Military News

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mexican Navy Delegation Visits NSSA



By By Chris Wyatt, Norfolk Ship Support Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Norfolk Ship Support Activity (NSSA) welcomed the Mexican Navy Delegation to Building CEP-200, Naval Station Norfolk, Aug. 21.

The purpose of the visit was to demonstrate how one of the Navy's Regional Maintenance Centers (RMC) operates. NSSA Production Officer Capt. James S. Talbert briefed the delegation on NSSA's RMC shop capabilities and its organizational structure.

"We just wanted to show them a snapshot of how our organization runs," said Talbert.

The delegation toured several production shops including air conditioning and repair, pump, flex hose, valve, powdercoat and gas turbine training room. At each shop, the delegation was met by a subject matter expert who briefed them on their shop's capabilities.

The last stop on the tour was the gas turbine training room. Chief Gas Turbine System (Mechanical) Technician Raymond Hubbard, leading chief petty officer, gave a brief on the capabilities of the LM2500 gas turbine.

"This is the main propulsion engine used on the guided missile cruisers, frigates and destroyers," said Hubbard.

Upon completion of the tour, Director of Mexican Navy General Staff, Rear Adm. Gregorio Martinez Nunez presented Talbert with his command's coin.

"It's very interesting to see the capacity that the United States Navy has to train their personnel," said Nunez. "It shows professionalism and reflects the potential that the U.S. Navy has and hopefully we can have that same potential."

Bilateral exercise strengthens community readiness

by Airman 1st Class Patrick S. Ciccarone
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


8/25/2014 - ROKKASHO VILLAGE, Japan -- Emergency responders from Misawa Air Base, Japan, and the local community participated in a bilateral Major Accident Response Exercise at Rokkasho Village, Japan, Aug. 19, 2014.

The purpose of the MARE was to evaluate the rapid response capabilities of base and town agencies through a series of simulated events similar to real-world emergencies.

"There is a great level of understanding between both the U.S. military members here and the local community," said Eiji Sugiyama, Aomori prefecture police department superintendent of community affairs. "As a result of this exercise, we can further prepare ourselves for these situations and work together to prevent them from happening."

Beginning the day's exercise with an introduction by Rokkasho Village's mayor, Mamoru Toda, he explained the importance of cooperation with both American and Japanese agencies and the necessity of swift action during an emergency situation.

The scenario involved a downed F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft that had experienced engine trouble. The aircraft crash-landed in Rokkasho Village's Mutsu Ogawara seaport.

The crash resulted in a housing fire, 11 injured civilians, two fishermen stranded in the water and a stranded pilot who ejected.

Systematically responding to the scene, Aomori prefecture and Noheji town police arrived first and immediately set up a cordon in the accident's area.

With a downed aircraft and injured civilians needing attention, the next to arrive were Northern Kamakita Fire Department personnel who doused the jet and a "burning" building, allowing other personnel to evacuate the injured.

Once the fire had subsided and the injured had been escorted to a safe area, Rokkasho Village fire department medics set up a portable triage.

Upon their arrival, ambulances filled with Misawa AB emergency response members immediately began their coordination with the on-scene agencies to treat the wounded.

Airmen from the 35th Security Forces Squadron assisted local police in providing a perimeter and enacted a plan for proper coordination between the various groups.

American and Japanese from the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department jumped right in and assisted the Kamakita fire team with securing the burning aircraft and building, along with the escort of additional victims.

"This exercise provided a great opportunity to train with both Misawa AB firefighters and Japanese civilian firefighters," said Takuya Kanto, 35 CES civilian firefighter. "We have a special relationship and I was happy to work together with everyone."

A joint team of Air Force, Navy and Japanese from the 35th Medical Group provided urgent care to injured civilians and the pilot who was rescued from the nearby coast.

As each objective was completed, the on-scene commander reviewed the next course of action and delegated responsibilities to the agencies, ensuring no process was left unchecked.

For Misawa personnel, it's also a chance to work together with their Japanese hosts and further the professional relationship they share.

"Today's exercise allows us to put our joint training into practice and perfect our strategy for coordinating a response to an accident," said Master Sgt. Michael Grice, 35th Fighter Wing inspector general for inspections.

