Military News

Monday, December 07, 2015

Joint Base Charleston Airmen receive 4 AF Aircrew Excellence Award

by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Lane
315 Airlift Wing Public Affairs


12/7/2015 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- A Team Charleston Aircrew, received the Fourth Air Force Aircrew Excellence Award Nov. 19 here for their efforts while executing an airlift mission to Central African Republic Sept. 25, 2015.

As a part of Operation Echo Casemate, the aircrew of REACH 356 braved poor weather conditions, fuel system malfunctions, extended duty hours and enemy ground fire to deliver French peacekeeping soldiers and mission-critical cargo to Central African Republic.

"We had 315th Aircrew, a 437th Flying Crew Chief, and 628th Ravens," said Col. Caroline Evernham, 315th Airlift Wing Operations Group commander. "This crew was truly representative of Joint Base Charleston and the great association we are a part of. These Airmen did the job we sent them to do. Lt. Col. Scott Torrico led his crew superbly. With the help of his crewmembers, he analyzed each situation and made the right decisions in order to accomplish the mission and protect the crew, the passengers and the aircraft. The crew responded perfectly and all did what was expected of them."

The crew's mission was to provide the existing forces in Central African Republic with fresh personnel and supplies.

"We were moving some French troops into Africa and then picked up some people that were doing the same job as them and taking them back to France," said Staff Sgt. Meghan Servais, 701st Airlift Squadron loadmaster.

During the mission, the Airmen contented with heavy rain, thunderstorms and approximately 40 knot wind gusts.

"Africa has some of the worst thunderstorms in the world," said 1st Lt. Jordan Barnes, 701st AS pilot. "Because of all of the heat, they're very powerful."

Due to that bad weather and a language barrier with another airport, the crew was forced to divert to Diori Hamani International Airport, Niamey, Niger for refueling, said Barnes.

Upon final approach into Niger, the crew experienced hostile ground fire and lasing directed at their aircraft, however, they were able to accomplish a safe landing.

"Along the way, there were some incidents that happened," said Barnes. "There were no injuries, no damage to the jet, but there were some people there that didn't like us."

After obtaining the fuel for the C-17, the crew encountered a problem with the fuel system, which left them "dead in the water," Barnes said.

"Our jet was borderline broken," said Servais. "One of the fuel totalizers wasn't showing us the amount of fuel that it had in it so we couldn't take off unless that was fixed."

After an intense hour of contingency planning and collaboration from the entire crew via Crew Resource Management, the system regained the appropriate readings for takeoff.

The aircrew endured further complications and battled fatigue from a 28 ½ hour duty day. However, the crew was successful at getting airborne and safely delivering 41 passengers and cargo to Evreux Air Base, France.

"We worked great as a team, that was a big thing," said Barnes. "Fatigue can make you really short, but none of that ever happened. We had a lot of people in the back and we had to get them back safely."

"In the heat of the battle, the heat of the moment, you never think about the accolades," said Barnes. "You do want you're trained to do to get the mission done."

CPIP survey strengthens Airmen, weapon system

by Airman 1st Class Tryphena Mayhugh
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


12/7/2015 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Ramstein Air Base, Germany, was one of 15 global sites, including Air National Guard units to undergo a survey by Air Combat Command's Culture and Process Improvement Program Nov. 19 to 21.

The survey gathered information to determine areas for improvement for the Distributed Common Ground System enterprise community and to recommend solutions to ACC senior leaders by mid-December.

"The enterprise has been working at an extremely high operations tempo in a deployed-in-place construct for more than 15 years, which has resulted in a number of stress factors and other systemic challenges," said Col. Donna O'Harren, ACC's DCGS CPIP lead. "The survey was conducted at a grass-root, peer-based level and gathered input directly from the field regarding these challenges."

The DCGS enterprise is an Air Force weapons system, composed of 27 regionally aligned, globally networked sites, including one at Ramstein.

