Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Remembering Pearl Harbor: A ‘body blow’ to America

By Sean Kimmons, Air Force News Service / Published December 08, 2015

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- When the first bombs exploded on a nearby airfield, marking the start of the Japanese sneak attack on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Edward Davis and others scrambled from a chow hall.

The 94-year-old Army veteran said he and other Soldiers were having breakfast at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, when Japanese aircraft dive-bombed the adjacent Wheeler Army Airfield.

“We all ran outside and looked up at the sky to see what was going on,” the retired first sergeant said before a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony Dec. 7 at the World War II Memorial.

At that point, a few Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters roared over the Army base and fired at them, killing and injuring several Soldiers from his unit.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said, recalling how the attacks stoked fears of a looming Japanese invasion. “It was an unbelievable tragedy.”

The attacks on the island of Oahu eventually left more than 2,400 dead and almost 1,200 wounded as it catapulted the U.S. into the war.

“It dealt us a body blow that I think was a rude awakening to Americans,” said Herb Durham, a former Army Air Corps pilot. “The war had started and as a young man I was eager to get in.”

During the war, Durham, one of about 20 WWII veterans at the ceremony, said he had some scary moments in Europe where he flew Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters.

One time while strafing German positions, a 20-mm round hit his canopy, causing shattered glass and shrapnel from the round to cut his face.

“I was lucky I had on my oxygen mask and goggles,” he said of the March 1945 mission. “The doctor said I was lucky I didn’t lose my left eye.”

About a month later, Durham faced his biggest test when his aircraft was shot down behind enemy lines.

“I was dive-bombing a target and when I pulled off the target I got hit in the engine,” the 91-year-old veteran recalled. “But I had a lot of air speed so I pulled up to about 6,000 feet and bailed out.”

Durham was later caught by German soldiers who threw him in a prison camp. But a few weeks later, he said, the soldiers abandoned the camp as U.S. tanks approached it, freeing him and others.

In the Pacific Theater, former Marine Cpl. Ed Graham, who joined a dozen veterans on an honor flight from Texas for the ceremony, was sent to the tense Battle of Iwo Jima.

At first, Graham, 90, said he was part of a floating reserve until the battle turned fiercer than expected and ultimately had about 26,000 American casualties including 6,800 dead.

“We weren’t supposed to go in but they tore them up so bad the first day,” he said of how the Japanese forces pinned down his fellow Marines. “It was pretty bad for the whole crew.”

Graham, assigned to the 3rd Marine Division, was later sent to the island to help purify water for combat-weary troops in the 36-day battle.

“All we had to worry about were mortars and snipers,” he said.

But he and other troops received some motivation when U.S. troops raised the American flag on top of Mount Suribachi, which later became an iconic image of the war.

“I was on board the ship when they raised it and everybody clapped, yelled and screamed,” he recalled. “It was quite a sight.”

The attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent “a date which will live in infamy” speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt inspired many young men to sign up and fight in the costly war, which left more than 400,000 American servicemen dead and forever shaped the world.

Navy veteran Ted Waller said he rushed to the recruiter’s office following the attack.

“I went down the next day and tried to sign up but there were so many people there that they told us to go home until after Christmas so we could spend time with family,” the 92-year-old veteran recalled. “I came back the day after (Christmas) and got sworn in.”

Waller went on to take part in the world’s first all-aircraft carrier naval clash, the Battle of the Coral Sea, and roughly a dozen other battles. He then witnessed the Japanese surrender some of its South Pacific territories while on board the USS Portland at Truk, Caroline Islands, on Sept. 2, 1945 -- an event often overshadowed by Japan’s surrender on the USS Missouri in Toyko Bay, Japan, that same day.

“At the time it didn’t mean anything, but now it does,” he said of the formal surrender. “It was the beginning of changes in our American life.”

Air Force twins receive French Legion of Honor for WWII service

by James Spellman, Jr.
Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs

12/4/2015 - LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif.  -- Seventy-one years after their service in the U.S. Army Air Forces, identical twin brothers and retired Air Force Reserve Majors Raymond "Glenn" Clanin and Russell "Lynn" Clanin are recipients of the French government's highest distinction for their military service as World War II veterans, The Legion of Honor medal.

During an intimate awards ceremony held Dec. 2 with family and friends at the Gordon Conference Center in the Schriever Space Complex of the Space and Missile Systems Center, the brothers were honored by Maj. Gen. Robert D. McMurry, Jr., SMC vice commander and Christophe Lemoine, Consul General of France in Los Angeles.

"On behalf of Los Angeles Air Force Base, I'm particularly proud for our ability to host this event. The Legion of Honor has been bestowed upon quite a number of World War II veterans. It's a reminder of the service that they performed and a reminder of the ties that we have between our countries that go back to the Revolutionary War with our first ally," noted McMurray.

"We have here two identical twins who married twins. At times, piloted the same aircraft, "Flak Bait," which currently is being restored by the Smithsonian, and today, over seventy years later, they are getting identical medals...which seems appropriate to me," McMurry added. "We're proud to be a part of the ceremony."

Both Clanin brothers flew the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Company's B-26 Marauder named "Flak Bait" on several missions with the 449th Bombardment Squadron, 322nd Bomb Group, known as "The Annihilators," while stationed in Beauvais, France. Glenn completed 26 missions while Lynn completed 21 missions in the twin-engine medium bomber.

"Flak Bait" completed 207 operational missions: 202 bombing runs and five decoy runs, representing the largest number of operational missions of any American aircraft during World War II. The aircraft is on display in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.

"Attending a ceremony for the Legion of Honor is always a very special moment and always a very touching moment. It's even more special and even more touching today because we honor two brothers that have been tied together all their lives and that are with us together today," said Lemoine. "It is also a special moment because of the times after the attacks in Paris makes us think that we should really not forget the achievement of these men for democracy, which is still something we have to fight for."

"So it's a very special day for me as the consul general of France in Los Angeles, because I'm here to express the gratitude of the people of France to all Americans and allied veterans of the Second World War and especially, two exceptional people, Raymond "Glenn" Clanin and Russell "Lynn" Clanin. As young men, they left their homes to fight and liberate not only France, but the whole European continent and defend democracy and human rights," said Lemoine.

