Thursday, November 12, 2015

JBLE celebrates homecoming of 1st and 192nd Fighter Wings

by 2nd Lt. Mahalia Frost
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/9/2015 - JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.  --
Editor's Note: Some last names have been withheld for security purposes.

Approximately 500 U.S. Air Force Airmen and families of the 1st and 192nd Fighter Wings celebrated the wings being reunited after a year's worth of combat missions, Nov. 6, at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.

The celebration served as a way to show Airmen and their families how much the wings appreciated their personal sacrifices over the past year, said Col. Peter Fesler, 1st FW commander.

"We can't go anywhere if our families don't have a ... support structure while we're gone," said Fesler. "Building that community, involving them in this and thanking them for the effort they've put into this over the ... last 18 months of nearly continuous deployments is important to us."

During those 18 months, approximately 1,000 members of the 1st and 192nd FWs were assigned to United States Central Command as a part of a theater security package, providing support and stability to southwest Asia.

Technical Sergeant James, 1st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons expediter, explained how this event truly showed him how much his leadership cared for him and his family.

"I've deployed before and my family has fallen off the radar while I was gone and I was initially [worried] that this would be a repeat," said James.  "I was pleasantly surprised that [this time] I really didn't have to worry about anything as far as my wife and kids being taken care of."

James' wife expressed similar sentiments, explaining her gratitude for the support she and her family received during the deployment.

"[Leadership and spouses] checked on us all the time; it was wonderful," said Mrs. James. "We felt like we were a family and that even though my husband was gone, we weren't left to ourselves."

In addition to showing appreciation for family support, the event also allowed Service members to reconnect with some of their deployed colleagues, giving them a chance to reflect on their experiences.

Captain Daniel, 94th Fighter Squadron pilot, said that staying focused and building camaraderie was essential to completing the wings' mission.

"While deployed, you're working with your brothers and sisters," said Capt. Daniel.  "You see everyone every day, and learning more about them personally and professionally makes us even more like a family."

Amidst the countless training exercises, high operations tempo and deployments, Fesler said the redeployers successfully executed their mission, and have made their home station very proud.  Much of that success rested on the notion of their families serving as the team's backbone, he said.

"Thank you for what you do for the wings here...what you're doing for the Air Force, and most importantly, thank you for what you're doing for your country," said Fesler.  "I'm truly proud of you."

AF veterans reveal what Veterans Day means to them

By Sean Kimmons, Air Force News Service / Published November 11, 2015

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. (AFNS) -- The day when nearly 70 bullets riddled his Sikorsky HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" rescue helicopter as his crew tried to save two Airmen during the Vietnam War remains vivid for retired Chief Master Sgt. Dennis Richardson.

It was March 14, 1968, and Richardson, a flight engineer at the time, and others were called out to retrieve the Airmen after their F-4 Phantom II had been shot down. Both ejected safely but they landed near enemy positions along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

The first rescue attempt for the pilot was fraught with enemy gunfire as bullets pierced the helicopter’s engine exhaust, causing the crew to quickly abandon the area.

“They shot the hell out of us,” Richardson, a 34-year Air Force veteran, said before the National Veterans Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery.

The helicopter crew agreed to go back for the pilot. But a few more daring attempts proved unsuccessful and resulted in Richardson being wounded.

“It was bad news,” Richardson said of the hot landing zones. “We were shot off again and limped out of there with one engine, praying that we’d stay in the air.”

One of the Phantom’s crewmembers was later retrieved by another rescue unit. The other one was captured and shot to death by a militia member, he said.

Although Richardson’s actions that day earned him the Air Force Cross, the service's second highest award, he stayed humble knowing that many others gave more.

“We have a lot of our brothers buried here,” he said, pointing toward the tombstones. “We should give them what they’re due for their sacrifice.”

Honoring all veterans

But the day does not only honor those no longer here, but also living veterans. Many of whom have also made sacrifices, physical or mental.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Hank Branch believes that today’s youth need to be reminded of these sacrifices.

“There’s a disconnect now with the younger generation because many of their family members have not served,” said Branch, who works as a middle school counselor at Fort Meade, Maryland. “When they see a uniform, they don’t really know what it means.”

Branch, who served 31 years in the Air Force, said these ceremonies can help youth reconnect by realizing the daunting tasks often faced by veterans.

“I think it’s important that our kids see things like this and feel the presence of what our nation is all about,” he said. “The more we do things like this, it becomes clearer the importance of the sacrifice that our men and women are making every day.”

That doesn’t mean veterans necessarily seek that attention, said retired Brig. Gen. Arthur B. Morrill III, the chief of staff for the Military Order of the World Wars, a nonprofit of veterans who support youth programs.

“Most of the veterans I know aren’t looking for recognition,” he said after the ceremony. “Most of them just want to continue serving with the communities and with other veterans.”

Instead, he showed gratitude to Americans for their treatment toward him and fellow veterans.

“I want to thank the American people for being so good to their veterans -- for supporting them, for honoring them, and for being here today and all throughout the United States,” he said.

And that appreciation, President Barack Obama said, should not waver once the parades and ceremonies have ended.

“Our tributes today will ring hollow if we do not ensure that our veterans receive the care that you have earned and that you deserve,” Obama told the crowd at the ceremony. “This day is not only about gratitude for what (veterans) have done for us, it is also a reminder of all that they still have to give our nation, and our duty to them.”

He also noted that health care for wounded veterans has improved, particularly for those with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, and that the disability claims backlog for veterans has been slashed by nearly 90 percent.

Despite all the sacrifices, Richardson said that veterans are still dedicated to serving.

“The memories will always be vivid,” Richardson said of the harsh experiences suffered by many veterans. “There a lot of different scars but I think most guys would do it all over again to serve this country.”

Face of Defense: Father, Daughter Make Tech School a Family Project

By Air Force Senior Airman Holly Mansfield 81st Training Wing

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss., November 12, 2015 — Most kids graduating from an educational program probably would consider it normal to have a parent or family member attend a graduation.

But for Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael McDonald and his daughter, Air Force Airman 1st Class Breanna McDonald, going through cyber courses at the 336th Training Squadron here at the same time was a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

“I never thought in a million years that we would be going through training with each other,” Sergeant McDonald said. “It’s a chance that doesn’t happen very often, but I’m glad that I got to be here with my daughter. I’m extremely proud of her, and I think she has done a dynamite job during her time here at Keesler.”

Before joining the Air Force, Airman McDonald said, she wanted to be in the military like her father. While growing up, she watched her father progress through his careers in the active duty Air Force, the Army, the Coast Guard and the Air National Guard.

The Next Step

Recently, her father was able to see her take the next step in her military career by attending her course’s graduation ceremony.

“My dad was the main reason why I joined the Air Force, so to be here with him is really awesome to me,” she said. “The fact that he actually got to see my achievements and experience it with me is something that not a lot of people get. I got to have him here telling me he’s proud of me. It’s one of the best feelings.”

The airmen already are excited about what’s next. The pair will be stationed at the Air National Guard’s 178th Wing, based in Springfield, Ohio.
“When he comes back to Springfield, we‘ll be in different units, but we will still be able to get lunch, work out, and do other things with each other,” Airman McDonald said. “I’m excited that my dad and I will be stationed together after he graduates, because it will help build our relationship even further and gives us things in common to do with each other. It is nice having a family-oriented Air Force, because I get to build these bonds while being an airman.”