Military News

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Air Force recognizes D.C. Air Guard as Outstanding Unit

by 13th Wing Public Affairs office
113th Wing Public Affairs

10/28/2015 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD.  -- The D.C. Air National Guard's 113th Wing received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for operational performance and mission accomplishment.

The 113th Wing distinguished itself by exceptionally meritorious service executing more than 1,500 F-16 aircraft missions and 480 Aerospace Control Alert missions with more than 2,500 total flying hours protecting the nation's capital as well as 63 VIP missions.

"The Capital Guardians are committed to exemplifying the highest standards in the military with exceptionally meritorious service to both country and community," said Brig. Gen. George Degnon, 113th Wing commander. "Although an Air Guard unit, we support numerous active duty commands and conduct daily operational missions protecting the skies of D.C. and providing strategic airlift for the first lady, members of Congress, and the executive branch."

During 2015, the 113th Wing also deployed more than 500 members in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, multi-national exercises PITCHBLACK, TRI-SLING and CRUZEX, as well as joint-forces exercise SENTRY SAVANNAH, while accomplishing both its peacetime and wartime missions.

Members from the 113th Wing contributed to the community throughout the year through volunteerism, providing safety and security during high-visibility events such as the Martin Luther King 50th Anniversary "March on the Capital," the Independence Day celebration and other national events in Washington D.C.

The Outstanding Unit Award was established Jan. 6, 1954, and is awarded by the Secretary of the Air Force to numbered units that have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious service or outstanding achievement that clearly sets the unit above and apart from similar units. This is the 15th time in unit history it has received this award.

For a glimpse of the 113th Wing in action, please visit
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For more information, contact the 113th Wing Public Affairs Office at 240-857-4867.

AF leaders testify on F-35 progress

By Senior Airman Hailey Haux, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information / Published October 28, 2015

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Leaders in the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office and the Air Force F-35 Integration Office testified on the fifth-generation aircraft’s development before a House Armed Services subcommittee Oct. 21 on Capitol Hill.

Fielding a number of questions from Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee representatives, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the F-35 program executive officer, and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, the F-35 Integration Office director, Headquarters Air Force, assured them the program is making progress.

“The F-35 program today is executing well across the entire spectrum of acquisition, to include development and design, flight test, production … and building a global sustainment enterprise,” Bogdan said. “The program is at a pivot point today, where we are moving from slow and steady progress to what I call a rapidly growing and accelerating program.”

Overall, the program has flown more than 42,000 hours, to include the international jets and the U.S. service-specific variations.

The F-35 is a complex program made more challenging by the fact that it’s still in development, even as we are flying it in the field. Recent tests on the safe-escape system revealed a problem that would result in lighter-weight pilots possibly suffering major neck injury upon ejection.

“The program is working with our industry partners on three specific improvements that will provide lightweight pilots that same level of protection and safety as all other F-35 pilots,” Bogdan said in his written testimony. “These three improvements are: one, a reduced weight helmet that weighs 6 ounces less than the current helmet … two, a pilot ‘weight switch’ on the ejection seat that reduces the opening shock of the parachute by slightly delaying the parachute’s opening for lightweight pilots; and three, a head support that will be sewn into the parachute risers that will reduce the rearward head movement of the pilot when the main chute of the ejection seat opens, reducing the pilot’s neck loads.”

Comparing the F-35 with the F-16 Fighting Falcon’s maneuverability was another concern; however, both generals were confident in the F-35 program and its capabilities.

“The F-35’s technology is designed to engage, shoot and kill its enemy from long distances, not necessarily in visual ‘dogfighting’ situations,” Harrigian said in his testimony. “There have been numerous occasions where a four-ship of F-35s has engaged a four-ship of F-16s in simulated combat scenarios, and the F-35s had a clear operational advantage because of the sensors, weapons and stealth technology. The F-35 has been optimized for the current trends of warfare, where the enemy is engaged and defeated from long distances, but it will still be able to maneuver aggressively when required to defeat and kill threats.”

Overall, the F-35 program is on track to be delivered on time and on cost, and Bogdan and Harrigian agree it’s a capability needed for the joint force to be successful.

“As with any big, complex program new discoveries, challenges and obstacles will occur; however, we believe the combined government/industry team has the ability to overcome current issues and future discoveries in order to successfully deliver the full F-35 capability to the warfighter,” Bogdan said. “The Joint Program Office will continue executing with integrity, discipline, transparency and accountability, holding ourselves accountable for the outcomes on this program.