After the war, Lynn moved to California and in 1948 married his wife Elyn in a joint ceremony with his brother Glenn who married Elyn's sister, Carolyn. In their civilian lives, the brothers lived next to each other for 10 years in Manhattan Beach, Calif., working in their dry cleaning business until the Korean War. At that point, Lynn transitioned into aircraft manufacturing and in 1960 moved to Concord, Calif., where he worked in real estate before eventually retiring in 1978 as a service representative from the local water district. He remained in the Air Force Reserve, retiring as a major in 1983. Lynn and his late wife Elyn's family include two sons, two grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

After Lynn moved up north, Glenn worked in the savings and loan industry where he retired in 1985. He also remained in the Air Force Reserve, retiring as a major in 1983. Glenn currently serves as Adjutant for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2075 in Hawthorne, Calif. He and his wife Carolyn still reside in Manhattan Beach and their family includes two daughters, two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

"Their accomplishments during the war are a vibrant reminder of the deep friendship between the United States and France. A friendship bound in blood and hardships, ever since the War of Independence. From the glorious days of Yorktown to the green battlefields of Château-Thierry; From the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, our countries have been fighting together, side by side," Lemoine remarked to the audience. "And freedom is a gift that doesn't come free. It often requires determination and sacrifices. And once again, following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, we are so very grateful for our American friends who have shown and continue to show their immense support and sympathy for the French people and I would like to thank you all for that."

Turning his attention directly to the 92-year old brothers seated in front of the audience with the flags of the United States and the French Republic as a backdrop, Lemoine addressed the two veterans personally.

"Dear gentlemen, the French would never forget that you helped restore their freedom. Your courage and your dedication is an example to us all. You're examples of 'The Greatest Generation' which faced the despair and deprivation of the Great Depression, went on to fight for liberty and freedom during the Second World War, rebuilt Europe and Japan and invented a freer and more democratic world after the war. You remind us that, no matter how great the challenge, it can be met when honest men and women stand up with determination and courage," said Lemoine.

"You are an inspiration to us all and to the younger generations. Today, we also honor the memory of your comrades who have made the ultimate sacrifice. We remember their courage and their devotion in face of adversity. We remember that they're an unbreakable link in the long chain of friendship between our two countries. They will forever remain in our hearts," the consul general exclaimed. "On behalf of the French government, as well as on behalf of the people of France, I would like to tell you very sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for your heroism and thank you for your sacrifice. And now, I would like to wish a long life to the United States, a long life to the French-American friendship and, 'Vive la France!'"

Upon the conclusion of the formal presentation, the brothers regaled the audience with a few remembrances and war stories, notably an extremely close-up aerial photo of the Eiffel Tower and how they purchased a camera without any money.

"If you all saw that picture of the Eiffel Tower on the screen, I took that picture. We were buzzing the Eiffel Tower. I was in the right pilot's seat," Lynn Clanin sheepishly admitted. "I wouldn't have got that close to the Eiffel Tower because I didn't really want to go to jail. But I took the picture!"

"I had contacted a guy that had been over there before, and he told me, 'Don't take money. Take cigarettes. That's the rate of exchange in Paris!'" Glenn Clanin explained. We loaded the top of our footlocker full of cigarettes at five cents a carton. When we went to Paris on our first pass, we took in ten packs of cigarettes with us and we found a camera shop that was in business. We went into the back room and made a trade with the guy, ten cartons of cigarettes for a nice camera and ten rolls of film that we took all those pictures with. We saved a lot of money that way."
The National Order of the Legion of Honor (French: Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur), is an order of distinction first established by Napoléon Bonaparte in May of 1802. It is the highest decoration bestowed in France and is divided into five categories: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand Croix (Grand Cross). The highest degree of the Order of the Legion of Honor is that of Grand Master, held by François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande, the current president of the Republic.

Foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds may receive a distinction from the Legion of Honor. To be awarded the medal, a service member must be nominated and had risked their life during World War II fighting in one of the four main campaigns of the Liberation of France: Normandy, Provence, Ardennes, or Northern France. If a nominee meets the required criteria, the file is sent to the Legion of Honor committee in Paris, via the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. as well as the French Foreign Affairs ministry. The Legion of Honor committee approves or rejects the candidate after review of the file.

Those elected are appointed to the rank of Knight of the Legion of Honor, or "Chevalier de Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur." The award is not presented posthumously. American recipients include Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, Admiral Michael Mullen and even, as an institution, the United States Military Academy at West Point. Today, there are approximately 95,000 recipients of the Legion of Honor.

Next step: Helping IT vets transition

by 2nd Lt. Darren Domingo
50th Space Wing Public Affairs

12/7/2015 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- For a service member planning on retiring or separating, the next step can sometimes be a scary ordeal.

There are those however, whose passions include helping their brothers and sisters in arms make the transition from uniformed life to the civilian sector a successful one.

Chief Master Sgt. Alexander Hall, 50th Network Operations Group superintendent, and Chief Master Sgt. Charles Campbell, pioneered VetSuccess, an initiative that assists veterans in the information technology career field find meaningful jobs after separating from the Air Force. Their work earned them the 2015 SANS "Difference Makers" award.

"Earning this award is a huge honor, wholly unexpected, and I'm really excited to be recognized by such an illustrious group." said Hall. "But I didn't get into this to win an award, I got into this because I'm passionate about the talent and experience we gain from our military service and I want Air Force veterans to be successful. If you've served honorably for a significant part of your life, you deserve success on the outside - VetSuccess is a small way to give back to those who've made sacrifices serving in the uniform."

The SANS Institute provides information security training and security certifications through classes and training forums throughout the U.S. and internationally.

According to www.sans.org, "Since 2011, SANS has been celebrating those 'Difference Makers' whose innovation, skill and hard work have resulted in real increases in information security."

The "Difference Makers" award recognizes people who've changed the realm of cyber security-whether it's re-writing code, developing better processes to manage security and programs or improving the IT workforce the latter being where Hall and Campbell earned recognition for their VetSuccess initiative.

Before VetSuccess' current achievements, its roots could be traced back to an encounter at the White House.

Before arriving at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Hall's previous assignment was a cyber support assistant career field manager at the Pentagon.

