Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Face of Defense: Soldier Goes Extra Mile in Liberia

By Army Spc. Caitlyn Byrne
27th Public Affairs Detachment

MONROVIA, Liberia, Jan. 7, 2015 – For Army Cpl. Nicole Mattoon, going beyond the basic requirements of her duties while deployed at the National Police Training Academy in Paynesville, Liberia, is just part of doing her job.

Mattoon, a native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and a horizontal construction engineer for the 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, has an additional duty she’s happy to perform.

“I have been given the duty of mail noncommissioned officer for Task Force Rugged at the [NPTA],” Mattoon said. “I’m a 12N, a horizontal construction engineer, so I’ve never dealt with mail or the human resources department before. To start with, they pretty much just gave me an address and told me to go from there. … I was put in charge, which was daunting, but I was up for it.”

Setting Up a Post Office From Scratch

Mattoon had to procure a site for the post office, get supplies, coordinate transportation and help in sorting the mail for the 517 soldiers deployed to the National Police Training Academy.

“Once we receive notice that mail has arrived at Roberts International Airport, we go pick it up, record all the packages that come in and for who they are for, re-sort them once we get back to [NPTA], and then, of course, hand them all out to our soldiers, all within the same day,” Mattoon said.

But Mattoon doesn’t just watch from the sidelines as post office soldiers sort, store and distribute the mail. She works tirelessly right next to them, sometimes sorting from evening to morning, so that her fellow soldiers at NPTA can get their care packages as soon as possible.

Army Sgt. Guadalupe Flores, the battalion’s human resources noncommissioned officer in charge, commended Mattoon for her hard work.

“I immediately put her in charge as a mailroom NCO, and without guidance, she established a fully operational mailroom,” he said. “We were the first camp to receive mail. We have a minimum amount of troops, so she works day and night to go pick up mail.”

Honors from United Assistance Commander

Mattoon was recognized Jan. 2 as the service member of the week by Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of Joint Forces Command United Assistance. Flores said she was chosen not only because of the work she does, but also because of the way she conducts herself while she works.

“She has sorted and handled over 100,000 pounds of mail since she has been deployed here,” Flores said, noting the heavy volume over the Thanksgiving and Christmas period that required numerous trips to the airport to pick up new shipments.

Mattoon also made it her priority to ensure that all soldiers, including those camped out at the Ebola treatment unit construction sites, received something from home via either ground or air transportation.

Boosting Morale of Deployed Soldiers

“She really helped lift the morale of all the soldiers at the [NPTA],” Flores said. “She affected the morale of the camp bigtime. Once mail arrived, the mood around camp really lifted. It was incredible.”

Mattoon said that she appreciates the work she is able to do while deployed in Liberia. She even signed up all the soldiers at NPTA for Home Front Hugs, an organization that sends care packages to deployed soldiers, ensuring that everyone had something to open on the holidays.

“The best part of this job is the motivation that people get when they get their mail,” she said. “I get to meet new people every day, and I really enjoy that person-to-person relations factor. Whether I’m thinking about my husband, who is also in the Army, and how I want to make him proud, or whether I’m giving someone their mail, it’s that human interaction that keeps me motivated.”

Commentary - The inspired become the inspiration

by Senior Airman Erin O'Shea
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

1/7/2015 - ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England  -- As a military photographer, part of my job is to keep an eye out for creative perspectives and new inspirations to help share the Air Force story with the world.

Here at RAF Lakenheath, a young boy recently took part in the Pilot for a Day program which allows children with illnesses or disabilities to see first-hand what a typical day is like for a fighter jet or rescue helicopter pilot. The pilots take an active role to step up and step in, to help improve lives just by donating a couple hours of their time.

On July 4, 2014, Liam Buckley was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer which has now spread to other internal organs. Liam recently graduated from Sheffield Hallum University in South Yorkshire, England, with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and was hoping to further his education. Sadly, he can no longer continue with his education as he's going through rounds of chemotherapy and visits the hospital every other week to have his treatments monitored.

Before I met Liam, I questioned the condition he would be in. To my amazement, I saw him walk into the hangar toward a static F-15E Strike Eagle, and a huge smile surfaced across his face. Liam is a fighter with a big dream.

With more accomplishments in the works, it amazes me the strength this young man has after it was all taken away so suddenly. The love and support from his family is awe-inspiring and could be seen from a mile away.

