Military News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

After long gap, JBER once again has a Jewish chaplain

by Chris McCann
JBER Public Affairs


8/21/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- He wanted to be an astronaut.

Armed with an undergraduate degree in astrophysics, he was commissioned into the Air Force, ready to achieve his dream.

Instead, he was made a missileer and chose to be stationed at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.
Now, he's a Jewish chaplain.

Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Michael Bram was raised in Milwaukee, Wis., as a Reform Jew.
"My father and I went to synagogue every Friday night," he said.

Reform (or Progressive) Judaism is fairly secular in nature, and does not regard traditional Jewish laws as binding, but rather focuses on personal autonomy and responsibility.
Before making a duty-station choice, Bram looked at the telephone directories for communities around the Air Force bases - in Minot; Cheyenne, Wyo.; and Great Falls, Mont. Minot had a synagogue, so he chose Minot.

"If I'd picked up the phone and called, I'd have discovered the line had been disconnected for years," he said with a laugh. "The synagogue was open two days a year - Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur."

However, religious observance was still important to him. There were two other Jewish service members on the base, and the three of them got permission to use the town's synagogue for weekly services. After a year, he said, one of them made a permanent change-of-station move, and Bram became the lay leader. His job as a missileer gave him the perfect opportunity to study more about his faith.

"You're sitting there in the capsule for 24 hours," he said. "Most days, there's not a lot to do. The week of 9/11 was a little crazy, but mostly you've got about six hours of work and then ... nothing."

Fortunately, he'd gotten to know a couple of Jewish chaplains in the Air Force. They provided lists of books, and Bram had time to read.

"Being a lay leader became more important to me than my real job," he said. He started leading services out of an Orthodox siddur, or prayer book. He visited one of the chaplains, an Orthodox rabbi, at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., and spent a Sabbath with the family.

"My first [Sabbath] back, we had our morning service, and we were done by 9:30 a.m.," he said. After experiencing how an Orthodox family observes Sabbath, merely going through the prayer book fell more than a little flat.

He wanted to become Orthodox. But the reality of the Air Force - especially in his career field - meant he wouldn't be able to do so.

"I had no idea what to do, but I knew I'd have to leave the Air Force, and I was sad," he said. He made plans to go to a yeshiva - similar to a seminary - and leave active duty behind.

Then someone suggested he become a chaplain.

"Initially I dismissed it. Then I realized I could stay in the Air Force and have the best of both worlds," he said.

He was released from active duty and went to Monsey, N.Y., a community with about 30,000 Orthodox Jews, to attend Ohr Somayach Educational Center, a yeshiva which caters to students with little or no background in Jewish studies.

"I loved every minute of it," he said. "I wouldn't trade it for the world."

After three years, he completed his studies there and receieved his semikha, or ordination as a rabbi, and returned to the Air Force; he was stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. He quickly discovered that his prior service, being in a vastly different career field, had not quite equipped him for the current mission.

"It was like drinking from a firehose," he said. "But the staff mentored me. Still, it was a challenge to reassimilate, and I had to learn things."

After three years there, he moved to Joint Base San Antonio, where he spent three years, and came to JBER in July.

Orthodox Judaism, much like the military, has "rules" that can seem strange to those who aren't used to them.

A Soldier doesn't smoke while walking in uniform; an observant Jew doesn't answer the phone on the Sabbath. But the 24/7 nature of military service means Jewish observance may be challenging.

Bram hasn't found that to be a problem.

"People are very accomodating, I think because I am accomodating," he said.

For example, driving on Sabbath is not permitted, but Bram needed to be available during the Arctic Thunder Open House in July. He stayed on base so he wouldn't need to drive. He works on Christian holidays, freeing up those chaplains.

"We find creative ways to make it work," he said. "And I'm pragmatic. Not everyone can live in Monsey."

His kippah, or yarmulke, is distinctive, but the question he gets most about it is how he manages to make it stay on.

Sometimes, being different is a benefit.

"Christians sometimes come to me when they're questioning their faith," he said. "They believe - wrongly believe - that a Christian chaplain will judge them or push them. So they prefer to talk to a non-Christian."

Like any chaplain, Bram said he doesn't steer people toward any religion in particular, or any religion at all - he's just there to offer support and guidance.

