Thursday, July 17, 2014

Boy becomes an 'Airman for a Day'

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

7/17/2014 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- A boy from Walla Walla, Washington, who is being treated at the Shriners Hospital in downtown Spokane, Washington, visited Team Fairchild Aug. 11 and experienced what it was like to be an Airman on a day-to-day basis.

Zayne Rutter was in a serious accident in May when he was hit by a vehicle while riding his bicycle, and after a long few months of recovering, he was chosen to be a part of the program, 'Airman for a Day.'

"I think it is a very special honor for him to come out here and learn about what the Air Force does and how they serve and protect our country," said Heather Meza, Zayne's mother. "Experiences like this contribute to his recovery and bring a positive note to it."

The program itself was implemented by Team Fairchild many years ago and serves as an opportunity for children like Zayne to take a break from whatever challenges they face and see firsthand what it is like to be an Airman.

Zayne began his journey as an Airman by witnessing a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape water demonstration and visiting the Fairchild fire department. He was able to tour with his mother and grandfather, who have been by his side during his recovery.

According to Meza, Zayne underwent four surgeries in seven days after his accident and encountered multiple open compound fractures of the femur, tibia and fibula. She said he was lucky he was wearing a helmet because if not the accident may have been fatal.

"It's been a great experience to focus on one individual and give back and make him feel special," said Staff Sgt. Sam Converse, the 509th Weapons Squadron scheduling NCO in charge and event co-coordinator.

Converse said the wing as a whole works with the community a lot, but it was a good feeling to be able to work with Zayne for the day. She was proud to be a part of the whole event and said his happiness was priceless.

"He is thrilled about this experience and he will remember this for the rest of his life," said Del Blaine, Zayne's grandfather. "It's great Fairchild is doing this for him."

During the tour Zayne also watched the parachute jumpers, saw a military working dog demonstration, toured a KC-135 Stratotanker, ate lunch at the dining facility, and flew the flight simulator. He also gathered many souvenirs from patches to a crew bag which he would remember the day by.

"I feel special, not a lot of kids get to come out here and do the things I am doing," said Zayne.

Zayne said he felt privileged to come to Fairchild for the day, and his family agreed this was an event that would remain as one of the most memorable moments in his life.

Grand Forks AFB conducts annual firefighter training

by Senior Airman Xavier Navarro
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

7/17/2014 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The 319th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters reunited with the Grand Forks City Fire Department for annual fire training here that lasted four days.

Grand Forks City Fire Department offered to let the base fire department use their mobile fire training trailer simulator.

Tech. Sgt. Byron Ball, 319th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, is no stranger to training with the local fire departments.

"We teamed up with Larimore firefighters a while back to do live house fire training," said Ball. "Today we had a trainer who was from the City of Grand Forks fire department."

The live fire training involves a team of two with full firefighter gear and a fire hose that sprays a rate of 100 per square inch of water. When the team enters through the doors they first encounter a range fire that simulates a kitchen fire and then move on to a bedroom fire while using proper safety precautions and effective communication.

Senior Airman Tyrique Jackson, 319th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, was one of the 46 firefighters who participated in the required annual training.

"In real life we have stove fires and roof fires," said Jackson. "So basically we are doing the same thing inside there that we would do in the real world."

The training garnered positive feedback from base firefighters.

"When you first enter the building you don't exactly know what you're really going to get," said Ball. "Your heart's pumping because this is the kind of stuff you love and you train for."

Team Dover gets in tune at AMC Icon

by Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

7/17/2014 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- You're going to Hollywo... Scott Air Force Base! Well, sort of.

Eight Team Dover contestants took to the stage to show off their singing talents in the 2014 Air Mobility Command Icon competition; an event loosely based on the "American Idol" television show, July 16, 2014, at the Landings Club on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

Shannon Garcia, wife of Airman 1st Class Tyler Garcia, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, placed first with her performance of A Broken Wing by Martina McBride.

"It feels great; last year I competed and won," said Garcia. "So I just wanted to give it my best this year."

The competition is designed to showcase the vocal talents of the AMC communities. All 10 major AMC installations will host similar contests. The winner from each AMC installation will have a video submitted to the command finals at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. The video includes their performance, an interview and footage of the winner on the job.

The contest was open to all Team Dover personnel, including, Reservists, Air National Guard, retirees, and dependents. But only the top active duty Airmen would be able to represent Dover AFB at the command finals.