With such a high-tempo career field, it can be beneficial for leadership to ensure that the Airmen working under them are able to cope and find ways to make the job easier and more efficient.

The process began when ACC leaders sent surveys in early October to approximately 9,000 officers, enlisted and civilian personnel to identify the key areas that needed improvement. Building upon what was gathered in those surveys three teams traveled to 15 global sites and conducted further surveys and interviews to gain insight into even the lowest-level problem areas.

"It's important to demonstrate to the Airmen and families of the DCGS enterprise that ACC is committed to hearing and understanding challenges and taking action to implement improvement where we are able," said O'Harren. "This will help those working in the enterprise to know they have a voice in making improvements for their future, which will in turn help create a more sustainable force that can progress and thrive."

The CPIP team also included families in the survey.

"Families are such an integral part of the support network for military members," said O'Harren. "They too are impacted by the high operations tempo and stress of the DCGS enterprise. Duty stressors can sometimes bleed over into stress at home and vice versa, so it was important to capture the challenges and improvement ideas from the families' perspective."

According to O'Harren, the focus of the survey was to gather direct feedback from the DCGS community on issues about job satisfaction, duty stressors, base support services and more.

"The CPIP team was able to achieve strong participation from Airmen from all of our mission sets, as well as from their families, for both days of the interview process," said Appel. "The CPIP team also worked around the clock to interview our Airmen who work 24/7 operations."

Each base's surveys and interviews were analyzed by a staff contingent at Headquarters ACC who provided real-time feedback to the teams to continually improve the process. This gave the survey teams a better chance of success and made it possible for them to discover new experiences and knowledge within their career field.

"Members from various DCGS units who traveled to the sites and participated as interviewers gained a broader understanding and appreciation of the wider enterprise in which they serve, and they will take those insights back to their units," said O'Harren. "They were energized to be part of this historic undertaking."

Carter, Singapore Defense Minister Sign Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement



DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, December 7, 2015 — Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen met today in the Pentagon to sign an enhanced defense cooperation agreement, or DCA, that will provide a new framework for an expanded defense relationship between the two nations, according to a readout provided to the media.

“During their meeting, Carter and Ng reaffirmed the excellent and long-standing bilateral defense relationship between the United States and Singapore,” the readout said. Ng expressed appreciation for U.S. support of the Singapore air force’s training detachments in the United States.

Carter thanked Singapore for its logistical support to U.S. military aircraft and vessels in the Asia-Pacific region under the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding and the 2005 Strategic Framework Agreement, which is founded on the shared belief that a strong U.S. presence in the region is vital for peace, prosperity and stability, the readout said.

Carter and Ng also noted that, in light of the 25th anniversary of the 1990 memorandum and the 10th anniversary of the agreement between the United States and Singapore, it was timely for both countries to elevate defense relations through an enhanced DCA, the readout said.

“Under the enhanced DCA, both sides agreed on a broad framework for defense cooperation in five key areas, namely in the military, policy, strategic and technology spheres, as well as cooperation against non-conventional security challenges, such as piracy and transnational terrorism,” the readout said. “Both sides also agreed to enhance cooperation in new areas, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, cyber defense, biosecurity and public communications. Finally, the enhanced DCA also introduced new high-level dialogues between the two countries’ defense establishments.”

Carter and the defense minister commended the successful deployment of the USS Fort Worth, the second littoral combat ship to be rotationally stationed in Singapore. The ship was deployed to Singapore in December 2014 under the 2005 agreement, the readout said. The two leaders also said they look forward to the deployment of the next littoral combat ship in 2016, in line with the United States’ plans to deploy up to four such ships concurrently in the region by the end of 2017, the readout noted.

The defense secretary and Ng also welcomed the inaugural deployment of U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft to Singapore from Dec. 7 to 14, in accordance with the 1990 memorandum and 2005 agreement, the readout said. “They noted that the aircraft’s deployment would promote greater interoperability with regional militaries through participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises, while providing timely support for regional [humanitarian assistance and disaster relief] and maritime security efforts,” the readout said.

