Military News

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dobbins to participate in Red Flag-Alaska 15-1

by Senior Airman Daniel Phelps
94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


9/25/2014 - DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. -- Fourty-four members from the 94th Airlift Wing along with one C-130 Hercules will be participate in RED FLAG-Alaska 15-1 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska beginning Sept. 29.

RED FLAG-Alaska is a joint/coalition, tactical air combat employment exercise which corresponds to the operational capability of participating units. In other words, exercises often involve several units whose military mission may differ significantly from those of other participating units. RED FLAG-Alaska planners take these factors into consideration when designing exercises so participants get the maximum training possible without being unfairly disadvantaged during simulated combat scenarios.

"The 94th Airlift Wing will be joining in RED FLAG-Alaska 15-1 performing infiltrating/exfiltrating of troops and equipment for Army and Marines, Air land (dirt assaults), and air drop operations while performing in a navigation, radar and infared contested environment," said Lt. Col. Terence Green, 94th Operations Support Squadron.  "RED FLAG-Alaska 15-1 is an international exercise hosted by Pacific Air Forces involving 18 units and 75 aircraft with Dobbins as the only Air Force Reserve unit."

All RED FLAG-Alaska exercises take place in the Joint Pacific Range Complex over Alaska as well as a portion of Western Canadian airspace. The entire airspace is made up of extensive Military Operations Areas, Special Use Airspace, and ranges, for a total airspace of more than 67,000 square miles.

On average, more than 1,000 people and up to 60 aircraft deploy to Eielson, and an additional 500 people and 40 aircraft deploy to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, for each RED FLAG-Alaska exercise. Most participating RED FLAG-Alaska units arrive a week prior to the actual exercise. During that time, aircrews may fly one or two range orientation flights, make physical and mental preparations, hone up on local flying restrictions, receive local safety and survival briefings, and work on developing orientation plans.

"For events such as this, we will usually take one jet out as a trial the first time," Green said. "If things go well, we will try to bring out six ships for the next RED FLAG-Alaska."

(Information pulled from an Eielson Air Force Base press release)

Alaska Reservist reaches 1,000 F-22 flight hours

by Tech. Sgt. Dana Rosso
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs


9/26/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- Maj. Ryan Pelkola, a Reserve F-22 pilot assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron, is the eighth pilot in Air Force history to reach 1,000 flight hours in the F-22 during a sortie here September 9.

"It feels great to reach this milestone doing a job I love," said Pelkola. "During my 1000 hour sortie I gave an upgrade ride to Col. Charles Corcoran as part of his syllabus to be a combat mission ready wingman. When I was active duty in the 525th FS he was my squadron commander and gave me the majority of my instructor pilot upgrade rides. I feel like we have come full circle and I am glad he was a part of this milestone."

Prior to joining the Air Force Reserve Pelkola spent 12 years on active duty flying F-15s and F-22's in Alaska before relocating to Holloman AFB, NM. He separated from active duty in 2013 and returned to Alaska to fly with the Reserves' 302nd FS.

"It was a privilege to fly on Maj. Pelkola's wing as he reached this significant milestone," said Col. Corcoran, 3rd Wing commander. "I learned a ton.  He is a fabulous instructor and we are lucky to have officers of his caliber on our Total Force team."

Pelkola is now the third pilot assigned to the 477th Fighter Group to reach the 1,000 hour milestone. Col. David Piffarerio, 477th Fighter Group deputy commander, was the first in the Group and the entire USAF and Maj. Jonathan Gration, 302nd FS F-22 pilot, was the second in the Group and the fourth in the USAF.

"The squadron prides itself on being tactically proficient as our first priority," said Pelkola. "In doing so we provide tremendous support to the active duty."

The 477th FG is integrated in every F-22 mission set with their partners in the active duty 3rd Wing.

"This is a huge milestone in a pilot's career, and to be one of the first pilots to reach 1000 hours in the Raptor is particularly noteworthy," said Col. Tyler Otten, 477th Fighter Group commander. "Maj. Pelkola's sortie today is also a great indicator of the tremendous partnership we are creating between the reserve and active components.  Together, we stand poised to conduct the nation's business as a total force team."

Nellis remembers POWs, those MIA

by Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


9/24/2014 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- They're in the maroon-colored vests sitting in the front row. They're bowing their heads in remembrance.

They're former prisoners of war who gathered here at Freedom Park to remember their brothers-in-arms and honor those missing in action during a POW/MIA Recognition Ceremony Sept. 19.

"I feel it's an honor to all of us ex-POWs, and when we get honored like this we take it seriously and realize that there are not many of us left," said William Dean Whitaker, a World War II veteran and former POW. "The ones that are left all have their stories to tell."

Whitaker, who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps' 603rd Bomb Squadron as a bombardier and navigator, was completing a mission on Nov. 2, 1944, when his B-17 was shot down over a synthetic oil plant in Murseburg, Germany, and he was subsequently held as a POW for seven months.

All of the crew members aboard the plane and many of the men he served with that survived the war have since passed away.

"I'm one of the few left," said Whitaker. "[The ceremony] is a way to honor all my brothers, especially the four that were killed by the Germans when we landed. I think about them all the time."

Col. Thomas E. Dempsey III, Nevada Test and Training Range commander, said as U.S. service members, we too must think about Whitaker's fallen brothers.

"All of the Americans still missing or unaccounted for are part of us," Dempsey said. "They are part of our nation bound by the same oath to the constitution that our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen of today swear to protect... As we continue to serve our nation, we owe it to each and every one of them that we will never give up and never forget."