Since the contest winner, Garcia, is the spouse of an Airman and not an active duty member, advancing will be second place finisher Airman 1st Class Joshua Dinan, 436th AMXS, who performed Awake by Josh Groban. In addition to representing Team Dover at the command finals, he will also receive an opportunity to audition for Tops In Blue.

Tops In Blue is an ensemble group made of active duty Air Force members comprised of vocalists, dancers, musicians and technicians.

"I'm very honored to go on to the next level; I was really hoping I would win and I'm glad I can get my name out there," said Dinan. "I really want to join Tops In Blue and go further with my singing."

The competition was judged by a panel of three judges.

One of the judges, Kristin Moore, wife of Col. Rick Moore, 436th Airlift Wing commander, is a classically trained opera singer and graduate of Butler University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in vocal performance and nonprofit management. She studied with Carla Rae Cook of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

"I'm so surprised and impressed with all the talent we have at Dover," said Moore. "They were fabulous and across the board they were good performers; and vocally, they hit it out of the park."

The other judges were Gary Coleman and Chris Patterson.

Coleman, a lifelong musician, is a retired Air Force master sergeant, who while serving at then Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, joined a band made up of military personnel and recorded an album of original material. He also performed and toured Japan, Australia and New Zealand with Tops In Blue.

With a Master's degree in Music Education from the University of Delaware, Patterson, North Dover Elementary School music teacher, rounded out the panel of judges. Along with being a teacher, he is the assistant marching band director at Wesley College in Dover and the Smyrna Opera House music director for the production of the musical Gypsy.

Team Dover's AMC Icon competition was organized by 1st Lt. Christopher Trejo, 436th Force Support Squadron civilian personnel section, who said he was impressed with the talent of the Team Dover contestants.

"I really had a great time putting this show together; this means a lot to me that everyone came out to show their support for these performers," said Trejo. "These folks were amazing performers."

Veterans in Blue: Serving Country and Community

by 2nd Lt. Jhanelle Haag
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

7/17/2014 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- From a young age, Dave Mercier knew he wanted to be in law enforcement. While growing up he wasn't sure how he wanted to reach his goal, but always seeing his father's retirement orders hanging on the wall gave him an idea.

"My father served for four years in the Air Force and I was born when he was still on active duty," said Mercier, United States supervisory probation officer. "He was extremely proud of his service in the Air Force and I always remembered seeing his retirement order hanging on the wall."

Mercier learned there were many benefits with enlisting in the Air Force and realized it could help him reach his goal. After graduating from high school in 1993, Mercier enlisted in the Air Force. On completion of basic training Mercier went on to attend the security police training program.

While at the security police program, he was selected to become a military working dog handler. After completing training in 1995 he was sent to Osan Air Force Base, Korea to work as a security forces working dog handler. Mercier was only there for a year when he received orders to Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.

"I was a little shocked when they told me they were glad to have someone with rank coming in," said Mercier. "I was only an Airman First Class at the time."

After arriving at Laughlin, Mercier earned a below-the-zone promotion and put on Senior Airman and was assigned as a flight chief.

For the next five years he would develop his personal life and leadership skills.

"I met my wife in Del Rio, Texas and we had our first child here," said Mercier. "When my daughter was born, I had to really think about re-enlisting and what I wanted to do."

Ultimately, Mercier decided it would be best after seven years of service to his country to move on and serve his local community.

After separating, Mercier briefly worked for the Del Rio news department. Shortly after he then began working for the Del Rio Police Department as a patrol officer and later became a detective. Mercier now serves as a federal employee for the United States Probation Office as a supervisory probation officer.

"The lessons I learned as a military member have truly helped shape my career into what it is now. The opportunities I had to attend different leadership schools helped give me the credentials to get where I wanted to be," said Mericer. "The Air Force gave me the ability to promote quickly in my civilian job and better serve my community."

Airman's remains returned home 62 years after his death

by Senior Airman Sarah Hall-Kirchner
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

7/17/2014 - ELWOOD, Ind. -- The remains of 17 servicemembers were recovered by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and Joint Task Force team from a 1952 aircraft crash site--and among them was Airman 3rd Class Howard Martin, of Elwood, Ind., who finally came home to rest July 10.

