Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Born in the military: One family's legacy of service

by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

7/30/2013 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Military deployments are difficult for both the service member and the family members they leave behind. Being in a dual-military parent family doesn't make it easier, but after nearly 50 years of combined service, the current Wakefields are continuing their family's tradition.

"My great uncles served in the Army during WWII, my dad was an Army mortar man, I'm an aircraft maintainer and now my son is an infantryman in the Marines," said Chief Master Sgt. Gary Wakefield, the 7th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit chief deployed from Robins Air Force Base, Ga. "As soon as my youngest graduates high school, he'll also join the Marines."

For the Wakefields, the military has become a way of life that's been passed down through the generations and as if by fate, the chief found himself a wife whose family also has a strong legacy of service.

"My dad spent 23 years in the Air Force as basically a security police officer," said Master Sgt. Dana Wakefield, who is assigned to the 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Dobbins Air Reserve Base and working for the Air Force Reserve Management Group's Training Management Branch at Robins AFB. "So I grew up in the life of the military child with father gone a lot and mom struggling to keep it all together."

That sentiment is nothing new for (dual-) military families with at least one member gone every 20 months or less for various deployments, temporary duty assignments and unaccompanied one year "short" tours to places like Turkey and South Korea.

"I'm not going lie, it has been difficult at times leaving my family as often and as long as I have throughout my career," the 25-year chief said. "But we pulled through it as a family and I believe these experiences have made us stronger."

Not only was it hard for the chief, but those times dad was gone, were difficult for the family as well.

"All the deployments, unaccompanied tours and moving every two to four years does make you earn your pay check in very unexpected ways," Dana said, who has served for nearly 23 years herself. "I thought it would be easier for me having grown up that way, but it has been just as hard, maybe harder as I struggle to balance being a mom and serve my country in uniform as well."

Dana talked about how she's felt during deployments, especially now both her husband and oldest son are deployed at the same time.

"In the past deployments, I have felt every dark emotion known to womankind," she said. "You become needy in ways you can't understand and you can't explain. It is a strange situation because then they come back and while your new needs start to be filled, the deployment-related needs stay unmet."

Dana thinks this is why many spouses suffer from various forms of stress disorders and depression.

"You think all is fine when they come back and then another deployment comes and bam, you get it right in the kisser and it all comes flooding back and your fears return," she said.

Deployments can be tough for military families, but Dana said the blessing is knowing they are coming home.

"While you are missing many areas of support from your spouse, your burden will lighten when they come home, especially if both of you work on the recovery after deployment," she said. "Having my husband and my son deployed at the same time is very strange. I think I am over my initial fear and anxiety, though I do get very weak in the knees whether I am sitting down or standing up when I say, 'They are both deployed.' But then I focus on how very proud I am of both of them."

Marine Pfc. Seth Wakefield, currently deployed to an undisclosed location in Africa, said it was his parents who really got him interested in the family business.

"I was always fascinated with the military and when Mom and Dad would sometimes come pick me up from school in their battle dress uniforms -- I thought it was so cool," Seth said. "I think anyone who has family in the military, even distant relatives, when you tell someone about it, you fill with pride."

Seth is the older of the two Wakefield boys, who beat his younger brother, Gage, to the "Semper Fidelis" way of life.

But how do you go from growing up Air Force to joining the Marines?

"I wanted a challenge," Gage said with a smile. "When I was little and my brother and I said we were going to be Marines, Mom would say, 'Ok, if you want to make your mother cry.' Now that we are older, she is happy with my choice, although she wishes I would be a linguist or intel."

Yet, like his brother, he plans to join the infantry.

"It gives me a sense of nationalism and pride," Gage said. "I see from my parents that being in the military is a wonderful way of life that grants amazing opportunities for my future."

Echoing his brother, Seth explained what it means to him to have such strong figures in the home.

"My dad is an outstanding example for a young man to follow and I often times find myself in situations where I think of him and what he would do," Seth said. "And just like any good Marine, I often find myself paving my own path right through the hardest route then thinking, 'Shoot, I should have listened to him!' No, but I'm thankful my dad and mom are such great examples of outstanding military personnel."

That token holds true for how the chief and Dana feel of their son's continued commitment to the family tradition of service.

