently over the past three years that I've had the honor to be assigned to her, and you all have done everything that your country and I have asked of you."

Before officially being relieved, Varela assured the crew of his confidence in Zerr as their new leader.

"I leave you all in the extremely capable hands of Cmdr. Zerr, the most competent and capable officer I have ever served with," said Varela. "Under his charge, I have no doubt that Kidd will rise to the next level of performance."

Zerr, who previously served as the ship's executive officer, opened his remarks by speaking of his humble beginnings that have shaped him as a leader. He also thanked his family, ship's wardroom, chief's mess and crew for their support.

"I am incredibly excited to be your commanding officer, and I look forward anxiously to the hard work ahead," said Zerr. "Together, we will continue to accomplish every mission and work together, and we will continue to set the standard even higher in proper Kidd fashion."

Kidd, homeported in San Diego, is on a scheduled deployment supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

Hurlburt hosts joint weapons training

by Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin
1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

6/20/2014 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla.  -- Airmen from the 4th Special Operations Squadron and soldiers from the 20th Special Forces Group conducted joint weapons training on Eglin Range, Fla., June 2 through 13.

The two-week training was designed to strengthen Air-Army interoperability and promote camaraderie between the two services.

"It's great that the Army and Air Force came together and provided this because we don't typically get this kind of training unless we're deploying or getting ready to deploy," said Army Capt. Colby Broadwater, Alpha Co. team leader. "It gives us the opportunity to be exposed to the amazing capability of the squadrons at Hulburt Field so we can build our own skills and be in an environment similar to when we deploy."

Airmen and soldiers practiced weapons training, close-air support, and RAPIDS infiltrations/exfiltration. RAPIDS is a special forces tactic, which is used to quickly move personnel or vehicles in and out of an area or to recover an isolated individual.

"I think we all got the most out of learning the capabilities of the AC- 130 gunship and [speaking] with the crews," said Broadwater. "We don't get to see them a lot, so being able to put a face with the people who might get you out of a bad situation down range is very helpful."

Aircrew members communicated closely with soldiers to ensure the gunship's rounds hit simulated enemy locations during mock firefights.

"It's basically familiarization training," said 1st Lt. Allen Caleb, 4th Special Operations Squadron gunship navigator. "It's a little bit different for them to integrate with us than they would with fast movers like F-16s, B-1s and A-10s, but it's better if they see it during training."

During the training, Caleb said he took the fire coordinates from requesting forces on the ground and relayed the information to the fire control officer, pilots and crew chiefs.

"Our unit does this kind of training all the time on our own, but doing it with Army guys on the ground adds an extra level of realism," he said. "It's good for us to hear a ground party on the radio. You're going to encounter things with a ground person that you're typically not thinking about if you're pretending to talk to someone."

The two forces also practiced engaging targets simultaneously in coordinated strikes. First, ground forces fired tracer rounds, which allowed the gunship crew to see the target. Then, the gunship fired at that same target.

Army Private 1st Class Tycjan Sieradzai, 244th Liaison Team health care specialist, said the training gave him a one-of-a-kind opportunity to work outside his regular career field.

"It's been awesome to come out here and support the training," Sieradzai said. "I've gotten the chance to shoot more here in the last two weeks than I would over the course of five years in my regular job."

Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor Announces Team Navy Roster

By Patty Babb, Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Forty seriously wounded, ill and injured Navy athletes have been chosen to represent Team Navy at the 2014 Warrior Games this fall.

The athletes were evaluated during the Wounded Warrior Team Navy Trials, which took place May 31-June 7 in Norfolk, Virginia. During the event, 65 Team Navy hopefuls faced off in the seven sports - archery, cycling, seated volleyball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball - that will be contested during the Warrior Games.

"At the trials, we saw our largest turnout for a Navy adaptive athletics event to date," said Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) - Safe Harbor Director Capt. Brent Breining. "This made selection of the final athletes to represent Team Navy very difficult. Our staff took great care during the selection process to put together the strongest possible team, and no decision was made lightly. I offer heartfelt congratulations to the accomplished athletes who made the team, and I look forward to watching them compete.

