Monday, January 25, 2016

673d Medical Group hosts Girls’ Night Out

by Airman Valerie Monroy
JBER Public Affairs

1/25/2016 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The 673d Medical Group will host a "Girls' Night Out" event at the Arctic Warrior Events Center, Feb. 2, from 4:30 to 8 p.m.

The 673d Medical Group started the event in 2012 due to an increase in cervical cancer in females throughout the nation. Medical providers and technicians found that many women across Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson were not receiving the preventive health care available.

"Girls' Night Out" is a way to bring women on base, more information about health care but in fun and relaxed way, said Lisa Schuette, 673d Aeromedical Squadron public health educator.

Shuette said the event is also a way for women to get connected to the community to help women who are new to JBER, to get to know each other.

One of the evening's activities will include a variety of spa treatments on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Wine tasting and snacks will be provided and live music will be ongoing throughout the night, Shuette said.

Also door prizes were donated by different organizations in the JBER and Anchorage community, Schuette continued.

"Around 30 different organizations throughout JBER will also be set up providing information on various aspects of the base," Schuette said." For example the library and outdoor recreation will be there."

Health care will not be provided at the event, but information on appointments and different types of health screenings will be available, Shuette said.

Care providers will be available to discuss risks for different diseases and help decide on future actions.

New to the event this year is the teen health information section where teens can learn about all the different health aspects that can affect them, Schuette said.

"Girls' Night Out" will feature guest speakers, Kikkan Randall, Alaska's own four-time Olympian, and Damsel in Defense which provides information on personal protection.

The event has become very popular over the years and a lot of people are expected to come with numbers climbing since last year, Shuette said.

LCMC: Powerful C-17 engine program managed at Robins

by Jenny Gordon
78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

1/22/2016 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The turbofan engines that power every C-17 Globemaster III in the Air Force fleet have now transitioned into a sustainment phase.

The final F117-PW-100 engine, produced by Pratt & Whitney, is scheduled to be delivered to the Air Force this month. It will be the 1,313th engine the company has produced for the military and through foreign military sales.

Program oversight of those engines, which reaches across the globe through partnerships with several nations, is managed by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's C-17 Program Office here.

"We ensure continued support of the engine; we ensure it's overhauled and that parts are available to support the field," said Chuck Keown, Robins C-17 engine program manager. "Now that the engines are out of production, we will be responsible for engine sustainment."

Each of the aircraft's four engines generates 40,400 pounds of thrust and weighs more than 7,000 pounds. Its thrust reversers direct airflow upward and forward to avoid ingestion of things such as dust and debris.

The engines are tasked to fly a minimum of 4,400 N1 cycles -- an aircraft's flight cycles from idle to full thrust and back. According to Keown, C-17 engines are currently averaging 5,700 N1 cycles.

Bennett Croswell, P&W Military Engines president, said, "This is a bittersweet occasion for those of us who have played a part in developing and delivering the F117 engine to our customers over the years. The F117 production engine program might be ending, but we look forward to working with our customers around the world to sustain their engines, and to keep the C-17 fleet flying for decades to come."

The Air Force received final delivery of a C-17 in 2013, its 223rd aircraft, and celebrated a major milestone in 2015 with the fleet reaching 3 million flying hours. Since the aircraft is no longer in production, according to Keown, the engine was the last major end item that will now transition into sustainment.

While Robins maintainers don't work on the engines, the 562nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron is dedicated to programmed depot maintenance of the aircraft. An occasion was also marked in December when the squadron produced the 500th C-17 here. That number represents aircraft which were at the depot for maintenance or modifications.

The C-17 Program Office at Robins -- with personnel co-located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio -- includes foreign military sales and Boeing representatives responsible for sustainment, modification, maintenance and service of the entire fleet.

Partner nations that fly the C-17, who host representatives in the program office, include the United Kingdom, Qatar, Australia, Canada and the NATO Airlift Management Program.

AMC facilitates national discussion about pilot manning

by Capt. Kathleen Ice
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

1/25/2016 - SCOTT AIR FORCE, Ill. -- Air Mobility Command is participating in a national-level discussion about current and future-projected pilot manning shortfalls.

AMC's commander facilitated a meeting Jan. 7 with representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, airline trade associations, academia, and several airlines, to include the major carriers.

"Pilot manning is a national issue and not specific to only the military or commercial sector," said Gen. Carlton Everhart, AMC commander.

