Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Room at Keesler AFB named in honor of O'Fallon veteran

by Bill Malec

4/15/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Long-time O'Fallon, Illinois resident, Retired Col. Derrel "DY" Dempsey, was recently recognized for his career achievements with the dedication of a conference room in his honor at the Air Force's air traffic control school at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

The 334th Training Squadron hosted the event. The squadron provides training in all aspects of ground-based aerospace command and control.

A previous 334th Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. Jeff McLemore, knew Dempsey and his career accomplishments well. During a previous assignment in United States Air Force Europe he was their nominee for the Colonel Derrel L. Dempsey Airfield Operations Officer of the Year award.

McLemore became aware that some of Dempsey's career memorabilia was available to a good home and a plan to recognize him began to take shape. McLemore's goal was to increase the awareness and appreciation for the colonel and his accomplishments at the schoolhouse--where air traffic control careers begin.

McLemore's tour ran its course before his vision could be fully executed. His replacement, Lt. Col. Kevin Bray, was eager and able to pick up where McLemore left off.

The room dedication ceremony was attended by Keesler's senior leaders, 334th TS staffers and airfield operations students. Many of Dempsey's old friends, peers, and protégées were also in attendance to pay homage. As a bonus, the Dempsey's grandson, Senior Airman Kiefer Luth, himself an air traffic controller assigned at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, was also present.

The speakers highlighted the retired colonel's impressive 30-year career which culminated with his retirement in 1984. During his years of service he excelled in a wide variety of assignments as a student, flight inspection pilot, air traffic control officer, commander, and staff officer.

As an aviator he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for an aerial event that occurred in Southeast Asia in 1968. Dempsey was part of a three-man aircrew that completed a combat essential flight inspection mission while under hostile conditions and in deteriorating weather.

Later as a senior staff officer, assigned to Air Force Communications Command headquarters, he led the Air Force's quick reaction response to the Federal Aviation Administration's controller strike of 1981. The strike threatened to cripple the nation's aviation system. He orchestrated initial deployment and logistical support for 640 Air Force controllers to 75 FAA facilities.

One retired Air Force controller, now a civilian ATC instructor, recalled the strike well. Larry Cannedy deployed as a young noncommissioned officer from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware to JFK International Airport.

"It was an awesome experience and one that I will never forget. We felt like heroes."

In his address Dempsey portrayed himself as just a Midwest farm boy who graduated from high school and hoped to go to college. He joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Bradley University and was later commissioned in the Air Force motivated by concerns about the draft. He never dreamed he'd be a pilot or an ATC officer, have an Air Force career, or be responsible for military air traffic control.

Dempsey emphasized what he believed were two keys to his success.

"When given a task I always tried to do what was expected of me and a bit more. Empathy was also a rule that guided my performance daily ... treat everyone in terms of leadership and support as if I was in their position of responsibility and work."

After the speeches Dempsey led the group downstairs where, with the assistance of 81st Training Wing Commander, Brig. Gen. Patrick Higby, the ribbon was cut on the "Dempsey Conference Room."

Higby said, "It's very inspiring for us when we can incorporate our 'living history' into our heritage program. Unfortunately, too many of the heroes and trailblazers we cherish by renaming things in their honor are no longer with us."

Bray recalled words of Gen. Robin Rand, Commander of Air Education and Training Command. "'History makes you smarter, but heritage makes you prouder.' I couldn't have been more proud to be a part of a team that honored a legendary Airman."

The conference room was remodeled and decorated with Dempsey's memorabilia and other ATC artifacts.

NY Air National Guardsman posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Valor

by Staff Sgt. Michael O'Halloran
105th Airlift Wing

4/14/2015 - STEWART AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. -- Staff Sgt. Todd "T.J." Lobraico, a member of the 105th Airlift Wing who was killed in action in Afghanistan Sept. 5, 2013, was honored with a posthumous award of the Bronze Star Medal with Valor during a ceremony held at Stewart Air National Guard Base, April 11, 2015.

Lobraico was killed in a "hellish barrage of rocket, grenade, and small arms fire" as he maneuvered against a Taliban ambush and bought time for the other members of his squad to react during a mission outside Bagram Airfield.

