Thursday, October 23, 2014

FIP: LCC deep cleaning to greatly improve quality of life

by Airman Malcolm Mayfield
90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

10/23/2014 - F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- Over the last 50 years, Minuteman III launch control centers -- underground hardened command and control bunkers --within 20th Air Force's control have been in continuous use by missile launch crews performing nuclear alert and overseeing maintenance and security in the missile complex.  After decades of constant use, these LCCs are getting a professional deep cleaning.

ICBM operators across 20th Air Force identified the need for this project during Air Force Global Strike Command's Force Improvement Program, an aggressive grass-roots feedback program designed to quickly provide senior Air Force leaders with actionable recommendations for improvement. This FIP initiative is an effort to make the LCCs more habitable to the missileers who work in them day-in and day-out.

Contracted cleaning companies will now deep clean 45 LCCs, along with 30 underground launch control equipment buildings, to improve the work environment for personnel at F.E. Warren, Malmstrom and Minot air force bases. This is just one way to provide outstanding installation and missile field support to the men and women who perform duties in the missile field.

"The crews were being interviewed [during FIP] for a lot of different reasons and one of the things that came up was that the crews' living conditions," said Capt. Amanda Filiowich, 320th Missile Squadron assistant director of operations.

While crews perform routine cleaning tasks each day, to include vacuuming carpets and cleaning the restroom, Filiowich stressed they don't have the time away from alert duties or the equipment needed to safely access and completely sanitize the LCC.

"There's ton of infrastructure between the equipment and the inner bubble with crevices and spaces between the steel framing, it's probably 8 or 9 feet high," Filiowich said.

She added that in these crevices, dust builds up; this can circulate through the air system.  However, for safety reasons, ladders cannot be taken down into the LCC during alerts.

Although quality of air is a health concern, quality of life also plays a part in the need for this FIP initiative. It is important for the missileers to be able to concentrate on the task at hand - their important role in the nuclear deterrence mission.

"It's going to greatly improve the quality of life for the crew force," said 1st Lt. Stephanie Konvalin, 320th MS and the secondary POC for this project. "This is really important to me because it's my second home."

This deep clean is not just a one-time thing, as it will continue on a reoccurring contract.

Officials from the 90th Operations Group, 90th Maintenance Group and 90th Contracting Squadron worked together to determine what the requirements would be for the LCC cleanup, said 1st Lt. Cassie Fletcher, 90th Contracting Squadron contract specialist.

"It's the first requirement of its kind since the LCCs were built," she said.

The contractor that received the job is the same one that cleans the office spaces on base and are familiar with the military environment.

Malmstrom and Minot's contracting offices will use the 90th CONS' effort as a template when they contract the cleaning out for their missile complexes, Fletcher said.

Approximately $348,000 will be divided between the three missile wings under 20th AF to pay for the one year initial contract. Soon, AFGSC will write a new contract, which will span from 5-10 years, for the wings, bringing to fruition another initiative targeted to improving our nuclear deterrence mission and making sure the FIP philosophy continues.

Radar site techs: First line of defense 24/7, 365

by Capt Anastasia Wasem
11th Air Force Public Affairs

10/23/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaksa -- At the narrowest part of the Bering Strait, where the North American and Asian land masses meet, in a virtually uninhabited area, sits a vital yet relatively unknown asset in the first line of homeland defense for the United States and Canada; the Tin City Long Range Radar Site.

The Tin City LRRS, which houses a handful of permanent workers, along with 14 additional radar sites across the rugged terrain of Alaska, scan the airspace above 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year, searching for potential threats. Together with the men and women of the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, this team makes up the unsung heroes that protect our nation's northern and western borders.

"It really is a team effort," said Lt. Gen. Russ Handy, 11th Air Force commander, during a recent site visit to Tin City LRRS. "The majority of the work is done by great civilians that have been an important part of our national defense for a long time yet many don't know about."

One of those civilians, working for the U.S. Air Force contracted company ARCTEC, is Vance Spaulding, Tin City LRRS station chief and heavy equipment mechanic. Spaulding ensures that the radar site stays up and running and is in charge of the safety and security of the site as well as all logistics. He has worked at these remote radar sites for 13 years, consistently working a routine of two months at the site and one month at home.

"The hardest part is being away from them," said Spaulding about his 22-year-old daughter and two-year-old granddaughter. "The biggest challenges are just being away from family, making decisions while away and dealing with things that come up."

Life is isolated for the men and women who work at these sites. Tin City LRRS, which sits at the top of a high coastal peak with a shear drop to the ocean below, is only accessible by boat or plane.

"It's close knit; you're very isolated and you're here with people that are like a family," said Jerry Pyle, station technician, who has been married for 16 years and has three children. "We get together and have movie nights and go hiking, hunting, fishing and activities like that."

The winters have the potential to be dangerous though in such an isolated and cold area, according to Spaulding.

"The winter activities are pretty much curtailed because the weather is so bad. It's dangerously bad," said Spaulding. "I could go out on my snow machine and if the wind picks up to 100 miles per hour I'm laying down somewhere. Winds have been clocked at 180 miles per hour here."

The 15 radar sites across Alaska, plus many deactivated sites, have undergone numerous changes since they were built in the 1950's. During the 1970's, each site had about 135 people assigned to them, most of which were U.S. Air Force personnel. But with technological advancements, that number has steadily been able to decrease to the handful of technicians seen at most sites today.

And on a clear day from the top of the Tin City LRRS, one not only sees miles of Alaskan wilderness and wildlife but also, according to Spaulding, clear across the Bering Strait as well.

First F-35A operational weapons load crew qualified

by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson
33rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/23/2014 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- Three Airmen with the 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit became the first qualified operational weapons load crew for the F-35A Lightning II during a qualification load here, Oct. 10.

Staff Sgt. Zachary Watts, the 58th AMU crew one load crew chief, leveraged his 10 years of experience loading munitions on F-16 Fighting Falcons to lead his crew through the successful load. Airmen 1st Class Robert Hughes and Reece Zoller, both 58th AMU crew one load crewmembers, joined Watts for the weeklong load drill after completing technical training at the Academic Training Center.