The group gathered to discuss pilot manning shortfalls caused by mass retirements; stricter licensing requirements for first officers; new crew rest duty rules, and other recent changes, said Merle Lyman, chief of the DoD Commercial Airlift Division. 

In 2007, the Fair Treatment of Experienced Pilots Act, or the "Age 65 Law", extended pilot retirement age from 60 to 65 in order to retain experience, according to the FAA website.  At the time, this extended a large number of pilots' careers.  But recently, that large group has started to hit 65 and retire, Lyman said. 

The minimum flight hours required to earn a commercial airline transport pilot certificate jumped in 2013 from 250 hours to 750 hours for military trained pilots, 1000 hours for pilots with a degree from an aviation school, and 1,500 hours for all others, according to the FAA's website.

This change forced many to invest more time and money to get/stay certified, or choose a different career path.

Another change came in 2014: stricter regulations, which govern how many hours a pilot can be on duty.  With these restrictions in place, pilots started flying less in a given amount of time, requiring a larger pool of pilots to fill in scheduling gaps.

The pilot manning shortfalls have especially hit regional airlines hard, with several rural areas no longer getting air service, Lyman said.

Current and projected shortfalls may impact both civilian and military operations, particularly because many commercial pilots also have military obligations as Reservists.

AMC stepped up to bring everyone together.

"While individual efforts have been taking place in the industry, our aim was to encourage collaboration and go forward with a united solution," Lyman said. "Many interesting proposals were brought to the table for consideration at the meeting,"

They will continue to discuss ideas, and eventually senior representatives from industry and the military plan to meet with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, possibly as early as spring.

"There is strength in collaboration," said Everhart. "I'm confident that, working together, we'll be able to develop solutions to any challenges with pilot sourcing."

Golden years: Host wing hits half-century mark

by Senior Airman Charles Rivezzo
60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affaris

1/22/2016 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- The base chapel's 65-year-old bell rang out five distinct times, one for each of the 60th Air Mobility Wing's five decades. With each toll, cause for celebration was paused for a moment - a moment to honor the Airmen who died in service to their country.

On Jan. 8, 1966, the 1501st Air Transport Wing furled its colors and the new 60th Military Airlift Wing was born.

Fifty years later, Travis Airmen and community partners gathered Jan. 19 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the installation's host wing, now redesignated the 60th Air Mobility Wing.

"A half-century ago, the space race was heating up and the Cold War was freezing over," said Col. Joel Jackson, 60th Air Mobility Wing commander. "Civil rights activist won hard-earned victories, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth and U.S. involvement in Vietnam escalated rapidly with Operation Rolling Thunder. This is what the world looked like in 1966."

The commander added that while a lot has changed over the last fifty years; one thing has remained constant: "Our mission to provide rapid global mobility to all corners of the earth."

Jackson was joined by Fairfield Mayor Harry Price, Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine and U.S. Rep. John Garamendi to honor the wing's 50th anniversary celebration.

Garamendi praised the wing for its exemplary service through the years.

"When you have a problem ... you call Travis," he said. "It is a significant honor to represent this base, the men and women who work here and all the history."

The congressman also presented a certificate citing the wing's anniversary being added to the congressional Record.

While addressing the crowd of Airmen and community partners, Jackson spoke on the highlights of the wing from its early beginning to present day.

"From the early years of the Vietnam War, to Operation Desert Shield and Storm, to today's efforts fighting against extremist organizations, for half a century, the men and women of the 60th Air Mobility Wing have left their mark on the pages of history," he said.

The ceremony concluded with the sealing of a time capsule. Within it were coins, unit patches and letters from base leadership for the future generation of Airmen of the wing.

The capsule is slated to be buried in front of the wing headquarters building and will remain unopened until January 2041.

KC-46A Pegasus conducts 1st in-flight refueling demonstration

by Daryl Mayer
88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

1/25/2016 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) -- The KC-46A Pegasus successfully transferred fuel through its boom to an F-16C Fighting Falcon Jan. 24 to demonstrate aerial refueling operations in advance of its first production decision later this spring.

The KC-46A passed 1,600 pounds of fuel to an F-16C piloted by Lt. Col. Daniel Alix of the 416st Flight Test Squadron, 412th Test Wing out of Edwards AFB, California, who characterized the mission as a complete success.

Officials said it was a big step forward for the program and for the tanker capability that will serve as the backbone of Air Force global operations over the coming decades.

