Thursday, April 02, 2015

3rd ASOS Airmen remember their fallen with a 24-hour run

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera
JBER Public Affairs

4/2/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Each year, members of the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron's Tactical Control Party organize and participate in a 24-hour run challenge to honor the 10 fallen TACP family who were killed in combat and training operations in the last 20 years.

The 24-hour run challenge is a worldwide competition to see how many miles the TACPs can run, but to some, it is more than just a run. It is to ensure those who made the ultimate sacrifice are never forgotten.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Lombard, chief joint terminal air control instructor with the 3rd ASOS, knew Air Force Maj. Walter David Gray and Senior Airman Bradley Smith, both of whom died in combat.

"I knew Major Gray when I was deployed with him in Afghanistan," Lombard said. "I talked to him pretty much every day when I was there and he told me stories about his near-death experiences.

"I was just sitting there looking at him, thinking he was crazy. He died twice; one was from drowning and the other was from an intravenous line infection, but he was still there fighting."

Within a month of meeting Gray, Lombard heard the news of his death. Remembering their conversations about their families, Lombard was in disbelief.

"I was looking forward to how he would affect the career field," Lombard said.  "So when I heard about his death, it blew me away, because I knew he was doing great things for the community. It was hard to take; I can still see his face so fresh in my mind."

Gray, an air liaison officer assigned to the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron, was killed by an insurgent in Kunar province, Afghanistan. He was hit by the second of two suicide bombs after he and his team rushed to the scene after the first blast.

Brushing shoulders with mortality, however, was not something Lombard was unfamiliar with; he lost one of his Airmen nearly five years ago in Afghanistan. During a patrol, Senior Airman Bradley Smith and his team entered a village in the Kandahar province and came under fire. After calling in close air support, Smith volunteered to assist an Army medic in retrieving a body when an improvised explosive device exploded, killing them both instantly.

"I was one of [Smith's] trainers and trained him in the field when he was a brand new Airman," Lombard said. "I knew that he [would] be a good JTAC someday - motivated, very proactive and always having a positive attitude."

Lombard said he will never forget Smith's ability to find innovative solutions, which he saw in action when they were stationed with the 14th ASOS at Pope Field, North Carolina.

"The delta flight wanted to have a deck, but was trying to figure out how much it would cost them out-of-pocket to have a deck," the Cottonwood, California native said. "Smith took it upon himself and found a way; within weeks, there was a truck pulling in at the 14th ASOS full of lumber."

"Because of him, the deck is the nicest thing the 14th ASOS had in a long time." Lombard said smiling. "He was there, willing to help others, and did it for the whole squadron."

Lombard also remembers how, during the last month they were stationed together, Smith would constantly talk about how excited he was excited to move to Colorado to be with his wife again and how he was on his way to becoming a JTAC.

The next time Lombard saw Smith was at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.

"I went to his funeral and as soon as I saw his grave, it finally hit me," Lombard said. "I broke down crying."

Knowing two of the fallen TACPs, Lombard said the 24-hour run challenge means a lot to him because he wants to raise awareness about what they do.

"Combat career fields are not well-known in the Air Force, so it is good to bring attention to everybody," Lombard said. "I want to raise awareness that is outside my career field and to the local community of what TACPs have done for the military and for the nation fighting for our freedom - these guys put their lives in harm's way every day."

Seeing personally how the TACP community comes together to honor the fallen, Senior Airman Jacob Gavulic, a TACP assigned to the 3rd ASOS, gets the opportunity to remember his brother, Master Sgt. Joshua Gavulic, who was killed in a parachute training incident on Feb. 21, 2014 in Eloy, Arizona.

The death of his brother has been hard for Jacob and his family, but they relied on the TACP community.

"We talk about how big our extended family [TACP community] and that came into play when my brother passed," Jacob said. "It showed us the full spectrum of what it means to be part of the TACP family when they stepped in and helped us."

Trying to keep his composure, Jacob said it is nice to know he is not alone.