Dempsey also said that the day was not just a day to honor former POWs and those MIA, but we must also acknowledge that we are still at war, and more Americans may be captured by our nation's enemy.

As he concluded his speech, Dempsey gave service members one final solemn reminder.

"Freedom is not free. Freedom comes with a price," he said. "Today we remember the POWs and those MIA who fought to protect our freedom and lost theirs."

JBER Airman recalls security forces heroism

Commentary by Senior Master Sgt. Mike Hammond
JBER Public Affairs


7/31/2014 - KABUL, Afghanistan -- Having recently arrived in Kabul, I will say it has been an eventful and busy time already. This phase of my deployment started as I sat in a plane on the runway at Bagram Air Base the morning of July 17. We were just about to take off when the pilots got some news there was action up at Kabul and the airport was shut down for at least a while.

Back in the terminal, my fellow passengers and I looked online to get the news and saw there was an attack here. Besides hoping everyone was ok, my distant second place thought was, "Great! Another night in the transient tent at Bagram." Don't judge me - we all know how awesome that experience is, right?

Fast forward a day, and I arrived here in Kabul. Obviously, I knew I was going to hit the ground running by helping tell the story of what happened here and how this base was attacked and yet suffered no casualties. What I didn't know was that, within just a few days of my arrival, I would have the honor and privilege of hearing some of the most inspiring and satisfying stories I've heard during a long career in public affairs in which I've conducted thousands of interviews.

Simply put, and to the point: the U.S. Air Force Security Forces defenders, who are here to advise and train with our Afghan hosts while also defending the rest of us who advise and train, are amazing. Yes, amazing.

You may or may not already know the story. If not, in a nutshell, it goes like this. On July 17, a small group of Defenders, just a few dozen that morning, were the first to notice and respond to a pre-dawn surprise attack by an as-yet undetermined number of militants - probably in the range of five to 12 men. These attackers came well-armed. They brought along many rocket-propelled grenades, plenty of ammunition for small arms fire, suicide vests, and even a vehicle-borne improvised-explosive device. You get the picture; they weren't coming out to the base to deliver donuts and coffee to the troops. They set up in, and on top of, a nearby building and opened fire.

What they may not have counted on was being noticed almost immediately by this group of Air Force Defenders, who were guarding the tiny Forward Operating Base Oqab on the grounds of Kabul International Airport. So as the bad guys set up and began their attack, they appeared to focus mainly on the Afghan military base nearby and the airfield itself. Imagine their surprise and "delight," when they began getting lit up from the flank.

Security Forces Airmen at FOB OQAB reacted extremely quickly after the bad guys' opening volley. Some were standing watch already. Others were in bed asleep. One of them was just beginning to chat with his wife back home on Facebook. But when they all heard the indirect fire and then the small arms fire, every one of them - no matter what they had been doing - geared up and headed to the fight. Most of the off duty ones ended up fighting in shorts and t-shirts under their protective gear.

We're talking gym shorts, T-shirts, A-shirts, shoes but no socks, shoes with one sock - even a pair of cowboy boots and blue jeans. Whatever they'd been wearing in bed or in their rooms was what they came out to fight in. Because every second counts when the lead is flying. Suppressive fire, they all knew, could save lives.

Fast forward a whopping four-plus hours later, the first two of which were full of blistering exchanges of lead and explosives, and there was no one left in, on, or around that building to continue the fight. Those bad guys have fought their last fight. Between the Air Force Security Forces, their friends that spit hot lead, and their friends from the Afghan Security Forces (who performed the final clearing of that attack position to effectively end the battle), the bad guys didn't stand a chance. Add in the fact that operations center controllers were watching their every move, helping request close air support, and keeping everyone on the same page. Forget about it; game over. And best of all, back on our side of the fenceline there were no serious injuries whatsoever. In a four-hour battle where more than 20 incoming RPGs were fired. Wow!

Now that you have the Cliff notes version of what happened, I'll get to my main point (finally). It is simply this: after just two days of interviewing approximately half (at this point) of the Defenders who participated in the battle, I am prouder to be in the Air Force than I ever have been in over 19 years of service. And I hope by sharing a little of what I learned from them, that you might be too. And if you're not in uniform, maybe you'll be that much prouder of the folks here who are.

What I learned was the way they value their training. I heard stories of many individuals from several bases who performed smoothly as one team when it counted - and became family. Most of all, I learned that from the youngest or newest Airman to the more battle hardened and seasoned noncommissioned officers and officers, there was a treasure trove of intriguing and impressive perspective within each.

I met an Airman who had a choice, while responding, to go to a tower that was safely out of range or one of the two towers closest to the enemy. His mind told him to stay safe. Self preservation is a heck of a great instinct, usually. But he went, in a split-second decision, to where the action was hottest. He thought there was no way he should try to stay safe, when his job was to fight and protect. And so he did.

I also met a guy who "got stuck" going to that tower who was further away and was upset about it momentarily. But he quickly found a way to help through spotting and communicating to the ones doing the shooting.

I met an NCO who really didn't much want to talk to me about his role, not only because he wanted the focus to be on his troops - but because, to him, it's just about doing the job. The first time I spoke to him, he simply said, "I was there."

Trust me, he was a whole lot more than just there. But here's a guy who's been there before, done that, and earned the T-shirt. Nothing special. (He and I disagree on that last part, but he can keep the shirt.)