"Before us, there was no weapons capability," Watts said. "We're making it from an airline into the Air Force."

With the first operational weapons load crew qualified, the F-35A is now one step closer to its initial operational capability (IOC).

"We have a total of 10 weapons load crews in the wing," said Senior Master Sgt. Jason Sells, the 33rd Maintenance Group weapons standardization superintendent. "The next step is to bring a new load crew through every month and get them qualified through a weeks' worth of training. Once that happens, each load crew will continually come through every month for proficiency load training."

Sells added that all weapons load crews will be qualified and performing proficiency training within the next six months.

The F-35 training program here currently serves as the primary source of F-35 expertise to new F-35A units across the Air Force. The newly qualified teams will continue to hone their skills and become experts at their jobs so they can go train the weapons load crews at those bases receiving the F-35A.

"We are trying to build the most educated and most proficient F-35A weapons loaders out there," Sells said. "Anything that we can do to help mature the program to get us ready for IOC, that's our big thing. Training is what the 33rd (MXG) is all about - whether it's pilot training or maintenance training, that's what we're doing."

Temporary job became a nearly three-decade

by Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson
JBER Public Affairs

10/23/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The first Superbowl, a presidential assassination, the Vietnam conflict, an icy standoff with the Soviet Union, and a couple government shutdowns are just a few of the things Ramona Moore has seen in her career.

"The government furlough was rough," She recounted. "I think that's happened to me twice now."

She looked up from her mechanical pencil - eraser worn from fidgeting as much as use - as she mentioned the complete shutdown of a superpower's governing body with the kind of nonchalance only 57 years of employment could muster.

Moore, a budget analyst for the 673d Comptroller Squadron, is retiring Oct. 31 after 57 years of civilian service to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Fort Richardson and now JBER.

Moore's demeanor spoke of her experience. She has a soft, but clear voice with a quiet authority.

Moore grew up in Alaska, but her family is from the west.

Her family lost their Wyoming homestead in 1934, leaving them with no land, but plenty of motivation.

"So they moved to Hope," she said.

Hope, Alaska had only one school, with an equal number of rooms.

There was no local secondary school, so Moore took correspondence courses from the University of Nebraska and received her high school diploma.

Moore came to Anchorage independent and looking for work, 10 years before the first Superbowl, and snagged a temporary job as a supply clerk at Elmendorf Air Force Base.

Moore did not expect her temporary job to turn into a career spanning nearly six decades, but said she's glad it did.

To Moore, living as a career woman in 1957 wasn't a novelty; it was a necessity.

"I wasn't looking for a higher reason," Moore said. "I just needed to survive."

She smiled as she listed off her possessions at the time, and it didn't take long. "When I started, I had no car; I had a just a few clothes and I was paid $18 a month for rent."

"I got paid $160 a pay period," she said with a chuckle. "I didn't know what I was going to do with all that money. I bought a used Mercury to see my family in Hope."

"Nowadays, driving a car like that out to Hope, it'd be unthinkable," Moore said with a sharp shake of her head. "But back then, it wasn't that big of a deal."

After working as a GS-3 in supply for four years, Moore netted a promotion to GS-4 which put her in finance, where she would eventually retire ... just short of three careers later.

Moore explained for Soldiers to get paid back then, they needed to go to the finance building and go downstairs to "the cage" to receive their checks.

"Everything was paper and ink then," Moore said. They were buried in paper and surrounded by boxes.

She recalled computers that filled entire rooms and Soldiers who used them to run reports at night, leaving the printouts at finance.

"It seems unbelievable at times," Moore said ruefully as she reflected on how much has changed since she began.

"It doesn't feel like the same job," she said.

Technology isn't the only thing that changed around the constancy of Moore.

Her professional career would cover a timeline of global and national events that have been considered history for years.

"I was just sitting there, working, and the first sergeant popped his head in and said, 'The president's been shot.'

"I asked him, 'The president of what?' It had never occurred to me that the president would be shot," Moore said as she recalled the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963.

The next year, however, Moore would live through a truly earthshattering event that would strike closer to home.

When the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964 struck, Moore was downtown picking up her sister from her job at Woolworth's.

The destruction in downtown was so rampant, Moore and her sister had to drive south to where the Sears mall now stands,  and over to Lake Otis Parkway to eventually get to her home on Debarr and Muldoon Road.

"It was very hard to get home," she said.

The earthquake may have destroyed most of downtown, but Soldiers still needed to get paid.

"There really wasn't much damage to our building. There were some of those long, hanging fluorescent lights that fell and shattered, causing some damage," she said as if still seeing the broken glass. "But we were back to work by the end of the next week."

Moore did not know if her family a little over an hour away in Hope was safe or not.

It would be a while before any mail could come. Until then, she only had the radio.

An aftershock hit the next Friday.

Moore said when the aftershock hit, she was in the same parking lot she still parks her vehicle in today for work.

"It was on a Friday. I was in the parking lot in my car wondering what had happened to my family in Hope," she said.

"It was like a slapstick movie. The doors burst open and people just came pouring out," Moore said.

"I really hate earthquakes. It scared me to death."

As devastating as the historic earthquake was, Moore does not list it as the most difficult obstacle she's faced in her career.

That particular challenge turned out to be the joint-basing  merge.

She explained each installation's finance office operated with completely different methods at the time of the merger.

"They talked about it for five or six years...I thought I'd be retired before they ever did joint basing," said the 57-year employee.

That was four years ago.

However, Moore was far from complaining. "I was just appreciative that I still had a job."

The extent of Moore's career and her relationships with her co-workers is testament to the effects of her positive attitude in the workplace.

"I am really sad to see her go," said Dawn Rominske, lead budget analyst with the 673d Comptroller Squadron. "She's like mom to us."

Rominske explained how Moore brings candy for everyone at the office and even knows their preference. "She knows I like Andes mints, and so goes out of her way to Target to get them for me," she said. "We try to bring her some, but she won't let us.

