Thursday, October 15, 2015

SERE Specialists teach Cub Scouts survival skills

by Airman 1st Class Sean Campbell
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

10/14/2015 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash -- Cub Scouts from Pack 340 spent time with Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists learning wilderness survival skills here Oct. 9.

"It's always good for the scouts to learn from an expert, someone who has personal experience using survival skills," said Kalista Bernardi, Pack 340 scout leader.

The Cub Scouts are required to learn the survival skills in order to earn their webelos rank.  The webelos rank is the highest rank in Cub Scouting and is the last rank before crossing over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts.

"First aid and survival knowledge are important for the scouts to have in case they are ever lost in the woods," said Bernardi.

The day started with a guided tour of the exhibits lab on the SERE side of Fairchild led by Staff Sgts. Matthew Stead and Keith Schmidt, both 22nd Training Squadron SERE specialists.

While at the exhibits lab the scouts learned about different shelters, food sources and ways to collect water while in different wilderness environments. The specialists also highlighted the importance of studying about climate, hazards, food sources, vegetation and topography before going out into the field. Some concerns while in the field are staying dry, maintaining a 98.6 degree body temperature, procuring food and water, building shelters and repelling insects.

After finishing the tour, the scouts received hands-on practice using the skills they discussed in the exhibits lab. They trained on how to start a fire, build shelters and covered other survival necessities.

EW Barn aims for 100 percent effective fleet

by Senior Airman Aaron J. Jenne
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/14/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- For more than 25 years, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, has been home to the F-15E Strike Eagle; from day one when it was just getting airborne, to the high-tech bird it is today.

The first production Strike Eagle, a dual-role fighter designed for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, was released in 1988 and reached initial operational capability in 1989.

Master Sgt. Rodger Boles, 4th Fighter Wing avionics manager, said many of the electrical systems and components are original and few upgrades have been implemented during the life of the airframe.

To combat degradation in the jet's Electronic Warfare systems, the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's avionics working group established an EW Barn in January 2015 to temporarily bolster routine maintenance and get every jet up to a fully functional status.

According to Boles, the average age of the jets assigned to the wing is 30 years old. To ensure functionality routine inspection and maintenance standards were established.

The EW Barn augments routine inspection by taking jets off the flightline three days at a time to focus solely on testing and repairing the ALR-56C Radar Warning Receiver System and its constituent components. As the aircraft's primary defensive system, it detects incoming enemy radio transmissions and alerts aircrews they're being targeted.

"This system is very sophisticated," Boles said. "It isn't like a radar detector in your car. It doesn't just have blinking lights; it will tell you what is lighting you up - this type of missile, aircraft, anti-aircraft artillery - and where it's coming from. Without that critical situational awareness for the aircrew, they could get shot down in a hot zone and never know they were even being targeted. Knowing what threats are in an area is extremely important for their safety and also for completing their mission."

According to Boles, the RWRSs installed in the wing's aircraft are as old as the airframes themselves.

"We want this system to have maximum sensitivity, so the aircrew has the maximum amount of warning time they need," Boles said. "This is not a system we can afford to become compromised."

Boles said flight crews rely on every component and system of the jet to function properly. Even one system malfunction could prove catastrophic.

Tech. Sgt. Michael Price, 4th AMXS NCO in charge of the EW Barn, said this system is regularly tested. In fact, they are required to test it every 180 days for each aircraft, but often when an issue is identified in routine inspections, repairs can't always be made immediately.

"The biggest obstacle we face is working around flying schedules," Price said. "The test itself is complicated and can take anywhere from two to six hours depending on multiple factors. When avionics troops find an issue, they might not have time to fix the jet on the spot because it's needed for training the next day."

The avionics working group noticed a trend where fewer and fewer of these systems were functioning at 100 percent, Price said. They started looking to successful programs used at other bases, and adopted a system used at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.

Two NCOs were permanently placed to each lead three-man shifts of avionic technicians assigned to the barn on three-month rotations. To date, 26 avionics Airmen have worked in the barn and 90 jets have cycled through, each tested, repaired and re-tested.

