Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Air Force is a small world

Commentary by Air Force Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera
JBER Public Affairs

9/26/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Throughout your career, when you meet someone, you hope to bump into them someday and often times, you hear, "I'll see you around again; the Air Force is such a small world."

After graduating basic training in 2005, I never expected to see any members of my flight again. As some of us move on to the next chapter in our life and career, we try to keep in touch but often fall out of touch along the way.

I did the math. I have a 9 percent chance of seeing anyone from the 336th Training Squadron, Flight 140. So bumping into my dorm chief while stationed here at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson bringsback memories.

I was 22 years old when I decided to join the Air Force. With no military background, I bonded with the women I met. There were nights I cried myself to sleep and days when I would laugh about our experiences.

During the six grueling weeks of basic training, we had each other's back and encouraged each other to keep pushing. We reminded each other why we wanted to join the military when our will and determination seemed to be in question.

My dorm chief, now Air Force Staff Sgt. Madonna Henard, was our rock in the flight. Meeting her the first time was very intimidating. She fit the job as a dorm chief to make sure that all orders, standards operations, and instructions are carried out correctly when the training instructors were not around, because she did not tolerate any foolishness in our flight. When I needed a reminder why I was in basic training, she was there to remind me.

Seeing her again in the hallways of the People Center, I did a double-take. It was like I was in slow motion. "Dorm chief," I exclaimed.

She quickly looked at me and there was an instant reconnection. We talked about our experiences in basic training, the women in our flight and our brother flight. It also gave us the opportunity to talk about a possible reunion with Flight 140.

I am sure there have been other service members who reunited with their past, and I will not be the last one.

So, no matter where you are, you will always find someone who made an impact in your life in the military, or it could be someone who you simply made a connection with, had a short conversation with, or someone you were deployed with for the months you were away from your family. This individual may be a fellow coworker, who helped you transition to your previous duty base, or someone at technical school who shares the same experience.

In my case, I leaned on my fellow trainees to help me get through Basic Military Training when things got tough.

No matter what the circumstances are, we hope to see them again and to say these words: "I'll see you around again; the Air Force is such a small world."

Sometimes, it just takes the lyrics of a song or a familiar sight to bring back memories, but in my case, it takes people who I encountered during my military career. And no matter what path Henard and I take, she will always be my dorm chief.

PACAF takes 1st place in AF Half Marathon MAJCOM team challenge

by Headquarters Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

10/2/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- The Pacific Air Forces team recently placed 1st in the Air Force Half Marathon Major Command team challenge with a total run time of 9:07:38 and an average time of 1:31:17. The PACAF team consisted of six members, including Col. Dondi Costin, Headquarters PACAF, Hawaii; Capt. Allison Easterly, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; 2nd Lt. Herman Reinhold, Yokota Air Base, Japan; Staff Sgt. Joshua Johnson, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea; Senior Airman Lauren Weimer, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; and Airman 1st Class Andrew Riesenberger, Osan AB.

Their individual run times were as follows:

Riesenberger -- 1:19:17
Johnson -- 1:27:45
Costin -- 1:30:12
Reinhold -- 1:30:38
Easterly -- 1:37:24
Weimer -- 1:42:33

Also, the PACAF Full Marathon team took second place in the MAJCOM team challenge with an overall run time of 13:53:40 and an average time of 3:28:25. Team members included Maj. Luke Casper, Misawa Air Base, Japan; Master Sgt. Karissa Gunter, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; Master Sgt. Traveller Hill, JBPHH; and Senior Airman Kevin McInerny, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

AF approves special pay for nuclear career fields

10/2/2014 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Assignment incentive pay and special duty assignment pay for select total force nuclear career fields became effective Oct. 1, following Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James' recent announcement.

"The purpose of these special pays is to incentivize Airmen to volunteer for and perform duties in a particular career field, location and/or special assignment where the scope of responsibility and required skills exceed those of other Airmen in the same career field and rank," said Brig. Gen. Brian Kelly, director of force management policy.

Select officers and enlisted members serving in eleven nuclear career fields and assignment areas will receive between $75 and $300 per month.  Nuclear careers fields selected for these special  pays include enlisted service members assigned to command post, nuclear aircraft maintenance, security forces, missile maintenance, aircraft armament systems, nuclear weapons and support personnel who deploy to the ICBM complex.  Missile launch, security forces and missile maintenance officers will be eligible to receive special pays as well.

