Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bonhomme Richard Arrives in Malaysia

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam D. Wainwright, USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs

SEPANGGAR, Malaysia (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in Malaysia's sub-district of Sepanggar for a scheduled port visit in Kota Kinabalu, Feb 23.

During the visit, Bonhomme Richard Sailors and Marines will be involved in various community service projects, hosting tours of the ship, sporting events, as well as enjoying the sites of this quickly expanding city of 600,000 people. Kota Kinabalu is a popular gateway for people travelling to Sabah or Borneo and is one of the major commercial and industrial cities in all Malaysia.

"The men and women of BHR have waited a long time for a liberty port and everyone's excited for this visit," said Bonhomme Richard Commanding Officer Capt. Joey Tynch. "It's no small feat getting a steamship back to sea after a long time pierside and I couldn't be more proud of how hard everyone worked to get us back underway after our extended time in the yards."

Bonhomme Richard is the flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

"We're glad to be back at sea, working shoulder to shoulder, with the Marines of the 31st MEU as we continue to refine all aspects of our amphibious capability and engage with our partner nations in the Pacific," said Tynch. "We're thrilled to be in Malaysia representing the United States Navy and Marine Corps Team and can't wait to take in everything this country has to offer from sea level to the summit of Mount Kinabalu."

Bonhomme Richard ARG is currently under the tactical command of embarked Commander, Amphibious Squadron 11, Capt. Heidi Agle and reports to Commander, Amphibious Force U.S. 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Hugh D. Wetherald, headquartered in White Beach, Japan.

375th LRS Airmen recognized for quick thinking, money saving actions

by Airman 1st Class Megan Friedl
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

2/24/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- When thousands of dollars are at stake and there's a huge time crunch, Scott Airmen go above and beyond to save the Air Force money, labor and time.

Such was the case Jan. 27 when Airmen from the 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron received a short-notice mission to support the Vice President of the United States.

Joe Biden flew to Indiana to pay the nation's respect at the funeral of former Senator and Governor of Kentucky, Wendall Ford. However, mission planners soon learned that the airport in Indiana did not have the right type of ground equipment for passenger offload, so the call went out for Scott AFB to assist.

Presidential support taskings normally allow a 48-72 hour response time, however, the squadron had less than 17 hours to prepare and transport a passenger staircase truck and aerospace ground equipment, or AGE, from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to Evansville, Indiana. The challenge was how they could do that quickly and in the most cost effective manner since there were no other local entities near that airport that could assist. Their options were to fly it or drive it, and each solution had its own set of issues.

Airman 1st Class Brian Jackson, a 375th LRS logistics planner, received the request from the 618th Air Operations Center (TACC) for a passenger stair truck and AGE equipment, as well as supporting personnel. Jackson immediately notified the 375th Operations Support Squadron to ensure the AGE was available. AGE personnel quickly prepared the electrical cart and air start cart for transport. Within two hours, the AGE and passenger stair truck were ready for transport.

Initially, the 618th AOC believed the only way to get the equipment and personnel in-place in the required time would be to request a C-17 for transport. While they were searching for available aircraft, the LRS Airmen recommended that they drive the equipment to Indiana, saving air transportation costs.

However, this option didn't come without challenges. The sun was setting, and Illinois state law prohibits outsize vehicles from driving on major interstates after sunset. As luck would have it, the passenger stair truck loaded on a low-boy semi-truck is considered an outsize vehicle. But, the team found a way to overcome that obstacle.

Rather than loading the passenger stair truck onto a low-boy tractor/trailer, they would drive it instead. The challenge they faced is that the passenger stair truck is not typically driven on the Interstate. In fact, it's usually only driven from the passenger terminal to the aircraft and back. But this didn't stop the LRS Airmen. In a mere four hours after notification, the Airmen departed for Evansville driving a tractor trailer with the AGE and a 13-foot high passenger staircase truck.

Due to the speed limitations of the passenger staircase truck, a drive that would usually take 2 ½ hours ended up taking 4 ½ hours Despite all the challenges, the team arrived safely and with enough time to position the equipment for the Vice President's aircraft arrival.

"The work on this mission is a perfect example of innovation coming from the bottom up instead of from the top down," said Maj. Gen. Timothy Zadalis, 618th AOC (TACC) commander. "When Airmen see room to improve efficiency and make it happen, we accomplish incredible things."