“We recognize the responsibility the program has been given to provide the backbone of the U.S. and allied fighter capability with the F-35 for generations to come, and that your sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters may someday take this aircraft into harm’s way to defend our freedom and way of life. It is a responsibility we never forget."

Special tactics Airmen march 800 miles to honor fallen teammates

By 1st Lt. Katrina Cheesman, 24th Special Operations Wing / Published October 28, 2015

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- After more than 800 miles on the road, 20 special tactics Airmen finished their journey to honor fallen teammates, crossing through the gate here with families of those killed in combat.

The march was held specifically for Capt. Matthew Roland, a special tactics officer, and Staff Sgt. Forrest Sibley, a combat controller, who were killed in action Aug. 26 in Afghanistan.

“These men walked 812 miles, demonstrating to the vast majority of the southern part of America what our country values," said Lt. Gen. Brad Heithold, the commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. "And that’s people who are willing to make sacrifices.”

The marchers walked day and night through five states to honor the fallen special operators, relaying the 812 miles in two-man teams.

Across the southern United States, communities and individuals took time to cheer on the marchers honoring the fallen with salutes and hands over hearts. Some community members even prepared home-cooked meals for the special tactics Airmen, who would each walk a total of 90 miles with a 50-pound assault pack on their back and a memorial baton in their hand.

While the marchers beat their anticipated timelines by completing their 12.6-mile legs in three hours instead of the expected four, this consistent speed didn’t come without its costs. Throughout the 10-day period, the marching Airmen experienced large blisters, muscle tears, heat exhaustion, and dehydration. One Airman completed his 90-plus miles with three broken ribs.

“We are pretty tired and beaten down, but it’s about telling the story of the guys who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said a special tactics combat controller about the march. “That’s why we do this: to remember the brothers we lost and show support to the families.”

For many of the Gold Star families and special tactics Airmen, it was a reunion. The Airmen had carried memorial batons engraved with the names of the fallen halfway across the country to walk alongside the families who lost their loved ones. This was not the first time they had done this; most of the families had attended all four of the memorial marches, the first of which took place in 2009.

“Who’s got Argel?” one family member shouted into the chaotic crowd of hugging people, searching for the person holding their son’s baton. Eventually, each Airman delivered his baton to the appropriate family, and the group walked the final mile together.

At the end of the march, the Airmen took part in a small ceremony. The batons were solemnly saluted and returned, one by one, to a waiting special tactics Airman as the names of the 19 teammates were called.

The batons were returned to their display case and will only be removed for another memorial march if a special tactics Airman is killed in action.

Finally, in keeping with a special tactics tradition, the Airmen formed up to complete memorial pushups.

“The fallen’s legacy will never die, because we will continue to honor their sacrifices and perpetuate their excellence,” Col. Wolfe Davidson, the 24th Special Operations Wing commander, said of the 19 special tactics Airmen killed in action since 9/11. “We aren’t ever going to quit talking about them. We will walk across this country to say, ‘We will never forget you.’

Raptors fly the Big Easy Skies

by Staff Sgt. Russ Jackson
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/29/2015 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- No sooner did Tyndall's F-22 Raptors return from a successful mission in Europe, they took off again for an exercise in the Mardi Gras City.

Over the past two weeks, 220 Tyndall Airmen participated in exercise Southern Strike at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Belle Chasse, La., just outside of New Orleans.

The mock deployment gave F-22 pilots the chance to fly with F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-18 Hornets, T-38 Talons, F-35 Lightning II's and B-1 Lancer's from bases around the country.

"At Tyndall Air Force Base we train the future of air dominance," said Col. Joseph Kunkel, 325th Fighter Wing vice commander. "What Southern Strike is allowing us to do is bring our students into a realistic environment where they can train with fourth and fifth generation platforms in a high threat scenario."

The purpose of Southern Strike is to have multiple fighter aircraft from bases in the southeast fly together and against each other in air-to-air combat. The training allows students in Tyndall's F-22 basic training course to get their air-combat training against fighters they don't normally fly with.

The first week of the exercise focused on small-scale local flying with F-22's, T-38's and F-15's from NAS JRB. The second week brought many more fighters from other bases, like Eglin AFB, Fla., to make up two teams, one red and the other blue. Those teams then competed against each other in the southeastern skies.

Tyndall's F-22 student pilots can't always get the realistic training they need flying around the Florida panhandle alongside their T-38 counterpart. They must take advantage of exercises outside of Florida to obtain the training requirements they need for their F-22 Basic Course at Tyndall.

