Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mud fun: Reserve 'Mudruckers' hit the pits again

by Senior Airman Meredith A. H. Thomas
315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

3/12/2014 - MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C.  -- Several reservists with the 315th Airlift Wing here took a break from unit training assembly activities March 8, to run, splash and crawl through the mud on the Boone Hall Farms Rugged Maniac 5K course here.

This was a repeat appearance for the "Mudruckers," who completed their first obstacle-style mud challenge, the Dirty Girl Mud Run, in September.

Their first race was a women's-only event, but the Rugged Maniac team saw the addition of a couple men and some mud run first-timers.

Master Sgt. Larry Graybill, logistics plans NCO in charge with the 315th Logistics Readiness Squadron here, donned "Mudruckers" pink to join the team for their first co-ed run. This was Graybill's inaugural mud challenge and, despite feeling sore the next day, he is excited for the next one.

"I learned a lot this time around," he said. "I think I will have to have a dedicated set of clothes and shoes for running these things in the future. You had to scrub and scrub to get that mud off!"

The 9-person team persevered through shoe-claiming mud bogs, tire barriers, cargo net climbs, and frigid water obstacles. The course culminated with a slide into a dirty mud bath and a low-crawl under barbed wire through one last, extra-soupy mud pit.

Senior Master Sgt. Karla Rose, 315th Force Support Squadron superintendent here and organizer of the "Mudruckers" team, said she saw some dedicated participants on the course.

"We saw a girl lose both of her shoes on the very first mud pit we went through," she said. "She then lost both of her socks as well and ran the rest of the course barefoot!"

The 315th AW Reserve recruiters helped sponsor the Mount Pleasant run and were also on hand at the event to support the Reserve team. The recruiters braved muddy handshakes and requests for hugs from runners covered head-to-toe in dark muck in order to inform everyone about the mission of the Air Force Reserve and encourage people to enlist.

The event was a huge success for the Reserve "Mudruckers," all of whom crossed the finish line filthy and cold but beaming from ear to ear.

"Just like last time, we helped each other through and we laughed the whole way," said Master Sgt. Barbara Sosebee, 315th Mission Support Group career advisor here.

Team Fairchild celebrates Wingmanship

by Staff Sgt. Veronica Montes
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

3/12/2014 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash.  -- Members across Team Fairchild participated in the 92nd Air Refueling Wing's biannual Wingman day March 7 to reinforce good Wingman behaviors.

Each unit or squadron attended to their own agendas, but discussed similar concepts across the base touching on each pillar or domain of comprehensive Airman fitness.

Dawn Altmaier, 92nd ARW Installation Resilience Program specialist, said the three goals of Wingman day were for Airmen and their families to gather a universal understanding of Wingmanship, encourage face-to-face activities allowing Airmen to get to know their supervisors, peers and subordinates, and for units to facilitate small-group interactions, skill and team-building exercises.

"Everyone had a full day's worth of activities," said Altmaier. "The majority of units participated in small-group discussions about diversity, feeling, being a good wingman and ethical decision making. Most groups had a focus on the four CAF pillars; mental, social, physical and spiritual."

Along with discussions, many groups participated in sports activities, morale-boosting games, cultural potlucks and community involvement.

"Our group went to the wood shop on base to put together wood projects to deliver to a local veterans home," said Staff Sgt. Ben Davis, 92nd ARM command chief executive, and Wingman day POC. "It was a good team building opportunity and we were able to serve others as well. It's also nice to get away from the office and do an activity together."

Along with the CAF pilliars, 'Duty to Intervene' was another topic focused on by the units. Duty to intervene means being able to step in helping fellow Wingmen make the right decisions, regardless of what others may think of you. While these initiatives are often practiced, the concept of the day is a reminder to everyone.

"Wingman day is all about helping your fellow Airmen and making good decisions," said Altmaier. "It's about helping all of us succeed as Airmen and being a 'voice of reason' to one another."

Military Children View Muppets Movie at White House

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2014 – First Lady Michelle Obama hosted military children and their families at the White House yesterday for a special screening of the Disney motion picture “Muppets Most Wanted,” with an opening address by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.

The event was part of the Joining Forces initiative, established in April 2011 by the first lady and Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, to mobilize support for military families and veterans by all sectors of society.

“We want you to know how much we love the children of our men and women who serve in uniform,” said Dempsey, who was accompanied by his wife, Deanie. “You guys are terrific. We couldn’t do what we do without you.”

The nation’s top-ranking military officer had a few questions for the children before the movie.

“Why are teddy bears never hungry?” he asked them.

“Because they're always stuffed,” a child called out.