Although many Airmen contributed to the success of the mission, seven were recognized and received coins from Zadalis for their efforts. Maj. Karen Rupp, 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, added, "It wasn't a one-man show, by any means. This was a team effort between the LRS and OSS and highlights what teamwork and out-of-the-box thinking can accomplish."

455 EMXS: Making airpower possible

by Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

2/24/2015 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Since the Air Force's inception nearly 70 years ago, the image of aircraft overhead and the roar of jet engines may have fostered feelings of patriotism and instilled an indelible sense of security in many Americans.

Working behind the scenes to ensure citizens have placed their faith in a steadfast force, Airmen assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron here deliver the firepower that commands the respect of nations across the globe.

"Our job is extremely important to the Air Force mission," said Airman 1st Class Vincent Martinez, 455 EMXS line delivery crew member. "Without us, there are no bombs. Without us, there is no airpower."

Hailing from the 388th Equipment Maintenance Squadron's Munitions Flight at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Martinez and his fellow line delivery crewmates have conducted 741 real world munitions deliveries valued at more than $75 million since their arrival in October.

"A lot of people are under the impression that bombs just magically appear on an aircraft," Martinez said. "They don't realize there are a lot of processes within the munitions career field, line delivery being the final step, that have to take place before a bomb is loaded onto an aircraft."

The men and women of line delivery adhere to strict Technical Orders and regulations prior to, during, and following the transport of munitions. When travelling with thousands of pounds of explosives, perfection isn't a goal, it's an expectation.

"Expose the least amount of people to the least amount of explosives for the least amount of time," Martinez said. "This principle governs everything we do. We can't be sitting in the middle of a populous area with trailers full of bombs. When we travel we use specific roads to get from point A to point B; we call it the explosive route. If we get the job done as quickly as possible and get the munitions to the safe zone, that's the best we can do for our fellow Airmen."

At the moment a munitions delivery is ordered, a chain of events is set in motion, events that must take place with the utmost precision and finesse to ensure the safety and security of the thousands who live and work on Bagram.

"When we get an order requiring a munitions delivery we have to first locate those specific bombs in our munitions yard or at the Ammo Storage Point," Martinez said. "Once we've done this, we have to set up a crew book, conduct a crew brief, and roll out to the site for pick up. We have to check out the trailer in its entirety to make sure everything's kosher, then we hook up to it."

"Once we're ready to go, we call in on the radio to communicate what we have and where we're going with it," Martinez continued. "Once we receive the go-ahead, we start making our way to the flightline. After we arrive, we contact the expediter who lets us know where we need to be and when the load crew will arrive. The final step is accountability: We call in to let everyone know where the munition is because we have to maintain positive control at all times."

Contrary to most stateside line delivery operations, there are no dry runs or training scenarios. Mission success can be measured in the continued suppression of terrorism, while mission failure can equate to devastating loss. When dealing with the highest stakes, standards and the caliber of personnel must be even higher.

"The intensity here is completely different than at Hill," Martinez said. "Back home, it's more of a training environment. Here, if they need a bomb, they absolutely need it as soon as possible. I derive my sense of satisfaction from seeing the bombs go up onto the aircraft and watching it take off at the end of the runway. When the planes come back empty it means we did our job and I take a lot of pride in the role I play in ensuring our nation's security."

Expeditionary Center vice commander visits 43 AG

by Marvin Krause
43rd Airlift Group public affairs

2/24/2015 - POPE ARMY AIRFIELD, N.C. -- The vice commander of the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, Brig. Gen. Tim Gibson, visited the 43rd Airlift Group Feb. 19-20, 2015, to meet with Airmen and learn about their units' unique capabilities, key initiatives and missions.

During his two-day visit, he received a Global Response Force mission briefing from Lt. Col. David Morgan, commander of the 43rd Operations Support Squadron and met with Brig. Gen. Brian Winski, deputy commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, Brig. Gen. James Scanlan, 440th Airlift Wing commander and Col. Kenneth Moss, commander of the 43rd Airlift Group. Additionally, the general met with local civic leaders, toured the 82nd Airborne Division's outload nodes and visited several of the group's units to meet with Airmen.

"Thank you for the work that you're doing to support one of Air Mobility Command's most important responsibilities, the Global Response Force mission," Gibson said. "We fail as a force if we fail to get this right--you are doing an outstanding job of supporting and executing your mission."

The general also reinforced the USAF EC priorities of training Airmen, enabling partners and shaping global response to the group's Airmen. He also presented Expeditionary Center commander coins to several of the group's Airmen and civilians, recognizing their outstanding duty performance.