People like Liam inspire me. Each day, if I feel overwhelmed or uncertain that I can't tackle a challenge set before me, I will think of Liam, who reminds me to persevere and hold fast when life throws us for a turn.

Pilot for a Day is a wonderful program which I have truly enjoyed. Seeing the pilots interact with the children and families brings me so much joy just watching from behind the lens of a camera. The family members are always so grateful and mention how their child will rave about this experience for months to come.

The beautiful part of being in the Air Force is the ability to help other people, sometimes without even realizing our successes. Airmen inspire their families, friends, and people of our nation who admire what they get to do every day.  In order for an aircraft to fly, maintenance squadrons have to maintain it, logistics squadrons have to deliver the parts and so on. We are all part of this mission's achievement.

I like to think of each unit of the Air Force as part of a spider's web, as each part is held together by another. Without all the strings perfectly aligned, the web would fall apart. Without the flawless coordination of this tour, Liam's visit wouldn't have been possible.

Amazing things can fall into place after a bolt is fastened, a part is delivered and a phone call is made. This young British man was able to witness, first-hand, an incredible craft and a job he has been inspired by for years.

I think it is easy to get caught up in the daily grind and tedious tasks that seem so repetitive in our jobs; however, I think it's crucial to take a step back and look at the big picture, and recognize the smaller ways you can impact others' lives in a great way.

It's successful visits like this that make me so passionate about my job and what we do in the Air Force. A strong mission is a successful mission, and, in this case, mission success.

436th MXS sergeant STEPS it up a stripe

by Airman 1st Class William Johnson
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

1/7/2015 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Each year the Air Force provides a limited number of slots, usually less than 200, for Stripes for Exceptional Performer promotions. This year, one of Team Dover's very own claimed one of those sought after slots.

"When I was an Airman at my first base I saw a STEP promotion for a Staff Sgt. to Tech. Sgt. and I have not seen a STEP since," said Tech. Sgt. Damaris Williams, 436th Maintenance Squadron assistant NCO in charge of wheel and tire. "It is amazing to think that six years later I would be recognized for the same honor."

Williams, a native from Moreno Valley, California, received his fifth stripe Dec. 24, 2014, at Dover AFB, Delaware under the STEP program for his outstanding leadership qualities recognized by his supervisors and for his influence, motivation and dedication noted by his subordinates.

"The moment I learned that I was being STEP promoted I could not believe it," said Williams. "My mind was trying to process everything that was happening and when I finally realized it I was overjoyed."

Master Sgt. Ralph Vaccaro, 436th MXS flight chief, who recommended Williams for the STEP promotion, said all the qualities to describe Williams equate to one word, leader.

"Since I met Williams, I knew he was a go-getter," said Vaccaro. "Any problems or tasks he was asked to do he would grab the bull by the horns and get it done."

One such example of William's drive was when he worked with engineers to rewrite technical data and create a new method for installing C-5 noose wheel bearings that saved the Air Force $130,000 a year and won an Air Mobility Command science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, award for advancements in technology.

With the promotion, Williams will now take on the responsibilities as dock controller at the isochronal maintenance dock. Williams is also exploring possibilities to commission and continue his career as an Air Force officer.

Williams is grateful to his supervision for recognizing him this honor.

"I would like to thank the individuals who made it possible for me to receive this promotion," said Williams. "I am eternally grateful."

The Air Force issued me my 'kids'

By Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs / Published January 06, 2015

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) -- While I've decided to live the child-free lifestyle, the Air Force, in its infinite wisdom, saw the need to issue me two kids. They are both straight out of technical training and brand new to the Air Force -- and one is still too young to accept an adult beverage.

Let's be honest: As children do, they totally cut into my "me time."

In all seriousness, though, these Airmen are bright, young women with an incredible future ahead of them, and I am duty-bound to ensure that doesn't change.

Perhaps like many supervisors, sometimes I feel like a parent. I am responsible for these ladies and their development as Airmen. I have a vested interest in their success and a powerful role in their morale.

Sometimes that responsibility is easy, but sometimes that responsibility bolts me into action in the middle of the night.

One of my Airmen calls me from the side of the busiest highway in Denver, nearly in tears, and tells me that she had just been in her first car accident. Like any good parent would do, I jump out of bed in my pajama pants and head out the door without thinking twice. In a flurry of hands-free phone calls to our first sergeant and my Airman, who is now backing up the highway for miles, we square everything away and get her back to base with the help of the police and a tow truck driver.