"The experience is huge," said 1st Lt. Gregory Hermack, 2nd Fighter Training Squadron pilot." Back at home, they fly against T-38's, which is 1960's technology. So when you start adding in fighter aircraft like F-15's and F-16's that are shooting real radar, you can better simulate the weapons of real-life enemies and give the Raptor pilots more genuine real-world scenarios."

From deployments to Europe to exercises around the country, the F-22's remain in the sky ready for whatever the country asks of it.

"As we continue to train and project unrivaled combat air power, exercises like this are the key in making sure we're ready to go at a moment's notice," said Kunkel.

JBER protects youth from drugs

by Airman 1st Class Christopher R. Morales
JBER Public Affairs

10/28/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- Drugs and substance abuse may seem like an escape, but addictions bind the body, and youth can't grow properly in that environment.

Being educated and aware of the danger drugs and substance abuse carry with it is one way to avoid falling into that habit to begin with.

Red Ribbon Week is a national celebration in honor of Enrique Camarena, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, and his efforts on the war on drugs.  This event, always the last week of October, encourages teaching youth about the negative effects of drug and substance abuse.

The 2015 national Red Ribbon theme is 'Respect yourself. Don't do drugs.'

"Respecting yourself means looking at yourself everyday and treating yourself like you would treat someone you loved most in the world," said Kristofer Calhoun, 13 years old, winner of the 2015 National Red Ribbon Theme contest from Solon Middle School, Solon, Ohio. "If you do drugs, you really don't have self-confidence and you don't respect yourself."

Many events on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson throughout the month of October were hosted by local schools and youth centers, with the Army Substance Abuse Program providing information at the Base Exchange and dining facilities.

Substance abuse is a danger for all ages, but children don't know as much as adults do so instead of educating about recovery and controlled use, Red Ribbon Week supports drug prevention practices.

"It's not about us, it's about the youth and informing them about drugs and substance abuse," said Theresita Cliett, JBER ASAP risk reduction program coordinator. "You're never too young to know."

Children can misunderstand the use of substances like alcohol and medication. If unsupervised, these substances can cause severe harm.

JBER has many community resources for information about alcohol, drugs and other substance abuse.

The JBER hospital is home to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Treatment clinic which works collaboratively with commanders and first sergeants to provide individualized and tailored treatment to meet the patient's goals with minimal impact on the mission.

The ASAP, available on JBER-Richardson, offers prevention education and rehabilitation. Their mission is to support overall effectiveness through the elimination of drug and substance abuse.

"Seventy-five percent of substance abuse is alcohol. Twenty-five percent is all drugs, and more than half of that percentage is from prescription drugs," said George R. Mongar, ASAP certified employee assistance professional.

Illegal drug and prescription drug abuse have some similarities, but the latter is often a little more subtle. Prescription drug abuse can be identified anytime a patient uses the substance outside the doctor's intent.

Whether it's swallowing pain meds for the numbness or drinking until you black out every weekend, it is all considered abuse -and children should be educated about these things too.

The Red Ribbon Campaign pledge sets a few guidelines to protect children from the dangers of drugs. The pledge can be signed online at

For more information call ADAPT at 580-4952, and ASAP at 384-1418. For more information online visit, and

Chief Cody talks Air Force with AFGSC Airmen

by Airman 1st Class Curt Beach
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

10/27/2015 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La.  -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody visited here Oct. 21-22. During his stay, the 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs office asked the chief some questions about various Air Force topics.

While visiting the 2nd BW, host installation to Air Force Global Strike Command headquarters, Cody spoke of what he hopes to see from the newly-realigned command, after it grew in size and capability with the addition of the 7th BW from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, 28th BW from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, and 377th Air Base Wing from Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

"The expectation for Global Strike Airmen is to continue doing the great work they have been doing," said Cody. "The realignment doesn't affect the expectations of the Airmen. This helps us continue to reach our vision of strengthening the nuclear enterprise. Bringing all of our resources together in a consolidated way helps us present this capability globally. It creates a lot of synergy, unity and it gives us more opportunities to bring our experts together to learn from one another, share ideas and enhance training opportunities in a more cohesive way."

Being at one of the homes to the B-52 Stratofortress, the chief touched on the capabilities of the bomber and what it brings to the fight.

"We have the Continuous Bomber Presence in the Pacific region, and the B-52s are a significant part of that," he said. "It certainly remains a very powerful weapon system and is a symbol to the American people, our allies and our would-be enemies of American air power. Of course it's also a very old aircraft and we do have to modernize here if we want to continue to be dominant in the future."

As budget cuts reduce the U.S. Air Force to the smallest size in its history, Cody spoke to how military benefits may or may not be affected.