"I encourage all of the athletes who took part in the trials - not only those who made the cut - to remain active and continue training. Sports can have a very powerful impact on their physical and mental well-being and has the potential to accelerate their recovery," he added.

NWW is the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program. All of the athletes who participated in the trials are enrolled in the program, which has provided non-medical care throughout their recoveries.

The 2014 Team Navy roster includes a diverse collection of athletes. It brings together service members from around the country, from both the enlisted and officer communities, with incredibly varied backgrounds and skill sets. The team will practice together for the first time at a training camp July 8-13 at Naval Base Ventura County, California.

The 2014 Warrior Games - a Paralympic-like competition among wounded warriors from all branches of military service - will take place Sept. 28-Oct. 4 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Once again, NWW will sponsor Team Navy.

The Warrior Games will be preceded by the inaugural INVICTUS Games, an international athletic competition for wounded warriors hosted by the U.K.'s Prince Harry. NWW will send 22 wounded warrior athletes to London Sept. 10-14 to participate in the event. The Navy's INVICTUS Games participant list is available in the NWW website.

The complete 2014 Team Navy roster is below:

Navy Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Jonathan Adviento
Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Angelo Anderson
Retired Navy Legalman 1st Class Shahnaz Askins
Retired Navy Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Patrick Blair
Retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Brian Canich
Retired Navy Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Jim Castaneda
Navy Aviation Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Daniel Crossley
Navy Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Michael Dacanay
Retired Navy Aviation Electrician's Mate Steven Davis
Navy Machinist's Mate 1st Class Michael Dayton
Navy Chief Counselor Ching Dressel
Navy Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class John Dusseau
Retired Navy Lieutenant John Edmonston
Retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jacob Emmott
Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Roel Espino
Retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Isaac Francois
Retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Jaime Garza
Navy Sonar Technician Surface 2nd Class Shericka Goza
Retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Nathaniel Hamilton
Navy Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Aircraft Handler) 3rd Class Donald Jackson
Retired Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class John Kremer
Retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sonny Lemerande
Navy Seaman La'Mar Linton
Navy Chief Logistics Specialist Averill Malone
Retired Navy Aviation Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Stephan Miller
Navy Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Kenyactha Myers
Navy Airman Brett Parks
Retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Redmond Ramos
Retired Navy Aviation Technician 3rd Class Kathleen Ray
Navy Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Ryan Reese
Navy Chief Yeoman Javier Rodriguez Santiago
Retired Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Laura Root
Retired Navy Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Henry Sawyer
Retired Navy Aviation Technician 3rd Class Angel Segarra
Navy Airman Sadie Strong
Navy Aviation Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Chris Suter
Navy Counselor 1st Class Misty Taylor
Navy Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Marijka Temple
Retired Navy Chief Gunner's Mate Hector Varela
Retired Navy Chief Yeoman Sharona Young

The above roster may change in the future due to unforeseen circumstances. Please check the NWW website (below) for any updates.

Fort Bliss Soldiers Honor Fallen Comrade’s Promise

By Army Maj. George Chigi and Army Capt. Kapualani Ampong-Duke
1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment

EL PASO, Texas, June 25, 2014 – Soldiers dressed in Army dress blue uniforms filled the front seats at the Mountain View High School graduation ceremony here June 7.

It was a unique sight, even for a city located just outside Fort Bliss. As Lluvia Loeza’s name was called, the soldiers rose to their feet and rendered a salute.

Lluvia’s brother, Army Staff Sgt. Roberto Loeza Jr., was an infantry squad leader and headquarters platoon sergeant in Company C, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. He deployed with his unit to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2011.

Before departing for Afghanistan, Loeza promised Lluvia, his youngest sister, that he’d watch her walk the stage at her high school graduation, but he couldn’t keep his promise. Loeza died of injuries suffered in an indirect-fire attack May 25, 2012, while serving in Afghanistan’s Logar province.

