Monday, July 20, 2015

"The Sun Never Sets" on Schriever, Det. 1, 50 OG

by 2nd Lt. Darren Domingo
50th Space Wing Public Affairs

7/20/2015 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Tucked away on the East coast, more than 1,600 miles away from their parent wing, a Schriever geographically separated unit operates the military's only dedicated weather satellite.

Detachment 1, 50th Operations Group, oversees the command and control of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, the Air Force's longest-running satellite program, out of Suitland, Maryland.

Every day, this team provides high-resolution global visible and infrared cloud data and other specialized meteorological, oceanographic and solar-geophysical data for the Department of Defense and civilian users worldwide.

Unlike the larger squadrons here at Schriever, Det. 1 consists of only five active duty Air Force personnel. The rest of the surrounding workforce is mostly civilian.

"Working in an almost entirely civilian facility is unique," said Capt. Jerra Brown, Det. 1 DMSP ground system flight commander. "We're the only Air Force presence in the building."

Brown explained that coordination with mission partners is crucial to their mission success.

"We work side-by-side with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration every day. While Det. 1 retains administrative authority and Satellite Command Authority over the constellation, NOAA provides the operator and support function," she explained.

Beyond NOAA, Det. 1 also works with Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Harris, the Air Force Reserve and NASA. They also work with the remote sensing arm of the Space and Missile Systems Center to work the contracting and acquisition side for program sustainment.

"We basically represent the Air Force here. When people see us, they see the Air Force. It doesn't matter what rank we are," Brown said.

As the newest addition to Det. 1, Brown explained her position is unique because in larger squadrons, a captain may not have the same amount of responsibilities she has.

"I am the primary person making decisions for a $75 million ground system, while helping shape a $9 million system refresh.  I get to make higher level decisions and have a higher level of autonomy than most equivalent company grade officers," she said.

One of the challenges the team faced recently was on the F18 satellite. The sensor experienced an anomaly, which resulted in the loss of a number of temperature sounding channels the Navy uses for weather modeling.

Det. 1 operators and engineers rallied together and identified the issue before the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center reported the problem. Det. 1 ran the anomaly response between a number of the agencies and commenced troubleshooting until the issue was resolved.  At the same time, they conducted operational reporting to 14th Air Force.

Because Det. 1 led and organized this effort, the data was restored and FNMOC continues to execute their mission.

When asked to provide something people at home in Team Schriever might not know about Det. 1, Brown laughingly replied, "that we exist!"

On a more serious note, Brown expressed the most rewarding part of her job is the people she works with.

Capt. Charles Cook, Det. 1 director of operations, also praised the efforts of the small detachment that tackles large responsibilities.

"I think we've got a great team. We work really well together. Everyone is more than willing to bend over backwards for you and help you out," said Cook.

Cook explained that when someone first arrives at Det. 1, the learning curve can be intense. It's important for such a small team to be able to take the time from their personal tasks to assist each other.

"I am insanely proud of them," said Cook.

Although we here in the Springs don't get to see our friends to the East every day, it's important to remember we depend on their DMSP work daily, in and out of the work place. 

It's good to know the sun never sets on Team Schriever.

("The Sun Never Sets" is a series dedicated to highlighting our Globally Separated Units' team members, their contributions to the mission and some of the unique aspects of their sometimes remote locations)

Vehicle management innovation saves Air Force thousands

by Senior Airman Victor J. Caputo
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

7/20/2015 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- A member of the 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle management flight saved the Air Force more than $60,000 through the use of in-house fabrication.

C.J. Slifko, 22nd LRS vehicle management flight allied trades mechanic, identified the possibility of replacing the entire back assembly of a street-sweeper truck with pieces made on-station.

"I've always thought that if we could do it ourselves, I would much rather do it here," said Slifko, a retired senior master sergeant who worked in vehicle management his whole career. "Sometimes you can't help what happens when a truck breaks, so our whole chain very strongly encourages us to come up with new ideas and new ways to save money, and I'm all for that."