Lobraico, a Sherman, Connecticut resident, had deployed to Afghanistan in June 2013 as part of a team of 105th Base Defense Squadron Airmen whose mission was to secure air bases, train, and fight much like Army infantry. This was his second deployment. He had served in Iraq in 2010-2011.

His Bronze Star and citation were presented to his parents, Lt. Col. Linda Rohatsch and Master Sgt. Todd Lobraico Sr., both members of the 105th Airlift Wing like their son, during the ceremony by Col. Timothy LaBarge, 105th Airlift Wing commander.

Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, the Adjutant General of New York, Maj. Gen. Verle Johnston, the commander of the New York Air National Guard, and members of the 820th Base Defense Group, the active Air Force base defense force that the members of the 105th Base Defense Force Squadron were serving with that day were also in attendance for the presentation.

Lobraico was assigned to the 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron of the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Group, a part of the 445th Air Expeditionary Wing, where he served as a vehicle commander.

According to his medal citation, on Sept. 5, 2013 Lobraico volunteered to establish a listening and observation post eight miles outside the Bagram Airfield perimeter in order to deter enemy mortar and rocket attacks. Lobraico took the point position on the mission, scouting ahead and providing security for his fire team. While moving he discovered an insurgent force which was in the process of setting up to ambush his fire team with rocket propelled grenades, small arms, and an improvised explosive device. With total disregard for his own safety, Lobraico placed himself directly between his fire team and the insurgents who unleashed a hellish barrage of rocket, grenade, and small arms fire. Sergeant Lobraico took immediate and decisive actions while braving this intense enemy fire, and was mortally wounded while directing the maneuver of his fire team to covered positions from which they could effectively defend themselves and return fire on the enemy positions. His actions were instrumental in gaining fire superiority and the survival of his team.

LaBarge praised Lobraico for his courage and said that his death had an impact throughout the wing. "When T.J. was killed over in Afghanistan that ripple resonated through the organization," La Barge said.

"The impact of his death was immediate, profound, and specific, and we will feel it for a long time," LaBarge said. "However, this does not mitigate the amount of pride we feel for T.J. and the Lobraico families. This ceremony today was something that basically allowed us part of the healing process and I think it was important for the families as well."

Tech. Sgt. Michael Pacenza, Lobraico's squad leader, remembered him as a person who was always smiling and willing to volunteer. He would always help out someone in need. "T.J. is our hero. He gave his life for us that dark night outside of Bagram airfield," he said.

"Lobraico was a great NCO," said Staff Sgt. Juan Ospina, who deployed with Lobraico on multiple occasions. "He was upbeat and he always made you laugh when you were down. By all definitions, he was a true American hero. He saved his team; he saved a lot of lives that night. He sacrificed himself; put himself in harm's way, a selfless act. It makes me proud to have known him as a person and fellow NCO," he added.

Ospina and Lobraico joined the Air Guard together in 2008. They deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq together in 2010 and then deployed again to Afghanistan in 2013.

Shortly after the award ceremony, the newest building erected at Stewart, the 105th Base Defense Group Headquarters was officially opened. Master Sgt. Todd Lobraico, the longest serving member of the unit and T.J.'s father, and Airman 1st Class Jim Byrne, the most junior member of the unit, cut the ribbon opening the new facility. A plaque at the building marks Lobraico's sacrifice.

Lobraico's death brought to 33 the total number of New York National Guard combat deaths since 2001. Lobraico was the first-- and so far only-- member of the New York Air National Guard killed in action in Afghanistan or Iraq. Thirty-two members of the New York Army National Guard have been killed in action or died in a combat zone since Sept. 11, 2001. Ten of those deaths were in Afghanistan and 23 were in Iraq.

The Bronze Star Medal is an individual military award of the United States Armed Forces. It may be awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone. The Bronze Star Medal is the fourth-highest individual military award and the ninth-highest by order of precedence in the US Military. When awarded for acts of heroism, the medal is awarded with the "V" device.