“You’re right,” Dempsey said. “What do you call a pig that knows karate?”

“Pork chop,” another answered.

“You guys are all over it,” the chairman told the children. “You’re ready for the movie. Finally, what is a frog’s favorite kind of music?”

“Hip hop!” several kids answered.

“Well, I know this movie is going to be funnier than the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Dempsey joked.

Dempsey introduced the first lady as “someone very special to us as a military family -- someone who has spent her time in office with her husband making sure that we can take care of you,” he said.

Obama said she wanted the children to know why their attendance at the White House was important.

“We are incredibly proud of you,” she said, also acknowledging the presence of their parents and Gold Star family members. “I meet a lot of kids, and I am most impressed by our military kids, because I know you guys have a lot on your plates.

“When your parents are deployed, you have to be big boys and girls,” she continued. “You have to get your homework done. You have to stay out of trouble. You have to help out with your brothers and sisters. You have to behave. You have to be strong and brave.”

Obama said she is impressed with how the children handle those tasks, “in a way that makes us proud.”

“You guys are heroes,” she added. “So we thought you should be some of the first kids in the entire country that sees one of the best, coolest movies on the planet.”

But before the movie started, Obama said there was another “extra special” guest in the house, as she introduced the Muppets character Kermit the Frog, who stars in the movie.

“I would have been here sooner,” Kermit said as he joined Obama and Dempsey on the stage. “But it took me a while to get through security. And I still don't understand how a frog with no clothes could set off a metal detector.”

Kermit told the children it isn’t always easy being green. “And sometimes it’s not easy for you guys -- for your moms and dads who wear a green uniform, a blue or white one. But you guys have to be just as tough as them.”

Military children often move from town to town every couple of years and have to make new friends, Kermit noted. “I know you wish your mom and dad could be around more than they are. But because of that, you’re all strong and brave and very grown-up, and that's very cool. And I wish I had been that cool when I was a tadpole.”

Dempsey awarded the “senior Muppet” with his personal challenge coin to honor what he’s done for military children. “Kermit, on behalf of the armed forces, and especially on behalf of this group of great soldier, sailor, airman, Marine spouses and children, I’d like to give you this coin,” he said.

“You are all amazing,” Kermit told the audience as the movie commenced. “I may not be a Marine, but I am marine life. I salute you.”

Northcom, NORAD Stand Ready to Defend Nation, Commander Says

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2014 – The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 provided an important reprieve by enabling short-term readiness fixes and selected program buybacks of significant importance, the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command said today.

But the challenges posed by sequestration and the Budget Control Act remain, Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Defense Department’s ability to plan and decide strategically and find innovative solutions to complex national security challenges is hampered by the budget uncertainty, he said.

“The recent Bipartisan Budget Act only postpones, but does not eliminate, the risks to our future readiness and ability to meet the missions specified in the defense strategic guidance of 2012,” Jacoby said before calling on Congress to find a permanent fix.

The department made a “hard choice” when it implemented the furlough of civilian employees as a cost-cutting measure, the general said. “This decision compromised morale, unsettled families and caused us to break a bond of trust -- one that is absolutely critical to the accomplishment of our mission,” he added.

Equally unsettling, Jacoby said, is that NORAD's ability to execute its primary mission has been subjected to increased risk due to the degradation of Air Force combat readiness.

“With the vigilance and the support of Air Combat Command and the [U.S. Air Forces in Europe], we've been able to sustain our effective day-to-day posture, but that comes at the cost of overall U.S. Air Force readiness, which continues to hover at 50 percent,” the general said.

Threats to national security are becoming more diffuse and less attributable, the general noted. Ultimately, he said, crises elsewhere in the world can rapidly manifest themselves in the United States and make the nation more vulnerable.

“While we stand constant vigil against asymmetric network threat activities, Russian actions in the Ukraine demonstrate that symmetric threats remain,” Jacoby said. “Al-Qaida and transnational criminal networks continue to adapt, and they do so much more quickly than we do.”

To deter and defeat these globally networked threats, the United States must prioritize its support to its partners in the law enforcement community and the international community, the general said.

And, “tangible evidence of North Korean and Iranian ambitions confirms that a limited ballistic missile threat to the homeland has matured from a theoretical to a practical consideration,” he added.

Northcom and NORAD are working with the Missile Defense Agency to address concerns about the potential for proliferation of these lethal technologies, Jacoby said. Together, the three agencies are investing in a “tailored solution to address the challenges that advancing missile technologies impose on our ballistic missile defense system architecture,” he noted.

