Friday, May 22, 2015

2d Engineer Brigade bids FAREWELL

by Capt. Richard Packer
U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs

5/22/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- U.S. Army Alaska's 2d Engineer Brigade, recognized by the unique seahorse shoulder patch, inactivated for the third time since its constitution 73 years ago during a ceremony on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson's Pershing Field May 15.

The Arctic Trailblazers have served in Alaska since September 2011 when the 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade reflagged to become 2d Engineer Brigade. The 3rd MEB had activated two years prior, at a time when the Army was still expanding to meet the demands of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both brigades afforded necessary mission command to a wide range of force-multiplier modular units with capabilities including chemical, finance, explosive ordnance disposal, engineer, military police and logistics. The largest difference between the organizations was 2d Engineer Brigade being equipped with a technical headquarters section staffed with engineers. This provided the brigade expertise necessary to manage construction and technical engineer planning and project management.

With the Army downsizing to meet fiscal requirements set by the Budget Control Act of 2011, 2d Engineer Brigade was identified in 2013 to inactivate by the end of fiscal year 2015. As the brigade was preparing in 2014 for inactivation the Army added further levels of complexity by slotting the brigade headquarters for a deployment to Afghanistan while also moving the inactivation date sooner by two months.

"Despite the fact that the operational deployments started to pick up in 2013, the Army upped the stakes by accelerating the inactivation timeline," said Col. Pete Andrysiak, commander of 2d Engineer Brigade, during the inactivation ceremony. "The bulk of the work would fall dead center of the (brigade) headquarters' deployment to Afghanistan. You can't make this stuff up."

Andrysiak also highlighted the brigade's accomplishments and responsibilities during deployment where they served as the International Security Assistance Force's final theater engineer brigade. These included training and advising the Afghan army's only national engineer brigade and synchronizing the deconstruction mission of bases across the nation resulting in 61 of 86 bases closing or transferring to the Afghans.

"Like all other units we also had to redeploy and retrograde all of the equipment left in Afghanistan over the years," Andrysiak said.
Maj. Gen. Mike Shields, commander of U.S. Army Alaska, also spoke during the ceremony. His closing remarks were focused on the legacy of 2d Engineer Brigade and giving direction to the brigade's Soldiers.

"Anywhere the nation needs effective forces, it calls on those who serve in the Last Frontier. We are a special breed of Soldiers and our adversaries know it," Shields said. "That will carry on for all of you as you transition into the brigade engineer battalions here and at Fort Wainwright or other units across the Army. Take pride in being an Arctic Trailblazer with you wherever you may go next."

The ceremony was attended by two special guests. Jack Reed, who is 91 years old, served in 2d Engineer Brigade, known then as 2d Engineer Amphibian Brigade, during World War II. He was accompanied by Edwin Leard III whose grandfather, Edwin Leard, also served with the brigade and was killed in New Guinea.

The 2d Engineer Brigade's final remaining battalion, the 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, stood in formation and changed their left shoulder sleeve patches identifying their parent unit during the ceremony.

The battalion command team, Lt. Col. John Gaivin and Command Sgt. Maj. Pamela Brown, first removed each others' 2d Engineer Brigade seahorse patches and replaced them with U.S. Army Alaska's polar bear patch before proceeding to do the same for the rest of their Soldiers.

Big impact: 3rd MUNS Airmen train to build munitions

by Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson
JBER Public Affairs

5/22/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- 'The United States Air Force, dropping warheads on foreheads since 1947.' Many have heard this phrase before, perhaps chuckled, and moved on.

Those who hear it may attribute the glory to the brave men and women piloting fighter jets every day, but few think, 'Where do the bombs come from; and how precise are they, really?"

Before those bombs can dish out some freedom, ammunition troops have to build them.

To accomplish this mission, every munitions systems specialist is required to complete combat munitions training on an annual basis, said Senior Airman Mary Smith, unit training monitor for the 3rd Munitions Squadron.

CMT is a three-part annual training program with a classroom portion, a practical portion on precision targeting missiles, and a practical portion on building bombs.