Maintenance personnel noticed that the truck wasn't sucking dirt and debris off the flightline at desired levels, so it was brought to the vehicle maintenance shop. Slifko and his coworkers inspected the sweeper and discovered the entire roof was about to collapse due to rust.

"The manufacturer actually sells a kit to replace the entire hopper assembly, and it ran in the neighborhood of $65,000," said Slifko. "It would not have been cost effective to buy that part; it would have actually made the truck considered unserviceable, leaving [the 22nd CES] with only two sweepers."

Slifko proposed they fabricate the piece in-house instead, and he immediately started coordinating with various shops across base, including the 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron environmental element and 22nd CES welders to help safely assemble the large amounts of metal used in the process.

The assembly took approximately 200 man-hours of labor between Slifko and his coworker to complete, and ultimately cost $3,000, saving more than $60,000 and exemplifying the innovative mindset inside the 22nd LRS.

"We encourage the ability to come up with new ideas and challenge what we typically do," said 2nd Lt. Kathryn Gossner, 22nd LRS vehicle management flight commander. "We are extremely proud that our Airmen [and] our civilians are taking that extra step to see think about how we can make this better, how can we do things better."

This in-house fabrication not only saved the Air Force thousands of dollars, it also showed how Airmen at all levels, whether uniformed or civilian, are constantly innovating in their fields.

"People are our priority," said Gossner. "Our people make the mission happen. When they are able to make decisions, to take ownership of their job and come to work inspired, things happen."

Secretary of the Navy Names Littoral Combat Ship

by Secretary of the Navy Public Affairs

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today that the next Independence variant littoral combat ship will be named USS Kansas City (LCS 22).

LCS 22 will be the second commissioned naval ship to bear the name Kansas City. The first was a replenishment oiler (AOE 3) which served a 25-year career and included service during the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm.

A fast, agile surface combatant, the LCS provides the required war fighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute a variety of missions in areas such as mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare.

The ship will be built with modular design incorporating mission packages that can be changed out quickly as combat needs change in a region. These mission packages are supported by detachments that deploy both manned and unmanned vehicles, and sensors in support of mine, undersea, and surface warfare missions.

Kansas City will be built by Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama. It will be 419 feet long and be capable of operating at speeds in excess of 40 knots.

US, Bulgarian forces synchronize training to strengthen future

by Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

7/20/2015 - PLOVDIV, Bulgaria  -- Airmen from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, went wheels up for a bilateral training exercise with the Bulgarian air force, July 14 through 24.

More than 100 Ramstein Airmen deployed with three C-130J Super Hercules from the 37th Airlift Squadron, to Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The deployment allowed NATO allies to train together while maintaining joint readiness and building interoperability capabilities.

"This is the sixth year we have participated in this exercise," said Bulgarian air force Col. Petar Tsolov, 87th Division air force headquarters tactical branch commander. "The training we do together is very useful and beneficial to everyone involved. I can recall a few years ago, there was mistrust between pilots, so missions were flown separately. We as a smaller air force, have a lot to learn and the U.S. is one of the best to learn from."

Airmen and Soldiers from more than 50 career fields came together to carry out the mission, which not only strengthened NATO partnerships, but highlighted a shared commitment to ensure global deterrence of common threats.

The deployment involved low-level training flights, unimproved surface landing zone training on grass, airdrop training and nighttime flying.

According to U.S. Air Force Capt. Derek Patrick, 37th AS pilot and exercise mission commander, this annual training is crucial to building friendships, all while keeping up with the needs of Air Force training requirements.

"It's great to be able to practice night flying, low-level formations and unimproved surface landing training out here," said Patrick. "These components are critical because they allow us to operate anywhere that (United States Air Forces in Europe) tasks us to be, at a moment's notice."