"There is no appetite within Air Force leadership for any reduction in benefits. We have been pretty vocal about that. That doesn't mean we don't believe we need to modernize in some areas. We are in significantly constrained times, and any time you are in this type of environment all of these things are going to be on the table for discussion. We've made some significant changes to sustain the force in a way we think is reasonable, but again there is no appetite to reduce benefits. There is however, a significant appetite to provide quality things that are considered needed for our Airmen and their families."

The chief then spoke about the new Enlisted Evaluation System and the challenges that lie ahead.

"I don't think we are done. We are still in the midst of this transition to the new enlisted evaluation system and the changes to the promotion system," he said. "We still have quite a bit of work to do here for full implementation and then normalization. Implementation doesn't mean normalization - it means that we have gone through the process, and now we have a lot to learn as we continue to execute it to make sure we are meeting our intended goals. We are going to stay focused on that."

Before setting off, Cody offered some parting words.

"I certainly appreciate any time that we are out with our Airmen," said Cody. "I appreciate the opportunity to thank them and their families for what they do every day for our air force. Everybody is working really hard and it's evident that they are working hard and the results are the most significant validation of that."

Face of Defense: Airman Puts Language Skills to Work

By Air Force Senior Airman Mikaley Kline 99th Air Base Wing

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev., October 28, 2015 — She speaks Russian, Bulgarian and English while possessing master's degrees in economics, law, business administration as well as international relations. She worked as a teacher and a border patrol agent at one of the busiest checkpoints in Bulgaria before immigrating to the United States, eventually beginning a career as an American airman.

Air Force Capt. Reni Angelova, 99th Medical Group practice manager, said she stumbled upon the Language Enabled Airman Program when she went in to take an annual test to certify her foreign language proficiency.

"I speak a few languages and had to go in because I was due for [the Defense Language Proficiency Test]," Angelova said. "I was sitting in the waiting area when someone asked whether I was there to test for LEAP. I turned around and asked "What is LEAP?"

LEAP is managed by the Air Force Culture and Language Center, and its goal is to develop a group of airmen with different specialties and careers who have the ability to communicate in one or more foreign languages.

"The idea is to help maintain language skills and refresh them every so often so that you are up-to-date with changes in the language and culture," Angelova said. "The mission allows you to improve your cultural awareness, along with your language skills, to be ready to support our worldwide operations."

Angelova researched the program and decided to apply.

"I asked permission from my squadron commander, ... and he said 'Absolutely, yes.'” she said.

The LEAP Process

The board requires submission of the three most recent performance reports and an endorsement from the applicant’s squadron commander. Each applicant’s language skills and overall performance as an airman are reviewed during the selection process.

“A few months later, my squadron commander surprised me with the great news; I was selected for the LEAP program," Angelova said.

Participants go through two phases to help maintain their language skills. Phase I is an online class, and Phase II is a Language Intensive Training Event. The LITE includes a three- to four-week temporary duty assignment in the country where the language is spoken in a natural environment, with opportunities to take a class in a local school, teach, participate in a humanitarian mission, or support a U.S Embassy mission -- all geared toward refreshing language skills and cultural awareness.

"I thought about teaching or taking a class, but I have already done both," Angelova said. "I decided to call the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria and see if they'd like a month of linguist support under LEAP. The answer was 'Yes, by all means -- we can always use additional support.'"

Operation Swift Response

Upon arrival in Bulgaria, Angelova was assigned to the Office of Defense Coordination, which reports to the U.S. military attache in Bulgaria.

She worked with the U.S. Army in support of Operation Swift Response, the largest NATO airdrop since the end of the Cold War. "The airdrop mission included several nations and was conducted simultaneously on the territory of few NATO member countries,” Angelova said.

During her final week, she was assigned to U.S Navy SEAL Team 10 as an interpreter and cultural expert. "U.S. Navy SEAL Team 10 was part of a joint planning and advisory team, conducting joint combined exchange training mission with the host country specialized unit for combating terrorism. It was truly impressive to see the impact of our operations overseas in sharing experience and building relationships," she said.

Angelova had supported a NATO mission earlier in her career, while she was stationed at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

"I volunteered to be an escort during the NATO Air Chief Symposium in Washington D.C.," Angelova said. "The event coordination teams took into consideration our foreign language skills and assigned us to the air chiefs whose country's language we spoke. I was escorting the Bulgarian air chief at the time, [Lt. Gen. Constantin Popov].

