Thursday, April 04, 2013

Face of Defense: Instructor Trains Marines in Martial Arts

By Marine Corps Cpl. Melissa Wenger
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif., April 4, 2013 – In the early morning mist, a small group of Marines is limbered up, weighted down with flak jackets and ready for a fight. The rest of their squadron is preparing for another work day.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Bryan Polonia executes a hip throw on Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Zachary Acevedo during Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., March 26, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Melissa Wenger

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The instructor, a hulking figure packed with 30 to 40 more pounds of muscle than the next-largest Marine, surveys a rubberized gravel pit enclosed by slashed tires. The small group of students from Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38 thrashes about in the pit, causing a spray of rubber pellets with each technique executed. The supervisor looks on as steam escapes from the bodies of each weary, but ever fierce, Marine as they push through pain and fatigue. And this is only their warmup.
The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, or MCMAP, isn’t for everyone, and some find it especially difficult to be motivated to practice during those early hours.

“To want to do MCMAP takes a good instructor, not just an instructor that knows the techniques or an instructor who just knows what he’s talking about, but an instructor that really makes you want to come out here every morning and keep doing these techniques,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Bryan Polonia, a gray belt class participant and a Stamford, Conn., native.

“[Marine Corps 1st Lt. Mark Cowett] is definitely one of those people,” he added. “He cares about his students, he cares about the techniques he’s teaching, and coming out here every day just makes you feel good about yourself.”

No session with Cowett is complete without sweat-stained undershirts and boots full of gravel. Daily reiteration of the Marine Corps core values alongside physical training allows for growth and development of the students of the squadron’s martial arts course.

“MCMAP is really a synergy of three disciplines: physical, mental, and character,” said Cowett, a Chicago native. “The physical is accentuated every day when we teach the techniques.”

The extremely physical nature of the martial arts program is balanced by the mental conditioning that Cowett emphasizes.

“When I teach the technique, it’s more than just how to knock someone over. You have to be mentally sharp and know exactly what you’re doing in any situation,” he said. “That way, they really understand how MCMAP is more than just a test to be taken for a belt. It’s actually a real life scenario and response to any kind of situation.”

As for the character discipline, Cowett incorporates “tie-ins,” ideas related to various aspects of the warrior ethos, with the teaching of each technique.

 “There are always different ones about hazing, about commitment and about a lot of other things that we can definitely use,” Polonia said. “It really teaches you how to be a better person, how to be a better man and a better Marine.”

By employing these three disciplines, Cowett said, he has noticed a definite change in the skill level of his students.

“I used to just go through them like a knife through butter, but now, it’s much more difficult,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the day where they can all beat me, because it means that I’ve finally taught them all that I know.”

Even though he has reached his end of active service and will be assigned to the Individual Ready Reserve this summer, Cowett carries on teaching the course to make sure that his students maintain some continuity in the mornings.

“It says a lot about his character,” Polonia said. “It says a lot about the Marine he is and the Marine he will always be.”

While covered in sweat, debris and maybe even a bit of blood, each student leaves the class looking like a battle-hardened warrior. Still, the adrenaline rush of the morning gives way to the soreness and fatigue of the afternoon for the Marines who participate in this training. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that they are excited for the next period of instruction.

174th Attack Wing Surpasses 1,000 Flying Hour Mark for Local MQ-9 Operations

by Senior Airman Duane Morgan
174th Attack Wing

4/2/2013 - Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York -- The 174th Attack Wing reached a major milestone in its local MQ-9 Reaper local flight operations in March 2013 by completing 1,000 flying hours.

"It's a great accomplishment," said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Shearer of the Maintenance Operations Flight. "Some people thought we would never fly because of the weather here."

The 174th Attack Wing has flown MQ-9s off of Ft. Drum's Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield since October 2011 in support of the unit's Formal Training Unit (FTU).  The FTU is the only formal MQ-9 aircrew training facility in the Air National Guard, and it is responsible for training the next generation of MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators on how to fly the state-of-the-art remotely piloted aircraft.

The 174th initially flew just one flight per day, but now routinely flies two flights daily with an average flight time of just over three hours. A total of four planes have been flown out of Wheeler-Sack since local flight operations began in 2011. The plane with the most flight hours has 400, and the fewest just under 200. The hours each plane flies is meticulously maintained for inspection purposes.

The 174th was able to pass this mark in a little over a year and a half. They are now 200 hours past the 1,000 hour mark.

"We're doing all this with a relatively small but extremely experienced, dedicated group of maintenance personnel," said Shearer. "Many of these people cross-trained from maintaining the F-16, and now they are some of the most experienced maintainers in the world operating the MQ-9 in a cold weather environment."

The work being done is also noticed by the civilian counterparts working on the base.  "What has been accomplished is amazing considering the manpower and numbers," said Robert C. Parry, MQ-9 Reaper Site Manager for General Atomics, the manufacturer of the MQ-9. "They haven't been given a task that wasn't exceeded. That's how hard these guys work."

"The 174th has the smoothest running MQ-9 operation in the United States," said Parry. "It's not just rhetoric either, it's true. The work being done is cutting edge."

Air Force F-22 resumes normal flight operations

Air Combat Command Public Affairs

4/4/2013 - Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. -- The Air Force's F-22 Raptor has resumed normal flight operations after modifications were completed across the fleet to aircrew life-support equipment, including the upper pressure garment and related hoses, valves and connectors. Completion of this task eliminates the need to restrict flight operations to remain within a 30-minute flying distance from an airfield suitable for landing.

F-22 crews have also resumed their aerospace control alert mission in Alaska after the Automatic Back-up Oxygen System was installed in Elmendorf-based aircraft. Altitude restrictions have also been incrementally removed for F-22s that have received the ABOS modification. Altitude restrictions for training flights remain for non-ABOS equipped F-22 aircraft; however, those restrictions will be removed as each aircraft is modified.

The return to normal flight operations hinged on completing eight near-term actions identified by the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, successful fielding of the modified Combat Edge upper pressure garment valve, and fielding of the automatic backup oxygen system. All actions identified by the SAB were completed in December 2012. Fielding of the modified Combat Edge upper pressure garment valve and related pieces was completed in January.

The fielding of the ABOS provides additional protection to F-22 pilots while flying at high altitudes and in the most demanding oxygen-delivery scenarios. The first combat aircraft was modified at Nellis AFB, Nev., in January, Elmendorf AFB, Alaska-assigned Raptors began modifications in February, and officials expect combat fleet completion by July 2014.

