Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rescue, battlefield Airmen train as one

by Sttaf Sgt. Jamal Sutter
23d Wing Public Affairs

12/21/2012 - AVON PARK AIR FORCE TRAINING RANGE, Fla. -- The afternoon sky was still and silent just before a thunderous HH-60G Pave Hawk landed thrusting 100 mph winds. Out jumped three pararescuemen assessing possible threats in all directions as they headed to aid an injured member of a friendly force.

The 38th Rescue Squadron and 823d Base Defense Squadron recently wrapped up a three-day training exercise here designed to prepare for missions downrange and to familiarize with each other's operations.

"They operate with more people," said Capt. Michael Vins, 38th RQS combat rescue officer. "Their standard crew is maybe 12 to 15 guys in their squad, whereas we operate with six at the most. So we have different mindsets on tactics. With this larger force when we work together, we can actually keep moving toward targets and keep going toward more dangerous threats. A lot of the times, our tactics are different from that. We're such a small group, it's almost like we're evading as soon as we hit the ground."

The differences in size and tactics didn't stop them from completing objectives, but there was much to be learned by both units on each other's ways of getting the job done.

"The biggest difficulty is assuming they know how we operate and us assuming we know how they operate," said Staff Sgt. Rachel Nelson, 823d BDS squad leader. "Then when a scenario kicks off, you realize you guys are operating on two different wave lengths. We're more 'ground and pound' and they're thinking totally different."

Nelson also added how the units blended and overcame their differences to grow.

"It's pretty awesome to see the different dynamics of everything and recognizing that there's so much out there that we don't realize we have to our use," She said. "You get really great ideas from working with these other guys with different tactics and different procedures."

The units have trained together at their home station, Moody Air Force Base, Ga., but never in such a large-scaled capacity. Avon Park, nearly 300 miles from Moody, allowed them the time and space needed to execute much more detailed missions.

"Out here, there are less people; there are less assets," Vins said. "It's easier to schedule longer periods of range time. There are so many people at Moody trying to use the range. Grand Bay is right there, but the A-10s need it; the C-130s need it--whereas down here, there are more areas to choose from."

The exercise included various scenarios over a 12-hour span each day and encompassed mission planning, flying to the area, executing objectives and reconstitution phases.

Members of the mission planning team, or white cell, used every resource they had to make the training as comprehensive as possible.

"The [scenarios] we've done are what we'd call complex casualty evacuations," Vins said. "That's the mindset we had going in--to present these complex missions that weren't just go in, get the guy and leave. It's go in and then figure out, 'Hey, maybe we have to move 500 meters to a different spot, or maybe we have to extricate him from a vehicle. Maybe we have to dive for this guy.'"

BDS defenders also shared similar views on the training's depth and intensity.

"We're actually approaching an entire scenario," Nelson said. "We've got people firing at us, we have somebody captured and we have to think about our resources, one of them being the PJs who are out there to assist us."

According to Vins, the battlefield Airmen played a very vital role to mission success and did a lot to assist the PJs as well. When deployed, the 38th RQS is often embedded with ground forces, and training with the 823d BDS prepared them for what to expect when operating with those troops.

"They are a very good player as far as a ground piece," he said. "We work a lot with the Marines and the Army downrange, and these guys mimic that player very well. I think they're getting training out of it too as far as their improvised explosive device procedures and calling in medical evacuations."

On CUE: Langley conducts training exercise

special 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Joint Base Langley-Eustis

12/20/2012 - Langley Air Force Base, Va. -- Langley Air Force Base units from the 633rd Air Base Wing, along with the 1st and 192nd Fighter Wings conducted an exercise, Dec. 11 through 14. to improve the base's preparedness to deploy and operate from a forward base while providing combat air power in a contested, degraded operational environment.