It was after everything was taken care of and she was back in her room that I truly realized being a supervisor was about more than solving a problem.

It was time to listen. She had been through her first car accident ever. She was in a brand new city. She was on her own for the first time. All things combined, I understood why she was so distraught. For me, this was a challenge to overcome; but for her, this may have been one of her most terrifying experiences. I knew I had to listen.

This experience taught me two valuable lessons. One, if my Airmen are in trouble, I need them to know that they can trust me to take care of them. And two, I need a new pair of pajama pants because crushed blue velvet went out of style two decades ago.

But how do I get these young Airmen to trust me? I am nearly 10 years older, and entire generation separates my interests from theirs. How can I relate?

I became the next Sherlock Homes, paying attention to the little details to find common ground. My investigative eye was on overdrive as I tried to learn more about my other Airman.

She is quieter and a bit less outspoken, but she is unbelievably artistic. Her talent with a drawing pencil makes me look like a pre-schooler with a crayon. What do a young, female Michelangelo and I have in common? During a dorm room inspection, I observe pop culture posters on the walls and spot her video game system; I can relate to that.

Paying attention to my Airman allowed me a glimpse into her life. Still, was this enough to get her to connect with the oldest person in her work center?

It came down to what my dad did with me for our father-son bonding. He introduced me to Star Wars and Star Trek, engrained classic rock into my head, and shared outlandish stories of his past. These moments brought me closer to him, so I thought it might work with my Airmen.

Well, now they know more 1980s music than they ever thought they would, and they have heard more "old-man" stories than they probably wished to hear. It took willingness from both sides to adapt, but at the end of the day, we built that Airman-supervisor connection.

I honestly feel that they can trust me. They can come to me with not only problems I can listen to or help solve, but also with the successes they have achieved. Hearing that they won an award or were lauded by the commander gives me the same level of joy and pride as they have. I am proud of my Airmen and they have become more than a required responsibility to me.

The best thing I have found is that every supervisor can come to feel this way. All it takes is a desire to be a part of their Airmen's lives and a genuine interest in their well-being. Find your connections, build them and adapt as necessary, and don't give up on your Airmen.

For me, regardless of whether or not these young ladies are my blood, I wish only the best of success for my "daughters

Saying thank you by feeding the troops

by Roland Balik
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

1/7/2015 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Years ago, what started out as one family putting out a couple of extra dinner plates for a few friends during the holidays has turned into something bigger and rewarding for one individual with ties to the military and Dover Air Force Base.

The 10th annual Feed the Troops, held Dec. 23, 2014, here, in Building 792 was directed by retired Air Force Reserve Technician Master Sgt. Robert Reese along with the 15 volunteers that helped him cook, set up and serve a traditional holiday meal for about 450 dayshift and 125 nightshift Team Dover members.

"This goes back when I first joined the military, Mom and Dad used to do the same thing," said Reese. "When I came home for the first time, they told me to bring a couple of friends along."

The following year, his parents told Reese to bring more friends and the tradition was set in motion. It was their way of showing their appreciation for the military.
Showing his appreciation for active military members at Dover AFB, Reese held the first Feed the Troops in 2005. Reese retired from the military in 2011 but likes to stay involved with military members and he has enjoyed seeing his program grow.

"Ten years ago, I decided to do the same thing with the help of a couple of friends," said Reese. "It grew from four or five friends to the 15 friends and volunteers for this year's meal, along with Dover Downs allowing us to cook in their facilities."

Civilians in the local community, volunteers from Dover Motorsports and the 512th Airlift Wing served a lunchtime meal for dayshift workers consisting of turkey, stuffing, green beans, corn, gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and a wide variety of desserts.

"Four of us started cooking at 2 a.m. in the Dover Downs kitchen," said Reese. "Air Force Reserve Technician Senior Master Sgt. Rene Baldrich, 712th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, used his vehicle to transport the cooked food in hot food carriers to the base."

Dover Motorsports personnel and family members volunteered as well.

"I think it is important to come out and support the troops that protect us and give us the liberties that we enjoy," said Kevin Mills of Dover Motorsports.

This year, 38 turkeys totaling around 700 pounds were cooked for the meals.

A similar meal was served by volunteers for night shift workers the same day.