"I'm extremely proud of the entire industry and government program team that made today happen," said Brig. Gen. Duke Z. Richardson, the Air Force program executive officer for tankers, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. "This aerial refueling marks the first of many, and represents years of hard work beginning to pay dividends."

The tanker has a robust in-flight refueling demonstration schedule over the coming weeks. The test with the F-16C fulfilled the requirement to connect to a light/fast receiver. The remaining tests with the boom will use an A-10 Thunderbolt II as the light/slow receiver and a C-17 Globemaster III as the heavy receiver.

Flight tests employing the centerline drogue system and wing aerial refueling pods will use an F-18 Hornet as the light/fast receiver and an AV-8B Harrier as a light/slow receiver. The KC-46A will also have to demonstrate its receiver capability by taking fuel from a KC-10 Extender.

These refueling demonstrations represent the significant remaining test hurdles before proceeding to a Milestone C low rate initial production decision. Program officials anticipate awarding the first production contract shortly thereafter.

"These are exciting times for the KC-46A program," said Col. Chris Coombs, the KC-46 system program manager, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. "We have had plans on paper and data from simulation labs, but this in-flight demonstration shows we are truly making progress on bringing this capability of the next generation of tankers to the warfighter supporting our global missions for years to come."

  Master Sgt. Lindsay Moon, a 13-year veteran boom operator, operated the boom controls passing fuel for the mission.

"This mission was a significant event towards certifying this new tanker," said Moon, who is assigned to the 418th Flight Test Squadron Detachment 1 in Seattle, Washington. "Controlling the boom from the Air Refueling Operator Station is night and day different from laying on your belly in a KC-135. The system advances being rolled into the KC-46 will give the operator great awareness."

Lt. Col. Donevan Rein, also with Detachment 1 in Seattle, Washington, was the Air Force pilot onboard the KC-46A during the test sortie.

The Air Force contracted with Boeing in February 2011 to acquire 179 KC-46A tankers to begin recapitalizing the aging tanker fleet. The program is currently working to meet the required assets available date, a milestone requiring 18 KC-46A aircraft and all necessary support equipment to be on the ramp, ready to support warfighter needs, by August 2017.

131st Citizen-Airmen Contribute to Historic Flood Response

by Maj. Jeffrey M. Bishop,
131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs

1/25/2016 - JEFFERSON BARRACKS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mo. -- 10 Citizen-Airmen from 131st Bomb Wing's initial flood response task force will remain on State Emergency Duty as liaison officers to support flood recovery efforts as part of Operation Recovery.

The members from the 231st Civil Engineer Flight, the 131st Civil Engineer Squadron, and the 239th Combat Communication Squadron will help communities remove debris and recover from historic flooding that struck the state over the New Year holiday.

While some have completed their duties and have been released, a number remain involved. The LNOs, based here, have been coordinating debris removal and aid to assigned communities across the region under the leadership of Lt. Col. Grace Link, Missouri Air National Guard director of staff.

In the immediate aftermath of the flooding, a number of Airmen from the 131st Bomb Wing and its affiliated units worked alongside fellow Missouri National Guard soldiers to support flood response and recovery efforts.

Within the first 12 hours of the operation, a complement of Jefferson Barracks-based Airmen helped protect the water treatment facility at High Ridge, Missouri. More than 35 Airmen rallied from the 157th Air Operations Group, the 131st CES and the 239th CBCS to build a four-foot high sandbag barrier around the site in the St. Louis-area community.

"Our people had all worked a full day, and went back out there and filled sandbags until 1 in the morning," said Lt. Col. Bill Boothman, director of operations for the 157th AOG.

As part of the Missouri Guard's Quick Reaction Force, the wing has four hours to muster its Airmen. In this situation, volunteers were recalled at 4:30 p.m., and by 6:30 p.m. were on site filling and laying sandbags, according to Boothman.

At the same time, the Army Guard's armory at Festus, Missouri, the location for the flood response task force, suffered water damage that affected communications. In response, the 239th Combat Communication Squadron deployed six Airman to set up, operate and maintain its Joint Incident Site Communication Capability, or JISCC system, to provide satellite-based telephone, network and email capability to the operation.

The team had communications online within six hours, managed the system around the clock, and stayed on throughout the operation; even after armory communications were restored, in order to expand capacity and ensure continuous connectivity, according to Capt. Tony Crnko, 239th officer in charge.

