Monday, October 26, 2015

Combat Shield ensures Strike Eagles ready for tomorrow's war

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

10/23/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- The 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hosted members of the 16th Electronic Warfare Squadron from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, during Combat Shield, Oct. 19-23.

Combat Shield is an annual program aimed to provide operational combat Air Force units in Air Combat Command, a system-specific capability assessment for their aircraft's radar warning receivers, electronic attack pods and integrated EW systems.

"The goal of Combat Shield is getting information to higher level decision makers so they can decide what changes need to be made - funding, training, equipment - to ensure that we're putting the best equipment forward," said Maj. Kyle Schlewinsky, 16th Electronic Warfare Squadron assistant director of operations. "Really, the end result is some guy strapping that jet on and flying into combat. We want to give our pilots the greatest odds possible of coming home."

With that goal in mind, Air Force Instruction 10-707 mandates every major command have an independent EW systems evaluation program.

According to Schlewinsky, Combat Shield is ACC's answer to this requirement.

Schlewinsky also explained the risks facing our aircrews may drastically change in the near future, and the airframes must be prepared.

"For the past decade or more, we've been focused on Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, which is uncontested close-air support," Schlewinsky said. "In uncontested airspace, our aircrews aren't really worried about radar-guided surface-to-air and air-to-air threats."

He added the cost for failure is too high to be overlooked and complacency now could cause lives to be lost in any future contested conflict.

To make sure the 4th Fighter Wing's aircraft are mission ready, regardless of the type of threat, the 10-man Combat Shield maintenance team tested the F-15E Strike Eagle's ALR-56C Radar Warning Receiver System, the aircraft's primary threat detection system, by assessing its sensitivity and ability to detect incoming enemy threats.

Using a USM-642 "Raven" signal generator, members of Combat Shield can quickly and accurately evaluate the effectiveness of the threat detection system.
According to Schlewinsky, the evaluation was completed around day-to-day operations tempo, and took just four days to test every operational Strike Eagle assigned to the wing.

At the end of the testing, the program evaluators determined the Airmen assigned to the 4th AMXS have worked hard over the last year.

"I'm really proud of the guys here at the 4th AMXS," said Chief Master Sgt. John Moore, 4th AMXS superintendent. "The Combat Shield team told us that we were able to make the best improvement they've seen across ACC to date. We were able to exceed the CAF average, and nine or ten of our Airmen were recognized as superior performers. At the end of the day, these results improve our confidence in our ability to go downrange."

Once all the data in compiled, Combat Shield's findings will be provided to ACC headquarters in a comprehensive report of the major command's assets.

Former AFGSC Command Chief bids farewell

by Tech. Sgt. Ave Young
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

10/26/2015 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- After 30 years of service, the command chief of Air Force Global Strike Command retired during a ceremony held here Oct. 22.

Chief Master Sgt. Terry West assumed the AFGSC Command Chief position in January 2014, charged with the responsibility of advising the AFGSC commander on all matters affecting professional development, training, combat readiness, utilization, morale and mission effectiveness for more than 31,000 Airmen assigned to AFGSC bases and units.

West previously served as Command Chief Master Sergeant for 8th Air Force here, and the Senior Enlisted Leader for Task Force 204 for U.S. Strategic Command at AFB, Nebraska.

As he retired from active duty, West asked Airmen to remember those close to them, no matter what life throws at them.

"Make sure you never lose sight of those things that really matter," West said. "I'm not going to have to stand at my retirement ceremony and apologize to my family for all those things, because I tried to make the ball games, the parent-teacher conferences and the recitals. So stay focused on the things that really matter in life."

As the AFGSC Command Chief, West focused on major developmental programs, ensuring command personnel were prepared to provide nuclear deterrence operations and flexible global strike options to combatant commanders worldwide.

As he looked back on his career, the chief recalled three significant events: his first deployment, becoming a supervisor and starting a family.

"My first deployment taught me to rely on others and work together, not only to survive, but to get the mission done," he said.

He took the skills he learned in working with others with him as he began to supervise others.

"As a supervisor, you're responsible for the development and lives of others. That's why it's important to develop yourself and your skills because you're developing tomorrow's leaders," he added. "I relate it to the airplane oxygen mask. Put yours on first before you can help somebody else.

But as much as he enjoyed developing others, for West, family came first.

"Having a family taught me the work/life balance," he said. "You really have to make an effort to do your job and then separate yourself from it when you go home."