Another Airman couldn't believe the audacity of the enemy to try and attack us directly, since they have in the past usually "just" lobbed mortars from a distance. And rather than being scared (well, just a little, she later admitted) she said (and I quote) "I actually was happy. I knew I was going to get to do what I came into the Air Force to do." Now, that may be true. And all of us in uniform signed up on a contract that included everything up to and including the last full measure. But running to the sound of the guns, actually happy to fulfill one's promise to the nation ... just two years into her service ... outstanding!

Oh, there are more. Trust me. More than I have time or room to write in this particular note for Talk About It Tuesday. But I will most certainly be getting the stories out there about the numerous brave and squared-away defenders young (and not so young) who were tested in a fire usually reserved for Special Forces, Marines, and Soldiers. They came out squeaky clean, having proved themselves and validated their training when it mattered the most. What a story ... but more importantly, what amazing folks.

If Security Forces has been underappreciated by some folks in the past (slow gate entry, a ticket on base, the pass and ID line, etc.), I assure you, these Defenders, at this tiny FOB, are rockstars right about now.

And with that, I close this Talk About It Tuesday - my first - by saying I look forward to continuing to serve and sleep, as a well-known colonel in a great movie once said, "under the very blanket of freedom (they) provide."

Specialized training enables AF firefighters to build partner nation relations

by Capt. Steven Stubbs
Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs


9/24/2014 - SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras -- Twelve members from the 612th Air Base Squadron Fire Emergency Services completed the Air Advisor Academy 5-day academic Mobile Training Team course Sept. 15-19 to become the first group to receive air advisor training qualified to provide partner nation firefighting training.

The Air Advisor training supplied the Airmen with a broad picture of building cooperative relations with their Central American counterparts.  This included for example, how to effectively communicate in a cross-cultural environment, how to best use interpreters, and how to conduct media relations.  The course culminated with classes discussing specific information about El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama whom they will be teaching during these missions.

"We received a general overview of some of their culture and deep rooted ancestry," U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Janczewski, 612 ABS Fire Emergency Services deputy fire chief, said.  "This training will allow us to relate better, on a deeper level, with our partner nations.  Having more insight into what motivates them or knowing them on a more personal level enables us to better get the training across to the attendees."

This week-long course empowers the 612th firefighters to conduct the Central America Sharing Mutual Operational Knowledge and Experiences (CENTAM S.M.O.K.E.) exercises. CENTAM S.M.O.K.E provides the partner nation firefighters with training in safety, personal protective equipment, apparatus familiarization, fire hose applications, structural/car/helicopter/ aircraft live fire evolutions and medical training.

"These firefighters are already experts in their field.  They come to the fight with all the skills and abilities," said U.S. Air Force Col. Steven Cabosky, the Air Advisor Academy commandant.  "What our training does is give them a little broader perspective and make them ambassadors of the United States during their upcoming exercises."

The primary objective of CENTAM S.M.O.K.E. is to foster a strong professional relationship with partner nation firefighting personnel by promoting dialogue, improving information sharing as well as refining existing tactics, techniques, and procedures. Since 2007, Joint Task Force-Bravo has trained more than 800 firefighters from all Central American countries.

Having already spent 6 months in South America on a previous deployment, U.S. Air Force Capt. Clemente Berrios, 612 ABS civil engineer, can vouch for the positive impact they can have on the partner nations. "CENTAM S.M.O.K.E. is perfect for providing our mission partners with the necessary skills to become more efficient at firefighting.  It allows us to work hand-in-hand with the other Central American countries and promote unity through training."

Ultimately, the Mobile Training Team provided 612 ABS personnel with the tools they need to make future partner nation engagements possible.

"[The objective is] to train the trainers," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Sergio Vega, 612th Air Base Squadron commander. "To build upon Air Advisor successes and empower our Airmen in the crucial role in building partner capacity, demonstrating our commitment to assisting in the development of partner countries' capabilities to address regional security and shared responsibilities in fostering peace and security."

According to Janczewski, the ultimate goal of CENTAM S.M.O.K.E. is to improve upon the skillsets that the CENTAM partners already have.

"Training is a quintessential part of what it takes to be a firefighter.  It's gaining that muscle memory to be able to accomplish a task in a high stress environment, such as being in a structure or aircraft fire, without having to think about it.  That will allow you to focus on other variables and keep you and your team safe.  The more we practice and hone our skills, the more mission effective we become."

Sector Anchorage conducts HAZMAT-response training

by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert
Sector Anchorage Public Affairs


9/26/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- As enforcers of America's maritime laws, Coast Guard boarding teams are typically associated with images of drug and migrant interdiction, monitoring fisheries and boating safety. However, as defenders of U.S. ports and harbors, Coast Guard members must also be prepared to respond to more dire threats to the nation's security.

Dealing with weapons of mass destruction might not be the first thing people think of when picturing the Coast Guard, but that doesn't downplay the need for its members to be able to identify and safely react to the presence of dangerous agents discovered in the course of a boarding. To prepare for such an event, members of the Sector Anchorage enforcement division participated in a three-day training course earlier this month that familiarized them with the tools necessary to locate and protect themselves from biological, chemical or radiological substances.

Instructors from Joint Experience Training Associates, a civilian company largely made up of former law enforcement and military members with experience in explosive ordnance disposal and other related fields, walked Coast Guard members through search and safety procedures and the use of detection devices and protective equipment during the course.

While Coast Guard boarding team members are not trained to handle, remove or dispose of explosive or other hazardous materials, understanding how to safely secure a vessel carrying such deadly cargo is the first step to protecting lives, including their own.