"Having them here has been a blessing," said Missouri Army National Guard Maj. John Myers, a battle major in the Tactical Operations Center. "If there were any problems, they were right here to work them out for us, no matter what time it was."

Another four Airmen from the 231st CEF worked as liaison officers in the Joint Operations Center at the Ike Skelton Training Site in Jefferson City, Missouri. Their work included tracking personnel and equipment, along with liaison work to the State Emergency Management Agency, according to Maj. Rachel Jackson, a civil engineer with the unit who was not part of that team.

"That's pretty much in our wheelhouse," said Jackson of the role the LNOs played. "As a staff augmentation team, that's right in line with what we train to do."

The wing also sent public affairs support to St. Louis, where a joint Air Force-Army broadcaster team filed video stories, photos and articles and worked with reporters to keep the state in the know about the role the Missouri Guard is playing in the flood response and recovery.  Those stories can be found on the wing's Facebook page at

"The Missouri Air Guard brings a lot to the mission; in terms of numbers, in terms of rapid response and in terms of unique capabilities," said Col. Michael Francis, 131st Bomb Wing commander.  "The ANG stands 2,400 tall, and is ready to roll whenever tasked.

"Once again, the men and women of the 131st Bomb Wing have much to be proud of in respect to the help we provided our Missouri neighbors during and following these floods," Francis added.

A2D2: the impact is real

by Senior Airman Rose Gudex
21st Space Wing Public Affairs

1/20/2016 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- When 10 p.m. rolls around every Friday and Saturday night, the Eclipse Cyber Café at Peterson Air Force Base hosts a group of Airmen awaiting the opportunity to keep their wingmen and the community out of harm's way.

Airmen Against Drunk Driving is a private organization, fondly referred to as A2D2 by the Airmen of the local area, which provides free rides home to anyone who had too much to drink and cannot drive themselves, and also either lives, works on or has access to Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever AFB or Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.

The organization is run entirely on volunteer support and falls squarely on the shoulders of the very people who use the services. Services are provided every Friday and Saturday night (and nights before holidays or family days) from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. and volunteers hang out at the café and wait for calls to come in, said Senior Airman Megan Higgason, Front Range A2D2 president.

"All they need is our number and to call us between the hours 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.," she said. "All they do is call and the dispatcher takes care of the rest, and they just have to stay where they are and wait for us to pick them up."

The beauty of A2D2 is the anonymity, Higgason said. Those needing a ride need only provide a first name and phone number to contact them for when the driver arrives and that's it.

"It's a socially safe avenue to rectify the situation. You don't have to call your supervisor or your first (sergeant)," said Airman 1st Class Ben Clark, Front Range A2D2 vice president.

Each weekend finds a different unit from any of the three installations providing volunteers to support their wingmen, he said. Unit representatives from each squadron work closely with the council to hash out a schedule and are then responsible to provide volunteers for the weekend.

Individuals are encouraged to volunteer whenever they want and as often as they want, in addition to when their specific unit is assigned, said Higgason. The café offers a place to stay for the night, free coffee and drinks, board games, video games and other entertainment.

The efforts of each volunteer don't go unnoticed. At the end of 2015, A2D2 had 421 volunteers, went on 198 calls and drove 467 passengers home safely. Those numbers prove the need for and success of the program.

"This is a concrete example of service before self," Clark said. "This is the embodiment of that. People are going to volunteer not only their time, but their vehicle and gas. It's making sure our wingmen are coming home to their families and our neighbors are safe on the streets. It has a real impact on the community that we live in."

For more information about how to volunteer or unit representatives and schedules, contact the A2D2 workflow box at or any of the council members: Higgason, president; Clark, vice president; Spc. Matthew Wilson, secretary; or Airman 1st Class Melissa Thompson, treasurer.

For A2D2 services, call A2D2 at 719-552-2233 (AADD) from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.

Face of Defense: Air Guardsman Donates Kidney to Fellow Airman

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Julio Olivencia New York National Guard

NEWBURGH, N.Y., January 25, 2016 — Air Force Master Sgt. Henry Windels donated one of his kidneys to Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel Cola in October, saving Cola from a difficult and limited life with continual kidney-dialysis treatments.

Windels has returned to duty at Stewart Air National Guard Base here, Cola is continuing a remarkable recovery, and the two men -- both members of the 105th Airlift Wing and once just acquaintances -- said they are much closer.