Throughout his career, West said he always tried to focus on the Airmen, getting to know them and learning what they contribute to the mission. During his time at Global Strike Command, he continued to focus on Airmen development through the Striker Stripe professional development program. He also visited with Airmen at every AFGSC base, discussing their challenges and how the command could assist them in doing the mission.

"The thing I'm going to miss the most is meeting with the Airmen in their duty sections and seeing that pride they show for their expertise," said West. "We have an amazing group of Airmen in our command."

Face of Defense: Maryland Guardsman Builds Strength After Adversity

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Thaddeus Harrington Maryland National Guard

BALTIMORE, October 26, 2015 — Army Staff Sgt. Verlillian Githara, a food service specialist with the Maryland Army National Guard’s 104th Area Support Medical Company, overcame a difficult childhood to become a successful soldier and a 10-year veteran of the Baltimore City Police.

Githara may be doing well now, but life hasn't always been easy. Her life could have turned out differently had she taken a different path, and few people know her turbulent life story.

"Things happen, and then you move on," she said. "If you don't move on, you end up like the people I see living on the street. And I refuse to be that way."

Born in Texas, Githara wasn't raised in a stable household with great role models. A relative molested her when she was 9, she said. Her mother was unable to care for her, so she was sent to live with her godparents, also in Texas.

It was then that she officially became a foster child. She stayed there until moving to Maryland to spend the summer with a cousin. The stay lasted four years, and during that time, she said, she was molested again.

"How does that even happen?" Githara asked.

Always a Helping Hand

No matter what happened or where she was, it seemed like there was always someone there to help, she said. If there was something she needed, like a place to stay, it was provided.

"Even in the foster home, [with] molestation and drug issues, I never felt like I was without," Githara said, adding that her faith kept her going.

"It's inconceivable how so many people came into my life to pick me up," she said. "I never fell. There are so many random people out there, angels, who don't know how awesome they were."

Help came from the least expected places. Even people who were abusing their own kids were the ones who came to her rescue and provided safety, she said.

As her foster mom was preparing to adopt her, Githara's mother wanted her daughter back. Somehow, she said, she managed to get out of the foster care system and move back with her mother.

Becoming a Soldier-Scholar

Githara's original plan was to join the active-duty Army right out of high school, but her mother, Jean, wanted her to focus on her education. Githara weighed her options and decided to do both -- she enlisted in the Maryland Army National Guard and began attending Coppin State University. That was 14 years and two deployments ago.

In her Guard family, there are few people in her trusted circle whom she considers very close confidants, Githara said.

"Although she's a very quiet and concealed person, she's very caring," said Army Capt. Elise Dent, 104th ASMC executive officer. "We have a very close, personal officer-noncommissioned officer relationship. I know the conversations we have will stay confidential."

According to Dent, Githara is the type of person who will help someone out, but you'd have to be the first to approach her.

With her team, she has a straightforward, hands-on leadership style, Githara said. She said she pushes them to do their best and be able to shine.

"This is my kitchen, and we need to get the job done," she said. "I'm doing this with you, and we'll get through it together."

Githara tells her soldiers to be open. "In order for you learn and grow, you have to be receiving of me giving you instruction," she said, "and I'm here to learn from you as well."

She admits to being "somewhat closed-off personally," but it's something she said she's working on, noting that it's a self-preservation mechanism.

Presentation is Important

"Let's pretty it up. Garnish it and put it in a different container," Githara said about how she prepares food for the troops. "I want it to look good, as best as it can, and I want it to taste good."

She said it's essential for her to provide some type of happiness to soldiers when they're out in the field and away from home.

"She pays attention to detail, and she makes sure we have enough food," said Army Pfc. Kristina Benedict, a health care specialist and combat medic with the 104th ASMC. "If something doesn't taste right or look right, she's not serving it."

To Protect and Serve

In addition to having a strong sense of right and wrong, her decision to be a police officer was influenced by her godfather, who appropriately went by the name “Judge.”

"He was sheriff of the town, and I wanted to be like him," she said.

At age 21, she began her career with the Baltimore City Police Department. It was a short journey to becoming a police officer, she said -- applying on Monday, testing done by Friday and hired that Saturday. She started out as a patrol officer, spending two years on the streets of Baltimore.

"I was 'Officer Friendly,'" she said. "I would visit with the elderly and try to solve their problems." Things changed when the drug unit took her. "It was fun, and I loved the adrenaline rush," she said.

It was there where Officer Verlillian Allgood -- her name at the time -- met her husband, Officer George Githara. They were assigned together as partners for two years before they started dating. She became pregnant and then transitioned to the drug deployment unit.

