Military News

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mobility Support Advisory squadrons reach full operational capability

by Tech. Sgt. Lesley Waters
621st Contingency Response Wing public affairs

1/14/2013 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE, Calif.  -- One year after achieving initial operational capability, the Air Force's only two Mobility Support Advisory Squadrons reached full operational capability Dec. 1.

"Achieving full operational capability tells Air Force leaders we are ready to perform our mission in support of national security objectives," said Lt. Col. Gabriel Griess, 571st MSAS commander. "To date, our role has been to train ourselves in the art of air advising. Going forward, we will execute the mission as defined for us by the Regional Combatant Commands and their air components in conjunction with U.S. military groups in each respective country."

Collectively, the two squadrons are a key component of the Air Force support to the Department of Defense building partner capacity efforts. By mentoring, advising and instructing partner nations air forces, squadron members will help achieve the goal set by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in last January's strategic guidance, namely to enable partners to share "the costs and responsibilities of global leadership."

The two squadrons belong to the 621st Contingency Response Wing, which is headquartered at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. The 571st MSAS is based here and the 818th MSAS at JB MDL. The 571st MSAS supports U.S. Southern Command objectives in Central and South America while the 818th MSAS supports U.S. Africa Command.

Prior to full operational capability, MSAS Airmen have engaged in extensive training, including: an air advisor course, an academic instructor course, and a survival, evasion, resistance and escape course. Additionally, each MSAS requires language training - Spanish for 571st MSAS Airmen and French for 818th MSAS Airmen - enhancing the ability of Airmen to relate and communicate with partner nation Airmen.

"Our air advisors are language-ready and culturally-trained, so they can respond anywhere in the world," said Paul Judge, AMC Expeditionary Mobility Office. "Our mantra is 'build the Air Mobility System by building partner capacity,' so our mission focuses on sustained visits and hands-on training, until a partner nation operates independently and, when needed, in concert with AMC. It's absolutely imperative we do more than just visit - building capacity with highly-trained and dedicated Airmen results in true partners."

With the two squadrons finally at full operational capability, MSAS Airmen are now focused on forging relationships and sharing best practices with partner nations on an Airman-to-Airman level; a tactical mission with a global impact.

"In a time of fiscal constraint, the partnership between the military and the Department of State that allows us to send air advisors into a country to help enhance their capacity represents a sound investment for the American taxpayer," said Paul Harrison, AMC political advisor.

The 152 MSAS air advisor billets in each squadron bring with them more than 30 different skill sets, enabling them to exchange ideas with partner nations on a host of subjects, including aeromedical evacuation, command and control, communications, airfield operations, aerial support, aircraft maintenance and other related support functions.

"The individual air advisor is the key," said Col. John Cairney, the 621st CRW's vice commander. "They have some equipment, but the value they really bring is themselves. These are well-trained and professional Airmen."

The Air Force has a growing base of air advisors with knowledge and real-world experience overseas. According to Air Force leaders, the goal is to capitalize on this base of talent by providing them with the resources to carry out their mission.

"We must ensure Mobility Support Advisory Squadrons are properly equipped and resourced to deploy to partner nations to develop, enhance and sustain core air mobility operational capabilities such as Command and Control, aerial port and aircraft maintenance," said Maj. Gen. William Bender, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center commander. "This emerging mission set is important because building partnerships is a core USAF function, and these squadrons will play an essential role in establishing and maintaining relationships with strategic partner nations."

AF officials reschedule MilPDS upgrade

by Tech. Sgt. Steve Grever
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

1/11/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas  -- Originally slated for December of last year, Air Force officials will perform a major upgrade to the Military Personnel Data System, or MilPDS, in March.

The Air Force Personnel Operations Agency here will upgrade and transfer MilPDS to the Defense Information Systems Agency Defense Enterprise Computing Center. The project is expected to take 23 days. During the upgrade, MilPDS will not be available.

The delay allowed officials to complete testing and validation to ensure the new system performs properly. Upgrades to MilPDS have not been accomplished previously because the system was scheduled to be replaced in 2008 by a new Department of Defense military personnel system. When the DOD program was cancelled, Air Force officials made the decision to bring MilPDS up-to-date in order to reduce risks.

