Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Airmen, Soldiers conduct joint training

by Tech. Sgt. Aaron Oelrich
15th Wing Public Affairs

3/25/2015 - 3/25/2015 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Airmen from the 535th Airlift Squadron and soldiers from the Headquarters 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, conducted static upload training of Army vehicles into a C-17 Globemaster III, March 18.

According to Staff Sgt. Ryan Lockhart, a loadmaster from the 535th AS, the training was conducted to familiarize Air Force loadmaster and Army infantrymen on how to upload and secure vehicles in the C-17. Loadmasters from the 535th AS trained on backing vehicles with trailers into the C-17 and loading side-by-side cargo, as well as ensuring required shipping documentation was in order.

"This is great practice. We load Army vehicles like this all the time when we are deployed," said Lockhart. "It is better to learn in a controlled environment like this, so that when we are deployed we can load up and get back in the air as quickly as possible."

Capt. Eli Gaylor, a unit movement officer from Headquarters 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, said in addition to helping the Air Force loadmaster, this training is essential for the 25th ID solders. The soldiers are part of a contingence response force that responds to any type of operation within the Pacific's area of responsibility.

"We could be deployed in a matter of hours to help resolve whatever issue may arise," said Gaylor. "The soldiers need to be able to react and get the vehicles loaded onto the aircraft as quickly as possible. It is important for our soldiers to get this training, it gives them familiarity with how to complete the task efficiently."

The team, consisting of six Air Force loadmasters and six Army infantrymen, was tasked with loading three tactical base of operations vehicles with trailers into the C-17, and secured them to complete the training.

According to Army Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Pritchard from the 5th Battlefield Coordination Detachment, 380th Ground Liaison Office attached to the 15th Wing, this type of joint training is fairly routine.

"What I've noticed, is this type of training is perishable," said Pritchard. "It needs repetition for both sides so it will become muscle memory, especially with new Air Force loadmasters, Army unit movement officers and soldiers constantly rotating in and out of their units."

F-35 Aircraft Costs Drop, Report Shows

By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2015 – A recent account of F-35 Lightning II aircraft program costs shows decreases, the Air Force’s F-35 program executive officer told reporters in a media roundtable yesterday.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan, citing this year’s selected acquisition report on the aircraft, called the roundtable to clarify cost and performance facts in the latest report, he said. He also acknowledged the program has been over budget and is six years late.

“In 2001, we thought we’d be done a long time before now,” Bogdan said. But that was before various issues arose, ranging from a security breach to a redesign of one of the F-35 models that was 3,000 pounds over its weight standard, he noted.

Changes in 2010

After the 2010 rebaseline took effect, the program took a turn for the better. “We have not changed a major milestone in this program. Not one,” the general said.

Bogdan emphasized to reporters the importance of looking at the F-35 program where it is today and not where it’s been. Much of the cost savings in this year’s report stem from research, development, test and evaluation, along with procurement and operating and support elements, he said.

As an example, Bogdan mentioned that RDT&E has not seen cost increases in four years.

“The three predominant things that drive [operations and support] costs are manpower, fuel and inflation … [which] can mask any true cost reduction and that’s exactly what happened this year,” he said, adding that the report reflected readjusted inflation rates.

Procurement costs also were down $3 billion from last year, partly because of better-negotiated costs, he said.

Balancing Technical Challenges, Service Needs

“Every program has technical challenges,” Bogdan said. “You find things you don’t expect and you have to fix [and test] them.” He said the software that handles the mechanics of the aircraft produced challenges for the F-35, especially for mission systems.

He said he projects the final software to be four to six months behind schedule, “If we don’t do anything differently.”

When the program was rebaselined, he said, it wasn’t known the services -- Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy -- would set initial operational capability dates. But accommodations were made to get the aircraft to the services on time, Bogdan said.

“We have 109 airplanes out there now, and 28,500 hours of flying time,” he said.

Overall, the major milestones, aircraft delivery and other commitments did not fundamentally change, Bogdan said, and the F-35’s safety is good. “I wouldn’t put anything in the field I myself wouldn’t fly,” he noted.

AFMC wingmen intervene, provide life-sustaining support

by Estella Holmes
Air Force Material Command Public Affairs

3/25/2015 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Throughout Air Force Materiel Command, wingman principles have taken root and are being expressed by the supportive, spontaneous and life-saving actions of our Airmen.

Within AFMC, the concept of wingman continues to grow, fueled by an emphasis on the importance of each individual Airman. As might be expected, the impact of wingman intervention also spills over into the community. The watchful eye of an AFMC wingman is not limited to the duty day. On or off duty, wingmen are alert, prepared to intervene on behalf of fellow Airmen or members of their community.