"The Coast Guard is the first line of defense for our country when it comes to securing our coastline," said William Kain, an instructor for JETA. "It's important for them to have this training so they can prevent dangerous substances from reaching our shores and so they can protect the lives of civilians and themselves until trained personnel can arrive to remove the threat."

In addition to operating chemical and radiological detection equipment, enforcement division personnel were shown how to properly use safety gear including disposable hazmat suits, protective masks, gloves and boots. Once hazardous materials are detected, limiting exposure is key to survival, so members were tested on their ability to quickly don their gear in a matter of minutes.

"Boarding teams regularly use four-gas analyzers and other detection equipment while conducting operations, but this was my first time dressing out in a suit with the protective mask," said Lt. j.g. Victoria Swinghamer, from the Sector Anchorage enforcement division. "It's an important part of the ports, waterways and coastal security mission to be able to protect ourselves and our shipmates in the event of any potential or imminent attack so learning how and when to use the equipment was the most valuable part of the training."

Sector Anchorage personnel finished the course with a tabletop scenario and a final evaluation of their proficiency with their safety equipment. The training they received may shield them, their shipmates and those they protect from harm during boarding operations to come.

Alaska Reserve unit participates in War Day during Hawaii Annual Tour

by Maj. Ashley Conner
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs


9/26/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- Alaska's only Air Force Reserve unit has just returned from its first ever group-wide off station annual tour at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii.

"This was an important training opportunity because it allowed us to function as a unit and put our leadership team to new tests that we don't get at home," said Col. Tyler Otten, 477th Fighter Group commander. "Hawaii is a great location; it provided us an opportunity to train in a different environment and to work hand-in-hand with one of our fellow F-22 squadrons at the Hawaii Air National Guard.  They were great hosts and we generated a great relationship."

The group of 175 Airmen from maintenance, operations, civil engineer, security forces and force support were transported to and from Hawaii on a C-5 and four C-17s from Reserve units at Dover AFB and March ARB.

"Utilizing Reserve assets allowed us to save money while also providing a valuable training opportunity for the C-5 and the C-17s," said Maj. Caleb Haley, 302nd F-22 pilot and AT project officer.

One of the largest training events of the two weeks came during the 154th and 15th Wing War Day Sept. 12.

"The Alaska Raptors participated as both Red Air and Blue Air during the War Day," said Maj. Ryan Pelkola, 302nd FS F-22 pilot.  "The Blue Air scenario called for the Raptors to provide continual protection of both the C-17 and the Helicopters. Once the rescue operation was over we conducted high value airborne asset protection for the HIANG KC-135s, which is not normally something they get to do. Training jointly with our fellow PACAF F-22 squadrons prepares us for real world scenarios we could encounter worldwide."

In addition to the six Alaska Raptors that participated in the War Day there were two KC-135s, two C-17s, two Army UH-60s, one P-3 along with numerous Marines, Soldiers and Airmen whose objective was to recover downed aircrew.

"My role in war day was to simulate a member of aircrew downed in hostile territory," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Keyfauver, 477th OSF Intelligence superintendent.  "We were guided by the 154th OSS SERE representatives on in-field academics regarding evasion and survival techniques. We remained 'in character' throughout our entire duration in the field, maintaining evasive actions from the time of aircraft downing to the time of extraction. "

The nine members of the simulated downed aircrew coordinated their extraction with the Joint Personnel Recovery Center via radio calls in accordance with pre-briefed procedures.
The extraction consisted of  PJ's and a JTAC parachuting into the extraction zone, securing the perimeter from hostile forces, and escorting the downed aircrew onto the HH-60's that landed shortly after the area was secure.

"I now believe this experience to be vital in realizing the intelligence requirements in support to personnel recovery," said Keyfauver. " Intelligence personnel are often involved directly with SERE in ensuring that the pilot is familiar with procedures to take if he or she finds themselves in a SERE situation.  Intelligence is responsible for conveying Special Instruction information to pilots pre-mission to ensure that the proper actions are taken on the ground if the situation arises.  Understanding these things and seeing how the Reserve F-22s are integrated into the mission was an invaluable experience."

Airmen deploy to deliver Ebola treatment facility with U.S. relief package

by Senior Airman Kayla Newman
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs


9/26/2014 - JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.  -- U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 633rd Medical Group from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, partnered with representatives from the U.S. Public Health Service to deliver a modular medical treatment center, Sept. 26, as part of a government-wide effort to support humanitarian relief operations in Ebola-stricken African nations.

Airmen from the 633rd Medical Group accompanied the Expeditionary Medical Support System, or EMEDS, to Africa.  And while they will not be involved in treatment of patients exposed to the virus, they will be supporting the overall effort by setting up the facility and training international healthcare workers.

In early September, the Department of Defense approved the Department of State request for a 25-bed deployable hospital facility, equipment and personnel required to set up the facility. The Air Force's Expeditionary Medical Support System fulfilled that request, meaning Operation United Assistance -- the designation for Ebola Relief missions -- receives the largest version of the EMEDS facility. The facility can treat a population at risk of up to 6,500.

"Over the past week or so, 633rd MDG Airmen have worked in tandem with representatives from the U.S. Public Health Service as part of a multi-agency effort," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Dun, Chief, Expeditionary Medical Operations Division Office of the Command Surgeon, HQ Air Combat Command. "From the scale of response, this is a national effort. Experts from across the country are working together to bring meaningful relief to those stricken by this terrible disease." 

