Thursday, April 23, 2015

SFC Ron Albert: Officially the safest NCO in USARAK

by Capt. Richard Packer
2d Engineer Brigade PAO

4/23/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Sgt. 1st Class Ron Albert is the 2014 winner of the Director of Army Safety Risk Management Award.

A member of U.S. Army Alaska's 2d Engineer Brigade, Albert recently returned from deployment to Afghanistan with his brigade headquarters.
That is where he showed his safety mettle as a construction manager on Bagram Airfield.

With the assembly of more than 3,000 wooden buildings and other temporary structures over 13 years of continuous conflict, Bagram Airfield was likened to a "Frankenstein" by top commanders due to the way it had been pieced together over the course of the war.

In preparation for the Resolute Support mission and the right-sizing of International Security Assistance Forces - Afghanistan's largest base, the engineers on Bagram were under tremendous pressure to tear down wooden barracks, offices, gazebos, patios and most other wooden structures.

Everything demolished by military engineers saved America the cost of paying contractors to do the work later.

With this pressure to work swiftly came the added risk of accidents and injury.

"Engaged leaders are the key to reducing our most prevalent cause of Army mishaps - human error," said Ron Andree, the U.S. Army Alaska safety manager who deployed with the brigade and submitted Albert for the award.

This is where Albert proved his safety value and expertise.

He was responsible for overseeing site safety and adherence to standards for thousands of deconstruction projects.

He supervised the safety of vertical and horizontal deconstruction projects for five modular Army Reserve and National Guard engineer construction companies.

The main effort was deconstruction using heavy machinery and hand tools - work which is commonly associated with higher risk for personal injuries.
"On the average day we'd have approximately 22 deconstruction sites being worked by about 180 Soldiers. They were operating cranes, excavators, loaders, tractor-trailers, dump trucks; all kinds of heavy machinery," Andree said.

"They were tearing down buildings, massive tension fabric structure tents, earth-filled barriers and moving concrete T-walls and bunkers to better protect coalition forces from enemy attacks," he said.

Every project was different. Each one had to be individually evaluated for whether heavy equipment could be maneuvered through areas congested by buildings to expedite the deconstruction or whether the project would be done by hand.

"I've been in the Army for 23 years and deployed five times. I've always been around construction equipment. With these heavy machines, if Soldiers aren't careful then it's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt," Albert said. "I believe every accident is preventable. If safety is a priority, if leaders are engaged in having proper techniques and procedures in place, then any accident can be prevented."

For Albert, taking care of Soldiers is the best job in the Army.

According to his philosophy, leadership doesn't happen from behind a desk.

He said he believes if Soldiers are out working in the heat, dust and grime, then those directly responsible for their safety should be out there with them.

"Teaching and training younger NCOs is the most important part of a good safety program," Albert said. "The first-line supervisors, the leaders on the ground working beside Soldiers, they are the ones who are going to enforce standards, make sure Soldiers are wearing their protective equipment and are following the safety procedures set by commanders."

Albert has seen many Soldiers hurt throughout his career because someone cut corners by neglecting safety standards.

He said he believes in the Army's risk management program and knows it can save lives when properly applied to operations.

"Risk assessments are just a piece of paper if they aren't followed and enforced. That's how people get injured," Albert said. "I wasn't going to let that happen on my worksites. Our unit made safety a priority at every level and went the whole deployment without having any serious injuries. That's all the proof I need that risk management works."

Albert has not yet been officially presented the award. Director of Army Safety, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Farnsworth, expressed his interest in flying to Alaska to give the plaque to Albert personally.

JBER Airman named Alaska bodybuilding champion

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Wes Wright
JBER Public Affairs

4/23/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Clink, clink, clink.

Marble falls to the floor as the sound of hammer on chisel reverberates through an empty room, empty except for the artist, his tools and his masterpiece. He takes a step back to analyze his creation with critical eye. He's been working on this project for years. To the outside world, it appears flawless. To him, it's nowhere near ready. He's pressed for time. There is a showing in the next few days. This will have to do for now. He hopes it is good enough.