Waiting at the Indianapolis International Airport for him were his family and friends who gathered on the tarmac to receive his body along with members of the Scott AFB Honor Guard who performed the dignified transfer. The Honor Guard also served as pallbearers for the funeral ceremony, which was held July 12.

"I can hardly describe the anticipation," said Paul Martin, the eldest surviving brother. "Mom and dad [who are both deceased] both kept thinking that one of these days they'll find him and bring him home so they bought three cemetery plots rather than two."

His long awaited homecoming came after Department of Defense scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory identified the remains from the 11 crewmembers and 41 passengers who were aboard the a C-124 Globemaster II that crashed Nov. 22, 1952, about 50 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska. All aboard were presumed dead and search parties were unable to locate or recover those on board at the time due to adverse weather conditions.

Paul said he was overwhelmed with emotions when he learned the site had been uncovered earlier this year. He and his six siblings received his brother's wallet which contained Howard's driver's license and Social Security card.

"A melting glacier allowed them to find my brother," said Paul Martin. "He came down 8,000 feet and 12 miles to be discovered 60 years later."

An Alaskan National Guard helicopter crew spotted aircraft wreckage and debris in a melting glacier during a training mission near the original crash site June 9, 2012. The discovery launched a search and recovery attempt by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and Joint Task Force team where they discovered and identified the remains through DNA April 18, 2014.

Paul and his sister, Kay, had given DNA samples earlier, hoping one day they would be able to bring their brother home. Sixty-two years later, their brother's remains were finally here.

Hundreds of people including veterans and people as far away as Michigan lined the streets of Elwood waving American flags to pay their respects to the fallen Airman. As a testament to Howard's service and sacrifice to the country, the mayor of Elwood named July 12 as Airman 3rd Class Howard Martin Remembrance Day.

Operation PACANGEL 14-3 begins in Tonga

Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

7/17/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- United States and Tonga will conduct humanitarian assistance operations July 21 - 26 as part of Operation Pacific Angel-Tonga.

Operation PACANGEL is a total force, joint and combined humanitarian assistance operation led by Pacific Air Forces. PACANGEL 2014 includes general health, dental, optometry, pediatrics, and engineering programs as well as various subject-matter expert exchanges.

PACANGEL enhances participating nations' humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities. Approximately 65 U.S. military members, along with local non-governmental organizations, and host nation military forces will conduct humanitarian assistance operations in Tonga as part of this operation.

Officially in its seventh year, PACANGEL supports U.S. Pacific Command's capacity-building efforts by partnering with other governments, non-governmental agencies and multilateral militaries in the respective region to provide medical, dental, optometry, and engineering assistance to their citizens.

These operations help improve and build relationships in the event of future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts. Since 2007, U.S. military members, together with host nation military and civilian personnel throughout the region, have improved the lives of tens of thousands of people through PACANGEL operations.

Pacific Air Forces to divest 237 billets

Release Number: 020714

7/17/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- To meet a Headquarters Manpower Reduction Directive, Pacific Air Forces will divest a total of 237 billets by the end of this fiscal year. The directive, set forth by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in 2013, will reduce total headquarters staffs by 20 percent across the services.

To help meet this goal, the Air Force will create the Air Force Installation & Mission Support Center. The center will reduce management overhead by consolidating installation management functions currently being performed at every Major Command. The U.S. Navy and U.S. Army have similar centers.

Of the 237 billets divested from PACAF, 145 of them will be realigned under AFIMSC. Due to resulting efficiencies of the consolidation, most of the billets realigned to AFIMSC will be converted to savings. The remaining 92 billets will be identified for reduction.

"Every PACAF Airman is important and fills a vital role in our nation's defense and in ensuring stability and security for the Asia-Pacific region," said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, PACAF commander. "We have an obligation to the American people to produce the very best Air Force we can with the resources we are given, which in part led us to these very difficult decisions. We will do everything we can to help any Airman - uniformed or civilian - adversely impacted by this reduction."

To identify which billets will be reduced, PACAF is taking a deliberate look at each position to determine how it impacts the completion of Combatant Commander and national objectives. Once that analysis is complete, PACAF leadership will be able to determine the best mix of positions to accomplish the mission in the most effective and efficient manner.

Transition plans, to include the breakdown of which positions will be reduced, are still being solidified.