Army Staff Sgt. William Berry, a member of Company C and Loeza’s comrade, recalled that his fallen friend “was a loving and caring father and family man. His soldiers held him in very high regard and respected his leadership and presence.”

Loeza’s brother, Esteban, wanted to surprise his sister. He sent out a message through Facebook to his fallen brother’s old unit asking for volunteers to stand in his place at his sister’s graduation. The call was answered immediately.

Though the majority of the unit is deployed once again to Afghanistan, the battalion’s rear detachment, known as Task Force Stalwart West and led by the battalion executive officer, Maj. George Chigi, along with Maj. Christopher Penwarden and Sgt. 1st Class Bernie Brooks, organized a group of soldiers to attend Lluvia’s graduation.

More than 30 soldiers from the fallen soldier’s battalion attended the graduation. Also in attendance were several soldiers from the Fort Bliss area who knew Loeza well, including Penwarden and Sgt. 1st Class Jason Yeazel.

Lluvia was completely surprised by the stalwart soldiers who attended her graduation. Making the event even more special, Chigi got permission from the school district’s superintendent to present Lluvia with her high school diploma.

Lluvia was just as impressive as her older brother; her discipline and drive earned her the distinction of the 4th-highest grade point average in her high school. Her scholastic efforts earned her more than $100,000 in college scholarships.

The entire Loeza family was overwhelmed with emotion. They were happy to see the support for their fallen son and Lluvia. The families of the other graduating students were awestruck by members of the 1-41st battalion as they rendered honors to Loeza, their fallen comrade, his sister and family.

“It was a very emotional and uplifting event for us and the family. All and all we fulfilled a fallen soldier’s promise and we did it with pride and honor and represented the 1-41 Infantry Battalion with nothing but the upmost respect and pleasure doing it for the family,” said Brooks, Company C’s first sergeant.

As the battalion’s soldiers gathered to say goodbye to the Loeza family, Berry presented Lluvia with a battalion coin. These coins are traditionally only given by the battalion commander and command sergeant major to soldiers for extreme excellence in the performance of their duties. Lluvia was also presented with a Bulldog Brigade coin.

Red Cross honors reservist as Hometown Hero

by Tech. Sgt. Shanda L. De Anda
Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs

6/25/2014 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga.  -- An Air Force reservist was one of a dozen individuals and groups recognized for service-before-self actions at the 5th Annual Hometown Hero Breakfast at Museum of Aviation here June 25.

Staff Sgt. Melissa Erwin, a communications network vulnerability management technician at Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command, received the 2014 Red Cross of Central Georgia Hometown Military Hero Award.

Regardless of the hero category - humanitarian; emergency response; animal rescue; blood; workplace; military, - each recipient "displayed courage, dedication, concern or a conviction; something that moves or inspires people to do more, to be more," according to the Red Cross.

Erwin is that kind of person, said Chief Master Sgt. Terrance Stokes, who nominated her for the award.

"Melissa is a dedicated and caring individual ... her purpose in life is to improve the world around her," said Stokes, AFRC Network Systems Division superintendent. "All Melissa wants to do is assist others, whether it is building a home ... or spending time with veterans."

Actions that contributed to her recognition as the Red Cross' Military Hero include work with observance month committees, support to Relay for Life events, volunteering as a survivor and caregiver, and laboring on Habitat for Humanity homes.

A post-traumatic stress disorder survivor, Erwin approached Team Robins with the idea to start a PTSD support group - an idea that was voted into an official Robins AFB organization in support of more than 6,000 servicemembers.

It may be easier to see how her actions support the Red Cross' mission, but as a Citizen Airman, her skills also contribute to the Air Force's fly, fight and win vision.

"Sergeant Erwin is dedicated, determined and passionate about all areas of her life," said Maj. Kasey Stramblad, AFRC Communications Coordinator Center chief. "She'll run full steam ahead until the task or project is complete."