The first operational phase of this combined unit exercise tested Airmen's ability to successfully process and deploy large groups of people to various simulated locations around the world.

by Airman 1st Class R. Alex Durbin

The exercise kicked off with a simulated-mass deployment of Airmen and cargo to an expeditionary environment. Nearly 400 personnel received deployment orders Dec. 11, starting a chain reaction of activity. Within 24 hours, those personnel and 300 tons of cargo deployed to an expeditionary environment, simulating a mass deployment.

"The main intent of the first phase of the exercise showed we could get our Airmen and cargo to a deployed environment in a moment's notice," said Capt. Kady Pauley, 633rd Force Support Squadron military personnel section chief.

Airmen in Phase I participated in a processing simulation that mimicked what they would encounter in an actual rapid-deployment situation.

During the line processing, those deploying attended briefings, were checked for deployment eligibility and were issued required equipment. Also, Airmen checked all cargo, and organized and prepared it to be transported to the expeditionary location.

Pauley reminded Airmen of the importance of ensuring all training certificates are in order at all times.

"All Airmen need to be ready to deploy at any time," said Pauley. "If you aren't prepared, the only person you hurt is your Wingman."

With the Airmen on their way to the simulated-expeditionary environment at Raptor Town, Langley, the next phase of the CUE began. Officials tasked Airmen with establishing a working base in a foreign environment, which could include treating and possible saving the lives of critically-injured Service members.

by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill

After deploying and employing Airmen at Raptor Town, the core of the mission changed to executing and sustaining the Air Force mission in a deployed location.

At the 633rd Communications Squadron Unit Control Center, 2nd Lt. Keisha Salandy, 633rd CS UCC flight chief during the exercise, primed her squadron for success - despite the complications of the simulated deployed environment.

"Our goal was to maintain continuity of our systems," said Salandy. "We needed to keep phone, radio and internet communication running non-stop so other units could accomplish their goals."

Salandy said the 633rd CS accomplished that mission without fail. After setting up the communications at Raptor Town, multiple calls came in to fix faulty equipment or other issues with the network.
Most communication problems arose from the specific phone lines assigned to the huts initially and similar problems with connection ports and cables. However, the newly implemented Secret Internet Protocol Router network quickly became a priority for the team. The command and control aspect of the mission relies heavily on SIPR network access to allow a free-flow of classified, detailed information to pass from in-the-field personnel to their respective command sections

After the hectic night fixing connections and maintaining the new SIPR network, Salandy said no complaints were sent to the communication focal point. To Salandy, zero complaints relates to a professional workforce.

Another challenge issued to the communication team came in the form of faulty equipment. Without being able to acquire new equipment, the team either had to create new equipment, such as cables, or share important information points.

After the 633rd Security Forces Squadron lost the ability to access the SIPR network, it was the communication team's mission to get security forces back online. Without access to another router, the team could not replace the 633rd SFS's faulty router. In typical deployment fashion, the 633rd CS delegated an information point within their structure to the 633rd SFS when necessary, which prevented security forces from losing access to a critical network.

Time and again, Salandy learned adaptability was the key to successfully completing the exercise. For her personally, having a team with a good attitude was the real backbone of the exercise.

"I felt like the camaraderie between the troops was great," said Salandy. "It was amazing to see how they worked with, and overcame, the obstacles in their paths."

by Staff Sgt. Katie Garr Ward

As I entered the tent, my eyes darted frantically, trying to comprehend what was going on. A mortar attack had just struck the base. Medical personnel rushed people in on stretchers - wounds and burns covered their arms and faces. The personnel hurriedly moved throughout the tent, bumping into me as they tried to tend to the wounded as quickly as possible.

The piercing screams of those in pain overpowered the voices of medics and doctors. I felt a sudden sense of panic, in awe of the scene unfolding before my eyes.

I had to remind myself that this was just part of the CUE. Exercises such as the CUE are designed to train and prepare Airmen to deploy and operate in hostile environments. For medical personnel, the deployed mission is critical.

In the midst of the chaos in the medical tent, Staff Sgt. John Wendell, 633rd Medical Supply Squadron logistics technician, explained the importance of the medical mission.