"It was very inspiring to meet the Gryphons and see first-hand how you are supporting our joint special operations and 82nd Airborne Division partners, as well as executing the Global Response Force mission," Gibson said. "I witnessed some innovative training initiatives by the group's highly motivated Airmen that have the potential to save our taxpayers thousands of dollars if approved. I also met with local civic leaders whose unyielding support of Pope's Airmen and their families is amazing. There is an outstanding commitment to service here and I look forward to a return visit in the future," Gibson said.

Airmen Missing From WWII Accounted For

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced yesterday that the remains of U.S. servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been accounted for and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Army Air Forces 1st Lts. William D. Bernier of Augusta, Montana; Bryant E. Poulsen of Salt Lake City, Utah; Herbert V. Young Jr. of Clarkdale, Arizona and Tech Sgts. Charles L. Johnston of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Hugh F. Moore of Elkton, Maryland and Staff Sgts. John E. Copeland of Dearing, Kansas; Charles J. Jones of Athens, Georgia; and Sgt. Charles A. Gardner of San Francisco, California, have been accounted for and buried with full military honors. Jones will be buried Feb. 28 in Athens, Georgia and Johnston will be buried March 2 in Arlington National Cemetery. On March 18, there will be a group burial service at Arlington National Cemetery honoring Poulsen, Copeland and the other crew members. Bernier was buried Sept. 19, 2014, in his hometown. Young was buried Oct. 15, 2014, in Prescott, Arizona Moore was buried on Nov. 11, 2014, in his hometown. Gardner was buried on Dec. 4, 2014 in Arlington National Cemetery.

On April 10, 1944, 12 B-24D Liberator crew members took off from Texter Strip, Nazdab Air Field, New Guinea, on a mission to attack an anti-aircraft site at Hansa Bay. The aircraft was shot down by enemy anti-aircraft fire over the Madang Province, New Guinea. Four of the crewmen were able to parachute from the aircraft, but were reported to have died in captivity.

Following World War II, the Army Graves Registration Service (AGRS) conducted investigations and recovered the remains of three of the missing airmen. In May 1949, AGRS concluded the remaining nine crew members were unrecoverable.

In 2001, a U.S.-led team located wreckage of a B-24D that bore the tail number of this aircraft. After several surveys, DoD teams excavated the site and recovered human remains and non-biological material evidence.

To identify Jones’ remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including, mitochondrial DNA, which matched Jones’ maternal niece.

To identify Johnston’s remains, scientists from DPAA and AFDIL used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including, mitochondrial DNA, which matched Johnston’s maternal cousins.

To identify Gardner’s remains, scientists from DPAA and AFDIL used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including, mitochondrial DNA, which matched Gardner’s maternal niece and nephew.

To identify Young’s remains, scientists from DPAA and AFDIL used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including, mitochondrial DNA, which matched Young’s sister.

To identify Moore’s remains, scientists from DPAA and AFDIL used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including, mitochondrial DNA, which matched Moore’s niece and grand-niece.

To identify Bernier’s remains, scientists from DPAA and AFDIL used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including, mitochondrial DNA, which matched Bernier’s cousins.

To account for Poulsen and Copeland, scientists from DPAA used circumstantial evidence that placed them on the aircraft and accounted for as them as part of the group.

525th FS commander breaks active-duty record

by Air Force 2nd Lt. Michael Trent Harrington
JBER Public Affairs

2/19/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- On Feb. 3, Air Force Lt. Col. Clayton Percle, 525th Fighter Squadron commander, clocked his thousandth hour flying the F-22 Raptor and thereby crossed an invisible line in the air, into an elite club as exclusive today as the society of sound-barrier breakers was in the late 1940s.

It took three generations, three wars and decades of men and women launching planes and bringing them home for him to notch the mythical sixth week in a stealth fighter jet cockpit. It was a long road through history to the first active duty, thousand-hour Raptor pilot and a long road for Percle.

"The only thing I ever wanted to do before I became a fighter pilot was to be a train engineer," Percle said, and sure enough, fate tried more than once to push him toward locomotives on steel tracks and away from steel wings on flightpaths. 

Percle's grandfather was a combat engineer in the First World War and fought in the battle of the Marne - a struggle that featured predecessors of the 90th Fighter Squadron, Percle's sister unit here, flying over no man's land.  Another grandfather was a combat medic in World War II.