"The Airmen selected for this incentive are critical members of our Air Force's number one mission," said Col. Zannis Pappas, nuclear and missile operations career field manager. "Our members take extreme pride in accomplishing their duties, ensuring that our nuclear arsenal remains safe, secure and effective."

While the effective date is Oct. 1, it will take several months for Airmen working within the selected nuclear careers fields to receive their pay adjustments.  However, eligible Airmen will be retroactively compensated to the Oct. 1 effective date.  In the meantime, officers and enlisted members meeting the criteria for these special pays should work through their chain of command and military personnel sections for questions on their individual eligibility.

To see the full assignment incentive pay and special duty assignment pay list and program changes, go to myPers at, select "search all components" on the search drop down window and enter "SDAP" in the search window.

Dicemen bring Raptors to Valiant Shield

by Air Force Staff Sgt. William Banton
JBER Public Affairs

10/2/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- For some service members, simply comprehending the scale of the more than 200 aircraft from multiple  military branches participating in exercise Valiant Shield 2014 - which offered real-world joint operational experience to develop capabilities - would leave a lasting impression. But for one pilot from the 90th Fighter Squadron, a small moment in an ordinary, daily action may have defined what a joint operation is truly supposed to be about.

"My radio stopped being able to transmit, and on the way home, I noticed an F-18 Hornet was chasing me down," said Air Force Maj. Matthew Miller, 90th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. "I started to turn as he rejoined me - and there I was, looking at a Marine Hornet."

Miller wasn't able to talk to the other pilot - but his new  Marine Corps wingman brought him all the way back to Guam. As the now-joint pair of aircraft approached Andersen Air Force Base, the pilots saw more examples of what Valiant Shield was all about.

"We got under the clouds, broke out over the island and there was an F-22 Raptor and another Hornet coming up for their initial approach together," he said. "Stuff like that is really neat for me, and I was pretty sure it was neat for them."

The opportunities provided by a large-scale exercise like Valiant Shield allow aviators to interact on the ground and in the air and to figure out how to work out their differences, whether it's different communication styles within each service or in their warfighting doctrine, said Air Force Maj. Kevin Bradley, an F-15 Eagle pilot assigned to the 44th Fighter Squadron from Kadena Air Base, Japan. Valiant Shield is aimed at developing a "pre-integrated" joint force built from habitual relationships, thus closing the gaps that may exist in joint operations.

While the gaps in their common aviation language are much smaller than the expanses of open ocean that separate their runways, the greatest challenges for Air Force,  Navy and Marine Corps aviators come in reconciling subtle differences, all while cruising at hundreds of miles an hour above the water.

"The way [Sailors] operate off the boat [referring to a Navy aircraft carrier] is very different than how we operate," Bradley said. "It's in the schedules they keep and the terminology they use. We have a lot of similarities, but there's a lot of coming together and understanding what each other's unique capabilities are and how we can put all that together into a coherent package."

Valiant Shield also provides a unique mission planning structure due to the geographical separation of the Navy pilots on the aircraft carriers who need to participate in planning that may be taking place on shore.

The goal is for all of the pilots to be on the same page, but that's not always possible, Miller said. That's why it is critical to understand how each other operates - much like building muscle memory. Valiant Shield creates that muscle memory. There is always a need for flexibility to ensure the mission still gets accomplished, he added.

This need for flexibility in the face of changes - in plans, tropical weather, targets and objectives - provides an added sense of realism to the execution of Valiant Shield.

"There are a lot of things changing every single day," Miller said. "For me personally, I think this is as close to real as you can possibly get. This is how we are going to get to fight in the Pacific. We are not going to have this experience in the type of environment where we are all conveniently at the same base and same mission planning. So [here], we get people and assets from all over the place - and we are expected to fight together."

The exercise is also a chance for the Air Force to practice war-at-sea scenarios, something Airmen don't get a chance to practice regularly, said Air Force Capt. Nicholas Trudell, E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System mission planner and liaison officer/air battle manager assigned to Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.