To avoid incurring excess permanent change of station costs, affected military personnel will likely complete their tour in the Pacific. Once they've completed their tour of duty and have moved on to their next duty station, their billet will not be filled and it will be removed from PACAF manning documents. Military personnel will not face a reduction in force as a result of this change.

To minimize the effect on civilian personnel, the Air Force will initiate Voluntary Early Retirement Authority programs and Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay to foster voluntary reductions before pursuing involuntary measures. VERA/VSIP surveys will be open from July 21 - August 1; separation dates will be effective September 30, 2014.

Adversely impacted civilians will be notified at least 60 days prior to a reduction in force effective date.

Because this reorganization reduces the number of people required for middle management, this reorganization will not change commanders' authority at the wing level, nor will it impact flying operations or services available to Airmen.

"Our challenge, in a fiscally-constrained environment, is to maintain the balance between having a ready force today and a modern force tomorrow," said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Pacific Air Forces commander. "In the future, the Air Force must become smaller while providing the capabilities the nation needs. This means our workforce and installations of the future will look and operate differently."

First responders save trapped defenders during Typhoon Neoguri

by Airman 1st Class Keith James
18th Wing Public Affairs

7/16/2014 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- "Bro, I can't believe we got out," said Airman 1st Class Brandon Miles to Airman 1st Class Roderick Jones when thinking back on the events of that early morning July 9, 2014.

The two 18th Security Forces Squadron response force members had been rescued by a team of first responders while on duty here during Super Typhoon Neoguri, which struck the western coast of Okinawa, Japan, July 7-9th.

Raging its way through Okinawa, pounding the island with wind gusts up to 100 mph and heavy rain fall, Neoguri, the Category 4 typhoon, made its presence known. After two days, Kadena held up to the blunt force of the super typhoon and the island was placed in Typhoon Cyclone Condition of Readiness 1-Recovery. TCCOR-1R allowed for emergency essential personnel, such as the civil engineers, medics, firefighters and security forces, assigned to Kadena to begin assessing and reporting damage done to the base.

It was just a another shift for 18th Security Forces members Airman 1st Class Brandon Miles and Roderick Jones, defenders who were assigned to the Munitions Storage Area guard shack, line gate 19.

The two members, good friends, guarded the gate in the confines of the guard shack, checking the scarce vehicles that did come, passing the time with friendly conversation and working on career development courses.

"Most of night was spent talking and doing CDCs," Miles said. "We were sitting in there minding our own business."

Around 6 a.m., the defenders noticed water slowly rising under the underpass of the munitions gate and notified the Base Defense Operation Center of the current situation by way of radio. Shortly after, water began to seep in from under the door of the guard shack due to a rapidly forming river located on the back side of the building.

"We slowly began to notice flooding moving up toward the gate, and after a while we heard gushing water coming from behind us." Miles said.

Jones responded by alerting BDOC of the situation over the radio, stating the water was rising and he and Miles were unable to get the shack door open.

BDOC quickly dispatched Master Sgt. Brad Reeves, 18th SFS flight chief, and eight other defenders to head out to the scene and evacuate the trapped defenders in the guard shack. They also contacted Kadena Fire Emergency Services who sent two fire engines out to the scene.

The responders found the area was flooded and impassable due to the heavy rain from the super typhoon and determined the only way to get to the site was to go off road or by foot.

"We attempted to take Perimeter Road, and later Highway 74, and found both had been flooded and impassable," Reeves said. "So I decided to go back to Perimeter Road and reach them by foot."

Back at the guard shack, with continued communication with BDOC and Reeves, Jones requested permission to shoot out a window using his assigned 9MM weapon. Reeves immediately denied the request, due to the windows in the shack being bullet proof and fear of the bullets ricocheting in the confined space.

All patrols arrived on scene at 7 a.m. Assessing what lay ahead, the responders noticed the water was now almost to the roof the guard shack, leaving the Airmen trapped inside with zero visibility and heavy rain showing no signs of stopping. Reeves and another 18th SFS member hopped in the water, ensured the water current was passable and proceeded to cut the locks on the gate. They were followed by the team of cops and firefighters who swam to the guard shack and secured a safety line to the shack.

"The gate shack was under at least 10 feet of water now," Reeves said. "We began swimming toward the guard shack immediately after getting past the gate. Some of the Airman began trying to open the door and break windows."

Unable to get to the door and out of any other options, the responders decided to get inside of the shack by creating a hole in the roof.