After many years without a Jewish chaplain on JBER, Bram is starting a program of services.

On Sept. 7, a kickoff barbecue will be hosted at the 611 Chalet on JBER-Elmendorf. The chalet is near Sixmile Lake; take Fairchild Avenue around the back of the flightline and follow the signs.

Shabbat evening services will take place the first Friday of each month, beginning Sept. 5 at the Heritage Chapel at 6 p.m.

For the High Holidays, Rosh haShanah services will be at the Heritage Chapel Sept. 24 and 25 at 7 p.m., followed by a kiddush. The Yom Kippur Kol Nidrei service will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. There will be Yom Kippur Shacharit and Musaf services Oct. 4 at 9 a.m., and Ne'ilah at 7 p.m., followed by a kiddush.

For more information, call the Religious Operations Center at 552-5762 or 384-1461.

First-ever ANG Director of Psychological Health of the Year Award presented

by Senior Airmen Hannah Landeros
188th Wing Public Affairs


8/19/2014 - FORT SMITH, Arkansas -- The first-ever ANG Director of Psychological Health of the Year Award was presented during a 188th Wing commander's call at Ebbing Air National Guard Base here Aug. 3.

Geoff Gibson, 188th Wing director of psychological health, was presented the award for his extensive and selfless service to the Arkansas National Guard.

With the anniversary of 9/11 approaching, Americans will reflect on nearly 13 years of war. After years of deployments and posturing in preparation, families and members of the Arkansas National Guard have required various types of support functions such as psychological and mental health care. In order to meet their needs, Gibson was hired as the director of psychological health, a newly created position across the ANG.

Gibson's hard work earned him this award that recognizes an outstanding DPH who shows true dedication to service members and their families.

"I am incredibly honored to receive this recognition," Gibson said. "I see myself as part of an amazing team."

Beginning his career in June 2011, Gibson became one of the first DPH's hired nationally and the first in base history.

"Geoff has definitely gone above and beyond in assisting unit members and their families experiencing stressors, grief, loss and change," said Lt. Col. Judith Mathewson, 188th Mission Support Group deputy commander. "He creates a positive atmosphere in our wing and teams up with Airmen, the base chaplains, Airman and Family Readiness Office and other community support services."

During a four-month vacancy of the state DPH position in 2013-2014, Gibson stepped up by providing psychological health coverage and supported nearly 3,000 Arkansas National Guardsmen.

"Geoff has earned the trust of all senior leaders and that confidence allows them to refer individuals to him without fear of repercussions or a breach of confidentiality," Mathewson said.

Gibson said the DPH's responsibilities range from aiding service members with personal, work or mental health issues to referring out to other community resources. Additional responsibilities include crisis response with ongoing follow-ups as well as consulting with leaders to help them assist their Airmen.

"Geoff's briefings on grief, loss, stress, family issues, substance abuse, suicide prevention and other topics during the mission conversion over the past year have been well-received," Mathewson said. "His delivery of important self-care and member care has served as a great asset to the readiness and resilience."

Gibson's other accomplishments include assisting senior leadership in planning and implementing an annual Wingman day. He also provides counseling sessions to those experiencing traumatic and challenging situations from the unit deployments, along with numerous other squadron and individual deployments.

In 2012, Gibson was appointed by Maj. Gen. William Wofford, Arkansas National Guard adjutant general, as a key member of the Resilience, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Council. As an active member of R3SPC, Gibson supported the analysis and development of the program across the Arkansas National Guard by providing risks and solutions on a quarterly basis.

He plays a key role in the 188th Wing's ongoing conversion from manned aircraft to remotely piloted aircraft and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission sets. Gibson aids Airmen previously assigned to specialties associated with the old mission to their new careers.

"When Geoff was hired he didn't sit around hoping to find his role," said Col. Mark Anderson, 188th Wing commander. "He was engaged and energetic from day one. His confidence together with his unmatched professional skills and a caring heart has led to his complete acceptance by the wing."

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 Holds Change of Command Ceremony



By Lt. Andrew Bradstreet, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 Public Affairs

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (NNS) -- Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 held a change of command ceremony at the squadron's hangar aboard Andersen Air Force Base, Aug. 21.