"We are a small community, everybody knows somebody who also felt a loss, too," Jacob said. "This run is not just about a run, but it is a run to remember their legacy, and we are going to talk about each and every person who has been affected by those killed in action or in training like my brother."

While it's been more than a year since his brother passed, the memorial run means Jacob and his family see first-hand how his brother is remembered.

"My brother was always very big on tradition and paying respect to those who gave everything they had," Jacob said. "I know that he would feel privileged and honored and this is the way he wanted to be remembered - even though he is gone, he is not forgotten."

PACAF honors life, service of 9th CMSAF

by Staff Sgt. Chris Hubenthal
Defense Media Activity - Hawaii News Bureau

4/2/2015 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii  -- Pacific Air Forces held a remembrance ceremony to honor the life and military service of James Binnicker, ninth chief master sergeant of the Air Force, at the Binnicker Professional Military Education Center here March 31.

Binnicker passed away March 21 at the age of 76.

He served as chief master sergeant of the Air Force from July 1, 1986, until his retirement on Aug. 1, 1990. During his tenure, Binnicker worked toward the implementation of the Enlisted Performance Report performance feedback system and worked toward getting more master sergeants admitted into the Senior NCO Academy.

Chief Master Sgt. Harold Hutchison, Pacific Air Forces command chief master sergeant, spoke at the remembrance ceremony.

"We pause to remember and honor Chief Binnicker today," Hutchison said. "He was a man who was recognized by so many as a leader, mentor, friend and one who dedicated his life to others. We honor the chief because he made a difference in all the ways that really matter in this lifetime."

After his retirement, Binnicker continued to serve the enlisted force by mentoring airmen attending Airman Leadership School at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Binnicker also helped provide homes to retired enlisted couples, surviving spouses and military family members as part of the Air Force Enlisted Village.

"His service to our great force didn't end when he retired," Hutchison said. "He could have easily rested on his laurels, sat back in his chair and reminisced on all of his accomplishments. But no, that wasn't Chief Binnicker. After generations of taking care of active duty, Guard and Reserve, he took on the enormous responsibility of caring for and looking after our extended air force family when he became the CEO of our enlisted village."

The PME Center was dedicated in honor of Binnicker in 2012 and Tech. Sgt. John Robertson, 15th Wing Binnicker PME Center Airman Leadership School and NCO Academy instructor, remembers the experience of meeting him for the first time.

"That was a real awesome experience," Robertson said. "That was the first time I had the opportunity to meet him and it was evident of his passion for Airmen. He's a big presence. Some of the speakers today talked about it. He was very candid. He had a lot of experience, job knowledge and a ton of intellect to back up what he told you. It was very intimidating to meet him for the first time but, at the same time, I tried to soak up all that knowledge and learn from it."

Senior Airman Kyle Smith, ALS Class 15-B student, hopes to emulate Binnicker's example during his Air Force career.

"Chief was all about knowing his Airmen and caring for them," Smith said. "I think that's the greatest example for Airmen today to follow; caring for one another, being wingmen and being the best Airman that they can be. It is a privilege and honor to be here today and to show him the respect he deserves."

Hutchison offered a quote from Binnicker to end his speech, followed by the retiring of the colors during the events retreat ceremony.

"A few years ago someone asked the chief how he wanted to be remembered," Hutchison said. "After he sat there for a moment and collected his thoughts, he answered, 'That I did my best. I hope that most people would say the same thing, and that's all you can ask of anybody. That's all the country can ask of you. That you did your best.'"

