Military News

Monday, June 30, 2014

67th CW welcomes new commander

by 1st Lt. Meredith Hein
24th Air Force Public Affairs


6/30/2014 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- The 67th Cyberspace Wing welcomed a new commander June 20 during a ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Col. David W. Snoddy assumed command from Col. William J. Poirier, who led the unit since July 10, 2012.

The 67th CW operates, manages and defends Air Force networks around the world. In addition, the wing provides network operations and network warfare capabilities to Air Force, joint task force and combatant commanders.

Maj. Gen. J. Kevin McLaughlin, 24th Air Force commander, officiated the ceremony.

"Col. Poirier took the 67th CW to new heights and the success of the wing is a true testament to his leadership. His expertise will serve him well in his future roles," said McLaughlin. "I am confident that, going forward under Col Snoddy's leadership, this wing will continue to meet the cyber challenges of both the Air Force and our nation with success."

Under Poirier's leadership, the 67th CW was awarded the Omaha Trophy in 2013 for global operations, and earned two Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards.

"It has truly been an honor to serve the Airmen of this wing as their commander," said Poirier. "I cannot say enough about the people--they have amazing talent and drive. I thank them for all they do for our great nation."

Snoddy comes to the 67th CW from Washington, D.C., where he was part of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Fellows program.

"I am so grateful for the opportunity to work in this great wing and in this great community," said Snoddy. "This domain is so critical to our nation and I am humbled by the chance to be a part of its growth."

KC-46A groundbreaking ceremony marks giant step forward for air refueling

by Airman 1st Class John Linzmeier
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


6/30/2014 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- A new era in Air Force air refueling capabilities took a giant step forward June 30, 2014.

Shovels overturned the first piles of dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new KC-46A Pegasus at McConnell Air Force Base. The ceremony symbolized significant progress in the KC-46A program and that construction in preparation for the Pegasus' arrival has officially started.

The construction includes a two-bay corrosion control and fuel cell hangar, a three-bay general maintenance hangar, a one-bay general maintenance hangar and an aircraft parking apron.

Gen. Darren McDew, Air Mobility Command commander; Brig. Gen. John Flournoy, Jr., 4th Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command commander; Col. Joel Jackson, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander; and other distinguished visitors had the honor of shoveling the first clumps of earth.

While the official party broke ground on the project, McDew acknowledged that the mission is really carried out by the McConnell community.

"Air Refueling is vital to Rapid Global Mobility - the AMC Airmen that maintain, operate and support our tanker fleet put the 'global' in global reach, vigilance and power. The KC-46A Pegasus will ensure we can continue to provide our nation with this amazing capability. The success of our global air mobility enterprise depends on strong leaders, and this ceremony is about the men and women of McConnell boldly forging the future of our air refueling operations," said McDew. "I have faith and trust they will exceed my expectations."

McConnell AFB will be the first active duty-led main operating base for the new KC-46A, which is part of a three phase effort to recapitalize the Air Force's tanker fleet.  Jackson reflected on the current tanker's history.

"Since 1971, McConnell has been the Air Force's premier tanker base flying the venerable KC-135," said Jackson. "In 1995, we became one of three Air Force super tanker wings, and would eventually become the largest tanker base in the Air Force."

McConnell will be the first base to beddown the Pegasus, expected in 2016. It has a larger refueling capacity, improved efficiency and increased capabilities for cargo and aeromedical evacuation.

The new tanker will help to expand the Air Force's war fighting capabilities supporting the Navy, Army, Marine Corps as well as allied nation coalition forces and even other KC-46As.

Along with the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and the Long Range Bomber, development of the KC-46A is amongst the Air Force's top three acquisition priorities.
                                                                            
While the Air Force is preparing a new generation of tankers, McConnell's mission will stay the same - to deliver warfighting capability today and tomorrow.

"Be it the past or the future, our mission success has, and will always, depend on the men and women of Team McConnell," said Jackson. "We are prepared and honored as a Total Force Team to forge the future of aerial refueling with the arrival of the KC-46A fleet."