The ammo career field is split into different categories, so even though the training monitors teaching the class in the past have been ammo Airmen, they may not have been part of the particular category that deals with building bombs.

"While we are all munitions Airmen, we work in different capacities," Smith said. "

Some of these Airmen may never touch a bomb during their daily work, but they need to be fully capable to do whatever the mission calls for when they deploy."

Because of this, the bomb-building training itself used to be handled by a training monitor. However, to increase the standard of training, they now use conventional maintenance Airmen - the section of ammo that actually builds bombs  - to teach this portion.

"This is our first time as conventional maintenance crew members doing the combat munitions training. It was a little bit of a process, but we were able to figure it out," Murray said. "I'm happy that everyone came together and we were able to make it happen."

In a deployed environment, someone who is fully qualified will lead the teams, but if everyone has a basic understanding of what is expected of them, the team will operate more smoothly, Smith said.

"Some of these people may not have touched a bomb in quite a long time," said Staff Sgt. Michael Murray, crew chief of conventional maintenance at the 3rd MUNS. "This gives them the familiarity to get the job done."

During the training, Airmen will be building inert bombs which are then used by pilots for their own training.

For regular training purposes, the team assembles the bombs on a trailer. During time-sensitive operations, they use the MAC.

The MAC, or the munitions assembly conveyor, is, as its name suggests, a conveyor belt. Using the MAC, munitions Airmen can work together to assemble hundreds of bombs with efficiency.

It operates in much the same way one would imagine Santa's elves work on Christmas presents.

The difference, of course, is these presents are given to naughty boys and girls, not nice ones.

"Airmen line up along the MAC and each is working on a different part of the bomb," Murray said. "This training gives them the familiarization of building bombs in mass quantities."

When they aren't using it, it folds up and is packed away.

Inert bombs are exactly the same as live bombs, but lack the explosives and fuse, Murray said.

"These same tails are used in actual bombs," Murray said. "But instead of being attached to 1,000 pounds of concrete, they are attached to warheads."
Before assembly, they update or install software in the tail-kit of the bomb, Murray said.

"Every bomb, even the inert [ones], is GPS-guided," Murray said.

The software they install could mean the difference between mission failure and mission success.

"After our kit munitions units [tail kits] are tested and good to go, we move on to the bomb bodies." Murray said. "We lift them up with the forklift and transport them over to the trailer. Then, we bring them them outside and attach them to our bomb bodies."

The annual training used to be limited to summer, because of the unique cold weather Alaska brings to bear.

To accomplish the mission with the limited time frame, they would train every week.

"It is extremely cold out here in the winter," Smith said. "Even with gloves and hats, by lunch time, toes are getting numb."

Now, they have a heater in their training shelter which allows them to schedule training year-round instead of monopolizing the facilities in the summertime.

"We have a huge impact on the mission; without bombs, those planes are just an air show," Murray said.

Dropping warheads on foreheads may have a big impact, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.

Out of sight, there's a force that puts the weight behind the punch: the teamwork of the Airmen who support the planes.

Hitting the mark: forward observer doesn’t quit

by Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson
JBER Public Affairs

5/22/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- I am an American Soldier.

I am a warrior and a member of a team.

The Soldier's Creed is a commitment every Soldier makes. They memorize it, recite it regularly, and strive to embody it every day.

Spc. Matt Miclean, a forward observer assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Battalion is no different.

Like many before him, his acceptance of this creed has been tested, and will continue to be tested.

Before enlisting, Miclean earned a bachelor's degree in business management while working 30 hours a week at a supermarket.

Then, to create more opportunities in the future, he joined the Army, enlisting as a forward observer.

Shortly after graduating from training, Miclean was offered the opportunity to go to airborne school. Since FOs frequently jump into a mission, airborne qualification allows him to operate in a wider spectrum of missions.

"I had no desire to go airborne, but I had the chance to do it," Miclean said. "I know people I went to basic and [advanced individual training] with who would have jumped on it if they got the chance; I didn't want to waste that opportunity."