On a normal workday, Hall's supervisor asked him if he would speak at the White House on behalf of veterans for the Joining Forces Initiative-a movement that supports service members, veterans and their families throughout their lives in the public and private sectors. Hall shrugged his shoulders and responded, "Why not?"

It was shortly after that moment, Hall had the chance to speak with the First Lady Michelle Obama and industry leaders about hiring veterans.

After the speaking engagement and a few months of networking, Hall met Alan Paller, SANS Institute chief executive officer who offered an opportunity to partner with SANS to offer future Air Force IT veterans a smooth transition to the civilian workforce.

Thus, VetSuccess was born.

"The initial plan was that SANS would provide training to a small cohort of veterans," said Hall. "SANS has various industry standard certifications; they would provide 2-3 certification exams free of charge, and would introduce folks who made it successfully through the process to employers who hire people based on successfully completing the SANS [certifications].  Mr. Paller proposed the idea; 'We've got several certifications,' and asked, 'Can you get us some veterans?'"

Hall found Air Force IT personnel who were either separating or retiring, had certain levels of education or experience and who would be strong candidates. Finding approximately 600 people, he personally emailed all of them.

"I said 'I know you're leaving the Air Force soon, are you interested in giving this [program] a shot?'" said Hall. "[There's] no cost to you, and if you're successful, you're going to get a job."

Eventually, the first pilot group to spearhead VetSuccess was assembled-nine Airmen in total. All passed with flying colors. In fact, one scored higher than the original writers of the SANS certification exam.

"SANS hired that individual almost immediately," Hall laughed. "He did so well. He was a staff sergeant with eight years of experience in the Air Force."

The success of VetSuccess has only flourished to this day. During the last training cohort, every successful participant was negotiating for jobs making $70,000 to $120,000, just four months after leaving the service.

"I know that IT veterans have all the things that the industry wants, what we're missing though, is the opportunity to put ourselves on display," explained Hall. "That's what VetSuccess allows us to do-we go through industry standards, to show ourselves off. Through this training we have proven that we know everything that our civilian counterparts know, and the IT industry is ready to hire us now."

Besides having the technical forte to be eligible for competitive IT positions, Airmen bring something extra to the table-leadership.

"That leadership piece is what the industry is really hungry for," said Hall. "We can train most anybody to be an IT professional, but who leads IT professionals? In more cases than not, military members have those skillsets."

Through Hall and Campbell's partnership with SANS, VetSuccess is expanding to have five more cohorts in the future.

Hall explained he was proud to have earned the "Difference Maker" award with Campbell, yet grateful for the opportunity to help his fellow Airmen.

For anyone who is separating from the military and has no idea what to do next, Hall explained those are the people he loves to engage.

"I can give you five different things you can do tomorrow that can change your professional life, if you're willing to invest the time," said Hall.

For more information on the VetSuccess program, or any of the Joining Forces initiatives, contact Hall.

Navy visits Mountain Home

by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/7/2015 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- The 366th Fighter Wing is currently hosting one of the largest squadrons in the military, Strike Fighter Squadron 106 out of Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia.

Approximately 200 personnel are performing nearly 140 flights with F/A-18 Legacy and Super Hornets during this stay, explained U.S. Navy Lt. Scott Lindahl, VFA-106 instructor pilot. Instead of the limited air space at NAS Oceana, the crews are able to use roughly 7,400 square miles of air space and nearly 122,000 acres of land used for the two air-to-ground training ranges at Mountain Home AFB.

"In Virginia Beach there is no way we would be able to complete this many sorties," Lindahl said.

Their stay here will focus mainly on performing air-to-ground attack training for their 14 junior students, but will also serve as a refresher course for those who haven't been in the cockpit in a while.

Niagara Airman saves stranger's life; receives medals

by Major Elaine Nowak
107th Airlift Wing

12/7/2015 - NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION. Pa -- A New York Air National Guardsman from the 107th Airlift Wing, received national and state recognition during a ceremony here Dec. 6, for his life-saving efforts of a colleague.

The Tech. Sgt. Jason N. Oehlbeck, was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal and the New York State Medal for Meritorious Service for rendered cardiopulmonary resuscitation to an unconscious 35-year-old man Oct. 27, at the hotel where Oehlbeck was staying.

Oehlbeck was attending a military training course at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse and returned to his hotel to study during a break. He was alerted by a member of a conference group that a colleague had collapsed. When Oehlbeck arrived, the man was unconscious and had gone into cardiac arrest. Oehlbeck checked the man's airways, noted he was not breathing and had no pulse. He began to administer CPR while someone called 911. He continued his efforts for 18 minutes, during which the man regained and lost his pulse several times. When police and paramedics arrived, they took over care and were able to use an automated external defibrillator to restart the man's heart.

"I saw the guy and he was my age. I thought 'This could be me.' I was going to do whatever I could," Oehlbeck said.

Afterward, members of the conference group and hotel staff thanked Oehlbeck. A few told him they planned to get trained in CPR.

Oehlbeck continued with his day and returned to training, not knowing the man's fate. Much to his relief, one of the responding police officers called him the following day and let him know the man had survived.

John Belcher, general manager at Embassy Suites Hotel, witnessed Oehlbeck jump into action.

"If it wasn't for Jason's continued effort and determination, this young man would not have survived until paramedics arrived," Belcher said in an email. "Actions like this are not common in every man,"

Belcher added. "As a prior military man myself, I know we are trained for such things, but still, not everyone has it in them to react when called upon. To see Jason react as quick as he did in a room full of people who did not is very special."

Oehlbeck had received CPR and AED training through the Air National Guard as a required part of his job as an aircraft electrician. He received an American Red Cross certification every two years. He is also part of a medical alert team with his civilian employer, Harris Corporation of Rochester, where he also gets CPR/AED training.

"My military training, my employer's medical training, and the fact that God put me in the right place at the right time - all came together so that I could help," said Oehlbeck.

The man whose life was saved, Jack Ewald, attended the ceremony as a surprise to his rescuer. He had never met Oehlbeck. As the men hugged for the first time, their friends, family, and the men and women of the 107th Airlift Wing clapped and cheered.