Erwin's "positive outlook on impossible situations" also contributes to office productivity, according to the major.

"She knows you catch more flies with honey than vinegar." Not only does she help make sure the right issue gets to the right person for a fix, but she helps prioritize vulnerabilities and researches fix actions to better support system administrators.

Erwin's spirit of service and nature of finding "fix actions" helped motivate her to volunteer. The American Red Cross recognizes the strength of volunteerism and relies on it to accomplish its mission to "prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers."

Being recognized as a military hero was close to heart for Erwin.

"I pour my heart and soul into helping others," she said. "It gives my life meaning and peace."

"[I know] there are others like me and it's helpful in our recovery to know we are not alone."

Presenting that cause to the Team Robins Caring for People forum ... "going above and beyond the call of duty" to provide services that have a positive impact on members of the community is what made Erwin stand out as the military hero.

It also makes her stand out a Citizen Airman.

"She's got a lot of passion and a lot of drive, but as you mature you gain more rudder and she is really starting to gain some rudder," Stramblad said. "This type of award helps acknowledge the work that she's put into the past, but also the potential in life and what she can do in the future."

Stokes agrees.

"(Erwin is) focused, and she knows what she wants. I think she will go far. I can see her being a senior NCO; she just needs the opportunities to excel."

Although Erwin is proud of what she has done and inspired by those she helps, she is driven by a passion to continue to help where she can.

"I am truly looking to help others like me and start a [PTSD] support group here in Houston County," she said. "After a deployment, we are changed by our experiences and sometimes all a veteran needs is help finding new meaning and peace. As far as my career in the Air Force, since I love helping folks, I want to be a first sergeant one day."

Revered general retires after three decades as Air Commando

by Lt. Col. Kristi Beckman
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

6/24/2014 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- "You will touch the soil of many lands" is a fortune 2nd Lt. Eric Fiel opened 33 years ago from a Chinese fortune cookie. Today, Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel still keeps that fortune in his wallet as he reflects back on his career as an Air Commando and his ultimate job as the head of Air Force Special Operations Command.

But how he became an Air Commando is a story within itself. Born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., Fiel said he was on his fifth year of college and just didn't know what he wanted to do.

"One day, I just said to my roommates, 'let's go talk to a recruiter,'" said Fiel. "The Air Force commercial back then was 'A Great Way of Life.' So, they all said sure. The next morning, I was the only one who woke up and went down to the recruiter's office."

Fiel said he'd never been anywhere and had never flown on an airplane, but he thought the Air Force might be something worthwhile.

"I went down and took the test and came home and told my parents I was joining the Air Force. Then, off I went to Officer Training School."

Fiel said the Air Force put a little discipline in his life and he never planned on staying in as long as he did. He even became an Air Commando by a fluke because someone traded assignments with him in navigator school.

"I ended up getting B-52 Electronic Warfare Officer, and I was going to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. Two- thirds of the way through school, my buddy asked if I would trade with him since his girlfriend got a job in Texas. I said, 'What have you got?' He said, 'I've got an MC-130 EWO to special ops.' I asked, 'What's that?' And he said he didn't know. But I did know where Fort Walton Beach was and that sounded pretty good to me. So, off I went to the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field in August 1982."

And now, as Fiel reflects on his resolute service to a command that grew from 14 airplanes and 4,982 people to a command more than 277 airplanes and 19,500 people; he remembers the people who influenced him as a young officer.

"I would say my previous squadron commanders influenced me," said Fiel. "You have a lot of good squadron commanders, you have some OK squadron commanders, and you have some not so good - you just take notes."

And he took notes from his first squadron commander, retired AFSOC commander Maj. Gen. John Hobson, then Lt. Col. Hobson, at the 8th SOS.

Hobson said he had some reservations when Fiel, fresh from EWO school, showed up.