The responders grabbed tools such as axes, sledge hammers, k-12 saws, multi-tools, chisels and pry bars, and swam through the flood water using the safety line to get to and from the guard shack. After climbing onto the roof, they tried cutting a hole using a k-12 saw until it malfunctioned. With the k-12 out of commission, responders took turns hacking away at the 8-12 inches of reinforced concrete that stood between them and the trapped Airmen.

"We just grabbed what we could," Reeves said. "We kept switching in and out, taking turns striking the roof to break a hole through to get them out."

Trying to stay calm but desperate for air, the two trapped defenders ran out of ideas. Panicking, Jones banged his head on the ceiling and damaged the tile.

Realizing the ceiling could be broken through, the defenders clawed the ceiling with their hands until they reached metal railings. Breaking the railing and un-doing the latches revealed more room and breathable space but a concrete layer that just couldn't be broken through by bare hands.

"After we got past the roof and unlatched the railing, I could hear the responders on top of the guard shack and began to communicate with them, "Jones said.

When a corner of the shack began to crumble and with debris falling, Miles swam over and alerted the responders that he and Jones were still alive. They began motivating and encouraging the responders to keep going and received encouragement back. The hole grew larger and the trapped defenders grew more confident they were going to make it out, even with the water now inches from the ceiling.

"We saw light, it was coming through," said Jones.

Master Sgt. Duggins, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron assistant chief of operations, and another firefighter grabbed replacement k-12 saws and blades and other tools and transferred the equipment across the water using the safety line. With the equipment, the team was able to cut a hole approximately 12 x 18 inches through the roof and reach the trapped Airmen.

"I looked into the hole and saw no more than 6 to 8 inches of breathing space left," said Duggins.

The responders pulled Miles out of the flooded shack first. Duggins assisted Miles across the water and got the cold and shaking Airman to the on-scene medical ambulance for assessment.

Next was Jones, but he was unable to fit through the hole in the roof. The teams of first responders chiseled away at the opening, and after a few minutes were able to make a larger hole for Jones, and pulled him from the shack.

"We weren't sure we were going to get out, and when we did it felt amazing," said Jones. "I was freezing, but it was amazing."

After rescuing the Airmen, Reeves and Duggins checked to see how much breathable space was left in the shack, revealing within only a few moments anyone still trapped inside would have drowned. Jones and Miles were transported to Fire Station 1 where medical personnel further examined them.

"The lives of these two Airmen were in our hands," Duggins said. "It's only that we had faith in each other and confidence in one another that this rescue operation was a success."

Back at the scene, after taking accountability for all personnel and equipment, the team of first responders departed back to their respective squadrons for debrief.

The team of cops and firefighters who responded to the scene, worked together to save the lives of their wingmen. Understanding the concept of having a wingman, and helping each other through critical situations by staying motived and calm, proved vital for Jones and Miles.

"They were there for us the whole time," said Miles. "They did not leave their wingmen behind."

4th OSS weather flight recognized by Air Force

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

7/17/2014 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- The 4th Operations Support Squadron weather flight was recently selected as the 2013 Air Force Outstanding Weather Organization Below Squadron Level.

The weather flight was selected among more than 100 weather units throughout the Air Force for its mission effectiveness in supporting the Air Force's largest F-15E Strike Eagle fighter wing and for exemplary compliance with the Air Force Instructions

"This is a prestigious award and was well-deserved," said Capt. Michelle Werness, 4th OSS wing weather officer. "Our flight has really come to together as a team and excelled in bringing a necessary capability to the wing. I expected a lot from them, and they delivered."

The flight, consisting of 12 Airmen, is responsible for providing weather forecasts for all pilots and weapon systems officers assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing and 916th Air Refueling Wing. Over the course of the year, the flight provided more than 3,000 forecast briefings enabling more than 12,000 sorties.

"Our Airmen are extremely busy at times," said Master Sgt. Steve Balli, 4th OSS weather flight chief. "Over the past year, they've worked hard to support a busy fighter and refueling wing. When the weather was bad, they really stepped up to the challenge and showed great personal and team commitment to their mission. They are deserving of this award."

They also helped provide up to date weather alerts to more than 5,000 people on the installation and helped lead the 4th FW to Air Combat Command's first active-duty fighter wing "excellent" rating in 11 years, during a wing-wide inspection

"When the weather gets bad, our Airmen get busy," Werness said. "During the multiple snow events, tropical storms and other adverse weather conditions, I got to see my Airmen work tremendously well as a team. It makes me very proud to see the level of service they provide to this installation in support of its mission."

