Tuesday, October 06, 2015

German village honors fallen US Airman

By Staff Sgt. Armando A. Schwier-Morales, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs / Published October 06, 2015

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- The war was coming to an end. The thunder of the P-51D Mustang rolled under him as he dove for a strafing run.

Nobody will know his last thoughts as flak exploded into his aircraft and he was dragged down toward the German countryside. Maybe he took a last look at the picture of a woman and child he had in his cockpit or had thoughts of his hometown.

Second Lt. Priesley Cooper Jr. was shot down during a mission 70 years ago near the village of Dietingen, Germany, during World War II. Cooper remained buried at the village's local cemetery until 1950 when he was moved to an American cemetery in Belgium.

However, there was no closure for the pilot's family as only rumors and theories were available about the crash location.

It wasn't until 2015, when a flight cap showed up and set the village of Dietingen on a journey to find the crash site and return the cap to the pilot's family.

The former mayor of Dietingen and a group of historians took time to locate Cooper via his cap, which had a social security number written inside of it.

Eventually the village's journey led them to the 86th Airlift Wing historian, who took the challenge head-on.

Silvano Wueschner, the 86th AW historian, was appreciative of Dietingen's caring and compassion for the pilot.

"It is significant that after 70 years someone would turn it over to the mayor for repatriation to the family," Wueschner said. "That to me was an act of immense kindness. Who would think that someone would still have the family in mind after all this time?"

He discovered two relatives in Texas and records describing Cooper's mission and his unit. Cooper belonged to the 52nd Fighter Group, now based out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The relatives were contacted and informed of the developing situation.

"Having read the account of our uncle Priesley Paul's last mission and final resting place, I am moved in ways deep and powerful," Cooper's nephew, Ben Warton, wrote in an email. "The grief over Priesley Paul is generational in nature and thus has been shared by his descendants. (The work) has assuaged that grief and replaced it with a sense of pride and appreciation for life well lived for one who will be forever young."

The village felt they could still do more and set a date for a memorial stone laying ceremony. Unfortunately, due to age, Cooper's relatives were unable to be present during the Sept. 25 ceremony.

"(This journey and memorial are) act(s) of reconciliation and meant to convey compassion and sympathy to the families in the United States years after the war," said Hubert Burkard, the Dietingen mayor emeritus.

During the ceremony, Col. Harry Benham, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa operations and plans chief and an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot, spoke about being a young fighter pilot in combat and understanding Cooper's fears, thoughts and emotions as he went into combat. He also spoke about how grateful he was that someone was there for Cooper when he crashed and died.

"In death, enemy and friend fade," Burkard said. "This monument is dedicated to the memory of the American, but at the same time, to the German soldiers who were forced into this excessive and unfortunate war. We should also remember the innocent men, women and children of the civilian population who died or were left to suffer."

Standing side by side, 70 years later at the crash site, the only interruption to the silence was a bugler playing taps and the snap of feet as Benham and other Airmen joined the citizens of Dietingen to offer closure to a family, bring two nations together, and give a final salute to a fallen Airman.

AF leaders testify before Congress on bomber structure

By Senior Airman Hailey Haux, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information / Published October 06, 2015

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Military experts in Air Force long-range strike capabilities testified Sept. 29 before a House Armed Services subcommittee on the Air Force bomber force structure.

Gen. Robin Rand, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command; Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch, the military deputy for the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition; and Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, all responded to questions from the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee on the Air Force’s efforts to award a long-range strike bomber.

“This is a case, sir, where we need to go slow to go fast,” Bunch told lawmakers. “We’ve got a fair, deliberate, disciplined and impartial process anytime we do a competition. And we’ve been transparent and working with industry to get this done and documented so we can make that decision. It’s coming soon.”

All three leaders agreed combat commanders and the nation need a new long-range strike bomber in the bomber fleet.

“A key to our success will be our ability to modernize, sustain and recapitalize our bomber forces,” said Rand, who’s responsible for all U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile and bomber forces. “However, modernization and sustainment can only take us so far, so we look forward. And with the LRS-B, that future looks promising. The LRS-B will extend American air dominance against next generation capabilities in an anti-access environment by its long-range, significant payload and survivability.”