Carter and Ng said they were pleased by the strong military-to-military cooperation between the Singapore air force and U.S. military, which includes joint exercises, personnel exchanges and cross-attendance of courses, the readout said.

They noted that 2015 marks the 35th year of Exercise Tiger Balm, the longest-running bilateral exercise between the Singapore and U.S. armies, as well as the 25th year of Exercise Commando Sling, a bilateral air force exercise that has grown in scale and complexity since it was first conducted in 1990, the readout said. The two leaders also noted that both countries’ navies had recently commemorated the 20th year of the Cooperation Afloat and Readiness Training annual bilateral naval exercise, the readout continued.

“Carter and Ng noted that the interoperability built up between the militaries through these exercises had allowed both countries to work well together in joint operations, such as in previous multinational stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in ongoing counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden,” the readout said.

The defense secretary also thanked Ng for Singapore’s contributions since December 2014 to the U.S.-led coalition to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the readout noted.

The two leaders also discussed initiatives to promote regional stability in the Asia-Pacific region, noting the need for countries to work closely together and foster practical cooperation to counter transnational threats related to terrorism, maritime security and natural disasters, the readout said. To facilitate these efforts, Ng welcomed Carter’s maritime security initiative, through which the U.S. aims to support the development of regional maritime security capacity and capabilities.

Carter and Ng recognised the importance of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus to foster practical cooperation amongst the militaries of regional countries. They also welcomed the conduct of four ADMM-Plus field training exercises in 2016, covering maritime security, counter-terrorism, peacekeeping operations, humanitarian mine action, HADR and military medicine. The two leaders also affirmed the importance of the Shangri-La Dialogue as an avenue that promotes understanding and trust between many countries in the region.

The defense secretary also welcomed Singapore’s initiative to promote better coordination of regional militaries’ humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts through the establishment of the Changi Regional HADR Coordination Centre.

Physical therapists provide healing touch

by Airman 1st Class Ashley Williamson
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


11/25/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- With today's Air Force being the smallest it's ever been, mitigating lost days due to injury is of the utmost importance. Seeing a range of injuries from wrist pain all the way to post-surgery recovery, the 4th Medical Operations Squadron physical therapy office and its technicians aim to get their patient's back to good health so they can continue to complete the mission.

"As a physical therapist assistant, I get to see a greater outcome," said Staff Sgt. Amber Coley, 4th MDOS physical therapy technician. "I help individuals heal. Depending on what they come in with injury-wise, I get them from nothing to something; whether it be walking or throwing again, either post-operatively or preventatively."

More than 1,440 patients each month receive treatment at the clinic. With a consistently full appointment schedule, the three technicians currently assigned to the clinic provide a healing touch to those in need.

"I see about 15 [patients] per day. It depends on what's going on that week, but [I see] anywhere from 120 to maybe 220 [per week] and that's just per technician," Coley said. "Without physical therapy, a lot of our patients wouldn't be able to continue doing the work that they do or normal daily activities."

Coley explained that physical therapy is a process and most injuries require multiple sessions to get Airmen back to full health. The goal, however, is to increase mobility enough for patients to safely and comfortably resume duties with the ultimate objective of getting them fully rehabilitated.

To achieve this goal, technicians use equipment and exercises, such as the anti-gravity treadmill and balancing exercises, as well as other therapeutic techniques, such as dry needling and foam rollers, to alleviate pain and strengthen muscles and tendons. Other methods include dumbbells, exercise bungee cords and aerobics steps along with icing and heating the affected area.

Senior Airman Temika Johnson, 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament support technician is a frequent visitor to the clinic following surgery earlier in the year.