Force Improvement Program comes to 8th AF

by Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs


6/30/2014 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --  Air Force Global Strike Command's Force Improvement Program team concluded their tour of the command's bomber bases and gathered to present their findings here, June 29.
The FIP team gathered an immense amount of data from the Airmen out in the field, conducting more than 1,700 interviews and nearly 4,500 surveys. These efforts are designed to give leadership a grass-roots perspective on the state of the command.
"Believe it or not, we don't know everything up here at the headquarters," Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, AFGSC commander, said. "The people out there doing the mission, the NCOs and company-grade officers and the Airmen out in the field, they know the mission better than anyone. So let's listen to them."
The Force Improvement Program, originally created to investigate challenges within the ICBM force and to make substantial and lasting changes, was recently adapted to the bomber community after it proved successful in the missile field.
At the heart of the FIP are the functional-cultural working groups, which sit down with Airmen in the field to have frank discussions about their concerns and to listen to suggestions, explained Lt. Col. Russell Williford, FIP director. Each working group focuses on a specific area of the bomber force, covering the areas of operations, security forces, mission support and maintenance. By going to each base and interviewing the people who are hands-on with the mission, the teams hope to get unfiltered feedback.
"My mantra has always been 'I can't fix something unless I know about it,'" said Maj. Gen. Scott VanderHamm, 8th Air Force commander. "So I look at this as another opportunity to get after the things I may not know about."
The FIP team also coordinated with members of Air Combat Command, U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and select U.S. Navy personnel. This allowed the FIP team to draw on a vastly larger pool of experience and expertise.
"This is really a following-up, to validate to the Secretary [of the Air Force] and the Chief [of Staff of the Air Force] and to the American public that we're doing things right," VanderHamm said.
The FIP survey of the ICBM field garnered more than 300 recommendations, 98 percent of which were approved for implementation. Air Force leaders hope the FIP will be just as successful in the bomber community.
"The biggest thing that will come out of this is empowerment. At the end of the day, it's about empowering our people to do their jobs," Wilson said. "When people believe in the change and you empower them, get out of the way because they can do just about anything."

Airmen and Soldiers participate in joint combat scenarios

by Senior Airman Kristin High
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs


6/30/2014 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Green Flag East provides unique training opportunities for the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., which trains soldiers in highly realistic combat environments. It is controlled by the 548th Combat Training Squadron, which is headquartered at Fort Polk and has a detachment here.

Green Flag East is one of two U.S. locations in charge of training and continuing the development of simulated combat operations held between Barksdale and Fort Polk, La., to employ close air support and hone communication between air and ground forces.

For the past few weeks, approximately 210 Airmen and 12 F-15E Strike Eagles from the 336th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., traveled to Barksdale to participate in Green Flag East, which took place June 8- 24.

"Green Flag East is a great exercise for the Air Force and Army to work together as a joint force," said 2nd Lt. Bethany Gross, Assistant Officer-In-Charge, 336th AMU. "Essentially, we're prepping for an upcoming deployment by practicing and simulating live-fire to support the troops on the ground and working on our communication skills with them as well."

The integration of Army and Air Force assets is vital to the overall mission, she added. While the Army trains at Ft. Polk, our F-15E Strike Eagles fly down to provide air support for these combat scenarios.

During Green Flag East, 150 Airmen from the maintenance side helped to keep the aircrafts going throughout the sorties.

"We are the eyes on the flightline," said Staff Sgt. Cory Prater, 336th AMU F-15E Strike Eagles dedicated crew chief. "My biggest job during Green Flag is keeping the jet flying. We have accessories such as bombs and pods to help with the guys on the ground but if the jets are not flying, there's nothing you can do to support them."

Everyone plays an important role throughout the exercise, he said. During the mission, the Soldiers communicate where and when to drop bombs, the Airmen drop the bombs.

"Overall, integrating with the other services effectively utilizes our resources," he said. "Participating in Green Flag East brings us together to develop skills we use during the fight."

During the exercise, 218 sorties were successfully accomplished, simulating the elimination of 20 tanks and 46 threatening personnel.

The overall mission effectiveness was flawless during this exercise, Prater added.

The efforts were recognized with more than 25 top and superior performers.

'No Guts, No Glory': 334th FS honors legendary fighter pilot

by Airman 1st Class Aaron J. Jenne
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


6/30/2014 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Excellence: the state or quality of excelling or being exceptionally good; extreme merit; superiority.

The Air Force is no stranger to excellence. It is a virtue engrained into the service's core values and is an integral part of each Airman's life. According to those who knew and served with, Maj. Gen. Frederick "Boots" Blesse, a former Air Force ace pilot, he exemplified excellence during his service.

Current and former Airmen alike, assembled to recognize the accomplishments of Blesse during a memorial dedication ceremony June 27, 2014, at the 334th Fighter Squadron on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.

Due to his distinguished career and legacy, the 334th FS felt that it was only fitting they create a memorial commemorating the accomplishments of their former ace pilot.

