Military News

Thursday, February 26, 2015

AFGSC command chief experiences Malmstrom's mission, encourages Airmen

by Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt
341st Missile Wing Public Affairs


2/24/2015 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Effective leaders display many characteristics, which the people they inspire look up to. Some are known for their courage. Some are known for their strength and others may be recognized for their wisdom.

But all were followers at one point; looking up to their superiors as they developed the skills that would one day put them in leadership positions.

For Chief Master Sgt. Terry West, Air Force Global Strike Command command chief, his hallmark was displayed as leadership through service. During a two-day tour of Malmstrom Air Force Base, West visited multiple work centers to speak with Airmen and get a first-hand look at what they accomplish on a daily basis.

Through one-on-one communication with junior enlisted and senior personnel, West learned of the hard work it takes to keep the installation's facilities running. He saw what it takes to keep Airmen working in the elements motivated, equipment cared for and operating efficiently, and the benefits the Force Improvement Program has made to the mission.

As a guest speaker for the base's 2014 Annual Awards Banquet, West also commended every individual for their personal dedication to service.

"Thank you for what you provide, which is a safe, secure and effective team of professionals," said West. "You are capable of delivering the most powerful weapons that we have ever seen on the planet. Some of the weapons that only the president of the United States can authorize the use of, and that is pretty impressive."

Since 1960, every minute of every hour of every day, Airmen within AFGSC have been providing a strategic nuclear deterrence; something that has not gone unnoticed to the American public or leadership within the command.

"Frankly, all of you are going exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ask you to do," said West.

Recently, the base has seen many FIP implementations, such as Model Defender gear applications and funding for quality of life improvement for Airmen in the missile field.

During his tour, West saw these implementations and asked the Airmen, who were affected by them, how they have helped the mission and what he could bring back to command for suggestions.

Through Airmen's personal stories of how the FIP program has aided them and through his own hands-on experience, the importance of its implementation became real.

Airmen's needs are the number one priority, and FIP offers the support these Airmen need to accomplish the most important deterrence mission in the world.

"You provide the check and balance in America's nuclear deterrence," said West. "Ben Franklin said 'well done is better than well said,' so well done Wing One."

Walter Reed Technician Creates New Eyes for Patients



By Sarah Marshall
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

BETHESDA, Md., Feb. 26, 2015 – Louis Gilbert creates handmade, lifelike prosthetic eyes in the dental laboratory at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center here.

Gilbert, a retired Navy dental technician, received training in maxillofacial prosthetics at the Naval Postgraduate Dental School. The craft involves creating replacements for missing ears, noses and other facial parts missing due to birth defects, cancer, combat or trauma, he explained.

He completed the NPDS maxillofacial laboratory prosthodontics course in 2000. The six-month course allowed him to expand his dental technician skills while learning the ins and outs of painting and creating facial prosthetics, which involves using the same materials as those used to make dentures.

‘Mastering the Eyes’

Gilbert learned to master the various aspects of maxillofacial prosthodontics, but was very interested in “mastering the eyes,” he said.

“It was more appealing to me. It was more creative,” he explained.

After retiring from the Navy after a 20-year career, Gilbert began working as a Department of Defense civilian in 2006 at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center that was located in Silver Spring, Maryland. Now in Bethesda, Gilbert has continued working with other skilled anaplastologists, who specialize in producing and fitting facial prosthetics.

The team here decided they would each concentrate on a particular aspect of their craft, with Gilbert focusing primarily on prosthetic eyes, or ocular prosthetics. Some of his colleagues have mastered silicone work, while others are able to make “specialized” eyes –- like a Marine emblem or sports team logo superimposed on the iris of a prosthetic eye. Patients have even asked for glow-in-the-dark prosthetic eyes, Gilbert said.

Constructing a Prosthetic Eye

The process of making a prosthetic eye typically takes about eight hours, Gilbert said. Also referred to as an ocularist, he begins by making an impression of the eye socket, where the eye is missing. He uses an alginate, or wax-like, casting material, to make the impression. Gilbert can easily heat up this material and reshape it during the fitting process, if need be, he said. He will later use this impression to make a mold of the eye.