"We triage patients, specify the severity of their injuries in order to treat them and prepare them for air evacuation if necessary," said Wendell, as he spoke loudly over the multitude of voices. "If they have minor injuries, we want to get them back to fighting condition, or get them stabilized until they can get to a more advanced facility for further treatment if the injuries are severe."

As a logistics technician, Wendell said the medical supply mission plays an important role not just at a home station, but especially in an expeditionary environment.

"We procure vital supplies and equipment necessary for the doctors and technicians throughout the rest of the hospital to properly perform their jobs," said Wendell. "These exercises provide a great opportunity for Air Force members to exhibit the reason we all joined the military."

While in this simulated-deployed environment, medical personnel took on many different roles. Tech Sgt. Damian Sharpe, 633rd Medical Operations Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of element two of primary care, played the role of chief of medical security during the CUE.

"It's important to make sure the medical personnel are safe," said Sharpe. "Downrange, it can mean life or death if you don't properly account for patients as they come in."

That concept became a startling reality for Sharpe during one of his deployments to Afghanistan. His job there was to cut clothes off of patients in order put leads on them. When an Afghan patient came in, Sharpe discovered something in his garments that shook him to the core.

"There was a grenade in his pocket. If he had been conscious enough to pull it, it would've taken out an intensive care unit, nurses and technicians," said Sharpe. "I will never forget that. It was really eye-opening and showed the importance of security."

Having been deployed four times, Sharpe said exercises like the CUE prepare personnel for what to expect downrange.

"This is as close to the real world as you can get here," he said. "It gives you a really good idea of what to expect.

As I looked around the tent, the panic I felt earlier had subsided. The injured were no longer crying out for help, and the activity had slowed to normal operations. Even though this was an exercise, it was clear that in the aftermath of the attack, medical personnel had successfully accomplished their mission - saving the lives of fellow Airmen.

From this response by medical personnel, as well as other, aspects of CUE employment, came the framework necessary to survive in this hostile location.

As the sun set on the CUE, Airmen from the 633rd CS and every other squadron were able to remove their mission-oriented protective posture gear, knowing they were vastly more prepared to handle deployment to hostile locations and employment of expeditionary missions.

Homecoming honors 16th SOS

by Senior Airman Alexxis Pons Abascal
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

12/21/2012 - CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.  -- The 27th Special Operations Wing celebrated a momentous occasion when it welcomed home its last deployed AC-130H Spectre gunship at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Dec. 20.

Dozens of Air Commandos and joyful family members gathered outside the squadron eagerly awaiting their friends and loved ones to de-board the aircraft and join them in celebration.

The 16th Special Operations Squadron and their historic gunship have been continuously deployed in combat overseas since 2001. This marked the first occasion since then that the entire fleet has been home stateside.

"This is the first time in more than eight years that we welcome all of our aircraft and squadron members home," said Lt. Col. James Mott, 16 SOS commander. "This is the first time since then that we will be able to celebrate the holidays with our entire squadron."

Mott said he was part of the first group that deployed to Afghanistan.

"Standing here watching everyone come home as the squadron's commander is an inspiring moment," he said.

The squadron and the AC-130H Spectre gunship came to the 27th SOW in 2009. Despite an entire unit and fleet of aircraft being moved from the 1st Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla., the 16th SOS never missed a single deployment rotation.

Hugs were given and tears were shed as troops made their way from the aircraft through an unconventional gauntlet of familiar faces.

"It's fantastic to have all of our troops back, especially during this time of year," Mott added. "This will be a really nice break for our troops."

Rushmore Welcomes 5th Fleet Commander Aboard Christmas Day

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shawnte Bryan, USS Rushmore Public Affairs

USS RUSHMORE, At Sea (NNS) -- The commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces visited amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) to wish Sailors and Marines a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season on Christmas Day, Dec. 25.

"I want to thank you, on behalf of everyone in 5th Fleet and in the U.S., for everything that you are doing out here," said Vice Adm. John W. Miller, whose wife Mary Pat accompanied him.