Master Sgt. Steven Perez, 4th OSS weather flight chief, also expressed his pride in selflessness of the flight's Airmen and their recent accomplishments.

"I'm really honored to be part of such a hard working flight," Perez said. "Weather is a complex science. It's nice to be recognized for the many things our Airmen contribute to the mission and the countless hours of work they put into perfecting their craft."

The award will be presented to the unit during a ceremony at a later date.

202nd Engineering Installation Squadron honors Guard members, families during ceremony

by Capt. Pamela Stauffer
116th ACW PA

7/16/2014 - 7/16/2014 -- More than 50 Georgia Air National Guard members and families from the 202nd EIS were honored on Jul. 13 for their accomplishments, heroism and sacrifice during a ceremony at the Coats Hall.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Moore, commander of the Georgia Air National Guard, presided over the event which included an awards presentation of the Bronze Star, the Air Force and Army Commendation medals, and the Air Force Achievement Medal. Immediately following the presentation was the Hometown Heroes Salute ceremony.

"It is always a happy occasion to welcome our people home to their families," said Moore. "Favorable recognition has been brought to the Georgia Air National Guard through the meritorious performance of the four individuals receiving the Bronze Star."

Senior Master Sgts. Mark Buchanan, cyberspace systems integrator, and George Kight, superintendent of logistics plans and programs, Master Sgt. Jason Gardner, ground safety manager, and Major Will Jacobs, officer in charge of the electronics section, were awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service during contingency operations since 2010.

Buchanan has spent 30 years in the military and has deployed three times.

According to Buchanan, his previous deployment was the most difficult because he forward deployed to an area where a terrorist brought an explosive device to the front gate of the base, 800 meters away from where Buchanan was located.

A forward deployment requires a deployed person to move from their first deployed location to a second location; often to an undisclosed area.

"For 30 years, my family have made personal sacrifices and been there to continuously encourage me as I met the challenges of my duties," said Buchanan. "My wife understands the special circumstances of being in the military and also extends support to military families from Robins Air Force Base who reside within multiple housing communities."

Lt. Col. Fred Walker, now the commander of the 202nd, was awarded the Bronze Star from his 2011 deployment.

"My daughter was set to get married in the middle of my deployment so we moved up the wedding date." said Walker. "You can imagine the family's reaction when we moved the date but couldn't tell them why because of the security of the deployment."

The 202nd EIS has a total of eight Bronze Star recipients within their squadron; 50 percent of the recipients are in the enlisted core.

"There is nothing but pride and honor for the men and women who've served with such distinction and met the challenges head on," said Walker.

As the Bronze Star recipients left the stage, more than 50 Airmen lined up to be recognized by Moore, Walker, and Chief Master Sgt. Joe Greene, state command chief of the Georgia Department of Defense.

Hometown Heroes Salute award recipients and their families were recognized for their support of contingency operations for more than 180 consecutive days across the globe.

"Hometown Heroes is what the National Guard is all about," said Moore. "I'm so proud of all of the people who deployed and I'm grateful to the families who support them."

Family members, colleagues and friends watched their honoree grin as they crossed the stage at Coats Hall.

"These events take so much effort to put together, but when I see the smile on a child's face when their parent walks across the stage, it makes the hard work worth it." said Senior Master Sgt. Robert Dalton, superintendent of the 202nd EIS.

U.S. Officials: Russia Increasing Support for Ukraine Rebels

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2014 – Obama administration officials say Russia’s support for pro-Russian separatists in neighboring Ukraine is increasing, and Pentagon officials are citing a buildup of Russian forces along their shared border.

“We are concerned about the build-up we see along the Russia-Ukraine border,” Pentagon Spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said. “Overall, the increase in Russian presence along the Ukrainian border is concerning.”

Last night, White House officials speaking on background provided more details of the situation in Ukraine during a conference call with reporters.

Russia has increased the number of combat troops on Ukraine’s border to around 12,000 and continues to ship weapons – including heavy weapons – to separatists inside Ukraine who favor Russian rule, senior administration officials said.

