Friday, April 03, 2015

POLAR GROWL strengthens Allied interoperability, essential bomber navigation skills

by U.S. Strategic Command Public Affairs

4/3/2015 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb.  -- Two B-52 Stratofortresses from the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and a pair from the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., completed today simultaneous, roundtrip sorties from their U.S. bases to the Arctic and North Sea regions, respectively.
The training mission, coined POLAR GROWL, allowed the aircrews to hone their navigation skills and enhanced their ability to work with Allied partners, while demonstrating U.S. Strategic Command capacity.

"These flights, demonstrating the credible and flexible ability of our strategic bomber force in internationally-recognized flight information regions, are the culmination of months of planning and coordination," said Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command commander. "They are one of many ways we demonstrate interoperability, compliance with national and international protocols and due regard for the safety of all aircraft sharing the air space."

Each of the two legs of POLAR GROWL provided unique training opportunities, all while testing the bomber force's command and control apparatus' ability to support two synchronized flight paths. The bomber crews flying the North Sea route participated in dissimilar air intercept maneuvers with fighter aircraft flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force, the U.K.'s Royal Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Air Force. In addition to conducting dissimilar air intercept maneuvers with Royal Canadian Air Force fighters, bomber crews on the Arctic leg of the mission transited around the North Pole, providing the crews invaluable training in polar navigation.

"Today's dynamic global security environment is an interdependent world where international partnerships are foundational," Haney continued. "Exercises and operations such as these bomber flights enable and enhance relationships with our Allies and partners, and allow others to understand what capabilities U.S. Strategic Command brings to the equation."

The U.S. regularly conducts combined training and theater security cooperation engagements with Allies and partners. The combined training provided in POLAR GROWL follows the participation of B-52s in NATO Exercise NOBLE JUSTIFICATION in October 2014 and the deployment of B-52s and B-2s to RAF Fairford, U.K., in June 2014, both of which provided occasions to train alongside U.S. Allies and partners.

"The long-range nature of the mission, coupled with the opportunity to interact, in real-time, with Allied aircraft was an invaluable experience that simply can't be replicated out of the cockpit," said Maj. Nathan Barnhart, 343rd Bomb Squadron instructor radar navigator. "Training like this ensures we are ready to respond to any and all mission directives across the globe."

Flown in support of both U.S. European Command and U.S. Northern Command, POLAR GROWL was specifically designed to demonstrate U.S. commitment to Allies and enhancement of regional security, and not directed at any country.

Additionally, U.S. forces conduct all flights in accordance with the procedures outlined in the International Civil Aviation Organization international standards and recommended practices. By conducting flights that follow the ICAOs fundamental objectives, regional safety is enhanced to prevent any chance of misunderstanding.

The B-52 Stratofortress is capable of delivering large payload of precision nuclear or conventional ordnance over long ranges, while also providing decision makers the ability to rapidly project military power and generate decisive effects.

Generating airpower: Hydro overhaul

by Staff Sgt. Derek VanHorn
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/2/2015 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- When a recruiter approached Rodney Shepherd a few years ago, he was working at a local steak joint outside Oklahoma City. He usually worked the front register but would find his way to the back to help out with dishes when things got busy. It was the dirtiest task, and admittedly, his least favorite part of the job.

The recruiter's pitch worked and almost five years later, Shepherd's changed his stance -- he can't wait to get his hands dirty.

"Most people in the shop don't like working on brakes," said Shepherd, a senior airman with the 35th Maintenance Squadron. "It's the dirtiest job, but personally, it's my favorite."

Shepherd works in the hydraulic systems back shop -- often called "hydro" -- where he and a team of five maintain hydraulic systems associated with Misawa's fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons. Their main jobs usually include landing gear systems, brakes and flight controls.

In the past, Shepherd said he'd gawk at the proposition of getting down to the literal nuts and bolts of a problem. Now, it's just business as usual.

"I never was the most mechanically inclined person," Shepherd laughed. "But, this job has given me skills I never knew I had. Now if I have something like a car issue, it's nothing for me to hop online and watch a video and then go fix it myself. I wouldn't go back and trade this job for anything."