Both grandfathers survived, and eventually the Percle line brought forth a 7-year-old Tennessean from Clarksville who fell ill with chickenpox and missed attending an air show with his dad.

The senior Percle was an Army chief warrant officer in Vietnam, winner of the Distinguished Flying Cross and an AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter pilot with nearly 2,000 combat flying hours himself.

The flying father brought home to his son a poster of an F-15C Eagle, streaming across a laminated two-foot poster at full afterburner.

At that moment, Percle said, he knew what he was supposed to do, and he'd spend the entirety of his young life preparing to do it.

But the path that led Percle through the U.S. Air Force Academy - the service's factory for pilot slots and the single most likely way to an eventual fighter cockpit - soon changed.

Percle fell and shattered a growth plate in his hip during basic training.
He was told he could choose to start all over, and lose a year of his life to sitting and waiting, or he could try his hand at an unlikely ROTC pilot slot from the University of Memphis.

Percle headed to Memphis.

He enrolled in 1994, as the Air Force shrank in the wake of the Cold War and Gulf War I.

Strategic Air Command had dissolved as a major command, and the Department of Defense fell to a fraction of its Reagan-era bulk.

"I would not give up on my dream," Percle remembered, and he took the chance of not even getting to be a pilot, let alone flying the F-15s he'd pictured since childhood.

Percle did get that pilot training slot. When he was selected to fly the F-15C out of training, his dad was there to run onstage and tackle him with joy.

Adding the hours he logged in the T-37 Tweet, the T-38 Talon and the F-15 to his Raptor tally, Percle has spent 2,000 hours, some 83 straight days, in flight.

One or two thousand flying hours is not so long compared to the time heavy counterparts log in their cockpits, Percle admitted.

Though he's the only Airman in the cockpit, Percle won't claim a single hour for himself alone.

"It's not something I've accomplished on my own," Percle said. "It's a credit to the men and women who maintain the fighter, the operations crews, equipment organizers, resource managers and intelligence collectors who ensure I can go out and fly the airplane every day.

"It's not a milestone or a benchmark for me, it's a milestone for the program and for the Air Force," he added.

"If I went back and talked to 7-year-old me and told him what was going on here today, that I was flying an F-22, he'd say 'What's that?'" Percle said with a laugh.

"I'd never have imagined it. It's not even something I even dreamed of. I think if I went back and showed myself, I'd be pretty shocked."

Other Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve pilots have already reached - and other active duty pilots undoubtedly will reach - the thousand-hour mark in the coming years.

The accomplishment is soon becoming part of a routine - and that, Percle says, is just fine, because it is less about the pilot in the cockpit or the plane in the air and more about the collective effort that keeps them there.

"You don't really climb into the jet," Percle said. "You strap it on your back. Like a homesick angel."

Hard work fuels future for 100th LRS Airman

by Gina Randall
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

2/23/2015 - RAF MILDENHALL, England  -- As home to U.S. Air Forces in Europe's sole air refueling wing, fuel and cryogenics are an extremely important area of work for Airmen assigned to RAF Mildenhall.

One such Airman charged with the storing and issuing of cryogenic products is Senior Airman Matthew Dillard, 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron cryogenic specialist from Las Vegas, Nevada.

He enlisted to make the most of his life and see where the career took him.

"I joined to travel and get some experience," Dillard explained. "I wanted to grow up and see the world."

He wanted to be stationed overseas and he was glad his first assignment brought him to England.

"I've been in the military for three years, this is my first base," the cryogenic specialist said.

Not only does he enjoy living overseas, Dillard enjoys his work.

"I got to close down Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan; that was pretty cool," the Nevada native explained. "I was there for six months and we had to take everything away. The change from a fully operational base to bare bones was drastic. Our biggest challenge was dismantling 14 200,000-gallon fuel bladders."

He looks back with pride on his career highlights, but his day-to-day duties at home station make him look forward to coming to work.

"The main job for petroleum, oils and lubricants Airmen is to issue fuel to the aircraft, and I facilitate issuing fuel from all the storage tanks," Dillard explained. "I also perform inspections and issue cryogenic products, ensuring aircrews are provided with pure oxygen."

Dillard's work can be extremely dangerous but he performs regular inspections to ensure his work is carried out to the highest and safest standards.

"Day-to-day, I check out all our facilities and make sure they're all operating correctly to ensure the safety of our guys as well as the base as a whole," Dillard explained. "We operate systems and perform liquid oxygen, receipts and issues. That keeps us pretty busy. We also do a small amount of maintenance on the systems."