Such was the mindset of Airman 1st Class James Jones, 673d Communications Squadron cyber systems operator, as the days drew closer to his first ever bodybuilding contest: The 2015 National Physique Committee Alaska State Championships on April 4. He spent more than a year preparing, chiseling at his physique slowly but surely every day. Hundreds of hours in the gym, a diet that would drive many people insane and an entire lifestyle designed to push his body to its maximum potential, would be validated or destroyed by a panel of judges when all his hard work was unveiled under bright stage lights.

Cue the lights and the music. Jones went through mandatory pose after mandatory pose as his body was critiqued. A panel of judges examined his work and compared it to his competitors, looking for the slightest flaw. The result was not only a first place clear-cut victory in his middleweight class, but a landslide victory in the overall men's category, becoming the youngest person in the contest's history to win the title and only the second ever to win it in his first try.

In competitive bodybuilding, contestants' physiques are judged on size, shape, symmetry and definition. For many top-tier bodybuilders, their champion physiques are built through years, often decades, of work. Many are in their early to mid-30s. Standing 5 feet, 7 inches and weighing 165 pounds at 21 years old, Jones was just hoping for a high placing in his first-ever competition. He got that and then some.

"I hit all my mandatory poses and then we waited for the judges to tabulate their scores," Jones said. "My heart was pounding. Of course, it seems like they drag out the announcement forever. Then, I heard my name called, that was amazing! All the time and money I put into this ... it let me know everything I put into this was all worth it. It was one of the best feelings in the world."

With more than a year's worth of work culminating in a few brief moments on a stage, Jones was not without worry or retrospection. Did he do everything he could have to create the best possible version of himself?

"When I saw the other competitors, I realized many of them were a lot bigger than me," Jones said. "I was a little worried. I felt they could win on sheer size alone. However, the biggest guy can be big, but if he isn't lean it does him no good. You also have to be lean and symmetrical. I knew I had good proportion, and thankfully it resulted in a win."

Jones said when people view his contest photos, he is humbled by the praise. He is often asked "How can I look like that?" However, few people are prepared for his answer. The hundreds of hours in the gym is the easy part. The hard part comes in the thousands of hours spent outside the gym.
Bodybuilders typically structure their year in two seasons: offseason and competition or "cutting" season. The offseason is spent bulking and competition season is spent trimming down. Just as in sculpting, it is better to start with too much material than not enough.

For Jones, a typical offseason day sees him rise at 2 a.m. to drink a protein shake, before going back to bed. He sleeps until 5 a.m. Breakfast follows as soon as he awakes. It's the first of six meals, not counting his shake, which he'll eat.

"Right now, I'm eating 350 grams of protein a day and 400 to 500 carbs," Jones said. "I eat every two to three hours. That's a very difficult thing to do. You spend time preparing all that food. You spend time eating all that food. You're carrying Tupperware containers of food everywhere you go."
Jones said another common question he gets is, "Hey, what supplements do you take?"

"I don't mind sharing that with people, but even if I tell you, supplements only represent a very small percentage of what you're going to need to do to be successful. You still have to eat the right food in the right amounts to make gains in the gym."

Jones said the hardest part of bodybuilding is the long-term rigid discipline the sport demands.

"The biggest challenge is consistency," Jones said. "You have to eat your meals every day. You can't skip a meal. If you skip one, it's going to show. Starting a year out, I knew I had to get every training session and every meal in. If I lost, I didn't want it to be because of something I could have prevented through discipline."

According to Jones' coach and trainer, George Hartley, Jones' ability to discipline himself sets him apart from many competitors.

"James is driven beyond his years and has an exemplary work ethic," Hartley said. "I believe his time in the service has helped him mature in ways other men his age don't have until their thirties in the civilian world. He understands bodybuilding is a lifestyle and becoming a great bodybuilder is something that takes years of training and discipline."

Jones shared that while he is self-motivated and possesses tremendous drive, he wouldn't be able to do it without two secret weapons in his bodybuilding arsenal: his personal faith and his family life.