"He was our first lieutenant EWO," said Hobson. "I had some hesitation about a second lieutenant's experience in such an important crew position, but he soon doused my concerns with his knowledge and enthusiasm. He jumped in feet-first, became an instructor EWO in minimum time, and he always volunteered for additional duties."

Hobson said Fiel was destined to lead from early in his career as he was smart and aggressive and didn't shy away from challenging squadron and wing assignments.

"Eric was a great leader because he set high standards, expected his troops to comply and treated his people, regardless of rank, with dignity and respect," said Hobson.

Fiel said the hard work was influenced early on by his parents who had a good work ethic.

"I started working at 12 or 13 with a paper route," said Fiel. "My dad worked, my mom worked, my sister worked...all of us did. I bailed a lot of hay and milked a lot of cows too, living on a dairy farm."

And hard-working is what Fiel remembers most about the Air Commandos he grew up with. While he didn't quite know what AFSOC did before he showed up, he learned pretty quickly what it was like to be referred to as an Air Commando and to be part of the special operations forces joint team.

"I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of passionate people back then," said Fiel. "They loved their mission. They didn't care how difficult it was, they were gonna do it. And they enjoyed it. The commandos now are a little bit younger but they're no different than we were back then. They still want to do the hard missions. They have the same Air Commando spirit. No mission's too difficult. No task is too hard. They don't care about getting the credit. They just want to do it and have the satisfaction that they did something great."

One of those Air Commandos, former AFSOC Command Chief Bill Turner, who grew up in the command with Fiel remembers him well. In March 1998, then Tech. Sgt. Turner signed into the 4th SOS commanded by then Lt. Col. Fiel.

"The 4th SOS was a fledgling organization, housed in a trailer on the back of Hurlburt over by the firing range," said Turner, current command chief at U.S. Transportation Command. "The trailer was not big so we were crammed in there pretty tight. When it's tight like that you have to get along...and we mostly did."

"Colonel Fiel and his wife, Donna, made it a family-like environment...and it was fun," continued Turner. "He was always out and about talking with the team. He was humble and unassuming and helped everyone feel at ease. Having said that, he was always the consummate professional. He had a squadron to prepare for the combat ops that would soon come its way, so the training tempo was pretty intense. Even after all these years I remember sitting in a staff meeting and he was discussing discipline issues, and the need for accountability. I was struck by his integrity and commitment to doing the right thing for the right reason."

Turner's last assignment was working side-by-side with Fiel where he remembers Fiel as an exceptional major command commander.

"He's the very first home-grown special operations forces general officer to lead AFSOC," said Turner. "Along with that comes more than 33 years of unique experience. He's served...and all levels of leadership, to include many tours in the joint special operations arena as a combat commander. So, his credentials are high within the Special Ops community and its leaders."

One such Special Ops leader is retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of Joint Special Operations Command, who Fiel served for as his deputy. McChrystal said working with Fiel was not only a pleasure, it was an honor.

"Eric possesses, and demonstrates, bedrock values that guide every decision he makes and every order he gives," said McChrystal. "Those values of integrity, loyalty, and mission accomplishment drive him to lead others naturally to doing what's right. He doesn't wring his hands or raise a moistened finger to determine which way the wind is blowing, he simply allows his moral compass to provide direction - and it does so unerringly."

As a leader, Fiel is well known in the command by the statement, "Only commanders can make change."

"Commanders provide the vision and mission," said Fiel. "And if they're not willing to make change, the unit isn't going to change. If they want to make change and they don't do it themselves, it's not going to happen. You have to have follow up. You can impact behavior to the positive, and I believe in letting the commanders do their job and not the staff. Staffs don't make decisions. Staffs are there to support."

He added what's most important is the Airman downrange or the Airman on the flightline turning the wrench.

"If you don't live that life every day to make sure those Airmen have everything they need--money, resources, whatever to do their job--they're not going to do their job," said Fiel. "The maintenance job is to fly and fix airplanes. It's really that simple. If they don't have all the materials so they can generate sorties so that crew can fly in there, or security forces doesn't have what they need to guard the gate or maybe they're guarding outside the wire, the mission can fail."