"She's a perfectionist. She sees things we never could and keeps us in line," Rominske said with a smile.

Moore's expectation of excellence isn't limited to those around her either; it's part of her motivation for retiring.

"I feel like I'm at an age where I need to retire before I can't perform my job as well as it should be performed," she said.

"I really hate to let go of that job, I can tell you," Moore said, tapping her pencil. "As you get older, what you want to do changes a lot."

"I'm happy for her because I know she's doing it to enjoy her family," Rominske said, eyes suddenly shining with tears. "It's really a sad thing; I have to stop before I start to cry."

Moore has one daughter, two granddaughters, and a great-granddaughter. One of her grand-daughters has married an Air Force member who, interestingly enough, came to JBER as his first duty station.

"The satisfaction of knowing I could take care of my family was the most rewarding part of it all," she said. "I wasn't married long enough to be taken care of."

Moore said she plans to spend as much time as she can with them before they PCS.

"I hate the thought of [leaving], but there's nothing I can do about it," she said. "I'm the kind of person that tries not to worry about things I can't do anything about."
Moore specifically requested there be no retirement party for her and she said she's been equally specifically informed that is simply not going to happen.
"I don't like farewell luncheons," she said softly. "If you think about everyone that's come and gone, it'd be horrendous."

For 57 years, Moore has been a rock in a world where the only constant is change.

Now, with tears and laughter, the change is coming her way.

"You're going along and everything's fine," she said. "Then all of a sudden, you're done."

AETC civic leaders visit Academy

by Harry Lundy
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

10/23/2014 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force's Academy played host to 18 Air Education and Training Command civic leaders, giving the group a close-up look at how the Academy develops leaders, Oct. 15-16.

Gen. Robin Rand, AETC commander and Class of '79 Academy grad, led the visit, which included a meeting with Academy leaders and Colorado Springs' city officials, a mission brief by Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, and a tour of academic facilities and the 306th Flying Training Group.

During her mission brief, General Johnson fielded questions from the civic leaders on topics ranging from the Academy's attrition rate, its essence and sexual assault. She said during the brief she wanted to make the Academy a popular option for prospective cadets.

"Most people are familiar with West Point and Annapolis east of the Mississippi," General Johnson told the civic leaders. "We want to be a part of the normal high school college discussion so those students realize the opportunities that are here."

Larry Mariner, representing Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, said he appreciated General Johnson's transparency.

"General Johnson really impressed me," he said. "You have a superintendent who is sensitive to the issue of sexual assault; that is good for everyone. Her willingness to keep the conversation going is a prime example of being open."

After the mission brief, the group toured the Chemistry Department's labs to learn about Academy research and how science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, studies positively affect a cadets' liberal arts education.

At the 306th FTG, the civic leaders received a mission brief focused on the Academy's Airmanship Program from Col. Stephen Burgh, 306th FTG commander, and Lt. Col. Anthony Mincer, 98th Flying Training Squadron commander.

"I cannot believe what I experienced today; speaking with the superintendent, commandant and cadet leaders," Mariner said. "This was high level stuff. It was truly a privilege."

Brigade bids farewell to the 425th BSTB, welcomes engineer unit

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

10/23/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, formally inactivated the 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion (Airborne) and immediately activated the 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion in a ceremony October 17 on Pershing Field.

The newly activated battalion will take on all subordinate units from the 425th BSTB. It will also bring increased capability in engineer mission command structure. The new organization will be able to support the brigade with two full companies of engineers, one to provide combat and stability operations, and another to conduct horizontal construction and route clearance.

The ceremony on Pershing Field featured paratroopers of the battalion in ceremonial formation along with several static displays from the inventory of 6th BEB platforms, which included several military vehicles and an unmanned aerial vehicle.

"The Soldiers you see on the field before you represent the best of two exceptional units," said Army Lt. Col. Kevin Perera, the outgoing commander of the former 425th BSTB. "Blending the accounts of October 2005 and three combat deployments with the campaign streamers from the Civil War, World War I, and World War II, we now recognize the 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion as the amalgamation of these two destinies, and one of the most decorated battalions within our modern Army."

The 425th BSTB's inactivation is part of Army Force Structure organization to achieve the Army's 2020 plan. The 6th BEB is a representation of the Army of 2020's way of strengthening the force by consolidating and preparing leaders and organizations for future missions and by creating a more adaptive, agile force.

"Building on the success of the BSTB, the 6th BEB stands ready to provide essential combat enabler support to the Spartan Brigade with military intelligence, signal, [chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear,] military police, engineers and expanded mission command capabilities," said Army Lt. Col. George Walter, the 6th BEB's commander.

The ceremony culminated with a pass and review featuring all of the unit's paratroopers marching by and saluting their commander as they moved off the parade field and back to work.

Air Force officials announce banner year in ground safety

By Keith Wright, Air Force Safety Center Public Affairs / Published October 23, 2014

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) -- The Air Force mission is inherently risky and Airmen mitigate those risks every day, but last fiscal year their sound risk management and decision making skills contributed to a great year in ground safety.

The Air Force finished fiscal year 2014 with three on-duty and 42 off-duty ground fatalities, marking the lowest fatality rate in 10 years. That’s a decline from fiscal 2013 with seven on-duty fatalities and 47 off-duty ground fatalities with the top two categories being Ground & Industrial and motor vehicle. The 10-year average is 5.9 fatalities on-duty and 50.6 for off-duty.

The leading cause of off-duty deaths among Airmen, motor vehicle accidents, declined 18 percent from 34 in fiscal 2013 to 28 in fiscal 2014. Included in those fiscal 2014 numbers were 15 four-wheeled vehicle and 13 motorcycle deaths. Over the last 10 years, the Air Force has lost an average of 39 Airmen each year to motor vehicle accidents.

“When every Airman stays focused and uses the risk management tools available, lives are saved as evidenced by the significant decrease in fatalities, the lowest in 10 years,” said Bill Parsons, the Air Force chief of ground safety. “But we must redouble our efforts: one life lost is one too many.”