In retrospect, Miclean said, he's glad he stepped up.

"If I had the chance to do it all over again," he said. "I would."

He'd need that hindsight to drive him up the next step in his military career, the biggest obstacle he's overcome in his life so far -Ranger school.

Ranger school consists of three phases in which trainees learn to lead platoon- and squad-level missions in a variety of different terrains.

Miclean's supervisor said Ranger school is one of the most difficult courses the Army has to offer.

The teams are put together without regard for rank, so as a junior enlisted Soldier, Miclean found himself filling officer-level roles, like platoon leader - and leading personnel who significantly outranked him in experience and pay grade.

"It was definitely a big change for me," Miclean said.

Meals were scarce, and exercise was plentiful.

"The lack of food and the lack of sleep takes its toll," Miclean said. "I was so skinny, you could see every one of my ribs all the way up."

Trainees are only given the bare minimum of nourishment possible during the course. But the purpose of this limitation is not anything physical.

"There's the physical part, getting smoked for hours and hours, but the mental stress, that's the worst part." Miclean said.

The course is just over 60 days long, but many find it takes longer. The recycle system is just one tool the instructors use to test mental fortitude.

There are points throughout the school where the teams vote for the most productive members of the team, and those who are ranked lower are recycled.

The whole time, he knew he could just give up at any time, make all the hardship go away.

"I stayed down there for almost six months," Miclean said with a thick voice. "I wanted to quit several times, but I didn't. I couldn't come back here saying I quit.

"Everybody back here was my motivation; I couldn't come back here saying I quit."

By persevering, he learned more about himself.

In basic, Miclean supported his fellow Soldiers to accomplish the mission together.

In jump school, he relied on the riggers who packed his parachute.

In Ranger school, he supported his exhausted platoon, and relied on their support to complete the mission.

Now, he's the bridge between the infantry downrange and the artillery support that could save their lives.

Forward Observer
"If we have infantry in a combat zone taking contact, and they want some relief," Miclean said, "That's what we do."

An Army artillery gun line can provide support to operations more than 15 miles away. With that kind of distance, cannoneers don't identify and locate the target; the FO at an observation post several miles away does.

The FOs set up camp at the observation post with the fire support officer, fire support noncommissioned officer and radio telephone operator.

The FO uses a grid system 17 times more precise than a regular compass to relay precise firing data to the fire direction center through the radio telephone operator.

Down by the gun line, the FDC decides whether or not they are going to fire, and relays the coordinates to the Soldiers at the gun line, who pull the proverbial trigger, Miclean said.

It may sound complicated, but it works much the same as the human body.

The FO is the eyes, then relays information to the FDC - the brain - who then tells the gun line, the muscle, to fire the weapons.

If corrections need to be made, the FO adjusts the coordinates and the process starts over again.

However, the goal is to not need to make adjustments - to hit the target on the first round.

"You want to have first-round effects on the target," said Sgt. Gregory Gatewood, also HHB, 2/377th PFAR, and Miclean's supervisor.

To accomplish this, the Soldiers take the guns out to a safe location and fire practice rounds before going on a mission. The FO uses the information from these practice shots to accurately determine how the guns will behave when it really counts.

This process is called 'registering the guns.'

"If you register the guns correctly, then you use that information in the mission location," Miclean said. "It's just a different target location."

Even though artillery is used chiefly for suppressing an area, rather than hitting a specific element, precision is still very important.

A large part of what FOs do is battle tracking, a term used to describe being aware of everything going on in the area.

"We maintain [knowledge of] friendly positions on the battlefield at all times, so we always know where to safely put ordnance," Gatewood said. "Whether it's infantry, other forward observers or civilians, you have to be aware of anyone that could be affected by rounds at all times."

With advances in technology, artillery is much more than hunks of lead propelled by raw explosive power.

There are rounds guided by global positioning satellites, laser-guided rounds, rounds that simply light an area up like a big flashlight, and rounds that do the same on the infrared spectrum.

"It's fun to get out on the hill," Miclean said. "Watch rounds come in and blow some stuff up."