Car maintenance probably pales in comparison to maintaining F-16s, but Shepherd said he's fortunate to be able to support some of the world's most powerful machines. He's not the only one.

"I would say hydraulics -- next to propulsion -- is the most important aspect of the F-16," said Staff Sgt. Brian Argenti, 35th MXS hydraulics systems craftsman. "Once [pilots] are in the air, how are they going to control the jet and land without hydraulics?"

The answer is obvious -- they're not; and Argenti and his team of five take pride in their unique role.

Rather than having specialists out on the flightline with hands on the jets, they work as back shop experts who only work on parts that are sent their way by crew chiefs. A computer system will code a part for maintenance, and after being delivered, the hydro team dissects each part with extreme detail. Equipped with safety goggles, grease-covered gloves, technical orders and a slew of tools, each job is performed like clockwork. Few words are said; the team is so familiar with each other that each step movement almost seems scripted.

"We overhaul, clean, service and test parts to make sure they're working as advertised," said Argenti, who's spent 10 years working on flightlines around the Air Force. "We'll break them down to their beginning and build them all the way back up."

Misawa is the first base Argenti's worked in a back shop, and it's offered a revamped appreciation for the work.

"It's a new environment where everything comes to us disembodied. Just seeing the insides of things and how they work -- getting to the guts of the jet without actually working on it -- is a fun challenge," Argenti said. "It gives you appreciation for how things work when you're critically thinking how to best repair certain parts."

The parts are then vetted through a series of steps for approval before returning to the aircraft parts store, where they're certified for not only Misawa's jets, but F-16s across the globe.

"It feels good knowing we're putting the best available parts out there for the entire fleet," Argenti said.

Last year alone, Misawa's hydro shop overhauled over 50 brake systems and 30 landing gear sets, making them as good as new for any F-16. While their approach is calm and methodical, they know their impact is a bit more colorful.

"Hydraulics are pretty much the lifeblood of the F-16 system," Shepherd said. "Without our parts working properly, pilots could literally fall out of the sky."

There's a cool, comfortable feel across their shop - a strong presence of confidence and awareness.

"It's not like we're out here calling ourselves the most important shop on the flightline," Shepherd said. "But we know we're as valuable as any part that makes up the maintenance team. I've been fortunate enough to be placed in a good shop and I'm proud to be a part of the F-16 mission."

Obama: Solar Program to Train Troops for Civilian Careers

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 3, 2015 – As the solar industry continues to create new jobs and spur the economy, President Barack Obama announced today at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, significant strides to prime separating service members for entry into the workforce.

Obama reported an overall goal to train 75,000 workers for the renewable energy industry by 2020. “As part of this, we’re creating what we’re calling a ‘Solar Ready Vets’ program,” he said, “… modeled after some successful pilot initiatives … established over the last several years.”

Hill is one of 10 military installations slated to participate, he noted. Solar Ready Vets, the president said, is “one of the many steps we’re taking to help nearly 700,000 [service members,] veterans and military spouses get a job.”

“As part of this effort, we’re also going to work with states to enable more veterans to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill for solar job training,” he said.

That educational funding would enable more veterans to participate in the job-driven training program. The solar industry, Obama said, offers “good-paying jobs.” He added, “Today what we're going to try to do is to build on the progress that’s already been made.”

Training Initiatives Expanding

Solar Ready Vets is underway at Camp Pendleton, California, Fort Carson, Colorado, and Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, all of which announced pilot initiatives earlier this year.

The Energy and Defense departments are joining efforts in the Solar Ready Vets initiative, DoD officials said. DoE’s “SunShot” Solar Instructor Training Network will leverage DoD’s Skillbridge, a program that allows service members to participate in job training -- including apprenticeships and internships -- beginning up to six months before they leave the military.

Under the program, service members will learn how to size and install solar panels, connect electricity to the grid, and interpret and comply with local building codes. According to White House officials, the accelerated training will prepare troops for careers as installers, sales representatives, system inspectors and other solar-related occupations.