Gilbert then sits in front of the patient, using the remaining eye as a guide as he paints the patient’s iris on a small “canvas,” a round circular fabric, about the size of a pinky nail. He might also use a photo of the patient’s remaining eye, as a guide. He ensures to capture every intricate detail of the iris, using oil-based paints. He also measures the patient’s iris and pupil, on the remaining eye, to ensure the prosthetic matches.

Once he’s finished painting the iris, he superimposes a “pupil” on top of the iris. A small round, acrylic dome is then placed over the iris and pupil, magnifying the colors. Altogether, the pupil and iris are attached to the mold. Gilbert then inserts the mold into the eye socket to check the alignment of the iris. He calls this part of the process “setting the gaze,” making sure the iris is aligned properly.

Painting the Eye

Gilbert then completes the mold by painting the sclera, the white part of the eye. He has about a dozen shades of acrylic paint to choose from for this part of the eye, including dark greys, yellows and different shades of white. He then uses red strands of thread to create veins in the eye, and finally, he adds a clear coat over the eye to seal the prosthetic.

“The goal is to be as natural and look as normal as possible, and to be comfortable,” Gilbert said.

If there is no damage to the muscles behind the eye, then the prosthetic eye should still be able to move normally as well, he said. Gilbert will continue to see his patients within the months following to ensure proper fit, as post-surgery swelling continues to go down. Long term, patients usually return about once a year for polishing and to ensure the eye still fits properly.

Rewarding Work, Happy Patients

Some eyes are more challenging, Gilbert said, for example, if an individual has a unique eye color. But, he added, the hard work pays off. “It’s an incredible feeling to see the look on a person’s face when they see themselves in the mirror for the first time with their new eye,” he said.

“It’s exciting because I’m making them feel whole again,” Gilbert said. “This is absolutely the best job. It’s really rewarding.”

About a year ago, Gilbert made a prosthetic eye for Jeannette Nunez shortly after her left eye was removed due to complications with glaucoma. Since childhood, she struggled with the disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve, which connects the retina to the brain.

“My entire life, doctors have been telling me, one day we’re going to have to take that eye out,” Nunez explained. Knowing that day was coming did not make it any easier. That day came on March 17, 2014. What did make it more pleasant was her experience at Walter Reed and working with Gilbert.

Six weeks after her surgery, she met the ocularist, and she was “instantly pleased,” with his knowledge and his attention, she said. Nunez didn’t feel rushed -- Gilbert took the time to understand her concerns and walked her through the process.  When it came to making an impression of her socket, he made sure she knew, step-by-step, what was going to happen next.

Nunez said she has felt insecure her entire life -- feeling she was “different.” Her parents, she said, raised her to be strong and independent. For the first time in her life, with her identical, dark brown eyes, she said, she has confidence in saying, “I believe what was instilled in me. That was a revelation for me.”

A Team Effort

Gilbert works closely with anaplastologists Gwen Guildford and Robert Robinson. The three have crossed paths over the years, each taking the maxillofacial course at NPDS and each having served at one point on active duty at the former National Naval Medical Center. They each continue to do dental work as well, creating dental implants and dentures. They agreed their “hearts belong here,” and they go out of their way to ensure their patients are happy.

“It’s a small group, as far as those of us in the field,” said Robinson, who is the “go-to” for silicone work. He creates facial prosthetics, such as nasal, facial, or ear prosthetics, using various forms of silicone to create life-like textures on the prosthetic. Robinson has been doing anaplastology for 17 years, and prosthetics for 25 years. He agreed, it is “heartwarming to see how [a patient] reacts when they look at themselves in the mirror for the first time with whatever we’re able to make for them.”

Guilford, the laboratory manager, echoed similar sentiments. “We take great pride in making sure our patients are happy – that’s most important,” she said.

Guilford creates specialized eyes. “Basically anything they want, they can get here,” she said.

Once Gilbert finishes making a mold to fit the patient’s eye socket and creates their natural looking eye, Guilford crafts the iris with a specialized design, be it a Purple Heart, Ranger emblem, diamonds, or a flower.