"I don't do the mission," continued Fiel. "My job was to make sure they had all the tools. So, if I had money, it was gone. If a commander wanted to do something, I supported it."

McChrystal echoed that philosophy about taking care of the people. He said the performance of people is the ultimate determinant of almost every outcome, in every organization, but particularly in special operations.

"Like Eric Fiel, I learned that empowering the people with whom I served to use their talent and judgment is the single best way to provide the highest probability of success," said McChrystal. "It demands that we decentralize the authority and resources needed for our subordinates to act rapidly, yet understand that we never pass our responsibility off. It demands providing levels of trust that can be frightening to some leaders, yet in today's increasingly fast-paced and complex environment, it is essential."

After his time at JSOC with McChrystal, Fiel became the vice commander of U.S. Special Operations Command at the Pentagon where he began working on a vision; a vision that would ultimately lead AFSOC to the place it is today.

"I tried to figure out. If I want to try to make this happen, who's the decision maker," explained Fiel. "If I need to do an organization change request, who do I need to talk to? If I need to go buy this or modify that, who do I need to talk to? Or do I really have to ask permission? I came into the job [AFSOC] and I was going to take six months to just kind of look at things, but I couldn't wait. After just 30 days, I knew what I wanted to do."

Turner said he learned from Fiel to never take no for an answer.

"There's always a just need to know what the cost will be," said Turner. "By cost I mean dollars, resources, decision space, risk, etc. Never ask someone a question who can only say no and doesn't have the authority to say yes."

And as Fiel refers back to the vision to grow AFSOC, he said, I came in and did it.

"People said, aw you can't do it," said Fiel. "I said don't tell me I can't do something. And now, we're postured around the globe. We have more opportunities for our leaders to command. People and airplanes are still moving. If you are held hostage someplace overseas, you don't have to wait for forces from the states. If SOF forces are needed, you don't have to wait, we're right there."

Turner said Fiel will not only be remembered for his leadership and his determination but also his passion for taking care of his Airmen and their families--who he always placed first. He lived by the SOF truth that humans are more important than hardware.

"The really great thing about General Fiel is his passion for the force and families," said Turner. "He seems stoic when you first meet him, but spend quality time with him and you find out quickly his love of people. Every decision he has made was centered around making AFSOC better for our Nation, for sure, but also for our Air Commandos."

His wife, Donna, said her husband believes that one person can make a difference and he's always been there for his troops.

"He's never been one to go with the flow, he's always pushed to make sure that our Air Commandos are taken care of," said Donna. "He's not a politician, he's always been a warfighter and he loved every minute he spent doing what he was trained to do."

When asked why family is so important to the command and to the mission, Fiel said it's the families who are affected each and every time an Air Commando deploys.

He remembers the first opportunity he had to pin a silver star on an Air Commando. He said the commandos don't care about the medals or going through the ceremony, but the family does.

"I watched the little kids' eyes during the first ceremony," said Fiel. "They were so proud. Now, every time I give out a medal, I ask the kids if they'd like to pin the medal on their parent. AFSOC has been deployed since I came here in August 1982. It's been non-stop. No other major command can say that. There's always been a major portion of this command that's been forward-postured. And so the families take a toll."

After touching the soil of many lands in a command he initially knew nothing about, in a career he didn't think he'd stay in for the long-haul, in a spec ops community that has been described as the most elite in the world, Fiel hopes to be remembered as someone who gave people a chance and more opportunity.

When asked what he thinks people will remember him for, he smiled and said they will probably remember him for his impatience.

"But at the end of the day, there is more opportunity for our commanders and our Airmen," said Fiel. "I hope I can be remembered as a commander who tried hard and took care of the people."