"We are confident that we will be able to upgrade MilPDS in March so we can address security, reliability and sustainability risks with the current system," said Robert Corsi, the Air Force Assistant Deputy Chief Of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services. "We will have processes in place to ensure personnel and pay service providers are able to work critical transactions for their customers during the upgrade."

Total Force Service Center representatives in San Antonio and Denver worked with Air Force component headquarters agencies and base-level personnel and pay service providers to develop procedures to accomplish critical functions for all Airmen during the MilPDS upgrade. Critical personnel and pay processes related to accessions, reenlistments, Guard and Reserve unit training assemblies, mobilization/activation, casualty and immediate separations will continue to function during the scheduled system downtime. Other personnel and pay processes will be held during the cutover period and processed once the upgrade is complete.

Air Force officials will release additional information and guidance to the Air Force's manpower, personnel, services and pay communities and total force Airmen to explain how the service will perform personnel and pay tasks during the upgrade and scheduled system outage.

AF releases new 'vision' document

by Master Sgt. Jess Harvey
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

1/14/2013 - WASHINGTON -- The Air Force released a new document today outlining the force's vision and way forward.

"Focused on 'Airmen, Mission, and Innovation,' I believe this short document captures what today's Air Force is all about, and where I think we ought to focus on for tomorrow," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III in an email to all Airmen.

"We are the greatest air force in the world because of our Airmen -- Active, Reserve, Guard and Civilian -- to remain the greatest, we must make our team even stronger," the Vision states.

The Vision discusses the Air Force's enduring contributions of air and space superiority; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; rapid global mobility; global strike; and command and control and the need to strengthen them.

"We already combine our air, space, and cyber forces to maximize these enduring contributions, but the way we execute these five calling cards must continually evolve as we strive to increase our asymmetric advantage," the Vision says. "Our Airmen's ability to rethink the battle while incorporating new technologies will improve the varied ways our Air Force accomplishes its missions.

"Every Airman should constantly look for smarter ways to do business. The person closest to the problem is often the one with the best solution. Leaders should empower Airmen to think creatively, find new solutions, and make decisions," according to the Vision.

The Vision concludes with a call to action for all Airmen to tell their story, being proud of who they are, what they do, and how well they accomplish the mission.

New resource helps troops, families plan deployments

by Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

1/14/2013 - WASHINGTON  -- The Defense Department launched a new resource to help troops and their families plan for the "before, during and after" of deploying.

Barbara Thompson, director of DOD's office for family policy, explained "Plan My Deployment" during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.

"This is a new, interactive, online tool that supports service members and their families as they prepare for the different stages of deployment," she said.

The new resource guides users through the "ins and outs" of deployment, Thompson said: from power of attorney and legal assistance considerations to financial and emotional issues. Other tips and tools address education and training benefits, she added.

"We modeled this after the very, very popular 'Plan My Move,' which helps with [permanent change of station] moves," she said. "It's the same kind of approach: we look at providing the tools and information, and you tailor it to your individual family's needs."

Plan My Deployment saves the user's information, she said, so people can exit from the site and return at their convenience, picking up where they left off.

Though other deployment planning guides and resources already exist, Thompson said, DOD leaders wanted to offer family readiness assistance to the entire active-duty, National Guard and Reserve force and their families.

While the pace of deployment across the services has dropped since U.S. forces left Iraq and will continue to decline as the combat mission in Afghanistan draws to an end, Thompson said, service members always will face the possibility of deploying for duty.

"Let's face it: military members deploy all the time. ... We've learned a lot of lessons during this long-term conflict, and we want to make sure that our service members and their families are prepared for what's in the future," she said.

Plan My Deployment is available at DOD's Military OneSource website, which also offers a range of other services for military families, she said. Thompson pointed out the site is "outside the gates" in the public domain, so it is available to extended family members who don't have access to military facilities.

Wolf Pack kicks off first exercise of 2013

by Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

1/14/2013 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- The Wolf Pack kicked off Beverly Midnight 13-1 here Jan. 13 in preparation for the upcoming Combined Unit Inspection in April.

As the first exercise of 2013, it will set the pace for how both Kunsan and Osan Air Base will conduct exercises in preparation for visits from the Pacific Air Forces' Inspector General team in just a couple months.