In the on-duty arena, the past two years have been marked by extensive efforts by the Air Force Safety Center and major commands to reduce injuries due to falls and vehicle backing. To address fall protection hazards and inherent hazards in backing government and specialty vehicles, supervisors have given more emphasis on job safety training.

The Critical Days of Summer campaign focused on risk management in all activities and concluded with a reduction in fatalities from 20 in 2013 to 17 in 2014.

“In the last few years, the Air Force has emphasized risk management principles for on- and off-duty activities,” said Maj. Gen. Kurt Neubauer, the Air Force chief of safety and the AFSEC commander. “Risk management and safe operations are part of our ethos, and when our Airmen apply them to every activity, both on duty and off duty, they mitigate hazards and prevent mishaps.

“Safety is foundational for establishing an Air Force culture with a strong risk management focus,” he added.

In an effort to reduce motorcycle fatalities in fiscal 2014, Air Force officials maintained a motorcycle safety training contract graduating more than 3,300 riders through 458 classes Air Force-wide, which provided Air Force riders the knowledge, skills and techniques to be safer riders.

The Air Force hosted Stay Alive From Education (S.A.F.E.) Street Smart, an audience-interactive mishap prevention program that was presented to more than 100,000 Airmen at 90 installations in the last three years.

Air Force Ground Safety attributed the reduction in on- and off-duty fatalities to commander involvement, risk management, job safety training, fall protection emphasis programs, motorcycle training, “Street Smart” and other seasonal campaigns.

Soldiers train for chemical operations

by Tech. Sgt. Raymond Mills
JBER Public Affairs

10/23/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Soldiers of the 59th Signal Battalion conducted chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives training Oct. 16 on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

According to the Army's 20th CBRNE Command website, "CBRNE operations detect, identify, assess, render safe, dismantle, transfer and dispose of unexploded ordnance, improvised devices and other CBRNE hazards," and is critical skill for all service members.

CBRNE training is a regularly scheduled training event that allows service members to reinforce fundamentals.

"All service members should have a basic knowledge of CBRN agents and the affect they have on unprotected personnel," said Air Force Master Sgt. Victor Blizzard, 773d Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of emergency management. "Additionally, members should have a strong working knowledge of their individual protective equipment, such as their protective masks, since this might be their last line of defense."

The 59th Signal Battalion conducted hands-on training during a refresher exercise, which included passing through a chamber filled with the compound  2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, commonly known as CS gas.

Training with CS gas provides Soldiers a realistic environment, allowing them to experience firsthand how CBRNE operations work, while increasing confidence in their skills and equipment.

"This training is important to maintain vigilance and remain familiar with equipment for any mission so that we can continue to operate and thrive in any conditions," said Sgt. Ray Gregory, information technology specialist with the 59th Signal.

Training is conducted to ensure Soldiers are ready to face any challenge under any conditions.

"CBRNE is a perishable skill and must be practiced on a routine basis to ensure Soldiers and Airmen are confident and proficient with their warrior tasks and skills," said Army Staff Sgt. Dwight Harris, 59th Sig. chemical operations specialist.

According to Blizzard, the Army and Air Force train together upon initial entry into the career field, but after graduation their approaches to CBRNE training diverge.

"Air Force members are required to complete the CBRN survival skills computer-based training course found on the Advanced Distributed Learning Service every two years," Blizzard said. "Members will also receive hands-on CBRNE survival skills defense training when tasked to deploy."

The Army, however, performs its hands-on training before they are tasked.

"We don't do on-the-spot chemical training," Harris said. "We schedule hands-on chemical training as part of our normal battle rhythm."

Although the Army and Air Force have different approaches to CBRNE training dictated by their individual missions, both train to standard in the event of contingency operations.

"CBRNE allows Soldiers to have confidence in their equipment and their mission," said Spc. David Caldwell, 59th Sig. IT specialist. "Without confidence, you may hesitate to perform their duties to the fullest of your ability."

By ensuring service members are adequately trained and prepared, the Army and Air Force maintain a readiness posture that enables them to execute a variety of operations in austere environments at a moments notice.

Throughout history signal battalions have played a vital role on frontlines to ensure battlefield communications success.

"Signal always has been and always needs to be up front," said Shane Shorty, 59th Signal first sergeant. "This training helps our Soldiers build trust in the Army, their equipment and their leaders."

JBER Soldiers conquer the Himalayas

by Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith
4/25th IBCT (ABN) Public Affairs

10/23/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Two Army officers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division recently became the latest ambassadors to a partner nation. The mission was to train with partnering nations and joint forces on mountain warfare operations in the Himalaya mountain range in Nepal.

First lieutenants Matthew Mitchell and Devan Zimmerman, who are scout platoon leaders with the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, and the 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment, respectively, made their trip halfway around the world to Nepal in the beginning of August training and stayed through the latter part of September.

Mitchell and Zimmerman represented the United States as part of an international partnership class of students from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Thailand, China, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Republic of Korea, and Nepal.

Navy Lt. Justin Bowles, and Marine Sgt. Jeffrey Morrison, joint force service members from the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, joined the Army officers in representing the U.S.

The Nepal Army High Altitude and Mountain Warfare School in Jomsom sits at 9,500 feet above sea level, so first on the list was acclimatizing to the higher

The team spent three weeks in Jomsom, training in various mountaineering tasks including rope-and-anchor systems, vertical face rock climbing and other rigorous physical tests of endurance.

A particularly challenging aspect was a 10-mile endurance test, which required students to finish in 100 minutes or less while wearing full uniforms, boots and rucksacks. At above 9,000 feet, the rocky and mountainous terrain around Jomsom proved to be challenging.

While both officers are skilled at mountaineering operations, the limited air pressure and low oxygen levels took some getting used to.

"I'd say the biggest challenge was the acclimatization," Zimmerman said. "Here (Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson), I live at or around sea level, and when I get to Jomsom, its 9,500 feet in elevation, and it's just a huge change in breathing."

