Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Flight doctors: Keeping RED FLAG flying, off the table

by Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/5/2015 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska  -- An interesting day for them is a bad day for someone else, explained the flight doctor for RED FLAG-Alaska 15-2 when talking about the medical team tasked with the daily health and wellbeing of exercise participants.

Any time a patient is in a jet and not in his office Maj. David Leavy, 13th Fighter Squadron flight surgeon, and his Independent Duty Medical Technician Staff Sgt. Terrence Kneapler have done their duty and kept the mission moving.

"Our job is to keep our aviators and patients on special duty status in top health so they can do their job in a safe manner or get back to duty if there is a problem which needs attention," Leavy said.

Because of the influx of units visiting Eielson to participate in the contingency training, participating units send small teams of medical professionals to expedite issues without creating an immense workload for the 354th Fighter Wing, which hosts the exercise.

Although the reduced workload for resident medical teams is a large reason for the extra health workers, Leavy and Kneapler also bring a medical tool to the table that doesn't come in a book or sterilized package.

"We hold a professional relationship with each of our flyers," Leavy said. "We are not just the doctor and IDMT, we are part of the group. The pilots need to trust us and we need to trust them to be forthcoming and open to care. Knowing each individual and having a personal rapport with them is paramount to our mission."

If an Airman on special duty status uses a medical facility outside of flight qualified medical staff they are unable to continue with duty, such as flying, until cleared through a flight doctor; in this instance Leavy.

"We specialize in medicines that could affect flying and special duty along with what it takes a person to operate in the flying environment," he said.

For this team, RF-A is an additional training opportunity away from its home station at Misawa Air Base, Japan, to prepare its members in case of deployments or humanitarian aid opportunities.

"With the operating tempo here, you get a glimpse of what you will handle in a deployed environment," said Kneapler. "We have been deployed together in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and other operations. Although real-life deployments can become very busy compared to this, those are the times when training like this matters so much for us and the professionals we care for."

As the Pacific Air Forces flight surgeon of the year, Leavy has proven the technical expertise required to bring medical professionalism to the fight.

"Just one missed issue or lack of attention to detail could be disastrous not just for a member on special duty status, but it could cause loss of life or injury to the people around them," Leavy said. "We take pride in the mission and our guys to ensure something like that won't happen."

PAF marks milestone, integrates with U.S. Air Force AWACS crew

by Staff Sgt. Maeson L. Elleman
18th Wing Public Affairs

5/5/2015 - CLARK AIR BASE, Philippines -- For the first time in Philippine Air Force history, PAF air battle managers controlled aircraft while airborne by integrating with the U.S. Air Force's 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron as part of Exercise Balikatan 2015.

Five PAF air battle managers have flown in the AWACS each day since the exercise began April 20.

It's the first time in roughly a decade the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) and its crew from the 961st AACS stationed at Kadena Air Base, Japan, have participated in the exercise, making the aircraft an unusual sight and the missions unforgettable for each of the PAF members.

"It was a really nice and memorable experience for me because it was my first time being a part of Balikatan and flying on an AWACS," said PAF Maj. Frederick Facia, 581st Aircraft Control and Training Squadron commander. "I had the chance to get familiar with the AWACS and control Philippine aircraft from the sky. I learned a lot from that experience - especially about the AWACS' equipment and crew's functions."

According to PAF Maj. Generoso Bautista Jr., 580th Aircraft Control and Warning Group director of operations, modernization of PAF aircraft is becoming a more prominent objective to better defend the Philippines in the future.

Bautista, who noted the PAF's potential to purchase similar equipment to the AWACS, said getting first-hand experience behind the consoles provides key insights to procedure and response.

"The purpose of this training was for us to familiarize with a system we hope to acquire in the future since we are modernizing, and the bulk of our modernization will be on air defense," Bautista said. "We hope to learn how the system works and how we can apply it to our future equipment. What we obtained here was the first-hand experience on how the system really works."

Though Bautista said he studied weapons control at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, he said performing the art in flight aboard the AWACS was very instructional.

"I feel like I learned a lot," he said. "In our point of view, it's new equipment. We learned a lot about the system and how the U.S. Armed Forces applies their air tactics."