One example involved an Airman at dinner with his family in a restaurant who noticed a man choking and turning blue. Armed with years of self-aid buddy care training and the wingman culture -- which embraces a shared sense of responsibility for people -- he seized control of the scene. As restaurant patrons stood around and watched, he took the man in his grasp and performed the Heimlich maneuver, expelling the object so the man could breathe. The restaurant staff thanked him for his quick actions. The manager, who witnessed the incident, also commented on the Airman's quick, calm response. He stated, "The Air Force training served him well, as the public witnessed a home front soldier in action."

Another occasion to intervene arose when a supervisor, flight chief and first sergeant came together to provide wingman support to an Airman. The supervisor received a call from one of his Airmen notifying him of the distressed individual's impending return to his living quarters. He had spent the weekend with his family, who lived two hours away. He explained a relationship problem occurred during his visit and he had plans to end his life, upon his return.

After the supervisor had an extended conversation with the Airman, he was convinced to take no action until they could speak in person. The two-hour trip gave the supervisor a limited time to act. He notified his flight chief to make him aware of the situation and they immediately phoned the First Sergeant. All three were at the Airman's quarters before he arrived. They spoke with him and together escorted him to the emergency room. In this situation, a team intervened to provide 'mental and social support,'  which are two of the four pillars of Comprehensive Airmen Fitness.

The goal of wingman interventions is to create and foster a healthy workforce and culture that integrates and supports wellness, as well as a shared sense of responsibility for one another in keeping with our Air Force tradition of being a good wingman, in order to increase protective factors, engagement, and productivity in the workplace. The term wingman stems from a time-honored tradition within our Air Force flying community that essentially says a wingman will always stay with and protect the lead pilot, watching his/her back. It's a promise, a pledge, a commitment between Airmen. Within AFMC, wingmen continually met this challenge.

SJ Airman takes talents to Tops in Blue stage

by Senior Airman Ashley J. Thum
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/25/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C.  -- "Music is one of my biggest passions."

One of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base's own, Airman 1st Class Mitchell Dixon, recently channeled his passion for music into an audition for Tops in Blue and was inducted into their noteworthy ranks for the 2015 worldwide tour.

Dixon is currently an aerospace propulsion journeyman with the 4th Component Maintenance Squadron where he repairs F-15E Strike Eagle engine modules. Now, he's looking forward to joining an elite ensemble of Airmen as a male vocalist.

Dating back to the 1950s, what began as a talent contest that was an alternative to the wealth of athletic competitions already in place has now become a group dedicated to showcasing some of the Air Force's brightest stars.

"I knew about it before I joined, and one day I happened to be passing through the (4th) Medical Group and I overheard people talking about it," Dixon said. "I asked them for the information and then I sent in a video."

Dixon said he wasn't sure if he would get an audition, but when the call came in, he wasted no time jumping at the opportunity.

"I was actually on leave, and my commander called me and said Tops in Blue had contacted him," Dixon said. "I actually yelled `Yo!' I ended up coming back from leave early, I got all of my outprocessing done in one day - on a Friday - and I stepped off on that Sunday."

Dixon traveled to San Antonio, Texas, for a 10-day audition that he described as "life-changing."

"They treat you like family, even before you're part of the group," Dixon said. "We did these things called `give-backs,' where we would go into the community and sing to elderly people in assisted living homes. They didn't have anything, some of them didn't even have families. Seeing the connections that were being made, especially with something that I'm as passionate about as music ... you can't put that into words."

Of course, the audition wouldn't have been an audition without a few performances.

"Just because you fell under one category didn't mean that you didn't have to audition for the other categories," Dixon said. "Everyone did a vocal, dance and instrumental audition, and had a personal, four-on-one interview with the directors of the program. They wanted to see how we handled pressure, what our temperament was like, how we dealt with others, and if there were other factors that would affect us while on tour."

Dixon explained the evaluators weren't looking for exact copies of famous performers, but rather for an "X-factor."

"They want a person with a decent amount of raw, possibly undeveloped, talent, and more importantly, a good attitude," Dixon said. "Some of the most talented people won't get picked because of how they carry themselves. It's more about who you are than what you can do."

Although he was selected as a singer he said he has several different areas of expertise, including rapping and playing the guitar, drums, bass and piano.

"The first time I can remember being put on a keyboard was at about 3 years old," Dixon said. "My father and I lived in a studio apartment in New York and he would set me on his lap and have me play the keys. Whenever I would get in trouble he would make me go to my room and listen to jazz music and read books."

While growing up, Dixon alternated between living with his father and then living with his mother in Atlanta, Georgia.

"(At my father's house,) I slept on an elevated bed and I would sleep over top of him producing (music,)" Dixon said. "You couldn't hear the music, but you could hear him playing the keys. It got to the point where I would have trouble sleeping when I got back to Atlanta because I wasn't hearing that at night. Music is a very familiar thing to me."