In May 2011, the Air Force stood-down the F-22 fleet for four months. This operational pause enabled the Air Force to accelerate efforts to study, define and fix the cause of the reported incidents. After the Scientific Advisory Board completed is investigative actions in January 2012, the F-22 Life Support Systems Task Force formed a multi-Service, multi-Agency team of government, industry and academic experts to review previous recommendations and findings. This increased breadth of experience, enhanced scope of knowledge, and additional impartial expert analysis led to the conclusion that a lack of oxygen quantity was causing the physiological incidents. The Task Force also determined that the quality of oxygen was not causing the physiological symptoms reported by F-22 pilots and ground crew.

F-22 aircrews have flown more than 22,270 sorties and more than 27,500 hours since the last previously unexplained incident in March 2012.

The Air Force will continue to leverage lessons learned throughout the F-22 investigative process and will invest in characterizing and better understanding the high-performance aircraft environment to improve pilot safety and performance in the F-22 and in all current and future weapon systems.

CES members adopt bald look

by Scott Prater
Schriever Sentinel

4/3/2013 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- A few members of the 50th Civil Engineer Squadron got a free haircut Feb. 27 and they shouldn't need another one for a few months. That's because the barbers they visited snipped every last bit of hair from their heads, much to the delight of hundreds of high school students who witnessed the event.

When Senior Master Sgt. Brian Ginter, Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Brown, Staff Sgt. Cody Ott and Airman 1st Class Brandon Goodwin walked into the Rampart High School gymnasium, they imagined they would be on display, but they weren't quite prepared for the experience they endured.

As Bald for Bucks participants, the Schriever Airmen volunteered to have their heads shaved to raise money for cancer research and patient support programs.
Ott first heard of the fund raising event from his girlfriend and Rampart teacher, Kate Helbig.

"When she asked me if I wanted to participate I figured I could also find some guys at Schriever to take part as well," he said.

Ginter, Brown and Goodwin jumped on board soon after, and the quartet went about the process of finding donators within days. Ultimately, they raised a combined total of $700 for the Bald for Bucks program.

"It's actually hard to find people who haven't been touched by cancer in some way, either through a family member, friend or loved one," Ott said. "I spent a lot of face time with folks explaining what we were doing and how they could help those affected by cancer or leukemia."

Event coordinator Greg Anderson reported that Bald for Bucks raised more than $20,000 that day.

"The troops from Schriever who shaved their heads in the assembly at Rampart were the first from the military community in Colorado Springs to join this annual event," said Anderson. "The money they raised was key in helping the fundraiser set a new state record, from a single school, for the Colorado Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. More importantly, because of their energy and passion, they served as outstanding role models to hundreds of high school students. We were deeply honored to have them join us for this worthy event."

Come haircut day, Ott described the scene at Rampart with two words: total unrest.

"We walked into a packed gym; they had something like 20 barbers lined up with clippers ready," said Ott. "Students, teachers, parents and community members all went bald as the raucous crowd cheered every snip. You could say going bald is not that much of a stretch for military members, but those barbers took us down to zero; I mean, our heads were like mirrors."

In all, 147 people (including 27 women and girls) had their heads shaved. But, the event was more than just about cheers, applause and fun.

"We all listened as a young girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old, got up and spoke about having terminal cancer," Ott said. "She was one of the most up-beat children you'll ever meet. She was just one of many speakers who shared their experiences of dealing with cancer. How people can deal with these limitations and still enjoy their lives is inspiring. It makes you appreciate the things you have in your own life. Our guys were really touched by the whole experience and I'm pretty sure they'll all participate again next year."

Ott said the Schriever Airmen who participated will have more time to recruit volunteers for next year's event and have made a goal to eclipse this year's fundraising mark.

"We know of some guys who love themselves," Ott said. "Those are the types we're hoping to draw next ye

Officials announce team bound for 2013 Warrior Games

by Tammy Cournoyer
Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, Air Force Personnel Center

4/4/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- Fifty Air Force athletes are one step closer to gold after being chosen to represent the service at the 2013 Warrior Games.

The Warrior Games is an Olympic-style competition open to all wounded, ill and injured military members and veterans. Each branch of service sends a team to represent their branch and compete against the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Special Operations Command, and the British warrior team. This year's event takes place May 11-17 in Colorado Springs, Colo. This will be the first year the Air Force will be represented by a 50-member team, the max for team size for all branches of service.

The Air Force Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports Program held weeklong training camps in January and April to allow athletes to sharpen their skills and compete for a shot at becoming part of the Air Force team. The Air Force coaches are elite athletes and trainers, made up of mostly active-duty Air Force and civilian coaches with U.S. Olympic and Paralympics experience. These elite coaches trained the first 50-member Air Force team in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field and sitting volleyball.

This year's team includes the following:

Retired Maj. Dave Andrews, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Retired Tech. Sgt. Byron Ballard, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Capt. Lewis Barasha, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.
Retired Senior Airman Brandon Bishop, Milwaukee
Retired Tech. Sgt. William Bjornes, Hopewell, Va.
Maj. Scott Bullis, Peterson AFB, Colo.
Retired Tech. Sgt. Corey Carter, Columbus, Ohio
Staff Sgt. Jason Caswell, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas
Retired Staff Sgt. Zuleika Cruz-Pereira, Junction City, Kan.
Senior Airman Rachel Edwards, JB San Antonio-Lackland
Retired Staff Sgt. Jason Ellis, Riverview, Fla.
Capt. Sarah Evans, JB San Antonio-Lackland
Former Senior Airman Darrell Fisher, Fayetteville, N.C.
Retired Staff Sgt. Larry Franklin, Radcliff, Ky.
Staff Sgt. Jason Frey, Charlotte Douglas Air Field, N.C.
Former Senior Airman Gene Gatzert, Converse, Texas
Tech. Sgt. Axel Gaud-Torres, Beale AFB, Calif.
Retired Master Sgt. Kenneth Gestring, Niceville, Fla.
Capt. Wesley Glisson, JB San Antonio-Lackland
Retired Staff Sgt. Jeanne Goldy-Sanitate, Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Retired Capt. Jael Hansen, Papillion, Neb.
Staff Sgt. Lara Ishikawa, JB San Antonio-Lackland
Capt. Mitchell Kieffer, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
Retired Maj. Jennifer Kyseth, Tinker AFB, Okla.
Retired Staff Sgt. Jason Morgan, McKinney, Texas
Tech. Sgt. Kevin Murphy, Grand Forks AFB, N.D.
Retired Airman 1st Class Ramina Oraha, Chicago
Senior Airman Orion Orellana, JB San Antonio-Lackland
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Damian Orslene, Contonment, Fla.
Former Senior Airman Stephen Otero, Houston
Former Staff Sgt. Claude Owens, Beavercreek, Ohio
Retired Senior Airman Scott Palomino, JB San Antonio-Lackland
Retired Tech. Sgt. Kathryn Robinson, Detroit
Tech. Sgt. Joshua Robistow, Grand Forks AFB
Retired Capt. George Romano, Minot, Maine
Former Staff Sgt. Matt Sanders, California City, Calif.
Master Sgt. Shawn Schwantes, JB San Antonio-Lackland
Retired Tech. Sgt. Keith Sekora, Seattle
Retired Senior Master Sgt. Noel Sepulveda, Severn, Md.
Retired Staff Sgt. Jack Shaw, Marine St. Croix, Minn.
Retired Maj. Gwen Sheppard, Brown, Deer, Wisc.
Senior Master Sgt. Martin Smith, Peterson AFB
Retired Senior Master Sgt. George Stiltner, Wilburton, Okla.
Retired Staff Sgt. Richard Tackett, Tucson, Ariz.
Retired Staff Sgt. Kevin Taylor, Satellite Beach, Fla.
Retired Tech. Sgt. Hugo Vitela, Tinker AFB
Master Sgt. Simon Wess, Dyess AFB, Texas
Retired Tech Sgt. Christopher Wolff, Seattle
Retired Tech. Sgt. William Wymore, Saint Charles, Mo.
Retired Maj. George Zaldivar, Swansea, Ill.