F-35 Program ‘On Right Track,’ Director Says

By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2015 – Despite its numerous setbacks, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter program is on the right track to meet aircraft delivery deadlines, the program’s executive officer told a House Armed Services Committee panel yesterday.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan updated members of the committee’s tactical air and land forces subcommittee on the F-35 program as part of the president’s fiscal year 2016 budget request.

Slow, Steady Progress

“Our overall assessment is we’re making slow but steady progress on all fronts, and each day, the program is improving,” Bogdan said. “This is not to say that we don’t have some risks, challenges and difficulties, but I’m confident we’ll be able to overcome these problems and deliver on our commitments.”

That progress covers development, flight training, production, maintenance and the standup of the global sustainment enterprise, he said.

Bogdan also said the program is nearing completion of its flight testing to field initial warfighting capabilities, even though certain software issues and other issues have created delays.

Setbacks, Accomplishments in 2014

“The last year also presented [some] failures,” Bogdan said, citing an engine failure at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and the discovery of cracks in the F-35’s B-model bulkhead during durability testing. “We’re working hard to bring this schedule delay back in on time and we don’t believe it will impact [delivery to the services],” he added.

Bogdan cited the F-35’s accomplishments in the last year.

Initial sea trials aboard the USS Nimitz for the F-35C model produced “excellent” performance results, Bogdan said, and production of the F-35 went according to plan.

Delivered as Promised

“We planned on delivering 36 [aircraft in 2014], and delivered 36 to our warfighters,” Bogdan said. “We have now delivered a total of 130 aircraft to our operational test and training sites.”

The production line is running about two months behind, the general acknowledged, but he added that the process is catching up and said the delay does not pose any long-term schedule or delivery risks to the program.

“We intend to continue leading the program with integrity, discipline, transparency and accountability,” Bogdan told panel members. “We will hold ourselves and our program team accountable for the outcomes of this program.”

188th Wing brings heat during Global Dragon

by Senior Airman Cody Martin
188th Wing Public Affairs

4/8/2015 - PERRY, Ga -- The 188th Civil Engineering Squadron's Emergency Management Flight arrived at the Guardian Centers, Perry, Georgia, to participate in the Global Dragon deployment for training, March 8-20, 2015.

The Global Dragon exercise provides Air National Guard emergency managers the opportunity to go through live training on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials, as well as other hazardous materials.

"I think this was a huge eye-opener for a lot of people," said Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Rich, 188th Wing emergency management superintendent. "Our younger members were able to see in a real-life environment what they won't be able to see at the school house."

Guardsmen from all 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency regions and 25 different ANG units took part in Global Dragon.

"The training is great," said Senior Airman Keenan Wallace, 188th Wing emergency manager. "It was intense right off of the bat, but in the real world that is how it is. If I am called into a real world incident, I want to be proficient in my craft."

The 188th Wing members were key factors during the exercise. Rich was the lead planner and lead cadre instructor. Master Sgt. Robby McGee and Senior Airman James McFerron, 188th CES members, were Global Dragon cadre members and Tech. Sgt. Timothy Booth, bioenvironmental engineering services noncommissioned officer in charge, functioned as the radiation safety officer for the exercise.

"I think we really identified the Airmen's strengths and deficiencies," said Rich. "They know what they're good at and they found out what they are weak at and need to work on."

Wallace, Staff Sgt. David Irvine and Airman 1st Class Greggorey Brewer, 188th CES members, participated in the exercise as well. They were key members of Team Dragon, one of two teams that Global Dragon participants were placed into. For his work in the CBRN cell, Wallace garnered the CBRN Cell Operations Award.

"We do a lot of CBRN survival skills for our base populace," said Wallace. "We can use this training to help our members improve."

Plans are in place to continue participating in Global Dragon, with the next training session scheduled for 2017. Global Dragon planners are hopeful to continue hosting future deployments for training at the Guardian Centers.

"We had immense support from the Guardian Centers staff," said Rich. "It is huge to have someone who is willing to look out for your safety while doing everything they can to take care of you. We have never had this level of support and it was an awesome environment to be in."

