Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Dealing with holiday stress

By Capt. Jerry Novack, 96th Medical Group / Published November 30, 2015

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- It's that time of year again. All things pumpkin spice become all things peppermint; television networks start showing nostalgic, holiday-themed movies; in northwest Florida, we complain about cold weather while the rest of the country actually deals with winter; and I write the holiday stress mental health message.

My challenge, of course, is to write something of value not already heard or read ad nauseam. This can be a real challenge, considering the main stressors this time of year remain relatively constant.


I should recommend to create and stick to a holiday budget, spend time with loved ones instead of spending money on presents, and consider thrifty options when gift shopping. If you do these things effectively, then you should be writing me advice -- not the other way around.

No matter how well I plan and budget, I find myself blindsided by unexpected expenses beyond gifts. There are holiday cards, parties, meals out, entertainment events, and postage I consistently fail to consider. Some strategies can help with damage control, though.

I maintain my year-round savings habits by setting up automatic, online funds transfers into retirement and savings accounts, and limit (or eliminate) credit cards with high interest ratings. I also create a "tighten the belt" plan for early January to help me recover from the holiday expenses. If anyone needs help managing holiday spending, make an appointment with a financial advisor or go to the nearest Airman and Family Readiness Center.


I adore my family. The more I miss them, the more I adore them. Each year, I approach the holidays longing to reconnect with my siblings, parents, nieces and nephews. By Jan. 2, I cannot wait to get away from them again. Time with family can be simultaneously wonderful and fulfilling and frustratingly stressful. We can get overwhelmed if we forget to schedule in personal time or "little getaways" when visiting with family. For me, an afternoon spent in the bookstore or at a local Brazilian jiujitsu school can help me get some downtime, remember that I really do love these people, and re-engage renewed and happy.

Without scheduled breaks, I get irritable and relationships begin to rapidly deteriorate. Figure out what you need in order to manage family visits and protect it because it matters.

Coping with sadness

For many people, the winter holidays and New Year's celebration carries meaning and/or memories that can conjure feelings of sadness, anxiety or grief. I hesitate to call these negative emotions because in certain circumstances they can be not only appropriate, but helpful. However, for some, these feelings can seem overwhelming, especially when juxtaposed with the happiness and cheer they see around them.

First, know that feeling down is perfectly normal from time to time. Do not forget we are resilient, even when we do not necessarily feel that way. Also, "timeouts" are perfectly acceptable. Just like with family visits, temporarily disengaging from holiday cheer can provide a much needed break and enable you to reconnect with renewed excitement and joy.

If feeling overwhelmed with holiday stress, or notice that a wingman does not seem to be coping well, reach out for help. Talk to friends, family, chaplain or mental health providers.

Accompany the wingman to a helping professional, if she/he refuses to go alone. If confused about the difference between family advocacy and Airman and Family Readiness Center, just go to any helping agency. We will get you where you need to go. The most important thing is just get the support you or your wingman need.

Tommy got a toy drone for Christmas, what’s next?

By Luana Shafer, / Published November 30, 2015

The presents have been opened and the wrapping paper placed in the recycling bin. Tommy is anxious to get outside and fly the new “Invader 700” drone, complete with a 10 times zoom digital camera that sends immediate videos to your new iPad. Wow, you can’t wait to get out there with him and fly this thing. We can get to the instructions and safety rules later. Let’s go flying!

Whoa speed racer! It’s probably a good idea to take some time to go over the capabilities of your new aircraft, look at some safety aspects of your operations, and understand the responsibilities you have just assumed. But this is a toy, right? Wrong. The Federal Aviation Administration has stated that unmanned aircraft systems are aircraft, not toys.

The Consumer Electronics Association believes 2015 will be a defining year for the drone, with sales expecting to approach 700,000 this year. The industry must be selling all of those drones as FAA statistics show a surge in “close call with drone” reports by pilots of manned aircraft: nearly 700 incidents so far this year, roughly triple the amount recorded in 2014. Also, the military prefers to call drones “small unmanned aircraft” since they do not just wander around aimlessly, but are controlled by an individual who follows (or is expected to follow) FAA established rules.

Maybe we should review some of these rules before the big day approaches, as you are probably now asking yourself, ”Rules? What rules? Do they apply to me? What is my liability?” The FAA has partnered with industry organizations, such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics and American Model Association, to mirror the rules established by the FAA for the remote controlled (R/C) modelers. In fact, a local R/C club is a great resource to explore.

