Monday, July 06, 2015

Dry weather sparks severe fire danger across Inland Northwest

by Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

6/30/2015 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Wildfires cost an average of more than $3 billion nationwide every year and far outweigh the cost of a 50-cent firework over the Fourth of July weekend, with more than 100,000 wildfires burning an average of four to five million acres of land nationwide each year and up to nine million acres in recent years.

There are three conditions required for a wildfire to burn - fuel, oxygen and a heat source. Lightning, hot winds, fireworks and even the sun can all provide sufficient heat to spark a fire, but most are the result of human factors.

"A few weeks ago we responded to a small brush fire started by some kids playing with matches," said Master Sgt. Andres Steevens, 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron assistant fire chief, who then explained education is the biggest way Team Fairchild can play a part. "We're hosting a fire prevention camp this week primarily for the kids, but the intent is that these kids' parents have a two-way conversation with their kids so everyone understands how they play a part in fire prevention."

Fireworks, exploding targets and other pyrotechnic devices are prohibited in all national forests in Oregon and Washington, banned on Fairchild Air Force Base and Clear Lake Resort, and in these Spokane County, Washington, cities: Spokane, Spokane Valley, Millwood, Cheney and Liberty Lake year-round, regardless of weather conditions or holidays.

Increased local restrictions following a burn ban issued by Spokane County will remain in effect until further notice for any unauthorized open burning, recreational fires and fireworks in Airway Heights and on all Washington Department of Natural Resources lands and regions east of the Cascade Mountains. Call the DNR burning hotline at 1-(800) 323-2876 for more information.

Deer Park employs specific date and time restrictions for the Fourth of July weekend, July 1 to 4, allowing fireworks from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call the Spokane County Fire District 4 in Deer Park at (509) 467-4500. Medical Lake will also allow fireworks from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. only on July 4. The Medical Lake Fire Department cautions users of the risks associated with fireworks, especially during current drought conditions. Call the Medical Lake Fire Department at (509) 565-5022 for more information.

Steevens says it's up to each individual to prevent fires no matter where they are.

"We can have fun without being the cause of a thousand-acre fire," he said.

The National Weather Service in Spokane issued a Red Flag Warning Monday, June 29, citing that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly due to a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures with the potential for thunderstorms including abundant dry lightning.

"While all of us enjoy fireworks during the summer holidays, federal law prohibits their use on the National Forests," said Laura Jo West, the Colville National Forest supervisor in a news release dated June 24. "Fireworks represent a real threat to our forests especially with the hot, dry weather we have been experiencing."

West explained that the penalties for violating any fire restrictions is punishable as a misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5,000 or imprisonment of not more than six months, or both. The U.S. Forest Service and Spokane County request forest and park visitors in areas approved for fires to ensure all fires are extinguished and cold to the touch before leaving them.

Inversely, according to a news release dated June 26, campfires are banned in all Washington state parks until further notice due to a Fire Ban Level 4 - EXTREME. Charcoal or wood fires are not allowed and, as a further precaution, gas and propane may be used for cook stoves only. The ban is part of a statewide effort to prevent human-caused wildfires. This ban includes camping and other forms of recreation at Riverside State Park such as the Bowl and Pitcher Campground in Spokane.

"As we celebrate our nation's independence this weekend, the Fairchild Fire Department asks you keep two things in mind," said Steevens. "First, local firework ordinances for specific cities can be found at most city halls across the nation. Second, our first responders and our brothers across the Pacific Northwest have been working tirelessly to control several wildland fires affecting our area."

"Please celebrate responsibly and help us educate our neighbors," he added.

If you see a fire, report it immediately by calling 9-1-1. Steevens said the quicker they know of an incident, the faster they can put the fire out.

"Fires don't just take a toll on the forests, but the first responders as well. Spend five minutes with any of the first responders after battling a wildland fire and you'll understand how important fire prevention really is."

According to Air Mobility Command's safety office, more than 8,000 people are injured by fireworks and grill fires each summer, and more than half of these injuries occur during the first week of July. Unfortunately, people aren't the only victims, Steevens said.

