Military News

Friday, March 27, 2015

Two AF nurses heroes of 'Operation Babylift'

by Tom Budzyna
Air Force News Service


3/27/2015 - FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS)  -- EDITORS NOTE: This story was originally published March 12, 2013
For more information on Operation Babylift go to the AMC History page here

No matter how far women were kept away from combat roles, they were never far from harm and the opportunity to rise above and beyond the call of duty.

An explosion blew out a pressure door of a C-5A Galaxy as it took off from Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Vietnam, April 4, 1975, forcing it to make an emergency landing with 313 passengers and crew, including 250 orphans.

The plane was the first to depart in support of Operation Babylift, where American caregivers were paired with South Vietnamese orphans, most fathered by Americans, to evacuate them to the Philippines then to San Diego, Calif., where President Gerald Ford was ready to welcome them to the United Sates.

Capt. Mary Klinker, the flight nurse and 1st Lt. Regina C. Aune, a nurse, were on board to help safely secure the children for their passage to a new life.

Pilot Capt. Dennis "Bud" Traynor and co-pilot Capt. Tilford Harp heroically controlled the doomed aircraft, but the explosion and a crash landing changed the lives of all on board.

Aune was thrown the entire length of the upper deck as the crippled aircraft skidded a quarter mile in a rice paddy, became airborne approximately a half mile, then crashed into an irrigation ditch where it was torn into four pieces.

In the crash, Klinker became the last U.S. servicewoman to die in the Vietnam War and was posthumously awarded the Air Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal. Her name is listed on panel O1W, row 122 of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial.

Aune helped carry 80 babies to rescue helicopters at the muddy crash site. When unable to continue, she asked the first officer she saw if she could be relieved of her duties, then passed out. It was later discovered she helped save these babies with a broken foot, a broken leg, a broken vertebra and numerous other injuries.

Aune became the first woman to be awarded the Cheney Award, which was established in 1927 to recognize an Airman for an act of valor, extreme fortitude or self-sacrifice in a humanitarian interest, performed in connection with aircraft, but not necessarily of a military nature.

In all, 37 medals were awarded to the crew or next-of-kin of the 11 Airmen killed in the crash. Those killed also included 35 Defense Attaché Office employees and 78 children.

Aune retired an Air Force colonel in 2007.

(Sources include Pablo at Lafayette Urban Ministry and the Air Force News Service)

Threat Reduction Agency Stands Up Nuke-focused Directorate



By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2015 – The Defense Threat Reduction Agency has created a new directorate focused on supporting the U.S. nuclear mission, DTRA Director Kenneth A. Myers III told a House panel this week.

At the hearing, Myers and other members of the Defense Department community that counters weapons of mass destruction discussed successes and enduring challenges of their mission area before the House Armed Services Emerging Threats Subcommittee.

While delivering his testimony, Myers made the announcement.

“I want to share with the committee our standup of a new directorate that is focused on our support to the nuclear deterrent and our stockpile,” Myers said.

Elevating the Nuclear Support Mission

The goal of DTRA, based at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, is to elevate its nuclear support mission to meet the expectations of the Nov. 14, 2014, DoD Nuclear Enterprise Review, the recommendations of which focused on oversight, investment, personnel and training.

“It is our top priority,” Myers said, adding that the Nuclear Enterprise Support Directorate will be fully operational later this spring.

DTRA is co-located with, and Myers also directs, the U.S. Strategic Command Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Myers said DTRA also addresses national security priorities like biological and chemical threats, and used the agency’s work with Ebola and in Syria as examples of its capabilities.

National Security Priorities

“In both cases we had the expertise to evaluate a serious threat. We developed the needed technologies in close coordination with the organizations represented at this table,” he added, “and we provided planning and execution support to all aspects of the operations.”

Now, Myers said, Ebola cases in West Africa continue to decline and 600 metric tons of Syrian chemical materials have been destroyed.

DTRA now is involved in counterproliferation efforts to help Ukraine, he added, specifically Ukrainian border guards. The agency is scheduled to provide $39 million worth of equipment, including bulldozers, armored trucks, graders, thermal imagers, patrol boats and concertina wire, Myers said.

“We don't carry out military operations but we provide the tools so that our colleagues can,” he said in written testimony, listing some of the agency’s recent accomplishments.

Countering Emerging Threats

DTRA developed a massive ordnance penetrator called the MOP that’s designed to hit deeply buried targets. DTRA also provides U.S. Special Operations Command with counter-WMD tools and equipment.

“We are playing a leadership role in developing vaccines and therapeutics to battle Ebola and other infectious diseases,” Myers said.

The agency also is developing advanced situational awareness tools to help DoD stay ahead of emerging threats, he said, and enhancing the capabilities of partners and allies who work alongside the United States to counter WMD.

