Military News

Friday, April 24, 2015

Face of Defense: Aircraft Maintainer Saves Air Force $5 Million



By By Air Force Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle
99th Air Base Wing

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev., April 24, 2015 – Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dennis Hertlein is an avionics, electro-environmental and propulsions systems expert. But he’s not your average specialist flight expediter -- his expertise has saved the Air Force $5 million.

Hertlein, assigned to the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, worked with teams to complete modifications and upgrades to Nellis Air Force Base’s F-16 fleet locally, rather than having to send them to a depot. The idea decreases costs and increases aircraft availability.

Specifically, he helped upgrade five F-16s with an advanced electronic countermeasure system. Hertlein also aided in developing the Tulsa [Oklahoma] Air National Guard [Base’s] identification friend-or-foe system upgrades and helped identify an engineering error during electronic warfare management system modifications on 22 Ohio Air National Guard F-16s.

“I went TDY out to Toledo, Ohio, to see how the Ohio Air National Guard performed their upgrades and use the lessons learned for out upgrades here,” Hertlein explained. “The Tulsa ANG came here TDY to assist us with our upgrades. We worked with their personnel to ensure that our modifications went smoothly.”

Attention to Detail

After the upgrade, there are still three separate systems -- threat warning, jamming and electronic countermeasures -- but now have one centralized control. Hertlein said threat detection was increased by 80 percent, due to the easier user interface of the centralized control.

“We worked hand-in-hand with engineers from Hill Air Force Base [Utah] while modifying the jets,” Hertlein said. “While going over wiring schematics, we noticed that two wires were going to interfere with an upcoming upgrade, and it needed to get sorted out.”

Hertlein’s attention to detail prevented future system failures stemming from the interference caused by the wires.

Hertlein insists he was just doing his job.

“The upgrades come in a packet that tells us what to do,” he said. “The engineers will do it on one jet, [and] then they give us instructions on how to do it. A lot of it is just learned over time through experience and working with it constantly.”

Technical Expertise

Hertlein’s former supervisor, Air Force Master Sgt. Maximilliano Heredia, said he was impressed by Hertlein’s meticulous work ethic.

“He didn’t need too much encouragement,” Heredia said of Hertlein. “You have to know your people’s strengths and weaknesses. I knew he would be perfect for the job. The entire documentation of the modification was error-free, from aircraft forms to the maintenance databases.

“He’s a hard-driven NCO who drives his airmen as hard as he drives himself to get the mission done,” Heredia continued. “His attention to detail and technical expertise is what sets him apart from his peers.”

Heredia also said he encourages airmen with potentially great ideas to not be afraid to come forward with them and to chase their ideas down, just as Hertlein has done.

AF Aid Society helps Airman overcome

by 1st Lt Alicia Wallace
45th Space Wing


4/24/2015 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Staff Sgt. Kevin Waters, 45th Civil Engineer fuels and water maintenance technician, was faced with a difficult situation that anyone could find themselves in just this past year.

He was returning to Florida after a family vacation in Texas with his wife, his 3-year-old and 8-month-old sons.
"We generally only plan a vacation financially for once a year," said Waters. "One week after returning to the base, we were notified that my wife's mother had passed away."

Waters' mother-in-law had been battling a few terminal medical conditions for the past five years, and every year they had made an effort to visit her when they took their family vacations to Texas. Waters and his wife have known each other since grade school, and the loss of his mother-in-law hit him hard.

"This past year, we weren't able to see her due to a scheduling conflict; and when we heard the news, I knew I would be taking my entire family back to Texas so we could do a ceremony," he said.

Waters immediately started researching options to pay for the trip back to Texas as well as seek out ways to pay for his wife's sibling's travel fees to attend the ceremony from Wisconsin and California.

"I considered the Falcon Loan, but I was doing my best not to accrue more debt. The Air Force Aid Society gave me a grant. It helped relieve so much of stress I was already feeling," said Waters.

