Friday, June 12, 2015

U.S., ROK civil engineers strengthen alliance during PACUNITY

by Staff Sgt. Jake Barreiro
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

6/12/2015 - JUNGWON AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Civil engineer Airmen from the Republic of Korea and U.S. air forces strengthened their joint partnership and sharpened their emergency response skills during Pacific Unity June 9 through 11 here.

PACUNITY is a U.S. Pacific Command event focused on improving Theater Security Cooperation within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The operation builds partnerships and promotes interoperability by creating an environment where civil engineers can work together and exchange experiences. Engineers from the U.S. and ROK discussed and worked together in several areas such as emergency management, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, general engineering, environmental security and energy conversation.

Together, the civil engineers completed an Airfield Damage Repair scenario. The ADR tested the team's ability to restore an inoperable runway to operational status as quickly as possible. Being able to work in tandem with each other is an essential aspect to the U.S. and ROK alliance.

"If we were to go to war, it would require a combined effort between us and our Korean counterparts," said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Miguel Millares, 8th Civil Engineer Squadron at Kunsan Air Base, ROK, and officer in charge of ADR for PACUNITY 2015. "Just being able to have our processes on the same page when it comes to command and control when we do our repairs is of the utmost importance."

Being able to work at the tabletop and on the scene with Koreans is a boon to American forces, Millares said, a sentiment shared by his ROK counterpart.

"We're always looking for chances to simulate wartime situations and during wartime the Republic of Korea military and U.S. military are going to be working in a combined manner, so we're always looking for opportunities to conduct exercises and combine," said ROKAF 2nd Lt. Kim Sung Kyum, Air Force Operations Command plans and coordination office at Osan Air Base, ROK. "This is a great opportunity for that. The advantage here is that you get to meet different people from different places and broaden your understanding about how each military works.

The ADR scenario simulated a successful attack on a mock airstrip, leaving two larger craters and six smaller ones that rendered the runway inoperable and requiring quick repair. Working as a team, the engineers labored to repair the craters, excavate and fill the earth and reestablish the airfield lighting system all while operating heavy machinery.  U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jacob Sherrer, 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron equipment operator from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, said he and his teammates overcame the traditional language barrier with Koreans by using easy to understand hand signals, commonplace on the job.

"We need to be prepared for translation and other forms of communication," Sherrer said. "I think it helps that we have hand signals, being an equipment operator. It's pretty universal. Safety is paramount and with all the heavy equipment you can't always hear and you can't always see. So, we utilize as many forms of communication as we can."

Communication being key, Airmen from the U.S. and ROK remarked on their abilities to overcome the language barrier. Enlisted and officer translators on the Korean side proved critical in aiding communication among team members. Learning to communicate together helped the civil engineers understand and work past procedural barriers, becoming better teammates in the process.

"A lot of what we're doing is learning what our Korean counterparts do," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Raymond Brown, 8th Civil Engineer Squadron from Kunsan AB. "They use a different system than we do. They have different rules ... but it's good because, if something serious happened and we had to work together, we'd want total capability applied. It helps us streamline our performance, so in the event of a serious incident we could quickly integrate with our counterparts to maximize effort."

Kim reiterated the sentiment for ROK Airmen.

"At first, there was a lot of cacophony on the field, because many things hadn't been coordinated beforehand, but together we've improved our coordination and understanding of how each other work," Kim said.

Repairing large-scale damage at a moments notice is arduous, but it's undertaken to increase Theater Security Cooperation, and the importance of maintaining security in the Korean theater is one Airmen from the U.S. and ROK both acknowledged.

"Exercises like Pacific Unity are tremendous opportunities to reinforce already strong partnerships between the Republic of Korea and the U.S. militaries," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Kyle Ficke, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron on-site commander from Osan AB. "This kind of interoperability through the collaboration of civil engineering capabilities postures us to thrive operationally should the need for a bilateral response to a contingency arise in the area."

Airmen from both countries said the exercise left them better prepared to accomplish their job and more confident in their abilities to respond to an emergency and support theater security.

"We're seeing how we can better equip ourselves if we're ever in the situation to have to do this," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Justin Emanuelson, 354th Civil Engineer Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. "It gives us a little bit of variety and a chance to reach out to other countries and make sure that we're able to work along side with them side by side. I've been able to ask them and see how their training is, and its very similar in a lot of ways and it has been a lot of fun."

