Saturday, December 19, 2015

Legion of Merit awarded to member of NJ Air National Guard

by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Merlock
177th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/8/2015 - ATLANTIC CITY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.J. -- The Legion of Merit was awarded to the outgoing 177th Mission Support Group (MSG) commander during a change of command ceremony here, Dec. 5.

Col. Michael Love was presented with the award culminating the end of his illustrious 25-year career.

"I am deeply humbled and honored to receive this recognition," said Love. "You could almost change it to the Merit of Legions. It's obvious that it is not the result of a solo performance."

The Legion of Merit is a military award of the United States armed forces that is given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.

"All those magnificent accomplishments that were attributed to me really would not have been possible had it not been for the hard work and dedication of the talented men and women of the mission support group," Love stated.

Love, who initially enlisted with the 177th Fighter Wing in 1991, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1992. Love served as both flight and squadron commanders prior to his appointment as MSG commander in 2007.

Col. Patrick Kennedy, vice commander of the 177th FW, presented Love with the award in addition to his certificate of retirement signed by President Barack Obama.

"Mike is one of those commanders who is level headed, is unflappable in times of crisis," explained Kennedy. "He always had that calming presence. I consider him a friend, a trusted commander, and just a great all around officer to be associated with."

Face of Defense: Drill Sergeant Incorporates Skills Learned in Civilian Career

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton, 108th Training Command DoD News Features, Defense Media Activity

EDMOND, Okla., December 18, 2015 — How do you picture a drill sergeant? As a stern, totalitarian figure; barking out orders with an unintelligible loud snarl, ready to pounce on your every misstep?

Or do you see them more as a mentor? Someone who takes the time to understand the individual strengths and weaknesses of their recruits? Perhaps a leader who takes a step back to see what recruits are going through to help them transform from citizen to soldier in 10 fast-paced weeks?

That’s the real goal of the Army’s drill sergeant program, and for the 2015 Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Mark Mercer of the 95th Training Division, it’s a skill he learned best through his civilian employment.

“I think the civilian sector has helped me particularly as a drill sergeant,” Mercer said. “As drill sergeants, we’ve gone from that strict rule-enforcer and intimidating presence to more the role of counselor, coach, and mentor. Working with people outside the military has taught me to put myself in the shoes of people inside of the military and really take a look at what they’re going through in order to best serve them.”

Mercer began his career with the Army Reserve in 2002 as an X-ray technician and spent a combined 67 weeks in basic combat training and advanced individual training. His AIT was split between six months of classroom work at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, and six months of practical experience at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

“I have always liked the medical field and thought doing so in the Army Reserve would help me with what I wanted to do with my civilian career,” Mercer said. “But it was my father who actually picked X-ray tech -- I wanted to go infantry.”

Civilian Certification

Because of his military training with an accredited program, Mercer was able to immediately take and pass a 200-question test earning him a civilian certification as a nationally registered X-ray technician. Putting his newly acquired skills to work, he landed a job near his hometown of Yukon, Oklahoma, and later received a bachelor’s degree in administrative leadership and business management at the University of Oklahoma.

“The Army paid for every penny of that -- 100 percent. Thanks to tuition assistance and the G.I. bill, zero dollars came out of my pocket,” Mercer said.

Having come full circle with his military and civilian careers, Mercer said the military helped him to see the goal-oriented side of business, while the civilian sector helps him to deal with the human side.

“The Army Reserve is very structured. You are given a mission and you accomplish that mission, period. In the civilian workforce, you learn more of how to deal with people to accomplish that same mission,” Mercer said.

Military Service Benefits Employers

Pam Fraim, Mercer’s supervisor and the practice manager at Edmond Orthopedic Group, has worked with several Army Reserve Soldiers throughout her career. She said the skills that Mercer brought from the military have benefited the practice.

“The soldiers I have worked with are direct, disciplined and have high integrity,” Fraim said. “I see both sides of the spectrum. I think if you would have talked to me when I first started here, I would have said that the direct, in-your-face style of management may have been an issue. But now I see that being direct, but being direct in such a way that gets people to follow you as a counselor, coach and mentor, can be a benefit.”