"It was just fantastic to see him and fantastic to see him get the recognition he deserved," said Ewald. "He did amazing work in the spur of the moment and he was ready and had the character to keep it up."

Col. Robert Kilgore, 107th Airlift Wing commander presented the medals to Tech. Sgt. Oehlbeck.

"Tech. Sgt. Oehlbeck's actions were certainly heroic but it does not come as a surprise," said Kilgore. "Jason is an outstanding member of this unit and fine example of a National Guardsman, lending a hand to a fellow citizen in a time of crisis,"

Marie Betti, representing the group that was having the conference at the hotel that day, the New York Credit Union Association, was also at the ceremony. She presented a plaque to Oehlbeck thanking him for helping their colleague. She also announced $1,000 was donated to the Friends of Family Support Association, a group that aids families from the airbase, in honor of Oehlbeck.

Oehlbeck is a traditional Air National Guard Airman who lives in Webster, N.Y. He has served in the 107th Airlift Wing since 2007 as an aircraft electrician. He deployed to Southwest Asia in 2013 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The state and federal awards are given to recognize Airmen for meritorious or heroic acts.

AMC hosts wing commanders at fall Phoenix Rally

by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
Air Mobility Command

12/8/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- More than 100 Mobility Air Force active duty, Guard and Reserve wing commanders and command chiefs will gather here Dec. 1-3 for Air Mobility Command's fall Phoenix Rally -- a three-day, focused look at command priorities, roles and missions.

"This event gives Total Force leaders who enable the mobility mission every day a chance for one-on-one discussion with each other and Air Force leadership," said Capt. Jay Weaver, AMC Phoenix Rally project officer. "This is also the first Phoenix Rally with all three of AMC's new leadership in attendance: the AMC commander, vice commander and command chief.

There are two rallies a year. The spring rally is dedicated towards educating active duty wing commanders and their spouses about the MAJCOM priorities and their role.  The fall rally is dedicated to the Total Force Wing understanding the MAF initiatives and enabling collaboration to operate more effectively, said Weaver.

Gen. Carlton Everhart, AMC commander, kicked off the professional development event.

"I want to hear what you have to say," said Everhart to the attendees.  "This whole rally is for you. Use this time to collaborate and discuss ideas for improvement.  Come to the table with a solution-oriented mindset."

As an example, Everhart referenced to the KC-46 airframe getting ready to be released.

"As we bring on that airframe, let us [MAF leadership] know where you need help. If things are going smoothly, let us know."

The following days were filled with key presentations highlighting Air Force initiatives. This year featured discussions on diversity and inclusion by Chevalier Cleaves; resiliency by the Headquarters Air Force chief of chaplains, Maj. Gen. Dondi Costin; and a teleconference with Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force Gen. David Goldfein.

Additional presentations covered issues related to operations, manpower and personnel, training, inspection and readiness, Airmen development, and quality of life initiatives.

On the last day, Everhart recognized nine Mobility Air Force outstanding performances by units, teams, and individuals in the area of aviation fuel efficiency. Mobility Airmen are responsible for saving or cost avoiding over half a million dollars every day through Optimized Fuel Loading and Accurate Cargo Weights, Fuel Efficient Flight Planning and Execution, and Optimized Simulator Training.  The best practices from both the air and ground support crews were recognized during the event. The Commander-in-Chief's Installation Excellence Award was also presented to the 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis AFB, California.

On stage to recognize the members was Everhart, AMC Command Chief Master Sgt. Shelina Frey and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations Environment and Energy Miranda A.A. Ballentine.

"Operational aviation energy efficiency is a really important topic. Jet fuel has always been an impact on the Air Force, we need it to do what we do. So why do we give awards? It's just part of what to we do. We have to be innovative.

We go through cycles. Right now we going into an era of really cheap oil, $40 a barrel. If its $40 now do we still need to worry about how to reduce the amount of energy we use and the cost...Yes, we do," Ballentine said.

The AMC fuel efficiency winners for the year are:

Wing of the Year:  The 436th Airlift Wing, Dover AFB, Deleware, achieved the highest combined score for Fuel Tracker sortie reporting, ramp fuel accuracy, Mission Index Flying usage, and fuel burn efficiency rating.  Additionally, they saved $2 million through the efficient use of Weapon System Trainers and $840,000 by using fuel efficient ground power units instead of auxiliary power units on the aircraft. They implemented a tactical low-level route within close proximity to maximize training and save $443,000 in fuel.  They fostered a culture of fuel efficiency by providing continuation training on fuel planning, Mission Index Flying, and Pilot Performance Advisory System use.

Outstanding Operations Team:  The 6th Air Mobility Wing Fuel Efficiency Working Group, MacDill AFB, Florida, proactive daily review of aircraft fuel loads resulted in an average fuel weight reduction of 3,500 pounds per sortie and a savings of $4.8 million. They championed local landing weight goals which increased awareness of the cost of carrying unneeded extra fuel weight and resulted in an average savings of $10,000 per flight.

Outstanding Logistics Team: The 437th Aerial Port Squadron, Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, maximized the cargo loading on 5,000 missions and achieved a 99 percent fuel efficiency rate.  They utilized opportune airlift to save $50,000 in transportation costs for several aircraft engines and were instrumental in reducing APU usage, saving 378,000 pounds of fuel.   The 437th APS readied the Department of Defense's only 24/7 alert C-17s, servicing 468 aircraft in an average of less than five minutes per aircraft.

Outstanding Individual: As the Tanker Duty Officer in the Combined Air Operations Center in Al Udeid, Qatar, Capt. Gonzalo Ramirez Jr. deployed from the 22nd Air Refueling Wing, McConnell AFB, Kansas, directed the world's largest combat tanker fleet.  He managed 111 aircrews and 73 aircraft representing 9 nations.  Through his efforts, he directed over 200 air tasking orders per day for six months and conserved 499 tanker missions, saving $33 million and 3,300 hours.  He executed a nine-tanker Yemen crisis support in less than 12 hours' notice to evacuate 121 personnel. He later coordinated 41 tankers and 27 fighters in support of three additional evacuations of 294 more personnel.

C-5 Squadron of the Year:  9th Airlift Squadron, 436th AW, Dover AFB, DE. Achieved the highest combined score for Fuel Tracker sortie reporting, ramp fuel accuracy, Mission Index Flying usage, and fuel burn efficiency rating.

