Monday, December 22, 2014

Wingmanship: An inspiring bromance of excellence

by Airman 1st Class Erin R. Babis
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/19/2014 - ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- I never thought I'd buy into the Wingman concept.

In basic military training, it just meant I couldn't go to the latrine by myself. In technical training school, it meant always marching with someone during the duty day. Now, after a series of unfortunate events, I understand that a Wingman isn't just someone you're required to have by your side from time to time; your wingman can be your lifeline.

I remember being told by my squadron chaplain in BMT that, "There are two things that never exist at the same time: comfort and growth."

Personally, I haven't been comfortable since I joined on Jan. 7, 2014.

Change and personal growth are not only constant, but necessary, in the lives of every military service member. Through this transition, it helps to have a friend by your side, whether they're supporting you through tough times or simply there to share dinner with you at the dining facility.

In the military, it can easily seem like everyone is either coming or going, and we are always saying goodbye to each other. The Wingman concept helps create a sense of consistency where there isn't any. It fosters a culture where, regardless of how long we've known each other, everyone takes care of one another.

I was lucky enough to meet Airman 1st Class Justin Bishop, 48th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment journeyman, and Senior Airman Michael Weston, 48th OSS intelligence analyst. They fully embody the Wingman concept, motivating each other to accomplish their goals and supporting each other, even from afar, during deployments.

Over dinner at the Knight's Table Dining Facility, Bishop and Weston told me the story of their first encounter with one another.

"We officially met in the kitchen," Weston said.

"He started attacking me with advice!" Bishop joked.

"I was just curious to get to know your intentions and what kind of person you were," Weston said, in his defense.

"He laid it out on the table," Bishop explained. "He said, 'This dorm was Dorm of the Quarter last quarter. We set the standard.'"

Weston told Bishop that the previous occupant of his room had earned senior airman below-the-zone and that he hoped Bishop could achieve the same.

"We hold ourselves to a high standard," Weston said. "It's all we can do."

"It's all we know," Bishop added.

Serendipitously, Bishop was assigned the dorm room attached to Weston's and, informally, Weston became a mentor to Bishop.

"He has seen me go through my steps of achieving things," Weston said. "He had a first look at the year ahead of him."

"He wasn't trying to," Bishop said. "He had no idea he was mentoring me, but it was happening."

Both Airmen have now earned BTZ. Weston was named the 48th Fighter Wing Airman of the Year for 2013 and Bishop was recently coined by Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, 3rd Air Force and 17th Expeditionary Air Force commander, for superior performance. Those are only a few examples of their many accomplishments. They have also volunteered countless hours for a variety of organizations and have played on various intramural sports teams.

I'm not saying that success is defined by the number of awards someone wins or coins someone receives, but these are just tangible measures of accomplishment. Without the support they gave each other it's possible that they might not have accomplished such success.

In the few months that I've been here, Bishop and Weston have supported not just each other, but any Airman who might need a little extra help. I've been that Airman from time to time, and it has meant the world to me to know that I can count on them to bolster my spirits during times when adjusting to the Air Force way of life might not have been the easiest.

"I always feel like achieving something as a team is much easier than achieving something by yourself," Weston explained. "Justin and I are a little team. He helps me with my goals, and I help him with his."

"I think it's important that people find someone they can relate to," Bishop said. "They can help each other reach their goals."

Bishop and Weston gladly share the knowledge they've accumulated during their time at RAF Lakenheath. The DFAC is their favorite place to meet people and share their wealth of information on how to succeed.

"It's a great place to spot new people," Weston explained. "At this point, we're veterans of this base. Once you're a veteran, I think it's time to share what you know with others. Ask if they have questions or if they need anything. We've done that several times at the DFAC."

"You have to be nice to people," Bishop added. "The first time I saw Weston was at the DFAC, he was talking to random people, and I thought, 'These people might think he's crazy,' but now I feel more confident to ask the person sitting next to me, 'Hey, what do you think?'"

"We like to talk to people," Weston said. "It's basically the key to it all. We like to have conversations with people we haven't met before. We get to hear different views and opinions on different subjects, and it opens our eyes."

I hated everything about the DFAC when I first got here. Now, I look forward to it, despite the food, because I've made great friends there.

Bishop and Weston coined their own phrase: "Killin' this Air Force thing."

"I think 'Killin' this Air Force thing' means, to us, that there is no finish line," Bishop explained. "You accomplish something and then move on to the next thing."

"We are doing it because we enjoy it, and we like to succeed," Weston said.

These days, Bishop and Weston aren't just a shining example of the Wingman concept to me, but they are my friends, my Wingmen. They inspire me to do my best, and they lift my spirits every night while eating dinner at the DFAC.

New commander takes reins of 12th AF, AFSOUTH

12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs

12/22/2014 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Lieutenant Gen. Chris Nowland took the reins of 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) in a ceremony Dec. 19 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

"I am very humbled to have an opportunity to affect the 12th Air Force community in helping to produce the ready warriors needed to fight the threats faced by our nation," the general said. "I look forward to working with our community leaders across all of the wings to help make our 12th Air Force community stronger and more resilient while fostering an attitude of thinking of others, which really translates into being a good wingman."