"This is a good basis for acquiring the equipment that operates the same as the AWACS," Facia said. "It's nice to have the experience of going onboard and seeing how the AWACS crew performs their duties during the mission. Hopefully we can apply what we learned here to training our personnel."

So far the U.S. has effectively integrated 20 different PAF weapons controllers onboard the aircraft. Being able to work alongside each other gives both forces a better understanding of how to work together in the future.

"Balikatan is an important exercise to conduct for both sides," Facia said. "It's a good opportunity to work together and test the integration of the equipment as well as the U.S. and Filipino personnel. It's a good chance to strengthen the friendship between the Philippines and the United States."

"In the future, I hope this training will be repeated," Bautista said. "It's much better for us to continue this kind of training, especially with some air defense."

Navy Ends Accompaniment of U.S., British Vessels

By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 6, 2015 – With no further incidents following actions by Iran that led to Navy ships accompanying U.S.- and British-flagged commercial vessels in the Strait of Hormuz since May 1, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command ceased the mission, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters here today.

The Navy ships accompanied the U.S. and British ships following two incidents less than a week apart late last month when Iranian navy patrol vessels harassed commercial ships in the strait.

While the Navy ships remain in the strait, crews are providing maritime security operations, Warren said today, adding that the adjustment is relatively minor.

“The Navcent commander adjusts the mission based on his view of the conditions,” he added.

Iranian Aggression in Strait

On April 24, four Iranian navy patrol boats approached the U.S.-flagged merchant ship Maersk Kensington, Warren said in an April 29, briefing. “The boats came astern of the Kensington and followed her for 15 or 20 minutes in actions that the Kensington’s master interpreted as aggressive,” he said in that briefing.

There was no U.S. military involvement at the time, he said.

Then on April 28, Iranian patrol vessels approached the M/V Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel in Iranian territorial waters that have internationally recognized commercial shipping lanes, officials said. The Tigris remains at anchor off the coast of Iran near Larak Island, Warren said today.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a sovereign nation for which the United States has full authority and responsibility for security and defense under the 2004 terms of an amended security compact between the two nations. The United States and the Marshall Islands have full diplomatic relations, and the security compact between the two nations includes matters related to vessels flying the Marshallese flag.

Training in a combat zone

by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs

5/6/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- Air Force Master Sgt. Lee Pentimone, like many of the military and civilian personnel assigned to the various forward operating bases in Afghanistan, kept his M9 Beretta strapped to his side and his armor within reach. The Taliban attacked randomly - sometimes during the day, sometimes at night - and Pentimone, then the training advisor for the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Wing, had to join the others in diving for shelter and arming up when they did. When the attack was over, he had to do his part guarding his immediate area until everything was declared clear.

"We got attacked a lot," said the 673d Communications Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of Radio Frequency Transmissions at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. "The first attack [I experienced] was a mortar attack in the first couple days. My first reaction was to think this was going to be a long year. Once my base got attacked and I happened to be at the next base over. They had a several-hour firefight with the terrorists. We didn't lose anybody, thankfully. The Taliban lost all theirs."

Then he had to try to get back to work; it was normal life for a year-long deployment in the desert that would earn him a Bronze Star.

"We'd start getting work done, something would happen and we'd have to duck and cover, wait until it was clear, and then try to get back to work," he said. "It's a good recipe for slow progress."

Pentimone began his career in the Air National Guard, and volunteered to switch to active duty in 2009, becoming a Basic Military Training instructor.

"I did the shadow program and saw what it was all about," he said. "I told my wife it was what I wanted to do. When she said it was okay, we did it. I'm very lucky; not many people would stick around for that. It's the best worst job you'll ever have."

"When you can see an Airman that was the trouble maker become the best Airman you have, when their parents don't recognize them and say 'I don't know what you did, but it's amazing' that gives you that pride," he said. "I did my four years; it went well and it ended well."

As his four-year assignment in BMT ended, Pentimone was deployed to Afghanistan.

"I went over there as an advisor," he said. "I started out working in the Afghan Air University, and I actually created their Officer Candidate School. There were tons of complications daily."