During the ceremony Blesse's widowed wife, Betty, joined Lt. Col. Donn Yates, the current 334th FS commander, to unveil a memorial statue in Blesse's honor. The nearly six-foot tall stone monument boldly stands at the entrance of the 334th FS building depicted a bust of Blesse and an inscription which says, "334th Fighter Squadron; Gateway to the Combat Air Forces; Following in the footsteps of legends ... Maj. Gen. Frederick C. "Boots" Blesse; Double Ace; 'No Guts, No Glory.'"

"We established this memorial to remind our incoming students as well as our outgoing graduates that it is our warrior spirit that will often be decisive in any future conflict," said Lt. Col. Donn Yates, 334th FS commander. "Their mindset must rely on the training they received here as well as their aggressiveness during the performance of their duties."

Blesse made a name for himself while serving as the operations officer of the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron during the Korean War. During his voluntary assignment at Kimpo Air Base, Korea, the then major revolutionized the air-to-air combat tactics of the squadron. At the conclusion of his tour, Blesse was widely recognized as one of the Air Force's top aces, having destroyed or irreparably damaged more than 15 enemy aircraft. He went on to serve more than 30 years in the Air Force, including a tour in Vietnam, before retiring as the Air Force' deputy inspector general. He passed away in October 2012

The ceremony also featured a flyover consisting of current and past aircraft assigned to the wing. Two F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft flew over the dedication ceremony, followed by two F-4 Phantoms II aircraft, to honor Blesse, who flew the Phantom II during his tour in Vietnam.

"The legacy of Gen. Blesse is something for us to look up to and try to emulate in our careers," said 1st Lt. Joshua Judy, 334th FS pilot in training, who is set to graduate from B-Course on June 27. "Flying with the 334th and knowing what he's done for our squadron's history, it gives me pride to know where we came from and the leaders that were here before us."

Yates hopes that the memorial will serve as a motivator to those who serve in the squadron in the future as well as a reminder of how much Blesse has done for the Air Force.

"General Blesse is precisely the type of warrior we seek to emulate and produce in our students," Yates added. "This monument will serve as a lasting testament of Gen. Blesse's life and service and will inspire Airmen for generations to come. We will all remember his legacy of excellence."

Betty also expressed her gratitude for her husband's recognition.

"I'm so humbled to be here," Betty said. "To think they would do all this to recognize my husband is amazing. I know he would have loved it."

Anything but a tanker: the first KC-135 story

by Airman 1st Class David Bernal Del Agua
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


6/27/2014 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Three static displays of retired aircraft lie exhibited at the entrance of McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Each model symbolizes a different phase in the base's history.

While many members of McConnell drive past the displays on a daily basis, they may not know the history of the tanker standing guard.

Aircraft 55-3118, once nicknamed "The City of Renton," first rolled out of Boeing Co.'s Renton, Washington, plant in 1956. The first KC-135 Stratotanker never flew a refueling mission; instead, it was used for many other diverse missions.

"Our most important mission was escorting fighters," said retired Lt. Col. Ted Buck. "We flew with squadrons at a time from state side to Vietnam and back."

"The City of Renton" was retrofitted with bunks, seats, tables, carpeting, soundproofing, and communication equipment after initial testing was complete to fit its new mission.

"Every 90 days we had to spit-shine that plane in the hangars," said retired Master Sgt. Gene De Forest. "Everyone below captain or master sergeant had to polish. The rule was 'if you don't polish, you don't fly.'"

Command and control was the next mission of 55-3118, it was as a modern satellite for tactical air command.

"We're talking 45 or 50 years ago," said Buck. At the time, the capabilities were amazing. We kept radio contact with fighter aircraft no matter where they went. We were very useful and needed."

It was once used to carry Dr. Henry Kissinger, preceding President Richard Nixon's trip to China.

"The White House needed a plane that could take Kissinger where he needed to go without the press knowing what he was doing, so they called us," said Buck. "That was the first diplomatic contact with China since World War II."

The tanker was brought to McConnell after its retirement in 1998, where it was restored with all its original parts.

"The City of Renton" will continue to greet the past, present, and future generations of refuelers, except now it has come to be called "The Keeper of The Plains" to reflect its location in Kansas.

The Air Force's KC-97 Stratofreighter was introduced to the new KC-135 in 1956, and the KC-135 would eventually replace it.

And now the KC-46A will slowly start replacing the KC-135, just like it replaced its predecessor. The life cycle of this KC-135 is complete now.