"It has helped me regain 70 percent mobility in my left knee since having surgery on it in early September," said Johnson. "They have allowed me to walk almost completely unaided by crutches or a cane. I can now bend my left knee to almost 80 degrees from the first reported 52 degrees back in October. I get ice therapy as well as physical therapy to help with swelling, and they provide me with at-home exercises to help increase strength and dexterity."

Team Seymour's physical therapist technicians help with more than just physical pain and injuries, they also assist patients by giving them moral support.

"I love my job mostly because I can see the task or job through from start to finish; especially post-operative patients," said Master Sgt. Shannon Stoner, 4th MDOS medical services flight chief.  "We have to give a little tough love to get the patients back to their goal, but it is inspiring to see them pass their next physical training test or run that marathon."

One patient noted the dedication and care technicians give their patients is evident through the time and effort they distribute.

"I definitely suggest that others who are dealing with physical injuries get into physical therapy as soon as possible," Johnson said. "Their goal is to help people reduce pain and increase strength in order for people to heal."

Mobility Airmen facilitate Operation Toy Drop

by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shaiyla Hakeem
354th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


12/7/2015 - FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...
Chutes instead of snow
Take a look at the sky again, they're jumping against the wind...
Giving gifts, descending to below!


Olive drab colored parachutes tinted the early morning sunrays on Sicily Drop Zone Friday at Fort Bragg, N.C. during the 18th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop. For donation of toys, which are given to local children, Soldiers had the opportunity to earn partner nation jump wings and participate in a unique airborne experience.

"Operation Toy Drop is a multifaceted training exercise which also has an important community relations aspect," said Maj. Andre A. Battiste, Chief of Adjunct General Division for G1 command. "It is also exposure to foreign nations on how we do our airborne operations."

United States Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations (Airborne), a U.S. Army Reserve Functional Command, hosted this international training event. Operation Toy Drop is the world's largest combined airborne operation. Partner nation participants this year included Canada, Colombia, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Latvia and the Netherlands. This event gives the nations' jumpmasters a chance to exchange a part of their culture with the U.S. Army.

Aircraft support was provided by Pope Air Force Base's 43rd Airlift Group.

Preparation for the big toy day included rehearsal training for static line jumps, refresher training on the main canopy parachute (MC-6), T-11 reserve parachute, aircraft familiarizations for the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, C-130, C-160 and C-27. Reserve Soldiers from the 824th Quartermaster Company supplied and packed more than 200 MC-6 and T-11 parachutes for the event.

Operation Toy Drop was founded in 1997 by the late Sgt. 1st Class Randall R. Oler, who on April 20th, 2004, suffered a heart attack on a C-130 aircraft while performing jumpmaster duties.

His international vision and legacy lives on.

"There are little offshoots of Operation Toy drop all around the airborne community & it spawned from Randy Oler's idea," Battiste said.

This event is huge in the toy collection aspect, but it also serves as a far-reaching training event. Capt. Juan DeValdenebro, Colombian Special Operations Command jumpmaster, said working with the U.S. has been a valuable training experience and he would like to come back to participate again. This was the first year his country has been a part of Operation Toy Drop.

"We are very glad of having this opportunity," DeValdenebro said, "It's great for us so we can share training techniques, procedures, know new aircrafts and other countries procedures so we can improve ours."

Aside from collecting more than 1,000 toys for under privileged children and providing an international personal development opportunity, Operation Toy drop offered esprit de corps among soldiers with boost in moral.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Suyapa Lopez, with Alpha Company 407th Brigade Supply Battalion, cheered all the way through her descent to the ground. She earned a pair of Netherland wings from her jump in Operation Toy Drop.

"This was my smoothest, most calm jump ever," said Suyapa, "It was awesome!"

50 CES earns AFSPC annual awards

by By Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart
50th Space Wing Public Affairs


12/4/2015 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 50th Civil Engineering Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado recently added some new hardware to its trophy cases, as the unit earned two Air Force Space Command 2015 annual awards, Wednesday, Nov. 18.

First, 50 CES earned the Balchen/Post Award for Snow and Ice Removal.