Northcom and NORAD are working together to address a variety of other challenges, the general said. As seasonal ice decreases, for example, the Arctic is evolving into an increasingly important strategic issue, he told the Senate panel.

“Therefore, we continue to work with our premier Arctic partner, Canada, and other stakeholders to develop our communications domain awareness infrastructure and presence in order to enable safety, security, and defense in the far north,” Jacoby said.

Maintaining an in-depth defense of the nation requires partnerships with neighboring countries, the general said.

“Our futures are inextricably bound together. And this needs to be a good thing in the security context,” he said. “The stronger and safer they are, the stronger our partnerships, the safer we all are collectively. And this creates our common, competitive security advantage for North America.”

Northcom also stands ready to respond to national security events and to support the federal response to man-made or natural disasters, he said.

“Our challenge remains to not be late to need,” the general said. “The men and women of Northcom and NORAD proudly remain vigilant and ready, as we stand watch over North America and adapt to the uncertainty of the global security environment and fiscal realities.”

Snowbird Range Ops

by Airman 1st Class Shane Karp
177th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/7/2014 - GILA BEND AIR FORCE AUXILIARY BASE, Ariz. -- Using an array of technological equipment that most only experience in video games, a tactical air control party Airman calculates grid coordinates for a circling fighter aircraft. Only seconds later, a 500-pound bomb hits a target from miles away with the accuracy and precision that rivals even the best surgeons.

Members from the 227th Air Support Operations Squadron took to the 1.9-million acre Barry Goldwater Air Force Bombing Range during Operation Snowbird. While most occupations leave some room for error, when you are dealing with munitions that can be disastrous when deployed incorrectly, accuracy is key.

One vital piece of equipment the TACP airmen utilize to ensure accuracy is a laser marker system. The system uses laser energy to help guide bombs to a target from up to 20 kilometers away.

"The bombs can do some pretty amazing stuff," said Tech. Sgt. Wayne White, a TACP airman with the 227th ASOS. "The pilots will be far out there and just toss the bomb in the air and it will pick up the laser energy and find its way right in."

The Barry Goldwater Bombing Range, considered one of the largest ranges in the country, gives the TACP airmen the opportunity to train in scenarios that they could encounter while deployed.

"The great thing about out here is that you could be scheduled to have four units come to the range, and by the end of the day you've had 10 units," said Maj. Scott Michalowski, an air liaison officer with the 227th ASOS. "It's actually very realistic in the sense that you don't know what you're getting until they show up."

Airmen from the 227th ASOS have been able to train with a variety of units and aircraft including Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and F-16C Fighting Falcons aircraft.

Along with their work on the ground, the ASOS members from the New Jersey Air National Guard were also able to familiarize themselves with what the mission looks like from the sky.

In what are referred to as familiarization flights, airmen from the 227th ASOS were able to capitalize on an experience designed for those who could benefit in their career field from a chance to fly in one of the world's most powerful aircraft.

"As a joint terminal attack controller, we only get one perspective 90 percent of the time, and that perspective is on the flat level ground," said 2nd Lt. Keith A. Giamberardino, an air liaison officer with the 227th ASOS. "Having an understanding of what it is that a pilot sees, versus what we actually see, is crucial in order to effectively get bombs where you want them to be."

Giamberardino recognized that it was a special opportunity to be able to fly in the F-16D.

"Guys jump through hoops to give us the opportunity to do this," said Giamberardino. "It's few and far between that any non-pilot gets to fly in a fighter jet."

The practical employment of equipment in the mountains of Arizona, as well as the experiences in the sky above the simulated battlefield made for a well-rounded training experience for the TACP squadron.

Sequestration Would Cripple U.S. Military Strategy, Hagel Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2014 – If sequestration begins again in fiscal year 2016, the U.S. military will not be able to carry out defense strategy, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee this morning.

A return to sequester would put at risk "America's traditional role as a guarantor of global security, and ultimately our own security," Hagel said.

Events in Europe over the past few weeks underscore the need for American involvement, Hagel said. President Barack Obama's fiscal 2015 defense budget request reflects that reality, he added, and sustains U.S. commitments and leadership at a very defining time.

"I believe this budget has to be far more than a set of numbers or just a list of decisions," the secretary said. "It is a statement of values. It's a statement of priorities. It's a statement of our needs. It's a statement of our responsibilities."

The budget request is realistic, Hagel said, and prepares the military to defend the nation at a time of increasing uncertainty throughout the world.

From the troop side, Hagel discussed compensation reform. The department is committed to providing service members fair compensation, he emphasized, "as well as the training and the tools and the edge they will always need to succeed in battle and return home safely.”