At the conclusion of the exercise, 35th Fighter Wing vice commander, Col. Andrew Hansen, congratulated the agencies on a job well done and highlighted the cooperation displayed between everyone, explaining how it only made the relationship between members of Misawa Air Base and the Japanese community stronger.

PACAF supports Commando Sling 14-3 in Australia

Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

8/25/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- U.S. Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force and Royal Australia Air Force Airmen will train together in Exercise Commando Sling 14-3, scheduled for Aug. 25 through Sep. 12 at RAAF Base Darwin, RAAF Base Tindal, and Delamere Range in Northern Territory, Australia.

The exercise enables U.S. Air Force units to sharpen combat air skills, improve procedures for sustained operations at a non-U.S. base and promote closer relations between USAF, RSAF and RAAF Airmen.

F-16 Fighting Falcons from the New Jersey Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing and the District of Columbia Air National Guard's 113th Wing will participate in the exercise.

This is the final of three training iterations as part of CS14 that began in October 2013.

The annual Commando Sling series began in 1990 to provide combined air combat training for USAF and RSAF fighter units. The exercise is normally held in Singapore; however, this is the first time Commando Sling will be held in Australia.

In addition to Commando Sling, the United States, Australia and Singapore participate in the multilateral exercises Talisman Saber, Pitch Black, Cobra Gold and Cope Tiger.

Ulchi Freedom Guardian: Communication is key to ROK-US relationship

by Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez
7th Air Force Public Affairs


8/25/2014 - OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea  -- "Annyeonghaseyo" and "hello."

Each word represents a different way to greet someone -- one in Korean, one in English. This is a just a small example of a major difference between the two languages. Now, imagine not only attempting to greet someone who speaks another language, but trying to discuss elaborate military plans and operations. It is not going to be an easy feat.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonghwan Kim enables these discussions to take place between U.S. and Republic of Korea Air Force members while filling in as a translator for Ulchi Freedom Guardian Aug. 18 through 29. He works on the U.S. side, translating spoken word and written documents.

"Anytime something needs to be discussed with ROKAF, I jump around and translate between the military members," Kim said. "Anytime there are messages coming down from the exercise scenarios, or script cell, I have to translate it into Korean, so ROK and U.S. are on the same page and have a mirrored understanding of the message."

Kim, who was born and raised in South Korea, and later immigrated to the U.S., said providing translations for UFG came with some challenges.

"The operational Air Force uses a lot of acronyms and the ROKAF [members] have specific words they are used to hearing, so that was the biggest challenge -- military vocabulary and acronyms," he said.

Leading up to the exercise and during its first couple of days, Kim said he was focused on learning the Korean military terms and how to say them properly while abiding by South Korean customs and courtesies.

"The messages have to be very precise, so there is a lot of pressure [on me]," Kim added. "Every time I translate, I have to be very careful to use the right words, so there is no miscommunication between each side."

Although the military-specific vocabulary made the job difficult at first, Kim has experience to help him through the exercise. This is not his first time working as a translator.

In college, Kim took Japanese language classes. Now, he uses that knowledge to his advantage while stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan. He often translates for the 374th Medical Group and for cultural events in the area surrounding the base.

"At Yokota, I translate what we are capable of at [the 374 MDG clinic] to local Japanese leaders and Japan Air Self-Defense Force members," Kim said. "Sometimes, I translate for the patients. They tell me where it hurts or what the patient needs."

At Yokota, Kim is with the 374th Aerospace Medicine Squadron optometry clinic. He works with patients and assists them in ordering glasses and contact lenses.

Working optometry and translating come with their obvious differences, but Kim said what made this exercise unique was the operations he witnessed.

"This is my first time exposed to the operational aspect of the Air Force," said the eight-year staff sergeant, speaking from his medical background. "I have had a lot of opportunities to see the other side of the Air Force and how it operates, so this is a great experience for me to understand the big picture and what we do."

Republic of Korea Air Force Capt. Yuhwan Park noticed the benefit of having a translator on staff.

"Translators worked as a bridge between Korean and U.S. during this exercise which led to its success," Park said. "Being able to have conversations between [U.S. and Koreans] made it a lot easier to complete the tasks at-hand."

Park also said that translators allowed for clear messages and mission directives during meetings.