“There is an off-ramp here for Russia if it would choose to take it, and we have consistently supported the Ukrainians in pursuing a diplomatic path,” one official said, noting that the United States supported newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s peace plan.

That plan calls for a bilateral cease-fire, a release of hostages, a sealing of the Russia-Ukraine border monitored by the Office of Security Cooperation in Europe, and an end to the flow of weapons crossing the border.

Poroshenko was not able to get a bilateral cease-fire, and called a 10-day unilateral cease-fire. “Unfortunately, the Ukrainian side honored that, and the separatists did not,” the official said. “There were some 100 violations of the cease-fire, and more heavy weapons found their way into Ukraine. The Ukrainians lost three border posts to separatists during that time.”

Ukraine has moved against the separatists and made some significant gains on the ground, the official said, including the liberation of key towns, including Slavyansk and Svyatogorsk.

“On July 14, Ukrainians lost an An-26 transport jet, which was shot down from an altitude of 21,000 feet, with eight crew on board,” the U.S. official said. “Only very sophisticated weapons systems would be able to reach this height. On July 15, … several bridges into Donetsk were taken by separatists, as well as continued attacks on border checkpoints.”

The separatists have also been using increasingly sophisticated tactics, “indicating training and coordination from outside,” he said.

“From that perspective, after more than a month of asking us … to withhold further sanctions while they tried to implement their peace plan,” the official said, “the Ukrainians have now urged … the U.S., Canada and the [European Union] to take further sanctions measures, because the Russians have not responded to the repeated diplomatic efforts led by the Ukrainians and supported by us.”

Homestead weapons load crews compete for top honors

by Senior Airman Nicholas Caceres
482nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/16/2014 - HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla.  -- The 482nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron held the Homestead Weapons Load Crew of the Year Competition here July 13.

The load crew competition is a time-honored tradition that showcases the capabilities and skills of load teams. The competition highlights a crew's ability to work together as a team as well as maintain standards of excellence under pressure.

Load crews were judged in four categories: dress and personal appearance, consolidated tool kit inspection, general knowledge, and competitive munitions load.

During this competition, three teams -- the 2013 load crew of the quarter winners -- gutted it out loading 'Mako' F-16 Fighting Falcons.

The winning load crew was Staff Sgt. Danessa Gali, Senior Airman William Ford, and Senior Airman Stephen Hoffler, 495th Fighter Group, Detachment 93.

"Today's load competition showcased the dedication and professionalism required of all weapons troops in the unique task of handling of live munitions," said Tech. Sgt. Branden Paddock, lead standardization crewmember and event planner. "Their ability to consistently execute their job under pressure keeps our country safe and our enemies fearful."

DoD, DoJ Improve Sexual Assault Response Advocate Training

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2014 – The Defense Department teamed up with the Justice Department to produce an advanced training program for advocates who provide support to military victims of sexual assault, senior DoD and Justice Department officials said.

DoD collaborated with the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime to develop a curriculum that expands on the skills learned in initial sexual assault response coordinator and sexual assault prevention and response victim advocate training. The Advanced Military Sexual Assault Advocate Training is designed to enhance victim advocacy skills across the services, officials said.

“It was important to collaborate with the Office for Victims of Crime and tailor an advanced training to meet the needs of advocates supporting military victims,” said Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow, director of DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “The professional advocates in the Defense Department -- both military and civilian -- provide critical support to victims of this crime and are central to building victim confidence. We are able to combine the Justice Department’s expertise in learning development with DoD’s victim-centered approach to training and policy.”

The advanced training is part of DoD’s ongoing efforts to educate response professionals and add to the quality of support sexual assault victims receive. The 20-hour online course provides sexual assault advocacy skills training through role-playing scenarios that require course participation and interactivity, building on the skills learned during initial certification. This training also counts toward continuing education requirements for biennial certification through the department’s Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program.

“This groundbreaking partnership between the Office for Victims of Crime and the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office makes state-of-the-art training available to sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates who serve victims on military installations,” said Joye E. Frost, the director of the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime.

“As the Department of Defense moves forward with policy changes that affect victims of sexual assault in the military services, we believe this accessible and cost-effective online training will play an important role in changing the landscape of the military response to victims,” Frost added.

Recent policy changes at the Defense Department are designed to ensure that survivors of sexual assault have access to a trained and professional system of support. DoD created a special victims counsel program to provide free legal consultation and representation to victims of sexual assault throughout the justice process.