"I'm proud of my boys," the chief said. "What they've accomplished and plan to do with their lives -- that commitment to service, like Dana and I have had, it is truly humbling to know your boys want to serve their country because you served."

Dana added the military is their family business; it is passed down from father or mother to daughter or son.

"It is the way our family gives back to our community and our country," she said. "I am very proud of the two patriots we have raised and my hopes for them are bright and shiny just like the stars on our flag. We have a great love of our country, and as my Mom would say, 'Worts and all.'"

After more deployments, permanent changes of station, TDYs, etc., Dana and the chief said they couldn't have done it without their family, friends and often times, complete strangers.

"I am grateful for the many Americans I meet almost every day who say, 'Thank you for your service,'" Dana said.

Inaugural Olympic match held at Cannon

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

7/16/2013 - CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.  -- Emergency first responders with the 27th Special Operations Wing came together to compete and display capabilities in an Olympic-style competition held at Unity Park here, July 12.

The joint training competition pulled participants from bioenvironmental engineering, emergency management and fire protection.

The HAZMAT Responder Olympics consisted of several three-person teams comprised of one member from each department. Each team competed in timed scenarios covering chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents.

"This training event focuses on team cohesion, communication and response capabilities - but in a fun, competitive atmosphere," said Staff Sgt. Kristen Taylor, 27th Special Operations Aerospace Medicine Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight. "After participating in this event, competitors will be able to identify their specific strengths as well as areas they need to give more attention to during future training."

Between each scenario, members faced challenges before being able to move on to the next task and downgrade personal protective equipment.

The three agencies involved were selected due to the fact that they already conduct joint training routinely. There is the possibility that other agencies could be involved in future games.

"We wanted to focus on three challenges today that included the CBRN incidents," Taylor said. "We started the teams in Level A with fully encapsulated suits and self-contained breathing apparatuses, and continued downgrading gear.

"The teams were required to operate response equipment for each scenario to sample and identify hazards while suited up," she continued. "Between each scenario, we included a fun challenge that each team had to complete in order to move on to the next scenario."

The event not only brought on a sense of camaraderie between the three agencies, but showcased some of Cannon's best and brightest emergency responders.

"We conduct joint training to better enhance Cannon's response capabilities in preparation for an accident or terrorist event occurring," Taylor said. "In a real world CBRN situation, all competing agencies would enter the scene together to sample, identify and monitor hazards. All agencies would work together for personal protective equipment determination, decontamination planning, downwind hazard areas determination, and evacuation plan development.

"While this event was our trial run, we received the support we hoped for from the participating units," she continued. "Hopefully, we can make future competitions more advanced and involve other agencies."

Cruise missile flight Airmen protect aircrews, aim for excellence

by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Raughton
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

7/30/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- There's a single point on base where Airmen perform a critical part of the mission here to fuel, maintain, load and test missiles -- all under one roof.

The Airmen assigned to the 2nd Munitions Squadron Cruise Missile Flight at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., sustain Air Force Global Strike Command's only Conventional Air Launch Cruise Missile stockpile.

"Our number one goal is deterrence," said Master Sgt. Scottie Cantrell, the NCO in charge of launcher maintenance. "We work on a fascinating weapons system that is guaranteed to work."

"One can think of a cruise missile as a small aircraft that doesn't come back," said 2nd Lt. Dayna Grant, the 2nd MUNS assistant cruise missile flight commander. "It is one of the smartest weapons in our inventory and provides a long-range strike capability."

However, cruise missiles boast more than just a longer range over conventional munitions.

"The cruise missile has a jet engine, flight control surfaces and internal navigation controls which act like a pilot to steer the missile," said Capt. Andrew Cooper, the 2nd MUNS cruise missile flight commander. "It can change altitude or direction and make multiple passes over its target."

Cruise missile technology allows B-52H Stratofortress aircrews to launch them far from harm.

"The B-52 can fly into a region and the missile will cover the rest of the distance while the B-52 flies home without being in danger," Cooper said.

Due to the missile's highly technical construction, Airmen who work on them require diverse training that begins at Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

"This career field is one of the most versatile career fields in the Air Force," Grant said. "It encompasses a variety of different skill sets, to include technical expertise in fuels, structures, weapons loading, electric maintenance, avionics and handling."

In pursuit of excellence, cruise missile flight Airmen work hard to accomplish the deterrence mission.