"One of the main reasons I was able to accomplish my goals of competing was because of my faith in God and amazing support from my wife, Emily," Jones said. "She helped me cook my meals when I was physically drained and provided constant motivation throughout the final weeks, letting me know 'It's almost over.'"

The discipline and attention to detail Jones exhibits in his personal life has a direct correlation with his workplace performance, where his leadership recognizes him as a leader among his peers.

"His level of professionalism is top-notch and unsurpassed," said Master Sgt. Aaron Hazen, 673d Communication Squadron network operations section chief. "He is one of those Airmen you can assign a task to and not have to worry or follow up. Airman Jones doesn't linger on what he can't do; he finds what he can do and runs with it. We've been able to assign him responsibilities normally reserved for noncommissioned officers. He will go far in his career and in bodybuilding if he stays the course."

Having conquered the top bodybuilding event in the state, Jones is hoping to use the momentum of his success to propel him to greater heights. He has his sights set on the 2016 Emerald Cup in Washington.

"The Alaska competition qualified me to go do this bigger show in Washington," Jones said. "If I place high enough, it will set me up to eventually earn a pro card. That would officially make me a professional and that's a big deal."

Currently, Jones is still considered a novice, having competed in a National Physique Committee event, which is considered to be the amateur league for the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness organization. The IFBB is recognized throughout the world as the premier bodybuilding organization, drawing an overwhelming majority of top-tier athletes. Winning at the Emerald Cup and a subsequent national-level competition would award Jones professional status with the IFBB.

"Once that happens, you start talking about being put in magazines, supplement and clothing line endorsements, not to mention being recognized as being in the top percentages of bodybuilders in the world," Jones said. "It would be a dream come true."

In addition to the gratification Jones receives seeing his hard work rewarded with a title, he also gets personal fulfillment from being able to positively influence people around him through bodybuilding.

"Bodybuilding opens a lot of doors," the state champion said. "I get to meet new people, make new friends and have an impact on their life. After I won this show, I had a promoter for one of the high school bodybuilding shows ask if I would come guest pose at their competition. For me, that is awesome to be able to reach out to high school kids and help motivate them to achieve their goals."

Air Force family adapts through deployments, PCS moves

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera
JBER Public Affairs

4/23/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- There are roughly 1.9 million U.S. military children worldwide who face unique challenges while their parents work to keep the mission going. Some were born into the military; some had to adapt to the life. They all silently live with their parents' decision to serve.

The Andres family faces the same challenges as any other military family has dealt with - constant moves, temporary duty (TDY), training or other aspects of military life that might mean their parent isn't always present in theirs.

Devin, now 16, was 3 years old when his father decided to join the military to provide a better future for them. He said he doesn't remember much at that age and isn't bothered by the military lifestyle.

As the eldest child of Liezl and Master Sgt. Tony Andres, 773d Civil Engineer Squadron section chief of requirements and optimization, the parents explained to Devin that his father would be gone for a while as he was gearing up for his first TDY.

Liezl was pregnant with their second child, Malia, when Tony left. Dealing with Devin and a pending birth, Tony's parents went to Kadena Air Base, Japan, to help Liezl and Devin.

"When his dad left, I noticed that he started having a temper and not wanting to do anything," Liezl said. "I was just glad my in-laws were there to help me out with Devin and Malia."

It was not long after Malia was born that Tony came back and Devin started to help out more around the house and taking the time to play with his sister.

"Devin's personality turned around when he knew his dad was home," Liezl added. "There was a time when Devin would not leave his father's side. If he didn't see Tony, he would look for him around the house."

In 2005, they welcomed their third child, Keoni, before Tony's first deployment to Afghanistan. Tony's parents returned to Kadena to help Liezl with their grandchildren.

"When Tony deployed, Devin started to isolate himself and refused to play outside with his friends. He just wanted to be in his room, not wanting to be bothered," Liezl said.

"Malia was just an emotional wreck. Every time she remembered her dad, she would ask where he was and would start crying because he was not home. Keoni was just a baby, so he never went through that phase."

Though Liezl tried to get the children involved in base events, deployed spouses dinners or a family night at Tony's squadron, she said it was not the same without him, but their family tried to make it work.