"It is very fitting that our civil engineering squadron has been recognized for their snow and ice removal efforts the day after a major snow storm," said Col. DeAnna M. Burt, 50th Space Wing commander.

The 50 CES' behind-the-scene efforts during 2015, kept Schriever's roads clean and clear throughout 32 days of snowfall that set new accumulation records for the year.

Tech. Sgt. George Moore, 50 CES pavements and equipment shop non-commissioned officer in charge, explained the most challenging, yet rewarding achievement the snow removal team faced was battling the snow storms that hit the base from Feb. 20-28.

"The constant snow and long hours took its toll on the team and equipment, but the team still managed to perform above standards and the base was in better shape than in town," said Moore.

Although the 50 CES snow and ice removal team is the smallest in AFSPC, their accomplishments are great. The team cleared more than 62 inches of snow, de-iced 13 miles of road and maintained 3 million square feet of pavement all while enabling Schriever's 24/7 satellite mission to go uninterrupted by weather.

"Some of the things that have benefitted us throughout the season is that our leadership had our backs; we were prepared, trained and had enough manning, equipment and supplies on hand to complete our mission," said Moore.

Moore explained the team's success is also due to the teamwork between all of its members, which includes personnel from: structures, utilities, electrical and engineer assistants who are trained as augmentees.

As the year comes to a close and the snowy season gains momentum, Moore offers advice to all of Team 5-0 on how to stay safe and help the CES team keep the roads clear.

"I would like to remind everyone who drives on and off base to give the snow plows room to do their job, [because] equipment operators have a lot to watch out for. I'd also like to thank everyone for all of their contributions to the snow team."

But 50 CES has another award winner to celebrate - Henry Graski, who earned the AFSPC Outstanding Civil Engineering Manager of the Year award in the civilian technician category.

Graski led the repair of a faulty wastewater lift station piping--restoring utilities for the centralized security forces facility project, performed preventative maintenance on 190 equipment items which extended its lifespan by 40 percent and led the maintenance and repair of a $161,000 restricted area barrier.

"I am not usually looked at as a caring person, but it is that I care a lot," said Graski. "I care about doing things the correct way."

Graski's strong work ethic and attention to detail helped earn him this award. In addition to his strong work ethic, Graski also completed a national/state backflow certificate, an American Marsh pump repair course and an Environmental Protection Agency Drinking Water Distribution Systems Management course enabling 50 CES to expand its maintenance scope, prevent EPA fines and remain mission ready.

Graski explained the award was a complete surprise and is honored to have been nominated by his unit and selected by AFSPC.

"To my superiors that put me in for the award--thank you, and to my wife who tries to make me a better person as well as my co-workers who trust and believe in me," said Graski.

Wing leadership insists the work the individuals within 50 CES do is vitally important to the installation.

"I am very proud of our individual winner as well as the entire civil engineering squadron," said Burt.

436th MDG, State test infectious disease response

by Senior Airman Zachary Cacicia
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


12/4/2015 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Every year, thousands of air mobility missions traverse Dover AFB; meaning that tens of thousands of people who have travelled to and from all parts of the globe touch down in Delaware, potentially bringing foreign infectious diseases.

The 436th Medical Group teamed up with the State of Delaware and off-base medical partners to conduct an Ebola Response Plan and Transport exercise that tested the 436th Medical Clinic's and Delaware's response capabilities in the event that a possible Ebola (or other highly infectious disease) patient is identified Nov. 3, 2015, at Dover AFB, Delaware.

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Douglas Riley, 436th Aerospace Medicine Squadron public health flight commander, was the primary facilitator and organizer for the 436th MDG Clinic's role in this first in the nation joint collaboration between the military and state exercise.

"You never know what is or is not going to occur in the future," said Riley. "Is there going to be another infectious disease pandemic? If you look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's not 'if,' it is 'when.'"