General rules

- Small unmanned aircraft must give way to all manned aviation activities: airplanes, gliders, parachutists, hang gliders, the Goodyear blimp, etc. If it flies or glides, it has the right of way.

- The operator must remain within visual line of sight of the small unmanned aircraft. You can’t control or remain clear of other aircraft when you can’t see your own small unmanned aircraft.

- Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.

The A, B, Cs to start

The FAA divides the national airspace above us into categories: A, B, C, D, E and G. You can read more about these classes here.

- Class A is 18,000 feet and above sea leve,l and you must be communicating with the FAA to operate up there. So just remember, Class A is “above” where small unmanned aircraft should fly.

- Class B/C/D is the airspace around airports and requires two-way communications with the airport’s tower, so small unmanned aircraft need to steer clear of these areas. Just remember not to fly within 5 nautical miles of an open airport/airfield/heliport, military or civilian.

- Class G airspace exists around uncontrolled airports (no two-way communications), but small unmanned aircraft must still remain clear by the 5 nautical miles.

And then there is special use airspace (SUA) and military training routes (MTRs). SUA includes prohibited areas (like the White House), restricted areas (like military testing ranges), and military operating areas, which is where the military has hazardous or high-speed operations that will get you noticed very quickly. MTRs are “highways” in the sky where the military flies very low and very fast, so it’s smart to stay away from them. You can check with the local base operations or airfield manager for information on such activities.

Know before you go

So, where can you fly? A good source of information is your local R/C club. They’ve studied the rules and scouted the local area for the best locations to fly your small unmanned aircraft.

If you prefer to go it alone, have fun but do it safely. But words of caution before you launch the Invader 700 on its maiden flight. If you become the latest close call and you’re not following the rules, you stand not only to lose your $1,000 aircraft, but you may be subject to an FAA fine of up to $27,500 for the most egregious violation.

Military installations

Many military installations have an airport, airfield, or heliport that requires the 5-mile rule, but for national security reasons small unmanned aircraft flights are not authorized on or over military installations unless authorized by the installation commander. Contact base operations, an airfield manager or a security manager to ascertain safe base operating areas and other limitations.

Additionally, rethink using Tommy’s unmanned aircraft to provide security on your next bivouac. The military cannot operate privately owned small unmanned aircraft during routine business duties.

So, Merry Christmas, Tommy, and we hope you have a great time with your small unmanned aircraft -- but do so smartly, safely and within regulations.

Editor’s note: Luana Shafer is a freelance author, editor and recent graduate of George Mason University. She is the daughter of a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.

Passion, care drives boy to help others

by Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

12/1/2015 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- How could someone play soccer without shoes? Why would somebody choose to play soccer without a soccer ball? These questions were spinning around a nine-year-old boy's head.

His father, Chief Master Sgt. David Tester, U.S. Air Forces in Europe operations superintendent, had just returned from a deployment to Ethiopia. While there, he witnessed kids that were playing without safety gear and kicking around make-shift soccer balls of bundled metal. Trying to explain this to his son, Brayden, he noticed the puzzled look in his eyes.

That puzzled look quickly turned to one of disbelief when he mentioned one specific moment he witnessed.

"My dad told me this story about how this kid, who tried to kick a can around with his friends, sliced his foot open," said Brayden.

After hearing this, Brayden immediately wanted to help. His first idea, although very generous, wasn't very practical, according to his father.

"The first thing he wanted to do was take all the money in his bank account and buy them equipment," said Tester.

In light of saving his son's bank account, Tester brainstormed a more real-world way to help; a donation drive of soccer equipment. It was a foundation that Brayden quickly jumped on, and took off from there.

Brayden gathered support from around the Kaiserslautern Military Community to collect soccer gear for the Ethiopian children.

Brayden's mother, Sabrina, said the urge he had to help the Ethiopian children spurred him to make the drive happen.

"It was immediately after David told Brayden about the kids that he made posters about the drive and hung them everywhere throughout the school," said Sabrina. "He wanted to help them so badly."

Brayden was able to do this by working with his principal at the time, Joshua Adams, now the Ramstein Middle School principal, throughout the duration of the drive.

According to Sabrina, it was an astounding success. Brayden was able to gather hundreds of soccer jerseys, cleats, balls, shin guards and goalkeeper equipment donations.

Once the Testers boxed all the donated equipment, they bundled it all up and shipped it 6500 miles south to the town of Arba Minch, Ethiopia.

Airmen from 1st Combat Communications Squadron were anxious to gift the boxes to those less fortunate around them.