As part of the joint effort from multiple government agencies, Airmen will set the stage for further mission success by standing up the EMEDS and training public health professionals on the proper use of the extensive tools available to them.

"The most important thing is the Airmen setting up and training the [international health workers] on the equipment and how it works," said Brig. Gen. Sean Lee Murphy, ACC surgeon general. He noted that while the Airmen will not be doing patient care, they will still be using all of the force health protection as a precaution and will still be playing an important role in the humanitarian mission.  This particular opportunity to help on the other side of the world is a bit unique.

"We are potentially setting a precedent because the EMEDS unit is typically set up for things like trauma care," said Rear Adm. Scott Giberson, the acting deputy surgeon general for the U.S. Department of Public Health Service.

"[Instead] we will be using it for an infectious pathogen and treatment of international health care workers." According to Giberson, the Air Force's EMEDS is one of the greatest assets to have in this situation.

"DoD Army in Africa, AFRICOM, will be supporting us with some of the logistics and things like that, but the Air Force has the piece of delivering the facility for us and the expertise of setting up the facility and training us on the facility," said Giberson. So, we need that piece of the puzzle to complete the successful mission."

Denali Soldiers deploy for peace and support operations

by Sgt. Brian K. Ragin Jr.
4/25th IBCT Public Affairs


9/26/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Approximately 350 Spartans from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, are scheduled to deploy to Kosovo on a nine-month-long rotation to conduct peace and support operations as part of Kosovo Force, Multinational Battle Group-East. The unit honored its paratroopers in a deployment ceremony at Buckner Physical Fitness Center Sept, 19.

A small contingent of paratroopers assigned to the brigade's headquarters company and several hundred paratroopers assigned to the 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment will support ongoing peacekeeping operations in Kosovo as part of the NATO-led Kosovo Force.

The 1-40th Cavalry's most recent deployment was to Afghanistan's Khost Province, where the unit partnered with Afghanistan Security Forces until its redeployment in October 2012. Today, the 1-40th Cavalry, nicknamed the Denali Squadron, stands ready to deploy to the European Command area of Operations in support of KFOR19 to ensure a safe and secure environment for the people of Kosovo.

While operating as a part of the battle group, Spartan paratroopers will work daily alongside military service personnel from not only Kosovo, but from several partner nations as well, including Romania, Armenia, Moldova and Kazakhstan.

"I am kind of anxious; a little nervous leaving the family, especially here in Alaska," said Army Staff Sgt Gerald Neal, an Intelligence Analyst for the 1/40th Cavalry, who is beginning his first deployment. "The winter is coming up, and it is kind of harsh."

The main body deploys late this month and will travel to Germany for a month-long training exercise before beginning the rotation. The unit is scheduled to return in late summer 2015.

The peace-keeping mission is new for the Spartan Brigade, as its deployments have largely been combat operations in support of overseas contingency operations.

"Just for the safety factor, I am glad it is not a combat deployment," Neal said. " But, because it is not a combat tour, it might move slower, but we will see."

As it conducts the Kosovo Force mission, the multi-faceted Spartan Brigade will continue to hold its responsibilities as a U.S. Army Pacific Command rapid contingency response force.

JBER honors POW/MIA day with somber ceremony

by Air Force Tech Sgt. Raymond Mills
JBER Public Affairs


9/26/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Service members honored missing and fallen comrades Sept. 19, during a POW/MIA ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

According to Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office, National POW/MIA Recognition Day honors prisoners of war and missing service members and their families, and highlights the government's commitment to account for them.

"The POW/MIA ceremony is an opportunity to honor service members whose service takes an unfortunate turn and places them in the most difficult circumstances with little we can do to assist them," said Sen. Mark Begich. "Service members should take comfort in knowing that if they are ever a victim of these circumstances, their military brothers and sisters will continue to honor their service, support their families, educate the next generation about their sacrifice, and most importantly that they will never be forgotten."

The U.S. military honors a tradition of the "no man left behind" philosophy with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command being core of that philosophy.

"It is important to hold this ceremony so the families and friends of prisoners of war and those missing in action can be assured that our nation has not forgotten their heartache and the services of their loved ones," Begich said. "These families live under a cloud of uncertainty and despair, being denied the return of their loved one or closure.  It is an especially cruel kind of heartache that most of us will never know.

"The ceremony should also serve as a reminder to all service members that the ethos of the American military is that we don't leave people behind.  If we cannot keep the promise to bring them home from the battlefield, we will keep them in our hearts and will continue to honor their service and sacrifice.  We need to keep those service members missing in action and those who were prisoners of war as well as their families in our thoughts and prayers because our nation owes them a great debt. The POW/MIA ceremony is an important opportunity to renew and strengthen our resolve that we will never forget."

According to their website, the POW/MIA Accounting Command conducts global search, recovery and laboratory operations to identify unaccounted-for Americans from past conflicts to support the Department of Defense personnel accounting efforts.

"I am proud to live in and serve for a nation that continues to support a pledge to leave no one behind," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Russell Handy. "We recognize that just because someone is missing for a long time, this does not make our efforts to locate their missing less important. Those efforts go on. We must and will continue to do everything in our power to recover the remains of missing Americans, or to resolve the fate of these servicemen. Today's generation of men and women in uniform must know that we will keep that solemn commitment to them as they protect our nation's interests around the world, for the sake of generations to come.

"They say I will not falter, I will not fail," Handy said. "Just don't forget me. These are the men and women we serve with today, who honor those who sacrificed before them."

Handy is the commander of Alaskan Command, Joint Task Force-Alaska, 11th Air Force, and Alaska Region, North American Aerospace Defense Command at JBER.