Now, their children are older and have a better understanding of the military and their father's frequent absences, they are better able to handle the stress and support each other, Liezl said.

"It doesn't bother me now, because I got used to him leaving," Devin said. "[When he is gone] we try to communicate with him as much as we can through Skype."

The Andres children said they adjust easily when their father is out the door and normally fall into a routine.

"I consider myself the 'fake dad'," Devin added. "When he leaves, I make sure that my brother and sister do their homework. Once in a while, I try to cook for them because mom can get a little stressed out when he is gone."

As the children bantered back and forth, Malia and Keoni agreed Devin's cooking is not as good as their dad's.

"My dad makes good steak," Keoni, age 8, said.

Malia said she misses seeing her dad's shiny bald head around the house when he is gone.

"Sometimes, I envy kids who don't have to say good bye to their dad all the time," Devin said. "Even though he tries to be there as much as he can, I miss that constant father figure."

They are not only used to their dad leaving, but they are used to leaving themselves. The Andres family has moved four times thus far.

"I miss trying out different food," Keoni said.

The children all agree they enjoy traveling, but hate saying good bye to their friends.

"Sometimes it's hard, because when you move, you're the new kid on the block," Keoni said.

Tony, who was also a military child, said moving is never easy. However, the communication and transitioning to a new location is a lot better than when he went through it with his parents.

"Believe it or not, I used to write letters to my friends in Hawaii and Japan," Tony said while looking at his children.

"There was no social media or webcam chat back then, so I wrote letters. It might have taken a while, but it allowed me to convey the message with my own personal touch."

Regardless if it was Tony or his family enduring another move or deployments, one thing they will always have is each other, even if it has to be long distance. They each play a part in serving their country.

US begins Icelandic Air Surveillance and Policing 2015

by Staff Sgt. Chad Warren
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/23/2015 - KEFLAVIK, Iceland -- The 871st Air Expeditionary Squadron began the Icelandic Air Surveillance and Policing mission Friday, April 17 at Keflavik International Airport, Iceland.

Part of an ongoing NATO commitment in the region, IAS is a recurring mission designed to help keep Icelandic airspace safe and secure.

Since 2008, Keflavik has hosted NATO partner nation aircraft in support of this mission. Iceland does not maintain its own military force, so the U.S. and other NATO allies periodically rotate through Keflavik to maintain the integrity and security of Iceland's airspace.

"We've been honoring these commitments with our partners here in Iceland for a long time," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Stratton, commander of the 871st Air Expeditionary Squadron. "It's an extremely important relationship, an extremely important partnership and a very, very important mission we do. I trust we will continue to do it extremely well."

Personnel and equipment deployed in support of IAS include four F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, a KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall and approximately 200 U.S Airmen from various bases throughout the European region

One IG, two AMC-level wins

by Airman 1st Class Tara Fadenrecht
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

4/22/2015 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Recently, the 22nd Air Refueling Wing's Inspector General Office brought home two 2014 Air Mobility Command-level awards.

The Maj. Gen. Junius W. Jones IG Award recognizes the outstanding commander's inspection program whose performance is proactive as well as above and beyond the completion of day-to-day mission requirements.

The Lt. Gen. John P. Flynn IG Award recognizes the IG complaints resolution program office that best embodies the six fundamental characteristics of Flynn's leadership model: integrity, justice, compassion, loyalty, courage and spirit.

The IG team attributes much of its success to the continuous support they've received throughout the year.

"This program wouldn't be what it is without the support of the entire wing," said Lt. Col. Dan Haman, 22nd ARW IG. "When we have large scale exercises the team that goes out there and notes what and how we're doing comes from the entire wing populace."

Even after two big wins, the team plans to continue practicing excellence in their daily tasks.

"We're looking to make an impact on training by training Airmen and civilians on what we do and on their rights and responsibilities," said Randy Cowell, ARW director of complaints resolution. "When Airmen come in with issues, our key focus is to take those off their shoulders so they can focus on the mission."

The Air Force-level winners for these awards will be announced in May.