Moreover, Cola and his wife Aly said they are eternally grateful to Windels. They’ve gained a new perspective on life, they said, and a determination to focus on helping others.

“My husband was given a second chance at life -- we aren’t going to do things the same,” Aly said. “We’re not going to take things for granted, like holidays and lazy Sundays.”

Illness Strikes

In the fall of 2014, everything was coming together for Cola, a flight equipment specialist: He was 28 years old, in his third year as a New York police officer, his 10th year with the New York Air National Guard, and he’d just married Aly, his childhood sweetheart.

Cola said he and his new bride were on the fourth day of their honeymoon in the Turks and Caicos Islands when he began to feel ill.

“He was really only feeling sick at night. During the day he seemed to be OK,” Aly said.

The couple said they thought he just had a minor sickness that can be common when traveling abroad, but on the final night his condition got much worse. “That’s when it hit me full-blown. I was puking, dehydrated and couldn’t keep anything down,” Cola said.

There was a small hospital on the island, Cola said, but he wanted to get back home to New York, where he trusted the medical care more. Besides, he said he thought he just had a bug and needed to be hydrated, which happened to him on a previous trip to the Dominican Republic.

Worsening Condition

He said his symptoms continued to get worse, making the trip home a difficult one. He began vomiting nearly every 15 minutes and looked like a zombie, Aly said. Coincidentally, the Ebola scare of 2014 was at its height during that time.

“The flight was terrible,” Aly said, adding that Cola was making trips to the airplane lavatory every 15 minutes. “Everybody was staring at us, everybody was scared -- everybody thought he had Ebola.”

Though Aly tried to convince her new husband to go to the hospital during the layover in Miami, he decided to press on to New York. Cola said he knew he didn’t have Ebola and he was still convinced he had some minor illness that would be dissipate once he was hydrated.

“We landed in New York and went straight to the hospital,” Cola said. He was admitted and hooked up to an IV. After a few hours of tests and monitoring, he said the doctor returned with an entourage of other medical professionals, and they began grilling the couple with questions.

Aly said a team of about 20 specialists came in and said "you need to tell us everything about your trip -- where you were, what animals you were around, what you ate, every activity you did."

First Diagnosis

Then they were told Cola was in kidney failure. He was treated for the mosquito-borne disease dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever. The symptoms of the disease are fever, headache, muscle and joint pains. If left untreated, it can progress into a life-threatening hemorrhagic fever.

“It literally feels like your bones are breaking,” Cola said. “They describe it as bone crushing pain.”

While Cola had an IV to keep him hydrated and medication to manage the pain, he said there was nothing to do but wait to let the disease work through his system. The hope was once the dengue fever was gone, he would regain kidney function.

“I think that’s where my head was most of the time -- I was just hoping I regained kidney function,” Cola said.

Between the fever and the pain medication, Cola said he was in a fog and not fully aware of what was going on. Aly, however, said she was very aware and becoming increasingly worried.

“I was just in disbelief,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe it was happening. I couldn’t believe how it happened. He only had like one bite on him. I was covered from head to toe in mosquito bites, so you figure if anyone should have gotten sick it should have been me.”

Doctors told the couple that they didn’t think he would regain kidney function after about a week of monitoring and blood tests four times a day.

Bad to Worse

Cola said he was diagnosed with stage 5 chronic kidney disease, which meant his kidney function was less than 20 percent. He learned he would eventually need a new kidney or have to go on dialysis for the rest of his life.

Cola and his wife believe his CKD was caused by dengue fever, which is made worse when a patient has had a different strain of the disease before. Cola believes he got the disease while in the Dominican Republic the year prior.

“For someone to go from good kidney function to end-stage kidney function at this age is not common,” Cola said.

Aly got tested right away only to find that she wasn’t a match, but as luck would have it, she was a match for an individual who was part of a complex kidney exchange.

A complex kidney exchange involves multiple donors and patients. This way Aly could donate a kidney to someone else and Cola could still benefit by receiving a kidney from another donor in the exchange. There were eight individuals involved in the exchange, creating a sort donation chain.

Hopes Dashed

“It was crazy. We had what we thought was perfect timing,” Aly said.

A few days before the surgery, in May of 2015, Cola was informed that there was a chance that his donor had tuberculosis. The exchange was called off after much debate among his doctors.

His hopes were raised once again when a kidney became available on his birthday in June, but that fell through as well.

“It was a waiting game,” Aly said. “We couldn’t do anything and the longer it went on the less hope we had.”