Free fall for 60 minutes

by Master Sgt. Todd Wivell
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

3/31/2015 - JOINT BASE LEWIS- McCHORD, Wash. -- The McChord C-17 Globemaster III aircraft is cruising at 10,000 feet above the ground and the back ramp opens. Combat controllers of the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron, assigned here, jump out the back and start their free fall before deploying their parachutes and landing safely back to the air field. They are only in the air for a few minutes and their free fall time lasts no more than 45 seconds.
Those 45 seconds do not allow for any room of error, and the controllers have to know exactly how to execute that free fall before their canopy opens.
In an effort to increase their stability and safety while in a free fall, Special Tactics combat controllers, in several different groups, conducted 60 minutes of wind tunnel training, March 25 at iFly in Seattle.
The 22nd STS is a unit of the 24th Special Operations Wing based at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The primary mission of the 24th SOW is to provide Special Tactics forces for rapid global employment to enable airpower success. Combat controllers integrate air power into ground special operations for mission success, deploying into forward hostile areas to establish assaults zones, provide air traffic control capability, and control offensive airstrike operations.
"During normal military free fall jumps, there is a minimum amount of time prior to deploying the jumper's canopy," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Kirby, 22nd STS combat controller. "This wind tunnel training will allow jumpers more time to work on their proficiency while in free fall.
"This is important to ensure safety of all jump operations. Conducting night, combat equipment, High Altitude Low Opening oxygen jumps is inherently dangerous and this training allows for jumpers to identify and fix their deficiencies."
For three hours of blocked time, three different groups of controllers went through this quarterly training. Special Tactics Airmen would utilize free fall to infiltrate a hostile or austere area without a safe landing zone.
"At 10,000 feet we only get an estimated 45 seconds of free fall time when jumping out of an aircraft," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Thaxton, 22nd STS combat controller. "When we spend an hour in this training, it gives us anywhere from 15 to 20 in simulated free falls."
"We don't get much free fall time and this training gives us time to get comfortable with our chute, pack and other equipment," said Senior Airman Kyle Brozka, 22nd STS combat controller and first-time visitor to the iFly complex.
U.S. Air Force combat controllers go through at least two years of special operations training before being assigned to their first base and the first time they practice free fall is about 18 months into this training.
"While a jumper is free falling, it may not be known to the jumper if they are moving in one direction in the air (especially at night)," said Kirby. "The tunnel will help identify and allow the jumper to fix these incorrect procedures.
"If a jumper is moving through the air and not falling straight down there is the potential for a midair collision or being below another jumper at deployment altitude which could be fatal for the higher jumper.
"The tunnel helps eliminate this chance and helps ensure we are as safe as possible while conducting those zero illumination, night, combat equipment, oxygen High Altitude Low Opening jumps."
Not much can be done in 45 seconds, but in that small amount of time, combat controllers conducting HALO jumps have to make sure they are safe and stable and aware of what is around them, this training is just one way they can make sure that is happening.

Carter, French Defense Minister Discuss 'Strong, Enduring' Partnership

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 2, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter telephoned French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian today and thanked him for France’s strong and enduring partnership over the years, according to a Defense Department news release.

Carter described the relationship as excellent and getting better, noting improvements to security cooperation, the release said.

Le Drian underscored close U.S.-France operations in multiple theaters and told Secretary Carter that U.S.-French solidarity is as strong as ever, according to the release.

This was Carter's first conversation with Le Drian, the release added, and the two leaders noted that they look forward to meeting in person soon.

18 AF, USAF EC commanders complete tour of Pacific mobility units

by Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher
18th Air Force Public Affairs

4/1/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The commanders of 18th Air Force and the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center wrapped up a week-long whirlwind tour of air mobility units in the Pacific area of operations, March 29.

Lt. Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, 18th AF commander, and Maj. Gen. Frederick H. Martin, USAF EC commander, met with mobility Airmen from five Pacific Air Forces bases to learn first-hand the accomplishments and challenges these Airmen face in their operational roles.

The visits focused on members of the 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing, which serves as the Pacific arm of the USAF EC and is operationally controlled by 18th AF through the Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii, the 515th AMOW is made up of two Air Mobility Operations Groups, six Air Mobility Squadrons, three detachments, six operating locations and five air terminal ground handling service contracts spread across the entire Pacific theater.

In short, 515th AMOW units provide rapid global air mobility support to the U.S. Pacific Command commander, including controlling, maintaining, servicing, and moving mobility aircraft during peace- and war-time missions vital to U.S. national security.