NTTR supports first F-35B integration into USMC's weapons school exercise

by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

4/22/2015 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- The Nevada Test and Training Range was part of history April 21, when four U.S. Marine Corps-assigned F-35B Lightning IIs participated in its first Marine Corps' Final Exercise of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course on the NTTR's ranges.

The Final Exercise, or FINEX, is the capstone event to the U.S. Marine Corps Marine Aviation Weapons Tactics Squadron 1's seven-week WTI course and is a semi-annual, large-force employment exercise held throughout the NTTR.

This particular evolution of FINEX employed the F-35Bs as part of the "Blue" strike package whose objective was to degrade, depress and destroy integrated air defense systems and other ground targets on the NTTR, which were guarded by "Red" adversary aircraft from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, and Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Geoff Franks, MAWTS-1 weapons school instructor and F-18 Hornet instructor pilot, explained the importance of integrating the F-35B into exercises like FINEX and the role the Air Force has played in helping MAWTS-1 generate tactics, techniques and procedures for Marine pilots of the fifth-generation aircraft.

"What we've done is we've leveraged the Air Force heavily because the Air Force is way ahead of the game in terms of fourth to fifth integration -- integrating fourth-gen assets like the F-15 (Eagle) with fifth-gen assets like the F-22 (Raptor)," Franks said. "Now as the F-35 has come along, which for the Marine Corps the F-35 is going to (initial operational capability) around July, we need to be postured to teach tactics to the F-18 community so the Marine F-18 fleet will be able to start integrating with the F-35s.

"In order to do that, we have leveraged heavily the proven, published TTPs that the Air Force has been using for about a decade," Franks continued. "One of the limiting factors of fifth-gen assets is they can't carry as much ordnance (as fourth-gen assets), so if you can maximize the lethality of fifth-gen assets using fourth-gen, we will become a very lethal and survivable force."

Franks also explained why MAWTS-1 WTI cadre love exercises on the NTTR.

"We do it on the NTTR because of the unique nature of what we can do there -- the NTTR offers a unique opportunity for students, and the F-35, to operate in a heavily-contested environment," Franks said. "I will always bring in U.S. Air Force assets because it further increases our learning for our students. If they learn to (operate in) that heavily contested, very difficult mission set like what we can provide them in the NTTR, they see the benefit."

U.S. Air Force Col. Thomas E. Dempsey III, NTTR commander, said the NTTR offers users more than just its 2.9 million acres of land and 5,000 square miles of airspace.

"The NTTR ties all domains -- air, space and cyber -- into operational realistic training and readiness, so the Marines choose this as their battle space for their graduate-level graduation exercise because we, in an operationally-integrated mentality, offer the best battle space to get at the systems and the complexities that the F-35 brings," Dempsey said. "That's the thing about the NTTR that sets us apart from everybody else is not just the physical land space, but the systems that we can challenge aircrews with. We offer the most comprehensive environment for warfighter realism training."

In addition to the Marine Corps' semi-annual, large-force employment exercises, Martin Blount, NTTR project manager, said the NTTR supports another 8-10 Marine Corps training entities on the range per year, including the U.S. Marine Corps Program Office, which conducts shelf-life testing of munitions.

Face of Defense: Adaptive Sports Help Soldier Conquer Illness

By Shannon Collins
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

EL PASO, Texas, April 23, 2015 – As the crowd applauded, the veteran dipped his head to receive his first gold medal, his eyes holding back tears, a slow grin creeping onto his face. Somebody yelled, “Hold hands,” and he grabbed the hands of his fellow athletes and raised them in the air, celebrating his victory in rifle shooting with his fellow wounded warriors at the Army Trials here earlier this month.

“I won a gold medal,” said Army Staff Sgt. Cory Davis, still in shock. “I didn’t expect to win. They were cheering my name. It was the first time I ever won a gold medal. Now I have something I can take back to my kids.”

While growing up in San Diego, Davis said, he always wanted to work on helicopters, and the Army gave him that chance. He enlisted in the active duty Army for nine years, took a break, and then became an avionics mechanic National Guard technician with the 1107th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group in Springfield, Missouri. He’s worked on helicopters for 15 years now, and said he loves it.

