Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Nigerien Air Base 201 Sharpens Community Ties

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nick Wilson, 435th Air Expeditionary Wing

AGADEZ, Niger -- U.S. Africa Command continues to work by, with and through its host nation partners to promote peace and stability.

The U.S. Army civil affairs team at Nigerien Air Base 201 here contributes to this mission by reducing the Agadez area’s susceptibility to violent extremists and by growing trust between the local community and U.S. service members.

“It’s important, because we’re partners in this region,” said Army Capt. Alexander d’Orchimont, team leader for Alpha Company, 411th Civil Affairs Battalion. “Part of our presence in the Agadez area includes having good relations with the Nigerien government.”

D’Orchimont said he sees this as not only furthering the mission of the U.S. Air Force and the 435th Air Expeditionary Wing, but also strengthening partner networks for Africom.

The civil affairs team coordinates a joint mission alongside airmen of the 724th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron to work with key players in the Agadez region and to submit project proposals to build goodwill between the people of Agadez and the tenants of Nigerien Air Base 201. U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force members collaborate to help their Nigerien counterparts to see U.S. service members as friends, the captain explained.

“It’s a good opportunity for locals in the area to see American faces to let them know that we’re partners and to not have any confusion about what we’re doing here,” d’Orchimont said.

The United States is in Agadez at the request of Niger’s government to build a new runway and all associated pavements, facilities, and infrastructure of Nigerien Air Base 201.

Demonstrating Care

“This is one of the poorest regions in the world,” said Army Sgt. Tristan Medellin of Alpha Company, 411th Civil Affairs Battalion. “Through these efforts, we demonstrate that we care.”

One example is by incorporating an artisan’s bazaar with local vendors to sell cultural items to service members. “The people on the base are enthusiastic about the artisans,” Medellin said. “Every little bit of money that we put into the economy helps the rest of the region.”

The bazaars also provide service members who typically don’t have the opportunity to travel off base with an opportunity to interact with the local people.

Generating Community Revenue

“Even if it’s just a couple of hours to experience the culture, they can have that experience to bring home and tell their families,” d’Orchimont said. “Those are our favorite types of projects, because the bazaar generates over $6,000 in revenue for the local community. That’s one of the best ways we can inject some local capital into the local community.”

While these bazaars stimulate the economy, orphanage trips and sporting events coordinated by the civil affairs team build a sense of camaraderie between U.S. service members and the local population. For example, a recent basketball game had its largest turnout yet, with hundreds of Agadez community members in attendance.

“Our job is not just business. It’s not just about governmental partnerships,” Medellin said. “It also highlights cultural involvement by showcasing that we want to get involved with the community.”

The civil affairs team also partnered with a U.S. women’s organization on Nigerien Air Base 201 to organize a local women’s soccer game.

“The women’s games demonstrate to local girls that they, too, can get involved in activities that help them develop leadership and sportsmanship skills,” Medellin said. “These games have been very popular among our troops and the local community.”

More Opportunities

The opportunities to interact with the Agadez community are endless.

“The Agadez community knows there is an air base here, because its construction is clearly visible from the city limits,” d’Orchimont said. “But many of them are not aware of the projects we’re doing.”

Upcoming civil affairs proposals include building four new schools to set up a solar technician project to complement the investment from the French for solar infrastructure in the area.

“Additionally, we are working to sponsor veterinarians to assist with farmers who depend on farm animals in the region,” d’Orchimont said. “We are also looking to install solar wells and fund the construction of not only schools, but also school desks and school chairs, using local labor.

“We’re not here just to build an air base,” d’Orchimont said. “We’re here in part to help the people of Agadez improve their quality of life.”

Air Base 201’s civil affairs team seeks to continue efforts to push the envelope, in close coordination with their host-nation partners, as they work against actors seeking to destabilize the region.

“We want to dispel incorrect assumptions about this base,” Medellin said. “This is what the optimal civil affairs mission summary should be. We’re going out to the town and we’re doing real humanitarian work and also building enduring relationships with the government and the host nation.”