Another reform supports a special victim capability for the investigators and legal personnel who respond to allegations of sexual assault. Additionally, all response coordinators and victim advocates are certified through D-SAACP, a certification program established with the National Organization for Victim Assistance.

“We measure our results in the choices of victims, who are now reporting in unprecedented numbers,” Snow said. “Working with the Office for Victims of Crime to implement their best practices in DoD training promotes greater awareness of the issues victims face and enables our responders across the services to provide the support and resources victims need.”

Grissom runway reopens after renovation

by Staff Sgt. Ben Mota
434th ARW Public Affairs

7/17/2014 - GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind.  -- Grissom's runway re-opened at 7:30 a.m. July 16, and it didn't take long for the unit's jets to start making their way home.

The first KC-135R Stratotankers began arriving at 10:30 a.m. following relocation to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, on June 1 for a $3.2 million project that added expansion joints in the runway.

"Thanks to the hard work of the entire construction team the runway project was completed on time," said Col. Doug Schwartz, 434th Air Refueling Wing commander. "We are extremely excited to welcome our KC-135s back to Grissom as we resume normal operations."

While the unit's tankers were heading home, another aircraft arrived earlier for a temporary visit.

The first aircraft to use the newly renovated runway was a Boeing 757 arriving for painting at a local business.

Even though a commercial aircraft touched down first, the majority of flights scheduled were those belonging to the 434th ARW and returning from their temporary home.

In all, 15 KC-135Rs departed the base during the construction. However one of the Stratotankers stayed behind to undergo a scheduled inspection and refurbishment.

"Many thanks to our friends at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio from the 88 Air Base Wing and the 445th Airlift Wing for their tremendous support that enabled us to continue our air refueling mission," said Schwartz.

ACC commander holds all call at Homestead

by Maj. Brooke Cortez
482nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/16/2014 - HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. -- General Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, held an all call here July 14.

The general discussed sequestration challenges as well as efforts to ensure continued air superiority through replacing legacy fleets and selectively refurbishing existing assets.

"We live in a world of limited resources," Hostage said. "It's an interesting and unstable world... bad stuff is going to happen and we're going to be called upon to respond, and we're going to have to be ready."

Preventing a hollow force is one of the overarching principles outlined in the 2014 ACC Strategic Plan. Hostage discussed how he's prepared to accept the short term risk of minimally maintaining current aviation assets to fund development of an advanced air fleet.

Currently, the 482nd Fighter Wing here supports the ACC combat mission with 26 F-16 aircraft. Looking toward the future, it is postured to eventually transition to the F-35 next-generation airframe.

According to the ACC Strategic Plan, potential adversaries are acquiring or developing the means to challenge the U.S. military and threaten the U.S. homeland. Hostage noted that investing in advanced fleets of aviation will help ensure the military is prepared for future threats.

The wing is the host unit for an Active Duty unit integrated under the Total Force Integration (TFI) initiative. The general commented that the Air Force is committed to the TFI path of 'One Wing, One Boss, One Fight.' One of the challenges of TFI the general outlined was getting outdated legislation updated regarding regulations on use of a militia force, which impacts the Air National Guard.

The all call was concluded with Hostage sharing his perspective on service, and how the country and military has changed throughout his 37-year career.

"What's unique about our society is that we have a Bill of Rights that gives individuals unalienable rights that cannot be taken away by the majority," he said. "The reason we're all sitting here today is because somebody put on a uniform generations ago, fought and died to protect us, to protect that flickering flame of liberty."

The general calculated that just 5 percent of the entire world's population throughout history has experienced what it's like to live with liberty, and that people in the military represent a fraction of that population.

The community is extremely supportive of the military, and Hostage described what many uniformed military members experience out in public today.

"The good news is that the American public today appreciates what we do," he said. "You can wear your uniform in public - in an airport, you can't go 20 paces without someone thanking you for your service. That wasn't the case when I came in 37 years ago. I was not allowed to wear my uniform unless I was inside the ROTC building because people would throw stuff at us. The American public associated the politics of war with the warrior. That's not the case today."

Along with a supportive community, Hostage explained how he always makes a point of thanking members for their service.

"I try to make it a point to tell our Airmen that your service is important," he said. "You're preserving something that is really unique in our in human history and that's liberty. You're preserving it for future generations, so thank you for serving and doing what you do for your country."