Monday, February 05, 2018

Face of Defense: Busy Lifestyle Helps Family Cope With Deployments

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nestor Cruz 944th Fighter Wing

TUCSON, Ariz., Feb. 5, 2018 — Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. Derrick Williams believes keeping busy helps his family, even when he’s not around due to his military service.
Yellow Ribbon

“We’re a pretty active family,” Williams said at a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event he attended here in mid-January with his wife, Mea, and their two sons. “There’s always something to do, so regardless of whether I’m home or not, there’s pretty much a schedule and my wife, Mea, does an excellent job making sure that schedule is maintained.”

That busy schedule includes Mea’s work as a business executive, Williams’ civilian career as a Texas state trooper and the active participation of their sons, Tyjae and Jaden, in sports, martial arts and music. Williams also serves with the reserve’s 74th Aerial Port Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Yellow Ribbon Program

Yellow Ribbon promotes the well-being of reservists and their families by connecting them with resources before and after deployments. It began in 2008 following a congressional mandate for the Defense Department to help reservists and National Guard members maintain resiliency as they transitioned between their military and civilian roles. Each year, Yellow Ribbon trains 7,000 reservists and their family members in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more at a series of weekend training events such as the one the Williamses attended.

Williams’ sons recognize their busy schedule can sometimes be stressful for their mother and help out around the home, especially when their father is away for military duty.

“I feel I have to be in charge, keep things steady and not chaotic when Dad’s not around,” said Tyjae, 14. “I have to play husband for Mom and help keep everything in order and be the best I can be so Mom doesn’t get stressed.”

Jaden, 11, feels the same way, speaking with a maturity beyond his age.

“Sometimes it’s frustrating when Daddy’s not home because we want to do something but Mommy has to work or we don’t have time to do it,” Jaden said. “I think about the situation and how Daddy isn’t home or he has to do something and Mommy is the boss at her job and she has a lot of work to do. Her schedule is already busy including our schedule, so it’s even more stress for her.”

The couple is pleased with how responsible their sons are.

“I’m proud of our boys and our family because I know a lot of families can be torn apart,” Williams said. “I think it’s been a growth factor for our family because they know Dad isn’t always there like some of their friends, but it’s a way of life.”

Aside from staying mentally and physically active, the Williams family rely on their faith to get through whatever life throws at them.

“Faith is a big thing in our family,” Mea said. “My faith puts things in perspective. Even when we come up against a challenge, we’re reminded that God doesn’t give us more than we can bear. We can get through anything, even a 6-month deployment or a 1-year deployment, we can still do it. In the end, we come out stronger.”

Williams said faith also helps him in his civilian law enforcement job.

“I’m the quintessential optimist, so I’m always looking for positivity even in the most negative situations,” he said. “[As a state trooper], I don’t always encounter people in the best situations. But even in those brief moments, my faith helps me to realize they’re people just like I am.”

Mea believes any family can navigate military life with a little bit of faith to guide the way.

“Tap into your faith and tap into the support system you have,” she said.

Williams also believes goal-setting can help military families.

“Many times, people begin to focus on the fact that they are gone for six months and that becomes overwhelming,” he said. “When I deploy, I set goals for myself to make sure I keep myself busy and make sure I keep my mind occupied on positive things.”

Goal-setting also helps his sons and creates conversation pieces during phone conversations, Williams added.

Air Force Logisticians Fuel Air Missions

By Air Force Master Sgt. Phil Speck, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar, Feb. 5, 2018 — High above a cold and dusty mountain range in Afghanistan, an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker flying at more than 30,000 feet. Many man hours and quality control processes are completed by airmen and civilian contractors here to ensure the fighter jets receive the necessary fuel to complete their missions.

JP-8, the jet engine fuel used by the Air Force, starts as Jet A-1 fuel that is brought in by ships. A fuel system icing inhibitor and corrosion inhibitor are added at the port to turn it into JP-8. It is then stored at the port until the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Fuels Flight requests it for resupply here. The aviation fuel is then stored in holding tanks on base and pushed to fill stands and hydrant facilities for customers to use.

Clean Jet Fuel

During this process, the fuel is filtered and tested multiple times to ensure a quality product for Air Force assets. From the holding tank facility, JP-8 flows through a filter separator on the issue side and again through the receipt side at the base storage facility. The repeated filtration ensures that the fuel is clean and within standards until it reaches the end user the aircraft.

“We ensure the Air Force receives clean, dry fuel to the aircraft,” said Lavell Anderson, a civilian contractor with Maytag Aircraft Corporation.

Planes here are normally fueled using 6,000-gallon R-11 tanker trucks, likewise R-12 hydrant hose trucks connect to outlets in the ground on the flightline. The R-12 is the quickest and most efficient method of fueling because it only needs to connect to the hydrant and the plane once until the aircraft takes its required load. After hooking up to a hydrant, it pumps fuel into planes at a rate of around 750 gallons per minute.