Kim is proud of the support he was provided the Air Force during UFG.

"It was really an eye-popping experience for me," Kim said. "Things I had seen on movies before, with computer screens and dozens of people scurrying around a room, I got to see it first-hand finally. It was my first time to be in that kind of control room, so it was a really great experience."

Kim said he recommends Air Force members who know multiple languages take the Defense Language Proficiency Test. Members can qualify, and they will be pulled for military missions, exercises and temporary deployments to utilize their language skills.

Submarine Group 2 Disestablishes



By Lt. Timothy Hawkins, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- The top command at Naval Submarine Base New London was disestablished Aug. 22 during an outdoor ceremony aboard Virginia-class attack submarine USS Missouri (SSN 780) stationed in Groton, Connecticut.

Submarine Group 2 has been disbanded after 49 years in a move that streamlines the command-and-control structure for Atlantic-based attack submarines and aligns it with a more efficient organizational arrangement on the West Coast.

Three submarine squadron commanders, who oversee attack submarines stationed in Connecticut and Virginia, will now immediately report to Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic, headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia.

"A smooth and responsible 'sundown' of Submarine Group 2 has been our objective for the past year. We deliberately sought to make it seamless," said outgoing commander Rear Adm. Kenneth Perry. "We make that transition now, the result of thoughtful planning and solid teamwork."

Personnel who staffed Submarine Group 2's 45 military and civilian positions in Groton have been reassigned.

Perry, 53, is retiring following 32 years of active-duty service.

"You have given so much, Admiral Perry, to our nation over these many years," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut. He was the first of four speakers, which included Adm. John Richardson, director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, and Vice Adm. Michael Connor, commander, Submarine Forces.

Connor spoke about contributions Submarine Group 2 has made throughout history to prepare submarines for forward operations around the world.

"The true strength of Submarine Group 2 has been their ability to adapt, to remain flexible, to adjust to the mission and the needs of the Navy," said Connor.

Submarine Group 2 was originally named "Submarine Flotilla Two" when it formed in August 1965. It provided oversight for the planning and operation of ballistic-missile submarines until the early 1990s.

Most recently, Submarine Group 2 has provided oversight to three submarine squadrons, waterfront maintenance and support units, a torpedo facility, 23 operational attack submarines and five newly formed crews for Virginia-class submarines under construction.

"The proud history of Submarine Group 2 is etched in all of our DNA," said Richardson.

Perry was awarded the Legion of Merit for achievements during his final tour. He assumed command of Submarine Group 2 in April 2013.

In addition to maintaining responsibility for 29 attack submarines, Perry led a 60-member Navy task force that delivered a plan for formal review to integrate enlisted women into the submarine force by 2016.

"Ken was the consummate naval officer, full of adventure, full of laughter, full of love and full of service," Richardson said.

Perry closed his final remarks by thanking the Navy for "a great adventure."

Face of Defense: Korean-American Soldiers Bridge Cultures



By Army Sgt. Maj. Christopher Seaton
I Corps

CAMP YONGIN, South Korea, Aug. 25, 2014 – The white Kia pulled through the gate near a fuel point at Yongsan Army Garrison in Seoul as Army 1st Lt. Jae Hyun Lee made a verbal note to no one in particular, “Okay, I can’t drive like a Korean anymore.”

Lee, a company executive officer, and Army Staff Sgt. Min Sung Cha, the unit supply sergeant, were on a mission for Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps. The two U.S. soldiers had just completed the 1.5-hour drive north from the unit’s life support area in Yongin, where the corps stood up for Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2014. Since the two soldiers arrived in South Korea from their home station at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, they had made several runs like these.

Microphone-finding mission

Their goal that day was to find an omni-directional microphone on the local economy for the corps’ video teleconference suite. The two soldiers had to quickly find a specialty item in a foreign country -- no big deal, especially since they both grew up in Seoul.

Lee and Cha are part of a group of 10 native-Korean speakers assigned to I Corps. Four of those 10 speakers work for the headquarters battalion.

It’s a statistic that battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Woodrow Ishman Jr. says is extremely fortunate, given the unit’s focus on operations in the Pacific theater.