C-17 Squadron of the Year:  17th Airlift Squadron, 437th AW, JB Charleston, S.C. Achieved the highest combined score for Fuel Tracker sortie reporting, ramp fuel accuracy, Mission Index Flying usage, and fuel burn efficiency rating.

C-130 Squadron of the Year:  142nd Airlift Squadron, 166 AW, New Castle ANGB, DE. Achieved the highest combined score for Fuel Tracker sortie reporting, ramp fuel accuracy, and fuel burn efficiency rating.

KC-10 Squadron of the Year:  76th Air Refueling Squadron, 514 AMW, JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ. Achieved the highest combined score for Fuel Tracker sortie reporting, ramp fuel accuracy, Mission Index Flying usage, and fuel burn efficiency rating.

KC-135 Squadron of the Year:   18th Air Refueling Squadron, 931 ARG, McConnell AFB, KS. Achieved the highest combined score for Fuel Tracker sortie reporting, ramp fuel accuracy, Mission Index Flying usage, and fuel burn efficiency rating.

AFTAC honors Pearl Harbor survivors, Pacific vets

by Susan A. Romano
AFTAC Public Affairs

12/8/2015 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Despite 74 years having passed, their memories are vivid and their emotions deep.

Two Pearl Harbor survivors were the distinguished guests of honor at the 20th Annual Pearl Harbor and Pacific Theater Veterans Ceremony Dec. 7, hosted by the Air Force Technical Applications Center here. In addition to the survivors, nearly 100 other Pacific Theater veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam were in attendance to be recognized for their crucial role during those conflicts.

George Herold, 91, and Clarence "Bud" Lane, 90, were both seamen 1st class when the Japanese bombed the Hawaiian island seven decades ago. Lane was stationed at Pearl Harbor as a member of a PBY (patrol boat) beaching crew. He was scheduled to muster at 8 a.m. that fateful Sunday morning, but he never made it there. The hangar where muster was to take place had been obliterated by Japanese kamikaze pilots.

"It was gut-wrenching to see," said Lane. "I had just come off liberty that weekend and was ready to report to duty when the attacks happened. Everywhere you looked was chaos." Through tears, he continued, "This day - this ceremony - is not about me. It's about those who laid down their lives in 1941. My mates on the Arizona, on the Utah, and those just sleeping in the barracks - they're the ones this day is all about. They're the ones who paid the ultimate price. We can never forget them."

Herold, an Art Carney doppelgänger with an accompanying New York accent, was not permanently stationed in Hawaii at the time of the assault. "I went through boot, came in the summer of 1941 and went to submarine school in San Diego right after that," he recalled. "The Navy sent me to Pearl Harbor for more schooling in October of '41. I was at the sub base, not far from the harbor, when the Japs flew over us. They weren't interested in the subs at the time - they had they eyes on those big battleships."

He continued, "It doesn't feel like it happened yesterday, and I don't remember all their names, but I definitely remember all their faces - all the faces of the fellas I was there with, seeing our beautiful ships being destroyed from above. Broke my heart."

Crackling over outdoor speakers, audience members listened to the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he delivered his historic address to Congress, calling Dec. 7th, "...a date which will live in infamy." Immediately following Roosevelt's speech were recordings of President Harry S. Truman discussing the U.S.'s entry in the Korean War, and President Lyndon B. Johnson's remarks about Vietnam.

McConnell refueling group to gain wing status

931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs Office

12/8/2015 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- The Air Force will redesignate the 931st Air Refueling Group as a wing in an official ceremony in early 2016.

The newly designated 931st Air Refueling Wing will grow by nearly 400 personnel to meet the needs of the wing.

The wing designation will also establish the 931st Operations Group, the 931st Maintenance Group, and the 931st Force Support Squadron, and stand up the 905th and 924th Refueling Squadrons.

"This has been a long time coming," said Col. Mark S. Larson, 931st ARG commander.  "It is the result of sustained excellent performance from numerous Citizen Airmen over the past 20 years; the steadfast resolve of our elected officials and the unparalleled support of our local community leaders. As we make this historic transition, I have complete confidence in the ability of the men and women of the 931 ARG to make this new wing one of the premier units in United States Air Force."

The 931st ARW will be the first associate Reserve unit to fly and maintain the new KC-46A Pegasus tanker. The KC-46A is intended to replace the U.S. Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers which have been the primary refueling aircraft for more than 50 years. The KC-46A will provide more refueling capability an increased capacity for cargo as well as aeromedical evacuation. The KC-46A will provide aerial refueling to Air Force, Navy, Marine and allied nation aircraft.

The 931st ARG flew more than 1,200 local and off-station sorties and logged 5,524 flight hours in FY 2015, exceeding the command's annual flying hour program goal for the third consecutive year.

For more information on the wing designation, or the 931st Air Refueling Group, please contact the 931st ARG Public Affairs office at (316) 759-3704, or (316) 617-0550

General Levy: Financial pros essential to AFSC success

by John Parker
72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

12/3/2015 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The head of the Air Force Sustainment Center urged Air Force financial professionals Tuesday to "knock down barriers" and "get to the word 'yes'" to help keep the nation's global air combat power the best in the world.

AFSC Commander Lt. Gen. Lee K. Levy II spoke to about 200 financial managers at a professional development seminar at the Tinker Club. Attendees hailed from multiple Tinker Air Force Base organizations; Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Altus AFB, Oklahoma.

Levy said financial managers are essential to ensuring the readiness of resources ranging from combat aircraft to Airmen fighting in foxholes. Buying fuel, paying personnel and collaborating with contractors all happens thanks to financial professionals, the general said.

"We always want to be efficient, but our first and primary charge, our credo, is we must be effective. We must win," Levy said. "So what I need from my professional comptroller team is to always look for ways to get to 'yes,' so we can go faster, deliver combat power and be efficient."

The commander said he appreciates the work of comptrollers as the head of a $20 billion enterprise that includes three air logistics complexes. "Nothing we do in Financial Management do we do for ourselves. We do for others. And you do that pretty amazingly," he said.