Alternates are Senior Airman Timothy Babb, Hurlburt Field, Fla.; retired Master Sgt. Rafael Chaves, San Antonio; Tech Sgt. Monica Figueroa, JB San Antonio-Lackland, Master Sgt. Benjamin Horton, Peterson AFB Colorado; Master Sgt. Shari Nel, JB San Antonio-Lackland; Staff Sgt. Eloy Rodriguez, JB San Antonio-Lackland; and Airman 1st Class Clint Williams, JB San Antonio-Lackland.

Now that the athletes have been chosen, coaches are compiling training programs for them and are connecting them with Paralympics clubs in their area to train.

The Warrior Games are developed through the partnership between the U.S. Olympic Committee, Defense Department and sponsors.

23rd AF deactivates

Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

4/4/2013 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla.  -- The Air Force Special Operations Command recently deactivated the 23rd Air Force during a flag furling ceremony here.

As AFSOC's only numbered air force, the 23rd provided highly-trained special operations forces to deployed air commanders since it was established on Jan. 1, 2008.

Maj. Gen. George Williams and Brig. Gen. Timothy Leahy, former 23rd AF commanders, conducted the deactivation ceremony.

"We realized it would be more efficient to reunite the staff under AFSOC," Leahy said.

After the ceremony, the 623rd Air Operations Center assumed the 23rd AF's mission and was renamed the AFSOC Operations Center.

"Our patch is the only thing that has changed during this reorganization process, and that's not really important," Leahy said. "Our people and our mission are what really matter, and that hasn't changed one bit."

Nuclear, missile operations squadron command board to convene

by Debbie Gildea
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

4/4/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- The nuclear and missile operations squadron command board will convene June 17 to consider eligible officers for projected calendar year 2014 squadron command and chief of safety positions, Air Force Personnel Center officials said.

Eligible officers may also be considered for recruiting and training squadron command opportunities.

Candidates will be considered for projected Air Combat Command, Air Education and Training Command and Air Force Global Strike positions, said Capt. Janet D. Dewese, AFPC missile officer assignments.

Core space operations, core nuclear missile operations, scientist, engineer and acquisition officers who meet all the criteria will be considered. Candidates must be lieutenant colonels with dates of rank between April 1, 2010 through Dec. 1, 2012, or lieutenant colonel-selects from the calendar year 2012 promotion board.

"Nominating authorities -- wing commanders, directors or equivalents -- must endorse candidates, so interested officers should update their Airman Development Plan and statement of intent in time for the endorsed nomination to reach AFPC by the May 15 suspense," Dewese said.

For complete eligibility requirements, nomination procedures and information on other personnel issues, visit the myPers website at Enter "PSDM 13-26" in the search window.

Food service apprentice selected for culinary training

by Senior Airman Andrea Salazar
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

4/2/2013 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airman 1st Class Rachel Armstrong from the 374th Force Support Squadron was recently selected to attend a weeklong seminar at the Greystone Culinary School of America in Napa Valley, Calif.

The seminar will allow Armstrong the opportunity to learn from some of the best and most well known chefs and hospitality industry leaders in the U.S. She will be attending the seminar with other members from across the services.

"I am very excited to see all the different techniques and cooking styles the seminar has to offer," said Armstrong. "I honestly didn't expect I would get this opportunity but I am glad that I was chosen."

After Yokota's Samurai Café was evaluated and selected as the 2013 Dining Facilities throughout the Pacific Air Force. Lydia Elkstrong, certified executive chef and evaluator of military dining facilities, noticed Armstrong's love and dedication for the trade and her job.

"I chose her because she seems very passionate and dedicated about her job," said Elkstrong. "I had to choose among all the dining facilities in the past year and I believe she could benefit from the seminar."

After the evaluation, Lt. Col. Grant Vineyard, 374th Force Support Squadron commander, congratulated Armstrong and expressed his enthusiasm and appreciation for the entire DFAC.

"I am happy for her and the entire DFAC, if we could send them all we would," said Vineyard. "She represents what they all stand for; providing a good service to the Yokota Community."

By providing Airmen with opportunities like this, they can gain subject knowledge and ultimately apply it to their daily mission.

Armstrong said she believes attending this event will help broaden her skills and she can bring that training back to Yokota, improving morale and ultimately providing a better quality of life for Airmen.

Keeping the base fit to fight, one patient at a time

by Airman 1st Class Kia Atkins
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/3/2013 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Let's say you have a serious condition that was kept under control with the help of prescribed medication. What happens if that medication is no longer available to you?

Circumstances such as this can easily turn deadly. However, thanks to the 35th Medical Group's pharmacy, base residents don't need to worry about that scenario.

Pharmacy personnel at the 35 MDG are required to know what drugs they are giving to patients, what they do, what they're for, the correct doses and possible interaction certain medications can have with each other. They must also ensure that the prescription's directions are clear to the patient before they leave with their medication.

"We make sure the medications you are taking are safe and that the dose is appropriate," said Dr. Jessica Behrens, 35th Medical Support Squadron staff pharmacist.

Dating back to 2600 B.C. in ancient Babylon, clay tablets documented one of the earliest records of the practice of apothecary. On the tablets were medical texts recording symptoms, prescriptions and the directions for mixing certain types of remedies.