"The world doesn't know where our nuclear-capable submarines are, and they don't know the status of our intercontinental ballistic missiles," Cooper said. "But they can see Barksdale (AFB Airmen) generating B-52s on the flightline which can be enough to quell conflict in a region because they know America's capability. The rest of the world can see the B-52 fleet and its arsenal of weapons and know that we can reach out and touch them."

Haney Vows to Maintain Deterrence as Stratcom Commander

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2013 – Calling the pursuit of nuclear weapons by violent extremists and nuclear weapons proliferation the greatest strategic threats to the United States, Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney told Congress today he will make providing a safe, secure and effective strategic nuclear deterrent his top priority if confirmed to lead U.S. Strategic Command.

Haney, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet and Stratcom’s previous deputy commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee he will do everything in his power to ensure a ready nuclear force that provides strategic deterrence for the United States and its allies.

That, he noted, includes continued modernization of the nuclear triad and the warheads, platforms, sensors and industrial base that supports it.

“As long as other countries have nuclear weapons, we are required to have a safe, secure and effective means to address that,” he said.

Haney also vowed to continue vital Stratcom support to ongoing combat operations being conducted by U.S. Central Command and other combatant commands.

Haney recognized the pace of technology, particularly in the space and cyberspace realms, and the need to maintain a strategic edge in support of the United States and its global interests.

So another top priority, he said, will be to preserve U.S. access to and freedom of action in space, as outlined in the new National Space Policy. This vast operational area is “competitive, congested and contested,” he said, but provides capabilities vital to situational awareness and other capabilities the joint force requires.

Haney also emphasized the importance of partnership and cooperation to ensure the cyber capabilities military operations require.

“Addressing the cyber threat is critical to our national security,” he said. “Intensive and extensive cooperation across the whole of government and the governments of our allies, partners and friends is required to prepare for and respond to these developments.”

Asked his views about elevating U.S. Cyber Command, currently a subunified command under Stratcom, to a separate combatant command, Haney said he is open to consideration, but believes the current structure “is working in a very synchronized fashion.”

“I am a fan of a command and control structure that allows us to win,” he told the panel, emphasizing the importance of Cybercom’s continued alignment with the National Security Agency.
“That synergy is so important,” he added.

Adaptability will be vital as the United States faces ever-changing traditional and nontraditional threats that pose challenges to U.S. global interests, Haney said.

“Our potential adversaries have studied the U.S. way of warfare and are actively developing asymmetric responses,” he noted in his written statement, submitted for the record. “We will need flexible and adaptive capabilities to respond to unknown abilities.”

Haney said he looks forward to working with Congress to address the strategic threats and challenges facing the nation. “They are complex and compelling, and Strategic Command plays a key role in each,” he said.

“Complex threats provide opportunities for terrorism and raise significant security concerns,” Haney added.

Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, the current Stratcom commander, told reporters last week the command that has matured over time as it adopted additional missions.

 “I think it is a better command to take on the challenge of the nation’s strategic deterrence,” he said during a Defense Writers Group breakfast.

“Our approach today is to tailor deterrence to specific actors. One size no longer fits all,” Kehler said. “The nature of the threat has changed pretty dramatically. … The threats we face today are not the same, so this command can’t be the same.”

Kehler said he has full faith in his former deputy’s ability to assume Stratcom’s reins.

“I think he will inherit a command that has come a long way in the last eight or so years -- a long way,” he said.

Face of Defense: Pilots’ ‘Pipe Dream’ Comes True in F-22 Cockpit

By Air Force Capt. Erin Dorrance
49th Wing

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M., July 30, 2013 – After three years of rigorous training, 25-year-old Air Force 1st Lt. Andrew Van Timmeren, a pilot with the 7th Fighter Squadron here, finally got to climb into the cockpit of an F-22 Raptor -- the world’s most advanced fighter jet -- and take it for a spin.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force 1st Lt. Stephen Renner, 7th Fighter Squadron F-22 Raptor pilot, examines the maintenance order on the aircraft before flight at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., July 25, 2013. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kasey Close

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The single-seat, twin-engine aircraft is an air dominance fighter that uses stealth technology and eventually will replace the aging F-15C Eagle fighter jets.

“It is a pipe dream to fly the Raptor,” said Van Timmeren, who was assigned the F-22 after completing undergraduate pilot training.

