Monday, June 29, 2015

621st CRW finalizes reorg during capstone ceremony

by 1st Lt. Jake Bailey, 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs
621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

6/29/2015 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J.  -- Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing hosted a capstone ceremony here June 26, finalizing the recent reorganization of groups within the wing.
The ceremony began with the inactivation of the 621st Contingency Operations Support Group, signifying the completion of the wing's restructuring initiative to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of its global air mobility operations.

Maj. Gen. Rick Martin, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center commander, passed on high praise from Gen. Darren McDew, Air Mobility Command commander, and Lt. Gen. Carlton Everhart, 18th Air Force commander, for completing the reorganization. Martin added that they are mindful of the significance of the reorganization and what it does to improve efficiency and fur-ther capitalize on NCO leadership.

Martin commended an audience of Airmen from the 621 CRW by stating, "You've been reor-ganizing, all the while, getting the mission done. I equate that to modifying an aircraft while it's flying. You are doing that and you're not missing a beat. That's an incredible testimony to your leadership, to the planning and to the execution here."

Martin said the reorganization is the culmination of the years of lessons learned the 621 CRW has captured and implemented through global contingency response operations. The newly structured CRW will maintain the same mission to support air mobility operations worldwide, he added.

"I don't know if there's been a more significant time in our nation's history where we've called upon the CRW and have asked so much in changing--as well as executing--the mission," Martin said. "I couldn't be more proud of what you are doing; all of you deliver air mobility at the point of need, whether permissive, uncertain or hostile environment."

The bicoastal wing--with units stationed here and at Travis Air Force Base, California--previously had a total of six groups consisting of four contingency response groups and two contingency operation support groups. With these six groups now inactivated, three new groups now consolidate the capacity and capability to respond to world-wide contingencies at a moment's notice: the 821st Contingency Response Group located at Travis AFB, and the 621st Contingency Response Group and 621st Air Mobility Advisory Group located at JB MDL.

"The CRW reorganization combined units in order to be more effective in our mission," said Col. James Copher, 621 CRW commander. "We streamlined the top levels of command in order to give each squadron commander the resources, personnel, training and span of control they needed to execute our specialized missions."

The month-long reorganization process spelled the inactivation of 17 units and formation of 12 newly activated units. The new unit realignments streamline the command's unity of effort to help maximize efficiency of the contingency response units as the demand for its rapid mobility mission continues across the globe.

"What hasn't changed is the mission, the teamwork, and most importantly, the Airmen of the CRW," Copher said. "Because the amazing people of the CRW remain the same, we'll retain the most important part of the Devil Raiders: versatile airmen, coming together from different backgrounds, different functional specialties and different personal experiences to form one team and solve complex problems in extreme conditions to execute one mission."

The wing is tasked with rapidly deploying its approximately 1,500 Airmen to quickly open and operate airfields, establish, expand, sustain and coordinate air mobility operations and liaise with partner nations to foster the development of their air mobility systems through education and outreach.

"We now step into the future as one wing, one team, with one distinct mission executed through four distinct and integrated lines of operation--air advisors, theater command and control, air mobility advisors and contingency response forces," Copher said. "Aligning togeth-er, we create a network that builds, strengthens and executes expeditionary air mobility opera-tions."

Welcoming Major Robert "Bob" Olson home after 46 years

by Senior Airman Xavier Navarro
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

6/26/2015 - FORT SNELLING NATIONAL CEMETERY, Minn.. -- Maj. Robert "Bob" Olson, a native of St. Paul, Minn., perished along with nine other Airmen when his aircraft was shot down on Feb. 5, 1969, in the skies over Vietnam.

Forty-six years later, on June 22, 2015, his wife and their five children finally received closure, as DNA testing led to Olson's remains being identified and returned for burial.

On a cloudy Monday afternoon military personnel, friends and family gathered around a gazebo here as a hearse escorted the remains of Major Olson for one final salute.

Mary Kay Olson, widower, stated that their family has gone through all kinds of emotional struggles ever since her husband went missing in action. "We've gone through funerals, missing in action and honoring him every year through this point."

Sent to perform the funeral ceremony was a team of 18 Airmen from the 319th Air Base Wing Honor Guard at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D.

Staff Sgt. Alexandra Crawley, 319th Force Support Squadron base honor guard program manager, was the NCO-in-charge of the honor guard detail during the funeral and acknowledges the reason why their job is important.

"Words can't explain the pride and honor felt to be a part of the homecoming of Major Olson," said Crawley. "Forty six years later the Honor Guard team was able to be a part of history that deeply enriched who we are today as American Airmen and as a country. It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Crawley expressed how her team's missions have impacted the deceased family member's lives.

"You could see the pride Major Olson's family felt. It was a privilege to be a part of it," said Crawley. "It was such an unforgettable moment being able to finally provide closure to the family and pay tribute to the ultimate sacrifice paid by Major Olson."