In his remarks to the panel, Eric Rosenbach, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, said the state of the world today makes it increasingly likely that a state or a nonstate actor could use a weapon of mass destruction.

With that in mind, he said, “it literally is the top priority of DoD and the U.S. government to try to prevent an attack like this from happening.”

Strategy to Counter WMD

Last June the Defense Department issued a new whole-of-government Strategy to Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction, Rosenbach said in written testimony, “to reflect our evolving thinking and ensure that all our components are focused on the same lines of effort, objectives and supporting activities.”

The strategy describes three approaches in countering WMD, he added -- preventing acquisition, containing and reducing threats, and responding to crises.

Rosenbach said the last element of the strategy focuses on activities and operations for managing and resolving complex WMD crises.

“This goal involves either taking kinetic action against hostile nonstate actors who acquire WMD … and who we must assume would be prepared to use them,” he said, “or ensuring that we and our partners are prepared to mitigate the effects of any WMD use or spread of an infectious disease … to ensure the homeland remains safe and our operations abroad can continue.”

Reducing Incentives to Acquire WMD

The strategy, Rosenbach said, also set the following supporting objectives:

-- Reducing incentives to acquire, possess and employ WMD;

-- Increasing barriers to WMD acquisition, proliferation and use;

-- Managing WMD risks from hostile, fragile or failed states and safe havens; and

-- Denying the effects of current and emerging WMD threats through layered, integrated defenses.

In his remarks to subcommittee members, Dr. Chris Hassell, deputy assistant secretary of defense for chemical and biological defense, explained that chemical and biological threats are dynamic and threaten U.S. troops and allies, and civilians around the world.

Hassell oversees, integrates and coordinates the DoD Chemical and Biological Defense Program in cooperation with the secretary of the Army as executive agent, he added.

Chemical and Biological Defense

Chemical and Biological Defense Program components include the Joint Staff J-8 Joint Requirements Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense, DTRA’s Joint Science and Technology Office for Chemical and Biological Defense, the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense, and the Chemical and Biological Defense Test and Evaluation Executive, which establishes test policy and standards, the deputy assistant secretary said in written testimony.

The program conducts research and develops technologies for a range of chemical defense capabilities, Hassell said, including detection, medical countermeasures, decontamination and protection.

Recent CBDP accomplishments include advancing characterization and toxicity estimates, advancing information that supports improved detection, transitioning decontamination efforts up to advanced development, and transitioning enhanced medical countermeasures, he added.

The program also supports interagency efforts to develop nontraditional agent defense capabilities and has created mechanisms, networks and processes in which data and information is shared across DoD and the interagency.

Countering Biological Threats

To counter biological threats, Hassel said, vaccinations are available to prevent disease caused by two of the leading biological warfare threats, anthrax and smallpox.

“DoD continues to make progress on more vaccine candidates for plague, botulinum toxins, Ebola and Marburg viruses, ricin and equine encephalitis viruses,” he added, “and nerve-agent pretreatments.”

In 2012 the White House released a National Strategy for Biosurveillance, and today CBDP is developing enhanced and integrated biosurveillance systems, Hassell said, adding that they are composed of research, development and acquisition efforts supporting improved environmental detection systems, rapid medical diagnosis, and integrated information systems.

Through fiscal year 2015, for example, the Joint U.S. Forces Korea Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition advanced technology demonstration, known as JUPITR, will provide specific detection and analysis capabilities to address the need for biosurveillance on the Korean Peninsula, Hassell said.

The Most Intractable Problem

JUPITR “will enhance the ability of U.S. Forces Korea and the Republic of Korea to respond to biological threats,” he added.

For the force as a whole, Hassell said, his office has determined that the threat of undetected attacks is one of CBDP’s most intractable problems.

Detecting, identifying and attributing attacks are significant technological challenges, he said, and detection capability to prevent contamination is elusive, particularly for biological threats.

“While an improved detect-to-treat capability is showing promise, the window for early detection and warning to prevent casualties requires continued dedicated efforts,” Hassell said.

“As a result,” he added, “we are pursuing vaccines and therapeutics for the most dangerous threats that we currently cannot detect in adequate time to warn the warfighter to take other protective measures.”

USFK CSM visits with the Wolf Pack

by Senior Airman Taylor Curry
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


3/27/2015 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- "What are the basics?" was just one of many questions U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, U.S. Forces Korea command sergeant major, would ask Airmen as he interacted with them during his visit with the Wolf Pack March 23 and 24.

Throughout his visit, Troxell met with Kunsan Airmen and saw how they contribute to deterring aggression on the Korean Peninsula while remaining ready to fight tonight.

Upon arrival to Kunsan AB, Troxell immediately immersed himself with the various units within the Pack. First, he toured facilities within the 8th Medical Group to meet with Airmen working in the war reserve material warehouse and even donned the hazardous material protection suit at the bioenvironmental engineering section.