Just returning from their own deployments to Ethiopia, some of Tester's coworkers were able to see the impact Brayden made firsthand every day; kids were playing soccer with real soccer cleats and had real soccer balls and jerseys.

"You could see the smiles on their faces, and you could feel the appreciation they had as we fitted them with shoes, cleats and soccer jerseys," said Tech. Sgt. Adam Stewart, 1st CBCS tactical network operations supervisor. "In a way, you could say that Brayden's actions directly motivated our teammates to do their part."

It wasn't just the lives of the Ethiopian children Brayden affected, but also those who worked alongside him, including Adams.

"The measure of compassion it took to drive him to want to help a group of children, who he doesn't even know, is amazing," said Stewart.

In the end, Brayden was given his answers to those questions circling in his head. His passion for soccer and people drove him to do extraordinary things, and that, according to his parents, is what makes him so strong.

Team Schriever gives wings to 'angels'

by Brian Hagberg
50th Space Wing Public Affairs

11/30/2015 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- More than two weeks before the start of the holiday season, Team Schriever's generosity was on full display as the Angel Trees outside the Satellite Dish Dining Facility and in the Atrium of Building 210 were already bare Nov. 19.

"People have already come by saying, 'I didn't see any [envelopes] on your tree,' because they're already gone," said Chaplain (Maj.) Martin Adamson. "We just put the tree up yesterday [Nov. 18]. This is a great problem to have in that we've got really generous people who want to help some folks in the community."

The Angel Tree program, an annual event hosted by the 50th Space Wing Chapel Office, is designed to help struggling families at Schriever Air Force Base and in the Ellicott community. Names of children, along with some suggestions for possible gift ideas, are submitted to the Chapel Office. The age, gender and gift ideas are then put on a card and the card hung on the tree. Anyone wishing to participate in the program can take a card off the tree, purchase or donate a gift and bring it back to the Chapel Office.

"These are families who really may not have anything for Christmas," Adamson said.

The Angel Tree program is being held in conjunction with a drive to fill care packages for Schriever members currently on a deployment.

"We've got boxes and are just encouraging people to come by and fill those boxes up or just bring by some things, some items that we can put in the boxes and we'll get them all together and we'll mail those out to all the deployers from Schriever so they know we're thinking about them," Adamson said.

The care packages serve as a way to give deployed members a little boost during the holidays and let them know there are people at Schriever thinking about them.

"We're meeting the needs of the community on base and the Ellicott community," said Tech. Sgt. Tawny Devine, 50 SW chaplain's assistant.

While all the angels for Schriever have been claimed, those still wishing to participate in the program can visit one of the six Angel Tree locations at Peterson Air Force Base, the Base Exchange, Building 1, Building 2, Building 350, the fitness center and the chapel, or call Master Sgt. Scott Devine at 556-4772.

Peterson currently has approximately 250 angels still waiting to be claimed.

While both programs help build community, the Angel Tree program also helps Schriever show its appreciation for being a part of the Ellicott community.

"It shows [Ellicott] that we are there for them and I think that is the best way to strengthen a relationship is just letting the other part of that relationship know that we are here," Devine said. "We're not just here to provide you GPS, which is awesome. But we are here to help meet your needs and we are constantly looking for ways to do that and this is a great opportunity to show that community that we are there for them."

The care packages will be available until Dec. 4, while the Angel Tree gifts will be collected Dec. 7-14.

For more information about either program, contact the Chapel at 567-3705.

No slack for the boss

by By Tech. Sgt. Efrain Sanchez
156th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

12/1/2015 - CAROLINA, Puerto Rico -- The rules apply to all when it comes to the 156th Airlift Wing Security Forces Squadron issuing a parking ticket to the wing commander Nov. 10, at the medical facility on Air National Guard Base Muñiz.

Security Forces Journeyman Staff Sgt. Gabriel Perez Rivera issued the ticket to Col. Edward L. Vaughan for violation of the base evacuation plan.

"The parking ticket [warning] was issued in accordance to the base evacuation plan, where it stipulates that all vehicles on base must park reverse into the parking spaces," said Rivera. "This allows for a quicker and easier evacuation of vehicles should the need arise."

Col. Vaughan accepted the fact that he did not park in accordance with the base rules and commended Rivera by presenting him with a commander's coin for keeping him accountable.