One of the complications included finding the right students.

"The cadets had to be tested and vetted to be accepted into the academy, to make sure the Taliban or similar didn't get into it," he said. "We had to test them on English. A hundred of those were supposed to become pilots, and in order to become a pilot they had to speak a certain amount of English. We had to test more than 2,000 people - it took us like two months, three or four hours in the morning and three or four hours in the afternoon, to do that testing. That was probably the worst."

He found the officers were used to doing most tasks themselves, from turning wrenches to flying, while the enlisted primarily did administrative and security duties.

"By doing OCS, we were giving their NCOs and airmen more responsibilities," he said. "[The officers] were happy to learn the leadership stuff, but they didn't want to give up what they had. You'd have a general who had flown all his life, and he didn't want to give that up."

They weren't happy about leading an NCO to turn wrenches instead of doing it themselves, he said.

"That was very challenging. I advised a lieutenant colonel directly who said 'this is never going to work' but through those six months he got things ironed out and made it work."

Pentimone said his BMT instructor experience was likely part of why he was picked for the assignment.

"Being able to read people - to understand the different personalities and cultures - that's what you do [in BMT] all the time," he said. "You have to take all those personalities and cultures, put them all together, and still come out to the end goal. It was the same thing with the Afghans. You could see that division in them, and you'd have to figure out how to get them to accomplish tasks.

Pentimone completed his work with Afghan Air University after spending half of his year there.

"I hope I helped them; I know I changed the lives of the Afghans that I worked with," he said. "The last six months I was the communications superintendent for the wing. I also advised the general in charge of the communications for the Air Force in that area. I got to use my past knowledge saying this is what you need and this is how to do it."

He then became the communications superintendent for the remainder of the year.

"There were very few of us and we were in charge of maybe 300 [computers]," he said. "Almost every location had it and we had to maintain it. It was pretty interesting to try to keep up. I had communications equipment in the convoys that went out, so I usually tried to go with them, or at least make sure their gear was good to go. Being a BMTI, I was used to the fast pace, always having something to do."

Now assigned to JBER, Pentimone has been awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Afghanistan.

"He's a pretty impressive guy," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Russell Handy, 11th Air Force commander. "[He had] exceptional service in a combat zone at great personal risk. The first six months he was there, he helped stand up the Afghanistan Air University. We use to think that sort of duty was not dangerous - not anymore. Anything you do in that [area of responsibility] is extremely dangerous."

"I think it was definitely worth going," Pentimone said. "There's so much that happens there; you're a huge family. I've made some great contacts and friends. I'm glad that a general said I was worthy of [this medal], that makes me proud knowing I did my job well."

MacDill ophthalmology technician wins Air Force level award

by Staff Sgt. Brittany Liddon
6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs

5/4/2015 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- In February, the office of the Air Force Surgeon General released the Air Force Medical Service 2014 annual award winners, and one of MacDill's own was on the list: Senior Airman Aaron Prevost, 6th Medical Operations Squadron ophthalmology technician.

Prevost, a Fort Worth, Texas native, won the Air Force Ophthalmic Airman of the Year.

"My reaction when I found out that I had won was a sense of gratefulness," explained Prevost. "I appreciated that good people took their time and talents to help make sure that I was recognized."

Over the rating period, Prevost won senior airman below-the-zone, was involved in 503 invasive procedures, was awarded his Community College of the Air Force degree, and oversaw $998,000 in equipment accounts.

From screening patients to performing surgical assistance, Prevost enjoys helping at work, and appreciates that his leadership took the time to recognize him for his work ethic.

"Many people have been and continue to be supportive and for that I would like to let them know it is appreciated," expressed Prevost.

Several members of the 6th Medical Group leadership helped write Prevost's package.

"It feels very rewarding to have my Airman recognized. He is one of the most humble, giving and genuine people you could come in contact with and to have him be acknowledged for his hard work is amazing," said Staff Sgt. Shaquonique Jones, 6th Medical Group NCO in charge Exceptional Family Member Program. "I've never come across anyone like him. He makes the team and I proud on a daily basis!"