"I was surprised that morning when I heard I would be greeting CSM Troxell; it really was an honor," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Britanni McKnight, 8th Medical Operations Squadron dental technician. "Not only greeting him, but being recognized by him for outstanding performance in my unit was a privilege."

Following the medical group, he visited Airmen at the 8th Maintenance Squadron to see how exceptionally well Wolf Pack maintainers are keeping the F-16 Fighting Falcon fit to fly.

Throughout the remainder of the day, Troxell also visited the 8th Logistics Readiness Squadron individual protection equipment warehouse and the 8th Communications Squadron tech control facility.

Troxell started day two of his visit at the 8th Force Support Squadron's O'Malley Dining Facility with 30 enlisted Airmen while enjoying a hot meal to begin the day.

"One major theme I took away from CSM Troxell's discussion was how we need to work on better communication between the generation gap of Airmen and leadership in order to get the tasks at hand accomplished," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew Velligan, 8th Air Maintenance Squadron F-16 specialist expeditor. "Another great point he made was that we must have a growing need to work bi-laterally with other branches to learn from each other's procedures and to help the other work more efficiently in the 'do more with less' military force we are today."

Interoperability was a key topic during Troxell's conversation with Airmen at the breakfast.

"We will improve communications while working with our Republic of Korea Air Force brothers and sisters," he said. "Communicating is key to the mission here, so I want all of us to be comfortable with discomfort. Every one of you is an integral part of the USFK operation."

After breakfast, Troxell visited the 8th Operations Group air traffic control team for a tour of the tower. Troxell also recognized U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stefan Hulsey for his achievement of earning Pacific Air Forces Air Traffic Controller of the Year Award.

To close out his visit, Troxell held an all call at the base theater where he spoke to Airmen about better understanding the USFK mission and opened the floor for comments. He mentioned how to be active communicators as leaders and techniques on behavior modification.

"We, as leaders, must put passion and discipline on a scale, then balance it in the middle when it comes to leadership," Troxell said. "When our younger enlisted get in trouble, it's because we are not leading."

Troxell mentioned that this is his fourth time visiting Kunsan, and every time he visits here, it only gets better.

"We need to get back to the basics," he reiterated. "Ensuring you stay true to your core values is the first step. Also being effectively trained in your career field is extremely important if we're going to be ready for combat."

Troxell went on to explain how captivated he is to serve with the Airmen at Kunsan AB.

"I'm extremely impressed with the readiness, discipline, moral, and comradery the Wolf Pack displays," he said. "The laser-focus of the leadership here validates to me that Kunsan is ready to defend the base, accept follow-on forces and take the fight north."

Face of Defense: Civilian Amputee Inspires Military Patients



By Lori Newman
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, March 27, 2015 – The first quadruple amputee to receive treatment at the Center for the Intrepid here is a female retired police officer and the wife of a retired Coast Guardsman.

Donna Lowery, who hails from Corpus Christi, Texas, lost her limbs over a year ago due to a bacterial infection that almost took her life. But today, she’s surviving and thriving –- and inspiring the center’s military patients.

“I truly believe that God has brought me to this time in my life, to reach out to some of these young men and women who have suffered overseas while defending their country,” she said.

‘She Inspires us to Smile’

“She is never a negative person, ever. She inspires us to smile,” said Army Staff Sgt. Angel Figueroa, who is also a patient at the Center for the Intrepid. “She is a person with so many disabilities, and she doesn’t show anger or hurt or anything like that. She is actually happy to be alive. She tries to make the best of her situation, and that’s a good inspiration for all of us.”

Lowery said she’s humbled to be at the center. “I just cannot compare my situation to what these young kids have gone through,” she said. “The loss and the trauma they have suffered -- it’s been such a blessing for me to be here and to be able to talk to them.”

Lowery said she’s grateful “for this remarkable place and these incredible people,” calling her experience a blessing.

A Mysterious Illness

A few days after Mother’s Day in 2013, Lowery’s husband noticed she wasn’t acting like herself; she was incoherent, so he brought her to the emergency room.

“I don’t even remember leaving the house or being in the ER,” she said, thinking back to that fateful day. “The doctors didn’t know what to do.”

She was jaundiced, her kidneys failed, her liver shut down and her blood pressure dropped. She was in a coma for more than three weeks. Her family flew to Texas to say goodbye, because they didn’t think she would live.

Lowery survived, but when she awoke all four of her limbs were gone. The medications she was given kept her alive, but at a terrible cost. Her limbs had to be amputated due to a loss of blood flow to her extremities.