At Kunsan, the emphasis is on ensuring the Airmen and F-16 Fighting Falcons of the 8th Fighter Wing are ready to "Defend the Base, Accept Follow-On Forces and Take the Fight North."

"Our fighter wing with two F-16 squadrons and a myriad of base support agencies conducts a full spectrum of missions providing for the defense of the Republic of Korea," said Col. John W. Pearse, 8th FW commander. "We are prepared for any contingency, and we have all trained diligently for this moment."

Bases here on the Korean peninsula are unique in the way they exercise - Kunsan and Osan both practice to the fullest of their capabilities, simulating practically nothing. This provides the best possible training environment for Airmen. Much of the training focuses on preparing for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) training.

Airmen conduct 24-hour operations for nearly a week as they train for any possible scenario. Typical exercise injects include everything from self-aid and buddy care situations to decontaminating personnel. It takes a coordinated effort between every unit on base to make sure the mission happens.

Aircraft generation is one of the most important parts of the exercise, and each unit plays a role in making sure that happens. Medical personnel are on standby ready to take care of any injuries or emergencies. The 8th Civil Engineer Squadron oversees contamination control and shelter management among other things.

At the front line, though, are the maintainers on the flightline.

"During both real-world and exercise operations, our maintainers are constantly working to make sure our F-16s are combat-ready," said Lt. Col. Michael Miles, 8th Maintenance Group deputy commander. "We practice like we fight so that when we 'Take the Fight North,' there will be no disruption in how we conduct our wartime mission. Aircraft maintainers make that mission possible."

In the end, it's about getting the mission done while making clear the Air Force's intentions.

"Wolf Pack Airmen are here at the request of the Republic of Korea government. Our role is essential to ensuring peace and stability in the region," said Pearse. "Together, with our joint U.S. partners and the Republic of Korea Armed Forces, we will ensure a robust defense of the Republic of Korea."

Live-drop training ensures mission readiness

by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

1/14/2013 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho  -- On a chilly flightline a pilot goes through his pre-flight checks and inspections on the aircraft he will be flying today.

This is no ordinary flight for Capt. Brett Black, 389th Fighter Squadron B Flight commander; today his training means dropping live rounds.

"Running a sortie with live ammunition is exciting as well as challenging," said Black. "We can only release live bombs on certain targets in specially approved airspace. Therefore, we do additional planning to ensure success is achieved safely."

This specific training assists pilots with their mission readiness.

"This training is important, especially for our younger aircrew members who have never dropped a live weapon before," Black said. "It gives us the opportunity to validate our tactics, gives us more knowledge about the weapons we employ and gives us the most realistic combat training available."

This hands-on training isn't just limited to aircrew personnel.

"This training benefits everyone including the ammo and weapons troops who build and load the live bombs to the crew chiefs who preps and launches the jet with actual bombs," Black said. "Finally, the aircrew practice developing a solid, executable, attack plan in order to safely and effectively deliver the weapon."

When dealing with live ordnance, preparation begins early in order to be as safe as possible.

"Planning to drop a live weapon starts weeks in advance," Black said. "The aircrew usually starts formulating a plan based on forecast weather, range airspace and targets. On the day of, we plan and brief for typically four hours before the sortie, fly for about two hours and then debriefs can last up to four hours."

Extra hours of preparation are worth the effort for aircrew personnel because they get to witness a unique sight.

"My favorite part was watching the target explode," Black said. "This training asks us to bomb an enemy target in hostile territory and we need to do it right and destroy our targets on time, the first time.

Panetta Begins Trip to Visit ‘Most Capable Partners’

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Jan. 14, 2013 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta boarded this Air Force jet at Joint Base Andrews, Md., today, bound for Portugal, Spain, Italy and Great Britain on what he termed “likely my last international trip as secretary of defense.”