Military Medical Leaders Express Concerns Over Health Care Reform

By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2015 – Senior Defense Department medical leaders addressed health care reform on Capitol Hill yesterday, expressing concern over potential impacts on military medical readiness and overall readiness.

Appearing before the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee were Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, and top medical officials from the services: Army Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, Air Force Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Mark A. Ediger and Navy deputy surgeon general Rear Adm. (Dr.) C. Forrest Faison III.

Military health care reform was examined as part of the overall Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which sent its recommendations to President Barack Obama in January.

“We agree with [the commission’s] findings of overarching challenges facing military medicine and concur with many recommendations,” Woodson said, adding that some of its recommendations are now in place.

Strategies Now in Place

Woodson described strategies that are now in place to make the military health care system “better, stronger and more relevant for the future,” and stressed the critical nature of military readiness, ensuring quality health care and using money wisely in the Military Health System.

“We’ve undertaken a comprehensive review of our medical infrastructure and resources,” he said, “and [we’ve] presented a modernization plan that proposes to place our most-skilled professionals in the military communities where they are likely to keep those skills sharpest.”

The Military Health System has reformed governance and stood up the Defense Health Agency to enhance collaborative work affordably among the three medical services, Woodson told the panel. “We’re making it easier to access care in the system by focusing on quality, safety and making performance data more transparent,” he said.

Woodson said he agrees with commission’s recommendation to reform the TERICARE military health plan, and told the panel that work is already underway.

Surgeons General Share Concerns

The surgeons general said that while they support the objectives of the commission’s findings, they have concerns about elements that threaten readiness and military medical skills.

“[Fewer than] one of five service members evacuated from Iraq and were injured in battle,” Horoho noted. “During Operation United Assistance, the major threat to soldiers was endemic infectious diseases. The Army already uses joint infrastructures … [for] medical readiness. The Army does not support establishing a four-star readiness command,” a commission recommendation and a point echoed by Ediger and Faison.

Though the surgeons general support affordable health care and increased choices for patients, “to establish TRICARE choice would negatively impact the readiness of our entire health care team and present financial challenges for active-duty families and retirees” Horoho said.

“To put [military treatment facilities] in competition with the private sector would drive up administrative costs and significantly detract from the operational mission of our medical facilities,” Ediger agreed.

The Air Force surgeon general said requiring airmen and their families to “navigate a complex system of insurance marketplace on a recurring basis” could increase their stress.

“[The Military Health System] is working hard to recapture its [patient] workload into the direct-care system,” Faison said, adding that offering commercial insurance to military patients would compete with that goal.

“Nonactive-duty beneficiaries comprise 67 percent of our total beneficiary population, 83 percent of our inpatient care and 79 percent of our high-acuity workload,” Horoho emphasized.

Military Medical Training Would Be Affected

“These patients are vital to sustain our graduate medical and health professionals’ education programs,” she said. “The loss of these inpatients from our direct health-care system would pose tremendous risk to our training and negatively impact our medical forces readiness posture.”

Ediger and Faison agreed that the lack of military patients would harm medical training and affect overall readiness.

“We believe resilient families with excellent health care support greatly enhances the resilience of all of our airmen,” Ediger said. “Significant progress in the [Military Health System], as Dr. Woodson pointed out, has occurred. And we are a progressive system of health and readiness as a result.”

“We need to recognize what sets us apart from civilian medicine: that we are a rapidly deployable, fully integrated medical system,” Faison said. “This allows us to support combat casualty care with unprecedented battlefield survival rates.”

“The Army needs a medically ready force,” Horoho said, with Ediger and Faison in agreement. “Commanders need to know … soldiers will be ready to deploy,” she added.

“When wounded soldiers hear the rotor blades of a medevac helicopter, they need to continue to have confidence that our providers are trained and ready,” Horoho said. “Any radical departure presents significant risk to a system that has produced record levels of both combat casualty survival and readiness.”

Nepal final report: AF support for Operation Sahayogi Haat

by Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez
Headquarters Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

6/12/2015 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Since the May 26 deactivation of the Nepal earthquake response task force, Joint Task Force-505, the scope of the U.S. Air Force's contribution to Operation Sahayogi Haat reveal the magnitude of Pacific Air Force's role in the response.