JB MDL declares best service members during ceremony

by Lance Cpl. Stanley Moy and Senior Airman Tara A. Williamson
Marine Aircraft Group-49 and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs

6/30/2015 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- "Hard work. Dedication. Hard work. Dedication."

Marine Sgt. David Wilson, breathed heavily, flipping a tire during an obstacle course: "Hard work. Dedication," he shouted.

They are also two of the many qualities eight service members from the base recently showcased during the inaugural Joint Base Service Member of the Year Competition.

The two-day competition, May 14-15, featured seven events: an obstacle course designed by the Chiefs Mess, a multi-service physical fitness test, an urban orienteering course, a board appearance, a 100-point written exam, marksmanship qualification, and first aid administration.

June 30, the competitors found out who among them was truly the base's best service member of the year.

"With that many events, you know you're going to get the best service member to represent their service, and in the end, the joint base," said Command Sgt. Maj. Richard H. Anderson, Army Support Activity-Dix. "I think that all of the senior enlisted leaders are proud, I think all the services are proud, of what they're doing and what they're representing."

Holding the best score in the junior-enlisted category in six events - obstacle course, fitness test, board, written exam, marksmanship, and first aid - the 2015 junior enlisted Joint Base Service Member of the Year is Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Albert Martino, Marine Aircraft Group 49.

Winning by eight points in a close competition among NCOs and earning the highest physical fitness score, second highest score on urban orienteering and written exam, the 2015 senior enlisted Joint Base Service Member of the Year is Army Reserve Sgt. Darius Foster, a reservist with the 78th Training Division.

Both service members had less than two weeks to prepare for what would turn out to be more than they had expected.

"The most difficult physically was the Chiefs Mess obstacle course, definitely," said Martino, an Oxford, Pennsylvania native. "I got sick after it and it was hands down one of the toughest things I've ever had to do physically. It was 8 minutes of hell."

"The board is always nerve-wracking, you never know what's going to be thrown at you," Forster said, hailing from Rahway, New Jersey. He added that he had to study every day to brush up on his military knowledge.

Martino said he gained a lot of knowledge from studying for the test; rank structure, customs and courtesies, and going through the board process.

Both winners said that what got them through the challenging competition was the motivation coming from the other service members.

"You gain everything from the different services learning how they interact and how they work, and of course gaining more friends," Foster said.

"I believe that they're starting to build a comradery between one another - you can see they're patting each other on the back," said Anderson. "They're competitors against each other, but at the same time they respect each other and what they're doing."

Throughout the friendly rivalry all of the services supported each other; they all had each other's backs.

"More than anything I gained an appreciation for the other services," Martino said. "You tend to think your service is the best at anything, when you go up against other services in competition you get a feel for how strong they are and it brings you a little bit closer, as well."

"I enjoyed every bit of this competition," Foster added. "It was tiring, but it was worth the pain. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have taken part and would definitely recommend this for anybody who might be interested.

"This was amazing, I've never done anything like it," he continued. "Getting to meet all the other competitors and services and learn about everyone and be in that friendly rivalry environment was something I really enjoyed. I would love to do it again but I'd love to have another Marine be able to compete as well."

Martino thanked all the Marines in MAG-49 who supported him through the competition and pushed him to be a better Marine and Foster commended the 78th TD for all the support before and during the two-day event.

"This is a great competition, we're going to continue to make it better, probably add more events, and it will become something all of our service members here on the joint base look forward to," said Anderson.

Renovated Historic Building Reopens

by Senior Airman Sarah Hall-Kirchner
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

6/30/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Construction of Building P-4 first began in September of 1940 as a 43-bed hospital at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. With the onset of World War II, it soon proved to be inadequate to meet the demands of the large number of wounded transiting through Scott Field. More than 60 new frame buildings were built to meet the demand, but P4 remained the base hospital until the new hospital, the current clinic, was built in 1958. Additions were made to the east and west wings five times between 1963 and 1978. Building P-4 has been used as office space as well as the headquarters for the 1405th Air Base Wing, the 23rd Air Force and, finally, the 18th Air Force.