And so they waited.

Hopes Restored

Air Force Master Sgt. Henry Windels, a loadmaster, heard about Cola’s condition in June.

The two airmen had attended water survival and parachute training together four years before, but both described their relationship at the time as acquaintances.

“I’d seen him around here, but I didn’t know him,” Windels said.

Windels heard that Cola was sick, but didn’t know to what extent until someone else mentioned Cola needed a kidney. Approximately 12 years earlier, Windels said he'd read a story about someone who donated a kidney to a complete stranger.

“It seemed like a noble thing to do, and I was interested, but it never really went anywhere,” Windels said. He said he called Cola shortly after he found out about the situation.

Cola thought Windels was reaching out to show support, but when the two spoke, Windels asked how he could get tested to see if he was a match.

“I told him to think about it, and see how it would affect [his military status], but at that point, I knew he had his mind made up,” Cola said. “I got the feeling he already did his soul-searching beforehand.”

Tests and More Tests

The doctors said that Windels would most likely be a match since he was a universal blood donor, and they began the long testing and preparation process shortly after they spoke.

Windels was put through numerous tests over the next three months.

He had dozens of vials of blood drawn, heart and brain scans, stress tests and meetings with a kidney specialist. He even had to meet with a psychiatrist and social worker to make sure he understood what he was doing, and that he was doing it for the right reasons.

Cola said he remained patient through the process, because he knew that his hopes could be dashed at any time, as they were before.

Windels, on the other hand, said he wanted to get under the knife as soon as possible to help his wingman. There were a number of times that he fought with the hospital to move appointments up, because he didn’t want Cola to have to remain sick for longer than he had to.

“I was very relaxed compared to Henry,” Cola said. “He wanted it done right away. Throughout the whole process he kept apologizing, saying ‘I’m sorry this is taking so long.’”

Windels was cleared to donate in late September, and the surgery was set for Oct. 6. Cola called his kidney specialist the Saturday before to cancel his scheduled appointment on Oct. 5 and tell her the good news.

She told him it was just in time, because his kidney function was below 10 percent and she had planned to discuss him going on dialysis.

Cola said dialysis will prolong a patient’s life, but it makes receiving a kidney later more difficult and there are a number of quality of life issues associated with the treatment. “It’s a big strain on the body,” Cola said.

Successful Surgery

The surgery took longer than expected, but there were no complications and Cola’s new kidney immediately began to pick up the slack.

“The day after surgery, I’ve never seen him look so good or feel so good,” Aly said. “He was a different person.”

Cola said he is feeling much better since the surgery. He has begun to gain back the 30 pounds he lost, and his kidney function is back to normal. He said he still has some recovery and monitoring to undergo before he is cleared for work.

Windels said he recovered quickly and was back flying aboard a C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane by mid-November. He said he was given no restrictions, but will follow up regularly with a doctor to be sure everything is going as expected.

“My doctor told me just to live my life. He didn’t say ‘lay off salt,’ or ‘do this that and the other thing,’” Windels said.

The two airmen have become much closer since the surgery and now hang out together on a regular basis. They even joke that Cola, a New York Giants fan, is part New York Jets fan now that he has Windels’ kidney.

Meanwhile, Cola and his wife said they are planning a fundraiser for Donate Life America, an organization dedicated to educating people on the benefits of donating and connecting them with different resources, and they have been volunteering through Volunteer New York to, among others, send care packages to troops overseas.

“I constantly think, ‘What do you say to the person who literally saved your life?’” Cola said.

“I think we can only thank him and show our thanks by paying it forward,” Aly said.

Peterson Museum a unique asset

by Rob L. Bussard
21st Space Wing Public Affairs

1/20/2016 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- Located within buildings that were constructed from 1928 through 1941, the Edward J. Peterson Air and Space Museum here is a free unique asset dedicated to telling the story of Peterson AFB, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

"With only 11 field museums in the Air Force, Peterson is very lucky to have one" said Gail Whalen, the museum director. "It is here that the history of the base is told to visitors by our displays and our complement of over 50 volunteers, called docents."

The docents provide a warm welcome and appear eager to explain Peterson's history. It began life as the first Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, then in 1942 the area was leased by the city to the Army Air Forces and renamed Colorado Springs Army Air Base. Later its name changed again to Peterson Army Air Base in honor of 1st Lt. Edward J. Peterson, a World War II Army Air Corps pilot and Colorado native who was killed in a crash here on Aug. 8, 1942.