An Emotional Year

For Davis, this last year has been an emotional one.

During a deployment to Afghanistan in April 2014, Davis hurt his ankle and lost control of his right arm. He said the doctors thought it was the ulna nerve, and he was flown to Germany and then back to the United States. After performing several tests, the doctors realized he had Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement.

Davis said it’s unusual for a 45-year-old to have the disease and that the diagnosis took him by surprise. But his wife, Dawn, has helped him through the stages of acknowledging and acceptance of having a disease, he said.

“It took me back a little bit, and now I’m just trying to live with the not knowing what’s next,” he added. “But Dawn, she’s my resource, my rock. She pushes me to compete. She continues to challenge me. She’s the one who’s accepted the diagnosis. She’s my biggest supporter.”

Davis met his wife, a fellow National Guardsman, a few weeks before they deployed together to Afghanistan in 2010.

“But we fell in love with each other during the deployment and got married six months after we got back,” Davis said with a smile. They were deployed for almost a year. He and Dawn have two daughters, Ashley and Sydney, two step-children, Trenton and Whitney, and four grandchildren, Hayden, Autumn, Kinley and Brooklynn. Dawn has been in the National Guard for six years and is a human resources administrator.

Tenacity and Perseverance

Dawn said her husband is her hero.

“Before my husband was deployed, he was a strong and healthy man. He came home with a life-altering condition with no cure,” she said. “He has put forward great tenacity and perseverance in overcoming the symptoms he encounters each day. This makes me place him higher on the pedestal I thought he could never rise higher from.

“He is my hero, and I am filled with pride when he approaches each obstacle he faces every day,” she continued. “His constant attitude of not giving up makes me so very proud and happy he is not allowing a terrible disease to control his life.”

While Davis was recovering at the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, his wife, along with Army Trials athlete Sgt. 1st Class Sam Goldenstein, the adaptive sports site coordinator there, encouraged him to give adaptive sports a try.

“I had been spending time in my room doing nothing, getting pretty depressed,” Davis said. “Sam comes in and said, ‘Cory, what do you want do? We’ve got archery, shooting, this, this and this.’ She’s been great. She motivated me and inspired me to do more. She’s even got me and my wife going to a tennis camp. Every time I see her, I just smile, because I know it’s because of her and my wife that I’m here at the Army Trials.”

Goldenstein said she takes strength from Davis as well.

Always Helping Out

“I wish all my soldiers were like him,” said Goldenstein, an Army reservist from the 325th Combat Support Hospital in Independence, Missouri. “From Day One, he was like, ‘I’m going to come out and support your program.’ He’s always there helping out, helping others. I’ve seen how the adaptive sports help him as well. I’ve sat there at regionals, and I’ve seen him keep his composure, keep control of his motor functions. It’s so amazing to see. I was a proud mama there. I was proud to see him doing it again at the Army Trials. This is huge for him. He’s come a long way.

“It’s been because of competitions like this,” she added. “It’s taught him, ‘Hey, I have to stay calm. I have to focus on this. I can’t let my injuries distract me or take over. It’s been beneficial for him in numerous ways physically and mentally, and he’s helped recruit other people. He feels like he’s [a noncommissioned officer] again. He’s also taken the lead back home with helping train others. He’s a great mentor.”

Davis’s competitions began when Goldenstein put together a team to compete in the Veterans Affairs Valor Games in San Antonio in October, where Davis won two bronze medals for shooting the air rifle. He then went to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada in March and won a silver medal in shooting the air rifle and a bronze medal for sitting volleyball.

Army Trials

During the Army Trials, he got into the finals in men’s compound archery, and his sitting volleyball team also did well. He earned a gold medal in the men’s standing rifle, and his shooting scores were some of the highest shooting scores of the day.

Competitors who make the Army team will compete in the Defense Department’s Warrior Games at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, June 19-28. Wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans from the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard will compete, as well as athletes from Special Operations Command, and a team from the British military.

The athletes will compete in track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball events.