Why I Serve: The Kalkbrenner Family

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chuck Broadway, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- As of 2017, about two million people were serving in the U.S. military. All of these service members chose to don their respective service’s uniform for varying reasons. Many sign up to give back to their country. Others join for a steady paycheck, to learn a new skill or for access to the benefits available to service members, such as medical care and education.

For some, they join to continue a family heritage. Such is the case for Marco and Ivan Kalkbrenner, two brothers who chose to continue their family’s legacy of service; following in the footsteps of their father and grandmother. Ivan is an Air Force staff sergeant assigned to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, as a security forces member. Marco retired from the Air Force in 2017 as a master sergeant following 20 years of service, also as a security forces member.

While their paternal grandmother began the family’s lineage, it was their father, Anthony Dimitri Kalkbrenner, who instilled the extreme sense of pride and service to the military.

“My father would give you the shirt off his back for anyone in need,” Ivan said. “He was just that type of person; an incredible role model. They really broke the mold when they made him and I’m striving to become more like him.”

A Family Calling

Anthony served in the Navy and served 30 years, retiring as a chief warrant officer four, the highest warrant officer position in the Navy at the time. During his career, he was stationed around the world, including stops at Norfolk, Virginia; and Spain, where Marco was born. Early in his life, Marco was engrained in the military culture, inspired by his father’s service, mentorship and discipline.

“When you heard my dad talk, you knew he had Navy running through his veins,” Marco said. “He didn’t force us to be in the military, we did it because that was our calling. I loved the military and serving and protecting the country. My dad had such pride in the military and I saw that and it rubbed off on me and my brother.”

So in 1996, following an unsuccessful attempt at community college, Marco decided to join the military. With aspirations to be a pilot, and eventually an astronaut, Marco trekked to the local recruiter’s office.

“I spoke to the Navy recruiter first, and he upset me because he told me I couldn’t be a pilot,” Marco said. “A couple days later I went to the Air Force recruiter. He was straightforward with me, told me not what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to hear.”

Without a college education, the recruiter said Marco wasn’t qualified to be a pilot, but could still work on aircraft as a crew chief. On July 24, 1996, the recruiter offered him a guaranteed position as an F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief, his favorite aircraft. The catch was he had to leave that night. Marco immediately phoned his father, who encouraged him to accept the offer.

He came home that day to a duffel bag, packed by his father with all the necessities, including a toiletry bag Marco still possesses. At the Military Entrance Processing Station, Marco asked the recruiter if Anthony could swear him into the Air Force.

“I knew when I joined the military that I wanted my dad to be a part of [my career],” Marco said. “My dad really didn’t have a father figure, so I wanted my dad to be a part of everything I did in my life.”

Change of Plans

The request was granted, the ceremony completed and Marco was off to basic training.

A job change shortly followed and Marco graduated security forces technical training, where his father attended and pinned his security forces shield on him at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

Marco served in several locations around the world, including multiple deployments to Iraq and Bosnia. Keeping with his wishes of having his father heavily involved in his career, Marco asked Anthony to perform every reenlistment ceremony throughout his career. Without fail, Anthony made it happen, sometimes taking several flights to the other side of the world to complete the task.

“The reason I had my dad involved in everything military, was because he had so much pride serving his country,” Marco said. “He instilled that in us when raising us. Take pride and ownership in what you do, both the good and the bad.”

Eventually, Marco became a security forces technical school instructor and in 2008, pinned the security forces shield onto his brother, in the exact same location where Marco received his shield 12 years before.

“It makes me proud that my brother decided to join the military and continue the tradition,” Marco said. “Being a part of his training for tech school was cool. He knew me as ‘Instructor Kalkbrenner’, which is totally different than Marco. He had it a little bit harder [than other students]. We played a bunch of jokes on him with my team instructors to let him know we were watching.”

No Free Rides

Just like his brother before him, Ivan wanted his father to perform the enlistment ceremony. When Ivan got a short-notice opportunity to go to basic training, his father once again did whatever he could to ensure he enlisted his son.

“He would impress upon us, ‘When you join the military, this is what it is,’” Ivan said. ‘You’re there for each other no matter what.’ So my dad dropped everything and took off work, drove up and swore me in.”