Docents will tell visitors that as a B-24 bomber training and aerial photo reconnaissance training base, Peterson prepared Soldiers for WWII action. Once WWII ended, the base returned to its origins as the municipal airport. Then in 1951 the base was reactivated as an airfield supporting the relatively new USAF Air Defense Command.

"The base has always had an association with air defense, both U.S. and North American air defense," said Jeffrey Nash, the museum's assistant director. "And it still does today with the very first Air Force space wing."

In addition to being an Air Force field museum, the age-old facilities are on the National Register of Historic Places and are also considered a Colorado State Historic District.

"The museum has an agreement with the 21st Space Wing that because of the historical designations, the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron will maintain the structures in as much of their original condition as possible," Nash said.

The museum consists of four original structures - the airport passenger terminal, two identical aircraft hangars and the original airport manager's home, now known as "The Spanish House."

The terminal was built in 1941 and reflects the Art Deco architectural movement of that time. Serving as the entry point to the museum complex, period styling and fixtures attest that it was built to be a Colorado Springs showplace. It houses the museum gift shop, theater, and various exhibits related to early Colorado Springs aviation and WWII Peterson Field.

Built in 1928, one of the hangars is known as the City Hangar and is the oldest structure of the museum. It houses a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter aircraft that was restored by museum volunteers.

"That P-47 was my initial introduction to the museum," Nash said. "As a volunteer prior to gaining employment here, it took a team of us slightly more than five years to restore it. In 2005 it was ready and put on display."

The City Hangar also contains various missile assemblies, various space satellites, radar displays and the crown jewel - a ballistic missile launch control facility mock-up. Other NORAD and CMAFS displays dot the large structure.

The other hangar was built in 1930. Known as the Broadmoor Hangar, it's a duplicate of the City Hangar. Nash explained that future plans are to expand the museum's visitor and exhibit space into it, after restoring the hangar inside and out to return the features of its original design.

Within a circle created by these three landmarks, an award-winning airpark with over 16 U.S. and Canadian aircraft and missiles reside as outdoor static displays for visitors to roam and learn about. Designed by museum staff to be a walk through time, each display has an informational plaque for visitors to peruse as they learn about air defense of North America during the Cold War.

There are also four other off-campus static aircraft strategically located at different areas around base, along with a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile on Peterson Road.

The museum is popular with civilian tourists.

"We average over 20,000 visitors a year" said Nash, "and most of those visitors have no military affiliation."

Visitors without a form of military ID will require a visitor's pass, which can be arranged by calling (719) 556-4915, or requesting one via their online form found at the museum website at

Langley Airmen share 'Full Spectrum' experience across nations

by Tech. Sgt. Katie Gar Ward
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

1/22/2016 - JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.  -- A group of U.S. Airmen recently returned from performing a mission to educate, enrich and inspire the lives of not only fellow Service members, but also millions of international community members in Southwest Asia and the Middle East.

But instead of carrying weapons, these Airmen carried instruments.

The group was part of the U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band's high-energy ensemble known as "Full Spectrum," based at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.  Now home after its 110-day deployment, members of Full Spectrum reflect on their mission of bridging cultures through the universal language of music.

Full Spectrum was created in 2013 to support U.S. and coalition forces deployed to Southwest Asia.  On its most recent deployment, Full Spectrum broke new ground in various regions through its community outreach efforts, and was even featured alongside comedian Conan O'Brien during his deployment tour with first lady Michelle Obama.

According to U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Bennett Weidemann, Full Spectrum noncommissioned officer in charge and drummer, the band's deployed mission goes beyond entertainment for Service members by also touching the lives of the international community.

"We played roles as ambassadors for the United States, not just the Air Force," he said.  "To be able to share these [musical] experiences is a once in a lifetime thing.  The relationships that it builds and positive energy that it brings to what's going on over there can't be replaced or recreated."

Many of the band's outreach efforts entailed visits to local schools, which included performances, question and answer sessions and "master classes," where band members had the opportunity to mentor student musicians.

Weidemann said one of his most memorable experiences took place during a school performance in Kuwait City, where approximately 250 children were singing along to American pop music.

"We were floored [that] they knew all the words to all the songs. They were so loud I couldn't hear my own instrument because it was just a wall of sound," he said.  "[That's when] you know that you are doing the right things and bringing the right message. What a tremendous feeling that is for all of us on stage to be able to experience that and share that with [the children].  It's something I think only a military band can really create because music is a universal language -- something that everybody knows."