"It's not easy being deployed and away from your loved ones during the holidays, but you are all doing something great out here," said Miller. "I understand how you all feel - most of my holidays and anniversaries were spent at sea. One day, you will look back and remember this specific day being deployed. You will be able to tell stories about Christmas and all the places you went and all the things you did while deployed."

While aboard, Miller toured various ship spaces, conversed with Sailors on the mess decks and presented coins to a few of the top Sailors and Marines.

"Receiving a coin today from an admiral felt great, knowing that my hard work has paid off," said Engineman Fireman Jessica Gantt. "He could be at home with his family, but he chose to come to our ship, it shows that he cares."

Accompanying Miller was Bishop Neal Buckon, Episcopal Vicar for the Western Half of the United States (Military Archdiocese, USA), and Father (Lt. Cmdr.) Robert Keener, U.S 5th Fleet staff chaplain, took the opportunity to hold Catholic Mass and speak with the crew.

"We like to think of every day as a gift," said Buckon. "On Christmas we remember how God sent his son to an extraordinary place; making this a joy for me to be out here to celebrate the mysteries of our salvation with the brave men and women who are serving our country in this part of the world."

Miller and his guests also visited guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur (DDG 73) and Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) and amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), where he and his guests served a Christmas dinner to the crew.

U.S. 5th Fleet's mission is to conduct maritime security operations, defeat violent extremism and strengthen partner nations' maritime capabilities in order to promote security and stability in the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility.

Rushmore and Green Bay are part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group with embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility.

Controllers manage four emergencies at once

by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/21/2012 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho  -- Airmen assigned to the 366th Operations Support Squadron responded and assisted in resolving four separate and extremely serious crisis's that occurred within a matter of minutes Nov. 27, 2012.

The severe situations included three air and one ground emergency.

"I was working ground control that day and due to the unusual situation we were unable to use the standard frequency for our ground support assets to communicate with the pilots in the air," said Senior Airman Cordney Stewart, 366th OSS air traffic controller. "There would have been too much radio traffic for one channel so I juggled different aircraft emergencies on separate frequencies to the proper ground support personnel."

Agency first responders include personnel from the base fire department, hospital, operations, security forces, maintenance and recovery vehicle teams.

"While Stewart was working with ground support personnel, I was assigned to local control or relaying information to the pilots in the air during the emergencies," said Senior Airman Jennifer Bradshaw, 366th OSS air traffic controller. "Being in this kind of situation is extremely stressful because you have to make the right call or do the correct thing at exactly the right moment or time."

Controllers had seconds to determine which emergencies were the most severe and what order they would be resolved in.

"First there was the ground emergency which turned out to be a minor fuel spill," said Stewart. "So as we were working that we received the second emergency which was an aircraft hung-gun."

An aircraft 'hung-gun' is when the weapon malfunctions during flight and must immediately return to base and have the issue resolved.

"While we were rerouting that aircraft, two more jets called in with additional emergencies, an engine malfunction and another hung-gun," he continued. "So now we were resolving four separate emergencies at the same time."

As the engine malfunction takes priority, tower personnel immediately told that aircraft to land.

Next the first hung-gun aircraft landed in a safe area, followed by the second in a separate safe area, unique to these types of emergencies.

"To ensure the safety of personnel and equipment we enacted the security precautions and worked all aircraft to the ground as safely and quickly as possible," said Bradshaw. "One of our safety measures is to activate the light on perimeter road. This way no vehicles pass through where the aircraft were approaching."

"I was sequencing the aircraft in specific patterns so the pilots were aware of each other and the nature and status of our current emergencies," she continued. "This way they have as much advanced notice as possible when and where to land."

According to Bradshaw, this type of extreme situation is uncommon for tower personnel.

"The most important thing is to ensure personnel and equipment safety," said Bradshaw. "I am proud to be one of the Airmen who helped ensure this simultaneous emergency situation was taken care of correctly with no loss of life or damage to Air Force materials."