The P-4 complex needed renovations to bring it up to many safety codes and the American's with Disabilities Act, and in 2011 a contract was awarded to bring the building up to standards, according to Don Peterson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers resident engineer.

"It needed to become a world-class facility for the 18th Air Force Headquarters," he said. "We maintained the historical appearance of the building, consistent with guidance from the State Historic Preservation Office."

A contract was awarded to design and the construct all of the required renovations to P-4, part of which was to ensure the exterior portion of the building maintained its historical appearance.

"All of the windows on the east side of the building were retained and refinished," said Peterson. "All of the exterior brickwork was kept, to maintain its historical aspect."

Working to maintain P-4s historical integrity and to also balance bringing the building up to codes and standards was an opportunity that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the 375th Civil Engineer Squadron, the 18th Air Force and all of the contractors involved embraced.

"It was an important project, and it was an important project to complete," said Peterson. "It was an enjoyable project, through the challenges and successes, we enjoyed it. The project brought us together in order to cooperate and communicate."

Cheryl Majka, 375th CES chief of engineering, was in charge of all of the contracted construction for the P-4 complex renovations. The 375th CES programmed the work, obtained approval from the Secretary of the Air Force for the project, and worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and construct a total renovation of the historic facility.

Bringing the building up to code for seismic protections was the biggest challenge because the plan had to be reworked several times to meet the standards, said Majka.

"Seismic protection refers to additional structural bracing to reduce the risk of damage from earthquakes," she explained. "Scott lies in a major seismic zone due to the New Madrid fault line. There is a potential for a major earthquake in the region, so buildings are now built to reduce the impact of an earthquake and to protect the building occupants by not collapsing."

Peterson reiterated that the seismic protections were a challenge during the renovations.

"The most time consuming and complex aspect of bringing the building up to code was the seismic requirement," Peterson said. "Everything that we do has to comply with codes, so everything in the building was brought up to codes and ADA compliance, including the seismic codes."

Other codes that were met were the fire-safety code. The renovation provides firewalls to prevent potential fires from spreading to the other areas of the building. Stairwells provide much safer exits from the facility than before.

Completed in late May, the building had it's official ribbon cutting ceremony on June 29, 2015. Majka said that her favorite part of the renovation is not inside the building at all.

"My favorite part of the project is the courtyard behind the building," she said. "It will provide a unique and pleasing outdoor space that will add to the beauty and appeal of the historic district on Scott."

After more than three years of renovation, this historic structure is now once again home to 18th Air Force, the operational arm of Air Mobility Command, and the Air Force's largest numbered Air Force.

'PTSD can create a new normal that's a lot worse'

by Airman 1st Class Erica Holbert-Siebert
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

6/30/2015 - 7/2/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. --  -- June 27 was recognized as National Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. This has been authorized by the United States Congress since 2010, and last year Congress designated the whole month of June as PTSD Awareness Month, to offer more opportunity to educate the public on this significant condition.

The Congressional resolution on the subject read, "The establishment of a National PTSD Awareness Day will raise public awareness about issues related to PTSD, reduce the stigma associated with PTSD, and help ensure that those suffering from the invisible wounds of war receive proper treatment."

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is often attributed to combat veterans, but they are not the only individuals that undergo the life altering effects of the disorder. It affects families of members and the trauma does not have to be wartime related. The traumatic event can be a near-death experience or injury, a strong emotional or physical reaction related to an event, or surviving an especially difficult situation.
There have been 110,618 diagnoses of PTSD amongst Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from April 2003 to December 2013, according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.

According to the United States Department of Veteran's Affairs National Center for PTSD, the risk of facing PTSD has many layers to how it can affect someone. If help isn't received following the trauma, it may make the memories harder to process, and additional stress can aggravate the symptoms as well.

Capt. Eva Leven, 375th Medical Operations Squadron Psychologist, works with members diagnosed with PTSD in the armed services.

