Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Yokota strengthens bilateral, joint HA/DR exercises

by 1st Lt. Jake Bailey
374th Airlift Wing public affairs

9/1/2014 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- As the C-130 Hercules dove through the clouds toward its target 300 feet off the deck, the crew began its drop zone entry checklist. In the back of the aircraft, two loadmasters readied the cargo and eyed the amber light, awaiting its turn to green. Suddenly, the navigator's voice alerted over the interphone radio, "Green light! Green light!"

The loadmasters quickly cut away the bundle's safety line and rolled it off the edge of the ramp, parachutes unfurling and catching air. The load fell gently to its off-shore location, where four Japanese fishing boats circled in waiting, ready to retrieve the much anticipated aid.

Though the mission was part of a bilateral exercise, the effective tactical airlift delivery of a low-cost, low altitude bundle containing actual disaster relief was very real.

Each year, Japan remembers 1923's Great Kanto Earthquake with a host of nation-wide disaster response exercises.

"Throughout the weekend, the 374th Airlift Wing demonstrated how our training and readiness can support our friends and neighbors in the wake of a disaster," said Lt. Col. Andrew Campbell, 36th Airlift Squadron commander.

In fact, Airmen from the 374th Airlift Wing participated in three disaster management exercises involving local Japanese governments, prefectures and local first responders, as well as an additional joint exercise with Marine counterparts here Aug. 30 and 31.

"As the airlift hub of the Western Pacific -- and because of our proximity to one of the most densely-populated cities in the world--Yokota provides a strategic location for combined and joint forces to operate and cooperate from during a crisis response," said Col. Douglas DeLaMater, 374th Airlift Wing commander. "Our Airmen are trained and ready to assist whenever and wherever we're needed."

Saturday, events began as Yokota helped launch Tokyo Metropolitan Government's annual disaster prevention drill, which featured close coordination with Yokota's surrounding five cities and one town: Tachikawa, Akishima, Fussa, Musashimuriyama, Mizuho and Hamura. Japanese emergency personnel from the local communities and aircrew members from the 459th Airlift Squadron loaded 40 boxes of simulated relief aid onto a UH-1 helicopter.

"Our team looks forward to opportunities to train with our Japanese partners," said Maj. Destry Hill, UH-1 Iroquois pilot and 5th Air Force assistant director of operations. "We know from experience that in times of crises, it takes good communication to pull off a coordinated response. Exercises like this keep that relationship strong."

The UH-1 crews flew from Yokota and delivered the aid to Tokyo's Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park, which acts as a staging facility and management headquarters in the event of a disaster affecting the Tokyo Metropolitan Area.

"The exercise was very encouraging," said Norayuki Shiraishi, TMG disaster prevention division deputy director. "We hope to deepen our cooperation with the United States military and continue to work closely together."

During Sunday's exercise, riggers from the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron Combat Mobility Flight and loadmasters from the 36th Airlift Squadron prepped low-cost, low-altitude airdrop bundles containing disaster relief in the form of 600 pounds of water and rice and loaded them onto the back of a C-130 Hercules. Also onboard the Shizouka-bound aircraft were eight members of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force, who, upon arrival at Shizouka Airport, boarded a JGSDF CH-47 Chinook helicopter for a follow-on movement to a simulated disaster zone.

Following the JGSDF's disembark; the supply-laden C-130 Hercules took off for the second phase of the exercise, an airdrop of humanitarian supplies to a coastal drop zone near Shimoda.

With drop clearance being provided by personnel onboard a 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, the C-130 Hercules deployed a LCLA bundle on target and on time.

"LCLA airdrops serve as a safe, accurate, reliable and affordable way to deliver humanitarian aid," said Campbell. "Today, we demonstrated how, through close partnership between Yokota professional airlifters and our Japanese hosts, this unique capability can be used in regional disaster response."

While the C-130 Hercules was delivering its LCLA, another team of airlifters from Yokota was participating in Kanagawa Prefecture Government's disaster management drill. A UH-1 Iroquois helicopter crew delivered four Airmen from the 374th Medical Group to Kanagawa Prefecture. There, they sprang into action to assist U.S. and Japanese medical personnel responding to a simulated earthquake disaster zone.

"The KPG exercise provided our medical professionals an important opportunity to immerse themselves in realistic, time-sensitive training," said Col. Eveline Yao, 374th Medical Group commander. "Airlifted to a remote location with several unknowns awaiting them, it's an opportunity to apply their medical expertise and knowledge alongside Japanese counterparts in a high-pressure situation. It is a symbol of our mutual support, cooperation and trust.""

To cap off the weekend's exercise activity, Yokota Airmen and Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma took part in a joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission. Airmen from the 374th Medical Group assisted with the loading of medical supplies onto an MV-22 Osprey, which displayed its range and speed by traveling round trip from Yokota to Oshima Island in approximately one hour.

"This exercise is an important opportunity for Airmen and Marines to increase joint interoperability and exercise crisis response capabilities in the event of a natural disaster affecting people," said Capt. Kaho Ng, an MV-22 Osprey pilot assigned to VMM-265, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. "The Osprey provides a unique capability that modernizes our alliance, delivering HA/DR to unimproved, remote areas not reachable by traditional fixed-wing and rotary-wing assets."

DeLaMater said the joint and bilateral exercises were focused on one main purpose--staying prepared and ready to help people when they need it.