National Security Includes Economic Security

“One of the most important aspects of national security is strong economic security,” Obama said. “We can’t maintain the best military that the world has ever known unless we also have an economy that’s humming.”

The president related the importance of private-sector and government collaboration to grow the nation’s economy by rebuilding infrastructure nationwide, and investing in education and job training to boost growth in the United States and create the Force of the Future.

Employers Eyeing More Veterans

The president noted that the solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy, making it a promising prospect for veterans. “Employers are starting to catch on if you really want to get the job done, hire a veteran,” Obama said.

Hill, Obama said, leads by example in energy innovation, with the base getting 20 percent of its overall energy through renewable energy sources and contributing to overall DoD efforts to save and redirect funds to training, personnel and equipment.

“What is true for DoD has to be true for the entire country,” the president said. U.S. energy is “going to provide enormous prospects for jobs and careers for a whole lot of folks out there if we continue to make this investment,” he added.

Unprecedented Private-sector Job Opportunities

Obama noted that businesses created 129,000 new jobs in March, totaling some 3 million jobs over the past year and more than 12 million new jobs over the past five years. That trend, he said, is the longest stretch of private-sector job creation on record.

Still, Obama asserted, the nation must be relentless in pursuing a strong economy and connecting qualified people to good jobs.

A Personal Message to Hill Air Force Base

The president also delivered a personal message to Hill Air Force Base airmen and civilians.

“Every single day, your work keeps our Air Force ready to meet the many threats that are out there, threats like [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant],” the president said. “You support our troops, our humanitarian missions around the world, and you keep the American people safe.”

ANG general welcomes F-15 deployment to Europe

by Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane

4/3/2015 - LEEUWARDEN AIR BASE, Netherlands -- The second theater security package consisting of twelve F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft arrived at Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands, March 31 through April 1, marking the beginning of their six-month deployment to Europe.

The 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard, Jacksonsville, Fla., leads this first ANG theater security package to deploy in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The aircraft and Airmen are based out of units in Florida, Oregon, California, Massachusetts and various bases throughout Europe. Regardless of their origin, together, they make up the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.

Maj. Gen. Eric Vollmecke, ANG assistant to the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, welcomed the Airmen and stressed the importance of the TSP in Europe during a visit April 3.

"We are here to reinforce to our allies that the security of Europe is a priority for the U.S.," Vollmecke explained to the 159th EFS.

The squadron will fly with NATO allies and support OAR, a demonstration of U.S. European Command and United States Air Forces in Europe's continued commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to the enduring peace and stability in the region.

Gen. Frank Gorenc, USAFE-AFAFRICA commander, has explained that U.S. Air Force's forward presence in Europe, augmented by a rotational force like the TSP, allows us to work with our allies to develop and improve ready air forces capable of maintaining regional security.

"If you look at where we were 20 years ago," Vollmecke said, "and how many aircraft we had in theater, we are down to a fraction of that, yet we have more NATO allies than we did 20 years ago, so we must continue to train with them and learn from them."

Vollmecke explained that every NATO ally brings its own strengths to the table and that one of ours is our air-to-air capability.

"It is very important for us to exercise that capability with our NATO allies and I think we can all benefit from this experience," Vollmecke said. "Our NATO allies are very capable aviators, and have great air forces. There are many things we can learn from them, especially from their innovation. They may not have the resources that the U.S. has, but they have done an incredible job of maintaining an impressive level of readiness."

The previous TSP deployed to Europe in February, but this deployment is slightly different due to the fact that the ANG is the lead.

"This TSP package is a great example of a total force deployment with Airmen participating from the active, guard and reseve," said Vollmecke. "The Airmen here come from various stateside bases as well as Euopean based units and together they have formed this expeditionary fighter squadron."

While this is the first time the ANG has deployed to Europe as a TSP, these types of deployments are not new to the Air Force. Fighter squadrons have been deploying like this to the Pacific since 2004.

In the right place at the right time

by Senior Airman Keenan Berry
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

4/3/2015 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Airmen train daily to be warriors not only for global affairs, but local situations as well.