Since 2003, JPAC has identified more than 700 missing Americans and more than 1,800 have been repatriated since efforts began in the 1970s according to their website.

Remembering the fallen: POW/MIA Remembrance Week

by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen
432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing


9/25/2014 - CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada -- Airmen at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, honored the more than 83,000 prisoners of war and missing in action service members during POW/MIA Remembrance Week, Sept. 15-19, 2014.

The remembrance week, sponsored by the Air Force Sergeants Association Chapter 1253 at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, featured a breakfast, patriotic movie night, 5K run, 24-hour vigilance run, and formal retreat ceremony.

"The purpose of POW/MIA Remembrance Week was to take time and remember the sacrifices made by those who were held prisoners of war and some who are still missing in action," said Tech. Sgt. Heather, 867th Reconnaissance Squadron target development analyst and AFSA Chapter 1253 member. "It is extremely important we don't forget those who fought before us and the price that was paid."

During the kick-off breakfast ceremony, retired 2nd Lt. William Whitaker spoke to more than 100 Airmen about his time in the Army Air Corps. During his service in the Army Air Corps in WWII, Whitaker was captured and became a POW.

"Speaking at the events brought back many memories, but it is important for the young Airmen to hear [my story]," said Whitaker.

Whitaker went on to say he joined the AAC with three friends but only he and one other returned from the war. He reflects on the memories that continuously remind him of the toll war has taken on his generation.

During the 5K and vigilance runs, a POW/MIA flag was carried to honor those still unaccounted-for Americans from past conflicts. Lead runners carried a POW/MIA flag during the run, which was then passed to and from teams for 24 hours.

Senior Master Sgt. James Robbins, 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron superintendent of operations and president of AFSA Chapter 1253, provided his personal POW/MIA flag to be used during the week's events.

"I have carried that flag since 2000 at every POW/MIA event I have been involved with," Robbins said. "It has great sentimental value to me."

Robbins went on to say that although he has family members in every branch of service, no one in his direct family has ever been a POW or MIA. However, the remembrance week is personal to him because he has friends who have been.

"There's 83,189 personnel still unaccounted for," Robbins said. "That's 83,000 comrades who are unaccounted-for, and I believe that we have a responsibility to remember them until everyone comes home."

A-29 Super Tucano arrives at Moody AFB

by Staff Sgt. Eric Summers Jr.
23d Wing Public Affairs


9/26/2014 - MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga.  -- The first of 20 A-29 Super Tucano aircraft arrived here Sept. 26, in preparation for the Afghanistan pilot and maintenance training mission.

The A-29 is a light air support training aircraft that will be used to train 30 Afghan pilots and 90 Afghan maintainers as part of a requirement from the International Security Assistance Force to conduct training outside of Afghanistan.

"This is a very unique program, it's a great opportunity and it's definitely a great day for Moody Air Force Base," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Hogan, Afghan A-29 Light Air Support training unit commander. "This aircraft is perfect for the mission; it's going to be a great opportunity for us to interact with the Afghans. We will be teaching them, but we will be learning from them as well."

The need for the A-29 comes as the current Afghan Air Force LAS aircraft, the Mi-35 attack helicopter, reaches the end of its service life in January 2016.

"Specifically the mission that we are going to replace is the Mi-35 Helicopter, which is an attack helicopter, so they cover some of the same missions," Hogan said. "But really this aircraft is a monumental leap in capabilities for the Afghan Air Force. It will allow us to do some overlap of those [Mi-35] missions and will do a lot better; it will also expand some other missions, which they currently cannot execute.

During the unveiling ceremony held the day prior to the arrival, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John McMullen, 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force- Afghanistan commander Air, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan deputy commander, also spoke about Afghanistan's need for the aircraft.

"Clearly the biggest gap in the Afghan Air Force is the ability to deliver fire from the air to the enemy on the ground," McMullen said. "The missing piece that is vital to the [Afghan National Security Force] success is an air to ground platform that can drop precision weapons, that has the speed and the range to [reach] out to all of Afghanistan, and that platform is the A-29. It's the perfect aircraft for the terrain in Afghanistan, it's the perfect aircraft for the conflict in Afghanistan, and it's the perfect aircraft for the Afghanistan Air Force."

The United States frequently hosts aircraft training to international students from different countries such as Norway, Poland, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Iraq on the F-16. The U.S. also provides Afghan students flying training in other established programs at bases in Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma.  Eight of the 10 Afghan students in the first training class at Moody have previously earned their wings through U.S. Air Force pilot training.

"The Air Force trains international students, thousands of them, every day," Hogan said. "The pilots we are getting are just another product that we have produced over the years. We have the procedures and policies in place to ensure that the mission is executed safely.  They are not new pilots; they are very experienced and we will always be flying in the aircraft with them."

Following the training, all 20 aircraft will be provided to the Afghan Air Force and will provide air-to-ground and aerial reconnaissance capabilities to support Afghanistan's counterinsurgency operations and airborne self-defense for their government and citizens.

"As General McMullen said, the Afghan Air Force very much needs the A-29," said Afghan Air Force Maj. Gen. Abdul Wahab Wardak, Afghan Air Force commander, during the A-29 unveiling ceremony in Jacksonville, Fla.  "Right now we do not have any type of aircraft that can guard the troops and provide the support. Thank you to everyone that has worked this program. And our friendship will continue to grow and be strong into the future."