Price said he observed three main impacts of the EW Barn: a decrease in test failures across the fleet, the Airmen who discovered the discrepancy in testing were the same ones who fixed the issue, and the 26 Airmen became extremely proficient with the complicated testing equipment.

"My guys have done great work this year," Price said. "We've fixed a lot of jets and made sure these detection systems continue working at peak performance, because our pilots put their lives in our hands every time they fly, and they deserve our very best. Thanks to the awesome work my guys have done, I am confident our pilots will stay safe."

Boles said the program has been successful thus far, improving pass rates by nine percent for jets that have been through the barn versus those that haven't. His ultimate goal, however, is a 100 percent pass rate across the fleet.

Boles admitted the goal is high; however, setting high standards will only make the team more efficient, which in turn makes the aircraft safer.

"In the long run, the training it allows us to provide to our Airmen from each aircraft maintenance unit is the real solution," Price said. "After working with us, they are proficient with the equipment and procedures. When they go back to their units, they can share what they have learned with their fellow Airmen."

Members of the avionics working group agree the impact of the EW Barn has been positive. They are also hopeful the successes observed thus far are just a stepping stone to even greater achievements.

"The members of the EW Barn have done a monumental amount of work over the last 300 days or so," Boles said. "It hasn't gone unnoticed. I'm really proud of everyone's efforts. We've come a long way this year and I expect the trend to continue."

Hill commemorates F-35 arrival

by Nathan Simmons
388th Fighter Wing

10/14/2015 - HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Hill and the Top of Utah community officially welcomed the F-35 Lightning II at a ceremony Oct. 14, an event that formally marked the beginning of F-35 operations for the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings.

Members of the Utah congressional delegation, Lockheed Martin, and the Air Force addressed a crowd of more than 500 people, which included Airmen and their families, local civic leaders and the media. Col. David B. Lyons, 388th Fighter Wing commander, said he was blown away with how well Hill's F-35s have performed during the first month of flying.

"Since Sept. 2, we've flown our new jets hard. We've flown advanced handling sorties, pushing the jets further than earlier versions. We've also flown basic surface attack, air to air intercepts, opposed surface attack and light suppression of enemy air defenses," Lyons said. "The airplanes have met all our expectations in the air, but notably, we have not lost a single flight to a maintenance related issue thus far. Obviously we can't stay perfect forever, but if our first month is any indication, this jet is going to be a workhorse."

A common theme addressed by many of the speakers was the increased threat environment around the world, and the need for air superiority to meet that threat. Commander of Air Combat Command Gen. Hawk Carlisle said the security challenges we face today are the greatest we've faced in our nation's history, and that the F-35 is key to keeping America on top of the threat. 

"The current state of world affairs represents the most complex and challenging environment our nation has ever faced with respect to national security challenges across the spectrum," Carlisle said. "The capability over our adversaries is narrowing, and the potential for a near-peer conflict is increasing. Not only will the F-35s advanced capabilities allow us to operate effectively in the anti-access, aerial denial environment, but the F-35 is a force multiplier. It makes every other airplane in the battlespace that much better because of what it brings to the fight."

Utah's senior senator Orrin Hatch said Americans are blessed to live in a nation that protects its cherished freedoms and liberties, and that the F-35 makes those liberties even more secure.

"This weapons system will be a powerful deterrent to those enemies who would tear down our freedom, and destroy our peace," Hatch said. "In protecting our nation against our foes, we need the F-35 now more than ever."

Utah Senator Mike Lee described modernization as a key ingredient in America's success in defeating its adversaries.

"The success of the U.S. armed services has always depended not only on the extraordinary bravery of our men and women in uniform, but also on the superiority of our technology," Lee said. "In one theater after another we haven't just out-fought our enemy, we've also out-innovated our enemy, and that's been a key to our success. When it comes to innovating, testing, training, maintaining America's aircraft, missiles and avionics, northern Utah has long been our nation's leader."

419th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Bryan Radliff noted in his closing remarks that those making history don't realize it until after the moment has passed.