"These Airmen are part of something incredible, and it couldn't be done without them," said Everhart. "You don't see these Airmen in the limelight very often, but they are on every base with a runway and they are doing an important mission every day. They should be proud of what they do, and I can tell you right now that I'm proud of them."

Everhart and Martin took this message with them as they visited Airmen on JB Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii; Andersen Air Base, Guam; Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea; and Yokota and Kadena Air Bases, Japan. The visits consisted of all-calls with mobility Airmen as well as face-to-face meetings with unit leadership. They also discussed mobility operations with U.S. Forces Korea and U.S. Forces Japan leadership as well as regional partners such as the Japan Air Self Defense Force.

"Expeditionary operations are Air Mobility Command's trade craft and the Air Force's strategic advantage on the world stage," Martin said. "The adaptability of our Airmen and the strong partnerships that they continue to support in this region directly affect our Air Force's ability to deliver global vigilance, global reach and global power."

The 515th AMOW, along with the 521st AMOW in the European theater, support various combat, humanitarian and contingency missions around the world. For instance, the 515th AMOW provides airlift transport of cargo to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, in support of Operation Deep Freeze, while the 521st AMOW was instrumental in supporting mobility missions in and out of West Africa in support of Operation United Assistance.

Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Rodriguez, 730th Air Mobility Squadron element leader at Yokota AB, said the missions mobility Airmen accomplish range from routine tasks like aircraft maintenance to emergencies that can pop up unexpectedly such as responding to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.

"We handle about 890 aircraft arrivals and departures every month and never know what to expect day in and day out," she said. "We never know what new challenges every launch, recovery or maintenance of each aircraft will entail, but we welcome the mission with a 'bring it on' attitude."

Everhart said one of his reasons for visiting these units is so he can learn how to better support them when they need it.

"I want to see for myself the level of capability and capacity we have in this AOR because if something were to happen, such as a Fukushima-like disaster or an outbreak of hostilities, it's these Airmen who are going to be our mobility first responders," Everhart said. "I need to see for myself whether they have everything they need in order to shoulder that burden."

Martin said the trip reminded him that despite the challenges Airmen face in an uncertain future and rapidly changing requirements, air power comes from the efforts of Airmen.

"This trip to the Pacific Enterprise reinforced what I know to be true: the power of our Air Force is directly related to the capability of our Airmen," he said. "Air Mobility Squadron Airmen must continue providing innovative solutions to complex challenges and strengthening partnerships at their home stations to remain successful at delivering world-class expeditionary support for our nation."

Rodriguez said the mobility Airmen working in AMOW units understand the challenges and are proud of the job they do.

"If there is one thing I can say, it's that this unit is proud of, and want people to know about, how hard working, humble and committed our maintainers are," she said. "Our maintainers conquer what can seem to many as endless work and grease stains, but with that comes a great sense of pride in our work."

Everhart said he is proud to lead Airmen like Rodriguez.

"I am always amazed by what our Airmen can do when you give them just a little direction and set them loose," he said. "When you're scattered across the biggest AOR in the world the way these mobility Airmen are, it's easy for them to be lost in the shuffle. But they are there, every day, making a difference and I want them to know that it doesn't go unnoticed. I wanted to look them in the eye and tell them how important their job is and that I'm proud of them."

Face to Face

by Senior Airman Sean D. Smith
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

3/30/2015 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Air Force suicide prevention training is reverting from an electronic system to a face to face format.

"The annual suicide prevention training was a computer-based training that effectively standardized the information and made it readily available. However, the CBT format fell short of dealing with the issues of distress and suicide on a personal level," said 1st Lt. Paul Cotton, Suicide Prevention Program manager. "The Air Force Community Action Information Board addressed the limitations of the CBT by returning to a format consisting of vignette-based video and small group discussion focused on suicide prevention concepts."

The new approach is intended to benefit Airmen and their families by presenting the subject matter in a way that's relevant to everyone.