"This aircraft is the most beautiful display in the Air Force," said Buck.

USS Pennsylvania Sets Patrol Record



By Navy Chief Petty Officer Ahron Arendes
Commander, Submarine Group 9

BANGOR, Wash., June 30, 2014 – The Trident strategic missile submarine USS Pennsylvania manned by its “Gold” crew returned home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor here June 14 following a 140-day, record-breaking patrol.

Tridents are nuclear-powered, Ohio-class submarines. The Pennsylvania set a new record for the longest patrol completed by an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.

The Ohio-class submarines have two crews, called Blue and Gold, which rotate patrols. One crew is at sea usually for 60 to 90 days, while the other trains ashore. In this way, the vessels can be employed at sea 70 percent of the time, when not undergoing scheduled maintenance in port.

The Pennsylvania’s “Gold” crew patrol, which began in January, is not only the longest for an Ohio-class submarine, but the longest since beginning of the Poseidon C3 ballistic missile program in the early 1970s, according to records maintained by the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Weapon System Evaluation program.

"It's an honor. It was a challenge. The job kept calling for us to stay at sea but we were ready, willing and able. So we stayed at sea and finished the mission," said Navy Cmdr. Tiger Pittman, the Pennsylvania’s “Gold” crew commanding officer.

"I'm incredibly proud of my crew,” Pittman added. “I've been amazed by their resiliency throughout the entire time, and not only the crew, but the families. We leave and we serve, but they stay home and they serve as well."

Trident submarines -- nicknamed “Boomers” -- carry as many as 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear ballistic missiles. At 560 feet long and 42 feet wide, they are the largest submarines in the U.S. Navy’s inventory.

The Pennsylvania’s Navy hull classification symbol is SSBN 735. The SS denotes “Ship, Submersible.” The B denotes “ballistic missile,” and the N denotes “nuclear powered.”

As Pennsylvania emerged from an extended maintenance period in 2013, the patrol had originally been planned to be longer than is considered normal for Trident strategic missile submarine. The crew spent nearly the entire patrol underway, since unlike most other Navy vessels, Trident submarines don't make routine port visits except when returning to home port.

"USS Pennsylvania ‘Gold's’ patrol is an exceptional example of the flexibility and capability of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine. We had always expected this to be a longer than normal patrol and a highly-capable crew made it happen," said Navy Capt. Mark VanYe, chief of staff at Commander, Submarine Group 9. "When operational commitments changed, we knew the exceptional sailors serving on Pennsylvania and their families back home were up to the task.

"They have excelled across their entire mission set," VanYe added. "We are glad now to have them home and congratulate them on a job well-done."

Upon their return home, Pennsylvania’s “Gold” crew was greeted by Commander of Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet Navy Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer, who wanted to personally thank them and congratulate them on a job well-done.

"The SSBN strategic deterrent patrol is the most important unit mission in the submarine force and vital to the defense our nation," Sawyer said. "The Pennsylvania ‘Gold’ crew was on the front line of deterrence, conducting critical missions from the time the ship got underway until returning home and I couldn't be prouder of what they have accomplished."

The USS Pennsylvania, part of the nation’s strategic deterrence forces, is one of eight Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines home-ported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

Mission assurance exercise concludes

by Airman 1st Class Erin O'Shea
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


6/27/2014 - ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- A three-day mission assurance exercise here wrapped up in the late afternoon, June 25, as base operations returned to normal.

RAF Lakenheath conducted the exercise to test the base's overall readiness and preparedness. The training was designed to emphasize the importance of combat skills effectiveness training and ensure 48th Fighter Wing Airmen are fully prepared for any contingencies.

"These exercises ensure Airmen can accomplish the mission during a heightened state of alert while providing combat-ready forces for close air and ground support," said Col. Kyle Robinson, 48th FW commander. "Striving for readiness is crucial to ensuring we are able to stand with our allies and defend our assets."

Throughout the exercise, Airmen prepared for emerging threats by responding to a variety of challenges, including a suspicious package, hostile engagements, hazardous material explosions and even dangerous weather conditions. Airmen were tested by the Wing Inspection Team on several areas vital to mission success, whether in a deployed environment or at their home duty station.

"These exercises help us prepare for real-world scenarios by coming up with creative ways to adapt and overcome shortfalls through medial training," said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Hill, 48th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department station chief.

All units across the base played a crucial role in making this exercise run smoothly.

"Over the past several days we've risen to the challenges placed before us," Robinson said. "All the Airmen involved have shown a great sense of urgency and the ability to respond and save lives in these types of events."