She believes there is a direct correlation between the skills learned in the military and how you apply those skills to the civilian workplace.
“Mark has been a great help to me, especially over these last six months or so that he’s been involved with the Drill Sergeant of the Year program,” Fraim said. “He’s stepped up to the plate as far as keeping people on task. He will take an issue and say, ‘Okay, let’s do this, this way, for six months and then come back and revisit it.’ I think he’s actually increased his management skills because of that program.”

CSAF awards Silver Stars to Vietnam vets

By Staff Sgt. Alyssa C. Gibson , Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information / Published December 18, 2015

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- A star pendant necklace bought in 1984 has been tucked away for 30 years since its purchase. The necklace was a gift to Sue Roberts from her husband, Eric Roberts II, as a thank you for her efforts toward getting the Distinguished Flying Cross awarded to him and Ronald Brodeur’s upgraded to a Silver Star. Unfortunately at the time, the request was denied, and Sue vowed to never wear the necklace until her husband and Brodeur received stars of their own.

The two gentlemen were awarded the Silver Star by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III during a ceremony at the Pentagon Dec. 17.

“Since the U.S. Air Force became an independent service in 1947 we’ve presented 285 Silver Stars,” Welsh said. “That’s not a whole lot when you think of all the combat sorties and contingencies we’ve participated in. One hundred and five of those were given from the Vietnam conflict -- soon to be 107. This is a very select group of warriors for a reason. It’s presented for gallantry in action against enemies of the United States.”

Roberts and Brodeur were awarded the Silver Star for their gallantry in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the U.S. in Duc Lap, Republic of Vietnam, on Feb. 20, 1969. At the time, then-Staff Sgt. Brodeur and Sgt. Roberts were assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron as UH-1P helicopter gunners. Affectionately known as the “Green Hornets” the unit was responsible for supporting special operations in South Vietnam.

On that day, their crew was called upon to rescue a six-man Army long-range reconnaissance patrol. With a river on one side, enemy fire coming from every other direction, and the field they were hiding in ablaze, the patrol was in extreme danger of being overrun. Still, the Green Hornets were able to locate the patrol. With their harnesses secured to the aircraft and their weapons in hand, the sergeants climbed out of the helicopter and onto its skids to direct the pilot and copilot into a 10-foot hover, while using M-60 machine guns to suppress enemy fire.

A rope ladder was dropped to the patrol team below, and upon their ascent there was an explosion -- one of the Soldiers had triggered a mine on the ground. The explosion blew Brodeur off the right skid, and he dangled from the aircraft in his harness.

“After I recovered and I got back on my skid and near my gun, I glanced back and there was nobody in the doorway -- my heart stopped,” Brodeur said. “And then I saw this guy scooting back up on the skid to get back to his gun.”

On the left side, the explosion had caused the co-pilot’s door to blow open and Roberts was thrown inside the helicopter. Determined, Roberts had unhooked his harness, climbed out of the helicopter, and inched his way up the left skid to secure the co-pilot’s door, protecting him from enemy fire.

“He got back up, hooked his gunner belt back in, got behind the gun and started covering fire for the team to get near the ladder and back up the airplane,” Brodeur said. “But it was a scary moment when I didn’t see anyone in that door.”

Thanks to their actions, the entire team was rescued and evacuated with no loss of life. For their actions, the pilot and co-pilot on this mission received the Silver Star; however, the nomination packages for Roberts and Brodeur were lost -- initially they didn’t receive an award at all. With Sue’s persistence, they received decorations in 1984 -- the Distinguished Flying Cross. The classification of the mission didn’t allow for a full picture of the courageous actions of the enlisted men.

Brodeur, Roberts and their spouses felt that since the crew worked together as a team, they should have received the same award.