"Our Airmen and Marine partners are committed to providing support to our Japanese brethren as part of a whole of government response in the event of a major disaster," DeLaMater said. "This was a total team effort--from the planning phase to the execution."

"A Higher Calling": Airmen and Soldiers Call Close Air Support in Red Flag 14-3

by 2nd Lt. Michael Trent Harrington
JBER Public Affairs

8/27/2014 - YUKON TRAINING AREA, Alaska -- A microphone clicked beneath a camouflage helmet. The rumble of an idling M1126 Stryker Combat Vehicle and the distant thud of 120-mm mortar rounds filled the radio channels, punctuating days and hours of terse back-and-forth radio conversation: air-to-ground, ground-to-air, ground units to ground units.

"John 5-3, you are cleared hot," the call barked.

An A-10 Warthog II banked into view, followed in close succession by the whine of its twin engines and the unmistakable rrrrrrippppp of the plane's 30-mm rounds striking targets, the smoke visible before the zipper sound of Gatling-gunned, ripped earth.

Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces-directed training exercise often linked with air power alone - aerial missions, air combat sorties and dogfighting jet fighters above the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex -- 65,000 square miles of airspace and 1.5 million acres of maneuver terrain spread across central Alaska.

But more than tracing contrails over the sprawling terrain, Red Flag-Alaska 14-3 was practice in reducing the expansive map of the Yukon Training Area to the few inches which mattered most.

The echo of 120-mm mortars, joint terminal attack controller radio chatter and F-16 Fighting Falcons circling in the distance suggested that something much bigger than dogfighting was underway. Gone were the "simulated" victories and the pretend walk-overs of "notional" enemy air power. Now air superiority had to be attained, not assumed.

Air Force Lt. Col. J.B. Waltermire, commander of the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron from Oklahoma City described the best way to win the battle area in two words: shrinking it.

"We're shrinking the battlespace, compressing it," Waltermire said. "We're bringing the full might and force of the U.S. military to bear on the enemy right..." he said, tracing a black line across the gridlines of a green battle map "...here."

"We're dealing with surface-to-air threats, mortar fires, close air supports, platoons firing .50-caliber and Mk-19 (40-mm grenade machine gun), calling in support in real time," said Army Lt. Col. James Hayes, commander, 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, from Fort Wainwright, Alaska. "Before, you didn't get that unless you were downrange -- now we practice it here. That's key."

The Stuart Creek wildfires burned much of the area northeast of Fairbanks last year, transforming the pine forest into thousands of acres of black spikes dotting an ashen, pale green-and-grey moonscape. The eight-wheeled, 18-ton Strykers carved knee-deep ruts in the mud and soon the ridgeline mirrored the piled-dirt dioramas where young Army lieutenants, platoon sergeants and Air Force JTACS planned their movements.

The Red Flag battle focused on a fight for reconnaissance, which became a massive screening movement to block enemy armored units funneling like liquid spilt down the tilted valley floor. The exercise planners realized mapping technology aboard the Army Strykers could be used to build graphics of the situation unfolding on the ground into the Air Force Situational Awareness Data Links. Essentially, Air Force jets and Army Strykers could see the same picture and talk one another through the changing targets, advantages and threats each saw in a manner the other could not.

A-10 pilots watched their dual mission unfold as they swooped 100 feet above the burnt pines. The first part of the Air Force pilots' battle was to win the air, working intercept missions with F-16s, 3rd Wing F-22 Raptors, Navy EA-18G Growlers and F/A-18 Hornets said Air Force Capt. Katherine Conrad, A-10 pilot with the 104th Fighter Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard.

The second phase meant working close air support with the Army.

"We (the Air Force TACPs) had to learn to direct anything with a kinetic ground effect," Waltermire said. "In Red Flag, we have to know how to bring Air Force assets to the fight for the ground commander, how to work the processes, how to work the communication."

On the ground, in real-time with lead flying over their heads, Waltermire said, "We've got to overcome the friction of the processes, minimize hiccups."

This meant a host of different units - platoons, forward observers, air defense airspace management/brigade aviation element, the squadron tactical operations center, JTACS, Rangers from A Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Infantry Regiment and Marines with the 1st Marine Recon Battalion - had to integrate and find ways to increase joint reporting and understanding, while shortening the "kill chain" - the steps necessary, with all their potential for errors, problems and delays, to win the battle.

"That relationship is critical," Hayes said. "We've learned overseas that the integration can't happen for the first time when we're already there."

"We build that relationship here and we're that much more effective when we deploy," Hayes said. "Here everyone can be a part of the planning process. Operations and execution are seamless."

The team put in weeks of 18-hour days, Soldiers sleeping in camouflaged tents, in their vehicles or on the muddy ground.

The greatest challenge, Waltermire said, was to make sense of the massive flow of information -sometimes supporting, other times contradictory, but nearly always overlapping -- as it competed for attention on a chaotic battlefield.

"We've all been putting in long days to get the pilots on board, the JTACS integrated into the Army," Waltermire said. "It isn't easy stuff."

Pfc. Joseph Dean Quimpo, gunner, A Troop, 5-1 Cavalry, described Red Flag as a chance to practice the grit of real war outside a classroom.

"Here, we're not just writing in notebooks, we're doing it all outside," Quimpo said. "Now we actually have someone who will be calling for fire with the birds, and it makes it feel like it's all coming together."

"We've never seen this level of integration," Waltermire added, yet to him one lesson from 13 years of U.S. combat overseas was inescapably true: "Combat is not the time to learn this."