Traveling tribute honors past heroes

by Staff. Sgt. Roy Lynch
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


9/24/2014 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho  -- Communities in and around Boise, Idaho, paid tribute to The Traveling Wall, Sept. 17-21, honoring the men and women who sacrificed their lives in the service of this country.

The Traveling Wall is a three-fifth scale of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.; it stands six-feet-tall at the center and covers almost 300-feet from end-to-end. The wall stands as a reminder of the great sacrifices made during the Vietnam War.

American Veterans Traveling Tribute and Texas Freedom Tribute joined forces to travel the United States bringing the Cost of Freedom Tribute and The Traveling Wall to American communities.

Each tribute will have the opportunity to establish a unique event centered on patriotism and the American spirit while being able to raise funds to support local causes.

"The 366th Fighter Wing Honor Guard laid wreaths alongside Vietnam veterans, along with members from the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard," said Tech. Sgt. Patrick Mackey, NCO in charge of the Honor Guard.

Senior Airman Alexander Young, 726th Air Control Squadron material control journeyman, laid a wreath alongside a veteran Linda Hawley who served during the Vietnam War.

"Being among these veterans gives me a sense of pride," said Young. "It's a humbling experience because one day I will be a veteran."

The Traveling Wall was made for the purpose of helping heal and rekindle friendships and to allow people the opportunity to visit loved ones in their home town who otherwise may not be able to make the trip to Washington D.C.

"The traveling wall encompasses the heroism and sadness of our brothers and sisters," said Hawley. "It reminds me of their sacrifice and the sacrifices or military makes today, just so we can enjoy our freedoms."

PACAF warms up for Operation DEEP FREEZE

Release Number: 140925

9/25/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- The U.S. military will kick off the 2014-2015 season of Operation DEEP FREEZE, the Department of Defense's support of the U.S. Antarctic Program and the National Science Foundation, with operations commencing on Sept. 29, 2014.

This support is provided by the Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica, led by Pacific Air Forces at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. JTF-SFA coordinates strategic inter-theater airlift, tactical deep field support, aeromedical evacuation support, search and rescue response.

Active duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel from the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard work together as part of JTF-SFA. This team proudly continues the tradition of U.S. military support to the USAP and demonstrates the United States' commitment to a stable Pacific region.

Airlift for Operation DEEP FREEZE involves active duty and Reserve C-17 Globemaster III support from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wa., LC-130 Hercules support from the New York Air National Guard, sealift support from the U.S. Coast Guard and Military Sealift Command, engineering and aviation services from U.S. Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, and cargo handling from the U.S. Navy.

Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, is the staging point for deployments to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, a key research and operations facility for the USAP.

Operation DEEP FREEZE is unlike any other U.S. military operation. It is one of the military's most difficult peacetime missions due to the harsh Antarctic environment. The U.S. military is uniquely equipped and trained to operate in such an austere environment and has therefore provided support to the USAP since 1955.

For more information, contact the PACAF Public Affairs office at 808-448-3291.

NAVSUP WSS Team Greets C-2A and E-2D Flight Crews



By Jenae Jackson, Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support Corporate Communications and Laura Furgason, E-2/C-2 Integrated Weapons Support Team

PHILADELPHIA (NNS) -- Approximately 50 yards of tarmac and 50 years of historical enhancements separated a C-2A Greyhound from an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye during a recent Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support (NAVSUP WSS) site visit at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

Commander, Airborne Command Control and Logistics Wing (COMACCLOGWING) Commodore Capt. Todd Watkins was on site to accentuate the importance of NAVSUP WSS's role in providing exceptional operational readiness.

"I don't know of any other platform that the Commander Air Group (CAG) schedules 100 percent every day; it's the lifeblood of the fleet," Watkins said about the E2/C2. "Naval Aviation is the ultimate team sport, and NAVSUP WSS Philadelphia is an integral part of the team that makes the Hawkeye mission happen."

A C-2A Greyhound and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye were flown in by the Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 40 (VRC-40) "Rawhides" and the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 125 (VAW-125) "Tigertails" as part of an ongoing effort within NAVSUP WSS to amplify employee awareness and their vital role in fleet readiness.

More than 50 NAVSUP WSS employees spanning several departments were given the opportunity to step beyond the telephone receiver and computer monitor and physically shake the hands of the flight crew and tour the aircraft they work so diligently to sustain.

Originally fielded in the mid-1960's and re-introduced in 1990 bearing substantial airframe and avionic systems improvements, the C-2A Greyhound hails as the U.S. Navy's primary at-sea delivery aircraft for transporting cargo and personnel. The Greyhounds underwent a Service Life Extension Program to increase their operating service life from 15,020 landings and 10,000 flight hours to 36,000 landings and 15,000 flight hours.

The E-2D is the Navy's fourth iteration providing world-class, all-weather Airborne Early Warning and Battle Management Command and Control. Advanced electronic sensors coupled with digital computerized signal processing are used to support the early warning of approaching enemy surface units, cruise missiles, and aircraft. VRC-40 and VAW-125 are currently preparing for an upcoming deployment onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), which marks the E-2D's first deployment.

At the conclusion of the site visit, Watkins recognized and presented five NAVSUP WSS team members with coins for their outstanding contributions and continuous support to the C-2/E-2 platforms.

A field activity of the NAVSUP WSS is the U.S. Navy's supply chain manager providing worldwide support to the aviation, surface ship, and submarine communities. NAVSUP WSS provides Navy, Marine Corps, joint and allied forces with products and services that deliver combat capability through logistics. There are more than 2,000 civilian and military personnel employed at its two Pennsylvania sites. The NAVSUP WSS Philadelphia site supports aircraft, while its Mechanicsburg site supports ships and submarines.

