Monday, July 13, 2015

Arctic Warriors participate in annual Bear Paw festival

by Senior Airman Tammie Ramsouer
JBER Public Affairs

7/13/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Since the birth of the Bear Paw Festival in Eagle River since 1985, Alaskan service members have been a major part of the annual event.

The Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce created the Bear Paw Festival to celebrate growing businesses in Eagle River and bring the community together. This year's festival was hosted July 8 through 12.

"We were a small organization when I started volunteering in 1987," said Suzie Gorski, Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce executive director. "I inherited my current position two years later and organizing this wonderful event since."

During the five-day festival, local service members and the Alaska community participated in many attractions such as carnival rides and the 5K Bear Paw Classic through downtown Eagle River.

One day during the festival is dedicated as Military Appreciation Day.

"We have this day every year during our festival to honor our military neighbors and friends," Gorski said.

The Joint Base Against Drunk Driving and Drug Abuse Resistance Education vehicles, a Soldier marching unit from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and the 9th Army Band from Fort Wainwright Alaska participated in this year's parade.

"The band has played at the Bear Paw Parade for many years," said Army Warrant Officer Michael Krzmarszick, 9th Army Band commander. "We love performing for the community. It's an honor for us to provide music and esprit de corps for the people of Alaska. We always appreciate the open arms from the Alaskan community, especially Anchorage and Eagle River has shown us."

Senior Airman Matthew Dunlap, 673d Security Forces Squadron armorer, said this is his first time marching in the parade.

"I think Bear Paw Festival is a great opportunity to get out in the community," Dunlap said. "As a law enforcement member, it's good to let the community know that we care about them and want to keep them safe just as much as the people we protect on base."

The new U.S. Army Alaska commander, Maj. Gen. Bryan Owens, also participated. This is Owens' first time at Bear Paw, as well as the beginning of his first tour in the 49th state.

"The community here is incredibly supportive towards the military," Owens said. "You can feel it, it's not just words. It's exciting to be here and in uniform to represent USARAK and participate in the event."

As the organizer of Bear Paw, Gorski said she designs the festival to be as inviting as possible to the local community and military.

"This festival is the best way for people to feel they are part of their community by participating in and contributing to [it]," Gorski said. "The event provides nonprofit organizations an opportunity to raise funds."

The proceeds made from those fundraisers will be donated to different charities around the community.

This is Gorski's last year organizing the Bear Paw, but she said her career as the executive director has been a fun and great opportunity.

"Alaska is often a stopping place for many people in their journey through life and the time they spend in this state," Gorski said. "We want them to feel like it is home during their time here."

F-16CM Accident Report Released

Release Number: 010715

7/13/2015 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- An F-16CM pilot's unrecognized descent led to a fatal crash in the Central Command area of responsibility on Dec. 1, 2014, according to an Air Combat Command Accident Investigation Board report released today.

Capt. William H. DuBois Jr., assigned to Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. and deployed to Southwest Asia as part of the 77th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, was the flight lead for two F-16s conducting a combat mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve when the crash occurred.

According to the investigation report, the pilot's wingman experienced a landing gear door malfunction on takeoff which required both aircraft to return to base. The wingman landed safely, but when DuBois attempted to make his landing, he was unaware of his own rapid descent during approach procedures to the runway. This unintentional descent - coupled with the lack of time to be able to recognize and respond to the danger - led to the crash.  He did not have the opportunity to eject from the aircraft and was killed upon impact.

The loss of government property was valued at $30.8 million. The mishap caused neither civilian injuries nor damage to civilian property.

121 ARW participates in Red White, Boom

by Airman Ashley Williams
121st Air Refueling Wing

7/11/2015 - RICKENBACKER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ohio -- More than 30 Airmen and their families, with the 121st Air Refueling Wing, participated in a 20 year tradition of  raising the flag during Red, White and Boom July 3 in downtown Columbus.

"I've been doing this for about 14 years total," said Master Sgt. Keith Koblitz, with the 121st ARW. "I find it remarkable how the younger Airmen pull together and get involved and excited about participating in this event."

The Airmen and their families volunteered to raise the flag during the national anthem at the start of the firework show.

"Being up top, you don't really see it, but watching that flag go up with the national anthem playing and fireworks going off is amazing," said Koblitz.

The garrison flag was raised on the side of the old Columbia Gas building, now owned by the Casto Real Estate Company.

"It was our first year with a different set of people, but they were awesome," said Senior Master Sgt. Joe Dixon, with the 121st ARW. "It's great to be able to keep this tradition going."

The Airmen also rode in the parade with the Ohio National Guard and the 122nd Army Band.

"It's a great feeling to be a part of the tradition and having the guard help out," said Dixon. "I get to show off my unit and show people what we're a part of."