The JPARC logo is the complex's motto - "winning the future fight" - laid atop an outline of Alaska. The training for Red Flag 14-3 here suggests that future will involve both the roar of ultra-high-technology Air Force jets and the rattle of Army guns.

735th AMS Warriors take pride in getting their hands dirty

by Tech. Sgt. Terri Paden
15th Wing Public Affairs

8/27/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- Though the 735th Air Mobility Squadron is primarily known for operating the passenger terminal and enabling the space available travel option for active-duty members, retirees and their dependents, many Airmen in the squadron are hard at work behind the scenes providing passengers and crew members with a clean, comfortable and safe mode of transportation when they fly.

In addition to checking in passengers and loading the baggage onto the aircraft, Airmen in the 735th AMS Fleet Services Flight are responsible for cleaning and servicing the aircraft.

To accomplish this, the flight is divided into two sections -- Dirty Fleet and Clean Fleet.

Dirty Fleet Airmen are responsible for cleaning the bathrooms, removing the trash and making sure there is potable water onboard, a job which could be messy and time consuming. As soon as the aircraft lands, a lavatory service truck is used to suck out the onboard waste and replace it with new fluid in preparation for the next flight--a job that may be dirty, but is highly necessary if passengers intend to use the bathroom.

"It's a dirty job for sure," said Staff Sgt. Preston Harris, 735th AMS passenger services representative. "The waste could dump out on you when it's being removed ... it can definitely get really nasty if you aren't careful."

While Dirty Fleet Airmen focus on cleaning the aircraft after it lands, Clean Fleet Airmen focus on replenishing and preparing for the next flight.

What Clean Fleet brings to the table primarily depends on what a particular aircraft needs. They are charged with stocking coolers of water, toiletries, pillows and blankets and most importantly food.

"What we do all ties in together," said Harris. "Once passengers make it onto the aircraft they want to be comfortable, and that's what we provide. Nobody wants to travel on a dirty, smelly flight. Nobody wants to be freezing cold and not have a blanket to use or a pillow to lay their head on."

Harris said though it's a dirty job, the best part about it is being able to take care of the crew and passengers.

"Nobody really knows about us because we work so behind the scenes, but what we do is really important," he said. "If we didn't do our job it could become a health and safety concern.

Everybody here takes pride in what we do."

For Senior Airman Amanda Wheeling, 735th Air Mobility Squadron air transportation journeyman, being a part of fleet services is also about showing the passengers you care.

"I don't mind that it's a dirty job ... it's dirty, it's hot, but I enjoy it," she said. "Both Dirty Fleet and Clean Fleet are extraordinarily important because nobody would like not being able to go to the bathroom on a nine hour flight, but they also wouldn't like flying without ear plugs."

Wheeling, a self-professed organizer, said she loves the physically demanding aspects of her job and being able to make things straight and organized, but also likes being a part of the bigger picture.

"I love Clean Fleet because you get to see every aspect of our job from start to finish," she said. "My favorite part is getting to go to every aircraft and being a part of the recovery process ... it's fun."

UFG demonstrates the strength of the alliance

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

8/28/2014 - OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea  -- Ulchi Freedom Guardian, one of the largest and most complex command and control exercises in the world, ended Aug. 28, 2014, following three weeks of simulated scenarios and training.

The purpose of the annual training exercise is to enhance the combat readiness and interoperability of Republic of Korea and U.S. military forces through combined and joint training. Exercise participants are presented with various scenarios and problems during the exercise, allowing members to hone the skills necessary to respond quickly and effectively in defense of South Korea.

UFG also showcases the longstanding Alliance between U.S. and South Korea and reaffirms the U.S. commitment to the ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty, which was signed in 1953.

"UFG is an essential test of our Korea Airpower Team," said Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas, Combined Air Component and 7th Air Force commander. "This year again proved that our bond is strong and prepared to deter aggression, defend the Republic of Korea, and defeat any attack against the alliance."

More than 30,000 U.S. service members participated in UFG 2014, with more than 3,000 traveling as augmentees from outside South Korea. In addition to U.S. and ROK service members, military representatives from several United Nations sending states also traveled to the region to observe UFG and participate in a combined global effort.

"We can confidently say UFG was a success, and it is because of the hard work of our joint team and ROK counterparts," Jouas added. "Everyone displayed their readiness and dedication to the mission during these three weeks, not only in responding to a potential contingency, but also in highlighting areas that need improvement in the future."

UFG, like all Combined Forces Command exercises, is routine and defense-oriented, designed to enhance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula. UFG is planned months in advance and it is not connected to any current world events.

Pushin' it up with ROKAF

by Senior Airman Taylor Curry
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/29/2014 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The 8th Fighter Wing recently deployed four F-16 Fighting Falcons to the Republic of Korea Air Force's 20th Fighter Wing at Seosan Air Base to participate in Exercise Buddy Wing 14-8.

The purpose of the training was not only to improve interoperability between U.S. Air Force and ROKAF fighter squadrons, but to practice with ROKAF KF-16 units for their first upcoming RED FLAG exercise in Alaska.

"Helping ROKAF's forces prepare for this RED FLAG-Alaska deployment is a huge priority for us," said Capt. Jacob Allen, 35th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot and exercise project officer. "We are providing academics to their pilots regarding the long range flights to and from Alaska, as well as what to expect during the RED FLAG-style large force exercise."

The upcoming RED FLAG-Alaska deployment in October will mark the first time in history ROKAF KF-16s have crossed over the Pacific Ocean.