"We are honored to be a part of history. Today we pause to recognize the sacrifices of our community and our families for your selfless support," Radliff said. "Our team is strong and steadfast, our past is robust, but it is your resolute support which allows us to pour our hearts and souls into ushering in the next chapter in American aviation exceptionalism - the F-35."

On Dec. 2, 2013, Hill AFB was selected to host the first Air Force combat units to fly combat coded F-35s. The jet, which arrived at Hill on Sept. 2, is the first of 72 scheduled to arrive by 2019. The 388th FW currently has three F-35s, with one or two scheduled to be delivered each month through 2019.

Earlier this year, the re-activation of the 34th Fighter Squadron marked an historic milestone for the Air Force, as the unit became the first operational Air Force unit to fly combat-coded F-35s.

Mental strength leads Airman through tough times

By Airman 1st Class Jordyn Fetter, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs / Published October 14, 2015

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Surviving an unstable upbringing in Pittsburgh, she never expected to be grabbing onto the Eiffel Tower in Paris at age 21. What started as watching scenes of this historic landmark in movies led her to envision a life beyond her childhood confinement. This was it, the height of her bucket list.

"I guess my bucket list needs to get longer," said Senior Airman Augustine Thompson-Brown, a 35th Medical Operations Squadron mental health technician.

Thompson-Brown's childhood perpetuated dreams of something far beyond her life in Pittsburgh.

"I spent most of my life homeless," she said. "Both of my parents were drug addicts and we moved around a lot. We'd sleep outside, in abandoned houses and sometimes stayed with family when they were feeling compassionate."

Thompson-Brown had a limited perspective about the world until she joined the Air Force at age 18 and moved on from the challenges she grew up with.

"You don't realize how limited your perspective is when you're in these small cultural bubbles," she said. "I didn't realize there was this whole world out there."

After permanently leaving her biological parents at age 7, she stayed in foster care until she was adopted at age 12.

"My great-aunt was able to adopt me, but not my brothers," she said.

Despite losing connection with her brothers, Thompson-Brown said she was relieved to move into her adopted mother's home.

"I was finally able to celebrate Christmas, birthdays and other holidays," she said. "I had my own room and was able to collect assignments I got A's on and certificates."

Things changed when she began dating someone during her senior year of high school.

"When my adopted mother found out my boyfriend was white, it caused a lot of animosity between the two of us," she said. "Her opinions came from growing up in a segregated South Carolina in the 1940s."

Although Thompson-Brown understood her adopted mother's past and views, she disagreed and the two stopped talking.

"Because we had opposing views, the subject turned out to be a bigger issue than it should have been," she said.

As tensions rose, she was inspired to join the Marine Corps by a recruiting video and from being part of Navy junior ROTC.

While going through the Delayed Entry Program, the issue with her mother steadily got worse.

"It went from not talking to having to pay rent to live with her," she said. "Soon after that, she told me I would have to move out when I turned 18."

Unfortunately, Thompson-Brown's 18th birthday came in April, two months before high school graduation. This meant she had a few months to figure out where to stay in order to graduate.

"About one month before my birthday I came home and there were moving boxes on my bed," she said. "It came as a surprise because she hadn't mentioned it for a few months."

Not letting the severity of the situation faze her, she was determined to move forward without question.

"I went into game plan mode to figure out where to stay and what to take with me," she said. "I tried not to be overly upset so my adopted sisters didn't have to feel affected by it."

While searching for a solution, a teacher offered Thompson-Brown a place to stay until she graduated high school.

"I stayed there until I was supposed to ship out, but two weeks before I was supposed to leave I found out my departure date was wrong," she said.

When Thompson-Brown discovered the information was inaccurate, she began searching for other falsities communicated to her.

"If I was living at home, it wouldn't have been as big of a deal," she said. "I told him it needed to be straightened out, but he told me I couldn't do anything because I was homeless; I told him I would join the Air Force."

The recruiter tried to persuade her otherwise, she said, by threatening to hold her name in the Marine Corps DEP a year from when she initially joined to prevent her from joining another military branch.