Olson was a graduate from West Point Military Academy in 1958 and served in the U.S. Air Force as a navigation instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

In light of new technology unavailable in the past, a DNA testing was done for positive identification making it possible to finally bring Olson's remains back home.

Olson was deployed to the city of Pleiku in central Vietnam and for months, his children communicated with him through care packages, letters and audiotapes.

"Olson was a fantastic father and a great husband, I didn't have him long enough," said Mary Kay Olson.  "What we had of him was wonderful and fabulous memory."

After the ceremony Mary Kay Olson thanked everyone who came to the funeral, she spoke about offering her time as a social worker where she assisted others who loved ones were missing or killed in action.

"My job as a widow is to make sure his memory is honored and so therefor that's what I try to do," said Olson. "I work with 100 survivors in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and try to keep them with their benefits and what they need, that's how I pay back."

Ramsey assumes command of 576th Flight Test Squadron

by Carla Pampe
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

6/29/2015 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Col. Craig Ramsey assumed command of Air Force Global Strike Command's 576th Flight Test Squadron, the only U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile test launch squadron, during a change of command ceremony at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, June 26.

"I am honored to be entrusted with the responsibility of leading the 576th Flight Test Squadron. This unit's reputation within the ICBM community is synonymous with excellence, discipline and adherence to the highest standards, and we'll continue on that path," Ramsey said. "Our contribution to a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent will continue, and the challenges associated with testing today's fielded forces coupled with tomorrow's systems will be met 'head-on' by the professional Airmen of this unit."

In support of the 'deter and assure' mission, the 576th FLTS determines the effectiveness and accuracy of the ICBM force by planning, preparing and conducting ICBM ground and flight tests. The test launches provide performance data and demonstrate the capability of the ICBM force. The information is shared with the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, U.S. Strategic Command, Headquarters Air Force and Air Force Global Strike Command.

Prior to assuming command of the 576th FLTS from Col. Kelvin Townsend, Ramsey served as the Chief, Operations Training and Standardization and Evaluation Branch, Operations Training and Support Division, Operations Directorate, Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Townsend now heads to a position as the 91st Missile Wing vice commander at Minot Air Force Base.

"It has been my honor to be the commander of the 576th Flight Test Squadron. It is absolutely amazing to watch how we problem solve unique challenges and devise solutions to best support the warfighter," he said. "As the only ICBM test unit, we are charged with evaluating the Minuteman III weapon system to ensure it is safe, secure and effective. The members of the 576th Flight Test Squadron are truly the best and work as one team--military, civilian and contractor. They continue to lead the way."

Military Athletes Show Skills at 2015 DoD Warrior Games

By Karen Parrish
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2015 – The Defense Department’s 2015 Warrior Games, which concluded yesterday at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, provided an Olympic-style spectacle of warrior-athletes competing in games of skill not too different from the “arts of war.”

Archery and shooting, cycling and swimming, track and field, volleyball and basketball events displayed the strength, stamina, balance, spatial awareness, muscular control and sheer will that power top professional athletes as well as successful service members.

Leader Involvement, Support

Defense Department leaders and senior military commanders have made programs like the Warrior Games a priority in the years since American forces became engaged in and bore the costs of two long 21st-century wars.

As a recent example, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and his wife, Cassandra, visited and spoke with athletes and families during several of the Warrior Games events. And periodic visits to the wounded and to Arlington National Cemetery have become a voluntary duty undertaken by most civilian and uniformed leaders.

Adaptive Sports

The Military Adaptive Sports Program exists to help service members -- primarily those who served and were wounded, injured or became ill during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- in regaining “quality of life.”

According to its official website, the program, known as MASP, is designed to engage wounded, ill and injured service members early in individualized physical and cognitive activities outside of traditional therapy settings. The program’s stated goal is “to inspire recovery and physical fitness and encourage new opportunities for growth and achievement.”

The benefits of physical activity for injured service members, the site states, include reduced stress, increased quality of life, lower blood pressure, weight management and enhancement of the rehabilitative process.

Program activities include air rifle, air pistol, skeet and trap shooting; archery; baseball and softball; cross-country and track; cycling; equine; discus, shot put and javelin; fishing and hunting; golf; hiking; kayaking and canoeing; rock climbing; rodeo; sitting volleyball; hockey; snow skiing; surfing; swimming and scuba diving; triathlon; wheelchair basketball; and yoga.

U.S. Special Operations Command administers its own form of rehabilitative sports assistance. The Care Coalition is Socom-led for special operations troops and their families.

Socom Commander Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel is quoted on the coalition’s home page:

"You kept faith with our nation, and we will keep faith with you. The Care Coalition is our action arm to assist in your recovery, rehabilitation and transition. We are committed to you and your family – now, and in the future."