Click photo for screen-resolution image
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta briefs the press on a flight to Lisbon, Portugal, Jan. 14, 2013. Panetta is on a six-day trip to Europe to visit with defense counterparts and troops. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Panetta told reporters traveling with him that as “a son of Europe” –- he often speaks of his parents, who immigrated to the United States from Italy -- it is appropriate that his final international trip, the 18th he has made as secretary, will include visits to some of America’s “most capable and closest military partners.”
“I have visited more than 30 countries, including … [traveling to] the war zone a number of times,” he said. “But I’ve made it a priority, as part of our defense strategy, … to emphasize the importance of strengthening our alliances and partnerships throughout the world.”
The goal for his final trip is in line with that strategy, the secretary said, as he will:

-- Emphasize the importance of NATO and bilateral alliances;

-- Reflect on the accomplishments Portugal, Spain, Italy and Great Britain have helped to achieve as members of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan; and

-- Lay the groundwork for the future as nations around the world face both national security and budget challenges.

Panetta noted the countries he will visit have all maintained a strong commitment to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. “Because of that commitment, we’ve been able to make significant progress in the effort to … build an Afghanistan that can secure and govern itself,” he added.

As President Barack Obama announced last week, the secretary said, Afghan forces will assume the lead for security responsibility across their country this spring, with ISAF forces moving into a supporting role.

“That’s a significant milestone that is the result of the efforts by the United States, by ISAF and by the Afghans themselves,” he said. The secretary added that U.S. leaders had “a successful series of consultations” with Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the future U.S. commitment to Afghanistan’s security during that leader’s visit to Washington last week. Panetta said he looks forward to updating counterparts on those discussions.

The secretary said he also will discuss with allies innovative approaches to common budget challenges, and that he’ll speak with counterparts about key bilateral security issues.
“As always, I will also use this opportunity to visit the troops, and have a chance to thank U.S. men and women in uniform for the sacrifices they’re making,” he said.

The secretary said that after more than 10 years of war and with the budget constraints the United States and its allies and partner nations face, the United States nevertheless continues to complete its mission in the war in Afghanistan and continues to confront the terrorism threat.

Terrorist activity -- particularly from al-Qaida factions -- in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Mali is a threat common to all the nations he will visit, Panetta noted. North Korea and Iran, turmoil in the Middle East and the cyber threat also are issues of common interest, he added.

No one nation can confront these threats alone, the secretary said.

“The only way we’re going to be able to do it is by strengthening and reaffirming and building new partnerships and new alliances in the world,” he said. “The model for that is NATO, … really the oldest alliance we have.” That alliance’s responses to Afghanistan and Libya, he added, demonstrate its continued importance to global stability.

The 74-year-old secretary said he also hopes to communicate some of his feelings about the alliance to the younger citizens of the countries he will visit this week.

“NATO goes back to 1949,” he said. “I think the reality is … that there are generations that have been born since the fall of the Berlin Wall that may not fully appreciate how important NATO is as an alliance [for] the future.”

Panetta said he will focus in his discussions, and in a speech he will deliver in London later this week, in part on “how important it is to be able to pass the baton to [younger generations] when it comes to the strength of these transatlantic alliances and partnerships that we have.”

He added, “The purpose of my trip is to make clear that we are going to need this alliance -- today, tomorrow, and in the 21st century.”

Secretary Arrives in Portugal, First Stop on Europe Tour

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

LISBON, Portugal, Jan. 14, 2013 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta landed here today on the first leg of what he said is likely his last international trip as secretary.

While here, the secretary is scheduled to meet separately with Foreign Minister Paulo Portas and Defense Minister José Pedro Aguiar-Branco, with whom he is scheduled to hold a joint news conference.

Panetta also will visit Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, known as STRIKFORNATO. Alliance officials said the organization is NATO’s premier maritime battle staff and the alliance’s primary link for integrating U.S. maritime forces into NATO operations.

During the flight here, Panetta told reporters traveling with him that Portugal is a key NATO ally and an important strategic partner in the Mediterranean and beyond.

“I am told that I’m the first [U.S. defense] secretary to visit Portugal in at least 30 years,” he said.
The U.S. and Portuguese militaries have a history of close cooperation, particularly in the Azores, he said. The Azores are a group of nine volcanic islands, belonging to Portugal but strategically located some 900 miles west of Lisbon in the mid-Atlantic.

Panetta acknowledged DOD will reduce operations at Lajes Field, an air base that houses Portuguese and U.S. Air Force elements and a regional air passenger terminal, located on Terceira Island in the Azores.

The number of U.S. and Portuguese service members based there will drop by at least half from the current 1,100 population, DOD officials said Dec. 13. Aircraft operations support also will be reduced, and the United States will return about 300 of the 400 buildings on the base to the Portuguese government, officials said.