The general praised the idea behind the one-day seminar, hosted by the central Oklahoma chapter of the American Society of Military Comptrollers. Presenters focused on the latest methods and new requirements in the Department of Defense financial field.

With multiple military threats across the world, financial professionals need to be as up-to-speed and ready as other Airmen for new types of warfare that can attack the global financial system itself, Levy said.

"The fact that you're here to raise your game, to improve your skills, is really important to me," the general said. "I need you to help me go faster because we have to win, because the world is just that dangerous."

In a luncheon address, Col. Stephanie Wilson, 72nd Air Base Wing and Tinker installation commander, said the Air Force is its smallest since 1947, but has been tasked with continuous combat operations for 24 years. She urged attendees to look for innovations to make the Air Force more efficient and effective.

Senior Pentagon leaders are "confident in your ability to find efficiencies and get the mission done despite funding shortfalls," the colonel said. "The future of our Air Force depends on you. All of you. And it depends on the tough decisions that we make every day."

Crisis Battle Staff responds to disasters, war

by Master Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher
18th Air Force Public Affairs

12/8/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Running the Air Force's global mobility enterprise day-to-day is a huge undertaking to begin with, so when a crisis strikes that requires a large mobility effort, Air Mobility Command and 18th Air Force need a tool that lets them focus on that crisis.

The Crisis Battle Staff is a collection of experts drawn from across AMC and 18th AF that activates on a round-the-clock basis to address a specific crisis.

"The crisis in question can be of any nature from response to a natural disaster to nuclear war," said Maj. Daniel Ortwerth, CBS manager. "The staff includes representatives from every directorate or special staff agency. It focuses only on the crisis, and its sole purpose is to assist the commander with his decision-making process and issuance of well-crafted orders to set Mobility Air Force assets into motion in response to the crisis."

The CBS is an integral part of how AMC and 18th Air Force respond to crises. Mark Johnson, 18th Air Force CBS manager, said the CBS provides four main functions: information management, battle rhythm management, joint operational-level planning and external communications.

"The CBS is the focal point for all operations during a contingency," Johnson explained. "Every organization has unique functions and roles that contribute to the operational mission. Crisis, contingency, exercise, and wartime operations require increased attention and timely response to support the commander's decision cycle."

For the most part, the CBS's role doesn't change from incident to incident, Orthwerth said. Whether the scenario is a hurricane or a war, the functions and processes remain the same.

"The core processes and methods of the CBS bend and flex as necessary to properly address the subject matter at hand," Ortwerth said.

A good example of this ability to flex, Ortwerth said, was when the CBS was activated to handle two simultaneous events in 2014; the beginning of a large-scale homeland defense exercise and the start of Operation Unified Assistance, the U.S. response to the ebola epidemic in West Africa.

"The CBS was scheduled to activate for the exercise on a Monday," Ortwerth said. "However, with no notice, it was ordered into activation the previous Wednesday for Operation United Assistance. Not only was the activation a surprise, but the two subjects could not have been more fundamentally different."

Ortwerth said that despite the challenges the scenarios presented, the CBS adjusted to meet the needs of both operations.

"With the help of the CBS Managers, the freshly activated CBS members gathered the information available, used whatever means proved effective, assigned specialists to different aspects of the dual challenge, and got the essential information flowing to two sets of commanders," he said. "We set up two separate but coordinated battle rhythms, with their own briefing types and locations, and made it happen."

Johnson said the CBS has to be ready to respond to any contingency on a moment's notice.

"The CBS spends the majority of the time in a warm status which constitutes initial and continuous training, information management, and regular equipment checks and upgrades to insure readiness in preparation for activation," Johnson said. "The design of the team is to be fully functional within an hour after a recall to support the 18th AF commander's effort to provide guidance and orders to the Mobility Air Force Enterprise."

Because it can be called into action so quickly, Ortwerth said it's important to exercise the CBS and those who work in it regularly.

"CBS duty is entirely outside the bounds of the normal jobs and processes of the people who serve on it," Ortwerth explained. "We are pulling these people away from their day jobs and throwing them into a set of duties for which they've received training, but just basic training. At the same time, we are making them perform in a crisis, which adds pressure and criticality to the situation. We don't want CBS members to be learning on the job. CBS exercises enable them to make the valuable mistakes that facilitate learning in a training environment - the way it is supposed to work. That's why we train for any job, but this one in particular simply cannot afford to be treated lightly."

Col. Constance Jenkins, AMC Reserve Advisor to the Director of Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, had never worked in the CBS before reporting as its dayshift director during a recent homeland defense exercise. She said she was impressed by how everything worked.

"It was humbling and inspiring to watch the dedication and efforts put forth by so many people to make the mission a success," she said. "It was an incredible learning experience for me."

One of the things Jenkins learned was the key to the CBS's success.

"The strength of the CBS during a crisis lies in the matrixed staff," Jenkins said. "The leveraging of subject matter experts in the matrixed staff affords utilizations of depth and breadth of knowledge that is unmatched in a smaller group of people. This reach-back for subject matter expertise into every directorate in AMC allows leadership to make judicious, timely data-rich decisions."

Jenkins said at the end of the day, it's the people that make the biggest difference.

"Having a strong cadre of subject matter experts creates a situation whereby everyone is heard and key information is shared in a timely manner," she said. "The matrixed staff ensures visibility of the 'what if' questions that sometimes get missed during the time crunch of a crisis. This allows as many of the key data points as possible to be on the table during decision making efforts."

ANG gains active duty squadron

by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode
115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/6/2015 - MADISON, Wis. -- A flying squadron from World War II was reactivated in the Air National Guard during a ceremony in building 404 at the 115th Fighter Wing on Nov. 8.

The reactivation is a part of total force integration, a program that unites active duty and reserve components for overall mission efficiency.

"A couple years ago the Air Force realized there weren't enough cockpits to put the pilots out of F-16 fighter training in," said Lt. Col. Joseph Rodriguez, deputy commander of the 495th Fighter Group. "The Air Force decided it was a great time to capitalize on the experience and the background of our Guard and Reserve forces."

By embedding some of these F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots, maintainers and support personnel into the reserve component, they would be able to take advantage of the experience levels of the pilots in the Guard and Reserve forces, he said.