The Air Force Aid Society, one of the programs sponsored by Air Force Assistance Fund, paid for Water's travel, food and lodging fees. Additionally, the first sergeant's council provided financial assistance and his squadron put together a money pool.
"If anyone is ever in the same situation I was in, I recommend they take the same steps. They should notify their shop lead, superintendent or rater, and then speak with their first sergeant. The first sergeant has a list of agencies that are able to assist you," said Waters.

The Air Force Aid Society provides emergency assistance as well as educational grants and programs that support spouses and provide childcare. All active duty and retired military Air Force, Air Nation Guard and Reserve on extended active duty orders over 15 days, and spouses and dependent age children of deceased Air Force personnel are eligible. Airmen and eligible family members may apply online or in person at the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

"I am so grateful for all the support I received from AF Aid Society and the 45th Civil Engineer Squadron. I don't think I could have made it through this hard time without them," he said.

Always Ready

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


4/21/2015 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The 5th Bomb Wing's mission of nuclear deterrence is fundamentally built on readiness -- the capability to deploy assets quickly and effectively if the need arises. One means of measuring the wing's readiness is the on-time takeoff rate.

"In March, our on-time takeoff rate was 85 percent," said Capt. Michael Taddy, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer. "That's the kind of rate that we expect to see in the summer months. Common sense can tell you that this job is much harder when it's cold, so those numbers in winter are really strong."

Readiness is only achievable through the efforts of dozens of units, and effective synergy between those units is key to good exceptional performance.

"You hear stories about disagreements and people not talking to each other, but you don't have that here at Minot," said Maj. Thomas Witkowski, 23rd Bomb Squadron assistant director of operations. "People get each other what they need."

"This is one of the best working relationships that I've seen between maintenance and operations," Taddy said. "And it doesn't stop there. Flyers and maintainers, the Logistics Readiness Squadron, fuels - different units and squadrons, one team. People work together."

He also credits the wing's Flying Hour Program with helping to optimize operations.

"We changed our schedule a little bit," Taddy said. "Allowing us to get to the jets sooner and have them ready for the next sortie."

One key to great performance in winter is working around the environment, or if circumstances demand it, falling back on raw fortitude.

"There are times when we have to deal with the elements," said Master Sgt. Joel Hoeffner, 5th Munitions Squadron armament flight chief. "That can be challenging sometimes with older equipment, but our Airmen are dedicated, and they always persevere regardless."

"There are certain thresholds of cold that can affect our ability to do our job," Taddy said. "If you can't have your hands on the aircraft, you can't fix the aircraft. We've been able to overcome that. It takes a certain caliber of Airman to be out there in negative 32 degrees."

The theater of nuclear deterrence is an intrinsically high-stakes environment; the driving force that motivates the 5th is the gravity of the mission.

"Without the deterrent mission, the world would be a much more dangerous place," Witkowski said. "We're here to keep us or anyone else from having to employ these weapons. If the day does come, then nothing's more important than being prepared."

Recent months have shown that the wing's evolving strategy of readiness is working, measured by dropping attrition rates. Attrition is the result of unforeseen circumstances that can reduce the number of sorties flown.

"In February it was 5.1 percent attrition," Taddy said. "Historically it's around 17 percent. We're much more focused and efficient."

Witkowski believes mission performance comes from healthy and positive units.

"We have a really good set of commanders," he said. "And they're creating a tremendous environment. It feels like a good place to be."

Taddy credits the efforts of the men and women doing the job, regardless of the weather.

"Number one is always the people," he said. "That's always going to be number one."

Troops conduct biannual 'ammo barge' mission

by Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson
JBER Public Affairs


4/23/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Twice a year, millions of pounds of explosives and ammunition travel north through Pacific waters in a biannual migration designed to resupply military installations across Alaska.

"The ammo barge" is the casual term for it; but there is nothing lackadaisical about the attitudes of the service members in charge of making this operation happen.
"It supplies all the munitions from the pistols the gate guards use at the gates to the precision-guided missiles the F-22's fly around with," said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Dunlavey, a munitions stock control manager with the 477th Maintenance Squadron.