“I saw that the one [arm] was gone, I immediately looked at the other one and it was gone,” she said sadly. “Then my husband pulled back the covers and said, ’Babe, I need to show you something,’ and I saw my legs were gone.”

At that point, Lowery said she was confused because she didn’t know where she was. She couldn’t talk due to a tracheotomy and she was experiencing phantom pain in her extremities even though her limbs were not there.

“I just remember waking up with my husband there and this doctor is standing over me and no limbs all of a sudden,” Lowery said. “I’m wiggling limbs around and I’m not seeing anything moving. I’m freaking out.”

She said, like flicking a switch, her “faith kicked on.” She said she told God “this is your problem, because this is way bigger than I can handle.”

Prosthetics, Therapy and Faith

She received treatment at three different community hospitals before coming to the CFI in June 2014. Since then, using prosthetics, the 58-year-old has made remarkable strides to regain her mobility.

Lowery and her husband stay in the Fisher House across from the CFI. During the week, her mornings are spent in occupational therapy and afternoons in physical and occupational therapy.

“A lot of people pity someone like me who has lost all four limbs. People ask me how I get through this, but I have a very strong faith,” Lowery said. Plus, she added, “this place is amazing. Having everybody in one facility, working together as a team sets this place apart from any other facility.”

As for Lowery’s future, she says she doesn’t know what she will do in this new chapter of her life. But, she said she will continue to advocate for other amputees and is considering becoming an occupational therapist.

“The hardest thing is feeling like you have lost your independence, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” she said. “No matter what happens, you can never lose your faith. We are all put here for a purpose.”

Brooke Army Medical Center here has cared for more than 5,200 wounded service members over the past decade.

First Air National Guard theater security package deploys to Europe

USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs

3/27/2015 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- The U.S. Air Force deployed 12 F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft and approximately 200 Airmen as the first Air National Guard theater security package in Europe to support Operation Atlantic Resolve this week.

The aircraft and Airmen, from the 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard, Jacksonville, Fla., are set to be in place and fulfilling the TSP mission by mid-April.

The TSPs will augment U.S. Air Forces in Europe's existing efforts as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve by conducting flying training deployments and off-station training with NATO allies to further enhance interoperability.

Operation Atlantic Resolve is a demonstration of U.S. European Command and United States Air Forces in Europe's continued commitment to the collective security of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and dedication to the enduring peace and stability in the region.

"The TSP is a strategic capability that allows the Air Force greater flexibility against evolving threats," said Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, 3rd Air Force and 17th Expeditionary Air Force commander.  "The TSP is another way the Air Force presents forces at the right time to the right combatant commander. It  reassures our allies and partner nations that our commitment to European security is a priority."

While in Europe, the unit will conduct training alongside NATO allies with the goal of strengthening interoperability and enhancing regional security. The unit will later forward deploy to locations in Eastern European NATO nations including Leeuwarden, Netherlands, and Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria.

"We are able to maintain a global presence thanks to the efforts of our active duty, Reserve and National Guard partners," said Roberson. "This is a team effort and the addition of a National Guard unit demonstrates the total force integration of our Air Force around the world."

The F-15s are the first ANG unit to support TSP in Europe, and the second of several TSP deployments to the continent. Rotations will generally last six months, depending on mission and U.S. European Command requirements. The Air Force has been conducting similar TSP rotations in the Pacific region since 2004.

MacDill pharmacist wins Air Force level award

by Staff Sgt. Brittany Liddon
6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs


3/27/2015 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- In February, the office of the Air Force Surgeon General released the Air Force Medical Service 2014 annual award winners, and one of MacDill's own was on the list: Capt. Rohin Kasudia, 6th Medical Group Satellite Pharmacy officer in charge.

Kasudia, a Chicago, Illinois native, won the Biomedical Specialist, company grade officer of the year category.
"When I found out that I had won, I was definitely super excited and was humbled because I didn't actually think I would win at the Air Force level," said Kasudia.

The Biomedical Specialist award package included his time as the 6th MDG executive and at the Satellite Pharmacy.

During this time, Kasudia was the first responder in a major vehicle accident and saved a life by stabilizing the patient for transport. He led the Department of Defense benchmark drug return program to become number one in the Air Mobility Command. He also revamped the civilian prescription process and saved the 6th MDG $2 million.

Kasudia credits his mentors, supervisors, and pharmacy teams for the opportunity to compete for these awards.

"I am grateful to the mentors and supervisors that I had because they afforded me the opportunities to grow and the support from my teams" expressed Kasudia.

Col. Kevin Franke, 6th MDG commander, wrote the award package for Kasudia.

"As a commander, it's great to see outstanding individuals recognized for their efforts," said Franke. "Specifically to see Capt. Kasudia excel in all the demands of his duties, extend himself in strategic planning for the Medical Group and take on additional leadership in his professional organization is truly awesome."