From Jomsom, they continued their mountain movements to a Glacial Base Camp near Muktinath where they conducted glacier training. Tasks included ice climbing, movements across a moraine-covered glacier, climbing with walking axes, moving in rope teams, and crevasse rescue.

The class was divided into four-man rope teams led by Nepalese team leaders, who are referred to as 'Tigers.'

Mitchell and Zimmerman were paired up in a team along with a master sergeant from the Republic of Korea Army.

The ending phases of the course progressed as the students continued their trek into the Thorong Pass, stopping at various base camps along their way to the culminating event, Thorong Peak, a mountain with an elevation nearly as high as Mount McKinley at 20,200 feet.

Mitchell, who used his experiences from the U.S. Army Alaska Northern Warfare Training Center's Basic Military Mountaineering Course and Assault Climbers Course as a bedrock for this training, said even though he and Zimmerman are both skilled in mountaineering operations, they had to remain focused while they persevered through the dangers and extended periods of movement in the extremely high elevations.

"It was more about remaining calm when you are on an 18-hour trek at 18-thousand, 20-thousand feet, going over a snow crevasse, which is 200 feet below you, but there is just enough snow in between it that you can safely walk quickly."

The extreme elevations continued to test the climbers as they pressed forward.

"Almost everyone in the course got some sort of altitude sickness or were showing signs of [acute mountain sickness]," Mitchell said.

Zimmerman also talked about the altitude challenges.

"When you get into Thorong Pass, where you get up to 20,000 feet eventually, although you are acclimatized, getting up into that higher elevation is difficult," he said. "Like every third or fourth step you're gasping for air, and then you just keep kick-stepping into the snow and ice to keep going up."

The pair was further challenged when their rope-team member from the Republic of Korea sprained his ankle and had to be belayed down the mountain several thousand feet to the snow line.

"We actually had to lower him down the mountain," Mitchell said. "It was an experience I will never forget."

Mitchell said the experience of all of the service members from all of the different countries roped together, helping each other, and working together to get to the 20,000-foot peak was a memorable experience.

"It's definitely something I will remember," Mitchell said. "I had a Korean soldier who barely spoke any English with a 'Tiger,' Nepalese instructor leading our rope team, who spoke no English."

"It was a unique opportunity," Mitchell continued. "Some of the advantages were the cultural immersions. I think working with all of the different countries and listening to other people's input is a valuable part of the training that I can take away from Nepal."

Living and training with their international partners was good training in itself, said Zimmerman, who shared some stories of his experience.

"On the first day, we were there having breakfast," he said. "We had curried potatoes for breakfast and one of the Canadian guys said 'Wow, these are great. I could have these every day.' And we did! We had curried potatoes every day, and every meal of every day."

Other frequent items on the menu included rice, noodles, meat and roti bread.

Zimmerman, who weighs morethan 200 pounds, said the Nepalese were surprised by his proportions.

"They were all amazed at my size, I guess because I outweighed probably the average Nepalese guy by 50 to 60 pounds," he recalled. "So, when they would ask me how much I weighed, I would tell them '100 kilos,' and it was astounding to them. They would be like, 'wow, that's twice my weight.'"

He said he had to explain to them that most people in America are larger.

"I forget my nickname, but it meant 'Big Man' in Nepalese," Zimmerman said.

The Spartan officers said they took away some good memories, but also some valuable training and lessons learned in operating in extreme altitudes.

As scout platoon leaders, some responsibilities are to lead a rifle company through a mountainous environment. They provide commanders with recommendations on how to move through the terrain, where to set up rope systems, what terrain is restrictive and severely restrictive, and how fast to safely move a unit through based on the elevation and terrain, Zimmerman explained.

A key takeaway from the training was the effects altitude has on operations and how important it is to plan for contingencies and pack additional safety gear.
Additionally, the professional exchange amongst all of the partner nations helped to strengthen international bonds.

"The experience was definitely unique," Mitchell said. "There's only [been] 50 Americans that have participated in the course since 1992, so I'm glad that I can say I represented our Army."

Zimmerman said mountaineering in the Himalayas was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

"It was certainly an eye opener," Zimmerman said. "I got to climb a 20,000-foot peak. It was an amazing opportunity, I don't know if the Army will ever give me that chance again, so I was grateful."

Both officers said they plan to continue climbing and hope to summit another 20,000-foot peak, but staying local this time, with an attempt on Mount McKinley.

Wolf Pack soars at RED FLAG-Alaska 15-1

by Senior Airman Taylor Curry
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/21/2014 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska  -- Airmen from the 8th Fighter Wing recently participated in Exercise RED FLAG-Alaska 15-1 at Eielson AFB, Alaska, Oct. 6 to 17, demonstrating the Pack's reach while off the Korean Peninsula.

Wolf Pack Airmen actively took part in the Pacific Air Forces-wide field training exercise, focusing on improving combat readiness of U.S. and international forces flown under simulated air combat conditions.

"Our goal is to employ as close to a real-world 'first-push' situation as possible when it comes to this exercise," said Lt. Col. Lynn Savage, 35th Fighter Squadron commander. "Our key to success is our discipline; making sure all of our calculations are precise in every way."

During the exercise, Wolf Pack pilots were able to sharpen their skills by flying simulated combat sorties in a realistic threat environment, all the while exchanging tactics and techniques with other PACAF units.

For 1st Lt. Jared Tew, 35th FS pilot, this was his first time to RF-A, and he more than welcomed the firsthand challenge before him.

"I heard about RF-A when I was really young, and it was something I always wanted to be a part of," Tew said. "The greatest takeaway from this exercise is being able to fly with other air frames that I don't normally get to fly with at Kunsan, and the challenges that RF-A brings are what makes me a better pilot."

RF-A exercises are also vital to maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and conducting the training in Alaska with Republic of Korea Air Force units signifies continued U.S. commitment to the Asia-Pacific.