Col Michelin Joplin, 6th MDOS commander, concurs with Jones

"Prevost demonstrates the epitome of Airmanship," stated Joplin. "He's always willing to lend a hand and has a strong work ethic.  He does everything with a smile."

JBLM participates in Seahawks Draft Day event

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

5/4/2015 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash -- For the first time in the history of the National Football League, all 32 teams were allowed to conduct the third day of the NFL Draft, May 2, however they wanted. The Seattle Seahawks decided to share this day with service members and families from throughout the Puget Sound.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord was asked to host this event at Hangar 9 on McChord Field in which more than 1,500 fans and service members from throughout the Puget Sound came out to support.

The event included a mock NFL Combine, numerous gaming events to include armchair quarterback, shuffle board, pool tables, a football toss and kick game, photos with the 2013 Lombardi and 2014 National Football Conference championship trophies, video gaming, autographs from eight different Seahawk players, free food and drink and numerous military statics from across the Sound.

The highlight of the event was when it was the Seahawks turn to make a pick; they selected service members from across the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force to announce those picks.

The Seahawks had six picks throughout the days event and as the picks were made by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, they were phoned in to a contact at the Draft Day event who in turn ran the pick up to the stage in which the service member was waiting to make the announcement.

Those picks were either shown on the NFL Network channel or through the NFL social media platforms.

Airman 1st Class Michael Andrews, 10th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, was the Air Force representative and he announced the Seahawks 209th overall pick in the draft, which ended up being Obum Gwachum, a defensive end from Oregon State.

"This was a great event and I was proud to be a part of it," said Andrews. "I love the NFL and being a part of this first-time ever event was awesome." 

Other highlights of the day included numerous performances by Blue Thunder, the Seahawks drumline band, visits by Blitz and Boom, the Seahawks official mascots and finally visits by Tamia, the official hawk of the Seahawks.

To get the more than 1,500 Puget Sound military members there, the Seahawks assisted in bussing members of the Navy and Marines from Bremerton Naval Station down to JBLM, while Coast Guard members drove in from Seattle to attend the event.

Army and Air Force members from JBLM drove in from the surrounding areas and together the five branches were able to fill the Hangar at various times throughout the day's event.

"We enjoy the partnerships we have with all of the military in the Puget Sound," said Armando Mejia, Seattle Seahawks fan development assistant director. "To be able to include our military in this year's draft was a great opportunity that we could not resist.

"This was a great event and we appreciate all the support and everything everyone did throughout JBLM and the Puget Sound to make this event so successful."

JBER gathers at aviation event

by Maj. Carla Gleason
477th Fighter Group public affairs

5/6/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- Planes, planes and, well, more planes.

An F-22 Raptor and a C-17 Globemaster from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson join more than 200 other aircraft as part of this year's Great Alaska Aviation Gathering May 2-3 at the Ted Stevens International Airport.

"It's a great opportunity for us to kind of show off what we do the public," said Maj. David "Chappy" Balmer, an Air Force Reserve pilot from the 302nd Fighter Squadron who flew the Raptor in from JBER following a short training sortie. "I think [people will] get a great perspective of how these planes compare to the other aircraft out here," said Balmer.

"This tradeshow is the Alaska Airmen's Association's largest community outreach program, and it provides us an opportunity to educate the public about the crucial role aviation plays in Alaska and its importance to the state's economy," said Dee Hanson, executive director of the Alaska Airmen's Association in a recent interview.

As is the case with many community events here, JBER total force Airmen came together to showcase our varied missions at this annual event. Security forces members, maintainers and pilots from the 176th Alaskan Air National Guard, active duty members from the 3rd Wing, pilots, maintainers and security forces members from the 477th Fighter Group and recruiters from each component participated in the show to talk about the Air Force and its contribution to the community.

"I think it's important to Alaska that we're here because it gives members of the community, especially the youth here, job prospects and a way to give back," said Technical Sgt. Justin Klein, 477th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flightline expeditor. "We all live here in the community and we work together to make it a better place."

JBER hopes to showcase some of that operational prowess during the gathering.