"I'm showing that I don't expect to get off for free, so I will be donating $100 to the First Sergeants Association on behalf of Rivera," said Vaughan. "I am embarrassed that I broke the rules, but I feel fantastic that the Airmen who work with me are willing to hold me accountable, and that makes the whole organization better."

"I want to send a message to the whole base that no one is above any of our parking rules or how we do things here at the wing," emphasized Vaughan.

Face of Defense: Airman Recounts Struggles on Path to Pilot Dream

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Sean Campbell 92nd Air Refueling Wing

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash., December 1, 2015 — "I went from thinking I was the tip-top to struggling to make it through."

That's how Air Force 1st Lt. Steven G. Strickland, 93rd Air Refueling Squadron co-pilot, remembers his experience in pilot training. "But because I struggled, I was able to learn more and I became more grateful for the opportunity to be a pilot," he said.

Strickland said he knew from a very young age that being a pilot was something he wanted to achieve. Growing up on Air Force bases, Strickland saw planes flying frequently and attended many airshows, which he said, instilled in him the dream of being a pilot.

During his high school years, Strickland lived in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Air Force Academy was not far from the high school he attended, and he said recruiters visited frequently.

"The recruiters would tell us all these cool things about the Air Force," Strickland said.  "Already wanting to be an Air Force pilot, the recruiters made the Air Force Academy seem like the best route to take."

'Pilot Training Doesn't Wait for Anybody'

Strickland applied to the AFA and was accepted into the class of 2011. Before completing his four years, he took a two-year sabbatical to conduct a mission in Paraguay for his church. After two years he returned to the Academy and graduated with the class of 2013.

Strickland arrived at Columbus AFB, Miss., in August of 2013. The first step after arriving at Columbus AFB was to begin Initial Flight Screening, a process that helps determine if someone can learn quickly enough to progress through pilot training.

"Unfortunately pilot training doesn't wait for anybody. You don't go at your own pace," Strickland said. "There is a specific curriculum, a specific syllabus that you have to complete by a certain amount of time."

After IFS the instructors begin to teach basic airmanship including flying, taking off, landings and basic aerobatics. Students then learn how to fly with instruments, in different weather situations and in formation.

Strickland said learning how to land was a struggle for him. He said that changed when one of his instructors told him to look down to the end of the runway and picture himself floating down.

"For some reason the way he explained it clicked, and I was able to land from that point on without any issues," he said.

A Heavy Choice

The pilots eventually have to decide whether to go on the fighter pilot track or the "heavy" track, which includes larger cargo and transport planes.

"I was not a huge fan of being in the plane myself," Strickland said. "I like the concept of being with a crew and having someone to back you up. So I chose to go the T-1 Jayhawk route, which is the heavy trainer."

Strickland said he found his interest in air refueling during the last phase of pilot training -- mobility fundamentals. Many of Strickland's instructor pilots were former KC-135 Stratotanker pilots. He said they inspired him to become a tanker pilot with their stories about the different aspects of flying the KC-135 and the tanker lifestyle.

Before leaving training, pilots are given a list of the planes that are available, and the students rank them by what they want to fly.

"The KC-135 was the second plane on my list and Fairchild Air Force Base was the first location I wanted for the KC-135, so I was pretty pumped," he added.

Last Stages of Training

Following graduation from pilot school, Strickland went to Fairchild AFB to complete Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school. Out of the comfort of everyday living, he said he soon realized how real SERE situations could be, and that led Strickland to learn things about himself.

"SERE really teaches you to be resilient and to trust in everything the United States and the Air Force stands for," he said.

After SERE training, Strickland went to Altus AFB, Okla. where he completed a five-month course to get acquainted with the KC-135. "While at Altus, they kind of bring you into the brotherhood of tanker pilots, and it's really cool," he said. "When I graduated the academy, I thought 'I'm going to be a pilot. I'm pretty much already a pilot.' I was super prideful.

"Going through training was a humbling experience because you recognize that you're not good at flying," he said. "There were moments were I thought I was going to wash out."

Because of that sense, he said, Strickland studied more and learned more than he otherwise would have.
"Everyone struggles at some point when initially learning how to fly, but Lieutenant Strickland has an amazing attitude and work ethic that ultimately saw him through," said Air Force Lt. Col. George Vogel, 93rd ARS commander. "What he probably didn't tell you is that he received an 'Exceptionally Qualified' rating on his instrument/qualification check ride at the KC-135 schoolhouse. That rating is the highest one possible and is reserved for the top 5 percent of aviators. The 93d Air Refueling Squadron family could not be more proud of him."