Ensuring regional security and air operational readiness is a task that cannot be accomplished alone, said Lt. Col. Ryan Barney, 435th Contingency Response Group commander.

"Our Bulgarian partners are not just our allies, they are also our friends," said Barney. "The days are in the past when the U.S. could succeed alone, we can't do it by ourselves now, nor do we want to."

This annual exercise will continue to strengthen current bonds between the U.S. and it's allies and aid in securing the future of NATO.

Combat Divers Endure Grueling Course to Tackle New Missions

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

NAVAL AIR STATION KEY WEST, Fla., July 20, 2015 – Two miles down a lengthy oceanside road into an outwardly “Navy” air station, there sits a compound where, just before sunrise, a class of rightfully exhausted yet bright-eyed Army Special Forces soldiers have already begun their hellish day.

The Army Green Berets, Rangers, and even a few West Point and ROTC students comprise the combat-dive certified hopefuls who volunteer for the rigorous and selective six-week, 28-acre Special Forces Underwater Operation School. They are trained to keep secrets -- albeit unofficially at times.

“I don’t tell [my mother] much of what we do because of the stress of the events and what could happen,” said Army 2nd Lt. William Ryerson, who recently commissioned from the University of Central Florida’s ROTC program. “It does not happen because of our training, but there’s potential harm that I cannot tell her about.”

The courses have five iterations per year, each with about 35 soldiers per session, including open- and closed-circuit diving, pool exercises, open-water and sub-surface training, and search and navigation.

Most students already have acquired specialized skills, such as Special Forces or Army Ranger qualifications, and all have passed a prerequisite maritime assessment course.

Rigid Training Style

Among the youngest students in the class, Ryerson, aspires to be a dive team commander. He said he looks not only to the instructors for mentoring, but also to his peers, who will also experience the cadre’s gradual transition from micromanagement to coaching as they progress in the class.

Underwater, one mistake can snowball, which keeps the instructors alert for even the smallest missteps.

“They put a lot of stress on you every day, but they do it for a reason, because the water is unforgiving. It does not care what you do,” Ryerson said. “The current will take you, the tide will take you, there’s marine life out there, which is why they make us pay attention to detail.”

And those who keep their wits about them still face what students describe as murky, low-visibility conditions with no margin for error in prepping and cleaning their equipment and maintaining and using their oxygen supplies.

“A problem with the equipment such as a retainer strap being twisted or a weight belt not being fed through properly … can lead to a catastrophic event out in the ocean,” Ryerson said.

He admitted to such a slip, a twisted strap that cost him precious energy when instructors demanded he perform lunges while shoulder carrying his 180-pound dive partner about 30 feet back and forth multiple times.

One Challenge Tops Them All

Ryerson acknowledged his older classmates might have a rougher go at the corrective tasks, but the strain remains on them all. “Being the youngest guy here gives me an advantage because of the physical strain on our bodies, but it still takes a toll -- the aches and pains in the morning.”

Most students seemed to agree that of the many crucibles they faced, the one-man competence exam in which a student is paired with an instructor in the deep end of the compound’s pool was particularly daunting.

“Each instructor takes the students’ … tank from their mouth and ties a deficiency in that air source,” said Army Capt. Brandon Schwartz, a dive team detachment commander at Fort Carson, Colorado. “So it’s up to the student to remain calm and trace his air source in order to breathe and stay conscious throughout the exam.”

Among the more experienced students, Schwartz said he volunteered for the class because of and not in spite of its rigorous reputation.

Depending on the day or hour, student divers could find themselves aboard Zodiacs, also known as combat rubber raiding crafts, kayaks, or even military aircraft, from which they jump to land on water targets.

That diversity of vessels and tactics is part of the course's water infiltration techniques that ease movement with minimal detection in varying water depths.

Evolving Training Techniques

Army Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Emmons, a Green Beret and class instructor, said the staff members make every attempt to train, teach, coach and mentor, especially in critical training aspects such as open- and closed-circuit dive training, which requires a deliberate and meticulous process.