Idaho Airman receives Air Force safety award for innovation

by Tech. Sgt.Joshua C. Allmaras
124th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/21/2015 - GOWEN FIELD, Idaho -- An armament systems specialist with the 124th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Weapons Load Shop here was presented with a Ground Safety Well Done Award April 12 for researching and developing a storage system for the squadron's Triple Ejection Racks.

Master Sgt. Marshall J. Daniell's TERs storage system improved safety, reduced work hours and decreased the required storage footprint for the weapons warehouse

"It was a great honor for me to be here to present an Air Force level award to one of the 124th Fighter Wing Airmen," said Col. Edward Vaughan, director of safety for the Air National Guard. "Air National Guard Airmen, on a daily basis, are innovating to get the mission done and to make the mission move forward. Sergeant Daniell is just the tip of the iceberg for this."

The TERs system saved the wing 423 lost work hours resulting in $113,000 in savings, a decrease in injuries and reduced the storage floor space from 160 to 39 square feet.

Receiving an award can be a humbling experience.

"This was a national safety award, which was kind of surprising," said Daniell. "It's embarrassing to get an award for something that a lot of other people were involved with. It was a real honor to be recognized."

"Sergeant Daniell not only solved the problem with an occupational, health and safety hazard, but he went one step further to actually reduce the footprint and floor space requirement at the same time," said Vaughn.

"Leading innovation out in front of everybody is one of the core competencies of the Air National Guard," said Vaughn. "We've got people out there that bring an amazing amount of talent, experience, education and skills to the joint fight that you absolutely need to be successful in today's national security environment."

Recognizing Airmen is one of the things the Air National Guard strives to do and Sergeant Daniell's award and innovation is one example.

Daniell understands how important every Airman's ideas are.

"Don't minimize your own ideas or efforts because it might impact a lot more people than you think," said Daniell.

Medal of Honor recipient speaks to Team McConnell

by Staff Sgt. Rachel Waller
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

4/23/2015 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan.  -- The first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War shared his story with Team McConnell members, April 21.

"Today, we have the great privilege of listening to [Army] Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta, the eighth Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts," said U.S. Air Force Col. Albert Miller, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander. "This is truly an honor."

Giunta spoke to more than 200 Airmen, civilians and family members. His message - to thank the service members for all they do.

"This has been a very interesting journey for me, and it has nothing to do with me or is about me whatsoever. It's always been about us," emphasized Giunta. "For you in the service, I think you forget how important you truly are, because for you it's another day of going to work, but for me, it's maintaining my freedom."

Giunta joined the Army in November 2003, at just 18 years old.

After completing basic combat training and airborne assault school, Giunta was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment Vicenza, Italy. Soon after Giunta arrived, his unit deployed to Afghanistan for 12 months.

Giunta explained to the audience that due to his unit's mission of movement to contact, where the Soldiers would wait for an enemy combatant to attack and then they would return fire and neutralize the threat, they were under fire almost every day.

"One of the first things I learned was that we as Americans, do not fight because we hate what lies in front of us, we don't hate the enemy, we fight because we love what we have at home," said Giunta about his mission. "We love our freedoms, our privileges, our American way of life. That is why we fight."

Fast forward to Oct. 25, 2007, Giunta is about six months into his second deployment when his team was ambushed in the Korengal Valley in northeastern Afghanistan. During the ambush, Giunta saw two people carrying someone away by his arms and feet.

Giunta said he eventually realized it was two enemies carrying away a Soldier.

"I did exactly, nothing more, nothing above and beyond, just exactly what my job description said, 'Enclose with the enemies of the United States of America in close combat,'" said Giunta. "I did exactly what my job description said, I enclosed the enemy, destroyed the enemy and grabbed my buddy and took off in the direction I came from."

On Nov. 16, 2010, Giunta received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the ambush.

Giunta says his life has changed drastically since he received the Medal of Honor.

"I've always been one of many but this medal singled me out and put the heaviest responsibility I've felt in my entire life on my shoulders," said Giunta. "I realized what this actually meant, who I was representing and I had to step my game up."

Giunta explained that he didn't feel like he was good enough to represent the men and women of the Armed Forces.