"I'm so glad to see that this tradition will be welcomed back again next year," said Dixon.

Alma students visit 188th Wing

by Senior Airman Cody Martin
188th Wing Public Affairs

7/7/2015 - Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Arkansas-- -- Students from the Alma School District attending Camp Airedale visited Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Fort Smith, Arkansas for tours of the base and an inside look of the 188th Wing's conversion to the remotely piloted aircraft and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions  June 10 through 24, 2015.

Visiting the base provides campers the opportunity to view the 188th Wing history and to learn about how their local Air National Guard uses their current mission to protect them from threats outside the United States.

Camp Airedale is a new summer learning program for the Alma School District students that are in grades Kindergarten through 8th Grade. It has a curriculum centered on experienced-based activities and uses more out-of-classroom and off-campus activities than are available during the typical school year.

"Visiting the base can have a significant impact on them," said 2nd Lt. Jake Tidwell, 188th Wing assistant executive officer. "It demonstrates just how technical our jobs can be and that in order to succeed; you're going to need a good education."

After arriving on base, the campers were taken to see display aircraft from the 188th's previous missions. The kids were then given a briefing from Senior Master Sgt. Carl Schneider, 188th Intelligence Support Squadron cyber systems superintendent.

After the first briefing, the campers sat in on another with the 188th Operations Group, where they also were able to use the RPA flight simulator. To end the day campers visited with Airmen at Ebbing Lake, casting a few lines, catching a few fish.

"This was a wonderful experience for all of our kids, several of them have never been fishing or visited a facility like this," expressed Jan Miller, 5th grade teacher at Alma School District. "They got to learn about the planes and everything going on at the base. They were thrilled to be here."

Kearsarge, 26th MEU Complete ARG Exercise

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aren Everett, USS Kearsarge Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Sailors from the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (KSGARG) returned to homeport at Naval Station Norfolk July 2, after participating in the KSGARG/MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) Exercise off the U.S. Atlantic coast.

The KSGARG consists of the Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 4, 26th MEU, the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51).

"Our major objective is to make sure we get the Marines where they need to go," said Chief Warrant Officer James Edward Gray III, Kearsage tactical information warfare officer. "In order to do that, you've got to protect the ship from being damaged, hit or attacked. Every ship has a role to play in all of that."

During the exercise, the ARG was tested in every possible type of warfare situation. One of the last exercises was a strait transit, which was like the capstone of ARGMEUEX, according to Gray.

"They threw everything at us," said Gray. "Just watching the communication flow through combat, to the bridge, and then to the warfare commanders, made me think we were doing well. We weren't taking any damage; there was no reason for us to set GQ, so everything was happening pretty smoothly."

"For a person who doesn't know what they're getting into, going on the watch, knowing that it's going to happen, is kind of unnerving," said Gray, "but once you get there and sit in the seat it becomes more like an opportunity to be on the varsity team and play in the big game, so to speak. Once you start doing it you don't want to stop. It's pretty fun."

The KSGARG is scheduled to participate in the composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX), which is the final certification before deployment. Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 4 oversees and conducts both ARGMEUEX and COMPTUEX.

Gray said that this will be the seventh COMPTUEX of his career.

"It's like ARGMEUEX on steroids," said Gray. "There'll be a lot of what they call 'free play' involved, where they'll get off the script and maybe one night you'll wake up to hearing that we're in the middle of doing something with other ships that are not necessarily on our team. It's going to be interesting."

The KSGARG is scheduled to deploy in fall 2015.

121 ARW hosts 3rd Pilot for a Day

by Airman Ashley Williams
121st Air Refueling Wing

7/13/2015 - RICKENBACKER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ohio -- Airmen with the 121st Air Refueling Wing hosted Madalyn Charles, a 13-year-old from London, Ohio, as Pilot for a Day June 18, 2015.

"Today was our third Pilot for a Day event," said Capt. Cassandra Seward, the executive officer with the 121st ARW. "When Capt. Wonn and I decided to try it at our base, I had no idea how great this experience would be for the honorary pilot, the wing members or for me. It has truly been one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences in my military career."

Charles was diagnosed with Tricuspid Atresia, a form of congenital heart disease where the tricuspid valve is missing, causing the right ventricle in the heart to be underdeveloped.

"Many people take their lives and health for granted," said Seward. "Being able to serve in the Air National Guard is an honor and a privilege that many children like Madalyn will never have."

Charles spent the day at Rickenbacker, experiencing what it would to be like in the various squadrons here.

"This has been amazing," said Barbara Charles, mother of Madalyn. "The military is not something that she's able to do in her future, so for her to be able to experience those opportunities for a day has been really awesome."

Activities included taking a tour of the KC-135 Stratotanker, marshalling an aircraft, taking a tour of the fire department which included a ride on the fire truck, learning about emergency management and interacting with security forces personnel.