When it comes to affordability of the new bomber, Bunch said they aren’t just focused on developing and procuring the LRS-B, but they are focused on the entire lifecycle cost of the platform.

“It is not enough to simply acquire them, we must also be able to afford to operate and sustain them,” Bunch said. “The steps we have taken to build in margin, and open systems up front, will allow us to address the evolving threat and embrace technological advancements. The long-range strike bomber is crucial to our ability to execute the national military strategy in the future and ensure national command authorities have viable military options in the face of a technologically advanced adversary.”

With less than 160 Air Force bombers, the newest of the three bombers is more than two decades old.

“The Long-Range Strike Bomber program will be built as a capability for today, with an eye on tomorrow, both from a threat and evolving technology perspective,” said Walden, whose office handles LRS-B development, upgrades to Washington D.C.’s Integrated Air Defense System, and experimental operations of the X-37 Orbital Test Vehicle.

“The open missions system that General Bunch brought up not only introduces evolving capability with greater ease and lower integration costs; it serves as the catalyst for greater competition throughout the life of the LRS-B program,” Walden continued. “This, in turn, presents a greater value for our Air Force and our nation.”

When asked about the impact that would occur if the Air Force wasn’t able to acquire a new bomber, the trio agreed the new LRS-B is crucial to the branch’s ability to execute national military strategy.

“The purpose of the long-range strike with a bomber is to be able to hold any target in the planet at risk, not within weeks or months, but in hours,” Rand said. “That’s the beauty of what the long-range bomber can do. Long-range strike gives combatant commanders and our senior leaders in this nation great flexibility to make sure that we are able to deter adversaries and assure our partner nations.”

Face of Defense: New Marine Follows Family Tradition

Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego

SAN DIEGO, October 6, 2015 — Recruits come from all different backgrounds. Some come from small farming towns and some from urban hot spots. One new Marine Corps recruit recently traveled from the big city lights of Las Vegas to sunny San Diego with dreams of becoming a Marine and carrying on a family tradition.

Pfc. Mason A. Davis, 20, was born in Virginia. When he was five months old, his family moved to California, and then to Nevada when he was five. Once there, his family decided to plant their roots in Vegas.

“It was fun growing up in Vegas,” Davis said. “I’m not 21, so I haven’t participated in much, but I still go to the main strip with my friends and hang out. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived there, it’s still beautiful to see every night.”

Family Tradition of Military Service

Davis grew up in a military family. His father, grandfather and two uncles served in the Marine Corps, so he knew his path would lead to serving his country. However, it didn’t start out that way.

He grew up playing football. Like tough Marines who defend their country, this linebacker fiercely defended his quarterback. Once Davis reached the high school level, he decided to put a hold on joining the military to pursue a football career.

“I trained hard to be the best I could be,” Davis said. “There is a special feeling you get when you dig your cleats into a football field and prove yourself better than the opposing player you’re clashing helmets with all game.”

It wasn’t long before college offers filled up the football player’s mailbox. One particular school caught his eye and sparked his interest over the rest.

Plays Football, Joins Marine Corps

“Earlham University offered me a full ride with plenty of money, so I decided to sign with them,” Davis said. “It’s located in Richmond, Indiana, which was a fun area to go to school.”

Although Davis played well in his games and maintained a high grade point average, he decided to cut his football career short for what he described as his true calling.

“After playing my first year, I was awarded Defensive Newcomer of the Year and voted team captain,” he said. “There was something else I needed to do, though.”

The college student left his school with a 3.5 grade point average and set off to join the United States Marine Corps.

“When I first got home, I immediately got a job at Home Depot to keep money in my pocket,” Davis said. “I then went straight to a Marine recruiter, and within a month I was on my way to recruit training.”

Graduates Boot Camp

Now that the new Marine has graduated with Charlie Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, he will attend Marine Combat Training at Camp Pendleton to further his combat skills. Once he graduates from there, he will attend school for his military occupation specialty to become a motor transportation operator.

Davis will be a Marine Corps Reservist and plans to go back to college in Las Vegas to earn a degree in criminal justice.

“Carrying on the family tradition of serving this great country has a special meaning to me,” Davis said. “I look forward to making them proud and giving back to my country.”