Tower personnel train for these types of situations in an effort to be the best.

"We are lucky to receive some of the best training in the Air Force and then have the opportunity to do this awesome job," said Stewart. "We also know we are one piece of the puzzle and work with our fellow Gunfighters to ensure pilot and aircraft safety from start to finish, despite dangerous circumstances which can arise from time-to-time."

Stewart is glad he had the opportunity to assist in taking care of this extreme situation, he said continuing, "My fellow Airmen and I got the job done and helped ensure everyone went home to their families."

Airmen lift off with Operation Bright Holiday

by Senior Airman Katherine Holt
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

12/21/2012 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- It was Nov. 19, 2010, when Airman 1st Class Desmond Awadzi said goodbye to his family at the Kacoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, and boarded a plane headed to the United States.

Now, Operation Bright Holiday is reuniting Awadzi with his family and helping 49 other Airmen get home for the holidays.

"We were ecstatic to learn we had the opportunity to send all the applicants home this year," said 1st Lt. Jennifer Barkenhagen, Operation Bright Holiday point of contact. "The Company Grade Officers' Council worked hard all year and we had some amazing community support."

When Awadzi found out he was a recipient, he couldn't believe it.

"This was like a wish come true," said Awadzi, 2nd Force Support Squadron career development apprentice. "It felt so good to know that I would be able to see my family after all this time."

In 2010, Awadzi was granted a permanent visa to the U.S. through the Diversity Visa Program.

"When I was interviewed for the visa, I explained that I was interested in joining the military," said Awadzi. "I didn't know which service, but I knew I had a higher calling."

He spent the first six months of his U.S. stay researching the different military services.

"I wanted to find a career that fell in line with my management degree," said Awadzi. "I found that the Air Force was the service for me, and it has given me multiple opportunities."

The ability to give back to his family while giving back to the U.S. government is something Awadzi is grateful to have.

"My sister is going through college," said Awadzi. "I am thankful I have the means to send money back to her and my family to assist with the things they need."

According to his supervisor, he more than deserved this opportunity.

"He is the model Airman for the military personnel section," said Staff Sgt. Jessica Barron, 2 FSS career development supervisor. "He is truly superb. In my eyes, he is Airman of the century."

Barron knew Awadzi wouldn't be able to get home this year without help financially, and she wasn't surprised to find out he was chosen.

There is one downfall for Barron with Awadzi's departure.

"It is going to be extremely difficult to lose him for 30 days," she said. "He is such an important part of this team."

Awadzi has not yet told his family he is coming home, and intends to keep it a secret.

"I want to surprise everyone," he said. "I just hope my mom doesn't pass out."

Volunteers provide joy to Cheyenne youth

by 2nd Lt. Christen Downing
90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

12/21/2012 - F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- Approximately 100 local children gathered in the Fall Hall Community Center Dec. 15 to take part in Operation Provide Joy.

OPJ is annual holiday party organized by the Salvation Army and military volunteers from F. E. Warren.

"The main purpose of this event is to help bring some cheer to kids who might not otherwise have such happy holidays," said 1st Lt. Jeremy Stober, a volunteer coordinator from 90th Operations Group. "Seeing the kids have such an amazing time is the best part of the entire event."

Military members escorted children to different stations that included games, entertainment and a visit from Santa Claus. Children also received a bag of gifts and a holiday meal delivered to their families.

"The most rewarding part is the day of the event when you see all the kids playing and watching them interact with the Airmen who escort them," said 1st Lt. Rachel Weiler, OPJ co-chairman from 90th Operations Support Squadron. "The smiles on their faces and the excitement in the room are contagious. It is a lot of hard work to put on, but every minute of work is worth it."

Lieutenant Doug Hanson, Salvation Army Corps Officer helped plan this event and was there for the children before they got on the bus and when they returned from base.

