Military News

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

D-models return to flight after longeron repair

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


12/23/2014 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Air Force officials removed 82 two-seat F-16D Fighting Falcons from flight earlier this summer after discovering cracks along the canopy sill longeron between the front and rear pilot seats. The longeron is a major structural component that carries significant loads during dynamic flight operations of the F-16. Of these 82 aircraft, 32 belong to the 56th Fighter Wing.

Aircraft maintainers at Luke Air Force Base, in conjunction with 309th Aircraft Maintenance depot field teams from Hill AFB, Utah, have been working on getting those F-16s back into the air since mid-October and are nearing completion of repairs on the 32 F-16D aircraft that belong to Luke.

"Lockheed and Air Force engineers at the depot designed a repair and now we are out to fix the whole fleet of F-16Ds," said Master Sgt. Thomas Hartley, 309th AMX section chief.

At the end of July, technicians from the 56th Maintenance Group identified cracks in the left longerons of four F-16D aircraft. This discovery led to the release of an Air Force-wide time compliance technical order in early August directing more in-depth inspections of all F-16D aircraft. Individual F-16 units across the Air Force conducted these inspections on a total of 157 F-16D aircraft identifying 82 with cracks.

After engineers from Hill Air Force Base and Lockheed Martin analyzed the F-16D structural issues associated with the cracks and developed repair procedures, three depot field teams were dispatched to start repairs on Luke's jets.

Maintainers began the repair by removing the fasteners to the canopy sill longeron and inspecting them for cracks. If cracks were detected, maintainers submitted an engineer's disposition and reamed the cracked holes larger to completely remove the cracks. They then installed the longeron fasteners and a steel "beef-up" strap over them to help strengthen the cracked area. Lastly, they installed high-strength fasteners, applied an aerodynamic smoothing compound and painted the skin.

The eight-man field depot team has been working 12-hour shifts six days a week to get Luke's F-16Ds ready to fly. They've even seen improvements in their repair times.

"The grounding of the F-16D has had a big effect on the pilot training mission," Hartley said. "This is a high-priority job for us. We were able to take a six-day repair and trim it down to three and a half over the last month. We feel great about what we have been able to do."

In November, the first F-16D was returned to operational status at Luke.

"We have accomplished repairs on 30 of the 32 aircraft that needed repairs," said Senior Master Sgt. Ronald Tann, 56th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant superintendent. "It's great for Luke and the Air Force to get these aircraft back in the air. They are vital to the success of our mission to train and develop combat-ready pilots."

The remaining two aircraft are currently awaiting engineering assessments with repair completion expected by early January.

"The outstanding teamwork and efforts of Luke maintainers and the depot field teams accelerated repair actions on the F-16Ds and shaved a full month off of the original estimated time to repair all 32 aircraft," said Col. Rick Ainsworth, 56th Maintenance Group commander. "I'm very proud of the professionalism, skill and teamwork of our maintainers and the depot field team, who repaired these aircraft and got them back in the air. Professionals from across the Air Force F-16 enterprise helped us take one of the most challenging F-16 fleet issues we've seen in years and turn it into a success story."

Thanking Service Members One Cupcake at a Time



By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2014 – Pink is not a color normally associated with a C-17 Globemaster 3.

Yet there was the workhorse of the Air Force’s transport fleet on the flightline at Joint Base Andrews with two full pallets of pink boxes on the ramp.

This isn’t the garish pink that you see on certain outfits or the Barbie doll pink that assaults the eyes. It was more like Disney princess pink – tasteful and understated – yet still not the color placed on a combat aircraft.

And on the side of each box was written Georgetown Cupcake.

Deanie Dempsey, the wife of Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called it Operation Cupcake. The operation consisted of delivering 10,000 cupcakes donated by this city’s popular Georgetown Cupcake to service members and their families as part of the recent USO tour to Spain, Italy, Turkey and Afghanistan.

It was the fifth year Georgetown Cupcake made the donation to the effort to thank U.S. service members and their families. The effort started when Navy Adm. Mike Mullen was the chairman and led the annual USO trip. Dempsey kept the tradition alive when he took over.