"The Air Force decided to sweeten the deal," Rodriguez said. "The Air Force said, 'We're going to give you these pilots that you can train, that you can mold, that you can shape, that you can educate with your vast years of combat experience and here's something better, you won't have to worry about the administrative part, we'll take care of that.'"

And that is exactly what they did.

The official integration of active duty forces with the 115 FW began earlier this year when active duty Airmen became a part of Detachment 176 during a ceremony here Feb. 7. Although these active duty Airmen called Truax Field their new home, they were still a detachment within the active duty's 495 FG out of Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

After 9-months as Detachment 176, those Airmen are now a part of the 378th Fighter Squadron, the reactivated flying squadron from World War II, now a squadron within the 115 FW.

According to Rodriguez, this activation allows the active duty Airmen an opportunity to maintain their regular Air Force requirements. This way when they are reassigned to another base, they will have maintained the same expectations as their active duty counterparts - making the transition smooth between active duty and reserve component duty stations.

"So, by activating a World War II squadron, we're bringing back the history, we're bringing back the comradery, but we aren't changing how the 115th is organized," he said. "It is a squadron that is still embedded and still reports to the 115th Fighter Wing. This structure gives us the best of both possible worlds."

Taking charge of this new squadron is Lt. Col. Jay Gibson, 378 FS commander. He pointed out during his speech that the mission of this new squadron is the same as it has been since the detachment was activated 9-months-ago.

"Our mission is the mission of the 115th," Gibson said. "There's no us versus them. There's no Guard versus active duty. Everyone is working together to accomplish the goals of the 115th. I'm really looking forward to continuing our mission."

Face of Defense: Wounded Warrior Triumphs Over Tragedy

By Kenneth Stewart Naval Postgraduate School

MONTEREY, Calif., December 8, 2015 — Naval Postgraduate School student Army Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton, of Elk Point, South Dakota, has been given a rather unfortunate moniker -- one he likely would prefer not to have.

In 2011, following devastating injuries Skelton had suffered in combat, he was coined the “Most Wounded Commander in U.S. Military History.”

But Skelton’s story, along with his fervent drive to rehabilitate and return to his soldiers on the front lines years later, has earned him an additional title: American hero.

Since then, Skelton has nearly completed the required work for his master’s degree in Asia Pacific Studies in NPS’ Department of National Security Affairs. In an example of life coming full circle, Skelton reflected on how his story began.

“I joined the Army as an enlisted man, which brought me here to Monterey where I studied Chinese to become an interrogator at the Defense Language Institute,” Skelton said.

While at DLI, he said a couple of officers took an interest in Skelton’s career and encouraged him to apply for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York. He did, was accepted, and became an infantry officer. After graduation, he was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington -- since renamed Joint Base Lewis-McChord -- where he became the leader of a Stryker platoon.

Deployment to Iraq

He wasn’t at Fort Lewis long, however. In September 2004, just a year after graduating from West Point, he deployed to Iraq where he took part in the Second Battle of Fallujah. There, Skelton and his platoon were tasked with defending an important intersection outside the city.

Two months later, on November 6, 2004, Skelton and his platoon were dug in at the intersection, and unbeknownst to his platoon, the enemy had dug in as well, on the other side of the freeway. Upon observing the insurgent activity, Skelton and his soldiers engaged.

“I was hit in that firefight … I happened to be standing beside a cement pylon and the next thing I knew, it was pitch dark,” Skelton recalled. "I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t feel anything. I felt like I was floating through space. One of the last things I remember was hearing one of my soldiers say, ‘I think the lieutenant’s dead.’ At that time, a switch flipped, and I began to feel the most intense pain of my life.”

Severe Wounds

Skelton’s soldiers jumped into action and dragged him out of the fight. One resourceful soldier used a spent .50-caliber round as an airway and preformed a field tracheotomy. Amazingly, less than 10 minutes later, Skelton was in a nearby combat support hospital where doctors began to assess the severity of his injuries.

And Skelton’s wounds, by any measure, were horrific. A small scar on his left cheek remains where he was shot, but it is what happened after the round pierced Skelton’s face that changed his life forever. Once through his cheek, the bullet began to tumble, destroying his mouth and soft pallet before exiting out of his right eye socket.

Sadly, the round to Skelton’s face was not the only injury his body would endure. He was further injured when a rocket-propelled grenade struck the pylon beside him.

“My left arm was destroyed. My hand was intact, but everything from the wrist to the elbow was destroyed,” Skelton said. “The head of the RPG broke and went through my right leg. My ammunition belt got hot and began cooking off. Those rounds, along with various enemy AK-47 rounds, went through my right arm and left shoulder.”

Skelton said his survival “is a testament to our body armor and to our teamwork.”

He added, “In that environment, where soldiers were still being shot at, they were calm, collected, and making decisions. And those decisions, though unorthodox, contributed to me being able to live.”

Skelton’s parents received the call that every service member’s loved one dreads. They planned to meet their son at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, although he would be placed in a medically-induced coma. Inside the hospital, Skelton’s doctors argued for the amputation of his right arm, but his parents wouldn’t allow it. The arm was ultimately saved, but over the next three years Skelton would endure more than 70 surgeries, and have to re-learn how to write, eat and walk.


From Skelton’s perspective, Walter Reed Army Medical Center “was a pretty grim place” in 2005, and the resources were simply not available to deal with the growing number of severely wounded service members arriving from Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Walter Reed was quickly becoming overpopulated. I and people like myself stayed in gurneys in hallways for long periods of time until rooms became available … the ability to treat mass numbers wasn't there and they had to prioritize,” Skelton explained.

“I sat for months confined to an inpatient bed … I wasn't able to communicate, but I was able to listen. And I listened to the conversations between my family and the doctors and nurses. I listened to all of the questions they had, that nobody had an answer to,” he said.

Skelton recalled the “negative” atmosphere that pervaded the hospital during those days, and said that even the doctors tasked with caring for wounded service members fell victim to its bleakness.

“Doctors mean well, but they, too, can get sucked into that negativity. There was no shortage of doctors to tell me all of the things that I would never be able to do again … I’d never walk, never run again, never ski again, that I’d never climb, that I’d never do any of the things that help me to define myself and give me quality of life,” Skelton said.

