Monday, July 27, 2015

Black Rapids site offers unique opportunities

By Staff Sgt. Sean Callahan
USARAK Public Affairs

7/27/2015 - BLACK RAPIDS TRAINING SITE, Alaska -- From the snow-kissed mountains to the icy rumblings of melting glaciers, Marines from 2nd Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, 1st Reconnaissance
Battalion, Camp Pendleton, California, along with instructors from U.S. Army Alaska's Northern Warfare Training Center conducted military alpine operations at Black Rapids Training Site and Gulkana Glacier.

NWTC's remote BRTS offers a wide variety of challenging terrain. Instructors provide training on navigating vertical icy terrain, various forms of rappelling, casualty evacuation, glacial travel and crevasse rescue.

NWTC'S mission is to provide cold regions and mountain warfare training to the U.S. military and designated personnel to enhance warfighting capabilities of the U.S. and coalition partners.

The center is also the Army's cold-region training proponent.

As such, NWTC instructors are versed in all things high-altitude, mountainous and subarctic.

The instructors spend months preparing lesson plans and maintaining their high level of training to pass on.

Challenging terrain and deep blue glaciers aren't the only things which bring these highly-skilled recon Marines to Alaska.

"Our philosophy is we need to be able to do deep reconnaissance in any clime and place," said Marine Capt. Trevor Miller, commander of the platoon. "The training center here in Alaska presents a unique opportunity to train in the mountains, and especially in mountains that have glacial features."

NWTC routinely conducts joint training operations with various Department of Defense agencies and government organizations.

The instructors are experts in their craft and offer both summer and winter courses designed to enable units to achieve fundamental skills in high-altitude mountain warfare training as well as cold weather operations.

"As the entire Department of Defense goes to a more joint outlook and joint operations, it's very helpful for us to train with the Army," Miller said. "The Army sometimes has different ideas than the Marine Corps and will only help us expand and grow as an organization."

The unique location of the Black Rapids Training Site allows these organizations to conduct strenuous and realistic training, focusing on military mountaineering, over-snow mobility, and other types of cold- weather operations.

Miller said the cadre at NWTC have been very accommodating. The instructors opened their training catalogs and allowed the Marines to pick and choose training directly related to the unique mission sets of a reconnaissance unit.

NWTC also offers standardized courses, like any other school house, but it's the flexibility and tailor-made training curriculum which sets it apart from other military schools. This is extremely important when students from other services, countries, and  state and federal agencies come to Black Rapids to conduct training.

DoD, U.K. Defense Ministry Sign Reserve Forces Memorandum

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2015 – The U.S. Defense Department and the United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding today that officials say signifies expanding international relationships while serving a valuable role in security cooperation.

Maj. Gen. John Crackett of the British army, assistant chief of the defense staff for reserves and cadets, and Paul D. Patrick, deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve readiness, training and mobilization, signed the Military Reserve Exchange Program memorandum.

“This memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and United Kingdom provides ongoing proof of our continued dedication to our long-standing international relationships,” Patrick said. “The Foreign Resident Program strengthens the partnership between our two nations and plays a key role in maintaining individual readiness of reservists and their contribution to national defense.”

The signing ceremony formalizes a unique agreement between the two nations to allow reservists residing overseas to train with a host-nation unit. Training this way allows reservists to stay engaged and meet their service commitments while opening up opportunities they may have not had in the past, officials said.

First of Its Kind

“This is the first arrangement of its kind,” Patrick said. “It demonstrates commitment to our people and their employers by providing more flexibility to meet their requirements and offers unique training opportunities.”

In addition, the ceremony recognized the 30th anniversary of the countries’ Military Reserve Exchange Program. Since the program’s memorandum of understanding was signed in 1985, almost 3,000 reservists from both nations have participated in the program.

Maj. Gen. Richard Cripwell of the British army, defense attache and head of the British Defense Staff in the United States, presided over the event.

CMSAF touts 'One Air Force' during ANG enlisted call

by Master Sgt. Marvin R. Preston
Air National Guard Readiness Center Public Affairs

7/27/2015 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- The Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, James A. Cody, shared his thoughts on the future of the force with Air National Guard Airmen during an enlisted call July 23 here.

During the discussion, Cody addressed the professional development of Airmen, diversity and possible changes in the way the Air Force integrates the active-duty and reserve components in the years ahead.

"This [discussion] is a great opportunity," said Cody. "It's important that we have a dialog so I can represent you in the right way and that means knowing what's on your mind, what concerns you have and what questions you have about what we're working on and hopefully I'll be able to give you a perspective on why we're doing things."