Service-Unique Skills

Socom sponsored a team for this year’s Warrior Games, as did the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Coast Guard members teamed with Navy sailors, and a team from the United Kingdom, which sponsors the “Invictus Games” -- a sister event to the Warrior Games -- also took part.

Totaling 250 warrior-athletes, the teams competed for medals in seven events June 19-28: cycling, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, archery, shooting, field events and swimming.

Each service develops and emphasizes in its members the skills required by its operational domains, typically understood to include ground, sea, air, space and cyberspace. So while soldiers and Marines might be expected to be the top shooters, shipboard volleyball and basketball experience –- earned during long months at sea -– might make sailors more adept at those team sports.

Marine Corps Base Quantico, which is about 30 minutes’ travel from the Pentagon, served as the hosting installation and site of most of this year’s events. The swimming competition took place at Freedom Aquatics in nearby Manassas, Virginia.

The base, known as the “crossroads of the Marine Corps,” spreads over nearly 90 square miles of Virginia, and is marked by hills, trees, trails, streams and the usual neatly demarcated training, working, housing and community service areas common to U.S. military installations worldwide.

F-15E Strike Eagle students complete training at D-M

by Airman 1st Class Chris Drzazgowski
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/26/2015 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Student pilots from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, have been training here since June 17.

Fourteen F-15E Strike Eagles from the 334th Fighter Squadron, as well as pilots and Weapons Systems Officers, came to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to complete the Surface Attack Tactics phase of their training.

"We're a formal training unit that teaches brand new Strike Eagle pilots and Weapons Systems Officers before we send them off to an operational squadron," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Nathan Mead, 334th FS commander. "We teach them all the basics about how to employ the Strike Eagle."

The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. An array of avionics and electronics systems gives the F-15E the capability to fight at low altitudes, day or night, and in all weather.

"With this class, we're at the very end of the program where we test all the basic skills together in a tactically challenging scenario," Mead said. "Out here with the airspace, the ranges and the potential to integrate with other assets, it makes for great training for the students."

Surface Attack Tactics is the final flying phase of training for F-15 pilots and a culmination of all the training they have received thus far.

"These students have completed nine months of air-to-air and air-to-ground courses," said Capt. Adam Vogel, 334th FS instructor pilot. "They've proven to us that they are worthy of becoming Strike Eagle Warriors. Now, we're challenging them further by introducing an unfamiliar environment, integration with A-10s, F-16s and F-35s, air-to-ground threat emitters and tactical command and control."

Other than serving as an unfamiliar environment, southern Arizona's airspace provides optimal conditions for this training. 

"Back east, the airspace is a lot more congested and has a much different terrain than D-M has," Mead said. "The capability to operate in a mountainous terrain is beneficial because it provides the students with exposure to an environment that is similar to the one in which they will be carrying out their mission," Mead said.

Large neighboring tactical ranges, challenging terrain and the opportunities to integrate with other assets were all considerations that made D-M a prime training site.

"From the standpoint of delivering and employing weapons in a tactical scenario, we're able to do that in a much more realistic way because of the size of the range compared to what we have back east," Mead said.

During the training, 36 weapons were employed along with 16 2,000 pound guided bomb unit-24s and 20 500 pound GBU-12s.

"We don't want the students' first time employing weapons to happen in combat," Mead said.

The students leave D-M to go back to Seymour Johnson Sunday and are scheduled to graduate July 10.

"We are proud of their accomplishments here and we know that they are better prepared for combat," Vogel said.

Airman 1st Class Chris Massey contributed to this story

Marines Lead 2015 DoD Warrior Games to Ceremonial Close

By Karen Parrish
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2015 – The 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games concluded with a ceremony yesterday at Butler Stadium, an open-air venue at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, that serves as parade ground and athletic arena.

As the hosting service, the Marine Corps choreographed an event to remember. The Games brought together 250 military athletes -- most of them previously wounded, ill or injured on duty -- who have retrained their minds and bodies through adaptive sports.

Saluting the Warrior Spirit

A Marine Corps marching band in red and white, playing brass instruments and drums, set the pace, stepping complex patterns on the field.

Then the color guard, made up of representatives from the participating nations and services, paraded their flags, with the United Kingdom’s “Union Jack” making a brave showing next to the military flags and the stars and stripes of the United States.

Athletes who had competed in the Games throughout the 10-day gathering stood or sat at attention facing the flags. After the color guard cleared the field, dark-jacketed Marines with bayoneted rifles marched onto the grass, taking up a formation facing the crowd.

The ceremony progressed as the riflemen began a demonstration of drill and ceremony precision and skill, with rifles spinning as they were tossed and exchanged through the air. In both facing squad-style elements and the extended line, the gloved experts never slipped.

The Force Behind the Games

Then the commandant took the field: Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. approached the podium for his remarks.