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." --Douglas Adams

2014 Hero Games

by Senior Airman Omari Bernard
JBER Public Affairs

6/25/2014 - ANCHORAGE, Alaska  -- Heroes gathered beneath cloudy skies that threatened rain to compete on the longest day of the year. Nervous tension crept through the air as teams sized each other up and stared the others down. The stage was set and spectators lined the road. Service members answered the call Saturday on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage for honor and bragging rights during the 2014 Hero Games.

Service members from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson competed against each other and the Coast Guard Sector Anchorage in trials of strength, agility, and fortitude in front of crowds of their families, friends and community.

The friendly competition of the Hero Games is hosted annually by the Anchorage Downtown Partnership and is meant to honor local emergency service personnel and military members.

"It gives us a chance to show off who we are and what we do," said Sgt. Alexander Bowden, 545th Military Police Company, 793rd Military Police Battalion, 2nd Engineer Brigade.

The first event of the day was the tire roll-and-flip, followed by the agility course, endurance course, scooter race, tug-of-war and assorted other physical challenges. Even the donut-eating competition was designed to test the competitors' resiliency and fortitude.

"My favorite event, even though I didn't participate, was the tug-of-war," said Senior Airman Kenneth Mendenhall, a member of the Alaska Air National Guard team, and a 176th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician. "It is fun seeing two teams go head-to-head like that."

Mendenhall was a crowd favorite for his tenacity in the agility course. Even though he encountered difficulties during the hurdle portion, he still managed to win his heat.

"It was fun," Mendenhall said. "I jumped over first one, fell and smacked my bottom. I saw the beam fall, felt my glasses fall off, and thought 'keep going, keep going'."

This year the 793rd Military Police Battalion's team took first place and bragging rights for the 2014 Hero Games. The JBER Fire Dogs, 673d Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters, took second place and Charlie Company of the 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment placed third.

"We all competed really hard," said Bowden. "I couldn't have done it without everyone here. Everyone in the 793rd MP Battalion did an outstanding job and I am proud of everyone. I look forward to doing this again next year."

Two 4 FW Airmen receive Bronze Stars

by Airman 1st Class Shawna L. Keyes
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/24/2014 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C.  -- Two Airmen assigned to the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron, were presented the Bronze Star Medal, June 23, 2014, during a ceremony in the base theater at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.

Col. Mark Slocum, 4th Fighter Wing commander, awarded the medal to Chief Master Sgt. Carroll Holcombe, 4th CES superintendent and Tech. Sgt. Jason Luckenbaugh, 4th CES explosive ordnance disposal craftsman, for their actions while supporting contingency operations on their respective deployments overseas.

"It's absolutely humbling for me to get the opportunity to present these medals to these two Airmen," said Col. Slocum during the ceremony. "Right here, you have two examples of Airmen directly impacting the mission in combat. What they did was vital. Their outstanding efforts saved countless American and coalition partner lives."

Luckenbaugh, who was receiving the decoration for the third time in five deployments, expressed his pride to receive the accolade.
"I'm honored to be given such a prestigious award, said Luckenbaugh. "This medal represents all the people who have put their lives on the line in service to their country. I'm honored to be one of them."

In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the Bronze Star for presentation to U.S. military members who distinguish themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or service not involving participation in aerial flight while engaging the enemy.

As NCO in charge of the explosive ordnance disposal detachment at Forward Operating Base Frontenac, Afghanistan, he supervised day-to-day operations of a nine-person element responsible for the execution of explosive disposal operations on any combat mission that needed it.

On one particular mission, Luckenbaugh's tactical expertise was vital to the success of the clearing and securing of a historic Taliban safe haven in Afghanistan. His team safely eliminated five improvised explosive devices, allowing Afghan military forces to penetrate the Taliban defensive and establish a patrol base.

He was also part of a team that established and trained cadre for an all Afghan military EOD unit.

Like Lukenbaugh, Holcombe also distinguished himself with extraordinary actions while serving as the superintendent of the 376th Expeditionary Mission Support Group at Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan.

As the senior enlisted member of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing's largest group, he helped lead more than 1,300 Airmen in support of Air Forces Central Command's contingency operations. He also helped established AFCENT's first ever KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft forward operating base in Afghanistan.