Dixon said he doesn't practice too often, but he does listen to music regularly, analyzing the notes.

"I can sit and listen to the same song over and over for hours and pick apart every little detail, from the reverberation in a high hat (cymbals) to the compression on a bass or kick drum," Dixon said. "It's the never-ending cycle of `How was this sound put together?' `Can I replicate it?' `Can I use part of what I've done and create something totally different?'"

Ironically for someone who is no stranger to performing - he's participated in everything from choir to high school band programs, and from spoken word to rapping -Dixon's outlook on his upcoming Tops in Blue tour was best evidenced not by his words, but by the pregnant pauses while describing it.

"I would pay out of my own pocket to go," Dixon said. "Knowing that I have the opportunity to serve my country in a way that's a lot more up close and personal than my normal job is indescribable."

Joint Chiefs of Staff, USO Salute Medal of Honor Recipients

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2015 – On the eve of National Medal of Honor Day, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff partnered with the United Service Organizations Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore to salute the nation’s Medal of Honor recipients here yesterday.

The USO Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore held its 33rd annual awards dinner, where it paid special tribute to nearly 30 recipients of the nation’s highest military honor, as well as yearly accolades to those who serve America’s troops.

Following a video presentation, Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, began the Medal of Honor recipient tributes.

Heroism ‘Thrust Upon Them’

“Our veterans have forged the story of American patriots,” he said. The fabric of our society continues to be built upon the foundation of these patriots who display extraordinary heroism, courage and selfless sacrifice for our nation, Grass said.

“They do not go out seeking to become heroes; it’s thrust upon them,” he said.

Grass quoted a fifth-century writer who once said, “‘the purpose of all wars is lasting peace.’”

“No one wants peace more than our men and women in uniform,” he said. “We are sworn by our Constitution. We have the resolve to defend our Constitution and to secure the blessings of liberty for our men and women across the United States.”

American men and women sacrifice, Grass said, because of the veterans that have gone before us. “We thank you for those who have served,” he said, “who have gone before us in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. And you have given us a shining light to follow.”

Shared Love of Country

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno honored the 16 Medal of Honor recipients from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“As it’s been in previous generations,” he said, “these 16 men came in the Army for many different reasons from many different parts of the United States. But they have one thing in common -- their love of country, their love of freedom and liberty.”

Odierno expressed his pride in standing side by side with the service members to defend the nation’s freedom in foreign countries. He said they tell him the same thing -- we are just ordinary soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

“But in reality,” Odierno said, “they are ordinary men who performed extraordinary acts to save their brothers, and that’s what this is about.”

It’s about the man to the left or right, it’s about the squad, company or platoon, he continued. “It is about doing everything that you possibly can to ensure that everyone comes home together,” Odierno said. “They all live by what we consider to be the most important things –- never quit, never accept defeat and never leave a fallen comrade,” he said. “For us, that’s what our life is about. We are here to honor those heroes that have served so admirably in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Recipients From Afghanistan

Other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff honored three Medal of Honor recipients from Afghanistan who were present for the tribute.

Naval Chief of Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert introduced Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, noting he “represented the best of what America has to offer.”

Air Force Lt. Gen. James M. Holmes, Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, introduced Army Maj. William D. Swenson, and highlighted his “extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty.”

Army Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, the deputy commandant for combat development integration, introduced Army Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha, and noted his “exceptional heroism and courage in the face of overwhelming enemy forces.”

Romesha said “it’s a great honor” to be recognized by the USO during the awards dinner. “But what’s more important about it is the acknowledgement they do for all of our service men and women,” he added. “We are a select few, but we represent all of those who have served. By acknowledging us, they acknowledge [them].”

The Medal of Honor recipient said his military service is everything to him.

“I wouldn’t be the man I am today without it,” Romesha said. “You can’t duplicate it, you can’t replicate it, you can’t substitute. It’s something that unless you’ve been there and done it, you don’t quite understand. The vibrancy of service and sacrifice is still great in this nation. You’ve just got to keep on moving to the future,” he said.

Romesha added “never in a million years” did he expect to meet a Medal of Honor recipient, much less become one himself.

“How it’s changed my life has really been the understanding that every one of us, from our birth, has the ability of greatness,” he said.“It’s when that opportunity meets that timing,” he explained, “and what we do when those two things meet, and how we react. [That’s] a message that I never thought I’d understand, but I’d love to pass on to the next generation.”

Romesha praised the USO for always bringing “a little slice of home” to service members stationed or deployed overseas.

“USO has always been there whenever you’re overseas to bring a little slice of home to us over there -- almost an escape from reality,” he said.

Romesha said he was grateful for opportunities such as being able to be at a concert while deployed or being able to meet a NFL player who’s willingly given up their own time to support the troops.

It allows troops “to escape from the reality of what’s going on,” he said, which helps provide clarity to being deployed or serving overseas.