"I have been so blessed to be able to spend one day with each of them," said Seward. "I hope we are able to carry on this partnership with Nationwide Children's Hospital and the community for years to come. It is so amazing to see how this unit comes together to support this event."

Working Group to Study Implications of Transgender Service

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2015 – A Defense Department working group will study the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly in the military, and its work will presume they can do so unless objective and practical impediments are identified, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced today.

In a statement announcing the working group, Carter said that over the last 14 years of conflict, the Defense Department has proven itself to be a learning organization.

“This is true in war, where we have adapted to counterinsurgency, unmanned systems, and new battlefield requirements such as [mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles],” Carter said. “It is also true with respect to institutional activities, where we have learned from how we repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," from our efforts to eliminate sexual assault in the military, and from our work to open up ground combat positions to women.

“Throughout this time,” he continued, “transgender men and women in uniform have been there with us, even as they often had to serve in silence alongside their fellow comrades in arms.”

Outdated Regulations Causing Uncertainty

The Defense Department's current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from DoD’s core missions, the secretary said.

“At a time when our troops have learned from experience that the most important qualification for service members should be whether they're able and willing to do their job, our officers and enlisted personnel are faced with certain rules that tell them the opposite,” he added. “Moreover, we have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines - real, patriotic Americans - who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that's contrary to our value of service and individual merit.”

Carter said he issued two directives today to deal with this matter.

First, DoD will create a working group to study over the next six months the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly. Brad Carson, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, will lead the group, which will be composed of military and civilian personnel representing all the military services and the Joint Staff and will report directly to Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work.

“At my direction,” Carter said, “the working group will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified.”

Elevated Decision Authority for Administrative Discharges

Second, the secretary said, he is directing that decision authority in all administrative discharges for those diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who identify themselves as transgender must be elevated to Carson, who will make determinations on all potential separations.

“As I've said before, we must ensure that everyone who's able and willing to serve has the full and equal opportunity to do so, and we must treat all our people with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Carter said. “Going forward, the Department of Defense must and will continue to improve how we do both. Our military's future strength depends on it.”

Summer of five transitions encourages innovation

by Airman 1st Class Autumn Velez
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

7/10/2015 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- What if, instead of muting and storing your cell phone during a commander's call, you took it out of your pocket and began typing and texting in plain sight?

At a commander's call hosted by Col. Michael Bob Starr, 7th Bomb Wing commander, that's exactly what happened.

Starr invited Airmen of all ranks to join him for an interactive commander's call by using their mobile devices to view his presentation in a web browser. In addition to putting the presentation in the palm of the audience's hands, the web-based program allowed Starr to perform live polls, display real-time results and allow the audience to submit questions.

To begin his call, Starr acknowledged the numerous transitions the wing will soon experience. "I am referring to this season, for us, as the summer of five transitions," Starr said. "This transition will provide a chance to relook at how we do business."

These transitions include: the B-1B Lancer's transition to the Block-16 upgrade, which is the largest hardware and software modification ever performed on the aircraft, the standing up of an Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, the establishment of a B-1 classic reserve association at Dyess, the 7th BW's transition from Air Combat Command to Air Force Global Strike Command, and the introduction of the new Enlisted Evaluation System.

"Anytime you go through a transition, it is a good time to reassess where you are and what you are doing," Starr said. "This will help create an innovative culture."

He then took the opportunity to highlight innovative things happening across the installation, including the introduction of a smartphone application created by a Dyess Airman that streamlines data collecting and work order processing for damaged runway sections by geo-tagging the specific damaged areas and the reorganization of the aircraft parts store to more effectively accomplish the mission.

"This is what we do," he said. "We are driven by the need to find creative solutions to problems."

Continuing to encourage innovation, Starr promoted the Big Country Innovation Challenge 1.0. The challenge is an entrepreneurial pitch contest that gives Airmen six minutes to propose their innovative idea for the chance to win $5,000 to put towards executing their solution. The first challenge was held June 26, and there will be and more challenges to come over the course of the year.

After his briefing, he took questions from the audience using the questions submitted to him from the web-based program. In total, there were nearly 300 questions submitted to Starr over the five commander's calls throughout the day. These questions ranged from serious concerns to simple questions.

One common concern was the 7th BW's upcoming transition from ACC to AFGSC. Starr expressed that very little would change with this transition to a new major command. Some questions were about upcoming changes to the Enlisted Evaluation System and Weighted Airman Promotion System. One audience member asked if Chief Master Sgt. Aaron Bennett, who recently became the 7th Bomb Wing command chief, was required to shave his head in order to take the job. Bennett took the floor to assure a clean-shaven head was not a requirement, just a coincidence, since he and Starr both sport the look.