Nowland takes over from Lt. Gen. Tod Wolters, who will become the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Plans and Requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. Air Combat Command Commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle presided over the ceremony.

Nowland comes to Arizona from Miami, where he was the Chief of Staff, U.S. Southern Command. In that job, he was responsible for successfully integrating and synchronizing the efforts of nine directorates and 16 special staff offices in support of the combatant commander's Theater Campaign Plan.

His familiarity with the AFSOUTH mission gives him unique insight into the challenges and opportunities which now await him as the organization's new leader.

"We are all products of our past experiences," he said. "Over these past 29 years I've walked a mile in some of your shoes. Clearly I have not experienced all of your [occupations], but we do all share common attributes. I understand how hard our Airmen work and thank you for your strong work ethic, but I also remember how much fun your walk can be."

In the new position, Nowland will wear two hats, one as commander of Air Forces Southern which fosters cooperation with partner-nation air forces throughout the 31-counntry area of responsibility comprising Latin America and the Caribbean. Also, as commander of 12th Air Force, he will be responsible for the combat readiness of eight active-duty wings, including the 355th Fighter Wing also located at Davis-Monthan, and one direct reporting unit. 12th Air Force's subordinate commands operate more than 680 aircraft with more than 55,000 uniformed and civilian Airmen.

The general is a 1985 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has commanded at the squadron and wing levels, and has more than 3,600 flying hours primarily in the F-15A/C/D, T-37B, T-38A/C and A/T-38B.

Face of Defense: Yokota Brings Holiday Cheer to Islanders

By Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

ULITHI ATOLL, Micronesia, Dec. 22, 2014 – More than 1,200 miles from the nearest civilization, a man stands on a beach wearing only his lavalava. He lifts the bright orange flag with yellow brim and stakes it in the ground, marking the spot to ensure it is easily seen, especially from the air.

The 80-degree weather, palm tree-covered islands and miles of surrounding ocean do not typically bring Christmas to mind, but this man knows the day has come for Operation Christmas Drop, and soon a C-130 Hercules would fly above his island to deliver holiday gifts.

His island is Mogmog, just one of the more than 50 Micronesian islands that receive airdropped items from a 374th Airlift Wing's C-130 every year.

An Island Holiday Tradition

"It's always exciting, especially when Christmas is around the corner," said Ignatius, the Mogmog village chief. "I know everyone here is excited, not just about the package itself, but the plane is something for the kids (to look forward to also)."

Ignatius said every year islanders gather to be a part of retrieval, taking peeks in the box to see what it contains.

"We don't know what is in the package, so it's just like a Christmas gift," Ignatius added.

In preparation for the drop, village elders ensure children do not go into the designated drop area. They also ensure a retrieval team is standing ready near the beach, with another in a boat in case the bundle lands in the water.

Nearly 150 people inhabit the island, some living in small concrete buildings, some in metal shacks and others still living in traditional homes with coconut thatch roofs. They live off of a steady diet of bananas, breadfruit, coconut and fish. Many never leave their island, but Operation Christmas Drop is one of the connections they have to the rest of the world.

This reminder of Christmas has been airdropped to the islands of Micronesia for 63 years. For the past 35 years, Bruce Best has helped the process by improving communication between the islands, Guam and the service members running Operation Christmas Drop.

Best is a telecommunications specialist and the Pacific program coordinator from the University of Guam. He coordinates the drop dates and times via radio to the outer islands.

A Record in Humanitarian Aid

"This is a major operation for humanitarian (aid) -- the longest humanitarian operation in the history of the (U.S.), over 63 continuous years," Best said. "(It is) all donated equipment, all going directly to these outer islands that sometimes have no transportation or communication. Little radios being their only communication off the island."

Best has installed solar powered radio communication devices for 40 years throughout Micronesia. It is with his devices that the islands communicate with him in Guam, receiving weather updates and drop information. With his help, the hundreds of miles of ocean that separate the islands seem a lot smaller.

"We have good support here at the university and good support in the community," Best said. "We hope to keep the Christmas Drop spirit and humanitarian aid effort alive for many years."

According to Ignatius, Operation Christmas Drop brings a certain Christmas spirit to the islands, but the holidays are felt throughout the island beginning Dec. 1.

"Every night the whole island gets together to sing church songs and Christmas carols," Ignatius said. "We assign two houses a night, every night. On Saturday nights we get together by the church and have plays and (events) to motivate the Christmas spirit."

In continuing the tradition, Ignatius said toys are given to the children on Christmas Day. They remove the toys from the bundle on drop day to be wrapped and distributed to the children on Dec. 25.

Ignatius said everyone on the island truly appreciates the airdrops and wishes everyone involved in the operation a happy holiday.

"Merry Christmas to each and every one of them, every Christmas!" Ignatius added.

Dempsey Praises Troops’ Achievements in Year-End Message

By Nick Simeone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2014 –
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said 2014 was an extraordinarily busy year full of new threats and missions in which service members performed “superbly,” but he warned that sequester-related budget cuts have brought the military to the point where “we can’t do more with less.”