One of the key topics of discussion was ability of active-duty and reserve component Airmen to be more integrated along career paths. Traditionally, it has been possible but difficult to move among components throughout a career.

"We need to have this ability for Airmen to go between components," said Cody. "The seam that exists today needs to be smoothed out and there needs to be lots of gateways where our Airmen can move between them."

As part of the recently released Air Force Strategic Master Plan, the Human Capital strategy addresses recruiting, retaining and developing Airmen, as well as talent management, all with an eye toward the future that will demand increased diversity and inclusiveness to achieve collective innovative potential. It continues the emphasis on integrating components of the Air Force in an effective manner.

"To be in the most senior leadership positions in our Air Force in the future, you're going to have to have done real tangible time within the other components," said Cody. "You're going to have to have been an active-duty Airman who worked in the reserve component...worked with them and done the business at hand because we're one Air Force and if we don't have that depth of experience and knowledge we are not going to be as effective as we need to be as a force."

Cody referenced a number of senior enlisted leader positions currently opened for the best available Airmen to compete and shared the most recent success story.

"Chief Master Sgt. Danny Doucette is a great example, because he's the commandant of the First Sergeants Academy [at Maxwell, AFB, Alabama], the first time ever held by a reserve component Airman," said Cody. "Why is Chief Doucette the commandant? It has nothing to do with the fact that he's in the Air National Guard, but everything to do with him being the right chief at the right time to do that job. He's got the credibility, ability and training and he was the best candidate to take on that role."

Cody explained that through proper development the pool of qualified Airmen will be available, regardless of component and that he is encouraged about the future.

"It's something I'm very excited about and I think you should be excited about," said Cody. "This idea that we're being very deliberate about ensuring that we have a human capital strategy that encompasses every single one of us - not just one component and it has to be a human capital strategy that blends all of the diversity and strength we have in the force and that is representation of the four components."

Cody also fielded questions and addressed concerns from the audience about breaches in cyber security, Enlisted Performance Reports and proposed cuts to dual military member Basic Allowance for Housing and its effect on attracting and keeping quality Airmen.

"In more than 30 years of service I've never seen a more targeted approach to take money from Airmen ever," said Cody. "I've seen the growth slowed, because we just can't sustain the growth and compensation we've been doing the last 15 years. It's just not reasonable to think we can. We've tried to make minor modifications so that Airmen aren't having money taken out of their pocket, but the growth would slow over time. The idea of taking dual military couples and eliminating one of the BAH rates to a single rate, or if you happen to be a military member rooming with another member and losing 25 percent [of your BAH rate] is unconscionable in an all-volunteer professional force."

Cody also touched on cyber security in the wake of recent breaches and the new Enlisted Performance Report process. After finishing his talk, Cody thanked the crowd for what they do.

"I'm proud to serve with each and every one of you, said Cody. "I'm extremely proud of what you're doing every day. Despite what narratives may be out there or what others might say, don't let anyone define your service and your sacrifice; you define it by what you do every day. Every single day is a privilege to be an Airman in the United States Air Force and put this uniform on. We ask a lot out of you but I think you get a lot out of it or you wouldn't be here, what you do is meaningful and purposeful."

Experience pays off for top Duathlon competitors

by Brian Hagberg
50th Space Wing Public Affairs

7/27/2015 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Filling in for a friend who was unable to compete, Scott McPeek had some extra motivation heading into the 11th annual Schriever Air Force Base Duathlon here July 24.

He used that motivation, and his experience as a mountain bike racer, to take top honors at the event with a time of 59:28. McPeek was the only one of the 15 competitors to finish in less than an hour.

"My personal goal was to finish in less than one hour," McPeek said. "I knew if I went out hard enough on the bike, I could push through the runs."

Each competitor had to complete a 1-mile run, 12-mile bike and another 1-mile run. All 15 participants were able to complete the event.

McPeek finished more than four minutes ahead of Heath Busche (1:03:42) and more than 10 minutes in front of Joseph Hardy (1:10:30). Busche actually finished the first run before McPeek, but the time it took to change shoes allowed McPeek to grab a lead he wouldn't relinquish.

"Not having to change shoes was huge," McPeek said. "I was able to save 45 seconds to a minute and that was huge."

Gail Smicklas took top female honors for the second straight year with a time of 1:16:37, more than 10 minutes ahead of Jessica Wong (1:27:19).