This exercise brought together the 436th MDG and several off-base agencies, including: the Delaware Health and Social Services: Division of Public Health, St. Francis Healthcare and the Christiana Care Health System.

Though this was an Ebola Response Plan and Transport exercise, the Ebola virus was not the primary focus. According to Riley, the primary focus was on the response and transport of a patient, including all of the procedures conducted. The Ebola virus was used because it is currently well-known and on everyone's radar.

"This drill was not for the Ebola, it was for the response," Riley said. "To find out where we are lacking and how we can synergize our activities with the state."

The exercise ran a realistic scenario where an Airman returned to Dover AFB from an overseas deployment. Senior Airman Peter Cannizzaro, 9th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, volunteered to play the role of this Airman. In the scenario, Cannizzaro had just spent the last several months deployed to West Africa, the ground zero of the ongoing Ebola epidemic. During his deployment, he may have come into contact with individuals who later succumbed to an unknown illness, presumed to be Ebola, but it had not been verified. When Cannizzaro went to a regular scheduled appointment at the medical clinic days after he returned from Africa, he presented the early stage symptoms of the Ebola virus and acknowledged that he just returned from West Africa to the medical personnel. Once Cannizzaro was identified as a possible Ebola patient, he was isolated.

This was the start of the exercise, and Riley acknowledged that all participants played their roles completely. They wore proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and went about their business and procedures as they had practiced countless times.

To properly care for the patient, Cannizzaro had to be moved to a treatment facility capable of handling a possible Ebola patient. Currently, the only such facility in the state is Christiana Care's Wilmington Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware. But to get the patient there safely, they needed the help from another healthcare provider, St. Francis Healthcare, who operates the only special operations team with a single patient bio-containment unit (isolation pod) in Delaware, and only one of 18 in the country. This team who would normally be stationed in Wilmington, but for the sake of this exercise was prepositioned nearby at an EMT center in Dover.

According to Joe Leonetti, St. Francis Healthcare senior director of operations, this team is designed to be completely self-contained. A specialized ambulance and two support vehicles, manned by seven highly trained emergency medical technicians made up the team.

"This was a no-notice drill," said Leonetti. "They asked us to participate and it has been fantastic. You can't put a price on these types of drills; the hands-on training is really valuable; everybody learns."

Several officials from the State of Delaware observed the exercise, including Betty Decker, Delaware Health and Social Services: Division of Public Health, Public Health Preparedness Section training administrator.

"The joint venture is just wonderful work, we are very pleased to be able to participate with the base," said Decker. "This is a realistic scenario; we have a lot of people who come back from that area in Africa."

The St. Francis team, completely donned in PPE, brought the isolation pod into the medical clinic and placed Cannizzaro into it. Once this was completed, they placed it into a specialized ambulance and drove Cannizzaro to Wilmington Hospital to undergo treatment. Once at the hospital, the nurses, doctors and other medical personnel there jumped into action, going through with their own infectious disease response procedures.

Speaking on the exercise as a whole, Riley was pleased with its results.

"We knew what the process was, but we had never run it before," he said. "Nowhere in the country that I know of has it been run to this level, we executed what was supposed to be a drill, which turned into a full blown exercise with all of the key players."

According to Riley, this exercise is required to be conducted by Delaware at a minimum of once a year.

"Its purpose was to identify gaps in the plan of the process," he said. "It did; it identified gaps here in the Med Group, and in the state's plan. We went back to the table and we are retooling to minimize the gaps."

He also explained that they plan on changing the name of the exercise to the Highly Infectious Disease Response Plan. This will ensure that individuals are aware that it is not just the Ebola virus that they are preparing for.

Face of Defense: Air Guardsman Enlists at 35, Excels



By Air Force Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer 182nd Airlift Wing

PEORIA, Ill., December 7, 2015 — Illinois Air National Guard Airman 1st Class Tanya Brown was a full-time everything three years ago -- beautician, livestock farmer, college student, wife, and mother to four children. Then, not being one to shy away from a challenge, the 35-year-old decided to join the Air National Guard.