"It was a busy and fast paced deployment," said Holcombe. "There was a lot going on. I just focused on the job at hand and tried to take care of the mission the best that I could."

During his time as superintendent, the group delivered more than 142 million gallons of fuel, oversaw the movement of more than 380,000 military personnel and the airlift of 108 million pounds of cargo in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Both Airmen attributed their success to their wingmen.

"Over the years, I've been very fortunate to have committed and supportive wingmen watching my back. They've probably kept me alive more times than I can count. I would be nothing without them."

"Not many people are awarded a Bronze Star," Holcombe added. "It's pretty amazing, to be recognized amongst all the amazing Airmen out there that do an equally amazing job accomplishing the mission."

Luckenbaugh went on to dedicate his medal to his team members.

"The medal is a testament to what my team accomplished while I was deployed," said Luckenbaugh. "They are just as deserving of this award, if not more so. It's a total team effort. Without their support, encouragement and expertise I wouldn't have received this award."

McConnell to hold KC-46A Pegasus groundbreaking ceremony

from 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

6/25/2014 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- A ground breaking ceremony for the incoming KC-46A Pegasus is scheduled to take place here June 30 at 11 a.m.

Gen. Darren McDew, Air Mobility Command commander, Brig. Gen. John Flournoy, Jr., 4th Air Force commander, and other distinguished visitors will participate in the ceremony.

McConnell AFB will be the first active duty-led main operating base for the new aircraft. Air Force officials announced plans to construct a two-bay corrosion control and fuel Cell hangar, a three-bay general maintenance hangar, a general maintenance hangar and an aircraft parking apron.

The $197 million hangar contract for McConnell Air Force Base was awarded May 22 to Archer Western Aviation Partners of Chicago, Illinois.

Malmstrom's defenders put to the test

by Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt
341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

6/25/2014 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Security forces personnel from Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana Air National Guard had the opportunity to put their skills to the test during the 3rd Annual Aces Cop Combat Challenge held on base June 20. During the challenge, teams of four members had to work together to conquer 23 stations designed to push their teamwork, decision making skills, endurance and strength to the limit.

"Going into the Aces Cop Combat Challenge I was really anxious about some of the physical aspects of the event," said 1st Lt. Christopher Foti, 341st Missile Security Forces Squadron flight commander. "I was especially anxious about the team pain station where you have to do ranger push-ups and a tire flip as many times as possible within a 15 minute time-frame.

"Our team did really well," he continued. "We motivated each other every step of the way. Teamwork is a huge part of this competition. If you try to do something like this by yourself, you will fail every time. You have to communicate and push one another to succeed."

Throughout the competition, participants were required to do high intensity physical and endurance tasks such as perform a four man push-up in a mud pit, followed by flipping a large tire as many times as possible. At other stations contestants had to crawl on their hands and knees to find an empty ammo crate while wearing duck-taped gas masks that provided zero visibility.

At one station contestants had to push an up-armored Humvee, which weighed approximately 14,000 pounds, more than 15 yards to earn as many points as possible. And even still, some challenges required tack sharp mental skills where teammates had to combine their efforts and defeat mental games, such as putting together four different firearms from a box of mixed parts.

"When I was asked to be a part of the team I competed with, I was thinking this was going to be a great thing to experience," said Airman 1st Class Keith Retuyan, 341st MSFS Tactical Response Force assaulter. "The competition did not let me down. I was tested in everything, my willpower, my stamina, absolutely everything. This competition was tough.

"You don't want to quit on your team and that's pretty much what this whole challenge is about," he added. "The biggest part is not quitting. Coming into this, I was slightly nervous but after we completed the first challenge we were ready. You have to be strong and not give up. That's what this is all about."

The Montana Air National Guard team took the win in the competition with the most points of any team to compete in all 23 events. For the prize of top squadron, Malmstrom's TRF members took first place.