Exercise Buddy Wing prepares both ROKAF and Wolf Pack fighter pilots for RED FLAG-Alaska by providing them an opportunity to exchange ideas, experience cultural differences, discuss and practice combined tactics, as well as plan, brief, fly and debrief missions together.

"We have been given this amazing opportunity to work alongside our Republic of Korea partners to provide a shared understanding of our training procedures while continuously building trust between our two nations," said Maj. Zach Manning, 35th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations. "We [8th FW] look forward to integrating with them at Eielson Air Force Base for RED FLAG-Alaska."

There are many important objectives to meet while flying such a long distance, Manning added. We were able to lend our experience to a wide range of flight operations, such as aerial refueling and how to respond to an in-flight emergency.

Other training goals included improving combined combat capability and ensuring 100 percent safe operations through all phases of flying.

Another key objective is for ROKAF pilots to feel comfortable with their own capabilities while flying with USAF pilots, said Manning.

Understanding how both teams operate together is considered a large priority for ROKAF leadership as well.

ROKAF Maj. Lee, Woo Youl, 120th Fighter Squadron RED FLAG mission commander, discussed how this was the first time in his 15 years of flying where he had the chance to bring American pilots into his squadron to brief and train together.

"This is a rare opportunity to bring American pilots to our base for this mutually beneficial experience," said Lee. "The USAF pilots have really helped us out a lot to prepare for our departure to RED FLAG-Alaska. This exercise gives us the chance to work side by side to enhance our communication skills on the ground and in the air."

Lee also said this combined venture has been one of the most rewarding experiences of his career.

"At the end of the day, after all the training is completed, sitting down to enjoy a meal together and building upon this relationship is what it's all about," added Manning.

Tops in Blue charms Wichita Falls

by Airman 1st Class Jelani Gibson
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

8/29/2014 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- A cascade a bright lights and colors streaked across the stage as lively entertainers from the Air Force's Tops in Blue performed at the Memorial Auditorium in Wichita Falls, Texas, Aug. 28, 2014.

Tops in Blue is an all volunteer unit made up of vocalists, musicians, dancers and technicians.

"Loving it, absolutely fantastic," said Senior Airman Mark Roberts, when describing his experience with Tops in Blue as a driver and audio technician.

Originally a vehicle ops Airman by trade, he enjoys the camaraderie of the unit and the skill set required to be in the group.

"I get to be around a lot of talented people," he said.

As the driver for the group, Roberts enjoys life on the road despite its trials and tribulations.

"You're around these people 24 hours a day, seven days a week for nine months and you all bond together, it's just the people you can go to with anything," he said.

Cowboy boots, minions, Beauty and the Beast, tuxedos and dancing hamsters all graced the stage throughout the night, treating the audience to a mixture of entertainment and pop culture. As complex dance routines were played out, the audiences let out roars of applause and delight with each performance.

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Velasquez, Tops in Blue keyboardist, tower chief and security head, finds solidarity in striving for one common goal, whether it's on the road or in front of the glittering glow of an auditorium.

"At times we're all tired, but we're just going through the same thing and we have the same mission and same struggles...we pull from the same source of strength to pull together and get it done," he said.

Using music to reach people, Velasquez looks at music through a world-view that's meant to galvanize.

"You might be tired and you might be having a bad day but once you actually start playing music...even through it inspires the crowd it still inspires us too," he said.

With the performance winding down, the Airman's Creed rang throughout the area and the troupe left to the sound of cheers and adulation.

Team Keesler, local community honor forgotten hero

by Airman 1st Class Stephan Coleman
81st Training Wing Public affairs

8/29/2014 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss.  -- A "Forgotten Hero" ceremony was held for Pierre David Junod, a navigator in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, Aug. 18, at the Biloxi National Cemetery.

Although Junod, a 66-year-old Buffalo, New York, native, had no immediate family, more than a hundred military and civilian members of the local community attended the ceremony, ensuring he wasn't buried alone.

"The VA sponsors these ceremonies for veterans with no family," said Lt. Col. Steven T. Dabbs, 81st Training Wing deputy wing chaplain. "But with all who attended, his church family, Air Force members, Department of Defense compatriots and motorcyclists, that is by far the largest showing of family possible."

The Keesler Honor Guard performed military funeral honors for the event and delivered the ceremonial flag to Max C. Peck, Jr., who was one of Junod's closest friends and a fellow member of The Nourishing Place chapel.

Junod, pronounced "Juno," was an orphan until the age of seven when he was adopted by a military family. He traveled extensively with his family, and after graduating high school in Europe, Junod obtained his Bachelor's Degree in Geology from Clarion College in Pennsylvania and joined the Air Force shortly after, said Peck.

"After leaving the Air Force as a major, he settled in Gulfport," said Peck. "He was an independent businessman for a time and then spent several years homeless. Our church found him and connected him with the VA hospital where he found treatment and became self-sustaining again. He worked odd jobs and assisted with church youth, (he was) a devoted servant."

Peck described Junod as a good Christian man who kept to himself and enjoyed stamp collecting, real estate speculation and had a knack for mathematics.

"He would sometimes play chess online, nine games at once," said Peck.

"Once, I had to calculate the amount of oil to mix with gasoline in my lawnmower," Peck added. "I couldn't even figure out the equation, and he did the math in his head."

His church family and Air Force family weren't the only attendees of his military committal ceremony. Various motorcycle groups also congregated to honor their fallen brethren.