During the operation, Airmen, equipment, supplies and aircraft from Air Force bases in Japan, Guam, Hawaii and Alaska contributed to the joint-service response, providing the airlift capabilities needed to get in and out of mountainous Nepal.

Brig. Gen. Michael Minihan, JTF-505 Joint Air Component Coordination Element commander, discussed the importance of the Air Force capabilities that supported the operation.

"The Air Force's role was extremely important to the JTF mission because of the challenges associated with this operation," Minihan explained. "The location of Nepal and the distances required for getting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief into the country required the need for our aircraft to set up an air bridge from U-Tapao, Thailand, into Nepal. This allowed us to provide the unique air capabilities the JTF needed and to bring in much needed aid and supplies to help the people of Nepal."

On the ground in Nepal, the 36th Contingency Response Group from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, worked at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. They assisted the Nepalese to accelerate airfield operations and increased the capacity to bring in aid via airlift ensuring aid was distributed faster, and ultimately downloaded 4,271,825 pounds of cargo from 94 aircraft. Following a second, powerful earthquake May 12, 36th CRG personnel also provided medical assistance for 58 aeromedical evacuation patients.

"Simply put, we downloaded aircraft quickly and safely to get cargo where it needed to go," said Capt. Brint Ingersoll, 36th CRG Operations Officer. "Our diverse team kept aircraft ground times to a minimum which allowed a larger and faster flow of aircraft and humanitarian aid. Once downloaded, humanitarian aid was sent out to villages or to the distribution center the same day it arrived in Nepal, avoiding any congestion at the airfield."

Airmen from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and Kadena Air Base, Japan, made up the Air Force support piece of the JTF-505 JACCE at U-Tapao Royal Thai Naval Airfield, Thailand. There, an intermediate staging base was established to support aircraft flying in and out of Nepal. Additionally, U.S. and Thai forces worked together to support Nepal at the Thai-U.S. HADR Combined Coordination Center for Nepal.

With air operations humming throughout the Pacific, much of the Nepal coordination, monitoring and planning occurred at the 613th Air Operations Center in Hawaii, which serves as the nerve center of air operations during any Pacific campaign.

"It doesn't matter if it's an earthquake in Nepal or a typhoon in the Philippines, the team assembled here [at PACAF] has all the relationships, abilities, and the situational awareness needed to anticipate what would be required of us, to prepare those requirements, and to get into the 'fight' as quickly as possible," Minihan said.

In total, the U.S. Air Force flew 171 sorties and spent over 730 hours in the sky, collectively airlifting 800 short tons of cargo and 863 passengers in and out of Nepal on C-17 Globemasters and C-130 Hercules aircraft in support of Operation Sahayogi Haat.

About 900 U.S. military and civilian personnel from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps contributed to the Nepal relief efforts as part of JTF-505.

Game changer: Airman gives back, grows as mentor to high school football team

by Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel
36th Wing Public Affairs

6/11/2015 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam  -- As the sun hangs in a warm glow over the Pacific island, a group of Guam High School football players eagerly reach for a chilled bottle of water as they take a break from football drills at Andersen Air Force Base.

A few moments later, they are summoned back to the field and queue up to run several yards before reaching for a wide pass from across the field.
"Good catch!" compliments their coach with a high-five as he readies for the next throw.

For almost a month now, Senior Airman Presley Griffith, 36th Mobility Response Squadron executive assistant, spends three evenings per week coaching free spring football training sessions he created in tandem with Guam High School's head coach, Jacob Dowdell.

"I've played football since third grade and I realized how important practicing in the spring is to prepare and get ready (for the fall season)," Griffith said. "When I learned that students here did not have a training camp yet, I decided to help out. Now, students get to throw the ball on an actual football field and run through drills and movements together as a team in preparation for the upcoming season."

Growing up in Fouke, Arkansas, football was at the center of life for the former quarterback and continues to be a lifelong passion for the Airman. During his senior year, Griffith's commitment on the field earned him the chance to attend Football University's Top Gun High School Camp, an intense training event reserved for top players. He received pointers and mentorship from experienced coaches, former NFL players and was also scouted by Southern Arkansas University, which later offered him an opportunity to join their team after graduation.