"I feel good," Smicklas said just after finishing. "This was a tough course with the wind and sand."

The event had been postponed because of heavy rains in June, and Schriever Fitness Center Director Seth Cannello said the rescheduling had an effect on participation.

"We originally had between 60-70 people registered," Cannello said. "Unfortunately, with the [date change] we only had 15 compete."

He said the rain also made the bike trail a bit rougher than it would be with a typical Colorado summer.

Smicklas said one of the last hills on the bike trail had more sand than other areas, which made it more difficult to climb. McPeek also noted the increase in sand in that area.

"There was a bit of sand on one of the hills on the east side [of the trail]," he said. "I had enough pressure in my tires to push through and it didn't slow me down too much."

The less than ideal conditions didn't take away from the fun of the event in Smicklas' opinion.

"This was a great race," she said. "Seth and his staff put on the perfect race."

She tries to participate in all the base races, even though she's now stationed at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

"Seth has been really nice about [my participation]," Smicklas said. "He lets me come back and play."

The Duathlon is one of the monthly fitness events the fitness center hosts. The next event is the annual Triathlon, where participants will need to complete a 400-meter swim, 12-mile bike and 3.1-mile run, scheduled for Aug. 14. For more information, or to register, contact the fitness center at 567-6628.

PATRIOT exercise tests infectious disease transfer, demonstrates new capabilities

by Delanie Stafford
55th Wing Public Affairs

7/27/2015 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb -- The Air National Guard used a C-17 to transport three simulated patients with highly infectious illnesses from Volk Field Wisconsin to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska July 23.

This was all part of an annual exercise called PATRTIOT 15, an interagency field training exercise used to practice domestic operations within the United States.

Offutt's role in the exercise was to coordinate the reception of the aircraft and to provide a safe and secure airfield for the transfer of the patients.

"Overall, we think the exercise went very well," said Lt. Col. Chris Luther, 55th Wing Crisis Action Team director, who oversaw the exercise and led the first Ebola patient reception into Offutt in 2014. "It was a collaborate effort with local emergency response agencies that reinforced our preparedness for such an event."

The exercise included aeromedical evacuation of patients. In addition to training, the exercise was also used to demonstrate the Transport Isolation Unit, which is a newly developed piece of equipment that became operational earlier this year.

Each module of the TIS can be configured to carry up to four patients at a time, depending on the degree of their illness, and three modules make up one unit. The unit provides an enclosed negative pressure environment intended to prevent the spread of biological contaminates through the air or by contact.

Until recently, patients with illnesses such as the Ebola virus disease and SARS could only be transported by a single-occupancy patient isolation unit that limited the type of care that could be given.

"We can provide critical care in the air, inside the TIS, that other units really aren't capable of doing," said Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Kory Cornum, Air Mobility Command Surgeon.  "So it gives us not only capability for more patients, but care during transport."

The Department of Defense is in the process of acquiring more of the units and hopes to have 25 available by the end of the year. Each unit can be loaded onto a C-17 or C-130 aircraft for the transfer of multiple critical-care patients anywhere in the world.

"Last year we had several thousand people in Liberia potentially exposed to Ebola,"Cornum said. "That's when we realized [the single patient isolation unit] wasn't good enough."

More than 50 people from UNMC, Offutt AFB, and local medical response agencies attended a demonstration inside the cargo area of a C-17 during a pause in the exercise. Doctors from the Critical Care Air Transport Team, assigned to the 59th Medical Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, gave demonstrations on personal protective equipment and how their team will use the system to transport and treat the most critical patients.

Staff from UNMC's Biocontainment Unit, which is the largest unit in the nation, were impressed by the demonstration and capabilities of the new unit.

"This is exciting and an honor for [UNMC] to be here and to be involved on the receiving end," said Dr. Phillip Smith, medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at UNMC. "This is just a way to keep getting ready because you never know when you're going to get the call."

Face of Defense: Minnesota Guardsman Helps Croatian Village

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Lynette Olivares
Minnesota National Guard

RACINOVCI, Croatia, July 27, 2015 – The Minnesota National Guard's State Partnership Program with Croatia has been going on for decades. In conjunction with U.S. European Command, Minnesota units or teams take on logistics and labor-intensive projects in a village in Croatia.

The experience of helping a community in need isn't new for most Minnesota Guard members, including Army Spc. Christopher Anderson, a carpentry and masonry specialist from the 851st Vertical Engineer Company out of the Camp Ripley Training Center.