"To meet those obligations under constrained budgets, we need some modest adjustments to the growth in pay and benefits,” the secretary said. “All these savings will be reinvested in training and equipping our troops. And there are no proposals to change retirement in this budget."

The Defense Department will continue to recommend pay increases, Hagel said, but they will not be as substantial as in past years. The department will continue subsidizing off-base housing costs, he added, but not at 100 percent, as it is today. DOD will pay about 95 percent, he said, and it will be phased in over the next several years.

The budget request includes a provision to reduce subsidies for military commissaries. "We are not shutting down commissaries," Hagel explained. "We recommend gradually phasing out some subsidies, but only for domestic commissaries that are not in remote areas."

Finally, the secretary said, the Defense Department recommends simplifying and modernizing the three TRICARE military health plan systems by merging them into one, with modest increases in copays and deductibles for military retirees and family members that encourage them more fully to use the most affordable means of care. "Active duty personnel will still receive care that is entirely free," he said.

Airman’s passion in singing landed a gig with “Tops in Blue”

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera
JBER Public Affairs

3/13/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- Airman 1st Class Alexander Ross' last performance was singing the national anthem and the Alaska state song at the 673d annual awards ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Feb. 7, 2014.

It was the biggest event at which he performed, and his first time performing with the JBER Honor Guard.

"No one told me that I had to wait for the Honor Guard to present the colors before beginning to sing the national anthem," Ross said. "I waited for the Honor Guard to present the colors and started singing again."

It was a graceful save, but his leadership didn't seem to think so--or so he thought.

His commander, Air Force 673d Logistic Readiness Squadron Lt. Col. John Harris, and 673d LRG commander Col. John Pepin came to his shop and demanded to know what had happened.

He nervously explained his confusion and waited for the fallout.

"I think you need practice on that," Harris said. "I think I know a great way for you to get plenty of practice. How about you go ahead and join the 2014 tour for Tops in Blue."

The singer had been selected to join TIB; Ross said he was surprised and speechless.

"When I heard him say that, I was just standing there thinking to myself, 'are you kidding me right now?' My mouth just dropped and everyone was clapping," Ross said. "I am still in shock. It hasn't really hit me yet and this is crazy."

The fuels technician was selected as a vocalist for Tops in Blue, the Air Force's premier entertainment showcase, after submitting an audition video singing Michael Bublé's "Feeling Good." A representative from TIB had asked Harris and Pepin to give him the news.

Ross is no stranger to performing. Before joining the Air Force, the Waynesboro, Va., native started singing in church with his family at a young age.

"Singing has always been a part of my life," Ross said. "My father was a vocals major in college and I started singing with my family, creating our own three part harmony pieces by performing in our local church."

Having a musical background and talent helped him land a position with the TIB after being in the Air Force only 11 months.

"My father's side of the family had a recording label with Jerry Lewis called 'The Singing Ross Family.' They used to travel and perform professionally back in the day," Ross said. "It was something I grew up around."

Even though his family have always been entertainers, he does not consider himself one, but he is hopeful TIB will help him achieve his potential.

"I think I have potential to be an entertainer," said the 25-year-old. "I love performing for people because it makes them happy and it makes me happy. It's something I like to do."

The first time Ross ever heard of Tops in Blue was when he told his recruiter he likes singing as a hobby.

"[Tops in Blue] has always been on my radar but I did not have any plans to pursue within my first year in the military," Ross said. "So I did not think this is going to happen like this, but I saw my opportunity and decided to go for it."

Ross got that extra push in pursuing his dream after Senior Master Sgt. Ronald Crowl, 673d LRS fuels management flight chief, emailed him the link to the Tops in Blue showing they were looking for a male tenor vocalist.

Crowl remembered his first interview with Ross after arriving on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

"A1C Ross expressed that one of his interests were to be part of a band," the 18-year veteran said. "The fuels management flight kept that statement in the back of our minds and months later an opportunity to participate in the Tops in Blue program came across the Air Force Portal and we immediately thought of him."

Upon clicking on the link Crowl sent him, Ross reflected back, thinking, 'You know what, I am going to try it out because I have done a couple promotion ceremonies singing the national anthem here [on base] and people really like it. So why not?'

His leadership and colleagues support Ross's opportunity.

"The flight knows he is a perfect fit," Crowl said. "Everyone is extremely excited for him to be a part of such a unique team. All facets of the chain of command were truly proud of him being selected."

Since being notified in February, he only had a few weeks to get ready and his only sentiment for his Fuel Management Flight peers is that he is going to miss them.

"They've become my second family," Ross said. "I just started to build those close relationship and I am going away again, so that is a little hard."

As Ross's song audition goes, "It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life."