During the ceremony, Cmdr. Gabriel Soltero relieved Cmdr. Gregory Leland as commanding officer of HSC-25.

Since Leland, a native of Marlborough, Massachusetts, assumed command of HSC-25 in November 2013, he has overseen the deployment of three squadron armed helicopter detachments for year-round support to USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and two other detachments aboard USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE 10) and USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11). He also oversaw the 24 hour search and rescue (SAR) and medevac alert for the Northern Mariana Islands, resulting in five SARs, 16 medevacs and 34 lives saved.

Leland's next assignment is at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Soltero, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, assumed command of HSC-25 after attending the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, where he earned a Master of Arts in national security and strategic studies. Before the War College, he served as the commanding officer of HSC-15 at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, California.

HSC-25 is the Navy's only forward-deployed MH-60S expeditionary squadron. As part of Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Pacific, it provides an armed helicopter capability for U.S. 7th Fleet in support of anti-surface warfare, personnel recovery, special operation forces missions and humanitarian assistance.

Ex-USS Saratoga Departs NAVSTA Newport for Dismantling and Recycling



By Lisa Woodbury Rama, Naval Station Newport Public Affairs

NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Thousands of spectators lined the shores of Narragansett Bay Aug. 21 to view the final departure from Newport of the ex-USS Saratoga (CV 60) as she left Pier 1, Naval Station (NAVSTA) Newport, enroute to her final destination at a dismantling facility in Brownsville, Texas.

The ship arrived in Newport Aug. 7, 1998 following 38 years of commissioned service from 1956 to 1994.

She arrived to what was then the Naval Education and Training Center Aug. 7, 1998 following four years in storage at the Philadelphia shipyard.

The Saratoga, the second carrier of the Forrestal class, completed 22 deployments during her career, including the service off the coast of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and in the Persian Gulf in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

She was decommissioned Aug. 20, 1994 in Mayport, Florida.

"It's sad that she could not be turned into a museum," said Darryl Fern, 51, of Tatamy, Pennsylvania. Fern, a member of the USS Saratoga Association, was videotaping from the shoreline as the commercial tugs guided her into the main channel of the bay. He served as an electrician's mate second class aboard the Saratoga, 1982-1984.

"Like all the other older carriers, it's time for her to meet her demise," he said.

"She served proudly for a long time," said Mitchell Abood, 48, of Belchertown, Massachusetts. He served as an avionics technician third class with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 125 aboard Saratoga from 1985-1987.

"A ship like this shouldn't be taken apart piece by piece," he said. Abood served during the carrier's Mediterranean deployments in 1985 and 1987.

Joe Roberts, an explosives safety specialist at NAVSTA Newport, served aboard the Saratoga during Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield. Roberts recalled his service saying, "there is a bit sadness that the Saratoga will never be seen again."

Pier 1 berthed Navy ships until 1973, when the Shore Establishment Realignment program relocated all Newport-based ships to southern ports.

The pier was leased to the State of Rhode Island for a period of time and remained vacant of ships between 1992 and 1998 until the Saratoga arrived.

The Navy competitively awarded the contract May 8 to ESCO Marine of Brownsville, Texas, for the towing, dismantling and recycling of conventionally powered aircraft carriers stricken from the Naval Vessel Register.

As part of the planning process for the relocation, teams from Naval Sea Systems Command Inactive Ships and ESCO Marine arrived at NAVSTA Newport to assess the condition of the vessel and prepare the work plan.

Mother Nature was determined to have her way with this operation. It was verified that a pair of Peregrine falcons had yet again decided to start a family in a nest adjacent to the elevators on the ship and, after consultation with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, any movement plans were put on hold until after Aug. 15 to be certain that any fledglings would have ample time to learn to fly and move elsewhere.

On Aug. 13, after viewing long range forecasts and performing final equipment checks, the date was set to relocate the ship Aug. 20.

Excess safety lines were severed Aug. 19 when the Newport weather forecast called for clear skies with little wind.

NOAA meteorologists checked the forecast throughout the Atlantic seaboard since the ship would depart Newport then head south to Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico prior to her final destination. A low pressure system off the coast of West Africa caused the original plan to be delayed for safety.