“It’s huge for us,” Ishman said. “It’s great to have somebody who can overcome the language barrier, knowing they have our best interest at heart. Because of them, it’s seamless for us to get supplies or make trips to the airport.”

Different backgrounds

The soldiers’ backgrounds prior to arriving at I Corps vary widely.

Lee, a 26-year-old Ranger-qualified infantry officer, was born in Philadelphia. He’s a second-generation American whose grandparents were displaced by the Korean War. When he was a baby, his father got an international job and the family moved to Seoul. Even in South Korea, Lee attended international schools and spoke primarily English at home.

Cha, 43, was raised in South Korea and Japan. His family moved to Olympia, Washington, in 1989 to follow opportunities. Cha got his green card, but moved back to South Korea after a few years. In 1997, when the Korean economy crashed, he joined the U.S. Army from the recruiting station at the American base in Seoul.

“When I joined the Army, my English was pretty bad,” Cha said.

“Was?” Lee joked. The two exchanged a playful laugh and chattered in Korean.

The two soldiers aren’t translators. Nor are they in specialty positions designed for Korean language speakers. Units that are based in South Korea are augmented by English-speaking Korean Army soldiers, known as KATUSAs -- Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army. American units training in the country don’t have KATUSAs.

Ishman says he considers soldiers like Lee and Cha as “extended linguists,” who also happen to be American soldiers working in vital roles for the corps.

“Their language is an additional asset that’s really critical to our mission,” Ishman said. “Our Korean counterparts see that and they trust us even more because we have them on our staff.”

Multi-faceted roles

Lee and Cha perform multi-faceted roles in the command. In addition to helping quickly integrate Korean army staff at the American joint operation center, they also play a role in preparing their American counterparts for major exercises in the unit’s new area of operations. Cha, who also speaks Japanese, first showed his value last year as I Corps prepared for the Japanese Exercise Yama Sakura.

“It all started in the motor-pool during [morning] formations with Staff Sgt. Cha teaching basic phrases,” Ishman said. “He was huge in Japan.”

Another Korean-American assigned to the battalion, Capt. Jae Woo Park, provided a detailed briefing for family members in preparation for the current exercise. Ishman said those briefings helped ease a lot of concerns for the families of I Corps soldiers.

For Ishman, the Korean-American soldiers go a long way in helping fulfill one of the major priorities of I Corps’ commander, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza. His guidance includes the edict that the corps will remain heavily invested in the Pacific.

“Having someone who knows what to ask, knows what to do, because he’s from the country is amazing,” Ishman said. “All those little things they can do to help us support the Corps staff make a big difference.”

For Lee and Cha, that impact doesn’t play a major role as they maneuver their white Kia through the streets of Seoul in search of the latest critical part needed to get a corps staff section back on its feet.

“A job is a job, so I’m not really focused on that,” Lee said. “I’m an American soldier and I do what the Army asks me to do.”

C-130 Hercules still going strong at 60

by Air Force Test Center History Office
& 412th Test Wing Public Affairs


8/21/2014 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- August 23 marks the 60th anniversary of the C-130 Hercules' first flight in 1954, from Burbank, Calif., to Edwards Air Force Base.

Team Edwards took time to reflect on why this aircraft has been so valuable to the Air Force.

"The C-130 made her debut in 1954, and to this day, if there is a conflict or emergency, the mighty Hercules always has a role. In my more than 2,000 flying hours on the aircraft, she has never let me or the U.S. Air Force down," said Steven Walden, 418th Flight Test Squadron C-130/VC-25A Integrated Test Team lead. "The C-130 continually proves its worth in the U.S. Air Force inventory and even after 60 years, it continues to support humanitarian, tactical resupply, airlift and airdrop missions into some of the most austere locations that no other aircraft, nor flight crew, could be asked to do."

After Lockheed ferried the first YC-130 from Burbank to Edwards, flights one through four were conducted at the Air Force Flight Test Center. The aircraft was then ferried to Palmdale, Calif., on its fifth flight for a 25-hour engine inspection. Authorization was received by Lockheed to retain the aircraft at Palmdale for remaining test flights.