When a tragic situation arises, Airmen are called upon to perform heroic deeds to ensure safety of citizens. Tragic situations are never scheduled, they just happen. For Senior Airman Cory Barrett, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, he experienced this first-hand.

On a February afternoon, a local resident from Warrensburg, Mo., was driving himself to a hospital to receive treatment and totaled his vehicle on the DD highway roundabout. Fortunately for the victim, Barrett was there to assist.

"I was coming from Warrensburg, Mo., on my way to the gym riding down DD highway when I arrived at the roundabout and slowed down to yield," Barrett said. "Out of nowhere I saw a car go airborne, hit the middle of the roundabout, go airborne again and land on its front end. It reminded me of something out of a movie."

But this was far from a movie; it was reality and Barrett had to react quickly knowing a life was in need of assistance.

"I was the only one present at the roundabout besides the victim. Without a moment to spare, I grabbed my phone, got out of my car and ran to the vehicle," Barrett said.

"When I looked back, I saw a car pull up and an Air Force Captain got out of her car to assist. I instructed her to call 911 while I tended to the victim. I ran to the side of the vehicle and knocked to see if he was conscious. I knocked once, and he remained lying there in his seat with his eyes closed. I knocked twice again, still no reply. I knocked harder the third time and he woke up. I thought he was dead at first, but I kept trying anyway."

Capt. Kassandra McRae, 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron operations officer, called 911 as Barrett tended to the victim.

"When he finally woke up, I asked him if he knew what happened," Barrett said. "While he was explaining what he remembered, I noticed smoke coming from the corner of his car. I went to the front, and saw flames. In that instant, I knew I had to get him out immediately before the car potentially exploded."

In normal circumstances, extreme caution is necessary when handling victims to prevent further injury. But with flames coming from the car, immediate action was necessary.

"I went back around, opened the door and informed him that I was going to pull him out the vehicle," Barrett said. "As I was pulling him out of the vehicle, all I could think about was what if this car explodes..."

Fortunately, Barrett was able to get the victim to safety. Soon after, a veteran arrived on scene with an extinguisher and put the flames out.

While Barrett was assisting the victim, he noticed the victim's thumb had a gash and pieces of it were missing.

"I thought he damaged his thumb in the accident, but he explained what exactly happened," said Barrett. "The victim was at home working when he chopped his finger. He got in the car and tried to go to the emergency room. While he was driving, he went into shock and hit the gas pedal when he was supposed to slow down. It was like being on a movie set."

Barrett did the only thing he could, elevate the victim's arm to slow down the bleeding.
When the medics arrived, they gave him immediate attention. They asked him if he could walk and he confirmed he could. They got him into the ambulance and rode to the hospital.

Barrett impressed fellow wingmen with his heroic deed.

"Barrett performed in such a professional and helpful manner at the scene of the accident," McRae said. "He ensured the safety of the victim and those of us in the area, and stayed engaged with the victim so he could remain calm until the paramedics arrived. It was very inspiring to witness one of our Airmen rising up in an emergency situation and perform as a true leader and upstanding citizen."

Barrett demonstrated an act of valor and selflessness admired by his peers and coworkers. He humbly states in a situation like this, anyone would have done it.

"Some lessons I learned from this are to never assume a car is going to stop," said Barrett. "Always wait for a car to come to a complete stop while yielding because you never know what could happen. Remember life is a precious thing."

Team effort in nuclear WSEP

by Senior Airman Kristoffer Kaubisch
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

4/3/2015 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Minot Air Force Base recently conducted an end-to-end operational nuclear weapons system evaluation, demonstrating the strategic bomber force's ability to configure, load, fly and deliver a nuclear capable air launched cruise missile. The B-52H aircrews flew three simulated combat missions from Minot AFB to the Utah Test and Training Range and launched three unarmed AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missiles, between March 9-17.

The AGM-86B is a long-range standoff weapon that is designed to deliver a payload on target, destroying it on impact. As a standoff weapon the ALCM can be launched from outside of the combat area, allowing aircrews to strike distant targets with a high degree of accuracy without exposing themselves to potentially deadly enemy fire.