On the original day of the movement, the teams met again at 4 p.m. for an extensive review of weather patterns. A decision was made to re-evaluate the forecast at 2 a.m.

Checking that forecast proved the "go" for the operation as the weather system that was a concern for the tug captain appeared to be weakening.

At 5:30 a.m. this morning, the movement team arrived on station with the tugs arriving at 5:55 a.m., a safety brief was completed and the lines began to be pulled up alongside the ship to hold her on the pier as the Anaconda Lines, bow and stern chains and other tethers were disconnected.

By 7:30 a.m. the last of the two tugs had arrived on site from Providence, the pilots were on board the ship and the mooring lines at the stern were released to clear the way for the last tug to make the stern connection.

By 7:40 a.m. the last line was dropped and the connection that this ship has held to Newport for more than 16 years was severed.

The tugs took control of the ship and eased her out to the middle of Narragansett Bay's main shipping lane where the main tow ship, the Signet Warhorse III, was positioned to begin towing.

Saratoga was underway to Texas at 9:31 a.m. The trip is expected to take approximately 16 days with an anticipated arrival Sept. 6.

910th, Ohio Guard, ESGR team up for employer awareness event

by Master Sgt. Bob Barko Jr.
910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office


8/21/2014 - YOUNGSTOWN AIR RESERVE STATION, Ohio -- The Air Force Reserve's 910th Airlift Wing here, the Ohio National Guard and Ohio Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve co-presented the 2nd Annual Joint Employer Awareness Event, August 7- 8.

The two-day event, designed to give civilian employers of Air Force Reservists and Ohio National Guardsmen a better understanding of the mission their employees carry out as members of the U.S. Armed Forces, also gave attendees the opportunity to get an up-close look at both the 910th's facilities and the Ohio National Guard's Joint Military Training Center, located at nearby Camp Ravenna, Ohio.

During the two-day event, event attendees observed 910th Civil Engineer Fire Department training at the YARS fire training facility, viewed 910th Security Forces and Marine Reserve equipment displays, witnessed an aircraft cargo on-load of the unit's unique Modular Aerial Spray System, walked through a C-130 and toured several shops on the air station. The day culminated with the group watching as a 757th Airlift Squadron aircrew, in one of the 910th's C-130 Hercules aircraft, roared over a nearby target area at 200 miles per hour at 150 feet above the ground to perform an aerial spray training flight.

The next day the itinerary included visits to various Ohio National Guard training sites at Camp Ravenna including hands-on weapons simulators, a Humvee roll over training vehicle, an Improvised Explosive Device recognition course and a state-of-the-art urban combat "shoot" house. The event also included complimentary meals and lodging at the YARS Eagle's Nest Lodge for the attendees. Soon after the two-day itinerary concluded, a participant commented on the impression the event left on him.

"Thanks to everyone involved with this event. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to attend. It was a real eye opener. The facility(ies) and men and women who operate (them) are outstanding," said Mike Kinter, an employer with the Belmont County Human Resources Department.

Milestones aplenty for the Hercules and the Flying Yankees

by Maj. Bryon Turner
103rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs


8/21/2014 - EAST GRANBY, Conn.  -- The Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft will turn 60 years old Aug. 23 and the Airmen of the 103rd Airlift Wing at Bradley Air National Guard Base here are projected to receive the unit's eighth and final C-130H within a month, marking an important milestone for operations.

The C-130 has been in continuous production longer than any other military aircraft and has earned a reputation as a "workhorse" ready for any mission.

"There is no aircraft in aviation history -- either developed or under development -- that can match the flexibility, versatility and relevance of the C-130 Hercules," according to the Lockheed Martin's website , the aircraft's manufacturer.

The C-130's positive attributes and mission capabilities are not lost on the Airmen of the 103rd AW, and they're eager to talk about it.

"It's enjoyable to fly an airplane with such a wide range of capabilities that complements a diverse mission set," said Maj. Christopher Papa, a flight commander with the 118th Airlift Squadron. "On a single two-hour training sortie, it's not unusual to experience low-level airdrops, tactical arrivals, and maximum-effort, [also known as] assault, take-offs and landings. Multi-ship formations and night-vision goggle flying make those capabilities even more remarkable."