Being a military child, and with a brother serving as an instructor in the career field he was entering, Ivan figured basic training and technical school would be a cake walk.

“The military definitely opened my eyes and it’s a continual process of learning something new,” he said. “But being broken down and built back up, I found a lot of my own weaknesses and made them my strong points.”

Figuring his technical school would be a breeze with Marco serving as an instructor, Ivan received a rude awakening upon arrival.

“He pointed me out to his buddies and they all started smirking,” Ivan recalled. “At that point I realized it was going to be interesting. I feel my brother made it harder on me, not out of spite, or picking on me, but to let me know there’s no free rides. It doesn’t matter who you know, you still have to put in the work and earn your keep. He made it very clear that’s what I had to do from day one. Without that, I probably would have taken my whole career as a free ride thinking, ‘Who do I know to make this process easier for myself?’ That alone was one of the biggest lessons I had. You’ve got to earn your keep.”

Mentorship, Guidance

Ivan also kept his father heavily involved in his career. His father performed every reenlistment ceremony and Ivan sought his mentorship and guidance through hard times.

“The whole time in the military, if he was around, I could always go to him,” Ivan said. “I loved his old school mentality on military things. No matter what the issue was, if I was conflicted, indecisive, or just needed someone to talk to, I would just give him a call. It didn’t matter the hour, he would answer, just listen and after an hour of listening, he would go into a lecture. I needed that in my life.”

Unfortunately, Ivan no longer makes those calls, and his father can no longer reenlist him.

On March 31, 2016, Ivan was on a maritime patrol in Florida when he got a call from Marco at 4 a.m.

“The first thing he said was, ‘What are you doing right now?’ I could tell in his voice something was off,” Ivan said. “He never calls me at that hour and I’ve never heard the tremble in his voice like that ever. So my heart started pounding and he asked, ‘How soon can you get home?’”

Anthony had suffered a major heart attack and passed away.

“I was completely crushed,” Ivan said. “I’ve lost people in the service before; good friends, people I’ve deployed with. That really shook me. But losing your role model and mentor without getting to say goodbye or ask for some last minute tips on how to live, it crushed me.”

Several years earlier, Marco and his father discussed preparations for when Anthony passed away. When the day finally came, Marco knew he had to be strong for his family.

“When my dad passed away I went into the mode of getting everything ready for the funeral,” Marco said. “After all was done, it started to dawn on me that my dad isn’t going to be there to reenlist me again.”


The duty of reenlisting him could only be filled by Anthony, and with his 20 year retirement date approaching, Marco said it was time to leave the military. He set his retirement in motion, scheduling the ceremony April 1, 2017, one year and a day after his father’s passing, and exactly nine years after Ivan enlisted in the Air Force.

“I wanted to make everything symbolic to my dad’s military career, so my retirement ceremony was all about paying tribute to my career in the military, but also paying tribute to my dad as well,” Marco said. “I had it all planned out for my dad to officiate the ceremony. At the end, he was going to say, ‘I put you in, I made sure you stayed in, and now it’s time for you to go. You are dismissed.’”

Unfortunately, that never happened. Keeping with his plan to honor his father’s legacy, he went to a Navy recruiter and explained his intentions in honoring Anthony’s legacy. The recruiter quickly volunteered to pull watch behind an empty chair, representative of his father’s presence.

“To be at my brother’s retirement, that my father was supposed to be at, it kind of brought me back and humbled me,” Ivan said. “Being that my father wasn’t there, he had the chair, but no one sat in it. [My brother] had a seaman pull watch and stand at parade rest behind the chair during the entire ceremony. I saw it and it made sense. I kept staring at the chair, and started tearing up a little bit. He mentioned the chair at the end of the ceremony and that’s when the waterworks turned on.”

When Anthony retired from the Navy, he had a plaque made showing the names and service dates of every Kalkbrenner who has served in the military. ”

“He said, ‘I’m passing this plaque on to you, when you retire, you send it to the next Kalkbrenner in the bloodline serving the country,’” Marco said. “So when I retired, I had that plaque, put my dates of service on there, and put Ivan’s name on there, with the date he swore in, with a dash and a blank. I presented Ivan the same plaque, and said the same thing to him that my dad had told me.”