“The first year we did this was 2010, because we had just opened our large facility that we use to ship orders all over the country, and this was our very first order that we handled in the new facility,” said Stephen Lamontagne, the president of Georgetown Cupcake, during an interview.

Sophie LaMontagne and her sister, Katherine Berman, started the store in 2008. They rose to prominence with DC Cupcakes, a reality show on The Learning Channel. That, and they make ridiculously good cupcakes.

Sharing those cupcakes with service members and their families is part of the ethos of their business, Lamontagne said. “In Washington, with so many members of the community in the military or who had connections to the military, it was important for us to give back,” he said.

And service members and their families appreciate it. “We get e-mails and letters from them, thanking us for bringing a piece of home to them for the holidays,” Lamontagne said. “It’s very hard during the holidays to be overseas on your own in a very unfamiliar place without reminders of things that you remember from your childhood and your life back in the United States. Something as simple as a cupcake … really brings a piece of home and shows our support and care for the troops stationed overseas.”

A lot of care goes into ensuring service members and their families get the freshest product possible. The cupcakes – which retail for $32 a dozen – are baked and immediately frozen. “We ship them in a multilayered packaging configuration that includes an insulated pouch with gel packs,” Lamontagne said.

This keeps the cupcakes frozen during transit and “by the time the plane touches down and the cupcakes are unwrapped, they are ready to enjoy,” he said.

On the other end, Deanie Dempsey, USO President J.D. Crouch and his wife Kristin and many other passed out cupcakes to service members and their families. Some service members even scooped up the pink boxes to use to pack Christmas packages back home.

Lamontagne hopes to continue the affiliation with the USO and the military. “It’s something we are proud to do every year,” he said. “It’s our way to thank all the members of the military community, because we understand they make the world a place where we can bake cupcakes.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T find out what it means to the Warriors of the North

by Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


12/22/2014 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The song "Respect," became a hit for rhythm & blues singer Aretha Franklin in 1967, and just as the song became a landmark for the feminist movement in 1960's, it might as well become the theme song for a another movement taking shape here thanks to the efforts of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team.

"With the New Year fast approaching, it's estimated that about 45 percent of Americans will make some sort of New Year's resolution," said Capt. Shielah Flinders, 319th Air Base Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. "Popular resolutions are often health or finance related, but we hoping to encourage as many members of our community as possible to resolve to make 2015 the Year of Respect."

The goal of the campaign is for people to make a renewed commitment to treating themselves and others with respect.

"That means maintaining healthy, appropriate and respectful relationships 24 hours a day, seven days a week," elaborated Flinders.

"You and I can be respectful individuals but it's when we combine our individual efforts toward a common goal, that we can then achieve a positive cultural change that insists all people are treated with dignity, fairness and respect," said Sue Grollimund, 319th ABW Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program assistant. "That cultural change will then help us to stomp out sexual assault in our community."

From December 15 through the 19th, the SAPR office took its "Resolution: Respect" campaign out to various base facilities.

As a gesture of solidarity and unity, each person was invited to put their John Hancock on the official campaign banner.  In all the duo of Flinders and Grollimund collected a total of 410 signatures in 16 hours over the course of five days.

According to Flinders, the results from the recently-released SAPR Progress Report to the President of the United States show that the Air Force has made progress in sexual assault prevention and response.  An anonymous survey showed that the prevalence of unwanted sexual contact decreased since fiscal year 2012, and that reporting increased.

"Though we've made some headway, there is still work to do," said Flinders. "And each one of us, from the wing commander to the newest airman basic, has a role to play in appropriately responding and preventing sexual assault.  We are all empowered to intervene when we witness something inappropriate.  We can all do our part to ensure survivors of sexual assault are treated with dignity and are not subjected to social or professional retaliation."

Both Flinders and Grollimund said to those willing to sign the banner that showing each other respect is an integral piece of the Air Force Core Values and that each person (Airman or civilian) is responsible for fostering a culture and climate that ensure people are treated with dignity, fairness and respect. 

With that sentiment in mind it would be hard not to see what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means the Warriors of the North.

Face of Defense: Army family receives basement make-over for Christmas



By J.D. Leipold
Army News Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2014 – An Army staff sergeant, his wife and their seven children received a huge Christmas surprise when they arrived home yesterday morning, to find their basement was no longer a series of never-ending projects.