In the past six months, the fuels flight has safely overseen the throughput of 195 million gallons of JP-8, valued at $400 million of fuel. They have also received 4.5 million gallons of diesel and gasoline [ground fuel] for the more than 1,500 ground vehicles on base. The flight is also responsible for all of the liquid oxygen for aircrew safety systems and liquid nitrogen for aircraft tires here and several forward-operating bases across the area of responsibility.

‘Never Run Out’

“Our job as the professional fuel handlers here at AUAB is to never run out of it, contaminate it or spill it,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Jory J. Ohmer, a fuels contracting officer representative with the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron.

The KC-135s here are all fueled to a standard ramp fuel load, meaning that each aircraft has the same amount of fuel, regardless of the mission it is supporting. This is to decrease the burden on scheduling, the fuels flight and maintenance crews and to increase operational flexibility.
Following the Fuel

“If an aircrew steps to one airplane and encounters a maintenance issue that can’t be fixed during the preflight, the crew can step to a spare airplane and complete the scheduled mission because the airplanes all have the same amount of fuel on them,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Cory L. Clagett, the commander of the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron.

Depending on what season it is here, the ramp loads can vary because the weather determines how much fuel aircraft take on their missions. Planes can take off in the winter at greater weights because the air is denser and the tanker’s engines perform better.

Ready for Anything

Another reason to keep a standard amount of gas on the tankers is because sometimes the aircrews may not know how many receivers they will refuel and how much fuel they will offload to those receivers. Though aircrews develop a plan based on who their receivers are going to be before a mission launches, plans can change quickly.

“We don’t always have that luxury,” Clagett said. “We don’t necessarily know today who our receivers are going to be tomorrow. Right now, those plans are being finalized within the [Combined Air Operations Center].”

The KC-135 Stratotankers fly across U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility. This includes missions in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and the Persian Gulf. They can refuel a full spectrum of aircraft, including, but not limited to, Air Force B-52 Stratofortresses, F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, C-17 Globemaster IIIs, U.S. Navy F-18 Hornets, and coalition fighters such as the British Royal Air Force’s Mirage.

“I truly believe if it weren’t for the men and women of this squadron, we could not effectively prosecute the war,” Clagett said. “With this squadron alone offloading nearly two-thirds of the gas in the AOR, it’s pretty obvious how important our airmen are to the air war out here.”

With multiple sorties every day, there is always a KC-135 tanker in the air over the region. Like a gas station, the 340th EARS is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“The lights are never off and it’s always a beehive of activity around here,” Clagett said. “Operations don’t slow down just because it’s the weekend or a holiday. Day or night, weekend or weekday, it’s the same mission for our staff and aircrews. I couldn’t be more proud of them. Our airmen are unquestionably mission-oriented, hardworking, dedicated and non-stop focused. … They make it happen and crush the mission every day.”

Field Artillery, Armor Troops Train Together in Germany

By Army Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

GRAFENWOEHR TRAINING AREA, Germany, Feb. 5, 2018 — A team of soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, trained with members of the 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor Regiment, during a live-fire training exercise here, Feb. 2, 2018.

The goal for the units, both part of the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, was to gain confidence in their ability to work together.

“The objective for my battalion in this ‘walk and shoot’ is to provide fires for 2-70th maneuvers -- to give those company commanders and young forward support officers in that battalion the confidence to rely on field artillery to provide fires for them,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Deatherage, 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment.

Training like this gives junior leaders a chance to develop and enhance offensive, defensive and stability tasks.

Army 1st Lt. Dylan Hatch, a platoon leader assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, said he believes the greatest opportunity derived from the training was the ability to work with 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor Regiment’s forward observers.

Requesting Artillery Support

When forward observers relay information on enemy activity in a ‘call for fire’ to artillery troops such as Hatch, the artillery crews respond with speed and precision.

The call for fire activates a rapid response from the unit’s M109A6 Paladin howitzers, firing 155 mm rounds accurately within minutes. This complex task requires the utmost in proficiency and teamwork by every soldier.

Each artillery crew member has a separate and specific task when a call for fire comes in, such as moving the vehicle into a firing position, computing the target's data in the gun settings, loading the ammunition and firing on the target.

Army Pfc. Brian Mulcay, a cannon crewmember assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, said, “My job as the ‘No. 1 man’ [a crew slogan] is to make sure all the ammunition in the vehicle is sorted properly, fuse the ammunition for firing, load the 95-pound rounds and fire the 155 mm high-explosive ammunition.”

The unit’s network of operators and systems can provide joint fires, fire support and counterfire, while shooting, moving and communicating within an assigned area.

While all this may sound easy and simple on paper, the on-the-ground conditions in which the soldiers and their equipment must work can be grueling. Understanding the limits of their equipment and how to care for it is of great importance to the soldiers, a fact that isn’t lost on their leaders.
“These soldiers are doing an outstanding job at keeping our operational readiness rate at a peak throughout this operation,” Deatherage said. “Our equipment has been exercised to the max and I am very impressed with our ability to keep our 18 guns in the fight.”