He also said that even when service members left the hospital and began their outpatient care, that there was very little motivation for them to integrate back into their units or continue their careers.

“Over the years, it was pretty easy to be a Wounded Warrior and remain a Wounded Warrior for years," Skelton said. "There was no incentive to do anything but hang out, go to appointments, and get your Army pay."


Skelton said he was determined to return to work.

“I was an inpatient for over half a year,” he said. “I was an outpatient for 36 hours. When I became an outpatient, I went over to the Fisher House, looked around, and was like, ‘Heck no. I don't want to be a part of this,’ and hopped on a plane. I went back to my unit and joined the rear detachment.”

Once back at his unit, Skelton went to work seeking answers to all of the questions that his parents asked but remained unanswered while he was in the hospital. The exercise was an effort to both provide needed information to the families of other wounded service members, and an opportunity to learn how to write again. The result of that exercise was the creation of the “Our Hero Handbook,” published by the Naval War College and offered free of charge to the families of wounded service members.

Unfortunately, on the heels of this success, Skelton would suffer a setback when he was subjected to a medical evaluation board to determine whether or not he was fit for service.

“That’s what the bureaucracy of the Army said needed to happen,” Skelton said. “We went through the process, and based on my answers to their questions, I could not meet any means by which I could be retained in the Army. That was really hard for me, being told I could no longer contribute to the mission.”

New Hope

Skelton said that began a dark period in his life. He said he was living alone, drinking too much, and unable to do any of the things he loved. It was at that time that he reconnected with a rock-climbing group that had been a part of his life before he was injured. They tried, initially without success, to get Skelton outdoors again.

“They were relentless and didn’t take no for an answer,” Skelton said. The group challenged him to change his attitude and participate, assuring him that they would find a safe way for him to climb.

“They told me, ‘We don't know how this is going to work. We have no clue how you will climb with one good arm and one good leg, but if you have the will, we will find a way to make it work.’

“It was a very empowering part of my life,” he continued. “The power of community and the sense of belonging … had a powerful impact on my recovery and helped me to look at my disability in a different light.”

Knocking on Doors

While his outlook improved, his desire to stay in the Army remained as strong as ever. With the medical board process moving forward, Skelton ended up back at Walter Reed for another surgery. When he got out of the hospital, he says, he went door to door at the Pentagon looking for an opportunity to continue his career.

At the Pentagon, Skelton met a senior officer who offered him a job at Fort Greeley, Alaska. He went to work, but was still asking questions and seeking answers. He started writing letters to people in Washington, D.C. -- one of those individuals was then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

“My boss called me into his office one day and asked me if I had been writing Rumsfeld. I said, ‘yes’ to which he replied, ‘Pack up your stuff, you are going to D.C.,’” Skelton recalled.

In D.C., Skelton became part of a small team serving under then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. That team, amongst other things, created the first wounded warrior battalions. Eventually, Skelton was given the opportunity to return to DLI, where he commanded a student company.

Giving Back

It was while working at DLI that Skelton recalled the satisfaction he garnered from his return to outdoor activity, and founded Paradox Sports. The nonprofit program, based in Boulder, Colorado, conducts about 40 events throughout the year for veterans and nonveterans. Paradox provides equipment and a supportive atmosphere, where severely disabled individuals can participate in some of the same athletic endeavors they valued so highly prior to their injuries.

“[The military health care system] was good at getting you to where you could walk, and getting you out the door, but our military population consists of young, physically-fit people; go-getters who enjoy pushing themselves to the limit,” Skelton said. “To take high-energy, self-motivated people, and say to them, ‘You’re good to go, you can walk’ … that bothered me.

He added, “Other [adaptive sports groups] were great, but what about someone with goals like climbing Mt. Rainier and skiing down it? I asked myself questions like, ‘How do we help a guy with no arms to go ice climbing?’”

Skelton’s advocacy work caught the attention of then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, and he was invited to serve at the Office of Warrior and Family Support, which aimed to help veterans and their families reintegrate back into their respective communities.

Skelton could have moved on and devoted himself to his nonprofit organization. His disability rating would have qualified him for veteran’s benefits in addition to a generous medical retirement. He was also a decorated combat veteran with some friends in rather high places, and would have found little difficulty in finding a job.

But what Skelton wanted was to go back to the infantry. “Through all of [it], I realized I was still ‘DJ the Wounded Warrior’” Skelton said. “I didn't join the military to do that.”

Return to the Infantry

He was told to go to speak to the Chief of Staff of the Army. Luckily, things had changed a great deal since Skelton was initially wounded and he was offered the chance to come back into the infantry on the condition that he successfully completed the infantry’s commander’s career course at Fort Benning, Georgia.

He did it, and was assigned to an infantry unit in Germany. Coincidently, that unit was the same unit that he had served with in Iraq and they had just deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Once again, Skelton was in a combat zone.

“When I showed up [in Afghanistan] there was a dire need for commanders and I was given the opportunity to serve in the same company that I was in when I was injured,” Skelton said. “There were about a half-dozen soldiers who had been privates with me in Iraq who were now [noncommissioned officers]. We had an amazing reunion.”

Skelton was thrilled to be back with his soldiers doing what he loved. But, there were limitations to what he was able to accomplish, and he knew it.

“There were a couple of events where I couldn't physically perform,” he recalled. “My soldiers helped out and we had no casualties, but it really bothered me. When I got home, I called the infantry [leaders] and said ‘It was a great experience, but this is not smart.’”

Skelton added, “I was able to bring my soldiers back, something that I did not have an opportunity to do when I was in Iraq. It was great for my recovery, but not so great for the organization.”

But it was also not time for Skelton to hang up his combat boots. Continuing his desire to serve, he was selected for the Foreign Area Officer program and was given the opportunity to spend a year in China before coming to NPS for his graduate degree.

“It was great to be able to come and apprentice under some of the professors here. It’s been a great opportunity,” Skelton said. “This is where wounded warriors came after World War II -- a lot of people have forgotten that.”

A story that started in Monterey has found its way back. Skelton said he's not sure what's next, but there's little doubt that the most wounded commander in U.S. military history has finally found a little peace. Skelton is now married, and he and his wife recently welcomed a baby boy to their family.