Marco transitioned quickly from military service to civilian service as he joined the ranks of the Goldsboro Police Department in North Carolina, patrolling the city surrounding his last military assignment -- Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. While he has no regrets in choosing to retire when he did, he still feels the connection and brotherhood he felt for 20 years, often stopping by to say hello to his former airmen at the base’s entry control points.

“I became a civilian police officer because [of my] service in the military. I loved it so much that I wanted to do it as a civilian as well,” Marco said. “I love the military and have the same mentality my dad had. It’s my Air Force.”

Marco said joining the military and following in his dad’s footsteps is just the ‘Kalkbrenner’ thing to do now. Just as his father before him, Marco said he would be proud of his kids joining the military, but he wouldn’t push them. However, both brothers believe the legacy will continue on.

“I don’t think it’s going to stop,” Ivan said. “It’s only a matter of time before Marco’s kids, and my kids, start asking questions. Then we’ll explain to them who my father and mother were and why we serve. Just like it did to us, something is going to light a fire in them and not make it go out. I hope it makes me as proud as my dad was of us.”

Face of Defense: Navy Recruiter Embraces American Ideals

By Dan Puleio, Navy Talent Acquisition Group Rocky Mountain Utah Division, Navy Recruiting Command

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah -- Serving in the military provides the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and to be a positive influence, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Caroline Ballad said.

Ballad is a reservist currently serving on active duty as a recruiter here at the Navy Talent Acquisition Group Rocky Mountain Utah Division.

The daughter of Polish refugee parents, Ballad was born in Orleans, France. She and her family immigrated to Canada, where her father found work, which eventually brought her the United States at age 11. Ballad spoke only French and Polish at the time, and her world revolved totally around her family. But that was about to change.

‘I Always Wanted to be Part of the Military’

“I always wanted to be part of the military,” Ballad said. “As a young person, my reasons were simple. The recruitment posters and the uniformed members who visited my school fascinated me. While in France, I wasn’t particularly patriotic, but in my teen years, living in Texas, I fell in love with the United States.”

Ballad’s love for America continued after she left Texas.

“I later relocated to Salt Lake City, but my plans to join the Navy were on hold since I was now expecting my first child,” Ballad said. “As soon as my son was born and I was back on my feet, I visited the local Navy recruiting office. My recruiter was a great role model, and I wanted to be like him. He suggested that I go [on] active duty but, honestly, I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into, so I decided to join the Naval Reserve. I like both physical and mental challenges, and when the Seabees were offered, I jumped at the opportunity to become a construction electrician.”

Ballad took on assignments and earned awards along the way, but she wanted more. That brought her to CANREC, which is the recruiter recall program. This program is for Navy reservists who accept active duty orders as a production recruiter and execute the Navy recruiting mission. It is a full-time job that comes with the benefits of active duty.

“I did not want to let my chief down, so I worked as hard as I could to exceed all expectations,” Ballad said. “The Navy has been there for me through my highest highs and lowest lows, and it has always been there to watch my back. I work daily to be able to provide that same support to other people as well.”

Ballad, who previously served as a construction electrician, has spent more than half of her nearly five years of Navy service in recruiting, where she earned promotions to petty officer second and first class.

Prior to Navy Recruiting District Denver’s command reorganization to Navy Talent Acquisition Group Rocky Mountain, Ballad rose to become her station’s leading petty officer.

‘What I Like is the Challenge’

“What I like is the challenge. Challenge makes life thrilling. I have no doubt that I will influence many aspiring leaders and that a future Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy will be among my recruits,” Ballad said.

Ballad said she tells future sailors about Navy traditions, its organization and its inherent camaraderie.

“What I find so rewarding about Navy recruiting is the ability to enrich an individual or a family’s life,” Ballad said.

The Navy’s recruiting force totals over 6,100 personnel in more than 1,000 recruiting stations around the globe. Their combined goal is to attract the highest quality candidates to ensure the ongoing success of America’s Navy.