"We do this as often as we can for military veterans," said Cat Aguda, a member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. "Especially for fallen brothers without family. We make the time for them because they deserve it."

Groups like the CVMA, the American Patriot Riders, and Patriot Guard Riders are made up of all branches of service and act as military support communities that attend the funerals of members of the U.S. military, firefighters and police at the invitation of the decedent's family.

Although he tried his whole life, Junod passed away before finding any of his blood-related parents or family, said Peck.

"I get sad every time I think about his passing," said Peck. "He spent most of his life alone, and he died without any family, but at least the military was able to give him a proper send off. He will be greatly missed by his family at The Nourishing Place."

Sudan 'Lost Boy' serves as Kadena NCO

by Senior Airman Maeson L. Elleman
18th Wing Public Affairs

8/28/2014 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan  -- 
"At the age of 10, I have seen death; I have buried other kids -- at the age of 10," he said, a sadness moving into his eyes. "But at the same time, I've rebounded. If I have to stay in that hole and think of those horrible situations I've been in, then I would not be here today."
Labeled a "Lost Boy" by the United Nations along with more than 30,000 other kids from Sudan in the mid-1980s, Madut Bul -- now a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant working as a with the 33rd Helicopter Maintenance Unit supply specialist -- had experienced what most can't imagine.
After civil war tore at the nation, young teenagers were thrust into battle wielding Russian-made AK-47 rifles against a domestic enemy. As a result, these Lost Boys, ranging in age from 7 to 17, were orphaned or separated from their families and forced to live the lives of refugees.
"In 1983, a war broke out in my country - the country was Sudan," he said, his face grim. "We did not have a family. I did not know where my family was. At that time when we were under the rebel groups who were fighting the government, if you were 13 years old, you were old enough to be able to have an AK-47 to go and fight."
As they fled east of the mayhem, they were pushed to neighboring countries seeking relief. However, they soon discovered that the first journey was fruitless.
"First, we went to Ethiopia, but they were having their civil war," Bul recounted. "At the time the war happened, they had to come back to the border of Sudan, then we had to go to Kenya. That's over a thousand miles. We were walking there by foot.
"We were over 30,000 kids," he continued. "There were a lot of kids that either died during the crossing over to come to Sudan, hunger or eaten by wild animals. At that time, the only food that we had was the food that we were carrying. They took a head count again ... we were at about almost 12,000."
With the help of humanitarian aid, a program was set up to relocate many of the children to foster homes in the Southeastern U.S. However, according to Bul, the extensive process proved too slow.
At the end of it all, only a lucky fraction of the refugees including Bul were given the opportunity to move to the U.S.
"Only 500 kids got to go to foster homes," Bul said. "Thirty-eight hundred made it to the United States - out of 30,000 ... and I was one of them."
But it wasn't over just yet. Five months after Bul and his friends arrived in Charlotte, N.C., 9/11 struck fear into the hearts of Americans. Without prior knowledge of U.S. capabilities, Bul and his friends were afraid their new home would soon resemble their last.
"When Sept. 11 happened, we did not have an idea of how strong the United States was, so our perception was that it looked like we were going to be running again," he explained. "Me and one of my friends, we are in the Air Force. Our perception was that we might want to have our AK-47s and be able to protect ourselves."
However, it was more than that which led to his enlistment. Instead, Bul recounted what he was most appreciative of while escaping the civil war in Sudan.
"At that time I had a lot of my family being killed," Bul said. "I did not have anything to help. My reason to join was that I want to help somebody. I want to be able to go out there and protect somebody. I know my country got independent in 2011, but it's because of a few people standing up in order to protect the majority of people.
"If you want to join any service that's protecting your community, I think it's a good, noble cause that all of us are able to stand up and protect our people," Bul continued. "You are not in for money; you are in to protect your country; you are in to protect your family. If you come in with that mindset, you will not disappoint yourself. It might not be easy, but it might be part of something bigger than yourself."
After first being denied enlistment due to not having a high school diploma, Bul charged forward and completed the education necessary to join. Now the eight-year veteran has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice - and his U.S. citizenship.
"I signed up for four years as open general, but I wanted to be security forces," Bul said. "I wasn't a citizen though, so I had to stay with supply."
Since joining the Air Force, he's moved forward in life and is currently on vacation getting married to his fiancée. He's since traveled back to the country and built homes, and the NCO has been sponsoring 23 kids in Sudan since 2011.
"It would be selfish of me to forget," he said. "The United States is awesome, and it's given me something that my country has not given me, but at the same time my country may have taught me something too: without somebody standing up for other people, somebody like me will not have a chance."
It's been a long, tough road, but even after all the hardships he endured as a kid, Bul said he won't forget where he came from. Instead, he uses it as a lesson in resiliency to others.
"I know all of us here have the courage to stand up for our country," he said. "I have to stay strong; you have to stay strong. We have to stay strong in order to move forward.  A bad story makes us stronger. You have to rebound out of whatever you are in and know that there are other people out there that might have gone through a more difficult time that what you're going through."

NDI: They see what you can't

by Senior Airman Brittany Y. Bateman
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

8/27/2014 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D.  -- The non-destructive inspection laboratory flight at Minot Air Force Base operates 24 hours a day to guarantee no defects in Minot's aircraft fleet are overlooked. Deficiencies within aerospace weapon systems and equipment are detected using a variety of assessments.