The first C-130H assigned to the 103rd AW arrived Sept. 24, 2013, and now, less than a year later, the unit's fleet is nearly whole. Each aircraft is emblazoned with the Flying Yankee's traditional black and yellow thunderbolt along with the image of the late Capt. Joseph Wadsworth, who legend tells us secreted Connecticut's colonial charter within an oak tree to keep it from being seized by the British during colonial times. The tail flash artwork borrows elements from the wing's patch, a nod to the storied unit's proud lineage as the next chapter in its history unfolds.

"This milestone is incredibly important for the Flying Yankees because the longevity and proud history of the C-130 bodes so well for the future on the Connecticut Air National Guard," said Col. Frank Detorie, commander of the 103rd AW. "We are now inextricably tied to the tactical airlift mission and our conversion to the venerable Hercules points to a very bright future at Bradley."

While acquiring all of the assigned aircraft is a critical element the 103rd AW's ongoing conversion efforts, developing experienced and well-trained air crews, maintainers, logisticians and other support capabilities is also crucial.

"The challenge is to get qualified people to serve as pilots, navigators, flight engineers and loadmasters. Over the past few months, the strength management team and members of the 103rd Operations Group have come a long way with recruiting qualified members," said Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Jenkins, recruiting and retention superintendent. "We've advertised opportunities and have been in contact with recruiters who work on active-duty bases to bring in qualified aviators who have expressed an interest in leaving the active duty and possibly joining the Air National Guard. But the best way for the base to recruit qualified members into these emerging career fields is through word-of-mouth from our own unit members."

The unit wasted no time in providing academic and hands-on training for the Airmen of the wing, sending more than 200 new and cross-training Airmen to technical schools and conducting additional training both here at home station and while deployed.

"Since September 2013, we have processed 207 initial skills and retraining formal school students directly related to the C-130H conversion, from pilots to maintainers," said Master Sgt. Johnny Ross, force development office superintendent.

The unit is projected to achieve initial operational capability in 2016, at which time they will move beyond the conversion stage. In the meantime, the men and women of the Flying Yankees continue to focus on developing and sharpening their skills as they work toward the next milestone.

ANG Training, Education Center called 'innovator' in distance learning

by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
I.G. Brown Training and Education Center


8/21/2014 - MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn.  -- The Federal Government Distance Learning Association recently recognized the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center here as an "innovator in distance learning."

The TEC received the FGDLA 2014 Innovation Award.

The award recognizes an organization for "demonstrating leadership in the development of emerging distance learning technologies providing enterprise-wide solutions for the federal government," said an FGDLA announcement.

The TEC's formal recognition is Aug 15 at the FGDLA conference in Virginia.

"This award speaks to the hard work done here to develop TEC's vision in learning techniques and technology," said Gerry Barnes, director of the Warrior Network and a broadcast engineer for TEC.

The award highlights TEC, more specifically the Air National Guard WN program management office at TEC TV.

The FGDLA considered government agencies, organizations, accredited institutions and corporations that support distance learning for the federal government, said its officials.

The WN supports tens of thousands of Airmen each year, via advanced distributive learning products and broadcasts.

The WN provides satellite broadcasts, nationwide, to 186 downlink sites. That includes satellite NCO Academy and Airman Leadership School.

Barnes said that the original purpose for the WN was to deliver cost-effective satellite enlisted professional military education across the Air National Guard, as well as provide distance-learning courses.

The award points out the TEC's efforts toward WN development.

TEC TV began a $2.7 million facility upgrade in 2010 for high-definition broadcasting, along with DVB-S2 transmission, expanded editing capabilities and long-term media storage.

In June 2012, TEC TV developed video tele-training capabilities, also called a high frame-rate, high bit-rate, high-definition and video tele-presence over a dedicated network.

VTT was designed for TEC TV, the Air National Guard Readiness Center and various other sites to provide studio-originated training and education programming, according to Barnes.

Site participants provide video and audio feedback through VTT to the TEC TV control room for instructor interaction and integration into satellite broadcasts.

Beginning with nine original sites, the VTT concept expanded to 14 sites with more sites planned in 2014.