To bring the commander's call to a close, Starr left the Airmen with some motivational words.

"Innovation is part of Airmen's DNA," he said. "This is who we are. It's branded into our culture. It's branded into our tradition. It's part of our core values. It's inherently part of excellence."

Mental health, "To go or not to go"

by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen
432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

7/13/2015 - CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada  -- The clinic buildings themselves aren't scary; add the words mental health and the image of being studied like a frozen caveman, and most people will avoid them like a tiger were on the loose. That's why the 432d Wing Human Performance Team was stood up--to alieve that stigma, provide help and make those who can help easily available.

In the minds of some service-members, there is a false image of the mental health clinic as a dark hole where clearances are lost and careers are ruined. This very connotation ran through the mind of Capt. David, 432nd Wing RPA pilot, as he prepared to make an appointment.

In the previous months David battled depression on a daily basis, his motivation slowly wilted away until he found it a struggle to even find the energy to enjoy playtime with his children.

"I love my kids with all my heart," he said. "It just got to a point where I was under so much stress and felt so depressed. I didn't want to do much of anything."

His troubles began while on deployment. As if being away from his family and missing birthdays and holidays weren't enough, he faced problems with his daily duties.

"While on deployment it felt as if I wasn't a part of the team and while I was doing great work, for some reason I had a negative reputation. On top of that I was having some marital issues," he said.

His frustrations seemed to follow him home, opportunities to make instructor pilot or flight commander passed him by and he saw junior officers with less experience fill these slots instead.

"I felt I was getting ignored for no reason," he said. "I tried my best, I did great work, but I was being bad-mouthed and I didn't know why."

Everything seemed to keep piling up, daily struggles of shift work, lack of sleep, and time away from family combined with a million other things led his mind to start to wander.

"I thought about committing suicide," he said, trembling with the memories. "I couldn't do that to my family. I also remembered hearing that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I knew deep down my feelings of despair would subside. For the time of despair, it really hurt."

He and his wife decided he needed to get help immediately. While David was still hesitant for fear of career repercussions, at the time, he decided that was the least of his worries.

"I finally had to accept that I was most likely going to lose my clearance and not be able to fly. At that point I knew I just needed help," he said.

David sought out the chaplain for guidance where he learned about the other services of the human performance team. The HPT is unique to Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, and is comprised of the chaplain corps, operational psychologist, operational physiologist, and flight medicine doctor and aims to help Airmen in the spiritual, psychological, physical, emotional, and intellectual areas of wellness.

The chaplain determined David needed psychological help and referred him to the operational psychologist. David met with him for weekly sessions but ultimately it wasn't enough.

"(The psychologist) recommended I go to the mental health clinic," he said. "I was still really nervous, I really didn't want to be put on DNIF (Duty Not to Include Flying) status."

After the nerve-wracking visit to the clinic, David was diagnosed with depression and his fear of being DNIF became a reality.

"When they put me on DNIF I was angry," he said. "I was angry at the chaplain, the psychologist, just everyone."

While he was no longer on flying status, David retained his clearance and was transferred from his flying squadron to the 432nd Operations Support Squadron as the chief of operational planning and exercises.

His frustration and uneasiness started to subside. His new assignment gave him the opportunity to support the operations rather than fly them.

"The change gave me a much needed break," he said. "Now I work a normal day shift with weekends and holidays off which let me spend some much needed quality time with my wife and kids."

Couple a new mission with his ongoing treatment and David began to notice a positive change.

"I felt refreshed, I have more self-confidence, self-esteem, and I'm more sociable and motivated at work," he said. "I even won company grade officer of the quarter for my squadron and I'm getting praise from my bosses. It's been a total change."

If not for the advice and counseling he received from the HPT, as well as, the support from his family, it's possible he wouldn't be here show that he wouldn't have seen this positive change in his career.

"I was very hesitant following the advice from the HPT to go to mental health," he said. "In the end they were right, and I'm very thankful to them and my family."

In light of his new success, David talks about the HPT and shares his experiences to help others who may be going through similar struggles.

"The HPT is a great tool for Creech and ultimately the entire Air Force," he said. "Having all of the members together in one team and each one having high level clearances means they can go into the squadrons and talk to Airmen about how they're doing. They're unique because we're unique."

Along with the HPT, David also wants Airmen to know even if they're on a medication they can apply for a waiver to get back to flying.

"I personally know a pilot who is on a depression medication and was able to get back to flying," he said.

David went on to say, "If anyone is going through hard times and needs help, don't hesitate because in most cases your career won't be affected and you will actually improve it."

David is now back on track both in his personal and professional life and currently has a waiver to get back on flying status in the works.

"I'm so thankful for everyone who has been there to help me and I'm really excited to get back to flying," he said."