Shooting X-rays, performing ultrasound on composites, dye penetrant inspections on engine parts, and magnetic particle on weapons mounting equipment are just a few of the tasks NDI technicians perform.

"Our job is essential for crack detection and engine integrity. Without our job an aircraft could crash and people could get hurt," said Staff Sgt. Samuel Russell an NDI craftsman from the 5th Maintenance Squadron.

Russell understands how crucial his job is for the mission.

"Our job is important to the Minot AFB mission because we are the section that can verify if something has sound integrity," said Russell, a Belleville, Michigan native.

NDI identifies small problems before they become very large problems.

"If there is a crack in the wing of an aircraft, we can identify it before it potentially causes the loss of an aircraft and, god forbid, the crew," said Senior Airman Jordan Hayes, 5th MXS NDI journeyman.

As with any type of maintenance on an aircraft, the maintainers in NDI tackle a variety of issues from day to day.

"Many of our call jobs differ from the next," Hayes added. "NDI is a career field where you can see something new every day."

In order to conduct successful missions, both the aircraft and aircrew must maintain excellent physical condition. Just as one would rely on medical professionals to perform analysis and identify the cause of ailments, aircraft maintainers depend on non-destructive inspection specialists to detect discontinuities within aircraft structures and recommend corrective actions.

"The tests we perform to detect flaws aid in decisions to make an element non-serviceable or even ground an aircraft," Russell said.

With meticulous scrutiny, NDI helps identify faulty aircraft for repair, keeping Minot's bombers ready for anything that might come their way.

Third Alaska assignment for 3rd Wing commander

by Air Force 2nd Lt. Michael Trent Harrington
JBER Public Affairs

8/29/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- "The 3rd Wing is a certain thing in an uncertain world," Air Force Col. Charles Corcoran said on a gray and rainy morning at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Corcoran assumed command of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson's 3rd Wing, the largest unit in the 11th Air Force, in a ceremony at Hangar 1 Monday. Corcoran arrives after a deployed tour as the chief of staff of Air Force Central Command in Qatar.

The outgoing commander, Air Force Col. David Nahom, departs as a newly-promoted brigadier general to serve as the director of Regional Affairs with the Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs at the Pentagon.

Corcoran is already something of an Anchorage expert. Corcoran's role as head of the 3rd Wing marks his third assignment to JBER and his second as a commander. In the late 1990s, he served as a weapons officer for the 19th Fighter Squadron, flying F-15 Eagles before the unit moved to Hawaii. He returned from 2007 to 2009 as commander of the 525th Fighter Squadron.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Russell Handy, Alaskan Command and 11th Air Force commander, spoke on the process of identifying five or six Air Force men and women to assume one of the most important commands in the Pacific.

"I tried. I tried really hard to come up with that list," Handy said. "And no matter how many ways I looked at it I kept coming up with only one choice: (Col.) Corcoran."

The 3rd Wing represents one of the most diverse and strategic commands in the Air Force - with the F-22 Raptor, C-17 Globemaster III, C-12 Huron, and E-3 Sentry aircraft, as well as partnership with Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve components.

Corcoran will be charged with running "top cover for America" - responsible to North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Pacific Air Forces and the 11th Air Force for early warning, detection and interception of unidentified aircraft.

Corcoran takes the reins of the 3rd Wing at a busy time. The wing's two F-22 fighter squadrons will attend major training exercises in Hawaii and Guam next month, and both F-16 Fighting Falcons and Navy F/A-18C Hornets are slated to participate in dissimilar air combat training here in coming weeks.

Likewise, attention to 3rd Wing's NORAD "alert" role surged briefly earlier this month as media outlets sought to link ongoing tension and armed confrontations between Ukraine and Russia. North American Air Defense officials confirmed that both foreign flights and American intercepts in the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone are a legal and routine part of business for U.S. pilots. It is the same everyday sense of JBER's attention to excellence, improvement and readiness, which Corcoran says has drawn him back to 3rd Wing.

"The enthusiasm, the pride and the initiative I see in the Airmen and their families around JBER is phenomenal," Corcoran said. "I want to keep that going."

As the 3rd Wing moves forward with the challenges of ongoing military missions abroad and fluid budgetary situations at home, third-time Anchorage veteran Corcoran seems well poised to understand precisely what 3rd Wing's arctic warriors need.

"I'm honored to once again be a part of this amazing team," Corcoran said. "I'll do all I can to ensure the 3rd Wing has the resources it needs to continue its legacy of excellence."

Spokesman: Hagel to Discuss Russia During NATO Summit

By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is “mindful” of how the NATO alliance would have to prove strong enough to send the correct message to Moscow as Russia’s aggression toward the Ukraine grows, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.

In a Pentagon news conference, Kirby said the United States would “certainly participate” in any discussion at this week’s NATO summit in Wales concerning the NATO secretary general’s plan for a NATO rapid reaction force that would put about 14,000 troops on the eastern borders of NATO nations, Kirby said.

“Secretary Hagel looks forward to having those discussions,” Kirby said, adding it’s too early to speculate on how the Defense Department would assist in resourcing that force.

The U.S. military has contributed to the Baltic air policing mission, has performed ground exercises in the Baltics and has exercised aggressively in the Black Sea, Kirby said. “So we're constantly looking for new ways,” he added. “We welcome the secretary general's suggestion.”

Hagel has said many times that Russia has galvanized the alliance, Kirby added, and brought into “sharp relief” the need for all NATO partners and allies to continue sufficient and adequate defense spending for their own defense and for the defense of their allies and to look for new ways to combat threats on the continent.