"This initiative has significantly reduced travel costs while enabling a high level of knowledge transfer and skill retention," said Barnes.

3rd AF Commander visits Airmen in Bulgaria



by Senior Airman Hailey Haux
USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs

8/21/2014 - PLOVDIV, Bulgaria -- Airmen from the 48th Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, received a visit from the 3rd Air Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, while on temporary duty at Graf Ignatievo Air Base near Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Aug. 20.

As part of the visit, Roberson received briefings from the Bulgarian Brig. Gen. Ivan Lalov, Graf Ignatievo Air Base commander, and both U.S. and Bulgarian mission commanders explaining some of the difficulties they have faced and how they have been overcome in order to conduct successful training.

"We are increasing the capabilities of our nation's Air Force with the Bulgarian's Air Force," said Maj. Barak Amundson, 493rd Fighter Squadron pilot and Thracian Eagle 2014 mission coordinator. "We are doing so by working together in the air and on the ground."

The 3rd Air Force commander was able to get up close and personal with Bulgarian aircraft, hopping in the cockpits of three different aircraft before taking the time to give some encouraging words to 48th Fighter Wing Airmen.

"What you are doing here is really important," said Roberson. "It's important on many levels. I appreciate what you're doing and being ambassadors for America."

Roberson got the chance to meet a few Airmen who have gone above and beyond during this bilateral training event.

"It was an honor to be coined by the 3rd Air Force commander," said Senior Airman Najee Jarrett, 493rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief. "This whole experience is something that I am going to take with me for the rest of my life."


Hancock Field prepares for MQ-9 taxiing in the future

by Senior Airman Duane Morgan
174th Attack Wing Public Affairs


8/19/2014 - SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Members of the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base here and members of the media watched as an Air Force MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft taxied around the upper ramp for the first time Aug 19.

"In my mind it's a milestone the 174th has reached with the new mission and getting the aircraft back here in Syracuse and taking off from Hancock Field," said Chief Master Sgt. Russell Youngs, command chief master sergeant of the 174th Attack Wing. "I know operations and maintenance are putting a lot of effort into ensuring that it's going to be a very safe operation. This is just one more first for this wing and it's really a success story just having it out there on the taxiway."

Many of the 174th Attack Wing members enjoyed seeing the aircraft out on the taxiway.

"It's outstanding to see that we're taking steps to move forward," said Col. John Balbierer, vice commander of the 174th Attack Wing. "It felt good seeing the aircraft out there moving around."

Hancock Field is hoping to have the MQ-9s flying to and from the base in the near future.

"We're hoping that we do it sooner than later," said Youngs. "We already support formal flying training from Wheeler-Sack Army airfield, so all of our sensor operators and pilots are coming through the pipeline and being trained. The Majority of the aircraft are launched from Fort Drum and turned over to our students here in Syracuse."

Youngs would like for people to know just how valuable the aircraft is to the 174th mission.

"Once enough people realize how safe the aircraft is and see how much effort is put into getting one into the air and the professionalism behind it, I think our elected officials in the Federal Aviation Administration will eventually realize this needs to happen," said Youngs. "Things like how aircraft helped the wildfires in California. It's just a matter of time before people realize how important that aircraft could be in saving lives.

Youngs went on to discuss how the MQ-9 can held in a positive way.

"It doesn't always have to be in a negative sense, but there's so much that can happen in a positive manner," Youngs said. "Hurricane relief a few years ago, it would've been nice to have one overhead to get some real-time video feed. When you think of the 274th Air Support Operation Squadron working in Oswego with the Coast Guard maybe saving somebody's life that's sailboat has capsized or personal watercraft has sank and may need some help. So there are a couple good success stories there. I think once we start flying here people realize the importance of the MQ-9."

Soaring with the Eagles: from ground to air after 19 years of service

by Senior Airman Hailey Haux
USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs


8/21/2014 - PLOVDIV, Bulgaria -- The chance to ride in an F-15C Eagle on an incentive flight is a rare occurrence for enlisted Airmen. In fact, it took one Airman nearly 20 years before getting his chance to soar with the Eagles.

Tech. Sgt. Timothy Graham, 493rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit avionics craftsman, has been in the Air Force for 19 years working on aircraft. Coming up on his retirement and last temporary duty to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, where Airmen are conducting bilateral training, Graham was finally able to take that flight.