"I think it is a very good thing that we are going back to in-person training," said Col. Jane Holtzclaw, 5th Medical Group deputy commander. "It is all too easy to just click buttons on a CBT. And besides, this is a very sensitive topic, and there is no way that a CBT can do it justice."

A more personal approach to suicide prevention allows for discussion that can lead to new ideas, and a new level of awareness.

"The small group discussion is not intended to solely be an awareness raising activity or a lecture," Cotton said. "Rather, it is an opportunity for Airmen to both participate in the process of normalizing distress and reinforcing the wingman culture."

The training will attempt to counter common misconceptions about suicide as a topic, and ultimately to make Airmen feel more comfortable seeking help at early stages of distress.

"The stigma with mental health often prevents Airmen from seeking help, because they are usually concerned about the negative impact that seeking help will have on their career," Cotton said. "But we usually see the opposite effect because their performance improves; through therapy they begin to deal with the problems that are impacting their lives and work. In fact, research has indicated that 97 percent of Airmen who seek treatment at Air Force Mental Health Clinics suffer no negative career impact."

Reducing stigma and making training more personal is only the beginning; suicide prevention is really about changing the culture.

"Caring about your wingmen is the most critical element to suicide prevention. Caring means getting to know the people around you to develop a deeper sense of familiarity," Cotton said. "When a member knows another member well, it will be easily recognized when he or she is in distress. This level of familiarity reduces the discomfort of getting involved when people see their wingmen in trouble."

Missile testing unit validates strategic deterrent

by Airman 1st Class Ian Dudley
30th Space Wing Public Affairs

4/2/2015 - VADENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- The 576th Flight Test Squadron, which conducts Minuteman III launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, holds the unique distinction as the sole intercontinental ballistic missile test unit in the Department of Defense.

The 576th FLTS gathers valuable flight and equipment data from the ICBM tests, ensuring the weapons system remains operationally effective and reliable.

"I love the missile test mission; this mission is awesome," said Capt. Erik Holmstrom, 576th FLTS ICBM flight test manager. "We are the only ICBM test squadron in the Department of Defense and it is a tough task to make sure you get it right. The tests also demonstrate to our adversaries that this weapon system works and it assures our allies that they don't need to develop nuclear weapons because we have them, and they are very functional."

The unarmed Minuteman III missiles launched from Vandenberg AFB are taken from the missile fields at Malmstrom AFB, Montana; Minot AFB, North Dakota; or F. E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, and brought to Vandenberg AFB.

"The reentry vehicles used on our test launches do not have any nuclear components in them," said Capt. Joe Liles, 576th FLTS chief of ICBM field test management. "They are virtually identical to them in flight characteristics but the nuclear material is replaced with measurement equipment for gathering flight data."

Testing ICBMs is only a small part of what the flight test squadron does, and when not launching a Minuteman III ICBM, they are maintaining and upgrading the older test equipment and testing other sustainment and weapon system upgrades.

"A lot of people think our mission here is to conduct operational test launches when in fact that is only a quarter of our mission," said Liles. "We are responsible for testing every piece of equipment, either new or an upgrade that touches the Minuteman III weapon system. It could be anything from an upgrade on a communications system or a new vehicle that is built to support the ICBM fleet. We test it, evaluate it and provide our recommendation as to whether it should be used."

Although the 576th FLTS conducts the test launch, the missile launch crew is from the same base as the missile being tested.

"For test purposes we want to make it as operationally realistic as possible, so we bring the real operators, the real people who would use this system here," said Liles. "Another thing we are evaluating is their ability to use this system in the first place. If the operator can't use it then it doesn't work, even if it physically does work."

While the ICBM test mission serves primarily to test the reliability of ICBMs, it also provides a deterrent for potential adversaries.

"Through testing, we are able to accomplish three things," said Col. Kelvin Townsend, 576th FLTS commander. "First, we are able to validate the reliability, accuracy and performance of the weapon system. Secondly, we demonstrate the capability of America's land-based ICBM force through flight tests. Finally, we are able to identify potential issues with the weapon system early so as to ensure the Minuteman III weapon system is effective and sustainable."