They are equipping a state larger than most countries, and more than twice the size of Texas, with enough ammunition to defend its soil and its citizens. What's more, they only have two shots a year to do it.

This year, the ammunition shipment began arriving April 15. Nine trucks toting 21 containers of ammunition - weighing between 20,000 and 40,000 pounds - will arrive on base, said Tech. Sgt. Jessica Evenson, noncommissioned officer in charge of munitions accountability for the 3rd Munitions Squadron.

The operation also supplies Fort Richardson, Fort Wainwright, Eielson Air Force Base, and Air Station Kodiak with the munitions they need; more than 200 containers total.

The force driving the logistical muscle needed to resupply units with this much ammo is actually quite small - the expenditure report.

"Expenditure reports come from each individual unit that uses them around base," said Dunlavey. "As soon as they expend munitions, they have two days to get with us to show exactly how much they [used]."

Based on those expenditure reports, allocations are set up for the various units around base, Evenson said.

"We check all of our accounts and see what their allocations are for the next two to three fiscal years," Evenson said. "We compare that with their past expenditure rates. If they've only expended 30 percent, then we won't order as much, since we can support the mission with our assets on hand."

"We work with units all over base to make sure the assets they have recorded are still correct," Evenson said.

Dunlavey, Evenson and their colleagues amass these reports over the years, and when it comes time to order a new ammunition shipment, they track how much each unit has actually expended over a five-year period before placing their order.

"The barge is a bit larger this year than it has been in the past, because we are not only receiving new ammunition," Evenson said. "We are also exporting any unserviceable assets we have taking up room in our stockpile."

Many of the assets on the C-17 Globemaster IIIs and F-22 Raptors can expire.

When they do, new assets are provided, and the expired ones are sent to facilities in the Lower 48 to be refurbished or disposed of properly, Evenson said.

"We have three [shipping containers] worth of outbound munitions this time," Evenson said. "That was several munitions shipments we needed to send through the transportation management office channels so they could accomplish their mission before the munitions leave this base."

"It's always tense when you get a lot of units together like this," Dunlavey said. "It's always a big deal; the wing commander knows about it, so we always have a lot of visitors.

"But it's our time to shine."

When the barge arrives in port at Valdez, the containers are offloaded and shipped to either JBER or Eielson Air Force Base.

Upon arriving at the destination base, the trucks are checked in by security forces, transportation management, and munitions personnel.

"When they pull up to the gate, we have accountability Airmen and transportation management Airmen waiting with security forces," Dunlavey said. "TMO has to inspect the seals on the containers to make sure there's been no tampering with the trucks."

Then the trucks are escorted to the bomb dump and unloaded by contracted forklift operators as Airmen congregate at a safe distance, waiting to open the containers.

"Then our munitions inspection personnel take over and they rip out the innards of the [container]," Dunlavey said. "Such as high explosive bombs, egress items, small arms, flares, etc."

The group of Airmen standing by with bolt cutters, power tools, and crowbars is suddenly gone, replaced by the sound of creaking seals, cracking wood, and the clamor of forklifts.

"Then they are inspected, and if they pass," Dunlavey said. "They are stored [for] all of our accounts on base to use."

Behind every bomb, every rifle, and every detonator, there is a munitions person; there's no such thing as a one-click purchase when dealing with high explosives.

"It doesn't matter how many guns or how much aircraft we have on base," Evenson said. "If we don't have any munitions, nobody is going to be able to accomplish their mission."

Last MC-130P Combat Shadows in Pacific retire

by Airman 1st Class Stephen G. Eigel
18th Wing Public Affairs


4/22/2015 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan  -- The 17th Special Operations Squadron sent off the final two MC-130P Combat Shadows in the Pacific Air Forces to retire April 15 here.