For the first time, the 20th FW from Seosan Air Base, ROK, flew their KF-16 Fighting Falcons over the Pacific Ocean to join their Wolf Pack brothers in this exercise.
ROKAF Maj. Lee, Woo Youl, 120th FS pilot, described his first time participating at RF-A 15-1.

"This is a great opportunity for ROKAF because this exercise is a lot larger, and it gives us a chance to train even harder and closer with our U.S. partners," Lee said. "Communication is the largest challenge for me this exercise because of the language barrier, but it is a challenge that I must overcome. Also, I believe Alaska is one of the greatest places I've experienced for in-flight training, but being part of the mission briefings have been the most beneficial for me."

Savage added that being able to fly with ROKAF at least twice a day at RF-A has already proven beneficial for both units.

But pilots are not the only ones who received valuable training at RF-A; maintainers and weapon loaders also endured the harsh conditions of Alaska's freezing temperatures, ensuring jets were properly operational for the missions before them.

Tew stated that aircrews greatly appreciate the efforts and hard work maintainers put into the jets.

"I'm constantly inspecting the aircraft for any cracks or dings," said Airman 1st Class Joel Taylor, 35th FS crew chief.  "Making sure the jet is ready to go is my priority."

"I have to be responsible for the integrity of the aircraft, and when launching a jet, safety is my number one concern," Taylor said. "When the day is over, knowing that I contributed to putting jets in the air is the most rewarding feeling for a crew chief."

According to leadership at Eielson AFB, RF-A sharpens multiple sets of combat skills while enhancing combat readiness.

"Having both ROKAF and the Wolf Pack participate together here at RF-A truly makes this a team and coalition event and greatly benefits Pacific Air Forces," said Col. William Culver, 354th FW vice commander and former Wolf Pack member. "The purpose behind this exercise is to better air-to-air combat training, and by doing so, we are prepared for realistic threats."

Culver added there is no better place to be stationed than Kunsan AB because the camaraderie there brings everyone close together, "just like a family."

Luke cuts ribbon on F-35 Academic Training Center

by Staff Sgt. Luther Mitchell Jr.
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/23/2014 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Luke Air Force Base celebrated the opening of its F-35 Lightning II Academic Training Center Oct. 9.

The new facility will provide state-of-the-art training for fighter pilots and continue Luke's mission to train the world's best fighter pilots.

The audience of about 175 people included elected leadership from the community, representatives from groups who worked on the facility and Airmen from Luke who will use the ATC.

The event's speakers included Gen. Robin Rand, Air Education and Training Command commander; Col. Kimberly Colloton, 60th commander, Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles district; and Art Cameron, Lockheed Martin's F-35 site director at Luke AFB.

"F-35A training at Luke AFB ensures the long-term viability of our mission of training the world's greatest fighter pilots, which Luke AFB has done for seven decades," Rand said. "Luke is a part of the First Command and its greatest contribution is the trained Airmen we send to our combatant commanders executing the mission. I'm confident Team Luke will continue to superbly train and educate the best men and women this country has to offer, to deliver airpower and preserve our nation's security."

Rand joined Colloton, Cameron, Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander, and Sean Walsh; from the Walsh Group who oversaw primary contractor Archer Western on the facility; to cut the ribbon initialing the end of construction on the ATC.

Now that construction is complete, Luke and Lockheed Martin will begin outfitting the inside of the building with furniture, phones and computers. More advanced equipment like classified areas and simulators will be installed in coming weeks. The first class of students is scheduled to begin training in the ATC in early May 2015.

Valued at roughly $47 million dollars, the Academic Training Center is an architecturally and technological advanced facility.

"At more than 145,000 square feet, this facility was designed to house a dozen full mission simulators and classrooms to train U.S. pilots and pilots from around the world," Colloton said. "The ATC is not only state-of-the-art in terms of what it will offer for training pilots on the latest in Air Force assets, but the foresight that went into design and construction of this building is an example of the Defense Department's continued commitment to sustainability and our environment."

Pilots will train in full mission simulators that replicate all F-35 sensors and weapons employment and provide half of the initial qualification flights, according to Lockheed Martin.

Rand assured civic leaders the new facility would quickly see its return on investment.

"About a third of the flying time we were going to have to do out on the flightline, we will now be able to do in the simulators here," Rand said.

Those saved flight hours will in turn, save dollars by reducing the wear and tear on aircraft and using less jet fuel, among other cost reductions.

"In this building we will begin training the world's greatest F-35 fighter pilots, not only for the United States, but for some our most key partner nations around the world," Rand said.

Luke will serve as an F-35A training site for 10 foreign countries on three continents ranging from Canada to Turkey to South Korea. The base's 61st Aircraft Maintenance Unit currently hosts an Australian representative while the country's pilots and aircraft are expected to arrive by early next year. Norway and Italy will join the next U.S. F-35 fighter squadron at Luke when it begins operations in the spring of 2015.

The Air Force announced just over two years ago that Luke would be the training site for the new F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation fighter jet. Luke is scheduled to receive 144 of the jets which are expected to fly side-by-side with some of the base's current crop of F-16s through at least the beginning of the next decade.

554th RHS opens PACAF Silver Flag exercise site

by Staff Sgt. Robert Hicks
36th Wing Public Affairs

10/20/2014 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam  -- The 554th RED HORSE Squadron Detachment One opened the Pacific Air Force's Silver Flag exercise site Oct. 15 at Northwest Field, Guam, after two years of preparation.

Silver Flag, previously known as "Commando Prime," was originally established in 1985 and located at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. The program moved to Kadena Air Base, Japan, in 1989 and concluded their final Silver Flag in May 2013.

The first course in over a year and a half consists of 111 Airmen from bases around the Pacific. The eight-day course is specifically designed for civil engineer and force support Airmen.

"The civil engineer and force support communities have created the Silver Flag training platform to provide expeditionary skills training for those Airmen to improve their ability to go downrange and support the war effort," said Maj. Kevin Mares, 554th RED HORSE Squadron Det. 1 commander.