U.S. forces have been in the Azores since 1943, when World War II saw troops at Lajes first protecting allied shipping lanes and later hunting German submarines.

Panetta said while DOD will reduce operations at Lajes because of budget constraints, his goal is to tell Portuguese leaders how the United States intends to broaden and transform the U.S.-Portugal defense relationship through increased military-to-military engagement and exercises, and to try to focus on the challenges of mutual interest, such as maritime security.

Later this week, Panetta will travel to Madrid, Rome and London.

DOD Official Lauds Veterans Commercial License Effort

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2013 – Maryland has joined 33 other states in agreeing to waive the skills test for veterans and service members who have military training that would entitle them to a commercial driver’s license, a senior Defense Department official said today.

Frank C. DiGiovanni, director of training, readiness and strategy in the office of the deputy assistant secretary of defense for readiness, joined Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and officials from the Maryland Department of Transportation, veterans’ organizations, and federal, state and local offices to announce two new services available to veterans through the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, or MVA.

“This initiative is extremely important for the Department of Defense,” DiGiovanni said. “It sets a great benchmark and will greatly assist our veterans as they plan for their future.”

Along with the departments of Labor, Transportation and Veterans Affairs, DOD is working with national credentialing agencies, states and other stakeholders to address the complex challenges of certification and licensure for veterans.

DOD’s Credentialing and Licensing Task Force was established to help service members in high-demand fields gain industry-recognized, nationally portable credentials to increase their competitiveness in the private sector after separation from the military.

Most states require drivers to demonstrate their skills before issuing a commercial driver’s license. Now, 34 states will waive the skills test, but not the written test, for eligible veterans and service members. More states are considering such a waiver, according to a DOD spokeswoman.

A provision of the commercial learner’s permit rule gives state driver licensing agencies the authority to substitute two years of commercial motor vehicle safe-driving experience in the military equivalents of commercial motor vehicles for the skills-test portion of the commercial driver license.

The rule applies to active duty, Reserve, Guard and Coast Guard members, and veterans within 90 days of separation.

Starting this month, Maryland’s MVA is offering a veteran indicator on driver’s licenses and identification cards to help veterans identify themselves to access services and resources and is implementing a streamlined process for veterans to obtain commercial driver's licenses as allowed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

DiGiovanni said that in fiscal 2011, more than 63,000 service members had occupations whose skills involved driving trucks -- 28,247 on active duty and 35,080 in the Guard or Reserve.

“There are also tens of thousands of service members who are truck drivers as an additional duty,” DiGiovanni said, “so this particular authorization is extremely important to the employability” of service members as they depart from the service.”

Military truck drivers bring outstanding experience and training to the commercial trucking sector, he added.
“I had an opportunity to speak to a veterans group, and I asked them what [they] learned during their service to the military that would be useful in the private sector,” DiGiovanni recalled.

The first thing they cite is leadership, he added, and then working as a team and making decisions in a very complex environment.

“So I think it’s really important what these veterans bring to the table, particularly the commercial trucking sector,” he said.

DiGiovanni closed his remarks by challenging the state of Maryland and veterans service organizations to continue to find ways to support our veterans.

Gunship guru saves over $14 million

by Senior Airman Melanie Holochowost
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

1/9/2013 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Bill Walter, Air Force Special Operation Command Strike Requirements Branch program analyst, has a long history of brainstorming money-saving ideas and seeing them to fruition. His most recent action saved the Air Force more than $14 million.

In November 2011 Walter received a tip from the U.S. Army Ammunition Program Office about possible 40 mm parts in Greece. The modified 40 mm "M2 A1" gun is used on the AC-130 gunship.

"The United States gave a bunch of 40 mm guns to allies during the late 1940s and early 1950s under the Marshall Plan," Walter said. "The Greek Army ended up retiring the weapon in 2005, so parts were just sitting in a warehouse without any purpose."

Walter inquired about the 40 mm parts, and with the help of U.S. Army Lt. Col. Pete Huie, Greek liaison officer, Walter reclaimed the equipment.

"Huie sent me photos of the barrels, which were 1950s vintage," Walter said. "Interestingly, many of them appeared to be in new condition and in the original packaging."