Though once commonly referred to as apothecaries, they now go by the modern equivalent of the word -- pharmacists. A pharmacist in the United States is a graduate from the Doctor of Pharmacy program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

"The majority of medications are mass-produced in tablets, capsules, elixirs, and syrups," said Capt. David Vuong, 35 MDSS staff pharmacist.

When a patient's medication is not available for order from other manufacturers, the pharmacy has master recipes for compounding drug products.

The pharmacy provides medications for over 10,000 beneficiaries on base including active duty Air Force, Army and Navy, dependents, retirees and contractors. The base pharmacy fills approximately 200 prescriptions daily and averages 80,000 medicinal needs fulfilled annually.

"We use automated technology in the pharmacy to ensure accuracy and efficiency to reduce wait time in the pharmacy," said Capt. My Nguyen, 35 MDSS pharmacy flight commander. "In addition to our medication preparation and dispensing functions, we provide annual Poison Prevention education at Sollars Elementary School and Edgren High School."

Pharmacists from the 35 MDG provide uninterrupted medication therapy in the form of the Pharmacy Refill Clinic.

"If a patient has a future appointment with the medical provider and has ran out of medications, the clinic can provide a limited emergency supply of medication for treatment up to the date of the appointment," said Nguyen.

The Pharmacy Refill Clinic is a walk-in clinic with hours of operation on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and is located in Flight Medicine on the sublevel of the hospital.

The main pharmacy is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding federal holidays, warrior days and base exercises.

"You can't perform if you're not healthy, so our job is to help keep the base population healthy so they can do the missions they need to do at their maximum potential," said Behrens.

319th OSS Weather Flight named AMC Outstanding weather organization for 2012

by Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

4/4/2013 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The 319th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight was recently named the 2012 Air Mobility Command's Outstanding Weather Organization of the Year.

"It's a huge morale boost to be recognized for our multi-role support to operations," said Chief Master Sgt. David Tyler, 319th OSS superintendent. Tyler was referring to the 319th OSS's direct support of major organizations involved with the country's national defense and security, such as the Air Combat Command, the North Dakota Air National Guard and the Department of Homeland Security.

Although the selection is a group award and reflects the dedication and hard work of the eight-member unit as a whole, Tyler took the time to recognize the efforts of Tech. Sgt. Phillip Erickson, the weather flight's NCO in charge.

"There is nothing this professional can't do," said Tyler of Erickson.

Erickson helped the flight increase its support for several of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle missions, such as those involving Global Hawks locally and down range, according to Tyler.
Erickson also helped provide support to the Predator missions performed by the North Dakota Air National Guard and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

"He's maintained the unit's training requirements, its ancillary programs and its deployment readiness," said Tyler. "He's done all this and more despite having less than 60 percent manning while running a 24/7 operation."

This the third time the weather unit has earned the award. They were previously selected as AMC's outstanding weather organization in 2000 and 2001.

When asked how the weather flight's new status in the command affects the mission on Grand Forks Air Force Base, Tyler proudly responded by saying that this recognition "showcases the capabilities of the Warriors of the North to succeed in any mission at any time."  

Airmen volunteer at veterans home

by Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

4/3/2013 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base collaborated with volunteer groups from the local community to make the Missouri Veterans' Home's second annual Easter Egg Hunt and family celebration in Warrensburg, Mo., March 30 a success.

The event was organized to boost morale among veterans and their families, said Melissa Wilson, Missouri Veterans Home director of recreation therapy.

"I think the event turned out great," said Tech. Sgt. Duane Edington, 442nd Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munition support equipment maintenance. "We had some good volunteers and the children had a great time. You could see it in their eyes when they were running around looking for eggs."

Edington was one of more than 70 volunteers from Whiteman Air Force Base who attended the event. More than 200 children from the Warrensburg area also participated.

"I know that the veterans are so happy when their families and loved ones do come here," said Wilson. "But I also know that it's important for the families to see their veteran loved ones here having a good time and being in such a wonderful environment."

Since the day's heavy rain did not allow the event to be held outside, the veterans and volunteers who attended the event hid more than 1,800 eggs throughout the interior of the veterans home.

"We have a wonderful volunteer coordinator who sends out volunteer requests to Whiteman and we got an overwhelming response, as always," Wilson said. "They are just so supportive of us."

Edington said having the children and volunteers showing up to speak with the veterans contributed to the positive turn out of the egg hunt.

"The event was important to the veterans and their families," said "Many times there aren't positive experiences at nursing homes or veterans homes, so it's really important that we create opportunities for veterans and their loved ones to make memories."

The veterans home's recreation and therapy department was directly in charge of sponsoring the event. Wilson came up with the idea for the annual egg hunt last year.

"My team and I, work amazingly well together," Wilson said. "We get these ideas for events like the egg hunt, we go with them and we make them bigger and better every year."

As keeping the veterans happy is the goal of staff members, the egg hunt would not have been successful without the livelihood from the veterans, said Wilson.

"The veterans have sacrificed so much for our country and they are why we have such a wonderful support system from our community and the surrounding areas," Wilson said.

Overall, having veterans, community members and Airmen working together for a mutual cause has benefits on both the civilian and military sides, said Edington.

"You want the community to see what the military does and you want the military to see what the community has to offer," Edington said. "Having Airmen and community members in that close proximity helps everybody out in the long run."

Vets Share Heartbreak, Hope in Confronting Brain Injuries

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo., April 4, 2013 – Heads nodded in understanding, voices choked up, tears flowed and laughter occasionally rippled through the room as a group of veterans gathered to bare their souls about the challenges of living with traumatic brain injuries and to encourage each other on.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Former Army Sgt. Anthony Rovertoni, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after returning from a deployment to Iraq in 2007, center, said the camaraderie he has received at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic at Snowmass Village, Colo., will stay with him long after he returns home to St. Louis. Joining Rovertoni are former Army Spc. Dana Hall, right, a nurse who deployed with him and is serving as his caregiver during the event, and Jean Ferguson, his recreational therapist at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System. DOD photo by Donna Miles

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The informal session has become a regular offering during the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. It’s hosted by retired Army Pfc. Chris Lynch, who fell 26 feet and landed directly on his head while attending a French commando school in 2000, and his mother Cheryl, founder of the nonprofit American Veterans with Brain Injuries organization. The 27th annual winter sports clinic, being held here this week, brings together almost 400 disabled veterans, a significant number of them, like Lynch, suffering what has come to be known as the “invisible wounds” of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

For many, the chance to bond with fellow veterans who have walked in their same shoes and are experiencing many of the same effects is a highlight of the annual event.