Standing at the bottom of the stairs, the kids and their parents took in their newly created 800-square foot study-play-lounge room with eyes wide and jaws dropped. The last time they'd seen their basement, it was just a disorderly, confused giant room that offered no real comfort or family warmth.

Support from Business Owners

Just 16 days ago, as the family hunkered down in the upstairs area of their Alexandria, Virginia, home, 35 independent small-business owners in the construction trades from Home Service Solutions Group assaulted the basement with hammers and crowbars, banging and tearing away the walls and ceiling, until the giant space was gutted, with the exception of the bead board wainscoting that wife Jennifer wanted to keep.

What the family was looking at now was this great room with sections -- the kids' nook with its granite desktop and laptops along with two chairs for studying and a giant screen with a gaming console. Then there was that foundation pole that had been turned into a wrap-around square bench with storage beneath, Off to the side rested a large, brown, overstuffed and plushy sectional with a big square ottoman -- a seat for everyone from which to watch TV on a giant screen, which was wrapped with what-not and bookshelves. On one wall hung family photos which 9-year-old Mackenna said "was so cool."

While the space has heat, it doesn't boast air-conditioning, so professional home interior designer Christine Wiott had four ceiling fans installed and added spot-lighting. There's new carpet, all new furniture, curtains, trim work and an updated bunkroom and full bathroom. The project was capped by a twinkling fully decorated Christmas tree, under which lay gifts for the family and along the wainscoting hung nine stockings with more presents under a nativity manger.

The basement make-over idea came about when Wiott and fellow HSSG member David Schroeder approached Operation Homefront on behalf of their organization with the idea of a home make-over of some type.

Operation Homefront

"This is one of those things where it feels great being a part of a group of people being able to give back to a family who will appreciate it during the holidays," said Schroeder. "I've been involved, as have many others, with give-back programs, but this is by far the biggest one I've ever participated in. It's definitely emotional for all of us."

Operation Homefront Mid-Atlantic Outreach Coordinator Cyndi Lucas said there were just three requirements a family had to meet in order to be eligible for the make-over -- own their home, live in the northern Virginia area, and be in a paygrade of E-1 through E-6.

The staff sergeant selected will be called Brandon for security reasons.

Wiott met with Brandon's wife for several hours to discuss her vision, saying the most challenging part was making sure everything functioned, so they would have beauty along with functionality: "I needed to make sure there was enough space for everybody to do different things, but to still be together as a family."

An Emotional Response

Brandon, whose military occupational specialty is computers, will be heading to Germany in February, on a two-year unaccompanied assignment.

"This basement has been a project for the last five years, full of starts and restarts. Now, I'm just so excited and happy for my family -- this is truly amazing," he said. "I thought I'd just be excited and happy, but more emotions came out than I was ready to handle.

"It means people are appreciating what we do as a military and this kind of appreciation is very nice to see and I'm grateful for all these two groups did for us… this really feels like home," he said.

Wiott, who also had a tough time containing her emotions, said her personal motivation for the project was simple; it was all about giving back and helping a family.

"I helped a family; the kids touched my heart, and I think about them all the time. I helped a family," she said again; "I helped a veteran and his family, that's what I did, and it was worth every penny. There's no doubt we will all do this again."

Danish Navy crew hosts Thule AB leaders

by Scott Prater
Schriever Sentinel


12/19/2014 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- During their tours of duty 750 miles north of the Arctic circle, Airmen assigned to Thule Air Base, Greenland, live in a part of the world most people will never see. Arctic winters present some of the harshest climate conditions on the planet.

Nevertheless, Thule Airmen fulfill a critical service to the Air Force and the world. The base conducts a variety of Air Force missions, one of which is operating an Air Force Satellite Control Network tracking station. The 23rd Space Operations Squadron Detachment 1, for example, conducts more than 22,000 satellite contacts annually and is a prime supporter of National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration satellite command and control operations.

During off-duty hours, winter time conditions prevent Thule Airmen from doing much outside. The summer season, however, brings sunlight, warmer temperatures and the opportunity to experience abundant outdoor activities, like exploring ice caves, riding all-terrain vehicles, scuba diving and go-kart racing.