"The teacher I was staying with told me if I wasn't joining the Marines and didn't have a backup plan, I couldn't stay there," she said.

Despite the challenges, Thompson-Brown resolved to continue with her plan to join the Air Force and moved out of her teacher's home. In the following six months, she moved about 18 times with only two suitcases filled with clothes and $20.

"Everything I collected over the years was gone," she said. "Even now I don't have my high school diploma or family photos."

About four months after deciding to join the Air Force, she received mail from her mother's home.

"One piece of mail said I had been released from the DEP three months before," she said. "I waited three months for no reason."

She immediately began the Air Force enlisting process and left for basic military training three months later.

To make it through this difficult time, Thompson-Brown said she didn't once think she would fail. It wasn't an option to her.

"I've never been one to let other people tell me I can't do something," she said. "If you tell me I am incapable of doing something, then that's exactly what I'm going to do."

Her outlook on life is encompassed by a quote from actor Will Smith that says, "I'm not afraid to die on a treadmill.”

"It basically means if the two of us are running on treadmills, either I will die or you are going to get off first," she said. "No one is more motivated or committed than you are. When that becomes your life, that's how you approach everything."

Even as a child, Thompson-Brown's biological mother told her she was never stuck in one situation because she is her only obstacle.

"Thompson-Brown is destined for greatness and that allowed her to bounce back," said Tech. Sgt. Jerome Selman, the NCO in charge of alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment for the 35th MDOS. "Her back was against the wall, but she made options. Resiliency is an understatement."

She is now working toward her bachelor's degree with the goal of becoming an Air Force judge advocate and working with the Special Victims' Counsel to provide legal assistance to victims of sexual assault.

"To go from having nothing at all, to hanging off the Eiffel Tower in Paris, that's a huge leap to do on my own," Thompson-Brown said. "No one can tell me I can't do something."

C-130H gets new training mission -- saves time, money

by Jenny Gordon
78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

10/9/2015 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- An aircraft that had been flying continuously since 1974 has made Robins Air Force Base its final resting place.

The Sept. 29, 2015, arrival of a retired C-130H will not only enable maintenance professionals across Robins to have a dedicated aircraft for training purposes, but it will be a welcome addition to the two F-15s that no longer have to sit by themselves in the 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Group's aircraft training pad.

"This is a huge advantage not just for Warner Robins, but the entire world," said Senior Master Sgt. Shawn Davis, 373rd Training Squadron, Detachment 6 chief at Robins, referring to the global draw the school has from students who take courses at Robins.

The squadron's instructors had an estimated 5000 students enroll in classes in fiscal 2015.

The 373rd is one of many Air Education and Training Command field training detachments assigned to the 982nd Training Group at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.

In the past, the training squadron used aircraft currently in programmed depot maintenance to train its students as part of various hands-on coursework. But that option became a challenge as more and more aircraft were being successfully pushed through the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex's aircraft gated monitoring system, leaving less available aircraft for training purposes.

Scheduling aircraft for courses became a struggle. In order for maintainers to continue getting necessary requirements, one option was to send students off-site for training. That in turn resulted in temporary duty costs of about $3,000 per student, according to Davis.

When the aircraft finally makes its way to the training pad, after being disassembled of parts that are no longer needed, Davis said he sees about a $700,000 per year savings in TDY costs.

He expects the training school's hydraulics, avionics and engines courses, as well as a future crew chief class, will skyrocket with the addition of the new trainer aircraft.

"This is something we never thought was possible," he said.

By fulfilling this critical mission need, the aircraft will allow personnel to receive specialized training to meet qualification requirements, eliminate any student backlogs associated with classes, and eliminate any interruptions to current production repair.

"The ground trainer is a win-win for multiple organizations as it provides cost-effective maintenance training opportunities for our civilian mechanics and military expeditionary depot maintenance personnel," said Jim Russell, 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron director. "We no longer have to negotiate with operational units for additional non-production downtime on their aircraft to fulfill our maintenance training requirements."