“The training has evolved [and uses] a lot more pertinent information,” Emmons said. “Now a lot of it’s geared toward what’s going to be asked from the operational units.”

Expecting and embracing training stressors are a significant part of the mental requirements for students, but it doesn’t hurt to be in great shape, he said.

“He’s willing to sacrifice his body for a little bit of pain -- for the greater good,” Emmons said of the ideal student. “To see them show up timid and then to finish as a diver, fully qualified and proficient, to me, it’s awesome.”

Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Gosselin, head of the force modernization program at the dive school, said maritime warfare is rapidly advancing worldwide.

“It’s our job to make sure we’re training the students with the most up-to-date equipment and techniques that are out there,” Gosselin said.

As such, the school house seeks joint and coalition situational awareness to exchange best practices and develop the equipment and curriculum for its students.

The Value of Calm

Army Sgt. Blake Gorey, who's soon heading to the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado, grew up on a sailboat and said he aspired to join Army Special Forces and serve on a dive team early on, despite coming from a long line of Naval operators. Still, he asserts, certain skillsets apply to each of the services.

“The biggest goal for us here as students is to learn how to remain calm under situations that you don’t think you’re going to make it out of,” he said.

Gorey recounted a day of closed-circuit dive training where he realized he was 1,500 meters off from a mark on the beach.

“You have to trust the skills that the instructors have taught you,” Gorey said. “You have to trust your navigation board, your compass, you have to trust your dive buddy to get through.”

But the divers and instructors at the school, about 166 miles southwest of Miami, share the vast Atlantic Ocean with much more than just each other. During a night training mission, Gorey said he held the compass to navigate for his dive buddy, when the two found out they had company.

“About 20 minutes into the dive, we start getting a tug on the buoy and the buddy line,” Gorey said.

He paused, noticed shadows around his dive buddy, and the two realized that dolphins apparently wanted to join the training.

A Storied History

According to the Army’s web site, the military has a storied connection to dive technology. In about 1943, an Army officer, along with representatives from the Army, the Army Air Corps, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, helped develop a recirculating oxygen rebreather -- the Lambertson Amphibious Respiratory Unit, which gave divers the ability to travel underwater farther and for extended periods of time.

This technology over years evolved into the Draeger underwater breathing apparatus, which protects combat divers by recycling the CO2 the body produces upon exhaling.

That history and evolution has culminated in a course that several students lamented for its imposing demands and day-to-day grind. They mentioned the relentless thirst and hunger as their bodies blaze through calories, and the unyielding need to stay mentally sharp. But at every turn, the instructor cadre is there to remind them why the pain is worth the gain.

“Someday when I go back to a team, the guy I’m teaching today is going to be the guy next to me subsurface, so I want to make sure that they’re safe, confident and smart,” Gosselin said.

Dover C-5Ms ready for wartime mission

by 1Lt Sarah E. Bergstein
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

7/20/2015 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del -- The C-5M operators and maintainers of the 436th and 512th Airlift Wings here have been breaking records and raising the bar for global mobility.

Due to Dover's C-5M performance throughout the past several months, Air Mobility Command's C-5M fleet is now one step closer to reaching Full Operational Capability.

"Team Dover's C-5M community, consisting of the 436th AW and 512th AW, exceeded key performance parameters for executing both wartime and peacetime operations under the C-5 modernization program, nine months ahead of schedule," said Col. Michael Grismer, Jr., 436th AW commander. "This means Team Dover is ready today to execute our C-5M wartime tasking; a constructive first step on the way to our entire AMC and AMC-gained C-5M fleet reaching Full Operational Capability."

According to regulations, Full Operational Capability, or FOC, occurs when all major commands fully attain capability to effectively employ C-5M aircraft.