It's also a more opportune time to explore the ocean around northwest Greenland. This past September, several base leaders including, Maj. Jarrell Lawson, 23 SOPS Det. 1 commander, had the opportunity to join several Thule AB leaders on a tour of a Royal Danish navy patrol vessel.

"The HDMS Knud Rassmussen enforces Denmark's sovereignty in the area, provides search and rescue operations as well as environmental protection and fishery inspections among other missions," Lawson said. "We were treated with outstanding hospitality and provided an extensive tour of the ship."

Lawson and air base leadership, including Col. Todd Diel, 821st Air Base Group commander, Lt. Col. Stacy Clements, 821 ABG deputy commander, Chief Master Sgt. Michael Garrou, 821 ABG chief enlisted manager, Maj. Jeff Brandenburg, 821 ABG support squadron commander, and Maj. Chris Castle, 12th Space Warning Squadron director of operations, boarded the ship for a day-long tour.

The tour included a five-hour journey out in the Arctic Ocean and was divided into five phases.

First, they toured the main and lower decks of the ship including the engine rooms, armory, medial bay, kitchen, fitness areas, and living quarters. Next, they toured the ship's bridge, where they sat in the captain's chair and navigated the ship around massive icebergs.

The Knud Rassmussen crew then anchored the ship and the tour party boarded the ship's search and rescue vessel. Diel was permitted to pilot the much faster craft out to sea.

"We zipped around the world's most picturesque icebergs, and were fortunate enough to witness an iceberg crack enough to where an enormous ice block crashed into the sea causing a mini-tsunami," Lawson said.

Once the group arrived back at the ship, the Knud Rassmussen crew then performed a search-and-rescue exercise where they executed a man-overboard scenario.

"It was amazing to see how quickly they were able to turn the ship, deploy the rescue vehicle and recover the mock person from the sea in just three minutes," Lawson said.

After passing on their personal gratitude to the crew, the group departed with a greater appreciation for their current assignment.

"Having the opportunity to tour one of the Royal Danish Navy patrol vessels operating in the Arctic area was an incredible experience," Clements said. "As Air Force officers, it was a chance to get a small taste of a maritime mission. It also gave us an opportunity to see professionalism in action from our Danish military counterparts, and underscored the importance of Thule Air Base as a platform supporting strategic partnership in the Arctic for air, space and maritime missions."

Kilimanjaro provides 4 SOPS officer best test yet

by Scott Prater
Schriever Sentinel


12/19/2014 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- People often ask mountain climbers why they do it.  Why risk life and limb, brave extreme elements and suffer through some of the harshest conditions on Earth just to reach the top of a mountain?

For Capt. Rodrigo Ocampo, 4th Space Operations Squadron spacecraft engineer, that question can be answered simply: to experience adventure.

Early in 2014, he received a request from his good friend and former college roommate, John Gaebler. Gaebler was about to turn 30 years old and wanted to say goodbye to his 20s in dramatic fashion.

"Strangely, I too had been considering tasking myself with a huge challenge," Ocampo said. "I had been researching Mount Aconcagua in South America. I like hiking mountains and have reached the summit of several 14,000 foot peaks both in Colorado and California, but I wanted to climb something bigger. I learned that Aconcagua was a challenging climb and at more than 23,000 feet, it's the tallest peak in South America."

During his research Ocampo learned that many mountain climbers make a goal of attempting to climb the highest peaks on each of the world's seven continents. He found that idea interesting and soon adopted it as one of his life's dreams as well. Once he learned that Gaebler desired to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, his attention turned toward Africa.

"I figured I could start my seven-continents goal there," he said. "My first measure of business was to help Gaebler get into shape for the climb.  He is an athletic guy, but he needed to raise his fitness level to ensure he could complete the climb."

Gaebler, a NASA scientist, started his Ocampo-led fitness regimen in January. He made several trips to Colorado to train at altitude and Ocampo took him to some of his favorite spots, including the Manitou Incline. But, Ocampo also sent Gaebler to train in California's Sierra Nevada range.

"We're fortunate in Colorado that we can drive to a good many of the big-mountain trailheads," he said. "In California, however, you have to hike for a day and camp before you can attempt some of the high mountains there. Hiking there allowed us to simulate the Kilimanjaro trek, which ultimately required four days to reach the summit and two days for the descent."