In a year-end message to the joint force, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told the more than two million active and reserve members of the armed forces that he “couldn’t be prouder” of their service. 

“In the past 12 months, we’ve maintained our enduring commitments around the world, bolstered long-term partnerships, and responded to new threats,” including those, Dempsey said, from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, al-Qaida and other violent extremist groups.   In addition, Dempsey said the military has reassured allies in the face of threats by Russia and deployed personnel to West Africa to help stop the spread of the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola. 

Having just completed a USO holiday tour of Europe and Afghanistan, Dempsey praised the service and sacrifices made by U.S. troops, saying what has been achieved in Afghanistan has given the Afghan people “real hope for a better future” -- just days before the NATO mission there changes from one of combat to advising and assisting Afghan forces.

“Our stop at Bagram Air Base reaffirmed my confidence in our campaign plan in Afghanistan. While work remains, my regular visits reinforce just how much we have accomplished in 13 years of U.S. and coalition investment,” Dempsey said. “As we move forward with Operation Resolute Support, our remaining force of about 10,000 troops will be important to completing key tasks with our Afghan partners.”

But Dempsey also warned national security could be at risk if the current sequestration law, which is set to impose further cuts in defense spending in 2016, is not repealed.   “Sequestration, if fully implemented, will diminish our advantages over our adversaries,” he said, and he urged Congress to allow the Pentagon greater flexibility in spending.  “The Joint Chiefs and I remain concerned that we still lack support for the reforms necessary to ensure you are combat ready and to preserve military options for our nation.”

Hot refueling takes course at Holloman

by Airman 1st Class Emily A. Kenney
49th Wing Public Affairs

12/22/2014 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron and the 54th Fighter Group joined together to teach the first F-16 Fighter Falcon Hot Refueling Course, December 16, 2014 at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.

The Hot Refueling course helps reduce the amount of time spent on maintenance when the number of operable aircraft is down.

"Aircraft land and instead of going back to their hangarettes and shutting down, they'll come here," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Edelman, NCO in charge of development and instruction for the 54th FG. "While still running, they'll get refueled and sent right back up. This eliminates a lot of downtime so they can perform more sorties in less time."

The Hot refueling course is not new to Holloman, but it is rare that Air Education and Training Command and Air Combat Command combine to teach the course in a training environment.

"The 54th doesn't have its own fuel support here, so being the home station gets us [49th LRS] involved and it becomes a joint effort," said Master Sgt. Raymond Lara, 49th LRS section flight chief fuels information service center. "It's beneficial for us to perform this type of operation because this is something we perform on deployments. While deployed, hot refueling becomes a regularly-occurring operation. So having the opportunity to work with the 54th and do it here keeps our guys more proficient in operations."

During the 8-hour class, students learn the technical order, warnings, cautions and different positions involved in hot refueling.

"The course is two phases," said Edelman. "The first phase is an academic portion where the students learn all of the procedures and pertinent information that is outlined in the technical data, as it relates to the job. The second phase is the practical phase where they take the information they learned and demonstrate it to the instructor."

Although the course took Staff Sgt. Lisa Mustard, an instructor for the 54th FG maintenance training section, more than 90 hours to design, the time hot refueling will save is exponential.

"Standard turnaround is about 3 hours," said Senior Master Sgt. Spencer Ridgway, assistant superintendent for the 54th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "So with the hot pits, in about an hour and fifteen minutes they can be back in the air. You may save six to eight sorties per day that you don't have to make up on another day."

Be a light-Joint Task Force-Bravo welcomes SOUTHCOM Chaplain

by Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman
Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs Office

12/22/2014 - SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras -- Members from around Joint Task Force-Bravo gathered at the Dining Facility for the monthly prayer breakfast and guest speaker, Dec. 18.

Today's guest speaker was U.S. Army Col. Michael Lembke, U.S. Southern Command chaplain.

"I am very impressed with this command's sense of community," said Lembke.  "Regardless of where members are in their religious faith, denomination or whether they have no religious inclinations, the command doesn't take it upon itself to tell others what to believe.  There is a full spectrum of religious support here for all those who want it and at the same time there are boundaries put into place for those who don't.  It's that balance of support and boundaries that encourage individuals and helps bring this community together."

In keeping with the theme of community today's prayer breakfast message focused on three things; Light a Light, Be a Light, and Keep it Light.

Light a Light.  Do something to make a difference in the lives of other people.

Be a Light.  Allow your actions and attitudes inspire others.

Keep it Light.  Don't take life so seriously.

"This time of year means different things to different people, making it an ideal time to celebrate all of our differences," added Lembke.  "It's this sharing of experiences that helps bring us together and strengthens this community."

Joint Task Force-Bravo holds a prayer breakfast monthly.  For more information on the Prayer Breakfast please contact the Joint Task Force-Bravo Command Chaplain, DSN: 449-6844 or for Chaplain Support 24/7, call DSN: 449-4149.