The expeditionary training is designed to setup operations at bare-base locations and features bed down planning, base recovery, command and control and, airfield recovery. Silver Flag also teaches a variety of specialty training to include crane operations, setup of aircraft arresting barriers and lighting, generator installation and maintenance and fire rescue technician training for more than 1,200 Airmen each year, according to 554th RHS planners.

"We want to get the Airmen comfortable and confident using the equipment so when they get downrange they can be effective and perform the job to the best of their ability," said Master Sgt. Thomas Tyson, 554th RED HORSE Squadron Det. 1 facility superintendent.

Upon completion, the new site will consist of 18 facilities, a 60 acre training area and a 5,000' by 145' feet training runway.

"Moving Det. 1 to Guam, from Kadena Air Base, Japan, completes a significant milestone in the buildup of the Pacific Air Forces Regional Training Center and further enhances the expeditionary combat skills capability of our Airmen and our joint regional partners that is integral to the strategic rebalance to the Pacific," said Col. Tyrell Chamberlin, 36th Wing vice commander.

Kadena Airmen prepare for ATR

by Senior Airman Marcus Morris
18th Wing Public Affairs

10/21/2014 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Approximately 200 Airmen from the 18th Wing and 12 F-15 Eagles from the 67th Fighter Squadron arrived at Nyutabaru Air Base, Japan, to participate in a two week-long Aviation Training Relocation with the Japan Air-Self Defense Force on Oct. 18.

Hosted by the JASDF 5th Wing, the ATR will focus primarily on learning how to work together in a joint tactical environment and operational readiness between U.S. and Japanese forces.

"This ATR will help us build our partnership with our JASDF counterparts," said U.S. Air Force Capt. William Sullivan, 67th Fighter Squadron ATR project officer. "Not only will this benefit our joint flying operations but it also helps the 623rd Air Control Flight who will be working down in Kasuga Air Base doing ground control intercepts for any wartime scenarios."

This ATR will give Kadena Airmen an opportunity to practice deployed operations and perform bilateral training while strengthening strategic partnerships with their JASDF counterparts from the 5th Air Wing and 8th Air Wing.

"We have flown with the pilots in Naha a lot, but we haven't flown with the JASDF in Nyutabaru in five years," Sullivan said. "We don't get to work with them a ton, so getting us together to fly allows us to be more familiar and we know each other's capabilities."

With the arrival of the 67th FS, the ATR will kick-off at the beginning of the week as the JASDF and U.S. Air Force take to the air, working and learning from each other in a bilateral environment.

"Through this training with the U.S. Air Force, we will build a better interoperability," said JASDF Lt. Col Takashi Asaoka, 5th Air Wing Defense and Operations defense section chief. "This training will help us understand each other better and help us work together in the future."

Constructional 'A-Team'

by Airman 1st Class Deana Heitzman
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/23/2014 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- When the construction needs of Aviano become greater than one shop can handle, teamwork is required to complete the job.

The 31st Civil Engineer Squadron Operations Flight consists of numerous shops; although these shops normally stand alone, during larger projects, all their expertise are needed.

"When we have an opportunity to pull all the shops together it gives us a chance to learn each other's trades, help each other out and to be more efficient during our jobs," said Tech. Sgt. Brandyn Walter, 31st CES structural craftsman.

Throughout the past few months, multiple shops integrated to complete energy efficient projects to save the Air Force money and promote a greener base.

One such project was Operation Right Lights, which saved energy and money by disconnecting unused light posts on base.

Operations flight Airmen worked night shifts to see which lights were being used or needed to stay lit for safety reasons. The two month project disconnected lights around unused buildings and parking lots unused during hours of darkness.

"During the project, we disabled more than 109 lights in various parking lots and around buildings," said Senior Airman Zachary Rathbun, 31st CES electrical systems apprentice. "This project saved the Air Force more than $30,000 annually."

When one project is completed, the Airmen seamlessly move on to plan their next construction design. The most recent plan has been the Troop Training Project, which was launched to establish a new urinalysis facility.

Working together, teamwork is critical to ensure the job is done with precision. Having multiple shops working as one, at the same time make precision easier and gives them an opportunity to complete the job quicker.    

"Working together in one location is more beneficial than each shop coming in at different times," said Walter. "One Airman can construct a wall as another Airman rewires the electricity and so on." 

Whether it is a routine tune-up or renovations of buildings, members of the operations flight are on the go to various locations to complete a number of projects impacting the base's mission.

"When CES comes together as a whole, it is a massing of all trades that maintain all facilities on Aviano. It is almost having a constructional 'A-Team,'" said Walter. "We are vast, but we work as a really finely-tuned team."

Air Force Christmas radio special features TV's Nashville cast

by Dale Eckroth
Air Force Recruiting Service

10/22/2014 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas  -- Millions of TV viewers know them as Deacon Claybourne, Scarlett O'Connor, Avery Barkley and Layla Grant from the hit ABC series, "Nashville."

On this year's "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas" radio special, Master Sgt. Harry Kibbe chats with cast members Charles "Chip" Esten, Clare Bowen, Jonathan Jackson and Aubrey Peeples. All four artists recorded tracks along with fellow cast members for the soon-to-be-released "Christmas With Nashville" album. They also discuss what it's like to live, work and perform in Nashville and how the TV show blends fiction with reality.

"For all of us, acting and music are both of our passions. They are just two things we really care about," Bowen said. "Yes, we play these characters that are musicians, but we were musicians before and we're all developing our own sound outside the show as well."

Esten added that line of reality and fiction has been completely blurred by the TV show.

"The great thing about the songs in the show is that they aren't like buttons on a shirt," he said. "They're part of the fabric. They're woven right into the very scene itself. It's not like you're doing a scene and now let's sing a song that has nothing to do with it. It's deeply a part of it."

Now in its 13th season, a "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas" was recorded in early October at Spotland Productions in Nashville and produced by Air Force Recruiting Service.

Big Machine Label Group worked with ABC to arrange the actors' appearance on the Air Force special. The record label is responsible for releasing sound tracks from the TV show including "Christmas With Nashville," the cast's first holiday album.  It was produced by Jay DeMarcus of the band Rascal Flatts.