Wade Scrogham, Air Force Test Center deputy chief historian, said the YC-130 aircraft was designed as a medium cargo/transport and was the first production aircraft to utilize turbo-prop power plants -- four Allison T-56 turbo-prop engines. Lockheed flew both aircraft to Edwards AFB for a test period of approximately 30 days and only sufficient flights were accomplished to prove airworthiness from Edwards. The remaining portion of Phase 1 tests were conducted at Palmdale.

Scrogham also noted that the C-130 was initially designed for assault and support missions carrying troops or supplies forward and returning casualties to the rear. As a troop carrier, the C-130 could be used for paratroops or ground troops; as a cargo carrier it could be used to carry large pieces of equipment such as a 155 mm howitzer and its high- speed tractor; and as an evacuation aircraft it could be rapidly converted to carry stretcher cases.

A tricycle landing gear with the main wheels in tandem was designed to permit the C-130 to operate from small emergency landing fields or rough forward airstrips.

"The vast amount of modifications and variants of the aircraft have this aircraft spread into every aspect of our inventory and to our international forces who also rely on its reliability rating and its capabilities that no other aircraft can deliver," Walden said. "The Hercules is the backbone of our nation's success in global reach and the reason that we can put troops into isolated locations at a moment's notice without compromising our safety and mission security."

"The unparalleled durability, flexibility, and reliability of the C-130 Hercules help to explain why the aircraft is still in production after 60 years," added Scrogham. "During that time, the C-130 and its variants logged over 1 million flight hours for 70 countries."

ACC commander visits Seymour Johnson

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


8/23/2014 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, took time to discuss issues on the minds of 4th Fighter Wing Airmen during a visit here Aug. 21.

Hostage held an all-call, met with local civic leaders, and saw the Airmen and mission firsthand by visiting units across the base.

During his all-call, Hostage discussed everything from physical fitness testing to geopolitics.

"Today we have generations of soldiers who've never worried about the sound of jet noise overhead because they know it's us," Hostage said. "That's not a given. That doesn't come for free. You all make sure that happens."

Hostage noted that is the heart of the mission of ACC--providing combat airpower to America's warfighters.

"We are the combat arm of the Air Force," he said. "Most of you haven't known anything but an expeditionary force. We will remain an expeditionary force. That's our charge; to be ready to produce overwhelming combat power."

The general stressed the importance of the wing's mission to organize, train, equip and maintain combat-ready forces for rapid deployment.

"When bad stuff happens somewhere in the world, they're going to come to us, asking, 'Protect us; defend us; make the bad guys go away,' and our job is to do it; our job is to be ready," he said.

According to Col. Mark Slocum, the wing commander, this is a critical time for the Air Force, and it's important for Airmen to continue meeting challenges head on in order to overcome them.

"General Hostage reinforced the importance of the airpower ACC and Seymour Johnson provide," Slocum said. "He emphasized the vital impact of the combat air power we provide. We have to maintain our high standards of excellence and never forget the trust our nation puts in our Airmen, because lives depend on us."

Hostage rounded out his all-call by highlighting the necessity of airpower not only to Americans but to people across the globe.

"Our nation is a beacon of hope for a lot of other countries where people live under the thumb of an oppressive regime or an oppressive government," Hostage said. "We face threats from regimes that would like to make us go away. The reason that hasn't happened yet and I don't see it happening in the future, is because people like you, and generations before us, fought and died to protect this country. Be proud of your service. Be proud of being an Airman."

Behind the nylon curtain: rigging parachutes for pararescue

by Tech Sgt. Katie Spencer
459th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


8/25/2014 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- It's a typical training day at the 920th Rescue Wing, the Air Force Reserve's only combat rescue unit. Pararescuemen wait for the signal to jump out of the plane and into the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean. They check each other's parachutes as a pre-jump ritual. One mistake in this business is all it takes to have a bad day.

They get the signal. The PJs fall into the sky with nothing but the parachute on their back to break their free-fall. They pull the cord and the chutes deploy perfectly. They land in the water and swim toward a floating cube of packaged cargo dropped from the plane containing an inflatable, motorized Zodiac boat, called a RAMZ (rigging alternate method zodiac). The PJs inflate the Zodiac and speed off into the sunset.

They key player in this mission: the people who pack, maintain, and inspect the parachutes and package cargo to be dropped from the aircraft. They are known as aircrew flight equipment specialists. Their  job at the 308th Rescue Squadron - to be responsible for the life of a PJ.