They've now been married for three years and are a blended family of five -- each entered the relationship with a child, and now they have one together. Her mother Jean, who is in poor health, also resides with them.

Fitness as a Family

In addition to responsibilities as a full-time police officer, Guardsman, caregiver, mother, and student, she is training for a bodybuilding competition. She will compete this month in the figure category for the World Beauty Fitness and Fashion competition. She is working hard to earn her personal training degree at Bryan University and to attain a pro card, which will opens the door to becoming a sponsored competitor.

"I want to bring my best to the stage," she said.

Githara started training in 2013 during a deployment to Afghanistan. Her schedule is demanding, yet she manages to train with Team Elite, based out of Alabama.

"What's really big to me is I like the way she involves her family in everything she does," said Greg Hasberry, Githara's trainer and owner of Alabama Elite Fitness and Figure. "She has a supportive husband and well-rounded kids. It's pretty neat that they get a chance to watch their mom attain a personal goal."

Her husband drives the whole family to Alabama for her to train with Hasberry and takes care of the kids while she's training. She will have traveled there for a total of five extremely rigorous three-day training sessions leading up to the competition.

"My family is very supportive," Githara said. "They are all on board."

The family goes to the gym together, and she and her children do homework together. Githara realizes didn't have an ideal childhood and could have been a victim of adversity. Instead, she said, she chose to live life on her terms as an example of someone living a resilient life.

U.S. Navy Begins Exercise with Royal Canadian Navy

From Expeditionary Strike Group 3 Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- U.S. and Canadian naval units began a Task Group Exercise (TGEX) off the coast of Southern California, Oct. 20.

Participating units from the Royal Canadian Navy include Canadian Fleet Pacific, Halifax-class frigates HMCS Calgary (FFH 335) and HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331), and Victoria-class submarine HMCS Chicoutimi (SSK 879).

"The Royal Canadian Navy frequently participates in training exercises such as this with the U.S. in order to provide mutually beneficial realistic and relevant training which is necessary for the proper integration of units from various nations to work as a cohesive task group," said Cmdr. Julian Elbourne, commanding officer of Calgary. "We look forward to this exercise in order to continue to build our proficiency as allies."

U.S. Navy units include Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3, Commander, Amphibious Squadron (CPR) 1, amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18), and dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).

"We are excited to have the opportunity to work with the Royal Canadian Navy," said Capt. Keith Moore, CPR 1, currently embarked on Boxer. "Operating with our [Canadian] counterparts during this exercise will facilitate a quicker and smoother integration into the coalition environment during our upcoming deployment."

The U.S. 3rd Fleet exercise serves to train units in amphibious warfare, air defense, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, and maritime interdiction operations, while also building a strong working relationship between the maritime forces of the U.S. and Canada.

The U.S. and Canada regularly participate in exercises together, the most recent being Pacific Partnership and Trident Fury.

Joint, interagency, and international relationships strengthen U.S. Third Fleet's ability to respond to crises and protect the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners.

U.S. Navy EOD and Chilean Special Forces Strengthen Partnership

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Archer, USS George Washington Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3 Platoon 3-1-1 aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) and members of Chilean special forces teamed up in a Helicopter Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (HVBSS) exercise Oct. 20 as part of UNITAS Pacific (PAC).

UNITAS PAC 2015 is hosted by Chile and supports the U.S. maritime strategy by bringing partner nation navies together to improve interoperability and build working relationships at sea.

The HVBSS integrated the two nations into one team to compare tactics used by the different units to help improve combined operations and readiness in the U.S. Southern Command theater of operations.

"The U.S. Navy EOD and Chilean special forces got together to go over different methods that we can use and to cross train," said Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Jeremy Owen.

The multinational force practiced tactical fast roping while flying with "The Black Knights" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4 aboard Washington.

"This is the first time I worked with U.S. Navy EOD," said Ens. Sebastian Urquieta, Chilean special forces. "We are just starting to learn about Mine Counter Measure (MCM) and EOD operations."

The exercise proved to be mutually beneficial for both the Chilean special forces and U.S. Navy EOD teams, providing reasons why multinational exercises like UNITAS PAC are so beneficial.

"The training was good," said Urquieta. "I learned a lot and look forward to the future training we'll conduct with the U.S."

UNITAS is the U.S. Navy's longest running annual multinational maritime exercise, is part of the Southern Seas deployment planned by U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command / U.S. 4th Fleet. This 56th iteration of UNITAS is conducted in two phases: UNITAS Pacific hosted by Chile, October 13-24, 2015 and UNITAS Atlantic, hosted by Brazil scheduled for November.