Staff Sgt. Jordan Kimble, Full Spectrum's bass guitarist, said the most enjoyable aspects of the band's mission was providing support to other deployed Service members during visits to various military installations.

"Music was just a small part.  Most of it was the human interaction, but the music opens the door," said Kimble. "When people get to share their life, they open up and release some of that burden onto you, and we'll gladly take it.  Music is what connects us to everyone and what opens the door to have those relationships."

During their time in Kuwait, Full Spectrum also participated in the "Discover America" program, a two-week event sponsored by the U.S. Embassy that showcases American culture, ranging from food, to entertainment, to travel.

The band's role in the event included several performances at malls, on local radio stations and in local televisions shows.  What started as a few small performance ideas grew into one of the most dynamic events for the embassy in years, said Weidemann.

"Once the word got out on social media that there was a live American band in Kuwait, we didn't sleep much for the next 10 days," he said.  "It was like we were the 'Kuwaiti Beatles.'"

The band was also featured on a Kuwaiti late-night show, which was the first time in the region American music was aired on live television.

"There's no live music in Kuwait, so it almost makes you giddy because it was so fun and exciting," said Weidemann.  "We were able to build bridges and partnerships on behalf of the embassy, the ambassador and the state department.  That isn't something that usually happens, and an Air Force band was the one who was able to make that happen."

Kimble said the scope of the band's efforts during "Discover America" became clear after a conversation with the U.S. ambassador.

"At the end of all of our gigs, [the ambassador] came up to us and said, 'In the 30 years I've been working in the embassy, I've never seen a group bridge as many cultural gaps as you did this past week. The impact you had was amazing,'" said Kimble.  "It spoke volumes [about] our band, but more so to what music in general can do, how music and American music can bridge cultural barriers."

While often thought of as just black notes across white pages, for Full Spectrum and other modern military bands, music can bring cultures into a brilliant chorus, using words that transcend all languages and creating harmonies that unite all voices.

Full Spectrum's performance with Conan O'Brien is scheduled to air on Jan. 25 at 11 p.m. on TBS.

Red Flag 16-1 prepares for takeoff

by 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

1/22/2016 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Red Flag 16-1 is scheduled to begin Jan. 25 and will conclude Feb. 12. Base officials want to remind southern Nevada residents that they may notice increased military aircraft activity during this time period.

Aircraft are scheduled to depart Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada twice a day and participate in the exercise for up to five hours. Flying times are scheduled to accommodate other flying missions at the base and provide Red Flag participants with valuable training in planning and executing a wide variety of combat missions and exercise scenarios to validate joint and coalition operations.

According to the official Red Flag 16-1 press release - which can be viewed here: - this exercise will include aircraft from 24 different U.S. Air Force squadrons; four flying squadrons from both the Royal Australian Air Force and the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force.

The 414th Combat Training Squadron, assigned to the 57th Wing, is responsible for executing Red Flag. The exercise is one out of a series of advanced training programs administered at Nellis AFB and on the Nevada Test and Training Range by organizations assigned to the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center.

Red Flag began in 1975 strictly as an aerial combat exercise but has evolved to include warfighting across air, space and cyberspace domains for United States and coalition air forces. The exercise has provided training for more than 440,000 military personnel, including more than 145,000 aircrew members flying more than 385,000 sorties and logging more than 660,000 hours of flying time.

Flying squadrons and assigned personnel deploy to Nellis AFB for Red Flag under the Air Expeditionary Force concept and make up the exercise's "Blue" forces. Blue forces are able to utilize the diverse capabilities of their aircraft to execute specific missions, such as air interdiction, combat search and rescue, close air support, dynamic targeting and defensive counter air on the NTTR.

The NTTR is north of Las Vegas - the range is the U.S. Air Force's premier military training area with more than 15,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land. With 1,900 possible targets, realistic threat systems and an opposing enemy force that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.

Nellis AFB and the NTTR are the home of a simulated battlefield, providing combat air forces with the ability to train to fight together in a peacetime environment to survive and win together.

The exercise also prepares maintenance personal, ground controllers, space and cyber operators to support the mission within the same tactical environment.

For more information about Red Flag, call the 99th ABW Public Affairs office at (702) 652-2750 or view the Red Flag fact sheet here.