Russia’s capability is more important than the estimated numbers of Russian troops on the ground, Kirby told reporters. Highly capable Russian battalion tactical groups with an estimated 10,000 troops are closer to the border with Ukraine than they were in the spring and “could move literally on a moment's notice,” he added.

Amid seeing Russian support for separatists in addition to Russian conventional and special operations forces inside Ukraine, the U.S. military has not has changed its position that the military activity must stop, Kirby said.

“Those troops need to leave, the support for the separatists needs to stop, and we want those troops pulled away from the border with Ukraine,” he said. “We continue to see action by Moscow that does nothing but increase tensions inside Ukraine and spur additional violence.”

Atar hospital gets a checkup

by Master Sgt. Brian M. Boisvert

9/2/2014 - ATAR, Mauritania -- While the African Partnership Flight Mauritania students continued their classes, a small team of U.S. Air Force medics took a break from their APF duties and visited a local hospital as part of a routine health and safety inspection here, Sept. 2, 2014.

Primarily assigned to support the APF Mauritania mission, the team used some down time to inspect local medical facilities that serve the Mauritanian military forces. The visit will open up dialogue between the local medical staff and the U.S. to build stronger partnerships for the future.

The small team consisted of Capt. Brandy Sande, U.S. Air Forces Africa physician assistant, Maj. Michael Morrow, 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron flight nurse, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and Capt. Mohammed Diallo, critical care nurse and interpreter from Walter Reed Hospital.

"We came here to see what capabilities this hospital had and how we could learn from each other," said Morrow. "This is a very impressive hospital and it offers more capability than I could have imagined."

The team was guided by Dr. Abdoullah Ould Hmeyade, Centre Hospitalier D'Atar director, and was given a full access tour of the two operating rooms, x-ray facility, emergency services with three ambulances, a laboratory and a maternity ward.

The hospital, which was built in 1958, receives and treats over 150 patients a day. It offers a pharmacy, isolation room, dental services, routine clinic treatment, immunizations and medical insurance assistance. It can also keep up to 55 medical/surgical patients in the inpatient.

"I am honored to be able to host you and welcome your team into my hospital," said Hmeyade. "It is my hope that we can build a strong partnership with the U.S. hospitals and I would welcome an invitation for a member of my team to be hosted at a hospital in the U.S. to learn from the best and if we could host one of your physicians here, we would be honored."

"The main goal of this visit was for us to assess the capabilities of this facility and to open a communication partnership where we will be able to exchange knowledge," said Sande. "Dr. Hmeyade was very gracious in taking his time to host us during this visit and I look forward to possible communication in the future."

APF Mauritania is a classroom learning environment where students from Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and Tunisia are taught lessons in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, in addition to, ground and flight safety, and air command operations by Airmen from U.S. Air Forces in Europe-AFAFRICA, as well as, instructors from Air Mobility Command.

Silver Star awarded to 22nd STS Airman

y Staff Sgt. Russ Jackson
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

8/19/2014 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Four combat controllers and two tactical air control party members from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron were presented eight medals during an awards ceremony here Aug. 18.

Combat controllers and TACP members are trained special operations forces who deploy undetected into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones or airfields, and provide air traffic control and close air support.

"Today we're going to recognize six of our Special Tactics Airmen. We've got one Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Valor, four Bronze Stars and two Combat Action medals," said Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, Air Force Special Operations Command commander. "In all these cases we're going to award today, they were being shot at. They were outside the wire and being shot at as they engaged the enemy. That's what we're awarding today."

Tech. Sgt. Matthew McKenna, 22nd STS combat controller, was awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third highest combat military decoration, for distinguishing himself by gallantry during a 13 hour firefight with enemy forces in Afghanistan.

McKenna was the fourth 22nd STS member to earn the medal for operations conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan and is the 31st Special Tactics Airman to receive the medal since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

During the battle in Afghanistan, McKenna and his team found themselves in a vulnerable valley position, outnumbered by a fierce enemy closing in on their position from higher ground.
McKenna controlled air and ground sensors in order to carry out air strikes on 10 insurgents preventing a cataclysmic ambush.

At one point in the conflict, he discovered his team was running out of ammunition and coordinated an aerial resupply at two locations placing desperately needed munitions within 50 feet of the endangered service members.

As the enemy closed in on their position, McKenna ignored his teammate's urgencies to find cover as he rushed into the kill zone, exposing himself to heavy fire in order to control danger-close air strikes.

A danger-close air strike is an attack from airborne assets that are targeting an area within 600 meters of a friendly force.

The strikes were perfectly placed, saving the lives of friendly forces pinned down by the enemy fire and allowing the team, almost completely out of ammunition, the time and space to move up the mountain to an emergency exfiltration point.

His actions secured the survival of his team against a challenging enemy, allowing them to beat back three counter-attacks contributing to 103 enemies killed in action before withdrawing to safety.

"These are very humble individuals and don't like to be in the lime light," said Heithold. "They don't want to be highlighted up here for what they've done because frankly, many of [their teammates] in the audience have done these same things."

McKenna was also awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during that same deployment. In that time, he controlled 431 aircraft during 23 ground combat operations, which led to the capture of 26 enemy insurgents and 67 enemy fighters killed in action.

During numerous operations, he safeguarded his teammates by exposing himself to direct fire in order to coordinate aircraft to neutralize enemy fire allowing his team to complete their mission.