As part of the 48th FW's top priorities, Airmen train like they fight to sharpen combat capabilities. This training assists in ensuring Airmen are ready to respond to real-world threats at a moment's notice.

"If we can be ready on our home station, it will make it easier to be ready on a deployment," Hill concluded.

Soldiers Scale North America’s Highest Peak



By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith
4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska, June 30, 2014 – Driven by determination and trained in arctic survival, five paratroopers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, along with one soldier from the Army's Northern Warfare Training Center and two soldiers from the Vermont Army National Guard, scaled the highest point in North America June 15.

Mount McKinley, in Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve, rises to an elevation of 20,237 feet above sea level. It has an 18,000-foot base-to-peak rise in elevation -- the highest in the world in that category.

Athabaskan Alaska Natives' name for the mountain is Denali -- "The High One."

Weather conditions on the mountain are often extreme. Bitter cold, blinding sunlight, and high winds create very difficult climbing conditions.

Dangerous crevasses concealed by snow bridges present treacherous obstacles for climbers.

This climbing season has been particularly difficult. The 4/25 IBCT's climb team leader, Army Capt. Matthew Hickey, said he'd seen fewer than 30 percent of climbers reach the summit so far.

Hickey credits the discipline, training and equipment he and his team employed on their way up as key to their success. He said the team's mountaineering skills, cold-weather operations training, teamwork, and conditioning allowed them to keep their momentum as they pressed forward.

The other soldiers who made up the eight-member climbing team included Staff Sgt. John Harris, Sgt. Lucanus Fechter, Spc. Matthew Tucker, and Spc. Tyler Campbell. They joined forces with 1st Sgt. Nathan Chipman and Staff Sgt. Taylor Ward, from the Army's Mountain Warfare School in Jericho, Vt., and Staff Sgt. Stephon Flynn from the Northern Warfare Training Center in Black Rapids, Alaska.

The team followed the West Buttress Route to the summit of Mount McKinley, with each soldier hauling about 140 pounds of gear. They ate Army-issue dehydrated meals twice a day, boiling the water they needed to prepare the meals from snow they collected on the mountainside. However, those meals were not enough for the massive energy expenditure; they also snacked for added energy and nourishment.

Key mission objectives were to test and strengthen tactics, techniques, and procedures, while operating in a mountainous, high-altitude, cold-weather environment.

The team, sponsored by U.S. Army Alaska, took 13 days to reach Denali's summit. The mountain's oxygen-poor air left them with headaches and fatigue, which they countered by stopping at intermediate camps along the way to acclimate to the altitude and weather conditions.

They reached the top of Denali using mostly Army-issue equipment. Harris, the assistant team leader, said the Army's pull-behind Akhio sled system is heavier than most similar sleds, but because of its rigid pulling poles, navigating downhill and along the sides of slopes was easier.

"We brought it along, despite the weight," Hickey said. "That was one of the reasons why we were on the mountain -- to test some of this new equipment, or equipment that has been in the inventory for a while that hasn't been used in an environment such as Mount McKinley."

The team's safety equipment was tested when Campbell fell into a snow-bridged crevasse. The safety harness and tethered line they wore every day saved him from plummeting to the bottom of the 80-foot-deep crevasse.

"Personally, I love this piece of equipment," Campbell said. "It's part of the reason why I'm still here today."

"I think it was our fourth day on the mountain, not too far in," he explained. "It was gray out, you know, [there] was a little drizzle, a little snow, and it just looked like a normal slope to me."

Campbell added, "We knew there were crevasses around, but we didn't see them. There was a snow bridge that I walked on, and it was just too weak to hold me up, and I just started falling.”

His fall was stopped about 15 feet down when the safety line rope went tight. He used his training in crevasse rescue to climb nearly to the top where he was assisted the rest of the way.

"[It was] probably one of the scariest experiences of my life," Campbell said. "We were doing everything as safely as we could, and I'm still here today because of the equipment we used."

The team agreed that safety training and risk-mitigation were key factors to their successful and safe journey. They also said that even though they were in a bitterly cold, unforgiving environment, turning back before reaching the summit never crossed their minds.

In all, the team spent 16 days on Mount McKinley.

On summit day, they reached the top of the mountain in a cloud. With limited visibility, nausea, fatigue and heads pounding, they celebrated and snapped some pictures -- but they didn't stay long.

Having conquered the summit, they began a rapid descent for a hot shower and a warm meal.