Operation Homefront Seeks Military Child of the Year Nominations

SAN ANTONIO, October 15, 2015 — Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit organization, is accepting nominations for the 2016 Military Child of the Year awards.

Operation Homefront leads more than 2,500 volunteers with nationwide presence who provide emergency and other financial assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.

The eighth annual awards will recognize six outstanding young people ages 8 to 18 to represent the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard for their scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, extracurricular involvement, and other criteria while facing the challenges of military family life, officials said.

On average, they added, previous recipients have had at least one parent deploy for 18 months or longer and have relocated at least five times due to a parent’s military assignments.

The six awardees will receive $10,000 each and a laptop computer and other donated gifts, and they will be flown with a parent or guardian to Washington for an April 14 gala, during which senior leaders of each branch of service will present the awards.

"It's our honor to celebrate military children through the Military Child of the Year for the eighth consecutive year," said Operation Homefront President and CEO John I. Pray, Jr. "Whether it's in schools or honor societies, civic associations and clubs, sports or volunteerism, you never have to look far to find an exemplary military child who thrives in the face of challenges inherent to military life. As we open up the nomination window, please join us in celebrating the resilience, achievement and strength of character embodied by our youngest patriots and submit a nomination to recognize them today.”

Talent, Intellect, Community Involvement

The 2015 recipients reflect the high caliber of talent, intellect and community involvement that the Military Child of the Year typifies, officials said.

For instance, they noted, having already lobbied Congress for passage of the Girls Count Act of 2014, Air Force 2015 Military Child of the Year Sarah Hesterman founded while in Qatar an organization called Girl Up Qatar, a club that works to promote the rights of women and girls in the Middle East and around the world by providing access to education and resources for adolescent girls in situations of conflict. The BBC even named this current high school senior one of its 100 Women in 2014.

“The best thing about being selected as Military Child of the Year for the Air Force was feeling like I had made a contribution to [the Air Force],” said Sarah. “I had always felt as though the service gave me everything that I could ask for, but that I wasn’t giving back. Knowing that I may have been able to serve and do something for the Air Force, even as just a teenager, was a wonderful feeling.

“The pride that I felt going on stage and accepting the award,” she continued, “is still the same pride I feel today. … Winning MCOY made me realize how important it is to show military kids that you can create a life for yourself outside of just being the child of someone who serves or has served. Whether it’s to be a voice for other military kids or to speak up for those who need representation in other countries, I now get to show other kids how to speak up and be heard.”

Sarah, who has moved back to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, said she had a busy and memorable summer, “I spent most of my summer doing work for Girl Up, and the pinnacle of my summer was attending the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “I was fortunate enough to meet Michelle Obama and a number of other leaders who are champions for girls’ education. I also went to Capitol Hill to speak with representatives and senators about female refugees and the importance of their safety.”

Helping Elected Officials Understand

As president of the Missouri National Guard Teen Advisory Council, current high school junior Zachary Parsons, the 2015 National Guard Military Child of the Year, continues to enlighten elected officials to the inherent challenges of being a military child in general and in being the child of a wounded National Guard soldier in particular. Zachary also is president of his 4-H club, president of the Johnson County 4-H Council, West Central representative on the 4-H State Council, a 4-H representative on the University of Missouri Extension Council, a Missouri United Way fund-raiser, and a member of the National Honor Society.

“I was extremely proud to be the first representative of the National Guard for the MCOY award,” said Zachary, who visited the White House this summer as a part of a Washington Focus trip. “I was happy to act as a voice for National Guard kids everywhere. Many [people] do not understand that we go through a totally different set of obstacles that prove to be just as difficult as those of other military kids. I was extremely proud to represent my dad’s branch at a higher level.”

He has continued his community service through the summer. “I volunteer with United Way,” he said, “and continue to collect shoes for my Soles4Souls community service projects. I was also involved in a project called Project Smile, where I helped construct and donate 45 tie blankets to the local emergency room. I find service to be extremely important, and I will continue to help others in need all my life.”