“The first iteration of this award wasn’t actually presented until 1984 as the Distinguished Flying Cross to these two gentlemen,” Welsh said. “It was presented then only because Sue Roberts, starting in 1971, pursued it. The awards recommendations for these two guys in the back of the helicopter were separated from the pilot and co-pilot’s awards and decorations recommendations and just never reached completion until Sue got involved. Thirteen years later, they were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“This is a phenomenal story,” Welsh continued. “They’re looking back on this thinking this is pretty routine, this is just what the squadron did -- it’s what our job was, what we’re expected to do, what teammates did all the time. But according to the laws of this nation and the standards of our service, that was gallantry in action. It’s incredibly appropriate, finally, that we have the chance to say ‘thank you for what you did, for who you are for the example you set.’ And Sue, thank you for the opportunity to recognize what should have been recognized long ago.”

Now, three decades later, three star pendants are worn for the first time -- two for gallantly serving the country, and one as a symbol of dedication to the one she loves.

Airmen create works of art with metals technology

by Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson
JBER Public Affairs

12/14/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Off Japan's east coast, The Continental Plate and the Pacific Ocean Plate meet to form the Japan Trench.

On March 11, 2011, the downward pressure from the Continental Plate on the Pacific plate suddenly released, causing it to surge more than 200 feet upward, triggering a magnitude 8.9 earthquake - named the fourth-largest earthquake in modern history.

The temblor and its subsequent tsunami killed more than 15,000 people and displaced more than 200,000 more. Amid the devastation, it also started the a ticking of a time-bomb 130 miles north of Yokota Air Base, Japan.

A nuclear power plant began to melt down.

"If they don't have cool water consistently pumping through the plant, it overheats. When the tsunami came, it wiped out their backup generators," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hamblin, 3rd Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology craftsman. "At that point they were unable to keep the plant cool, and with widespread power outages, they didn't have a good way to tell people what was going on, either."

In less than a week, the Royal Australian Air Force showed up with new water pumps, courtesy of the U.S. government, for immediate use in cooling down the reactor. However, the Japanese hoses did not fit the new water pumps, and they could not be used. The reactor continued to heat up.

Hamblin, then an Airman first class at his first duty station, was one of eight metals technology Airmen who immediately began 12-hour shifts.

Their task was not simple: draw, design, and create adapters so the Japanese hoses could securely connect to the U.S. water pumps - and do it quickly enough for them to be implemented before a nuclear meltdown.

Two days later, the parts were delivered, and a catastrophe was averted.

While this is by no means an average day for metals technology Airmen, it is what they're trained to do.

"We're here to support the aircraft and all the support equipment for the aircraft. We do everything from welding, to machining, to sometimes prototyping and manufacturing," Hamblin said. "The majority of our work is split between aircraft and support equipment."

Often, their work takes them out on the flightline to measure damage to aircraft. Even the most minute of damages, like a shallow scratch may render a piece of equipment non-mission-capable.

Aircraft metals technology Airmen are like the happy union between graphic designers and blacksmiths wrapped into one Air Force package, but before they draw, or put a piece of metal in their 2,900-degree furnace, they measure.

"The tools we use are hand tools like micrometers, dial calipers, and pick calipers - which have a point on them so fine you can measure the depth of a scratch. Some of the calipers we have can measure a 30th of a hair's thickness," Hamblin said. "So if you took a human hair, cut that into three pieces and cut each of those into 10 pieces, we can measure the thickness of that. It's really precise. We go out there and give them an exact measurement on the size of the damage so the engineers can go back, evaluate it, and decide if that's something that is repairable or if it's something that's going to have to be replaced.

Some parts may allow zero damage, but some parts may allow what we would consider quite a bit of damage," Hamblin said. "The standard is different for every part."

Often, if it is determined that a part is in need of replacement, and the part cannot be ordered in a timely manner, people turn to metals technology for help. This creates some unique opportunities: like creating adapters for coolant hoses to avert a nuclear meltdown.

More recently, Hamblin had a similar opportunity; he's now machining the first-ever Air Force manufactured F-22 Raptor Infrared Countermeasures bucket bracket.