During the weapons system evaluation, Airmen from the 5th Bomb Wing's munitions and aircraft maintenance squadrons pulled each ALCM from a storage facility. Then, working with a team from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, installed a sensor package and uploaded navigational and performance test software to record all relevant data during the missile's flight.

"This allows the Air Force to assess operational effectiveness, verify weapon system performance, determine reliability, evaluate capability and limitations, identify deficiencies and pursue corrective actions," explained Staff Sgt. Eric Hathaway, 5th Maintenance Operations Squadron weapons load crew team chief. "It also gives crews valuable practice with actual weapons."

Once the diagnostics and programming were completed, each ALCM was delivered to a B-52 for upload and integrity checks by weapons load, maintenance and aircrew members. Aircrews then flew each of the weapons to the test range and launched them. Each ALCM flew for an undisclosed amount of time before striking its target.

"The impact of the WSEP is to show that we are able to do our jobs," Hathaway said. "If we had to go out and load today, that all of the confidence is there, that it would get done and everything would perform how it's supposed to."

The Nuclear Weapon System Evaluation Program is part of the Air Force's ongoing effort to test weapons systems in training missions and prepare aircrews for future mission requirements. The results also help improve tactics and systems.

"Our procedures, our training and everything from start to finish [are] to help us successfully deliver a weapon on target," said Capt. Colin Blount, 69th Bomb Squadron radar navigator. "When it comes to testing it's something you want to have controlled well."

The B-52's air-to-air refueling makes it a literal around-the-world standoff strike option, able to use both conventional and nuclear weapons anywhere on the planet and use standoff weaponry to negate contested air space. For such missions, many hours of training and familiarization with the weapons systems are required to achieve peak proficiency.

"We show up and we study the entire process, we get the brief on why we're doing it and how we're going to go about performing it," Blount said. "After that it's a lot of sitting down and talking through the steps that we're going to perform, because our biggest goal for this is to eliminate human error as best possible."

In addition to the standoff capabilities of the B-52, a key aspect of the bomber is the relative lag time in its ability to deliver a weapon, giving the President flexibility to show force and recall the weapons system as necessary. This program gives crews the opportunity to exercise these capabilities.

"Strategic deterrence, that's part of what the B-52 is meant to do and it's just one of the things the President has available to him," said Capt. Corrine Bird, 5th Operations Support Squadron Nuclear Support Flight commander. "We can (take off) as a deterrence factor and be recalled, and it comes down to the crew to process (message) traffic from the President to determine if we need to launch or retain our missiles as appropriate."

(Capt. Christopher Mesnard, Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs contributed to this article.)

Grounding birds keeps aircraft airborne

by Airman 1st Class Aaron J. Jenne
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/3/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- In 2014, the Air Force experienced a hazard that caused more than $55 million in damage through more than 4,000 instances.

Representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture set up shop at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to mitigate the risk of those all too common in-flight hazards - bird strikes.

Team Seymour aircraft experience approximately 60 incidents each year, roughly five of which cause significant damage.

A biologist and two specialists from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services section work around the clock to keep the skies safe through the base's Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard program.

"Our primary purpose is to reduce the likelihood of bird aircraft strike incidents," said Chris Willis, USDA APHIS wildlife biologist. "Ninety-two percent of all bird strikes occur below 500 feet, so it is vital that we protect our aircrews on takeoff and landing when they are likely the most at risk."

Willis said he remembers between 90 and 100 bird strikes annually when he began working on base more than 10 years ago. He attributed the decrease in frequency to the success of the BASH program.

Accomplishing the goal of decreasing bird aircraft strikes is both proactive and reactive, Willis said, focusing on removing immediate threats and discouraging the likelihood of future ones.

Each morning, program members drive around the airfield searching for any wildlife that could hinder aircraft operations or cause damage. All findings are dealt with immediately. They commonly set up snares or reinforce fences to keep animals out and collect dead animals that could attract scavengers.