"Our job is to maintain all the aircrew flight equipment," said Tech. Sgt. Josh Yarbrough, the aircrew flight equipment noncommissioned officer in charge for the 308th RQS. "From night vision goggles to oxygen masks, floatation equipment, parachutes, jet skis, zodiac boats, four wheelers, helmets - anything the PJs need to do their job safely." An AFE's primary responsibility is to pack parachutes. Not one. Not two. Each AFE, or rigger, can pack six to eight chutes a day.

"My job is very important," said Yarbrough. "It's dual purpose: I pack the chutes and also serve as a malfunction officer. In case something goes wrong with the chutes, we are chute subject matter experts, and we can see what might have gone wrong if something didn't function properly." The AFE team has been supporting a rescue jumpmaster course hosted by the 920 RQW, and putting parachutes on cargo, or the aerial delivery portion of their job, has been put to good use.

"We prepare cargo to be thrown out of planes," said Tech. Sec. Brian Pajor, an aircrew flight equipment craftsman for the 308th. "For this course, we rigged RAMZ packages by putting a chute on it. It'll drop from the plane and into the water for the PJs to inflate."

Rigging a parachute to a RAMZ package is just the start for AFE Airmen. Once the cargo is airborne, the team gets on a boat and proceeds to the drop zone. The RAMZ package is pushed out of the aircraft, and the PJs jump shortly after. As soon as the chutes touch the water, the AFE team launches into action to recover them.

"You need to always be sure everything you do is perfect," said Pajor. "They use RAMZ in the middle of the ocean, so there is no, 'maybe it'll work.' It has to work.  Same with the parachute."

Their job is not done yet.

After the chutes are recovered from the water, the AFE team brings them back to the parachute drying tower, where they rinse the chutes with fresh water and hang them to dry.

"A challenging thing about this job is the amount of work," said Pajor. "It's a lot of pressure and high intensity. Gotta be used to adapting and overcoming to anything and everything. Doing what needs to be done to get the job done."

The AFE career field is vastly different at a rescue wing as opposed to other AFE units in the Air Force, according to Yarbrough.

"Here, we have way more qualifications," he said. "We are next to the operators, supporting their operations and missions. It takes a certain mind frame to do what we do. We deal with Air Force - we work with Army and all branches. We have to be flexible to work with other units to adapt and overcome."

Pajor agrees.

"It varies in the fact that we have so much other stuff to worry about besides the normal equipment. We have 12 different kinds of chutes, we have to be familiar with tower, boat operations, flightline, aerial delivery. That's where a lot more schools come into play. We have to go to Ram-Air school for free-fall parachutes, static-line school for the round chutes, aerial delivery for cargo--there's a lot more to AFE for a rescue squadron."

There is also more responsibility. "Their lives are in our hands," said Pajor. "This isn't something to take lightly.  This is someone who doesn't know you, and they are putting their life in your hands." Despite the workload and pressures of the job, the team carries a sense of purpose for their mission.

"We definitely have job fulfillment," said Yarbrough. "I love my job. People are the most important part of my job. The people I work for, and the people I work with. We're in the life-saving business. It's pretty humbling." "Seeing a guy come down and thanking you is the best part of job," said Pajor. "Seeing that guy go home to see his family after he jumped your parachute is all that matters. All the other stuff goes out the door."

Hurricane Hunters fly into Tropical Storm Cristobal

by Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo
403rd Wing Public Affairs


8/25/2014 - ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS -- Aircrews with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron have been flying data-gathering missions into Tropical Storm Cristobal out of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport here since Aug. 21.

The Hurricane Hunters flew the first low-level invest mission Aug. 21 and continued to investigate the weather system around the clock until it was named Tropical Storm Cristobal early Sunday morning.

A low-level invest mission is flown at 500 to 1,500 feet to determine if winds are rotating in a circular pattern, which indicates that a storm is becoming more organized and increasing in strength, said Capt. Tobi Baker, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron aerial reconnaissance weather officer.

"The lower the altitude you are, the stronger the circulation is, so if it's a weak storm that is where you are going to find the winds," he said.