‘Captain America’ Eye

She recalls making a Captain America eye for Army Sgt. Thomas Block, who was severely injured Oct. 5, 2013. While on patrol with fellow Rangers in southern Afghanistan, an insurgent detonated a bomb strapped to her body, throwing him back 35 feet into a minefield. Block lost his right eye but retained vision in his left eye. He also had his ocular bone and nose and cheekbone rebuilt.

Block was not aware that such life-like prosthetic eyes could be made, and he was particularly surprised to learn the work takes place in a dental lab. He asked for the Captain America shield, because it was already in the shape of a circle, like an iris, and the symbol seemed patriotic. He said he enjoys seeing others react to his eye, especially children.

“They get really excited about it,” he said.

As he always strives to be a role model and do what’s right for his family, friends and his country, Block said, “[The Captain America eye] gives me a standard to uphold.”

Block also expressed his appreciation for the “amazing care” he’s received from the team in the dental lab.

“They work really well together,” he said. “They make it easy for me, the patient, to feel comfortable wearing this prosthetic. They’re here for us.”

JBER top chefs to compete at national event

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Wes Wright
JBER Public Affairs


2/26/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- "This pork is so raw, it's still singing Hakuna Matata!"

Thankfully, the type of colorful criticism on a popular TV cooking show was absent following a meal prepared by a team of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson's top chefs Feb. 20. High praise took its place.

The 10-person team of Soldiers and Airmen, dubbed "Team Alaska," served up a three-course meal to JBER leadership as part of a training event designed to prepare the team for the stiff competition they'll be facing in the 40th Annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event at Fort Lee, VA. March 4-13.

The first item served was a zucchini and shrimp wrap with roasted red pepper, feta and cream cheese filling, topped with crisp bacon, julienne carrots and roasted red pepper sauce. The main course offered to the diners' pallets was Beef Wellington in a green peppercorn sauce, along with a side of herbed potatoes, and a warm wilted green salad, topped with toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Beef Wellington is a steak fillet coated with pate and duxelles, wrapped in a puff pastry and baked.

"The competition we're going to is like the Super Bowl of culinary arts for the military," said Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Warman, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Team Alaska manager. "It's a really big deal. We're excited to go down there."

"It's an event like this that you can really only enjoy at a joint base," Air Force Col. Brian Bruckbauer, 673d Air Base Wing commander. "We've got Soldiers and Airmen. It's because of this joint base construct that we're able to do things like this together and learn from one another. From a services standpoint, most services Airmen, never get exposure to things like this. This is one of the many things I think is great about JBER."

The competition is held at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence. The center is the premier joint food service training institution and central focal point for the armed services in both entry-level and advanced culinary training (Corporate Headquarters and Quartermaster School Advisor for the Army Worldwide Food Service Program).

The purpose of the event is to promote growth in the culinary profession with special attention to the tenets of modern culinary developability, practicality, nutrition, workmanship, economy, presentation, creativity, and concept.

According to JCCoE officials, the competition format mirrors the structure of the World Culinary Olympics held every four years in Erfurt, Germany. This annual event includes ice sculptures, pastries, seafood, wild game and amazing centerpieces made of edible items. From aiolis to zabaglione, it can all be seen during the annual MCACTE.

As the event is classified as a competitive training event, Team Alaska is composed of seven rookies and three veterans. There is a five-person "back of the house" team and a five-person "front of the house" team.

"Our team is going to compete in many challenges," Warman said. "So, we wanted to create a similar environment to what they'll face. The one presented today was a field kitchen event. They had to prepare a gourmet, three-course meal on a mobile kitchen trailer. The field kitchen is designed to cook field rations. So, it really challenges our guys to think outside-the-box."

A field kitchen is a small, rudimentary kitchen on a trailer, designed to be highly mobile and cook field rations for servicemembers in deployed or austere locations.

"The biggest challenge with a field kitchen is control of temperature," said Army Sergeant Abraham Gonzales, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Team Alaska primary instructor.  "Another significant challenge is space. Those kitchens aren't very big."

For their practice run in front of JBER leadership, the team had three hours and 45 minutes to create three courses: starter, entrée and dessert. According to one arctic warrior in attendance, the meal rivaled 5-star dining.

"The fact they made this out of a field kitchen, and it's similar to 5-star dining - awesome!" said Bruckbauer. "The food was great and I think they'll compete well at their competition."