The Grand Rapids, Mich., native studied political science at the U.S. Air Force Academy and graduated in 2010. Everyone asked him what he wanted to fly while he was at the academy, he said, but cadets who expressed a desire to fly the F-22, were laughed at because it was an unrealistic dream.

Previously, F-22 aircraft were assigned only to F-15 and F-16 pilots with fighter experience. The Air Force opened up the F-22 pipeline to new pilots after several years, once experienced instructor and evaluator pilots were in place.

“It is well within the capacity of these new pilots to fly the F-22,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Shawn “Rage” Anger, 7th Fighter Squadron commander. “New pilots make our experienced instructor and evaluator pilots even better at their jobs because of the meticulous training required when you are brand new to the jet.”

Once pilots arrive to the 7th Fighter Squadron, they have several weeks of training before they are considered “combat ready” in the F-22. Since the F-22 is a single-seat airplane, its pilots are on their own, with a wingman flying alongside for support.

Air Force 1st Lt. Stephen Renner, another 7th Fighter Squadron pilot, said that when he walked out to an F-22 for the first time, he had to do a “gut check.”

“I knew I was prepared because of my amazing training, but I did feel anxious to fly the F-22 on my own the first time,” he said.

Renner graduated from the Air Force Academy with a degree in astronautical engineering in 2010. The Piedmont, Calif., native said he has wanted to be a pilot for as long as he can remember.

“It has been a long road, but entirely worth it,” he said. “Flying the F-22 is a far-fetched dream come true.”

Van Timmeren and Renner both graduated at the top of their undergraduate pilot training classes. “We were pretty lucky to get F-22 drops, because it doesn’t happen often,” Renner said.

Both lieutenants have spent the past three years enduring the Air Force’s intense pilot training program, which includes hundreds of hours of simulator and training aircraft flying, water survival, austere land survival, and medical evaluations.

The training also includes three flights in an F-16 Fighting Falcon to prove could the pilots can withstand 9 G’s of gravitational force, land a fighter aircraft and complete aerial refueling, Van Timmeren said.

“Flying is a bug I was born with,” he added. “I was just blessed to be able to realize it, and to chase my dream.”

U.S.-South Korea Exercises Vital to Readiness, General Says

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2013 – North Korea is investing in asymmetric systems such as special operations, cyber, and ballistic missiles as its conventional forces have declined in capability, the nominee to serve as the top U.S. and allied commander in South Korea told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Army Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti was testifying as part of the confirmation process to receive his fourth star and become the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, United Nations Command and Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command. He currently serves as the director of the Joint Staff in the Pentagon.

The present strategy for dealing with North Korea -- one of diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions -- is correct, Scaparrotti told the Senate panel.

“I think we have to be persistent and consistent with that strategy,” he said.

“I think the more influence we have, both in the region and internationally, … will be helpful in our strategy,” the general added. “And I think those [military-to-military] relationships are very important to progressing … to our objective about de-nuclearization of the peninsula.”

Joint U.S.-South Korea exercises such as Bold Eagle and Key Resolve are important parts of that influence building, as well as being vital to maintaining readiness on the peninsula, he said.

Scaparrotti said the exercises help to test and develop the milestones in Strategic Alliance 2015, the bilateral agreement to turn over wartime operational control of the Korean defense mission to South Korea in December 2015.

“I also think they're essential in terms of the integration that we're trying to attain and the improvement in both our forces and the Republic of Korea forces,” he added.

Sequestration eventually will put the mission in South Korea at risk, the general said. A reduction in the size of naval forces in the region would undercut the deterrent role they play in the eyes of North Korea and may lead to a greater possibility of miscalculation, Scaparrotti said.

U.S. forces in Korea remain comparatively unscathed by sequester, he said, but they eventually will feel its effects. “We already see the impact on readiness,” the general noted.

For now, though, U.S. Forces Korea enjoys a very high priority in terms of funding and resources, Scaparrotti said, “because we have to be ready to fight in Korea tonight. It's that uncertain.”

Despite concerns about costs, ongoing plans to relocate U.S. troops currently based near Seoul to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek are part of Strategic Alliance 2015, the general said.

“We've made agreements with our [South Korean] allies, and those moves are tied to that,” he said. “But I would say, too, that those moves help us posture our forces better,” Scaparrotti added.