While the FDC is the one deciding what to use and how, each round has a different trajectory, and the target might not be in the same place every time.

Miclean accounts for all this and needs the discernment to consistently provide accurate instructions to his team so they can accomplish their mission, together.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.

I am an American Soldier.

3rd ASOS conducts joint ‘jump week’ with 1 Geronimo troops

by Airman Christopher R. Morales
JBER Public Affairs

5/22/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Two doors on the aircraft flew open with a bang and the wind pulled and tugged, trying to grab whatever or whoever it could.

The jumpmaster yelled "Go! Go! Go!" as the Airmen and paratroopers fell like a hail of arrows.

Kodiak Solstice jump week is hosted by the Air Force 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron and combines the Army's 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division  to work together in a joint-training environment.

"This symbolizes the effort to our Soldiers, Airmen and mission to practice executing safe and tactical airborne operations," said Air Force Lt. Colonel Ty Bridge, 3rd ASOS commander.

The unit provides air support for both Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

"My role as one of the primary jumpmasters for this event is to take responsibility for coordinating jumpmaster inspections, parachute harnesses and putting jumpers on the aircraft to the drop zone," said Air Force Master Sgt. Steward Ferguson, jumpmaster with the 3rd ASOS.

Jumpmasters were provided by both branches to help standardize and acquaint each other with their respective jumping procedures and safety.
Army jumpmasters integrated with Airmen and Air Force jumpmasters mixed with Soldiers.

"We have to maintain the joint relations because it's integral to our job," said Capt. Nathan Maxton, 3rd ASOS Operations Flight commander.

A joint effort is paramount because in a deployed environment, Airmen and paratroopers will work together, acquainted or not.

The first day of the Kodiak Solstice jump week was the Basic Airborne Refresher course; the instructors took the participants through procedures with different parachutes and environments.

A few of the participants were fresh out of the Basic Airborne Course.

"The first thing we are doing is familiarizing them with the equipment and how to put it on," Ferguson said. "We'll go through the action in the aircraft and practice some parachute landing falls."

Air Force Staff Sgt. Dustin Stelljes, jumpmaster with 3rd ASOS, demonstrated putting an H-harness on a single-point release assembly.

The harness forms the shape of an 'H' to distribute weight equally. The single-point release allows a jumper to drop the rucksack, but keep it connected to break the fall before impact.

"The H-harness is used to secure your equipment to yourself during an airborne operation," Stelljes said. "These guys are learning how to rig it and know how to do it properly."

Before earning their role as tactical air control party members by jumping five times and going through the proper training, the trainees wear white helmets for their first jumps and are unofficially termed ROMAD: radio operator maintainer and

"The white helmets are [for] the brand new graduates from the first airborne course; they get special attention, because they don't have the experience to know what's going wrong or identify the issue," said Tech. Sgt. Logan English, jumpmaster with the 3rd ASOS. "The entire training event is a proficiency exercise to educate our guys on airborne operations."

Kodiak Solstice trains new and old jumpers on the safety procedures and techniques used with different parachutes such as the MC-6, T-10 and T-11.

Personnel also trained for landing on environments ranging from water to trees, and of course the ground, but more importantly, to ensure joint camaraderie for future deployments.

Hawaii Air Guard Unit Serves State, Asia-Pacific

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii, May 22, 2015 – The Hawaii Air National Guard trains and mobilizes to execute operational, disaster response and humanitarian missions for the state and Pacific Air Forces under U.S. Pacific Command.

The 154th Wing, the largest wing in the Air National Guard, has a dual mission to serve the state and provide operationally ready combat and support units and qualified personnel during a time of war, national emergency, operational contingency or disaster relief response, said Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Scrivner, 201st Intelligence Squadron commander.

“[This wing] of Total Force airmen provides a different, diverse perspective on how to conduct operations … and Hawaii Air National Guard stays focused on being ready to do federal missions, such as integrated flying operations, maintaining [aircraft] and command and control,” he explained.