"The ride was pretty awesome," said Graham after his flight. "It gave me an appreciation of how much actually goes on up there."

Graham joined the Air Force in January 1995 at 21 years old and was the only one in his basic military training flight who knew what his job would be. As an avionics craftsman, it's Graham's job to repair aircraft to keep them mission ready.

"I joined the Air Force and never looked back," said Graham. "I have really enjoyed my job because it's different every day. My hat really goes off to all the maintainers out there, they have an important job."

Doing the same thing for 19 years can make some people go stir crazy, however, Graham says it's all about keeping an open mind and being the best you can be.

"There's not a better avionics guy on the line than Tech. Sgt. Graham," said Staff Sgt. Donald Wilson, 493rd AMU. "He deserves that first flight. He's trained everybody here and we'll miss him."

After retiring in February 2015, Graham and his wife will move to Alaska where he will be continuing his education and taking things easy on his down time.

"I am really going to miss all of this," said Graham. "The camaraderie, BBQs at the house, all the people I work with, everyone is just incredible."

Joint EOD training at Dyess

by Senior Airman Peter Thompson
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


8/21/2014 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams from Dyess Air Force Base and Fort Hood, Texas, trained here Aug. 11-12 to increase knowledge and experience for home station and deployment operations.

During two days of training, Airmen from the 7th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD flight worked alongside U.S. Army Soldiers from the 75th Ordnance Disposal Company, 79th Ordnance Disposal Battalion, 71st Ordnance Group, to get hands-on experience with explosive hazards present on the B-1B Lancer and C-130J.

The Dyess EOD flight supports not only B-1 and C-130 aircraft stationed at Dyess, but to other parts of the base and local areas.

"We respond to suspicious packages on base and if requested, we can help the local police department," said Capt. Kurt Seidl, 7th CES EOD flight chief. "We have traveled around West Texas, as far as Midland and Brownwood. We also train with local bomb squads, the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Department of Homeland Security and the United States Secret Service when requested."

Although EOD members from across the Department of Defense often deploy together, the Dyess EOD flight and 75th OD have separate robotics systems at their home stations. All EOD technicians attend the same school; however, each service has different roles they fill operationally.

While deployed, EOD Airmen face dynamic and ever-changing roles to protect DoD personnel and assets.

"We provide anything from flightline support to deployed operations with sister branches for every aspect of the counter-improvised explosive spectrum," Fleetwood said.

Soldiers from the 75th OD used Dyess' F6A robots in urban scenarios. After improvised suspicious packages were placed throughout an empty dorm building at Dyess AFB, teams would navigate the building, negotiate different methods of removing them and carry out the removal process.

Airmen used the 75th OD's Talon and PackBot on the base EOD range. The Talon and PackBot are commonly used in deployed operations as they are easier to maneuver and carry. Scenarios for maneuverability and problem solving were carried out to test the Airmen's ability to use the machines.

"Our Airmen were able to build valuable and life-saving experience through the training we did here, by working with robotic systems our EOD teams use in overseas operations," said Bryan Fleetwood, EOD flight support technician. "The benefits didn't stop there. They were able to build upon interpersonal communication skills necessary for successful mission accomplishment in a joint service environment."


The Dyess EOD flight is looking to the future and hopes to increase joint training and camaraderie with EOD teams from Fort Hood and other units in the region. In a tight-knit community like EOD, arrangements for training serve an additional purpose; they are also a reunion.

"We see a partnership like this as an opportunity for both the Air Force and Army to share our capabilities and facilities, expanding each service's level of experience, while molding everyone involved into well-rounded, competent EOD technicians," Fleetwood said. "As a result of joint training, we are afforded the opportunity to share stories, lessons learned and the changing trends in our career field with a healthy dose of sibling rivalry, of course."

Saving lives one pilot at a time

by Senior Airman Hailey Haux
USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs


8/19/2014 - PLOVDIV, Bulgaria -- Pilots have an important job in the Air Force, they fly aircraft to deliver goods, fight off unwanted adversaries and provide assistance where needed essentially keeping people safe. But, who keeps the pilots protected while they fly those missions?
That vital responsibility falls on the shoulders of aircrew flight equipment Airmen who take pride in what they do on a daily basis.