Five other Airmen were also recognized for their valiant actions in combat.

Staff Sgt. James Sparks, 22nd STS combat controller, was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for his actions during a 2012 deployment to Afghanistan. Attached to an Army special forces team, he was able to integrate airpower into 26 combat missions where he controlled 142 different aircraft maintaining fire superiority. His actions resulted in the neutralization of five key leaders, 14 enemy killed in action and three captured.

Tech. Sgt. Bridger Morris, 22nd STS combat controller, was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during a deployment to Afghanistan from 2013 to 2014. Within this time, Morris disrupted insurgent networks by directing 207 aircraft employing air to ground attacks on the enemy which resulted in 23 enemies killed in action and eight captured.

Tech. Sgt. Tyler Britton, 22nd STS tactical air control party member, was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during a deployment to Afghanistan from 2013 to 2014. In addition to his joint attack controller duties, he was involved in a three day operation where he engaged the enemy with accurate fire in order to extract wounded teammates out of harm's way.

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Luera, 22nd STS tactical air control party member, was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Force Combat Action medal for his actions during a deployment to Afghanistan from 2013 to 2014. During one operation, Luera exposed himself to gunfire in order to adjust aircraft fire to maximize the effectiveness of each airborne attack he called which resulted in the death of six enemy Taliban members including a key Taliban commander.

Staff Sgt. Douglas Perry, 22nd STS combat controller, was awarded the Air Force Combat Action medal for his active participation in combat in connection with a military operation on Aug. 26, 2013, while serving with Operation Enduring Freedom.

"I would argue that the 22nd STS and the 24th Special Operations Wing is by far the most decorated unit in the United States Air Force," said Heithold. "I'm not bragging or here to trumpet our successes. But I will tell you one thing. I'm awful proud to be the commander of AFSOC and to be the commander of these men and women out there getting it done."

NAVFAC Proudly Building on 172 Year Navy Heritage

By Don Rochon, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) marked 172 years of providing facilities engineering expertise to support the mission readiness of Navy and Marine Corps commanders Aug. 31.

In 1842, Secretary of the Navy Abel P. Upshur officially established NAVFACs predecessor, the Bureau of Naval Yards and Docks, to execute the design, construction and maintenance of Navy yards and a few other shore stations around the eastern seaboard of the United States. Eventually the Bureau and its responsibilities would grow into the global enterprise known as NAVFAC, which was officially established in May 1966.

"I cannot be more proud of our team and how they live up to our rich heritage each and every day," said NAVFAC Commander and Chief of Civil Engineers Rear Adm. Kate Gregory. "NAVFAC civilians, Civil Engineer Corps officers and Seabees around the world are on the job 24-7 building and maintaining sustainable facilities, delivering utilities and services, and providing Navy expeditionary force capabilities wherever and whenever needed."

With 14 major commands located in the United States, Europe and Japan, NAVFACs support is visible around the globe on practically every Navy and Marine Corps installation. Nearly every pier, runway, building, gymnasium, barracks, road, utility plant and other shore facilities has been constructed or acquired by NAVFAC.

The command's worldwide team of planning, construction, facilities services and acquisition subject matter experts executed approximately 39,000 separate contract actions in fiscal year (FY) 2013 for $7.41 billion, including $2.3 billion in military construction support for the Navy, Marine Corps and other federal agencies.

Part of this construction effort consisted of 33 military construction projects in support of strategic combatant command missions at forward operating areas. Other construction projects supported the introduction of new Navy/Marine Corps weapons platforms and helped sustain critical operations around the world.

NAVFACs Public Works Departments respond to facilities service and emergency calls in a demanding 24-7 environment. This critical work is a vital enabler for what takes place daily on bases around the world, as more than 480,000 service calls and 51,000 emergency calls were recorded and completed last year.

Public Works Departments also reduced consumption of more than 11,000 gasoline gallon equivalents with E85 alternative fuel vehicles, installing electric vehicle solar carports and charging stations, and executing energy projects totaling $263 million for the Navy and $198 million for the Marine Corps.

The Navy's Energy Program, managed and executed by NAVFAC, is moving at a swift pace to meet the Secretary of the Navy's energy goals by focusing on significant energy efficiency improvements and integrating mission compatible alternative energy solutions at Navy and Marine Corps installations worldwide. In the past three years, the Navy has increased its annual production of sustainable energy. In FY 13 alone, NAVFAC awarded 140 energy projects that are estimated to save over 1.4 million MBTU of energy and almost seven million gallons of water annually.

In support of commander, Navy Installations Command and fleet readiness, NAVFACs Environmental business line completed six complex National Environmental Policy Act environmental impact statements and 26 environmental assessments to facilitate construction, training and testing for supported commanders.

NAVFACs Expeditionary Program Office and Expeditionary Warfare Center executed $174 million in Navy expeditionary equipment and warfighting requirements, including maintenance items for deploying Sailors, the reset of Navy mine resistant ambush protected vehicles, maritime pre-positioning support, port security barrier sustainment, critical tests for water purification systems and Navy Lighterage System testing.

NAVFACs Navy Crane Center evaluated over 170 shore weight handling programs worldwide, which collectively oversaw two million lifts, achieving one of the safest years of weight handling operations on record.

NAVFAC has a proud history of delivering exceptional products and services for supported commands since 1842. Building on 172 years of experience, the command continues to manage the planning, design, construction, contingency engineering, real estate, environmental and public works support for U.S. Naval shore facilities all over the world.