For 17 consecutive months, Dover C-5Ms exceeded the home station logistics departure reliability rate standard (whether all of the scheduled aircraft took off on time) of 75.8 percent.

Team Dover also exceeded the AMC standard of a 75 percent Mission Capable rate. The MC rate (whether the aircraft is capable of meeting mission requirements) for the month of May was 81.3 percent, the third highest average in Dover AFB history. The previous two records were 82.7 percent in November 1991 and 81.5 percent in June 1994.

Additionally, Team Dover's seven-month rolling average C-5M MC rate is also above the standard at 75.7 percent.

Finally, the ability to now carry heavier loads over an extended range offers capability to support wartime missions and contingencies without having to refuel the aircraft.

"Our teams [the 436th and 709th Airlift Squadrons, the 436th Operations Support Squadron and the 436th and 512th Aircraft Maintenance Squadrons] are making it happen at the right level and working through situations at a much lower level" said Maj. Danzel Albersten, 436th AMS commander. "The team effort between the active and reserve squadrons is enhanced by the great support of off-equipment maintenance from the 436th and 512th Maintenance Squadrons."

"Our maintainers care about what they do and understand the need for the aircraft to fly so they work very hard-- with pride-- on fixing the aircraft right the first time," he said.

Albertsen went on to say that when the entire C-5M fleet reaches Full Operational Capability it will drive home the significance of three words-- Rapid Global Mobility. For the Air Force, this means having the ability to project capabilities around the globe, anytime, anywhere, in force, and on demand.

The success of the C-5M at Dover can be attributed to the Airmen, training, technology, hard work, and teamwork, among other things, said Albertsen.

An example of how the maintainers have been successful is that newer systems on the aircraft eliminate excessive troubleshooting. Specifically for the C-5, the anti-skid system which keeps the brakes from locking up on landing would immediately cancel a mission and take between four and six hours to troubleshoot on a legacy C-5 "A" or "B" model, not counting the repair. Today's C-5M narrows the fix down to one gear and can be troubleshot and repaired in less than two hours, enabling the aircrew to stick with the aircraft and fly the necessary mission.

"The future of the C-5M enterprise mission is expanding because of the foundation built by the Total Force Enterprise," said Lt. Col. Matthew Husemann, 9th Airlift Squadron commander. "The maintenance and ops teamwork at both Dover and Travis [AFB] is built on a culture of excellence and grounded in the superb training of all Airmen."

"The mission support, medical, maintenance, and ops professionals have partnered to maximize the capabilities of this impressive aircraft," he said.

Husemann went on to say that the C-5M maintainers had a steep learning curve to understand and master the new systems, but they have worked diligently and overcome obstacles to provide the Air Force an outstanding Rapid Global Mobility platform.

He added that the other service branches lean heavily upon the Air Force's Global Reach capability; and the communication and teamwork in the C-5M has exceeded standards and raised the bar for excellence in the airlift community.

The C-5M brings new capability and reliability over the legacy C-5 fleet. Air Mobility Command exploited the Super Galaxy in the recent Afghanistan retrograde, where it was employed for the first time in an expeditionary role to retrograde 25.5 million pounds of cargo in 152 missions - all while closing out Camp Bastion ten days early, and setting record cargo loads in the process.

The leadership of both the 436th and 512th Airlift Wing's operations and maintenance squadrons recognize Team Dover's C-5M performance is more than just a consequence of the modified airplane--it is also a testament to the changing culture in the C-5 community.

"This is positive news for our Mobility Air Forces and affirms the C-5M program, which brings proven operational capability with fiscal responsibility," said Grismer. "Our young maintenance and operations professionals have changed the culture on how we operate this amazing flying machine."

Grismer also gave kudos to AMC's global en-route enterprise, which provides maintenance, aerial port, and command and control to keep the C-5M mission moving around the world.

He said, "Success would not be possible without our dedicated en-route teammates, who provide critical services in support of our global mobility mission."