Since AFSOC is the sole remaining user of the 40 mm modified "M2 A1" gun in the United States and among very few users in the world, Walter traveled to Greece to inspect and mark parts for shipment in November 2011.

"The fact that these parts existed was brought to us. We analyzed it and realized that we have the potential to gain on this. The risk was very low," Walter said. They picked me to go because I've been working with that gun since 1978, so I knew exactly what to look for."

Once he arrived in Greece, Walter began putting his experience with the 40 mm gun to use.

"I spent two days combing through several arsenals searching for 40 mm parts," he said. "Once all parts were identified and marked, they were taken to the Port of Athens to await shipment."

The group's efforts were worthwhile. The group reclaimed 139 barrels, 5 breech rings and several other miscellaneous parts.

After identifying the parts, it took just over a year to complete the import paperwork and receive permissions.

In mid-December 2012, Walter said the 40-foot shipping container arrived at Eglin Air Force Base.

"We secured all parts and began the painstaking task of inventory, inspection and coordination to enter the parts into supply," Walter said. "With the exception of shipping, these parts were free of charge."

In 1950, a barrel alone originally cost about $12,000. Today, cost estimates to manufacture new barrels are more than ten times that amount.

"Normally, finding many 'out of production' parts is almost impossible, but in this case, we were very lucky to find a treasure trove of 'brand-new, old parts,'" Walter said.

"The Defense Logistics Agency is responsible for contracting manufacture of common, high-wear parts, but supplies of complex parts such as breech rings and barrels are scarce, unavailable, and economically unfeasible to manufacture," Walter said.

The entire event recovered parts valued over $14 million but only cost $14 thousand for travel and shipping.

In addition to the cost savings, Walter said AFSOC now has more than enough barrels to last for the remainder of the gun's lifecycle on the AC-130 gunship.

"It was just like going into a museum, I just felt awestruck. It was like I stepped into another time, like stepping back fifty or sixty years," Walter said. "It was very nostalgic, but at the same time I was thinking 'wow, we can make good use of this stuff.'"

CINC IEA team visits McConnell AFB

by Senior Airman Laura L. Valentine
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

1/14/2013 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- For two days, McConnell AFB highlighted its hard work and dedication to the mission from the past year to a four-man assessment team from across the Air Force.

The base is competing for the coveted 2013 Commander in Chief's Installation Excellence Award and was visited by the assessment team Jan. 7 and 8, 2013.

The CINC IEA recognizes outstanding and innovative efforts of the people who operate and maintain U.S. military installations who have done the best with their resources to support the mission. The award encourages environments that promote innovative and creative ways of enhancing base-level services, facilities and quality-of-life.

While at McConnell, the team visited more than 60 squadrons and agencies, meeting Airmen, civilians and family members from dozens of affiliated organizations.

Chosen as the Air Mobility Command's top installation, McConnell was evaluated by a separate IEA team in September 2012, and went on to compete against nine other bases for the top spot in the Air Force.

"This recognition is a tremendous achievement for McConnell Airmen, their families and our civic partners," said Col. Ricky Rupp, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander, after winning the AMC nomination. "It represents all the phenomenal teamwork between the 22nd ARW and our Total Force partners, the 931st Air Refueling Group and the 184th Intelligence Wing. It's a huge win for McConnell and the Greater Wichita Area."

In November it was announced that McConnell had advanced to one of the two finalist positions and would compete against Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.

Keesler AFB is home of the 81st Training Wing with a population of more than 12,000 military personnel and civilian employees.

McConnell has a total force population of more than 5,500 active duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian employees.

The two bases advanced through the ranks of 166 other Air Force installations to become finalists.

The IE award is presented annually to one installation from each branch of service, along with a $1 million incentive to invest in quality-of-life projects.

Aspects of the base under assessment include quality-of-life improvements, green initiatives and innovative programs that help create and sustain superior operations and accomplishments. McConnell AFB's relationship and impact on the community were also analyzed.

Following the teams visit, Rupp expressed his appreciation to the base on a job well done.

"You all have worked extremely hard and it has not gone unnoticed, I sincerely appreciate all you've done for McConnell AFB and the Air Force. I couldn't be more proud."

The final results of the 2013 award will be announced in the upcoming months.