“It’s been an absolute honor” to host the games, he said, before greeting the many senior leaders and spouses in attendance. Dunford said each of the services placed “exactly the right amount of emphasis on this to make the Games a success.”

The general then addressed the “very important people: the athletes, the families, the caregivers and the coaches.”

When the Games opened, he said, he had noted that the success of the competition would be judged by the quality of their experience.

“This week’s games have truly been about the wounded, the injured, the ill men and women who have adapted and overcome extraordinary challenges. … Thanks for inspiring us with your courage, your spirit and your resilience,” the commandant said.

“I hope you enjoyed the competition, and the camaraderie,” he continued. “I hope you depart Quantico recommitted to stay in the attack, and I hope you’ve been reminded that the family represented by the men and women that are here in uniform tonight are your family forever.”

The general went to detail some of the operational planning behind the Games. Just over 90 days before the games, he said, a “pickup team” -- led by Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Juan G. Ayala and including 70 service members working on logistics alone -- started putting the Warrior Games together.

“This week, we saw heat, rainstorms and other friction that tested their flexibility, their imagination and, quite frankly, their sense of humor,” he said. “In every case, they made it happen.”

Exercise Northern Edge 15 hones interoperability during joint exercise

by Capt. Tania Bryan
NE15 Joint Information Bureau Public Affairs

6/29/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Over 6,000 U.S. service members and 200 aircraft from across the continental United States and Asian-Pacific converged upon Alaska for Exercise Northern Edge 2015, June 15-26.

Northern Edge, a biannual Pacific Command contingency exercise, seeks to replicate the most challenging scenarios in the Pacific theater to ensure joint U.S. forces are trained and prepared to respond to crises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Significantly, Exercise Northern Edge is held in a state that is as wide as the lower 48 states and larger than Texas, California and Montana combined.  The military air, land and sea training ranges in Alaska are collectively known as the JPARC, or Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, and includes 65,000 square miles of available airspace, nearly 2,500 square miles of land space and 42,000 square nautical miles of surface, subsurface and overlying airspace in the Gulf of Alaska.

The JPARC provides for wide and varied training unmatched anywhere else in the world.

"Northern Edge airspace is unique for us in a testing environment because it has a lot of joint players and is a large force exercise that tests the capabilities of a dense (radio frequency) environment," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Adam Smith, Commander of the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron.  This replicates a scenario we could face in a future threat.

Unique to this exercise is the ability to train in and over the Gulf of Alaska, which allows us to work with Navy surface and subsurface assets in a joint environment, Smith said. This, in addition to our Marine partners and the air operations center working together, we get as close as we can to actual combat through an exercise.

The un-encroached training space is but one benefit of Northern Edge, another being the myriad players from different units, major commands, and all four branches of the U.S. military.

The ability to bring the joint forces together gave us the opportunity to have a dialogue about one another's capabilities, said U.S. Air Force Col. Chuck Corcoran, Exercise Northern Edge Air Expeditionary Wing commander.  "We were able to plan together, which we don't get to do very often; we were able to go out and execute together, and we were able to come back and debrief our lessons learned together."

These elements are opportunities that joint forces don't get to regularly exercise together.

"It all starts with interoperability.  On day one we saw that if we don't practice together we won't be able to show up and execute together as a pick-up game if we get called to respond to a contingency," Corcoran said.  "We've got to practice integrating our systems.  The simple ability to have a (U.S. Navy) destroyer communicate with an AWACS over the radio, it sounds easy but it takes practice, it takes repetition."

Many times when units are faced with a tactical problem in day to day training, it is viewed only through the capabilities that that unit brings to the table.  An exercise like Northern Edge brings together all the capabilities that the rest of the joint team has to offer.

"Now when we go back and train day in and day out at the unit level we'll still continue to have those discussions for the next two years until the next Northern Edge.  These lessons live on." Corcoran said.

And it's the benefits of this interoperability training which makes Exercise Northern Edge such a valuable asset to maintaining readiness in the Pacific.

"We have joint forces for a reason; we have experts in the land component, air component, sea component, we have cyber experts and space experts, warfare doesn't happen in a single domain, warfare happens across domains," Corcoran said.  "(It's the challenge of) how to bring all of that together, in an area as vast as the Pacific ... how do we show up with the individual components that are very competent in what they do and bring them together to get the synergies that you have in the joint force."

Overall, the lessons learned from Exercise Northern Edge will continue to be built upon and evolve.

We've learned some great lessons about the need to be interoperable, about what our capabilities can and can not bring to the fight, about new capabilities we are testing, and threat systems, Corcoran said.

And all of those are going to make a better, stronger joint force moving forward. 

"What we gained is a respect for what one another brings to the fight," Corcoran said.  "And, the respect for the fact that we aren't going to be able to show-up, to communicate, and to operate as a joint team if we don't practice it."