The offer, however, placed Griffith in a bind. A battery of injuries suffered during the competitive high school season had taken a toll on the young student, making his decision to advance into an even more demanding level of the sport a difficult one.

If he continued his studies to play at the collegiate level, Griffith recalled, he and his family feared he'd risk his health and professional future.

"I remember first hearing that teams were interested in me. I was ecstatic and excited about being able to play at the next level," Griffith said. "But when it came time to decide, my mind was in the game, but my body wasn't. I knew I couldn't go to college and get beat up like I was in high school."

Another long-time childhood dream, joining the Air Force, quickly started to come into renewed focus for the athlete.

"I wanted to be in the military ever since I was a little kid," he recalled. "I realized that I could join the military and still pursue a coaching degree and the necessary certifications, all while serving my country."

His passion to assist young athletes is more than just game strategy and technical instruction, Griffith said. The students often look for role models and answers about life after high school - turning coaching into mentoring.

"Being a young volunteer coach allows me to work on a very personal level with the players," he said. "I was just in their shoes a few years ago. I get to tell them about how important and valuable their time is right now, to give 100 percent effort and to also enjoy it every step of the way, because they are going to miss it later."

Unexpectedly, Griffith said Air force life offers an excellent opportunity to advance his coaching experience at different schools and pursue his education, on his way to meet his ultimate goal of becoming a high school history teacher and football coach.

"I realized how much coaches have helped me grow as a person," he said. "You learn a lot about discipline, values and mentorship. That is my goal in life, to be a high school football coach and to mentor young athletes.

"The students are the long-term goal," Griffith continued. "It's not about winning every game, but about getting better, fine-tuning your skill and getting the opportunity to keep playing at the next level. And we try to make this possible for the athletes here."

His assistance is also appreciated by GHS's coach, who leads the extracurricular training sessions with Griffith and volunteers additional time with his team.

"Having Senior Airman Griffith out here, bringing his experience to the team, is something we're very happy to have," Dowdell said. "It's all about keeping kids active and healthy. And it's a community effort. With Griffith leading this training, you can tell the students respond to him. They anxiously await his arrival and are ready to work. It's a real pleasure having him here."

To be able to meet with the student athletes after work, Griffith manages a balancing act between work, taking distance education college classes and his wife, who is also expecting their first child.

During duty hours, Griffith currently assists the 36th MRS commander with any and all administrative needs. Whether it's processing performance reports, decorations or handling correspondence and appointments, he manages the organizational needs for his office.

While spending several hours conducting weekly coaching sessions requires careful planning, Griffith's leaders have been supportive of his efforts whenever possible, he said.

"Senior Airman Griffith has always expressed an interest in coaching football,"  said Tech. Sgt. Cheryl Turonis, 36th Wing NCO in charge of the wing support staff and Griffith's former supervisor. "I am glad to see that he is pursuing his goal through volunteering with the Guam High School Football team."

In the near future, Griffith hopes to complete his volunteer coaching package, which would allow him to officially join the local Defense Department Education Activity's high school coaching team as an assistant.

"There are plenty of opportunities to help in the community," Griffith said. "You just have to go out and try. It's important to give 100 percent of your heart. It's going to take some time, but you're going to help and benefit kids in the future. Just know that they are going to look up to you and it's paramount to be an appropriate role model for them."

Until his next permanent change of station, Griffith plans to continue coaching, improving as a mentor and attending the local high school games.

However, he said there is one downside to being a football fan on a remote island in the Pacific: Watching live football broadcasts may turn into an unexpected challenge as games air with a 14 hour time difference from the East Coast. Griffith's joy for the game thus often keeps him up and in front of the TV at odd hours of the night, as he catches the latest developments in stadiums half a world away.

"My wife fully understands my love for the game," Griffith said. "She gets up with me at 4 a.m. on Sunday mornings to watch the games and understands how much it means to me."

ARPC first sergeant serves with pride

by Airman 1st Class Emily E. Amyotte
460th Space Wing Public Affairs

6/12/2015 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- When the Air Force repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell, many gay Airmen felt like they could finally be open about who they were.

Thomas Metcalf was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1982. He grew up in a lower-class family that was no stranger to food stamps, he said. He spent the first nine years of his life living on a farm with his two siblings.