"We provide pilots with life-saving equipment which allows them to fly," said Senior Airman Jeffrey Berry, 493rd Fighter Squadron AFE technician. "We fit each pilot with their own set of G-suits, harness, vest, helmet and much more."

From cutting the visor to fitting the oxygen mask on the helmet, it takes roughly three hours to fit a pilot with a brand new helmet to ensure everything works properly. Without the protective gear supplied to them by AFE Airmen, pilots wouldn't be able to fly safely.

"They provide me with the means to stay alive with essential equipment such as oxygen," said Capt. Matthew Scott, 493rd FS electronic control pilot. "They maintain all of our equipment that is critical for our flights. Heaven forbid if I ever have to eject, I know they will keep me safe with the appropriate harness."

With such a fast-paced career, pilots and other aircrew can be called upon to go out the door in a short time; they rely on AFE Airmen to ensure their gear is ready to go when they are. The equipment is constantly being maintained with pre- and post-flight checks to guarantee the security of the aircrew.

"I take a lot of pride in what I do," said Berry. "Everything we take care of needs to work the first time without fail. In order for that to happen, we hold ourselves to a gold standard and do everything as perfect as we can to keep our guys safe."

Comprehensive Airman Fitness: A Lifestyle and culture

by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie
Air Force Public Affairs Agency OL-P


8/21/2014 - WASHINGTON (AFNS)  -- Comprehensive Airman Fitness is comprised of a multitude of targeted programs and activities as well as resiliency skills taught to enable Airmen to make sound choices.

The program's goal is to build and sustain a thriving and resilient Air Force community that fosters mental, physical, social and spiritual fitness.

The new AFI 90-506, published April 2, establishes flexibility for commanders and community support coordinators to facilitate resilience events and/or coordinate resiliency skills training in conjunction with or independent of commander-themed wingman days.

"Our job is to fight and win the nation's wars. We'll never be good enough at it; we've got to get better every day. It's not an easy task, which is why Comprehensive Airman Fitness is so important," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. "Our focus is on the well-being and care for ourselves, each other and our families so we can be more resilient to the many challenges military service brings."

During the senior leadership portion of the CAF training, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James spoke on the importance of taking care of Airmen as part of her top three priorities.

"CAF supports my main priority by ensuring all people and families within our Air Force are taken care of by providing a great opportunity for us to grow resiliently in our careers and our personal lives," James said. "CAF is a lifestyle and culture that focuses on making sound choices while building a thriving Air Force comprised of comprehensively balanced individuals that are engaged in becoming mentally, physically, socially and spiritually fit."

CAF emphasizes the wingman concept of Airmen and families taking care of themselves and each other, and empowers Airmen to hold each other accountable through Air Force core values.

This is an integrated framework that encompasses many cross-functional education activities and programs such as mental and physical wellness, social activities, family, peer and mentor support, and spiritual health.

The director of Air Force Services, Brig. Gen. Patrick J. Doherty, has sought resources for CAF and has distributed funds across the total force and major commands to aid installations with wingman days, resiliency events and projects.

The Air Force has also increased the ratio of master resilience trainers, or MRTs, from one trainer per 1,000 Airmen to one trainer per squadron. The goal is to train the entire total force and families to continually enhance resiliency skills and to maintain a well-balanced lifestyle.

Individuals who are looking to self-nominate to be an MRT or resilience training assistant for their squadron or unit, can do so through their local leaders and their installation community support coordinator.

The Air Force understands families are vitally important to the culture of embracing holistic fitness and resilience skills, thus spouses participating in the Key Spouse Program are encouraged and can volunteer to train as resilience training assistants.

"The fact is, this is not just a job -- this is a lifestyle, for our Airmen and for us. Our support system is in our military and in our families," said Mrs. Betty Welsh, the wife of the chief of staff. "We must take care of ourselves and each other to tackle every day challenges, to build and sustain a culture of comprehensively fit Airmen and families."

For more information about Comprehensive Airman Fitness, please visit the Air Force Portal and click on the CAF icon tab, on the main page.