"I had the opportunity to meet General Popov during my LEAP TDY three years after the symposium,” she said. “General Popov is currently the deputy chief of defense in Bulgaria. He remembered me with the best of impressions for outstanding support during the NATO symposium."

Life in Bulgaria

Born in Sandanski, Bulgaria, Angelova was in high school when the country went through a transition period.

"My first dream was to fly for the military, but at the time they were not accepting girls as flyers," Angelova said. "I was accepted into a civilian university and graduated [with] two master’s degrees: economics with Russian and Bulgarian, and law."

In the meantime, she worked as a teacher and eventually became a border patrol agent.

"There are moments in life when you realize that something is missing and you know it is time to make a change. This is how I felt," Angelova said. "I needed something that would let me spread my wings and fly. The environment I was in was slowly changing, but not fast enough to offer equal opportunities.

"The United States allowed me the opportunity to make my wishes come true,” she continued. “I applied for the permanent residency lottery, or the ‘green card lottery,’ which offered permanent residency for the States, and submitted the application for my parents and brother as well."

Angelova's brother won the lottery four years later and moved to Chicago. Four years after that, Angelova won her green card and found herself heading to the United States.

"I landed in Chicago and I felt at home in the U.S.," she said. "I had no doubts how to utilize the blessing of winning the lottery. I was determined to follow my dreams and make a difference."

She returned to her dream of serving in the military.

Joining the Military

"My first impression from the U.S. military was during one of my border patrol night shifts at the checkpoint in Bulgaria," Angelova said. "There was a U.S. military convoy crossing the border, and we were processing their paperwork. The image of the American soldier proudly serving left an everlasting impression of an incredible dedication and commitment. The U.S. military was making a difference around the world. I wished that one day I'd feel the same way."

In 2003, she sought out an Air Force recruiter to help make her dream a reality.

"I started researching what I needed to do to join. I found a recruiting office, but was told that because I was 29, I couldn't join," Angelova said. "I read that there are waivers, but the recruiting office did not confirm it. So I thought, 'Well, Reni, I guess we'll have to close that chapter.'"

Angelova's parents knew a family in California and shared her disappointment. They asked a recruiter in California about the waiver process, and he confirmed it. Angelova flew to California to initiate the process.

"I had found Tech. Sgt. Cory Frommer. He looked at my records, my degrees and language skills, and told me 'I think that you're worth the time and will be a great asset for the U.S. Air Force. I think your package will be very complicated, but I am willing to work with you,'” she said.

She joined the Air Force as an enlisted airman on March 23, 2004, and was assigned to Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, in the air transportation career field.

"While [I was] at Pope Air Force Base, a Bulgarian delegation of mayors visited to discuss areas for potential use as NATO bases. They had lots of questions referencing noise and impact on the local population and surrounding areas during the visit," Angelova said. "I was one of the briefers, surprisingly giving the briefing in excellent Bulgarian. The delegation was impressed. They were not expecting it.

"The base commander shared that my briefing broke the ice,” she said. “The negotiations went smoother than they did in the beginning, heading in a positive direction."

With encouragement from her supervisors, Angelova decided to apply for a commission.

"They told me my dedication could be utilized in a different capacity," she said. "I put in the package, and one morning, my Medical Service Corps recruiter called with the news of being selected and my [Officer Training School] date."

Her first assignment as an officer was to Joint Base Andrews, and she was assigned here next.

Serving as an Example

Air Force Lt. Col. Laurie McKenna, 99th Medical Group’s senior practice manager, said Angelova is a stellar example of what any individual can be, regardless of where they come from, their culture, or their beliefs.

"You can become whatever you want, whenever you want, yet still, respect everything along the way," McKenna said. "She is very motivational and inspiring. She exudes the four pillars of wellness. We bounce things off each other as a team. She knows her job. If she doesn't know the answer, she tracks it down. So I know that if I give her something to do, I can forget it because I know she'll get it done."

McKenna encouraged other supervisors to let their airmen take part in programs like LEAP if they have the foreign language proficiency.

"I've seen her contribution to the LEAP program. All supervisors should keep in mind that when you have an airman you know has talents outside of what's required for the position they are currently in, to expand those opportunities and make people aware of them," McKenna said.

"Her trip over to Bulgaria was more than being an interpreter,” she said. “She was integrating many types of people across various forces in different countries. Having that talent and being able to do it successfully, is an opportunity that should be there for all our talented airmen.
"Workwise, it hurt when she left, and you can feel that, but for the larger Air Force mission, it was an absolute win-win situation. It was worth every moment that she was gone for her to be able to support that," McKenna said.