"Depending on the severity, the stressful event, and whether it's something that happened when they were deployed or if it's something from their childhood, history or family, would create different repercussions," said Leven. "Not to say that everyone with PTSD seeks treatment, but how soon afterwards they seek treatment, and how motivated they are to seek treatment can really make a difference."

There's no way to know who will or won't experience PTSD, according to the VA, but several factors play a part: individual personality, severity of the event, proximity to the event or the people involved, duration of the trauma and the amount of support the person receives afterward. A small percentage of people who live through a traumatic event actually develop PTSD. Individuals may be at higher risk if they:
· Were directly involved in the traumatic event
· Were injured or had a near-death experience
· Survived an especially long-lasting or severe traumatic event
· Believed their life or that of someone around them was in danger
· Had a strong emotional or physical reaction during the event
· Received little or no support following the event
· Have multiple other sources of stress in their life

"PTSD can create a new normal that's a lot worse," said Leven. "You can still have symptoms of PTSD that don't meet diagnoses, but definitely have a negative impact. The criteria for diagnoses depends on frequency, severity, duration, and intensity."

"One thing I was impressed by in our provider training that is different from civilian internships was the several weeks we spend at the Center for Deployment Psychology," said Leven. "We focused on evidence-based treatments, such as prolonged exposure, cognitive processing and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, or EMDR. It's comprehensive in terms of the wide range of treatments providers have been trained on."

EMDR is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate a patient's distress associated with traumatic memories.

Finding treatment that speaks to an individual is key to receiving effective help.
"The Mental Health Clinic would be best equipped to assist a patient suffering with PTSD because of the extensive training, but there are also other options as well," said Leven.

The Military Life and Family Counselor and Military One Source are confidential options to seek help as well.

The United States Department of Veteran's Affairs is another multi-faceted resource to find assistance with PTSD symptoms. They offer online tips and tools such as the PTSD Coach, a free mobile phone application that provides information about managing symptoms that commonly occur after trauma.

The VA also recommends peer support groups, the use of dogs to assist with PTSD and anxiety symptoms. Their website offers a story series about veterans of different conflicts sharing their journey through the difficulties of PTSD, called About Face.

If you would like more information, or would like to make an appointment, call the Mental Health Clinic at 618-256-7386.

Improvement Plans in the Works for Special Forces Underwater Operations School

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

NAVAL AIR STATION KEY WEST, Fla., July 6, 2015 – As humanitarian, training and operational missions continue in the Asia-Pacific region, the combat diving community’s most rigorous school will soon implement its area development plan in support of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s “force of the future” strategy.

The development plan outlines an in-depth study of existing infrastructure improvements, specifically within the U.S. Army’s Special Forces Underwater Operations School’s Combat Diver Qualification , said Army Maj. Joshua Eaton, Commander of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne).

The U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School runs the six-week course on Fleming Key at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida.

Assessing Future Infrastructure, Capacity

“The Special Forces Underwater Operations Dive School is a turnkey operation, Eaton said. “Everything you need to conduct combat diving is here on this compound.”

Still, he said, many facilities on the compound are approaching the end of their 20-year life-cycle, but plans are in place to improve the diving infrastructure, hyperbaric chamber, free-swim and ascent tower, and other critical infrastructure for full-mission profiles, including the potential addition of a maneuver live-fire range.

“The next step is identifying what the future of [Special Forces underwater operations] looks like and what are the infrastructure requirements of not only the company, but the visiting units that conduct training here,” Eaton said. “We need to increase capacity. We want to train more than 36-42 [special operations soldiers] ... per class and increase that number to around 60 per class, or 300 per year.”

The major explained that though most of the students consist of Army Green Berets, Army Rangers and even a few ROTC and West Point cadets, the school also invites coalition partners to attend.

Widely Applicable Skill Sets

Eaton said school initiatives also encompass partnerships with allied nations, including French and Canadian special forces.

“Whenever our allied partners come to our compound and train, we share our tactics, techniques and procedures in order to gain best practices and improve the way we conduct training on the compound,” the major said.