"There is a perception of 'what is the next big threat and where do we need to work on Air Force tactics to support combatant commanders across the world,'" Trudell said. "There has been a big shift toward joint operations in maritime environments ... and that is what Valiant Shield is bringing us all together to do."
For the joint aviators, working with Army units on the ground, Valiant Shield is a look across the horizon in the literal and figurative sense - at a certain point, the sea and the sky blend, and it is tough to say where one ends and the other begins.

Valiant Shield is an exercise integrating an estimated 18,000 Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps personnel, more than 200 aircraft and 19 surface ships, offering real-world joint operational experience to develop capabilities that provide a full range of options to defend  interests and those of its allies and partners.

Overcoming fear: Airman's training takes over during firefight

Commentary by Senior Master Sgt. Mike Hammond
JBER Public Affairs

7/31/2014 - KABUL, Afghanistan  -- It was just after 4 a.m., July 17. Many on the base at Kabul International Airport, and Forward Operating Base Oqab nearby, were still catching a last hour or two of sleep before the day would begin.

The bad guys, however, were not sleeping. Under the cover of darkness, a small force determined to attack the Kabul Airport and Afghan Air Force Base next to it, took over a multi-story building under construction just north of the target. Armed with multiple rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons, suicide vests, and a vehicle rigged to explode, the attackers crept up to the rooftop and prepared to unleash hell.

Fortunately for the coalition members living and working on base, a small group of Air Force security forces defenders were not sleeping - they were paying very close attention to their duties. Those who weren't on shift would be ready to go within minutes - from a comfy bed to slinging lead.

Senior Airman Julian Rangel, deployed from the 30th Security Forces Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., was in bed on his day off when he heard what sounded like indirect fire and indiscriminate mortars, followed by the more unusual sound of small arms fire.

Dressed in shorts, skater-style shoes and his body armor, Rangel rushed to see how he could help. Soon, he was assigned as gunner for one of two Air Force quick reaction force teams. The teams would be sent outside the forward operating base in mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles to try and gain a closer and more advantageous position from which to engage the enemy.

"It was a roller coaster of emotions for me," Rangel said. "When I was in that vehicle waiting for the gate to open so we could go out and fight from closer, I was scared. I was breathing fast, almost hyperventilating. That's when Tech. Sgt. (Rafael) Melendez (the vehicle commander) turned to me, made eye contact, and told me to slow down; to take deep breaths. He calmed me down."

Once the vehicle left, the Airmen maneuvered to a position between two buildings on the Afghan air force's Kabul Air Wing, which surrounds FOB Oqab.

"Almost immediately, I spotted two guys on the rooftop firing and then my training automatically kicked in," Rangel said. "I started laying down 6 to 9 round bursts (from the M240, 7.62-mm machine gun), just like I'd been taught. In fact, it actually felt like training to me at the time."

Maneuvering to a new position, Rangel and his teammates were dangerously close when the attackers detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device near a checkpoint.
"That was my 'oh [shoot]!' moment, and I got scared then," Rangel said. "But it didn't get a whole lot better. We moved up near a gate and an RPG hit just 35 meters away from us. When we moved to some other buildings, another RPG hit the building above us. I still remember the glass shattering and blowing outward."

Throughout this time, Rangel, from the gunner position in the vehicle, was sending a lot of lead downrange as suppressive fire. He estimates he went through about 400 rounds in total during the firefight. Eventually, fear for his life gave way to frustration.

"My particular weapon isn't necessarily meant for precision so much as suppressive fire," Rangel said. "But still, it was frustrating me that I kept hitting the building right where the guy was and he'd duck, then pop up and shoot more, and then run to a different window."
Eventually, the operations center called out a cease-fire. The majority of the attackers were eliminated and the rest were about to meet a quick reaction force of Afghan Security and coalition members who had surrounded the attack position and began clearing the building from within.

For a period of time that seemed to last forever, the Air Force defenders had to hunker down, as the attackers who had not encountered the QRF yet continued firing. Finally, the QRF cleared the last of the attackers and after some additional procedures, the firefight finally ended.

The attack and defense had taken over four hours overall and for the first two it was constant action for the Air Force security forces.

"When it was done, I was truly glad it was over," Rangel said. "Shooting at someone and being shot at is not a good feeling."

"As we were driving back to our FOB, through the Afghan Air Force base, the Afghans were coming out to see us drive by - giving us thumbs up, smiling, giving us applause," Rangel said. "I felt very proud and felt truly like we were a part of a team."