"They are bigger, they are faster, they are stronger, they are smarter, they care more and if I had to be their voice, I had to fly a little straighter," said Giunta. "I represent the best of the best."

Hearing Giunta's story and experiences left remarkable impressions on Team McConnell Airmen.

"I felt like I was there with him as he told his story," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jacquelyn Yenser, 22nd ARW wing administrator. "He was very humble and confident as he told his story."

Giunta stressed that the accolades he has received aren't for him, but for his brothers and sisters in arms.

"On November 16, I stood at the White House to receive this medal, but it's not mine," said the humble Soldier. "This medal is for you guys. You guys take care of the hard stuff. This is for all of you who have done the most amazing and heroic incredible courageous things. Remember what you do matters so much, to people like me, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Before leaving, Giunta challenged Team McConnell to give 100 percent.

"I challenge you not to give just 100 percent today but give 100 percent tomorrow, give 100 percent until your very last breath," he said. "That's a challenge and every day won't be the best day and that's okay. God willing, tomorrow the sun will rise and we'll get a whole another chance to start all over again and we'll have the awesome opportunity to try again."

COMACC: ACC must set priorities, be innovative

by Delanie Stafford
55th Wing Public Affairs

4/23/2015 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- U.S. Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, visited here April 20-21 to see the mission firsthand and meet with Airmen at several locations around the base.

During the visit, Carlisle held a commander's call to hear Team Offutt's issues and provide his perspective on the command's priorities:  provide for today, prepare for the future, and take care of Airmen and their families.

"We have to set priorities and we have to determine what we can't do anymore," Carlisle said. "We have to figure out better ways to do things, and I've seen great examples here in the Fightin' Fifty-Fifth. It's incredibly impressive; you look at the maintenance organizations and how they're taking care of these airplanes. I just toured a [1964] model, [RC-135 Rivet Joint] - a 51-year-old airplane."

In addition to the fiscal constraints and manning issues affecting the Air Force, Carlisle spoke about sexual assault and suicide. He said the efforts of all Airmen are needed to address these issues.

"It's taking care of one another," Carlisle said. "It's having the courage when something looks like it is going bad to step in and stop it. It's having the courage to have conversations and ask people how they're doing - to notice when somebody is having a hard time."

Gen. Carlisle presented his priorities to members of Team Offutt inside an aircraft hangar at the Bennie Davis maintenance facility where attendance was estimated at nearly 1,000 people. Carlisle concluded his remarks by praising Airmen for the important work they do.

"You do a mission that is just incredible to the success of our nation," Carlisle said. "We are a service born out of technology; you have taken that technology to the next level in how we fight."

During his visit, Carlisle toured 55th wing facilities including the 55th Intelligence Support Squadron, the Strategic Automated Command and Control center, the Language Learning Center and the historical Martin Bomber Building where he received mission briefings and met with Airmen. He also joined company grade officers for lunch and visited an RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft.

Carlisle is a command pilot with more than 3,600 flying hours. Prior to assuming his current position, he was the commander of Pacific Air Forces.

Carl Vinson Hosts India, Sri Lanka Distinguished Visitors

From Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group Public Affairs

USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70), At sea (NNS) -- Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 hosted distinguished visitors from India and Sri Lanka on April 17 and 19 respectively.

Included among the visitors were U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma, Commander of the Sri Lankan Navy Vice Adm. Jayantha Perera, Sri Lanka's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera, and Sri Lanka's State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardane.

"This was amazing and an extraordinary opportunity for us to see first hand the enormity and complex set of flight operations," said Samaraweera. "This is something we have only seen in films before."

The guests were sponsored by U.S. 7th Fleet and embarked Carl Vinson to get a better understanding of U.S. aircraft carrier operations at sea.

While on board Carl Vinson, they were able to view flight operations and tour various parts of the ship while interacting with Sailors.

"Visits like these are impressive and incredibly informative," said Andrew Mann, charge d' affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka. "It really helped our Sri Lankan Navy counterparts understand the power that this aircraft carrier can project and what it is able to achieve."

Carl Vinson deployed from San Diego in August of 2014 and is currently operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the region.