The 17th SOS highlighted the beginning of the MC-130P Combat Shadow retirement with one final formation flight on Oct. 16, 2014 at Kadena but now they have sent their last ones to the "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.

"Today is bittersweet as we say goodbye to these amazing aircraft," said Lt. Col. Nathan T. Colunga, 17th Special Operations Squadron navigator and commander. "I have spent less time in the MC-130P than most, only 11 years, but these aircraft have executed every time we've truly needed them to over the last 50.  The MC-130P's legacy will not be forgotten as we mark this historic moment in the lineage of the 17th SOS, Air Force Special Operations Command and the Combat Shadow community at large."

The Pacific-based Combat Shadows alone have supported more than a dozen named operations. From combat missions in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom to humanitarian assistance disaster relief operations across Asia, the Combat Shadow left its mark in special operations history.

"I have flown in the MC-130P since 2000, and it has taken me to all corners of the globe in peacetime and in combat," said Maj. Curtis P. Reinhart, 17th SOS navigator. "The Combat Shadow has been the workhorse of AFSOC and it will be emotional flying it to its final resting place.  I'll be sad to see it go, but it has earned a well-deserved retirement."

From providing helicopter air-to-air refueling to conducting long-range support of Special Operations Forces, the MC-130P Combat Shadow has provided a critical service to the U.S. military for nearly 50 years.

The MC-130P Combat Shadows built with 1960s technology are being replaced by the new MC-130J Commando II with cutting edge technology.

Drinks, dialogue: Encouraging respect through discussion

by Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


4/23/2015 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- More than 50 Airmen attended Drinks and Dialogue, an open forum aimed at encouraging honest communication and respect amongst Wolf Pack members here April 18.

Created and hosted by Staff Sgt. Brandi Howard, 8th Medical Operations Squadron ambulance services technician, the quarterly event provides Airmen an opportunity to give feedback in a retribution-free environment, covering a wide range of topics including sexual assault, domestic abuse, relationships and culture.

"I wanted to break down the barriers of conversation by having a guided discussion to help foster a more respectful environment," Howard said. "Having events like this benefits us at Kunsan because we're in such a small environment here, and yet we still don't really talk. We may converse with our friends and our coworkers, but sometimes it's hard to be honest with the people we're closest with."

Tech. Sgt. Daniel Johnson, 8th Medical Support Squadron Tricare operations and patient administration flight chief and Drinks and Dialogue co-host, said many Airmen at Kunsan can benefit from attending events that value and encourage sincere feedback and interaction amongst attendees.

"There will always be differences, but it's important to address different issues and listen to one another without judgment because we can utilize these skills in and outside of work," Johnson said. "This specially applies to Airmen of the Wolf Pack as we are all in a foreign country with a different culture than what we're used to."

In observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, the candid forum was also an opportunity for the Kunsan Sexual Assault Theater Group to promote awareness and prevention through acted-out skits demonstrating realistic scenarios, including domestic abuse involving a married couple, sexual assault involving alcohol and work-place sexual assault.

"This voluntary event asks people to talk about things most people aren't comfortable talking about in a formal setting," said Capt. Claudia Santos, 8th Fighter Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. "Here, Airmen have the chance to discuss topics that are in the back of their minds, but are rarely addressed directly, as well as see and react to existing issues involving sexual assault and domestic abuse as acted out by the Kunsan Sexual Assault Theater Group."

Aimed at not only demonstrating how assaults can occur, but also eliciting emotions from the crowd, the performances tied into additional discussions on personal relationships at home and in the work place.

"Being open with each other and having conversations like this is crucial in creating a climate of dignity and respect, whether it be here at Kunsan or within society at large," said 1st Lt. Earon Brown, 8th Fighter Wing deputy chief of public affairs and alternate SARC. "We're all different people with different backgrounds, and bringing everything to the table is another way we can address beliefs and perceptions that can lead to misunderstandings, abuse or sexual assault. At the end of the day, talking honestly with one another can go a long way."