Looking ahead, Rangel said he will approach the rest of the tour with a different perspective than he had prior to the attack.

"Although it is done, it really isn't; because every time I go into a tower, every time I get in a vehicle, it replays for me in my head," Rangel said. "To be honest, I'm scared. I think most of us are. We don't want to go through something like that again. But if we have to, I'm confident we'll get through it again.

"In training, they preach to us about muscle memory," Rangel said. "Actions are very repetitive and seem redundant. It was very frustrating at the time. But Thursday morning (July 17), I finally understood what that meant, why it was important. When it mattered most, the training took over and we got through it with no serious injuries to our side."

A word of caution on high hopes

by Air Force Capt. Stephen Braunlich
Area Defense Counsel

10/2/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, ALaska -- This November, Alaskans will vote on Ballot Measure 2: whether to legalize marijuana use for persons 21 years of age or older. Although passing a bill through the legislature is the most common way of creating new laws, many states will allow laws to be passed based upon a public vote. Such is the case in Alaska.

However, service members should be careful to avoid any high hopes they can soon legally smoke marijuana. Even if Ballot Measure 2 passes, troops will still be banned from using marijuana.

Confused how a substance can still be illegal after the state you live in has legalized it? The answer lies in the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution created a federal system. Under this system, the states and the federal government have freedom to act independently of one another. This means the federal criminal law and separate, different state criminal laws can coexist side by

Conduct that a state has criminalized, the federal government may decide not to criminalize, and vice versa. Because the state and the federal government are making independent decisions about what conduct to criminalize, they also independently enforce their own laws. Violations of state laws are tried in state court and violations of federal law are tried in federal court. Under this structure, both the federal government and Alaska have made independent decisions that marijuana should be illegal.

Recently, a handful of states have legalized marijuana under state law. However, the federal government has not made its own determination to do the same. Therefore, marijuana remains illegal throughout America under federal law. It is simply the case that in states which have legalized marijuana, the local and state authorities will not prosecute marijuana use.

As service members, we have a duty to follow the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a federal law. Article 112a of the UCMJ prohibits the use, possession, manufacture, distribution, importation, and exportation of a variety of drugs and intoxicating substances, including marijuana. Under America's federal system, this law will continue to stand even if Alaska legalizes marijuana under state law. Therefore, whether or not Alaska legalizes marijuana, troops are prohibited from using marijuana until federal law changes, too.

None of this is intended to dissuade any service member who is an Alaska resident from voting their conscience. Whether or not Alaska passes Ballot Measure 2, the outcome of the vote will send a message for or against criminalizing marijuana. All Americans, to include service members, have a right to make their voice known through that vote.

Virginia ABC and Sailor Jerry Partnership Benefits Wounded Veterans for Third Year

RICHMOND – In February, March and April, consumers purchased more than 25,000 bottles of Sailor Jerry rum from Virginia ABC stores. Every purchase of the spiced rum helped generate a financial contribution that benefits wounded veterans.

For the third consecutive year, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) partnered with William Grant & Sons, owners and producers of Sailor Jerry rum, to support the Aleethia Foundation. The nonprofit foundation assists injured troops recuperating at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center – Bethesda with short-term therapeutic recreation.

In addition to providing clothing, travel expenses for family members and assistive technology devices, Aleethia has been offering “Friday Night Dinners” for more than a decade. These rehabilitation therapy dinners urge injured service men and women to take a first step out of their hospital rooms and into public life together with family and other wounded veterans. Since 2003 more than 25,000 individuals have enjoyed dining out as a way to help rebuild their confidence, heal and assimilate back into a noncombatant society.

The partnership between William Grant & Sons and Virginia ABC resulted in an $8,002 contribution to the Aleethia Foundation. Since 2012, more than $23,000 has been donated to the nonprofit.

On Sept. 12, Virginia ABC Chairman Jeff Painter had the opportunity to meet some of the injured troops participating in one of Aleethia’s “Friday Night Dinners.” While at the event, Painter gave each service member a Virginia ABC challenge coin, a metal medallion commonly shared among military personnel.
 “The support the Aleethia Foundation offers injured U.S. service members and their families is commendable,” said Painter. “Being able to attend the dinner and interact with the veterans was a powerful experience.”