USS Chief; Small Ship, Big Family

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Abraham Essenmacher, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea Public Affairs

CHINHAE, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- The mine countermeasure ship USS Chief (MCM 14) is 224 feet long and 39 feet wide with a crew of 94 Sailors. The ship may seem small compared to other U.S. Navy vessels. Yet rather than letting size impact their mission, these Sailors harness their tight knit command climate to achieve mission success.

"While tactically employed, the crew is in two duty sections, while conducting neutralization or sweeping operations the crew collapses to a single section, making nearly every mission that we do an all hands effort," says Lt. Cmdr. Shane Dennis, commanding officer of Chief, "It bonds this 'Band of Brothers' together in a way that I've never experienced before in the three other ships that I have served aboard."

In the times between their port and starboard watch schedule, Sailors dedicate their time to seeking out qualified crew members to earn qualifications and facilitate in-rate training.

Command Senior Chief Randy Bell said this high state of readiness directly contributes to the ship's high morale, low disciplinary problems, and safe execution of tasks as well as mission accomplishment.

"Due to the size of our ship and crew, Sailors quickly become leaders and subject matter experts in their rates at an early stage as well as pay grade," said Bell. "With every challenge and hardship we face onboard, we become a stronger team."

Between officers and chiefs, MCM-14 has 21 E-7 through O-4 Sailors, which puts nearly 20 percent of the crew in key leadership positions. The other 73 Sailors on Chief are made up of E-6 and below.

"We face many of the same challenges as other ships do. One unique issue to this small ship is the depth of bench we have to draw from, so it's important that each Sailor bring their 'A' game," said Dennis. "It's really encouraging to see what this group of 94 Sailors can do when the stakes are high, and when the challenges seem insurmountable. Their ability and willingness to come together as one ship, one mission is beyond anything I've experienced."

In the early 1980's, the Navy began developing two new classes of mine countermeasure ships including the Avenger class. There are currently eleven mine countermeasure ships in service, which are designed to clear mines from vital waterways ensuring that U.S. naval components can get into the maritime environments where they are most needed.

"If we have to go into harm's way, you have to know that the Sailor standing next to you is able to do what they're expected to do when the stakes are high," said Dennis. "We've imbued into our Sailors a sense that thousands of shipmates are waiting out in the deep water until we've cleared the way for them. This makes their purpose singularly important and that's part of what helps."

Combining the ship's overall mission with the demanding qualifications, these naval warfighters will continue to provide an overall sense of "one team, one fight" aboard their mine countermeasure asset. The 94 Sailors carrying out the strategic support of USS Chief are doing so with the support of each other.

"It's truly been an honor and privilege to serve the Sailors and their families onboard USS Chief," said Bell. "These Sailors are the hardest working bunch I have ever served with and I believe they deserve the utmost appreciation and respect for their continuous efforts aboard this arduous duty assignment."

USS Porter Departs Faslane for Joint Warrior

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ryan U. Kledzik, USS Porter Public Affairs

FASLANE, Scotland (NNS) -- Following a port visit to Faslane, Scotland, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) departed Her Majesty's Naval Base, Clyde, en route to the coastal waters off the United Kingdom to participate in Exercise Joint Warrior 15-1, April 12.

Also departing Faslane today were the guided-missile cruisers USS Anzio (CG 68) and USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), who are also participants in Joint Warrior along with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Medgar Evers (T-AKE 13).

Joint Warrior, a United Kingdom-led semi-annual multinational cooperative training exercise, is designed to provide NATO and allied forces a multiwarfare environment in which to prepare for global operations. The exercise will include air, sea and ground assets from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

"Our port visit to Faslane provided the crew a unique opportunity to build rapport with Sailors from a variety of different nations and experience the beauty that Scotland has to offer," said Command Master Chief Allen Keller, the ship's senior enlisted leader. "The crew enjoyed a well-deserved break and they were fantastic ambassadors for the U.S. Navy."

Joint Warrior is slated to last approximately two weeks. The exercise is intended to improve interoperability between allied and partner navies and prepares participants for a role in a joint maritime environment during deployments.

Upon the conclusion of JW, Porter will join Donald Cook and USS Ross (DDG 71) as the third of four guided-missile destroyers to be forward deployed to Rota, Spain.