This year marks his second trip to Croatia. This year's trip includes a team of about 30 Minnesota Guardsmen who have less than three weeks to repair the large roof of a village community center badly damaged by flooding last year.

"Being able to come and do missions like this is awesome," Anderson said. "Trips like this make your time in the Guard a lot more enjoyable, and it's nice to change things up."

'A Big Satisfaction'

The project in the local community has attracted onlookers from around the village. Many are interested in the progress and the American military unit which has joined them temporarily in their villages and places they call home.

"It's a big satisfaction to build something, see people enjoy it and how it affects the community," Anderson said.

The engineers from the 851st VEC have gotten a great start working side-by-side with the Croatian army in getting the roof prepped for repair and updates.

"I am interested in seeing how they want us to do the roof," Anderson said. "You hardly ever see these kinds of clay tiles and roof structure in the states. It might take us a little bit to figure out how it works the best."

Despite the language barrier between the Croatians and Americans -- plus differences between the English and metric systems of measurement -- everyone involved manages to work together for the good of the village.

"A lot of the people in the village have seen real war and real hardships, but it is really cool to see most of them being these glass-half-full people," Anderson said. "It has been great meeting them and knowing how appreciative they are that we are here."

Patient Safety Programs lead by example

by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Rosine
49th Wing Public Affairs Office

7/24/2015 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.  -- As Claudia Enriquez heads out of her office, she double-checks to make sure she has everything she will need.

Pens. Clipboard. Checklist. One by one, she guarantees she has what she needs to make today's visit a success.

Moving into a hallway of the 49th Medical Group, she meets today's partner-in-crime -- Lt. Col. Ben Clarke, the 49th MDG chief of dental services.

Together, they set out on their mission -- Patient Safety Leadership Rounds.

"Patient Safety programs are really important to us," said Enriquez, the 49th MDG Patient Safety Program manager. "We have tremendous support from our leadership and without their support we could not be nearly as effective."

The leadership rounds are only the most recent patient safety program innovation. These rounds began in January 2015.

"We have always conducted patient safety leadership rounds," said Enriquez. "The issue was that we didn't always have good leadership visibility. Now, we have increased leadership visibility, and at the same time, we have increased our staff's knowledge and awareness, which has proven to be very effective."

This effectiveness couldn't be achieved without dedicated medical group leadership like Clarke.

"We stress patient safety," Clarke said. "This gives us a valuable chance to see things for ourselves, ask those questions and get valuable feedback."

Their most recent feedback came from a visit to 49th MDG clinical laboratory.

"This was the first time I've gotten to experience the leadership rounds," said Tech. Sgt. Chelsie Davia, the acting NCO in charge of the clinic. "I think this is a good way to get heard. I think it is great that leadership can see what we are doing so they understand a lot of our needs and challenges. We have a lot going on behind the scenes."

This active leadership role means one thing -- better patient care.

"We are here to take care of patients," said Davia. "We are always working to provide the best care we can."

But, the patient safety program's success is not only due to leadership rounds. The medical group has been patient safety compliant at a national level since 2013. The office even earned the 2013 Patient Safety and Quality Award.

Since winning this award, the patient safety office has made several innovative strides.

One stride was a simple but significant change.

When poor penmanship was making it difficult to accurately read patient information, they began printing all patient labels.

"Information was unclear," said Enriquez. "For us, getting information wrong was unacceptable. The printed labels have allowed us to improve our process -- no more incorrect patient information."

Another significant improvement utilized electronic tablets to innovate patient consent forms, which is what won us the 2013 Patient Safety and Quality Award.

Prior to this change, patient consent forms were sometimes absent or unsigned. This would cause an unnecessary complication with a patient's care.

But, updating the consent forms required a joint venture. The patient safety program office worked in conjunction with the quality office, the chief of medical staff and the systems office.

This team of experts converted the current paper consent forms into a digital format that could be used by certain tablets at the medical group. The tablets had not been utilized previously and were going to be returned.

This win/win situation allowed the medical team to take the next step in improving patient safety -- training the providers.

Utilizing the new digital forms and the tablet technology, this medical team improved their own working procedures and made them fully compliant.

"If we are doing everything right, we should be 100 percent compliant, and that wasn't happening," said Enriquez, the lone staff member of the patient safety office. "But, once we began using the electronic forms we were 100 percent compliant for the first six months. And, to this day, we are still 100 percent compliant."

The medical group has a variety of other programs in place such as the "Good Catch" program that awards staff members who catch errors before they become a problem. These Airmen even receive the Good Catch Trophy for their efforts to improve patient safety.