Along the way, she earned a 94 percent technical school class average, the Thunderbolt Certificate for Fitness Excellence, the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, and a 98.5 percent physical fitness score.

What motivated the 182nd Force Support Squadron airman to add military service to her hectic life, and how did she excel at it? It all started with a haircut.

Brown was working as a cosmologist and esthetician when an Army sergeant needed a last-minute haircut before reporting for duty. Brown assisted him. Recruiters had recently visited her oldest daughter's high school, so Brown started asking questions about the armed forces. The sergeant asked her if she had ever considered enlisting.

Brown said she was too old for that. The sergeant disagreed, and it made her begin to wonder.

She continued her questioning during his monthly haircuts until he finally offered to connect her with recruiters. One of them was Illinois Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Stephen Graves from the 182nd Airlift Wing.

‘Unusual’ Recruit

Graves said the average age of recruits coming through his office was 17 to 23, so Brown was not his typical customer. The cutoff age for new enlistees is 39.

"It was unusual," Graves said, "so we try to let [older enlistees] know that 'OK, this is what you're going to get into. You're going to be held to the same requirements,' and she was all for it.”

Brown said that one thing led to another and she ended up enlisting.

"I didn't even tell my family and friends for a while,” she said. “My husband knew when I went and bought the running shoes. [He] looked at me and goes, 'You're serious about this, aren't you?’”

Brown had not run in 15 years, so she started training for Air Force basic military training in San Antonio. However, that was not the only obstacle she anticipated.

"I was nervous about going to basic and tech school at such an age difference," she said.

Blending In, Helping Out

She knew that she needed to blend in with girls nearly half her age.

"I just kind of sat back and just let people be who they are and just try to become part of the group," Brown said, adding that she did have to administer some wisdom when attitude problems flared up in the dormitory.

"I wasn't being mean or anything, but I would take them aside and I'd say, 'Hey, there's a better way to deal with something like this,'" Brown said. "And then, after a while, they'd start coming to me if they were sick. It was funny. They'd start coming to me like I was a nurse or something, or their mom."

Brown called her smile her biggest challenge in basic military training.

"You know, it was hard for me because I've been in the public, working all the time around people and learning how to smile and customer service, and all that," Brown said. "Well, when I went down to basic, you can't smile … And that was my biggest thing -- getting yelled at for that."

Brown passed her two-week physical fitness evaluation and kept pushing herself to see how far she could go. At age 36, she earned the second-highest award for fitness with 57 sit-ups, 43 pushups, two pullups and a 1.5-mile run time of 11 minutes, 28 seconds.

After a short visit home, Brown attended the Services Apprentice Course in Fort Lee, Virginia. She said that she chose the career field because she already had a background in customer service and food preparation, having held a food sanitation license for more than 10 years. She also saw the career's mortuary affairs training as good knowledge to apply to her nursing studies.

Happy to Have Enlisted

Brown returned home after graduating technical training school in 2014 and began work with the force support squadron. She said that she is still happy she enlisted.

"I love it. I think everybody around here's pretty cool," Brown said.

Illinois Air National Guard Master Sgt. Sarah Markham, the services superintendent at the 182nd FSS, said that the feeling is mutual.

"Tanya Brown is one of the hardest-working, [most] self-motivated, energetic airmen I've ever encountered throughout my career," Markham said. "She has proved to be an asset to the force support squadron and is always on point with the mission at hand."

Recently, she completed a mandatory career development course and has also resumed studies at Richland Community College. She said she is pursuing an Associate of Science using the GI Bill and the 100 percent paid tuition grant offered by the Illinois National Guard.

Brown said that no one excuse could keep a person from serving if they wanted to.
"I say, if you want to do it, do it," Brown said. "Doesn't matter what age you are. If you're determined to do it, you set your mind to it, you can do it. No matter what."