The aircraft collects weather data, to include temperature, wind speed, wind direction, humidity, and surface pressure data, continuously throughout the mission, said Baker.

Once a system becomes a tropical storm or hurricane, the Hurricane Hunters begin flying at higher altitudes, ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 feet depending on the severity of the storm, said Baker. Aircrews fly through the eye of a storm four to six times to locate the low-pressure center and circulation of the storm. During each pass through the eye, they release a dropsonde, which collects weather data on its descent to the ocean surface, specifically gathering the surface winds and pressure.

During the invest and storm flights, the aircrews transmit weather data via satellite communication every 10 minutes to the National Hurricane Center to assist them with their forecasts and storm warnings.

As of 2 p.m. Sunday, Cristobal was located near the southeastern Bahamas with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph, according to the NHC. Their models indicate that the storm will not hit the U.S. coast, heading northeast into the Atlantic.

The squadron will continue to fly the storm until no longer a threat and will operate from St. Croix until Aug. 29, said Baker.

Flash flood calls for quick rescue, inspires community to give back

by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay
432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs


8/25/2014 - CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- The sound of rushing water is still clear in Airman 1st Class Tyler Webb's mind, as he remembers with a heavy heart the moment he decided to see past his own situation to save others in need of his help.

On Aug. 4, Webb, an MQ-9 Reaper avionics specialist with the 432nd Maintenance Group, along with three Airmen from the 799th Air Base Group and three from the 820th Red Horse Squadron, braved the rushing waters of a Nevada desert flood to save the lives of a trapped elderly couple.

"It was a pretty normal day," recalls Webb. "Throughout the day there was very little weather happening, and I guess I just didn't expect it to rain."

As the duty day drew to a close, the storm clouds rolled in. With them came the rain - lots of it.

"I got caught up in a rain storm. It went from zero rain to zero visibility really, really fast. It just came in and left nothing for us to see," said Webb.

As the visibility lessened, Webb and other Airmen leaving Creech Air Force Base began to see others pull to the side of the road and stop as rushing rain water swept over U.S. Route 95, a two-lane highway north of Las Vegas.

"I realized the streets had begun to flood really fast," said Webb. "The right side was flooding faster, causing people to pull over to the left, so I followed everyone else."

As the water rose, escape to Las Vegas became less likely. Commuters began crossing to the northbound side of the road, and many people became stuck in a steep, sand-filled median. Webb was one of those commuters who became stuck.

Webb recalls a sense of panic as he rushed to try and free his green mercury grand marquis; a gift he says was given to him by his late grandparents.

"I tried to get my car out of the mud for a good five to 10 minutes before I finally heard someone yell at me to get out, because water began rushing over the side into the ditch," he explained. "I knew then it was too late for my car."

Feeling a sense of remorse at abandoning his grandparents' vehicle, Webb had just enough time to grab his Airman Battle Uniform top before he retreated to higher ground. He actually recalls a pang of guilt that he forgot to also grab his hat.

"As I turned, I saw a bunch of Airmen trying to help another car that was trapped," he said. "I didn't have enough time to focus on my car; I was worried about the other people. I saw that they needed my help, so I ran toward them and jumped into the water."

Webb rushed to the Toyota Prius, where Nellis Airmen struggled against the rising water to free the elderly woman trapped inside.

"At that point, the water was already knee high and climbing. The other Airmen already had the door partially open, so I grabbed it and pulled it all the way open. The other Airmen grabbed the older woman and got her out of the car," said Webb.

Luckily, the three Airmen were able to save the couple before their white Prius was swept downstream, where it eventually came to rest upside down against a concrete culvert, partially submerged in water.

"I wanted to double check their vehicle before leaving it," he said. "I was more worried about the couple and my fellow Airmen's safety than my own."

As Webb left the vehicle he recalled the water's force was so strong that he could feel rocks being pulled out from under his feet.

"I ended up getting swept away, but luckily Airman 1st Class Christopher Jones was there to pull me out," said Webb.

In a video shot by bystanders that went viral within days after the flood, Jones, fitness technician with the 799th Air Base Group, can be seen extending his hand to save his wingman during the rescue.