"The IRCM bucket bracket holds the dispensers that go on the side of the aircraft. Whenever there's a threat, it can dispense countermeasures through those brackets," said Steven Mate, 3rd Maintenance Squadron, Aircraft Metals Technology foreman. "The original bracket in the airplane was damaged and it had to be replaced. Currently, the aircraft is only partly mission-capable with the damaged bracket in it, meaning they can't put any of the electronic countermeasures in on that side."

The IRCM, like many F-22, parts has been designed to be as thin as possible to save weight, Mate said. Because of this, there's not much room for damage before a part needs to be replaced entirely.

"Being an F-22 part, it wouldn't typically be made in an Air Force shop. It would be handled by the factory," Hamblin said. "We aren't typically allowed to make aircraft parts of this caliber, specifically on this aircraft."

"Lockheed was going to make the new part, but the soonest they could get it to us was the latter part of February 2016," Mate said. "So we started doing some research to see if we were going to be able to make it. After evaluating the drawings, we stated we could make it."

So Hamblin and his co-workers set to work measuring the model Lockheed Martin sent in with their portable coordinate measuring machine - which looks roughly like a high-tech hot-glue gun attached to a jointed carbon fiber arm and a red circle at the tip of the nozzle.

"Basically you're measuring coordinates in a 3-D space," Hamblin said as a 3-D printer hummed away on a different project behind him. "That machine can tell you exactly where every point on a specific thing is in that 3-D space."

The arm uses software and materials so complex, it costs upwards of $120,000, Hamblin said.

"We reverse-engineered it by measuring it with the Romer arm and feeding the measurements back into the computer with the blueprints," Mate said.

Once they had the measurements, the metals technology Airmen assumed the role of graphic designer and drew the part in their custom-built computer from scratch, using $15,000 3-D modeling software.

"The drawing part is the easy part. That's the part everyone picks up on," Hamblin said. "It's the same as using paint. When you're telling it how to cut that box, that's when it gets really complicated."

They draw the part by using a series of lines separated and organized in such a way that it looks like a 3-D blueprint. The program sees the lines as toolpaths, which are best described as digital "roads" it creates for the computer numerically controlled machine to follow with its tool bit.

"It converts the inputs into what's called G-Code," Hamblin said. "Then reads that to give the machine coordinates on where to move, how to move, what speed to move and we can cut pretty much any shape we want out of a piece of metal."

The program may be giving the machine those details, but someone has to tell the program what to translate, Hamblin does that, right down to the thousandths of an inch.

"This program is where the real parameters are. You're telling it how much material to cut per rotation, so say I only want to cut .001 inches per rotation, so every tooth on that cutter is going to cut one thousandth's thickness, I'm telling it how fast to spin the spindle, because that changes with the material, I'm telling it how fast to go in, how fast to come out, how fast to move across the machine, and what angle to do each of those at."

The Airman has to know the kind of metal they are working with too, and not just whether it's aluminum or steel, but what grade of aluminum or steel, because different qualities can take different levels of heat, which affects how fast the machine can carve the part out of the block of metal it's working with. That includes when to wash the block with coolant and how often, Hamblin said.

"This [program] is another tool, that's all it is."

Each of those details can affect another detail, so they compound together and create a complex web of commands the Airman is directly giving the machine.

Once those commands are laid out, they can run a simulation of the project and determine if the part meets their precise requirements. This is vital because a mistake by even one thousandth of an inch could cost the Air Force thousands of dollars in special alloys the jets need, Hamblin said.

At the end of the day, a metals technology Airman uses 3-D modeling programs like a graphics designer to sculpt precise parts out of a block of material much like an artist would out of marble. That's when they're not heat-treating metals like a blacksmith with a furnace so they can harden or soften them.

"What I love the most about my job is when somebody comes to us, we're the last thing there is. If we can't fix it, it's done, it's broke," Hamblin said. "You're going to have to get a new one."

Last resort indeed - when the Earth itself shakes, a few Airmen from the Aircraft Metals Technology Flight can help.