Bruckbauer's comments came moments after sampling a dessert of banana flambé served with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, and a cherry spun sugar garnish.

This is the second time Team Alaska will be competing in the event. The roster has changed, but the goal remains the same: come home with some hardware. In their first showing last year, the team claimed three silver and three bronze medals.

JBER's top chefs know they have their work cut out for them but feel they are up for the challenge. Each member had to compete against their peers just to be selected to the team.

"I'm nervous but excited for the experience," said Air Force Airman 1st Class Brittany Lowell, 673d Force Support Squadron services apprentice and Team Alaska first cook. "Not a lot of people get to do this. I'm competing for student chef of the year and only one person from each team gets to do that. It's a lot of pressure, but I'm ready."

For a seasoned veteran like Gonzales, imparting years of acquired skill and knowledge to his junior chefs makes the job worthwhile.

"The most rewarding part is seeing the progression and development of all the students since the team came together on Jan. 9," Gonzales said. "They're already good at what they do and they're only getting better. There's a lot riding on this team."

AF holds 50th anniversary Vietnam War commemoration ceremony



By Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr., Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information / 

Published February 26, 2015

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War by honoring prisoners of war and missing in action, veterans and their families during a wreath-laying ceremony at 10:30 a.m. EST, March 2, at the Air Force Memorial in Washington D.C.

This is the first Headquarters Air Force event in support of the 50th Vietnam War Commemorative Partner Program. This multi-year campaign aims to thank and honor the veterans of the Vietnam War for their sacrifice and service and pay tribute to the contributions of their families.

"Vietnam veterans are a generation of Americans who saw our country through one of the most challenging eras we have ever faced," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James.

March 2, marks the 50th anniversary of retired Lt. Col. Hayden J. Lockhart's aircraft being shot down over Vietnam and his becoming the first Air Force POW. The day also marks the beginning of the Operation Rolling Thunder bombing campaign. During this three-year Vietnam War campaign, Air Force, Marine and Navy aircraft bombed targets throughout North Vietnam. U.S. and Australian warships complemented the air assault by bombarding coastal targets.

The bombings cost North Vietnam more than half of its bridges, virtually all of its petroleum storage facilities and nearly two-thirds of its power generating plants. The U.S. lost more than 1,000 aircraft in the campaign.

"Airmen fought bravely and proudly in the service of our nation and we honor them," James said.

The U.S., North Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accords on Jan. 27, 1973. Article 8 of the accords required the repatriation of POWs by all adversaries within 60 days.

Between Feb. 12 and March 29, a total of 591 Americans, including 566 military and 25 civilian personnel, were released by their captors. Nine foreign nationals were also released.

Army Paratroopers Conduct Historic Jump in Alaska



U.S. Army Alaska

DEADHORSE, Alaska, Feb. 26, 2015 – U.S. Army Alaska paratroopers conducted the largest U.S. airborne operation north of the Arctic Circle in over a decade Feb. 24 to hone their skills in conducting Arctic airborne and mobility operations.

Paratroopers from the 25th Infantry Division’s 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), conducted an airborne jump operation here, 495 miles north of Fairbanks in Alaska’s North Slope Borough.

Spartan Pegasus Exercise

Approximately 180 paratroopers, two support vehicles and two arctic sustainment packages parachuted from two Alaska National Guard C-130 and two C-17 aircraft during the exercise, called Spartan Pegasus.

U.S. Army Alaska is the Army’s proponent for cold-weather training and operations. Officials said Spartan Pegasus provided a unique opportunity to validate concepts taught at U.S. Army Alaska’s Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, which specializes in extreme-cold-weather mobility, high-altitude survival, mobility and mountain warfare.

The average winter temperatures in the area range from 23 degrees below zero Fahrenheit to minus 11. The record for February low temperature is minus 57 degrees, but in January 1989 nearby Prudhoe Bay hit a wind-chill of minus 96 degrees.

The brigade’s area of operation stretches from the Arctic Circle to the southern reaches of the Asia-Pacific region. Paratroopers from the Spartan Brigade have recently jumped in Thailand, Australia, Japan and many locations around Alaska.