The Airmen undergo a great deal of training prior to and on the job, and his supervisor is on-hand in case Dillard needs advice.

"Dillard is very thorough and very good at training other personnel. He is an all-around go-to guy when it comes to fixed facilities," said Staff Sgt. Dakota Ferris, 100th LRS Fixed Facility supervisor from Mackinaw City, Michigan.

Dillard enjoys his work but is looking to his future.

"I enjoy traveling and going to school," he said. "I want to get into the medical field; that's what I'm aspiring toward."

Dillard's leadership say his hard work and good work ethics will fuel his career onto its chosen path.

Kentucky Airmen deploy to Southwest Asia, provide airlift support

by Maj. Dale Greer
123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

2/21/2015 - LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing departed the Kentucky Air National Guard Base here Feb. 21 for a deployment to Southwest Asia.

The Airmen are providing Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft support to coalition military operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, which includes the Persian Gulf, northern Africa and Afghanistan.

The Airmen, who include aircrew members, aircraft maintenance personnel and support staff, will fly troops and cargo as needed across the region in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel, said Lt. Col. Matt Quenichet, a Kentucky Air Guard navigator and mission commander.

Col. Barry Gorter, commander of the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing, thanked the deploying Airmen for their commitment to the mission.

"I know that you're leaving here ready to perform this mission because of the unsurpassed level of professionalism and excellence you display every day," Gorter told the Airmen. "I'm proud of you, and I'm humbled to be you wing commander."

He also praised family members and community partners for their continued support during the deployment.

"Our Airmen are leaving family and friends behind while they deploy overseas for this important mission, and many are taking leave from full-time civilian jobs," Gorter noted. "Those family members and civilian employers will have to take on extra responsibilities while their citizen-Airmen are deployed, and we deeply appreciate that. Our Airmen simply could not perform this mission without the full support of their families, employers and coworkers, all of whom are our full partners in the defense of America."

Kentucky Airmen have consistently demonstrated the Air National Guard's balanced strategy as a proven choice for fighting wars and overseas missions. They have proven to be a combat-ready and accessible force to Combatant Commanders providing ready, experienced, and professional Airmen.

The deployment marks the sixth time in the past 12 years that the Kentucky Air Guard has sent its aircraft, aircrews and maintenance personnel to support military operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The wing deployed aviation assets there in 2003, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012, operating from multiple undisclosed locations and Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

The wing's non-aviation personnel also have been heavily engaged around the world since Sept. 11, 2001, logging thousands of deployments to dozens of overseas locations, including Iraq and Afghanistan. In October 2014, more than 70 of the wing's Airmen deployed to Africa to support Operation United Assistance, the international effort to fight the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

Tulsa Air National Guard hosts 'Pilot for a Day'

by Senior Master Sgt. Preston Chasteen
138th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/19/2015 - TULSA AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Okla.  -- A Collinsville youth became the 138th Fighter Wing's newest honorary pilot here Feb. 19. during the units "Pilot for a Day" recognition program.

Josh Payton participated in the pilot for a day program, which was created to allow children with potentially life threatening illnesses an opportunity to spend a day interacting on base and sharing in some of the experiences of an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter pilot.

Josh Payton, the son of Airman 1st Class Jacky Payton and wife Marie, was diagnosed in September 2014 with Ewing sarcoma, a rare bone cancer.

"The program is something that we are doing locally to help give back to the community and we keep it simple without a lot or red tape," stated Lt Col Ryan Jones, 138th FW pilot for a day program coordinator. "We have a lot of really great people on this base who help to make this happen for these young folks."

Airman 1st Class Payton is a traditional guardsman at the 138th Fighter Wing where he works as a personnel specialist in the 138th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

"It was a big surprise because I didn't realize it was one event, just for one child," stated Airman 1st Class Payton. "It's a big deal for Josh because he had just started in Civil Air Patrol then he got diagnosed, so now he's not able to join until his treatments are finished. So for him to be able to come out and do this, it's meant a lot to him, it's really lifted his spirits up."

"We're not going to stop, we're going to keep doing this," stated Lt Col Jones. "It's not just one person that benefits, but everyone involved benefits."

The program was launched at the 138th FW with Jones, who brought the program from his previous unit at the 149th FW, San Antonio, Texas.

Josh is Tulsa's seventh Pilot for a Day since the program started at the 138th FW in May 2012.