When they see birds in the air, on the land or anywhere in between, BASH members do everything they can clear the area before aircraft activity begins.

Different types of birds react to different stimulants. Fortunately, BASH members have a number of tricks up their sleeves enabling them to handle nearly any scenario.

"We try to be as aggressive as we can, using all the available tools in our tool box," said Dennis Lewis, USDA APHIS wildlife specialist. "If you throw a variety of things at them, it's going to get their attention a little better."

Their main harassment tool, the propane cannon, bellows a harmless but effective report upon command. One is mounted on each of their trucks, and several are positioned around the flightline, as well.

The cannon is convenient and inexpensive to operate, but it isn't always the most effective, sometimes only causing birds to change directions briefly or having no effect at all. When this happens, the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services member may choose to use a form of pyrotechnics propelled from a shotgun or handgun.

"If I see a vulture, nine times out of 10, I can get a good reaction from the cannon, but birds get habituated to our harassment, and they might not respond to the cannon alone," Lewis said. "We need to be versatile and aggressive to keep the skies safe."

As a last resort, when all harassment techniques have been exhausted, they do have licenses to use lethal means to protect aircraft and aircrews.

When they aren't busy reacting to immediate threats, they prepare for tomorrow's. Spikes are mounted on lights and towers to discourage large birds from landing or roosting there.

"A big problem for aircraft is turkey vultures," Willis said. "They like to congregate on towers. It doesn't matter how much we harass them, they'll just come back after we leave. We had to change our strategy and do some research to find an effective way to deal with them."

They found hanging stuffed vultures upside down near the roosting sites to be an effective deterrent.

While harassment and deterrence are effective, Lewis said the most powerful weapons in their arsenal are communication and coordination: effectively communicating their mission and coordinating their efforts across the base and in the outlying community.

Samantha Whitworth, USDA APHIS wildlife specialist, works part time at the City of Goldsboro Water Reclamation Facility, whose water covers 200 acres of land.

"It's great to work with the base and the city," Whitworth said. "It really is awesome that they care so much about the installation - protecting its jets and the safety of its Airmen. Just harassing birds on the base only goes so far, but working on the other side of the fence increases the impact."

The result of working with the city is two-fold, Whitworth said. It allows BASH members to clear a larger airspace, creating a buffer that makes it less likely for birds to even come on the installation.

In a similar manner, Willis has reached out to community members who border the installation. He said he has explained how land management can affect bird prevalence and negatively impact flight safety.

"I know every single family that has land that borders the base," Willis said. "We see some great appreciation for the military. They have adapted farming and land management practices that attract less birds, and it is really amazing how willing they are to make changes to keep our guys safe."

Not everyone approves of harassing animals, but the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services team says it's a necessary precaution intended to keep aircrews safe.

"That's definitely the most controversial part of our job," Lewis said. "A lot of people want us to leave the wildlife alone. They don't realize the risk wildlife poses to jets. We don't enjoy harassing birds, but we've got to do it to protect our jets and their crews. That's our number one goal and we'll continue to do everything in our power to keep the skies safe for birds and people."

Scott EOD tech recognized for heroic actions after explosion

by Airman 1st Class Erica Crossen
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

4/3/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The American Red Cross recognized a Scott Airman as being a hero for his expertise in responding to an emergency situation.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Drysdale received the recognition in the Military Category at the ARC's 2015 Heroes Breakfast in St. Louis March 26.

Employees at a Granite City recycling center were processing military-grade munitions in August that were thought to be spent when an explosion occurred, killing two people. First responders called the base for assistance to render the scene safe and to dispose of the remaining munitions.

Drysdale, a 375th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team Leader, along with seven other EOD members, spent two days recovering and securing the scene. Among his tasks were to recover the human remains and verify the stability of the remaining munitions. His team would remove and eventually destroy more than 200 munitions later at an isolated area.

"I made contact with the officer who arrived on scene first before realizing that gravity of the situation. He had called for assistance, and I was the first one to gain access to the area and set up operations from there," said Drysdale.