"The kids' surprised and shocked looks on their faces when they got off the bus showed that they really enjoyed themselves," Hanson said. "To have a Christmas party is rare for these kids and that's what seems to embody the Christmas spirit, not just the day of the 25th."

The 2012 event marked the 13th consecutive year the Salvation Army and Warren military personnel have teamed up to host OPJ.

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sgt. Enrique Mondragon, 23, of The Colony, Texas, died Dec. 24, in Baraki Barak, Afghanistan, from injuries sustained when his unit was attacked by small arms fire while on dismounted patrol.  He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 173rd Special Troops Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Bamberg, Germany.

For further information related to this release, please contact U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs, Heidelberg, Germany at (011) 49 622-1577270.  After duty hours, please call (011) 49 162-2716685.

DOD Photographers Recall 2012 Imagery Milestones

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 26, 2012 – Three Defense Department photographers spent 2012 recording important events through their images and words.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Department photographer Erin Kirk-Cuomo’s widely published photo of Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta receiving a commemorative plate from Gen. Liang Guanglie, Chinese Minister of National Defense, after an official dinner in Beijing, Sept. 18, 2012.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Whether documenting wounded warriors, the drawdown in Afghanistan or the pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, the DOD photographers have been present as the nation’s defense leaders tackled world-shaping challenges.
Glenn Fawcett first became interested in photography in high school. After graduation, he enlisted in the Navy for five years as a photographer before heading to college. After completing degrees in journalism and sociology, stints at newspapers in Texas and Virginia led to a photo editor position at the Baltimore Sun.

Several years later, as social media took on a more prominent role in communications and newspaper staffs were reduced, Fawcett became a civilian photographer for the Defense Department.

He recounted the year’s trips with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and other principals as “busy and demanding,” with little down time. But the rigorous assignments, he said, have given him a broad insight into the military.

“At first, I had only experienced things from a Navy perspective,” Fawcett said. “This job has been educational and reacquainted me with the military; I’ve had an indoctrination that I’ve never seen while I was [active duty] in the military.”

Along the way, Fawcett said, he has captured emotional moments that he won’t soon forget.
“You get this great sense of reward when you’re photographing [Panetta] visiting wounded warriors,” he said. “You can tell he takes that so seriously, seeing how much he cares about them … to pay respect and thank them for their sacrifices personally is very touching to me.”

Fawcett said he hopes to travel more in his efforts to be an even better photographer.

“I want to become a better technician and still be a great visual photojournalist,” Fawcett said. “There’s no limit to improvement.”

With nearly 20 years of military service behind him, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad McNeeley, a mass communication specialist, shares Fawcett’s feelings.

“For the first six years it was just me,” McNeeley said, noting the transition from an individual to a team mindset. “Now you have an opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other and take a critical look at your work, which improves the quality of the product we’re presenting.”

A DOD photographer for seven years, McNeeley was also an avid photographer in high school. He joined the Navy in 1993 and has worked for former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and other senior military leaders.

McNeeley said learning the preferences of new defense leaders and capturing them through imagery remains a challenge.

“Trying to convey the story and get the emotion from these images can be tough,” McNeeley said.
“You need to learn how [the subjects] operate, knowing you’ve invaded their personal space for a while and figure out when you’ve taken enough photos -- or maybe not taken enough.”

McNeeley said he got to see a more personal side of Panetta in January 2012 during a visit off the coast of Georgia to the U.S.S. Enterprise before its final deployment.

“Watching Secretary Panetta observe flight operations, and being in the Navy myself … I was pretty proud of the ship and the sailors,” McNeeley said. “It was a new experience for him, so like anybody marveling in the ability of an aircraft carrier underway and the pride the people take in the ship, it was pretty neat.”

With retirement on the horizon, McNeeley admits he isn’t sure what will happen next, but he’d like to keep some connection to the unique opportunities his career has afforded him. The events of 2012, McNeeley said, will more than prepare him for future endeavors.