"A lot of work goes on behind these planes," said Klein. "Hundreds of maintainers and support staff work around the clock to ensure the aircraft are operational and ready to go."

"People who come out will get to talk to some of the people that get to put hands on these planes every day, working on them, maintaining them, deploying with them, day to day operations," said Klein.

This is the eighteenth annual aviation gathering in Anchorage and, though budget constraints kept the military from participating over the past couple years, this marks the eighth year JBER has participated.  The show, sponsored by the Alaska Airman Association, attracts more than 23,000 pilots and aviation enthusiasts from around the world.

Last of the Voodoo's reunite

by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/6/2015 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- The last of the RF-101 Voodoo pilots held their final large reunion in Sumter S.C., April 27-30.

The RF-101 Voodoo was a single-seat, photo-reconnaissance aircraft assigned to several tactical reconnaissance and training wing's at Shaw  for 43 years.

Approximately 50 war-fought veterans gathered to reminisce times being shot down over enemy territory flying combat missions during the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Cuban Missile Crisis.

"It has really been a great week," said retired Lt. Col. Henry Scherer. "A bunch of old guys getting together trying to tell the best war story."

Throughout the week, the pilots visited the base and received the opportunity to view the F-16 Viper Demo Team perform.

"That aircraft sure does fly a lot faster than we could," said retired Maj. Gen. George Edwards Jr, who established the official world speed record in the RF-101. "It was a great experience to watch him fly so close to us. He put on a great show."

Not only did the reunion watch the demo team, they took to the sky in a much smaller way out of the Sumter Airport.

"I took the day off to fly some of the Voodoo pilots around in my personal airplane," said Lt. Col. Joseph Rodriguez, 20th Mission Support Group deputy commander . "We got the opportunity to do a low-approach over the runway at Shaw which was a great experience."

The old pilots climbed into the aircraft just as if they hadn't missed a flying day since their Voodoo days.

"The flight was a great time," said Edwards. "We flew over Sumter and it sure has grown over the years."

As the aircraft landed, the weathered reconnaissance pilots talked about the nostalgic week they had.

"As the years go by, less and less pilots show up for the reunions," said retired Lt. Col. Joe Kuhlmann. "Either disability or death causes lower numbers of people and that's just life. We've had a lot of great years but I'm sure a few of us will still meet up."

Battaglia Joins TPC, PGA Tour for Military Appreciation Day

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., May 6, 2015 – The military’s top enlisted leader joined the PGA Tour and The Players Championship in honoring the nation’s service members during a military appreciation day ceremony and concert here yesterday.

Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to thousands of spectators during the tournament’s ceremony at the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse.

Battaglia was joined by Navy Adm. Philip S. Davidson, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem before the crowd was treated to a concert from country music duo Big and Rich.

“I am truly honored to join you on this beautiful Florida evening as we are, ladies and gentlemen, setting this week’s stage for what will be nothing short of a terrific and exciting 2015 Players Championship,” the sergeant major said. “We in the armed forces never shy away from a little bit of competition as well, [and] it’s why we love being here. The Tour players in this sport bring out the very best in competition, sportsmanship and athletic talent.”

Appreciation for Support

Battaglia said service members, veterans and retirees in attendance and those watching the broadcast from afar are “deeply appreciative” of how the PGA Tour and nonprofit organization “Birdies from the Brave” support the U.S. military. He added that he also remembers PGA Tour players who joined previous USO tours to visit troops overseas in some “pretty contested areas, where it truly allowed them to see what it looks like [and] what it feels like on the other end.”

“I want you to know that you and your players have a standing invitation,” he said, “and when ready, we will get you out to the ‘tip of the spear’ to see our troops, as you have allowed us to see some of the tour talent at TPCs across the country.”

Battaglia also gave what he called a “special shout-out” to the nation’s wounded warriors, their caregivers, Gold Star families and fallen troops.

“Their service is a true testament to the tenacity of our military,” he said, “and the greatness to our country -- the United States of America -- and we’re all proud of them.”

The sergeant major said he could tell the audience was “proud of our country,” and he concluded his remarks by leading the crowd in loud chants of “USA! All the way!”