“To be with this group -- one of the only places where we don’t have to explain things to people, that’s huge for us,” the husband of a Coast Guard veteran with TBI said at the support group session. “What we get from this isn’t about the couple of hours we spend here. It’s about our whole year, and our whole lives.”

Passing a kitchen timer around the room, each of about 40 veterans in the room and a few spouses who accompanied them took five minutes to share their stories. Several of the group members were victims of roadside bombs, mortars and other explosives during combat operations that have taken a toll on their brains as well as their bodies.

Even with Kevlar helmets, there’s a critical organ this protective gear simply doesn’t adequately protect: the gelatin-like material that can shift violently inside the skull when confronted by explosions, sudden jolts or shock waves from blasts.

“When they explode, your skull gets pounded against your Kevlar [helmet],” Lynch said. “Your brain gets tossed around like an egg in a bucket of water.”

One Army veteran in the group got his TBI when a suicide bomber detonated near him during the troop surge in Iraq. A Marine veteran got his when he was hit by an improvised explosive device during his third deployment to Iraq. Another has no recollection of the grenade blast that inflicted his brain injury, and he hasn’t been able to bring himself to watch a video of the attack posted on YouTube.

A first-time participant in the winter sports clinic, severely wounded in Afghanistan, broke down into tears before she could fully explain exactly what had happened to her. “This is overwhelming for me,” she told the group through her sobs. “I run out of words.”

Many of the group members’ TBIs weren’t from combat -- just unfortunate and unanticipated circumstances that changed their lives forever: The cerebral aneurysm that struck a U.S. Military Academy graduate just three weeks after leaving West Point, N.Y. The black ice that sent an airman’s car into a tailspin when she was driving home from her night shift while stationed in Germany. The gravel patch on a switchback turn in Turkey that sent a soldier’s vehicle careening down a 230-foot cliff while he was returning from leave.

Regardless of how they got their TBIs, how long ago, or how severe their symptoms, the veterans all shared something deeply personal. They knew the frustration of having to relearn basic skills that once were automatic, of struggling to comprehend what once had come so easily.

Others say they struggle to keep their emotions in check. “It’s hard not to cry at everything,” one admitted.

One veteran told the group he actually was relieved to get a diagnosis of TBI, because it helped to explain the nightmares he was having and voices he was hearing. “I was relieved to learn I wasn’t crazy,” he said.

Compounding their personal frustrations, many of the veterans shared anger and hurt at how quickly people judge them despite having no idea what they are going through. “People just don’t ‘get’ TBI, because our injuries are hidden,” one lamented.

As a result, some veterans with TBI are mistaken for drunks, and one told the group he even landed in jail over it when he hadn’t taken a sip.

A veteran wounded by a grenade blast in Afghanistan said how humiliated he feels when a waiter stands impatiently waiting for his order, not realizing how hard it is for him to read a menu. “I know what they are thinking: ‘Are you dumb?’” he said. “People don’t understand why I stutter. There’s so much about me they don’t understand.”

Many don’t understand, for example, that people with TBI have good and bad days. One veteran shared his resentment that others -- even his own family members and closest friends -- don’t recognize that, and as a result, accuse him of “faking it” to get over on the system.

All the veterans at the support group receive services through the Veterans Affairs Department. But during the support group meeting, they offered advice that resonated because it comes from firsthand experience.

The veterans reminded each other of the importance of deliberately challenging their brains as well as their bodies to keep them strong and of engaging with other people and staying active.

“I don’t stay home feeling sorry for myself,” one told the group, describing his regimen of cardiovascular and weight training. “You have to get out and do something,” agreed Lynch. “If you don’t use it, you are going to lose it.”

The veterans also encouraged each other to use humor to get them through awkward moments or to diffuse situations before they spin out of control.

For their fellow veterans still coming to grips with how much their lives have changed, those who have learned to live with TBIs offered what they knew was needed most: understanding and support.

“Everybody’s stories have a lot of similarities to them,” said an Army veteran wounded when his helicopter crashed during a night training mission. “But it’s good for us to come together and talk about it. At least we know we are not alone in this world.”

The husband of an Army veteran recently wounded in Afghanistan shared his sense of helplessness over not being able to use his extensive medevac training to help his own wife. “I helped people who were hurt all over the world, and I was good at it,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “But all that training and all that experience taught me nothing about supporting someone with TBI.”
When he told the group how frustrated and alone he felt, another husband of a TBI patient assured him that things would get better. “When I see you and your wife, that’s exactly where we were a year ago,” he said, his own eyes filling with tears. “And let me tell you, you aren’t alone. We are here for you.”

Heads nodded in agreement around the room, with every veteran telling him that they, too, would provide the support he needs.

Another first-timer at the winter sports clinic said the network she has discovered in her fellow veterans has been a huge boost to her self-esteem. “The people here are the same as I am. We understand each other -- what we can and can’t do and why we sometimes feel so weird,” she said. “I’m overwhelmed at the generosity and camaraderie here.”

The former Army captain wounded by the suicide bomber in Iraq said he’s attended many wounded warrior and veterans events, but none like the winter sports clinic that bring together so many veterans living with TBI. “I feel at home here, and I get to learn from veterans from all generations,” he told the group. “This is one of the most enjoyable things I do.”

“I know we all have different stories and different issues,” said a Navy veteran who has lived with his brain injury since a 1986 car crash. “But when I come here, getting to see people in their different stages [of TBI], all pushing through it and reaching out to each other, I get motivated.”
That motivation, Lynch said, will help sustain the veterans long after they return home from the winter sports clinic. “This week is just the start,” he said. “This week will make the rest of your life a whole lot better.”

Lynch gave each participant a medical alert bracelet that identifies their TBI, and offered tri-fold credit-card-sized identity cards they can give people to explain their condition and ask for help or patience when they need it. Cheryl said the cards, provided free through the American Veterans with Brain Injuries organization, have proven to be extremely helpful for veterans with TBIs, particularly during stressful times.

She also recommended free services AVBI provides through its website, including a one-year subscription for brain training and a chat room that veterans can use to reach out to each other.
The TBI support group session was just one of myriad activities and sporting events being conducted this week during the 27th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.
The clinic, co-sponsored by VA and the Disabled American Veterans, is open to U.S. military veterans with disabilities ranging from spinal cord injuries and orthopedic amputations to visual impairment and neurological conditions.

During the six-day program, veterans learn adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing and are introduced to rock climbing, scuba diving, trapshooting, snowmobiling, sled hockey and other sports and activities.

The goal, VA officials said, is to help participants discover abilities they may have thought they had lost, enhancing their rehabilitation and their quality of life.

Fellow Vets Teach, Inspire Vision-impaired Navy Officer

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo., April 3, 2013 – Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Martin Hickey’s view of the world has slowly been shrinking as a progressive eye disease chips away at his peripheral and night vision.