Metcalf's mother joined the Army when he was eight years old. It changed the course of his family's entire life, he said. It was an equalizer for the Metcalfs. It was his first introduction to the military lifestyle.

Later on after a failed attempt at college, he decided that he would also join the military like his mother.

"My mother was a huge influence on why I wanted to join the military," Metcalf said. "I saw how it turned my family's life around and I knew that I never wanted to worry about money again."

He initially wanted to join the Marines because that's what he thought the definition of a "man" was, but he wasn't yet a legal adult and his mom wouldn't give her consent.

Metcalf didn't know how to swim, so he said the Navy was out. He didn't want to go through what his mother did, so the Army was out. He figured that if he didn't want to be in the Army, he didn't think that the Marines Corps would be any easier. So after some more thought, he decided that the Air Force was the branch for him.

His first base was Anderson Air Force Base, Guam. Within his first two or three months of being on station, he had heard that he was under investigation for being gay.

"A friend of mine told me that he had heard I was under investigation," Metcalf said. "It was weird because I didn't even do anything. I'm not sure how they got the idea. It taught me that I should not be open about being gay and I should be cautious about the people who know and be careful with my mannerisms and actions."

Not long after his investigation began, 9/11 happened and his command had bigger and better things to focus on, he said. He said that his first base taught him to be cautious and never admit to being gay.

"I never told anyone that I was gay, their assumptions can be their assumptions," he said. "But as long as I never told anyone I was gay, I knew I'd be somewhat okay."

Metcalf was then sent to Ramstein AFB, Germany. There he was able to be open around his Airmen. He was able to talk openly about his boyfriend at the time because of his support group and the European lifestyle being more accepting of gays.

But for people he wasn't close with, he still had his secrets. He learned to get in the habit of saying "Danielle" when speaking about his boyfriend, "Darnell" and changing all his "he's" to "she's." Because of Don't Ask Don't Tell, Metcalf still had to remember to keep his stories together. Leading a separate life was now his normal.

After his time in Germany, he returned back to the United States which meant he also had to return to hiding who he was.

It was a smart move at the time, he said. But after six and a half years of active duty service, he transitioned into the reserves so that he could peruse school and learn how to survive outside the military. It gave him the chance to live a civilian life and be around people who were more accepting of his sexual orientation, he said.

On September 20, 2011 the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal happened and it changed Metcalf's life. He was now able to be open about who he was. He was now able to be himself and not worry about possibly losing his job over his sexual orientation.

"I heard it over the radio," he said. "I was leaving Buckley AFB one day and I heard the president speaking. And I did not realize how much of an effect it'd have on me. I was driving and I heard him say the words in the speech and I started crying. In one swift move, he just validated my entire military career."

His twelve years, multiple deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and Qatar, being stationed in multiple countries, doing his best for the Air Force, was all validated in one presentation, he said.

"It still makes me excited to think about," he said.

Regardless of the repeal, nothing was different the next day at work, he said. Metcalf didn't open up to his coworkers for another two years, but after a while he didn't feel like it was fair to keep his partner a secret.

"It was freeing," he said about coming out. "You don't realize how much stress you carry about an issue until it's removed and you can feel the weight removed."

During last year's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Month, Metcalf told his heart-felt story. His words filled the crowd with tears, smiles and applause.

Master Sgt. Metcalf is now the first sergeant for the Air Reserve Personnel Center on Buckley AFB. Part of his inspiration for becoming a first sergeant was to help Airmen through tough times like he experienced, he said.

"I do this to be there for people in this time and this transition in the Air Force and giving them the support they need and some guidance they need sometimes," he said. "Realizing that they too can succeed, and they will promote and they will continue their career and they can meet all aspirations they have."

Metcalf hopes to see in the future of the Air Force and America an equal workplace for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight Airmen.

"My hope going forward is that LGBT members serving in the military and have served in the military are able to take part in the freedoms that we have served to protect."

Metcalf wants everyone to know that no matter what someone's sexual orientation is, background or story, if they decided to serve, that is all that matters, he said.

"I am African American, I am a son, I am a man, I am in the Air Force and I am gay," he said. "But none of those make me a single identifier. And it's important to me that I am seen as I want to be seen, and that is as an Airman in the Air Force."