“Working with the Virginia ABC over the past three years has been very rewarding to the William Grant family and is important to our customers,” said Reed Davis, William Grant & Sons’ district manager of Virginia and South Carolina. “At the Sept. 12 dinner, the highlight for me was watching the attendees accept the challenge coins Chairman Painter distributed. It was a big deal to those men and women and an amazing thing to witness.”

Sailor Jerry Rum was established in honor of Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, a member of the U.S. Navy who later became a prominent American tattoo artist, putting ink on the many service members who sought out his Honolulu tattoo parlor for nearly 40 years. The 92-proof spiced rum features a Sailor Jerry hula girl tattoo design on the label.

The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is a major source of revenue for the commonwealth, contributing more than $1.8 billion to the general fund in the last five years. The agency currently operates 350 state stores. Its Bureau of Law Enforcement oversees more than 16,000 ABC licensed establishments while the Hearings and Appeals Division considers more than 700 cases each year. The agency also provides alcohol education and prevention programs for people of all ages. Now celebrating its 80th anniversary, ABC remains committed to progress and innovation in carrying out its control, service and revenue mission.

Facebook: Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control
Twitter: @VirginiaABC

Search-and-Rescue Operations End for Aircrew Member

From a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command News Release

MANAMA, Bahrain, Oct. 2, 2014 – U.S. forces in the North Persian Gulf concluded a search-and-rescue operation for a missing U.S. Marine Corps aircrew member today after efforts to locate him were unsuccessful.

The Marine is presumed lost at sea.

The Marine aircrew member went into the water yesterday when the aircraft he was aboard lost power shortly after takeoff from the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island. Another air crewman also exited the aircraft at the same time and was safely recovered. He is in stable condition aboard Makin Island.

The pilot of the aircraft, a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey, was eventually able to regain control and safely land back aboard Makin Island. There were four personnel aboard the aircraft when it took off, two pilots and two enlisted aircrew. The lost Marine was one of the two enlisted aircrew who exited the aircraft when it appeared the Osprey might crash into the ocean.

U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel conducted an extensive search of the area using all available assets, which continued throughout the night and the next day.

The Osprey's crew was participating in flight operations in support of its current mission at the time of the mishap.

The Navy and Marine Corps will investigate the cause of the incident. In accordance with Department of Defense policy, the name of the Marine will be withheld until 24 hours after family member notification.

USS Makin Island, with embarked elements of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently on a scheduled deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility where it is supporting operations in Iraq and Syria, and throughout the region.

Defender Decommissioned After 25 Years of Service

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Conor Minto, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The mine countermeasure ship USS Defender (MCM 2), was decommissioned after 25 years of naval service at Naval Base San Diego, Oct. 1.

Defender was launched on April 4, 1987 and commissioned on Sept. 30, 1989.

Several of the ship's plankowners and former crew members, attended the ceremony alongside the current crew members.

Retired Capt. Charles Johnson, the commissioning commanding officer of Defender described the decommissioning ceremony as a bittersweet moment.
"She was a very good ship and I'm proud to have been there for both ends of her," said Johnson. "We'll be sad to see her go."

Lt. Cmdr. James Sordi, commanding officer of Defender, honored the plank owners that took part in the commissioning ceremony 25 years ago by having them stand and be recognized during the decommissioning ceremony.

"Today is a proud and somber day. When you decommission a ship, you think about all the hard work that Sailors have put in to this platform over the past 25 years and it fills you with great pride to have the plankowner crew here to help celebrate today," said Sordi. "It also makes you feel a little sad to know that a piece of history is going away."

Over the years, Defender has deployed to the U.S. 3rd, 6th and 7th Fleet and has earned four Battle 'E' awards and two Secretary of the Navy Letters of Commendation.
Commodore of Mine Countermeasures Squadron Three, Capt. Edmund Hernandez, described how Defender truly embodied her name.

"The Avenger class mine countermeasure ships are all named for impressive qualities we want our warships to embody. To 'defend' means to fight in order to not allow a person or thing to hurt damage or destroy someone or something," said Hernandez. "It is an apt name for a ship that performed that precise task and did it so superbly for a quarter of a century, in true sustained, superior performance."