"Dental is the current winner (as of June 18)," said Enriquez. "As a team, they created several improvements to their patient safety processes."

While the past three years have seen several significant changes, Enriquez is confident that, with the dedication and hard work of the Airmen at the 49th MDG, patient safety will only continue to improve.

"I am not sure what is in the future for us, but we as a team are always looking for better solutions," said Enriquez. "I give our success to that team effort -- between safety, quality and our chief of medical staff as well as our leadership buy-in. I don't think any of our wonderful ideas would have flourished without our leadership."

55th Wing has an unreal Northern Edge 2015 experience

7/24/2015 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Contrails in the sky over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex told a story of synthetic battles orchestrated to train the best pilots and aircrews in the world to be better.

The pilots and aircrews were part of an exercise which took place June 11 - 26 in Alaska that was simply called Northern Edge 2015, but for the 55th Wing, it was cutting edge.

What couldn't be seen in the Alaskan sky were the aircraft from Offutt Air Force Base that were providing live Command and Control for aircraft. The pilots and controllers were working Northern Edge 2015, but they were doing it from a simulator back at Offutt.

"LVC [live, virtual and constructive training] offers a more robust scenario than sending up ten Aggressors for a small skirmish with the blue force," said Brian Smith, the 353rd Combat Training Squadron's Army and special operations liaison. "With virtual and constructive assets combining with live participants we can now provide ten threats and herds of other aircraft waiting to continue the fight. We've added defense and depth to maximize the OPFOR [opposition force] piece, which provides a more robust training scenario for the blue force."

With this system, virtual doesn't mean computer-generated. The virtual RC-135's from Offutt AFB were operated by actual pilots, battlespace managers, and controllers participating in the same airspace as the pilots tearing through the skies. The RC-135 virtual assets, were being controlled via simulators at Offutt then networked into the locations where they will operate alongside actual aircraft via a system called LEXIOS (LVC Experimentation, Integration and Operations Suite) and dedicated networks.

"RED FLAG-Alaska 15-2 served as the proof of concept for all the pieces of LVC to come together," said Capt. Matthew Mendenhall, the 353rd CTS chief of command and control operations. "It allowed us to ensure our lines of communication were functioning properly before Northern Edge 2015. This is the first exercise to completely integrate the various elements and is the largest LVC integration seen to date in any of the services.

"Virtual asset pilots will see the mountains, terrain and features of their sector of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, and controllers will see the battlespace overlay as if they were operating live in Alaska," Mendenhall explained. "Instead of launching different live assets, aviators can operate from their simulators,"

The constructive component of the LVC system is where computer-generated forces expand the scope and create a training environment very similar to what participants would actually see in a real conflict.

"We can test the command and control relationships between the air and ground forces," said Maj. Derrick Vincent, the 353rd CTS director of operations.

Air, ground and sea assets can exercise together with the diverse LVC system and determine in real-time, the programming of shots against enemy targets so each component's strength complements their counterparts in the battlespace, Vincent added.

The ability to incorporate low-density, high-demand platforms such as a live E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system with a virtual RC-135 from Offutt AFB, allows assets that can't regularly be tasked for training due to real-world requirements to integrate with the blue force and coordinate with their joint-service and inter-agency counterparts, Mendenhall said.

"Northern  Edge is the first time from a command and control, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance standpoint that the virtual, live and constructive assets are interacting at an efficient level, proving they can work and talk to each other consistently," Mendenhall added.

During one such scenario, aviators from Offutt, Seymour Johnson, Tyndall, Ellsworth, Tinker and Mountain Home Air Force Bases, and Joint Bases Elmendorf-Richardson and Pearl Harbor-Hickam, virtually operated 14 fighter aircraft, one conventional bomber, two mobility transport aircraft, one airborne warning and control system and one reconnaissance aircraft. These virtual participants integrated with constructive players operating eight fighter aircraft, one strategic bomber, five advanced tanker and cargo aircraft, and 80 red air (opposition) aircraft. Live participants in Alaska were able to view the virtual and constructive participants, interacting and coordinating with each type of participant throughout the scenario.

"We can identify targets such as surface-to-air missile sites, see ground forces take them out, and communicate the next steps among the joint team, which enables our air assets to move on to the next targets, and allows our forces to gain and maintain air superiority," Mendenhall explained.

LVC enables those aircrew members to achieve quality training at a fraction of the cost of the live training, and even more importantly, the quality of training provided often exceeds that of the live fly event by itself.

Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik, 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs contributed to this article.