"This year's show is unique because instead of one great artist, we feature four really talented entertainers," Kibbe said. "Their music is great and they were very open and fun in the interview. It's definitely one of the best times I've had in the studio."

According to Ken Raimondi, broadcast manager at AFRS, the Air Force has enjoyed a long relationship with the country music industry.

"The Air Force has produced music programs in Nashville with country artists for decades. The country community has continually welcomed us with open arms," he said. "They provide their time and talents to us at no charge. They see it as a service to the troops and we are very thankful for their continued participation with us."

Esten echoed those sentiments.

"Historically, country music is intertwined with our men and women who serve. They have a great relationship and the artists are so caring and so wonderful about the military, and rightfully so," he said.

The Air Force special will be sent to more than 3,000 country stations in the United States by mid-November. Also, the show will be distributed to the American Forces Network so troops in deployed locations will be able to listen to it. The one-hour public service program, designed to help ease the programming load for station program directors during the holidays, includes breaks for stations to sell commercial time.

Artists who've appeared on the holiday show include Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum, Faith Hill, Darius Rucker, Reba McEntire and George Strait.

"If you'd like to hear the show on your local station, please call them and let them know. We'd love to expand our reach," Raimondi said. "We're also considering a podcast in the future that we hope will give our show a wider reach."

As a service member who's been stationed overseas during the holidays, Kibbe said the Nashville cast's involvement in this year's "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas" does make a difference to the men and women in uniform serving around the world. He thanked the actors for taking time to be a part of the program.

"I'd like to turn that around and to anyone listening [military]," Esten added. "We're the ones to thank you, thank you for your service especially during the holidays. God bless you all."

New York's 106th Rescue Wing base honor guard sets a high bar

by Tech Sgt. Monica Dalberg
106th Rescue Wing

10/23/2014 - WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y. -- With 619 funerals conducted in the 2013-14 fiscal year, the 106th Rescue Wing's Base Honor Guard is the busiest honor guard team in the Air National Guard.

The team is also the eighth-busiest Honor Guard in the total Air Force and the only Base Honor Guard recognized by the Air Combat Command Inspector General for its dedication to duty, training plan and administrative procedures.

The five-member team is on call 365 days a year ensuring that Air Force veterans get the military honors Congress says they are entitled to during a funeral, said Chief Master Sergeant Dustin Lance, 106th Force Support Squadron superintendent.

Three team members have received the Air Force Achievement Medal for outstanding achievement or meritorious service rendered specifically on behalf of the Air Force.

On a recent Monday, for example, the honor guard conducted six funerals, Lance said.

By law anybody who served in the United States military is entitled to funeral honors, specified as the playing of Taps and the presentation of an American flag to the veteran's family by a minimum of two service members.

The honor guard funeral detail members perform military funeral honors for Air Force active duty, retired personnel and veterans.

Detail assignments for the 106th Honor Guard come from Joint Base McGuire-Dix- Lakehurst Air Force Honor Guard. That honor guard's area of responsibility covers five states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Being able to call on an Air National Guard honor guard helps get the mission done, said Master Sgt. Roman Kernitski, the assistant noncommissioned officer in charge of the Honor Guard at the joint base.

"Our area of responsibility is 68,000 square miles. The 106th helps us manage the area and helps us allocate resources throughout," Kernitski said. "They always answer our call and are eager to assist."

"They've helped us tremendously with the amount of details we can do," said Tech. Sgt Nicholas Bryon, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the honor guard at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

"We've increased their manning from two slots to five slots in the last three years," he added. "The funerals we've been able to do on Long Island have increased, but our own manning here is the same. We used to have to drive to Long Island all the time, but the 106th has made our jobs easier."

Staff Sgt. Gregory Funaro, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 106th honor guard, said he is happy about how many details his team can provide.

"We're not straining ourselves and it shows the program is growing a lot from where it used to be," he said, referring to the increase in slots. The 106th honor guard has paid final tribute at funeral ceremonies for Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American aviators of the United States armed forces.

The detail also took part in ceremonies for William Lynch, an Air Force Veteran and New York and national political leader whose funeral was attended by New York power elite, civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton, and ex-president Bill Clinton and former secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

As members of the Base Honor Guard, Airmen are expected to uphold the standards of all in the Air Force and must epitomize perfection in dress and appearance, customs and courtesies and drill and ceremonies, Funaro said.

To ensure members are physically and mentally prepared to flawlessly execute the mission, Lance said he requires members to exercise a minimum of one hour each day.

Ceremonial guardsmen are required to be of good reputation, having integrity, ethical conduct and exhibiting standards which merit respect, according to the United States Air Force Base Honor Guard website. But members admit maintaining military bearing can be a challenge.

"What I tell them when they join the team is you never know what is going to affect you or what is going to touch you," Lance said. "It may be that someone in your family is sick and the person that has died reminds you of them. It may be that the person who died is your age, or there is something in their life you can identify with. Regardless, you always have to keep your military bearing. It can be the hardest job in the military," he explained.

The 106th Honor Guard members said they are honored to have the privilege and responsibility of rendering military funeral honors at interments, and showing the nation's deep gratitude to those who, in times of war and peace, have faithfully defended our country.

Despite the grief family and friends endure at the loss of a loved one, a show of gratitude is often returned to honor guard members, detail members said.

"Many times when I'm presenting the flag, they thank us for our service," said Senior Airman Larissa Morales.

"They show their love toward the military...and affection to us sometimes. There have been times when they hold our hand when we're presenting the flag. You can sense just from the hand gesture they really appreciate it," she said.

Funerals typically bring together families and friends to honor and say goodbye to the deceased. Occasionally the BHG performs at funerals with no attendees, and such funerals stand out most to Senior Airman Michael Dancona.

"The funerals that don't have anybody are probably the most rewarding ones for me," Dancona said. "I don't know what the situations are for some of them, but we are there and it's proof the military doesn't forget about them. That makes me feel good."