"There is always a little bit of anxiousness going into a call because you don't know what to expect, but I think that's healthy. It just makes you aware and careful, which in turns keeps us safe when performing our duties. In my line of work, I see a lot of heroic things. I don't know if I would ever put myself in that category, however, I feel humbled that somebody would."

Airman 1st Class Derek Wingler and Staff Sgt. David Dickey also assisted in identification of munitions and transportation, and in all, more than 100 individuals were involved in the lengthy process. Throughout the incident, Drysdale served as an advisor to the several local and federal agencies.

Tech. Sgt. Dustin Lambries, 375th CES EOD Operations Section Chief, said, "I understand there needs to be heroes out there, and I think Staff Sgt. Drysdale fits the bill."

Face of Defense: Soldier Draws Inspiration From Father

By Army Capt. Thomas Cieslak
7th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., April 3, 2015 – “Master your trade and never, never, never quit! Enough motivation, persistence and willpower will get you through everything,” is the advice Army 1st Sgt. Sandrea Cruz gives to those seeking her mentorship.

Cruz serves as the first sergeant of the Group Support Battalion’s Sustainment and Distribution Company in the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) here. As the company’s senior noncommissioned officer, she is responsible for leading more than 150 men and women specializing in logistics and supply operations in support of the group’s training and missions.

A sense of patriotism and love of country motivated Cruz to enlist in the Army after the 9/11 terror attacks. Prior to her enlistment, Cruz was no stranger to the military.

Understanding the Stress

Born on Fort Stewart, Georgia, and raised in a military family, Cruz said, she fully understands the stress that Army service places on a soldier’s spouse and children. Her father, a Green Beret who served in both the 7th and 3rd Special Forces groups, drives her to excel in her daily duties, she said.

“My father is the epitome of what a soldier truly represents, both on and off duty,” Cruz said. “Even though he has since retired, he is one of the most disciplined and intelligent people I know. I said if there was anyone I could emulate, it would be him, because there was nothing that was unobtainable or out of reach to him in the military.”

Cruz said her most challenging assignment was her second duty assignment at Camp Hialeah, South Korea, with the 4th Quartermaster Detachment (Airborne). As a newly promoted sergeant with a little more than two years in the Army, Cruz served as the company supply sergeant and the unit’s armorer and ammunition manager. She also assisted in the company’s orderly room.

Demanding Workload Served as Foundation

A demanding workload, coupled with her responsibility to lead U.S. and South Korean soldiers, was her introduction to the Army’s noncommissioned officer corps, Cruz said, and she credits that for developing her into the leader she is today.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Celia Gonzalez was a significant influence in her early career, Cruz said. Gonzalez, a parachute rigger by trade and the first Hispanic female to serve with the Golden Knights, was Cruz’s platoon sergeant in South Korea. Though she was not a qualified parachutist at the time, Cruz was given the opportunity to get on a C-130 aircraft and observe Gonzalez performing duties as a primary jumpmaster.

“There was something quite thrilling and inspirational about watching her rake static lines and move parachutists out of the aircraft,” Cruz said. “This motivated me to not only go to Airborne School, but eventually become a jumpmaster myself, which I never planned to do.”

Instilling Confidence in Soldiers

Selected in late 2014 to lead soldiers here as a first sergeant, Cruz is one of two women in the group serving as the senior NCO in a company, with another leading troops in the Group Support Battalion’s headquarters element. She routinely performs duties as a jumpmaster, working hard to instill confidence into soldiers anxious about the inherent dangers of airborne operations.

Cruz’s husband also serves in the Army as a Green Beret in the 7th Group. He leads and trains other Special Forces soldiers, preparing them for deployments to austere locations far away from logistics lines.

More than 13 years have passed since Cruz enlisted, and she has been a first-hand witness to the numerous cultural changes the Army has undergone. Women, she noted, have a lot more opportunities in the military than when she joined. They now serve in assignments previously closed to them, she said, giving them more prominent leadership roles in the contemporary force.

“The Army is an easy business,” Cruz said she advises younger women under her leadership. “You will get from it what you put into it.”