During his remarks, Odierno also lauded the USO for providing the opportunity to honor the nation’s Medal of Honor recipients.

“Thank you for hosting an event that recognizes excellence,” he said.

Operation PACIFIC ANGEL 15-3 spreads care in Vietnam

by Staff Sgt. Tong Duong
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

3/25/2015 - QUANG NGAI, Vietnam  -- The United States and Vietnam began humanitarian assistance operations here March 23 as part of Operation Pacific Angel 15-3.

Entering its eighth year, PACANGEL ensures the region's militaries are prepared to work together to address humanitarian crises. Since 2007, PACANGEL operations have improved the lives of tens of thousands of people.

"Providing humanitarian assistance is an important part of our United States Pacific Command," said Lt. Col. Darcie Yoshimoto, PACANGEL 15-3 mission commander. "Working with our host nation to provide medical and engineering projects directly impacts and helps the people in the Quang Ngai province of Vietnam."

Lead by Pacific Air Forces, PACANGEL is a total force, joint and combined operation involving more than 45 U.S. military members who are deployed to Vietnam to partner with local non-governmental organizations and host-nation military forces to provide various functions. This includes health-services outreach, engineering civil action programs, as well as various subject matter expert exchanges.

Medical professionals and civil engineers from the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force set up temporary clinics to provide general health, optometry, dental, physical therapy, pediatrics and engineering programs for at least 2,500 patients, according to Yoshimoto, who is deployed from 713th Combat Operations Squadron, Detachment 1 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Pacific Angel participants are also renovating two schools and two district medical clinics by providing structural, roofing, plumbing, electrical and painting repairs.

For Senior Airman Hoang Nguyen, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron water and fuel maintenance specialist from Yokota Air Base, Japan, helping to improve the living conditions for others gives him a sense of pride.

"The majority of my relatives live within hours of this province, so it feels good to be part of this operation and have a direct impact on their lives," Nguyen said. "Their standard of living is different from ours, so we are retrofitting the plumbing of two schools and two medical clinics with up-to-date and higher quality parts to ensure sanitary conditions and that these upgrades last a lot longer."

Although this is the fifth time U.S. military members have worked with host-nation military personnel to improve quality of life throughout the region, this is the first multilateral operation to take place in Vietnam, with members of the Royal Cambodian, Republic of Singapore and Royal Thai air forces.

Cope Tiger 15 ends

by Capt. George Tobias
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

3/25/2015 - KORAT ROYAL THAI AIR FORCE BASE, Thailand -- The skies over central Thailand are a little quieter now that Exercise Cope Tiger 15 has ended.

The exercise, which ran from March 9 through 20, focused on multinational interoperability and regional partnerships.

Aviation and ground units from the United States, the Kingdom of Thailand and the Republic of Singapore participated in the annual multilateral aerial exercise.

Cope Tiger 15 was aimed at increasing readiness, cooperation and interoperability among security forces, contributing to maritime security, counterterrorism, search and rescue and humanitarian disaster relief efforts in the Asia-Pacific region.

Speaking on the importance of the exercise, U.S. Air Force Exercise Director Col. Paul Johnson said, without exercises like Cope Tiger, going into an "operation or humanitarian assistance event you will have to hit the ground at a very slow crawl."

By training together, this allows the three air forces to "hit the ground running," Johnson continued.

"We value the opportunity to train alongside our counterparts from Thailand and the United States in the exercise," Said Republic of Singapore air force Col. Kevin Goh, Singaporean exercise director. "The successful conduct of the exercise is testament to our strong defense relationship and interoperability between the three participating countries."

While F-15s and E-3s from Kadena Air Base, Japan, were training with their Thai and Singaporean counterparts in Korat, C-130s from Yokota Air Base, Japan, and two C-17s from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, were training at Udon Thani, Thailand.

"[These aircraft] have been integral to the [live fire exercises]," Johnson said. "They have been integrated into the planning; they have been conducting airdrops and high altitude parachute operations as well.

"Even outside of the LFEs, they have been flying at night getting good [night vision goggle] training out there and all of this is being done with our Thai and Singaporean counterparts," Johnson continued.  "I know for a fact we had our C-130s and our C-17s dropping Thai parachutists out the back of their aircraft and onto [drop zones] that are both close to here and up at Udon Thani."

Approximately 390 U.S. personnel participated in Cope Tiger 2015, with approximately 1,000 service members from Thailand and Singapore. The multilateral exercise involved a combined total of 84 aircraft and 38 air defense assets from the three contributing countries. Participating U.S. Air Force units included Pacific Air Forces Headquarters from JBPHH, the 44th Fighter Squadron and the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron from Kadena, the 517th Airlift Squadron from JBER, the 36th Airlift Squadron from Yokota and the 535th Airlift Squadron from JBPHH.