Students train in basic and advanced open-circuit diving before progressing to closed-circuit diving, advanced closed-circuit diving, and finishing with the waterborne infiltration course before planning and executing the culminating exercise, Eaton said.

“[Course graduates] can take these skill sets back to their operational unit and conduct more advanced training with their team, specific to the mission they may execute,” he added.

Twelve-man dive teams, or operational detachment alphas, must ensure they carry the skills they learn into the field for real-world missions or joint training missions with partner nations around the world.

Niche Within a Specialty

“Within the Special Forces regiment, it takes a special Green Beret to want to become a combat diver,” Eaton said. “It’s a niche within a specialized community.”

The Maritime Assessment Course, formerly known as “pre-scuba,” is a prerequisite that has significantly reduced wash-out rates for the combat diver qualification course, despite its rigors, Eaton noted.

“Since the reimplementation of the maritime assessment course, attrition has decreased significantly -- to around 17 percent, which is at an all-time low,” the major said. “The Green Berets and Rangers coming to this course are physically and mentally prepared for the combat diver qualification course.”

The school, which recently marked its 50th anniversary, is self-contained, with administrative and training facilities and classrooms, barracks, a dining facility, a parachute-drying tower and boat maintenance shop, not to mention the largest pool in Key West.

One Constant in School's History

The school’s storied history began in 1964 when soldiers from the JFK Special Warfare Center Scuba Detachment from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were charged with developing a new underwater operations school. Over the next 20 years, the relatively stark site, once dotted with tents housing students, evolved into an advanced maritime special operations training facility with plans for continued improvement well into the 21st century.

But one constant, Eaton emphasized, is the ideal combat dive graduate, which he described simply as determined.

“You know they’ll never quit,” Eaton said. “Even under the worst circumstances underwater, when things get challenging, when they don’t have an air source, they will persevere and overcome and they won’t quit.”

Dive teams, the major said, were the first three combat teams in Afghanistan, a land-locked nation, and that was no mistake.

“They are the best teams, with the best Green Berets, they have the most aggressive personalities on the team, and they accomplish the mission.”

Carter, Le Drian: U.S.-France Defense Cooperation Never Stronger

By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 6, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met at the Pentagon today to discuss shared concerns, ongoing operations and opportunities to strengthen defense cooperation.

Joined by Le Drian at a news conference after their meeting, Carter said the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was an area of discussion.

“I commended Minister Le Drian for his and France’s commitment in the fight to deliver a lasting defeat to ISIL, a campaign that we agreed requires a sustained long-term effort,” the secretary said.

Earlier this year, France deployed its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to the Persian Gulf to support counter-ISIL airstrikes, Carter added, and the French air force continues to play a critical role after being first to join the United States in striking ISIL targets in Iraq.

Among Strongest U.S. Allies

“These are some of the reasons why France continues to be one of our strongest allies when it comes to challenges in the Middle East,” he said, noting France’s persistent leadership in Africa, particularly in the Sahel region. French operations there are preventing spillover of terrorism, trafficking and extremism, the secretary said, and are disrupting al-Qaida affiliates, Boko Haram and other extremists in North and West African nations such as Mali, Niger and Chad.

U.S. forces will continue to support France in such efforts with airlift and aerial-refueling capabilities, he added, and given new security challenges to Europe’s south and east, the leaders agreed that U.S.-France cooperation must remain an anchor for European security.

“Following Russia’s initial acts of aggression in Ukraine, France helped NATO reassure our allies along Europe’s eastern borders,” Carter said, “and we will continue to work together.”

Important Capabilities

During his recent trip to Europe, Carter said, he committed the United States to providing important capabilities to NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which France has volunteered to lead in the future.

“I’ve been working on trans-Atlantic security for a long time, both in and outside of government,” Carter said, “and I think Minister Le Drian would agree [that] this is the best our defense relationship has been in a long time.”

The partnership between France and the United States has long been instrumental to building lasting peace and prosperity, he added, “[and] we must ensure it always will be.”