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Dave Brown, left, a Vietnam veteran who leads a low-vision support group in Northern California, chats with Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Martin Hickey about living with visual impairments during the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic at Snowmass Village, Colo., April 2, 2013. Hickey, one of only two active-duty members among the almost 400 participants, called the camaraderie he’s found among veterans the highlight of the clinic. DOD photo by Donna Miles

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A dentist who continues to treat patients at the Naval Medical Center San Diego using a special telescopic loupe, he plans to finish out a 28-year Navy career later this year.
Most service members in Hickey’s shoes would just now be thinking about their transition from the military and into the Veterans Affairs Department’s health care network.

But Hickey already has taken that step. He gets specialized care at VA’s state-of-the-art blind rehabilitation facility in Long Beach, Calif., and is participating this week in his first National Disabled Winter Sports Clinic here.

When Hickey received his diagnosis, doctors at the Naval Medical Center San Diego turned to VA, which runs the most advanced blind rehabilitation facility in the region. The center, dedicated in January 2010, honors Army Maj. (Dr.) Charles “Rob” Soltes Jr., the first Army optometry officer to be killed in action while on active duty. Soltes, a 36-year-old Army reservist from Irvine, Calif., was killed Oct. 13, 2004, when an explosive device struck his convoy in Mosul, Iraq.

Hickey raved about the care he received during five weeks of intensive treatment at the facility. An enthusiastic and energetic staff set up a customized treatment and education program for him, he said, providing tools and resources to help him live more easily with his declining vision.

“All this time, I had been improvising, trying to work around my vision issues,” Hickey said. “The VA had the experience and resources to help me in ways I never imagined possible.”

One of the staffers at the VA facility recommended that Hickey consider attending the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. The annual clinic, co-sponsored by VA and Disabled American Veterans, is open to U.S. military veterans with disabilities ranging from spinal cord injuries and orthopedic amputations to visual impairment and neurological conditions who receive care at VA facilities.

During the six-day program, veterans learn adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing and are introduced to other adaptive activities and sports to help them realize abilities many thought they had lost.

Once a snowboarder, Hickey had given it up years ago. He was fearful, he said, that with his failing vision, he’d run into another skier or hurt a child. So he decided to sign up for the winter sports clinic, one of just two active-duty members attending it this week alongside almost 400 disabled veterans.

After a morning snowboarding down Snowmass Mountain with an instructor specially trained to work with low-vision skiers, Hickey was thrilled to once again be able to schuss down the mountain.

“It was a gas,” he said. “It’s as much fun as you can have. It’s an adventure, and it’s exciting.”
But for Hickey, getting to push through his limitations is just part of the benefits he’s receiving at the clinic.

“For me, the biggest benefit is not on the slopes,” he said. “It’s getting to network with people with similar issues, and learning how they are dealing with it and what’s available to help them.”

Hickey said he’s been like a sponge, learning everything he can from about 60 visually impaired participants at the clinic. They’ve shared their own experiences and told him about everything from sources for the best-trained guide dogs to resources provided through Disabled American Veterans.
“I feel like I have so much in common with these veterans,” he said. “They understand everything I’m dealing with, and have great suggestions to pass along.”

Among the veterans Hickey has met is former Air Force Staff Sgt. Dave Brown, a Vietnam veteran who runs a low-vision support group in Northern California and said he takes pride in helping others learn to live with impaired vision.

“At first, it’s really hard to do things independently. But for anything that comes up, some of us have already experienced it,” Brown said. “Somebody here has already been through it and done it, and we are here to pass that along to our fellow veterans.”

Liz Greco, a recreational therapist at the Long Beach center, said the experiences Hickey is gaining alongside his visually impaired peers at the winter sports clinic will go a long way in his follow-on care and quality of life.

“This is helping him see that there are no boundaries and no limitations,” she said. “He’s getting an opportunity to see that as he works with instructors in adaptive ways, he can excel.”

Face of Defense: Desert Landscape Inspires Artful Airman

By Air Force Senior Airman Joel Mease
379th Air Expeditionary Wing

SOUTHWEST ASIA, April 3, 2013 – Some might see the desert as brown, dusty and generally void of life. But while they may fail to see much color in the desert skyline, a maintenance noncommissioned officer deployed here sees a landscape full of potential.

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While deployed to Southwest Asia, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carr started an art collection by painting rocks found on the desert floor and leaving them for service members to improve morale. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joel Mease

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
It all started a few months ago, when Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carr was kicking around some rocks, as so many service members like him have done before.
"I kicked over this one rock and it just clicked," said Carr, an aircraft battle damage repair technician with the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron. "It was just the perfect canvas, and best of all, it was free and there were plenty of them."

At first, he said, he just doodled on the rock with a marker, but then he felt there was so much more he could do with it.
"I've always been a fan of art since I was a kid," said Carr, who hails from Birmingham, Ala. He thought a little paint could do wonders for the rock.

"So I contacted my better half in the United States and asked her to send my paint and brushes," he said.

What started as a small art project morphed into an art gallery full of rocks -- 60 of them so far -- with the goal of making someone smile, Carr said. Some of the rocks have special characteristics, adding texture to simulate the bumps on a frog, for example.

Carr’s gallery of rocks, though, isn't meant to be a private collection. He plans on randomly leaving his artwork throughout the installation with the hope of adding a little color to someone's day.

"Maybe you will see a cartoon character on top of a napkin holder at the dining facility, or maybe you've had a really bad day as you're waiting at the bus stop and you look down to see a frog sitting on the bench," Carr said. "Hopefully, it's something that brightens your day, and [makes you] say, 'Hey maybe things aren't that bad.'"

Whenever people encounter one of his roughly three-inch pieces of art, he said, it's up to them what they would like to do with it.

"You could pick it up and take it with you, or maybe even lay it somewhere else for someone else to kick over and find," Carr said. "Maybe it will inspire others to do their own artwork, or leave an inspirational message if you're not an artist."

Carr’s artwork already has made an impact on his co-workers, according to his flight chief, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. George Morris.

"His enthusiasm is contagious," Morris said. "Tech. Sergeant Carr does a great job of translating that artwork into a positive outlook to his fellow aircraft maintainers."

Carr's flight chief said he first heard Carr’s plans about his artwork during a routine walk outside the maintenance facility looking for debris that could pose a safety hazard. Carr picked up a plain rock, he added, and said, "This is really nice."

"I asked him why, and upon learning about his talents and plans to disperse them, I was a bit skeptical at first until I saw his work," Morris said. "Then I knew it was for real. In my more than 24 years in the Air Force, I've never met anyone with his unique skill set."