Nepal Earthquake Response

Crewed primarily by Hawaii Air National Guard members, the C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet, “the Spirit of Kamehameha”, landed in Kathmandu May 5 with Pacom’s 36th Contingency Response Group and active duty airmen from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, wing officials said. The team includes a cross section of pilots, mechanics, medical personnel and others bringing aid and relief to Nepal, whose beleaguered citizens continue to recover from a magnitude-7.8 earthquake on April 25.

Additionally, Hawaii ANG’s fleet of F-22 Raptors and KC-135 Stratotankers bring fighter jet and air refueling capabilities beyond the state of Hawaii and Pacom’s vast area of responsibility, but also to missions with U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command and others, Scrivner said.

The colonel asserts Pacom and other combatant commands and agencies can rely on the integration, skill and readiness of the Hawaii Air National Guard.

Those skill sets remain sharp and adaptable though large-scale exercises such as Vigilant Guard, which Scrivner said help ensure Hawaii Air National Guard members are able to respond on a moment’s notice, both locally and globally.

New Challenges

Scrivner said new and varied challenges arise daily due to the region’s size, climate changes, and other factors. The airmen, he said, “are always stepping up. They all want to be ready. They all want to busy. And they all want to be mobilized if they’re called upon.”

Air Force Airman 1st Class Dillon Nguyen, 154th Maintenance Squadron egress systems apprentice, helps to maintain the ejection system of the wing’s F-22 fighter jets.

“Basically, I give the pilots a second chance to escape when all goes south,” Nguyen said. “Hopefully they won’t have to use [the ejection system], but when they do use it, it better work.”

Overseeing the training, tasks and motivation of airmen such as Nguyen is 26-year Air Force veteran Chief Master Sgt. Michael Gabster, 154th Maintenance Group superintendent, responsible for more than 800 airmen.

Total Force Integration

The chief, a prior active-duty Marine Corps enlistee, said he’s witnessed the evolution of the Total Force concept shortly after his 2005 arrival to the Hawaii Air National Guard, when in 2008 the wing’s 204th Airlift Squadron joined Hickam Air Force Base’s 535th Airlift Squadron to become the first Total Force Integration unit outside of the mainland.

“We actually formed up our TFI unit even before the [Defense Department] guidance came out … but we’re in such a good spot right now where everything’s clicking and working,” Gabster recalled. “Active-duty airmen are here with us all the time so we have a huge focus on readiness, [and] we review training weekly and monthly with higher leadership.”

The years of experience and continuity that seasoned Hawaii Air National Guard members bring to the wing’s young motivated airmen have helped ensure an enduring, valuable footprint in the region in support of the combatant commander, Gabster said.

He added, “Everybody here is pretty much from someplace else … locals, active duty … we all come together to make it happen, and it’s just a wonderful experience.”

Carter: Honor, Thank Families of Fallen Troops on Memorial Day

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2015 – While every Memorial Day is marked with solemn remembrance, this year’s has special significance, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today in a Memorial Day message to the force.

“This year -- as we mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the 65th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, the 40th anniversary of our departure from Vietnam, and the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Shield in the lead-up to the Gulf War -- we honor and remember those who perished in those wars, just as we recall the more than 6,800 American service members who gave their lives since September 11, 2001,” Carter said.

“To the families of our fallen patriots: We lack the words to describe what you feel on Memorial Day, because try as we may -- as we must -- we can never fully know it,” the defense secretary said. “But we do know what your sacrifice means to us, to our country, and to a world that still depends so much on America for its security.”

“As our nation remembers the service and sacrifice of previous generations, we as a people recognize that the men and women serving in uniform today -- active-duty, Guard, and Reserve -- are as humble, patriotic, and selfless as any generation that has come before,” Carter said.

“They, alongside their families, continue that tradition of service to country that makes our military the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” he said. “Nearly 200,000 of these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are currently serving beyond our shores, protecting us far from home, and will not be able to spend this holiday with their loved ones.

“Today, and every day, we honor them and their families with our heartfelt thanks and support,” the defense secretary said.