End of an era: 65th AGRS set to deactivate

by Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


9/26/2014 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- After almost a decade of unyielding service, the 65th Aggressor Squadron will be deactivating.

Since being reactivated on Sept. 15, 2005, the 65th AGRS has helped provide air combat training for military members from the different branches as well as foreign allies.

The Aggressor program originally came into existence in the fall of 1972 with the creation of the 64th Aggressor Squadron. It was created because of the high air-combat loss-rate during the Vietnam War. After the creation of the squadron, instead of pilots training against each other with similar tactics and aircraft, the aggressor squadron's role was to fly aircraft and employ tactics similar to those used by U.S. adversaries for U.S. pilots to train against. This in turn would better prepare U.S. and allied aircrews for future conflicts.

"We've been able to provide training to thousands of Airmen through Red Flag, through USAF Weapons School, future weapons school graduates, as well as the weapons school instructors that are teaching the course twice a year," said Lt. Col. Gregory Wintill, 65th AGRS commander.

During exercises such as Red Flag, the 65th AGRS acts in an agressor role by replicating the tactics and techniques of potential adversaries.

Wintill stated, the 65th not only trained Airmen, but also assisted with the test of different aircraft, including the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F/A-18 Hornet by acting as an adversary force for those aircraft to train and test their weapons systems against.

"It's been a great asset for the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center to be able to have the F-15 Eagles here as an aggressor squadron for almost a decade now," Wintill said.

The mission and responsibilities held by the 65th AGRS will be solely filled by the 64th Aggressor Squadron, which along with the 65th AGRS, falls under the 57th Adversary Tactics Group.

"The 57th ATG as a whole works together as a team," said Capt. Jeremy Allen, 65th Aggressor Squadron chief of safety. "They will still have the 64th AGRS to continue the flying portion of the aggressor mission."

With the 65th AGRS deactivating, their assigned F-15 Eagles will be leaving the aggressor role and reassigned to various Air National Guard bases. The 64th AGS will continue their aggressor mission with the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

"The F-15 brings strengths that will be missed, but the F-16 has been flying the aggressor role for a long time now and it will continue to do that to meet the Air Force's needs," Allen said.

The pilots who are assigned to the 65th AGRS will continue their mission as aggressors, with a limited number of F-15 aircraft, under the 64th AGS until March 2015. From there, they may continue to fly or take another path depending on what the USAF requires of them.

Despite the fact that the 65th AGRS will no longer be a part of Nellis or be present to train the thousands of Airman that come through for training, the 64th AGS will be more than ready to fill the void and shoulder the responsibility.

"Fiscal times are tough for the country as a whole, and when you find yourself in that situation you have to make sacrifices and you have to look closely at priorities and make tough decisions," Allen said.

NSW Renames Training Site to Honor MOH Recipient



From Naval Special Warfare Group ONE Public Affairs

CAMPO, Calif. (NNS) -- Naval Special Warfare Group ONE (NSWG-1) held a dedication ceremony at the Assaults and Tactical Weapons Training Complex, La Posta Sept. 25 to rename the site Camp Michael Monsoor.

The dedication further honors Master-at-Arms Second Class (SEAL) Michael Monsoor, who died Sept. 29, 2006, while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Camp Michael Monsoor includes established weapons ranges and tactical training centers, as well as several state-of-the-art training facilities; including a live-fire Close Quarters Combat (CQC) building, light explosives trainer, residential mock-ups and additional administration buildings. The 15,000-square-foot CQC facility is the largest live-fire "shoot house" in North America. There are also plans for additional dynamic weapons ranges.

Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, spoke about the Camp's importance to future generations of SEALs, affording the opportunity to acquire advanced combat techniques and revere Monsoor's heritage.

"The dedication of this camp in honor of MA2 Michael A. Monsoor will remind every warrior that trains here of the highest examples of the heroic, selfless service that he lived," said Losey. He added that Monsoor was the embodiment of the SEAL Ethos and a hero to be idolized by all those who serve and wish to serve as special operators.

More importantly, Monsoor learned to be an altruistic leader through the example of his family, which is devoted to service and the greater good, said Losey.

More than 100 friends, family members, and SEALs who served with Monsoor attended the ceremony. George and Sally Monsoor, parents of MA2 Monsoor, traveled from Orange County, California, with members of their extended family to participate in the ceremony and witness their beloved son's legacy.

"Mike would have loved being here; he loved being a SEAL and loved the guys he worked with," said Mrs. Monsoor, with tears in her eyes. "This is a beautiful facility. If Michael were here, he would have said 'there are other men and women who deserve to be recognized.' That's just how he was. Mike was a humble guy."

Additionally, Mrs. Monsoor said she was grateful for the support her family received from NSW and thanked all the Sailors and everyone involved who helped make this dedication a reality.

NSWG-1 Commander, Capt. Todd J. Seniff, noted that Monsoor's namesake and character add to the legacy of the hallowed grounds.

"On this range complex, you can trace the arc of the SEAL operator's existence," said Seniff, "and so it is right and fitting that is should have Michael's name on it."

While repelling an attack by insurgents, Monsoor and his teammates were providing cover fire from a rooftop. After an intense exchange of fire, an insurgent threw a hand grenade in the middle of Monsoor's team. Without hesitation, Monsoor covered the grenade with his body, sacrificing himself to protect his fellow teammates. Michael Monsoor was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on April 8, 2008.