Whatever a person does with his artwork, Carr said, he hopes it allows them to see the installation as something more than a military base in the desert.

"They always say … to make things better for all those coming behind you," Carr said. That's just what he intends to do, he added.

3rd Aerial Port Squadron celebrates 60th anniversary

by 2nd Lt. Harry Kehs
3rd Aerial Port Squadron

4/3/2013 - POPE ARMY AIRFIELD, FORT BRAGG, N.C -- More than 150 Airmen and family members from the 3rd Aerial Port Squadron gathered for a picnic here to celebrate the squadron's 60th Anniversary March 16, 2013.

As they look to the future, the "All-American Port" continues to move forward in spite of recent budget challenges and the changing operational environment.

"Our outlook is positive and optimistic," said Maj. Joseph Whittington, 3rd APS commander. "We will continue to draw strength and pride from our historic heritage as we build for the future. However, navigating through new challenges will provide our squadron the opportunity to invest in innovation both through technology, and more importantly, our Airmen. Our 60th anniversary illustrates the integration of past and present, and we are looking forward to expanding upon the strong foundation constructed by former 3rd APS Airmen."

Operating from the Green Ramp on Pope Army Airfield, the Port Dawgs have participated in many wartime campaigns; most recently Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn. The squadron serves as the primary supporter of the XVIII Airborne Corps, as well as the 82d Airborne Division and their Global Response Force mission. Port Airmen have also been a constant force multiplier in Afghanistan and Iraq. The aerial porters bring both superior job knowledge, skill and leadership to the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility.

Not only does 3rd APS support the GRF and war effort, but they also facilitate airlift support for humanitarian relief operations. On Aug. 29, 2005, the squadron directed the four-day outload of 1,883 passengers and 1,190 tons of cargo, delivering assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. On Jan. 12, 2010, Port Dawgs promptly responded to the devastating earthquake in Haiti by transporting 1,300 tons of aid into the country. The squadron also provided emergency relief after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Northeast region of the United States Oct. 29, 2012.

Nothing symbolizes the squadron's rich history more than its mascot, Jiminy Cricket. Rights for use were purchased from Walt Disney in 1959 for $1.00 after Airman 2nd Class Robert Dunlap won a squadron patch design contest. Jiminy Cricket and the historic patch embody the timeless legacy of the unit. The umbrella serves as Jiminy's parachute symbolizing the combat control section that used to be a part of the port. In his right hand, Jiminy is holding a load adjuster that represents the former inclusion of the loadmaster in aerial port operations.

The squadron was activated March 16, 1953, at Donaldson Air Force Base, S.C. The unit moved several times after its activation, relocating to Altus AFB, Okla., and then to Lawson AFB, Ga., before settling in to its permanent home at Pope AFB, N.C. in August of 1954. Squadron history includes a wide variety of missions, from standard paratrooper training to "big screen" logistics; most notably the movement of Keiko, the Whale from the movie, Free Willy. With 60 years of service to the United States, the "All-American Port," as designated by the 82d Airborne Division in 1999, is the oldest active duty aerial port unit in the U.S. Air Force.

The squadron's motto, "Ad Astra Per Ardua--to the stars through difficulty," remains the calling card as the 3rd APS continues to build for the future.

A-10 fires its first laser-guided rocket

by Samuel King Jr
Eglin Air Force Base Public Affairs

4/3/2013 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- The 40th Flight Test Squadron completed another first in February when an A-10 Thunderbolt II fired a guided rocket that impacted only inches away from its intended target.

The 2.75 diameter, 35-pound, laser-guided rocket is known as the fixed-wing Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II. Before the Thunderbolt test, the rocket had proved effective in Afghanistan combat operations when fired from Marine helicopters.

"Rockets are a staple close-air support weapon, but their weakness has always been their poor accuracy when shot at range," said Maj. Travis Burton, the 40th FTS A-10 pilot who performed the APKWS tests. "In improving rocket accuracy by several orders of magnitude, the APKWS makes the rocket a better weapon for today's low intensity conflicts, where minimizing collateral damage is a top priority."

The test squadron performed three sorties to demonstrate the capability and ensure the rocket could be fired safely from a fixed wing aircraft - a test that had never been accomplished before.

The first sortie tested whether aircraft flight would be impacted by carrying the rocket and launcher. During the second sortie, the A-10 fired an unguided inert rocket to ensure the weapon would separate from the aircraft without any issues. For the final sortie, two armed, guided rockets were fired at a surface target at altitudes of 10,000 and 15,000 feet. The last APKWS shot was fired into a 70-knot headwind and impacted the target within the two-meter requirement specifications.

"The 70-knot headwind didn't allow us to accomplish the second guided shot using the planned delivery parameters, so the test team (myself, the chase pilot, the controllers and engineers) worked real-time to adjust those parameters in a manner that would still accomplish the test objective," Burton said. "In any scenario other than test, we would have adjusted the run-in direction to change the headwind to tailwind, or a crosswind."

Both shots were considered successful, but the accuracy of the APKWS made a real impression on the project manager, Joe Stromsness.

"We watched real-time video of the test at the central control facility when the rocket hit within inches of the laser spot," he said. "Everyone was ecstatic and high-fived each other. Many hours of work from the Navy, Air Force and the BAE contractor team went into the success of this test. This was a major milestone in moving forward to the next phase. "

With the developmental test stage completed, the project will move to operational testing at China Lake Test Range, Calif., with the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command Test Center. In May, Air Force pilots will fire 22 APKWSs from the A-10 and F-16 Fighting Falcon at both moving and stationary targets.

With another positive outcome in May, Stromsness sees huge potential for the APKWS.

"This is a lighter weapon with a smaller warhead that can potentially minimize collateral damage," he said. "We've added precision guidance; and based on our tests, we're within inches of the intended target. We don't have a precision weapon out there now that can do that."

According to BAE Systems, the weapon's manufacturer, the APKWS is one-third the weight and cost of other precision rockets in the DOD inventory. The aircraft could potentially transport seven rockets per launcher and carry two launchers due to the APKWS's relatively small size and weight.

Burton agrees with Stromsness about APKWS's potential benefit to the warfighter.

"By improving rocket accuracy, the APKWS II gives the pilot the capability to achieve the desired weapons effect with a single rocket," Burton said. "Not only does this increase the lethality of any aircraft carrying rockets on a given day, it also allows the aircraft to do so at a greater range. This keeps the aircraft farther away from the surface-to-air threats typically found in a target area."