"When I got swept away my only thought was, 'man, now I'm floating away.' I remember Jones saying, 'grab my hand.' I grabbed his hand and he just yanked me out," said Webb.

Webb describes his thoughts after assisting in the rescue and evading his own close escape from the flood with great disbelief.

"I remember feeling a lot of adrenaline. I honestly didn't feel anything for my car until after the experience was over with, and I saw it floating down the river. Then, I just thought, 'that's not good, that's my car right there.'"

In the aftermath since the flood, Webb has had plenty of time to reflect. Although he's glad everyone survived the flood, he still expresses great sadness at the loss of his car, and how his one simple choice changed so much.

"My grandparents were soul mates," he said. "They passed within hours of each other; my grandmother on Thanksgiving Day and my grandfather the next morning."

Webb recalled that his car was the last thing he had to remember his grandparents by.

"After everything was done, I was left having to pay the impound fee for a totaled car that meant so much to me," he said.

Unfortunately, Webb is no stranger to this type of disappointment. A few months before the flood, he was the victim of a home burglary, which left him with financial hardship and forced him to replace many of his valuables that had been stolen.

"After my car was destroyed too, I was worried how I would make the trip to Creech," said Webb. "My parents were just happy that I was ok and offered to come and help me get back on my feet."

Although the journey has been difficult, there is a silver lining to Webb's story. His parents, who traveled to Las Vegas to support him, established a website where supporters are able to donate funds to help him buy a new vehicle, at www.gofundme.com/cpimbk.

"I was surprised that people I had never met, in states I had never been to, wanted to donate to help me," said Webb. "I was really touched by that; I guess what we did inspired them."

In total, more than $6,000 was donated in less than eight days, which Webb then used as a down payment for his replacement vehicle - a used 2006 Honda Accord.

Webb said he was deeply touched by all the supporters and that he'd like to thank everyone who donated to help him.

"I'm no hero, I just did what I was trained to do and [what I think] everyone else in that situation would do," he said.

For Webb and his fellow Airmen who risked so much to save others, the experience has left a lasting impression.

"I would definitely do it again, but next time I'd stay on the road," he jokes.

According to the National Weather Service, 82 deaths were attributed to flooding in the United States in 2013. More than half of victims were driving at the time of the floods.

Drivers are reminded not to risk driving through flooded roadways, since rescues are not always possible.

USS Momsen Holds Change of Command Ceremony in Seattle



By Ensign Vanessa Berry, USS Momsen Public Affairs

SEATTLE (NNS) -- The crew of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Momsen (DDG 92) welcomed their new commanding officer during a change of command ceremony in Seattle, Aug. 21.

Cmdr. Javier Gonzalez relieved Cmdr. Elaine Collins, completing her 18-month command tour.

Collins led Momsen through a four-month deployment to the 7th Fleet Area of Operations to participate in exercises Talisman Sabre, Silent Banchee, and Cooperation and Readiness Afloat Training (CARAT), various successful inspections and an efficient transition into a dry-dock maintenance availability.

"I am honored to have served as the commanding officer of USS Momsen," said Collins. "It was an experience of a lifetime to command this mighty warship with the finest crew a captain could ask for. I have complete faith that Cmdr. Gonzalez, along with the officers, chiefs, and crew will continue to propel Momsen to new heights."

Collins' next tour will be at the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C.

Gonzalez previously served as the executive officer on board Momsen and will assume command through the Executive Officer to Commanding Officer Fleet-Up program. Cmdr. Jason Kipp has assumed the duties as Momsen's new executive officer.

"Momsen is a ship that isn't afraid to take on any challenge and excels at overcoming them," said Gonzalez. "I cannot thank Cmdr. Collins enough for her leadership, mentorship, and friendship over the past 18 months. The success Momsen has enjoyed was laid by the efforts of Cmdr. Collins and her team."

"Momsen is a complex machine of war," Gonzalez told his Sailors after assuming command. "You, the Momsen Sailors bring her alive, and the families who support you, are national treasures. I respect and thank you for your service. I am extremely proud to be your commanding officer, and I look forward to our continued success. Rise Above!"

Momsen is currently undergoing a scheduled dry dock maintenance period and is dry docked at Vigor Shipyards in Seattle. Momsen is assigned as part of Destroyer Squadron 21.