“It’s about capturing a personality and making a moment,” McNeeley said. “We get a chance to witness history every day, so it gives you the opportunity to do bigger and better things.”
McNeeley said his ability to assess an environment and recognize the impact of an event will stay with him.

“Whether you’re in Pakistan or China, understanding the history, the people and getting a better idea of what’s going on around you is important,” he said. “The actual snapping of a photo in 250th of a second is maybe two percent of what we do -- we’re there to tell a story.”

Erin Kirk-Cuomo, a former Marine Corps combat photographer, said her interest in photography developed after her father gave her a camera. She went from darkrooms to photojournalism classes before trying her hand as a freelance photographer around the onset of the Iraq war.

Kirk-Cuomo spent much of her career at 1st Marine Division before deploying to Fallujah and later being assigned to work with former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway.

At DOD, Kirk-Cuomo said, the travel has been the most significant aspect of her job, providing her with opportunities to witness the evolution of certain regions and see how the U.S. military contributes to growth around the world.

“It’s been interesting to see how Afghanistan has changed and the progress made since I first started going [there] in the Marine Corps,” Kirk-Cuomo said. “It’s amazing to see how different Kabul is every time we go.”

She described her recent trip to China as “extremely difficult, physical and frustrating” but it was also the location of one of her most widely distributed photographs of the year.

The photo depicts Panetta gleefully accepting a plate featuring his likeness from Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie following an official dinner in Beijing.

“The photograph went worldwide,” she said, noting that it appeared in Time Magazine, the Washington Post, the New York Times and several international news outlets.

Her professional aspirations, at least for the near future, are simple, Kirk-Cuomo said.
“I want to keep pushing our imagery and letting the world know what we do,” she said.
Kirk-Cuomo’s advice to budding photographers is equally simple.

“You really have to love photography. You have to work hard and love what you’re doing,” she said.

Osan community brightens holidays for Korean orphans

by Airman 1st Class Alexis Siekert
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/26/2012 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The holidays are a time for sharing, love and togetherness. In spite of recent tensions, service members in the Republic of Korea wished to extend their hearts to Korean children living in orphanages.

On Dec. 22, more than 600 Osan service members and families came together through Operation Christmas Hope for the opportunity to spread holiday cheer to more than 2,000 Korean orphans.

In a day-long event, Team Osan visited 20 orphanages in the Pyeongtaek, Osan and Suwon areas. At each one, volunteers sang Christmas carols, gave gifts and interacted with children of all ages. Each child received a bag of American snacks and a holiday card, written in both English and Hangul, which included a $25 gift certificate to a nationwide department store so the children could buy necessities such as gloves or blankets.

Osan leaders, to include Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas, 7th Air Force commander, and Col. Patrick McKenzie, 51st Fighter Wing commander, were also in attendance.

"I am incredibly honored and moved to serve alongside everyone who took the time to do this for these children," Chaplain (Capt.) Daniel Forman, 51st Fighter Wing chaplain, said. "This is a memory I know I will cherish forever."

During the visits, children laughed, played and held on to their American guests. They also honored the volunteers with songs and dances.

Two children from the Kyeong-Dong Children's Home presented the volunteers with a handmade card written in Hangul. One line read, "Thank you for keeping our country safe with your air planes."

"It's times like these when you forget about all your problems," said Senior Airman Katie Johnson, American Forces Network-Osan radio broadcaster. "We are away from our families and there is tragedy all over the world, but none of that matters when you're face-to-face with the smile of a child. Knowing that I was a part of Team Osan bringing love and cheer to little ones who need it most makes my holiday brighter than anything else could."

The plans for Operation Christmas Hope, however, only truly came together in the past few weeks, explained Chaplain (Capt.) David Suh, 51st Fighter Wing chaplain. In only three weeks of fundraising and advertising, more than $51,000 was raised and more than 600 base members volunteered to participate.

"This has been such a wonderful experience," Johnson said. "The greatest gift I could have received this Christmas was the smiles they shared that warmed my heart."