Attain success with 5S

by Lt. Col. Mike Mormon
906 Air Refueling Squadron, Director of Operations

4/1/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- As warmer temperatures bring signs of spring and new growth, you can bring new life and improved efficiency to your work center with the Air Force Smart Operations 5S tool. More than a one-time spring clean, this tool helps us target clutter and waste, increase efficiency, and sustain a culture of lean operations. The 5 S's stand for sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain.

Headquarters Air Mobility Command Airmen are embarking on a 5S journey from April 6 to May 8, 2015. Designated POCs within each directorate will use 5S tools to target excess inventory, non-standard processes, and transportation.

Specially trained Lean Green Belt individuals are working with AMC's office of Air Force Smart Operations to lead process improvements during this seventh annual 5S focus effort. The goal is to ultimately create a paradigm shift toward a lean culture and inspire innovation throughout the entire year.

In addition to process improvements, a virtual flea market has been established on Milbook at:  Scott Air Force Base military members and civilian employees can use this site to request or post non-accountable office supplies and furniture available for official use.

The 375th Air Mobility Wing is providing an electronic recycling and paper shredding service April 22 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Anyone with access to the base may use the trucks.

Although this year's 5S event is concentrated on the AMC staff, every organization feels the stress of fiscal constraints. Challenge yourself and others in your organization to participate in 5S and see how you too can "Attain Success with 5S!"

Face of Defense: Drill Instructor, Recruit Reunite Decades Later

By Marine Corps Cpl. Travis Gershaneck
Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz., April 2, 2015 – Newly promoted Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Draffen stood at attention in front of the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 building here yesterday. His uniform’s collar lay bare for a moment before two pairs of hands deftly pinned in place the rank he has worked 20 years to achieve.

Behind him, friends and peers mirrored the air traffic controller’s tall stance. To his left, his wife, who he has been with since before his enlistment in 1994, secured one side of his collar. On his right, retired Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Michael Arnett -- the drill instructor responsible for making Draffen into a Marine -- secured the other.

Looking Back

After the ceremony was over and the formation dispersed, Draffen and Arnett had a chance to reminisce about their shared beginnings.

“He was the shortest drill instructor, and he was very skinny,” Draffen said about Arnett, recalling the ritual first contact between drill instructor and recruit known as “Black Friday.”

“Well, the only one skinnier than me was him,” Arnett interjected with a chuckle.

“[Arnett] was clearly very passionate about what he was doing,” continued Draffen, a native of Northville, New York. “That’s the reason why, after 20 years, it was very easy to ask him to pin me.”

Boot Camp

“My main job was ‘knowledge hat,’” Arnett said. “My main focus was getting recruits through the academic portion of boot camp.”

“And I was the ‘knowledge recruit,’” Draffen said.

The knowledge recruit is picked by the platoon drill instructors and usually is one of the brighter recruits of each training cycle.

“Our platoon took No. 1 for academics, and I didn’t do it by myself,” Arnett said. “Draffen was there on the back end, as a recruit, encouraging the guys to be the best.”

“I remember he was just hustling,” Arnett continued. “I remember he was always trying to do his best and flying to get the job done the best he could. Obviously, that’s continued with him making master gunnery sergeant. With him now being in the top 2 percent of the Marine Corps, his hard work has benefited him well.”

Family Comes First

“I remember talking to him during boot camp and found out that he’d just gotten married and had a kid on the way,” said Arnett, a native of Panama City, Florida. “I remember thinking to myself as a sergeant with two kids at the time, ‘Golly, he’s got a family, and he’s just starting out.’”

“I was in boot camp to support my family,” Draffen said. “We ran into some financial problems, so there I was.”

Now six months away from his 21-year mark in the Marine Corps, Draffen still holds true to the lessons instilled in him by the man who taught him the fundamentals of what it means to be a Marine.

“I’d say the one lesson that he really drove home, and is something we push on our kids, is to take care of your family,” Draffen said. “He reinforced that you perform to take care of your family first, and everything else comes secondary to that.”