Following more than eight months of training, the pair felt ready to attack Kilimanjaro, something Gaebler credits solely to Ocampo.

"I've known Rigo since 2005," Gaebler said. "He has a great attitude for life. He never gets down. He always livens things up, makes things fun and is open to new experiences."

They flew to Tanzania on Oct. 2 and were at the base of the mountain the morning of Oct. 3.

Surrounded by a pine forest, Ocampo, Gaebler and a group of five others began their trek up Kilimanjaro along with two guides and several porters, who carried the group's camping gear, food and other necessities.

"You don't go straight up," Ocampo said.  "You have to hike in big switchbacks to allow your body to acclimate to the altitude change.  The amount of oxygen in the atmosphere gets exponentially lower as you climb. At 19,000 feet, air at the Kilimanjaro summit contains roughly half the amount of oxygen as the air at sea level."

Despite hiking all day, they spent their first night still surrounded by pine trees. At that point, Ocampo struggled to hold back his enthusiasm.

The guides and porters kept saying, "Polay Polay," which means, "take it easy, don't rush" in Swahili.

"For people who are in shape, it's kind of frustrating. You feel vibrant and alive and you want to go as fast as you can," he said. "But, when you start rushing at altitude you start using more oxygen and your heart draws blood away from your head. Then you suffer from the resulting headache and stomach cramps."

Along the route to the summit, the hikers transitioned from heavy forest to smaller trees and shrubs, then finally to bare volcanic rock. They passed grand glaciers, sculpted caves and lava tubes.

Ocampo looked on in awe as the group hiked past a carved rock formation left behind by an ancient glacier.

"It leaves a mark like a highway," he said. "We couldn't believe the landscape at that point. Slowly, we left vegetation and hiked into what seemed like the surface of the moon."

They also endured an entire day of rain, which served to dampen their spirits, but not their resolve.

"We left our last ascent camp at midnight on the fourth night so we could reach the summit near sunrise," Ocampo said. "Being that high up with no other mountains around meant that we could see super far in the distance. You could see the Tanzania side as green and the Kenya side as mostly yellow."

As their hike progressed, they began realizing just how high they had climbed. Clouds had produced a floor below them.

Ocampo reached the top of the climb just as the sun poked over a distant horizon.
"I reached the top and saw a sign that said 18,000 feet," he said. "I was confused, but then I remembered that Kilimanjaro is a volcano and is ringed at the top, the summit is the highest point of the ring."

Though he was the first of his group to reach the top, he still had some hiking to do.  Facing temperatures in the teens and strong wind gusts, he hiked along the rim while looking down at a thousand of foot drop on both sides.  Roughly half way around the rim, one of the British hikers in the group caught up to him.
According to Gaebler, there was no way Ocampo was going to let anyone in the group beat him to the summit.

"He's in great shape," Gaebler said. "But, the guides kept making us slow down, so for fun, he started hiking backward up the mountain to make it more of a challenge."
Once the British hiker caught up to Ocampo, he started running.

"He was tall too, and me being short (about 5 feet 5 inches) I had to run extra fast just to keep up with him," Ocampo said. "Ultimately, he had to stop because of the resulting headache, and I kept going. So I got to the summit first, but I paid for it through my own excruciating headache."

Gaebler arrived at the summit a mere 15 minutes later and relished the moment.

"It was a culmination of almost 10 years of friendship," he said. "We both love to travel, explore the world and share our stories, but we never were able to synch up our trips until then. I'm glad we were able to tackle the mountain together."

Ocampo explained that descending Kilimanjaro was almost as fun as climbing it.

"There's a side to the mountain that's composed of pulverized rock," he said. "So it's like you can ski down in just your boots. "I thought I was going to make it down in half a day, but it's lot further than you think."

Two days later, Ocampo was back in his 4 SOPS office.

"Thanks to a scheduling conflict, I had to get back to Schriever quickly," he said. "But, Kilimanjaro is a memory that's going to stick with me for a while."

For now, he's unsure of what's next on his bucket list, but at more than 23,000 feet, Aconcagua is looking mighty enticing.