Moving the APKWS to a fixed-wing aircraft began as an urgent operational need project for the Navy and Air Force in 2009. The tasking, called a joint concept technology demonstration, was to take the rotary-wing version of the rocket and modify it for fast-moving aircraft. The goal for the Air Force was to demonstrate it on the A-10 and the F-16 if possible, according to Stromsness. The Navy would test it on the AV-8B Harrier II and F/A-18 Hornet.

Eglin AFB's 96th Seek Eagle office worked with the APKWS team to obtain flight clearance for both aircraft so the developmental testing could begin.

An initial hurdle Stromsness and the test team discovered was the guidance section added 18 inches to the rocket. This addition caused it to be too long for the standard LAU-131 launcher. The Navy already had a modified launcher to fit the increased length of the rocket, so Stromsness brought those in to perform the tests.

"The great thing about the modified launchers is they can fire the guided and unguided rockets with no problems," Stromsness said. "If this project moves forward and becomes operational, the better modified launchers will replace the legacy ones on an attrition basis."

More Air Force testing and assessment will take place throughout 2013. The Navy is just behind the Air Force, successfully firing two APKWSs from an AV-8B, March 27. Once testing is complete, U.S. Central Command will submit a final report and endorsement to the Air Force and Navy program offices. According to Stromsness, if all goes smoothly, the APKWS could be ready for operational use by 2015.

Historic homecoming for Dyess Mobility Airmen

by Airman 1st Class Charles V. Rivezzo
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

4/4/2013 -  DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- For the first time in nearly a decade, the entire 317th Airlift Group fleet is back at their home station, as the final Airmen and aircraft returned here recently.

The 317th AG is one of the most heavily-tasked units in the Air Force and one of the several remaining active-duty C-130 units. The group's mission is to train, mobilize, and employ its aircraft worldwide, providing all phases of combat delivery, including air-land, airdrop and aeromedical evacuation.

Since Dec. 20, 2003, the 317th AG and its C-130 fleet continuously deployed in support of overseas combat operations, living up to their motto of providing "dominant air power and combat support to combatant and joint force commanders ... anytime, anywhere!"

During the constant deployments, the group was able to accomplish a complete fleet transition from the C-130 H to J-model while leading countless airdrop innovations, all while maintaining proficiencies to ensure success downrange.

"Answering the Nation's call comes with a lot of work and our Airmen have put in blood, sweat and tears, not only during the constant state of deployments, but here at home station as well," said Col. Walter H. Ward, 317th AG commander. "To be continuously deployed for nearly a decade is an extraordinary feat on its own, but to be able to accomplish a complete fleet transition, as well as our innovations in airdrop capabilities, truly reflects just how dedicated and professional our Airmen are."

The 317th AG continues to transition to the C-130J Super Hercules ─ the most technologically advanced version of the C-130. With only two more aircraft set to be delivered later this year, Dyess will have the distinction of being home to the largest C-130J fleet in the world.

The final tally for the group rests at 3,378 continuous days deployed, with more than 57,000 sorties and 95,000 hours flown during the past decade.

"This is a great day for us," said Ward. "Seeing these American flags waving and smiles on these families' faces is a sight that never gets old. It feels great to have everybody home for the first time in a very long time."

The group's homecoming follows President Obama's State of Union address, in which he announced that "over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan ... and by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over."

To date, the number of U.S. troops has already declined from a high of about 100,000 in 2010 to 66,000 now.

"When people tell you they're a 317th Airlift Group Airman, you notice them stand a little straighter, their chest bows out," Ward said. "When you look back at the end of the day we can say we did something that really mattered, whether it was inserting ground forces to secure territory or delivering hope to places seemingly out of reach. We can look back and know we held the pen in our hands that helped write the pages of history."

While this historic homecoming allows the 317th AG to recover from its decade long ops-tempo, the downtime will only last until September, when the 39th Airlift Squadron again deploys in support of overseas operations.

"It takes great teams to do great deeds," the colonel said. "As proud as I am of 317th Airlift Group Airmen, we wouldn't be celebrating 3,378 consecutive days of successful deployment without the steadfast support of our families, a faithful mission partner in the 7th Bomb Wing, and a city that embraces us as their own and proudly supports us like no other."

CMSAF addresses current issues with Barksdale Airmen

by Master Sgt. Sabrina D. Foster
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

4/4/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La.  -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody visited the men and women of Barksdale Air Force Base April 2-3. The Chief got a first-hand glimpse into the day-to-day operations of Air Force Global Strike Command, Eighth Air Force, The Mighty Deuce and mission partners across the base.

The 17th CMSAF assumed his current position a little more than two months ago, and in his first letter to Airmen he stated, "I believe education and training are the foundation of our airpower advantage and must be protected." In light of the sequestration and the budgetary challenges the Air Force is currently facing, Cody is still a firm believer that education and training are as important today as ever.

"The deliberate development of our Airmen is extremely important to our Air Force and will most certainly be something I continue to focus on throughout my tenure in this position," Cody said. "The education piece is such a critical component to the development of an Airman. When you think about training, experience and education, it is the education that enables us to take that training and those experiences and adapt them to any environment that is out there in the future, so we will protect it as we always have," he said.

However, the Chief said that doesn't mean there won't be changes in the way education and training are done.

"That does not mean we won't look to do it differently - how we employ it, who gets it and when they get it. We will definitely look at those things into the future; it is a model that has to be considered for sustainability because it is that critical," he said. "What I would ask our Airmen is to understand that we are in some difficult fiscal times, especially for the remainder of fiscal year 2013, but we will look to try and figure this out and get more predictable with some things in 2014 and the out years on this. We may have to take some minor cuts in training and education the remainder of the fiscal year as we try to maintain the highest level of readiness, but we will still invest in our Airmen."

The Chief has held many positions during his more than 28 years in the Air Force, but he said he hasn't forgotten what it was like moving through the ranks, and he plans to stay connected with Airmen at all levels.

"I will be out amongst Airmen just as I am today," Cody said. That will be a big part of what I do in this position, and should do. I will make a very deliberate and concerted effort to stay connected with all demographics of Airmen.

"You have young Airmen, mid-tier NCOs, Senior NCOS, civilians, Guard and Reserve, who all have views on different things," he added. "Everybody has a perspective that I must have an appreciation for. I will do my best to stay connected with Airmen in every form and fashion that I can, and give them avenues to do so as well."

Finally, the Chief told Airmen he thought highly of Barksdale Air Force Base, its mission and the Airmen who make things happen.

"This is the greatest part of the job," said the Chief. "The greatest part of being in this position is the opportunity to come out and spend time with our Airmen. Certainly the men and women in AFGSC, 8th AF and the 2d Bomb Wing have impressed us. They are amazing."