Ross will start touring with TIB in May.

CMSAF Cody, wife tour Whiteman, visit B-2 total force

by 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs

3/12/2014 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody and his wife, retired Chief Master Sgt. Athena Cody, visited Total Force Airmen and got a firsthand look at Whiteman's B-2 operations during their recent trip to the base.

The visit coincided with the March drill weekend for the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing, and highlighted the successful total force integration with the active duty 509th Bomb Wing.

"We're one Air Force and everything that we do as an Air Force, we do together. That's what makes us great," Cody told a group of junior enlisted Airmen at a weekend all call, one of a series of such forums the Air Force's top enlisted leader held while here.

A topic of keen interest to Airmen was proposed changes to the enlisted evaluation system, which Cody has previously discussed on his CHIEFChat program on BlueTube, the Air Force's social media video channel. Highlights of the new system include increased focus on job performance, a move away from numbered ratings, and an enhanced Airman-supervisor feedback program.

"We've been using the new feedback form in our office, just to get a feel for how long it takes, and to see if it's asking the right type of stuff, or if it is generating the right type of discussion," he said. "The feedback is the most important thing here, because that is where you establish their potential, where the opportunity is and what your expectations are."

Cody also addressed the need for force management programs in a fiscally constrained Air Force environment.

"Nobody wants to see Airmen leave our Air Force, because a lot of them are great Airmen who want to do nothing but serve," he said. "They've been supported by great families, and they want this to be what they do in life - and we're going to tell someone they can't.

"It breaks my heart," he continued. "I empathize with them in the most meaningful way you can, but it doesn't change the scenario. Our responsibility to the nation is to take the budget they give us and give them the absolute best military they can have - and in our case the best Air Force they could possibly want."

In addition to all calls, Cody toured Whiteman's flight, maintenance and support operations. He was particularly impressed by the successful integration of the B-2 mission shared by the active duty and guard wings at Whiteman.

"I look at each one of you, and I see a capability - a capability that's proven itself time and time, and time again," Cody told a Citizen Airman audience. "You do everything, every bit as good as every other Airman in the Air Force, because you are every other Airman in the Air Force.

"There is no distinction between airmen within the components, when it comes to how we do our jobs, how we live up to our Air Force standards and how we live up to Air Force Core Values," he said.

Chaplains conduct ‘blitz’ to engage with JBER Airmen

by Air Force Staff Sgt. William Banton
JBER Public Affairs

3/13/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaksa -- Decisive edge. Increased engagement. Shifts in resources.

These words could be used to describe any military unit planning tactical engagements, but few would guess that these words apply to the base chaplains.

In an effort to improve the chaplaincy's focus of the spiritual needs of Air Force personnel at a tactical level, this past fall Air Force Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Howard Stendahl, Air Force chief of chaplains, directed that 70 percent of a chaplain's time be spent directly in units and at least 18 hours be spent in face-to-face unit engagement.

To meet this requirement, the JBER chaplaincy decided to visit each unit in an effort described as a blitz. The chapel staff broke down JBER-Elmendorf into 12 zones, which they visit on a rotating basis to guarantee they contact every Air Force unit each month.
"Since squadrons are so spread out, chaplains were spending too much time traveling from building to building looking for their people," said Air Force Chaplain (Maj.) Steven Richardson, JBER deputy chaplain. "Many Airmen were being missed, so we decided to visit geographical areas so everyone sees a chaplain or chaplain assistant at least once a month."

The blitz enables chaplains to meet new requirements while maintaining core competency and functions of the chaplaincy, said Air Force Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kenneth Reyes, JBER chief of chaplains.

"We deploy like a small force and we fan out across the zone," said Tech. Sgt. Steven James, JBER Chapel Center noncommissioned officer-in-charge of operational support.
Some zones have more buildings in them than others, so chaplains and chaplain assistants are divided into teams to ensure they maximize outreach without hindering productivity and don't overwhelm one building with their entire staff.

"I think it's awesome because you hear all the time, 'Hey, go see your chaplain' or 'go talk to a chaplain'," said Tech. Sgt. Torey Moore, 962d Airborne Air Control Squadron air surveillance technician. "I'm sure someone out there doesn't even know who their chaplain is."

James explained that this type of outreach doesn't have to be spiritual in nature, though it can be. The intent is to introduce chapel staff to Airmen and make sure the needs of the Airmen are being met.

"There is no ulterior motive," James said. "There is no running to your commander and saying, 'Hey, Johnny's not OK,' unless that needs to happen -- and then there is a procedure for that."

James said this allows them to show service members that they care.

"Whether caring is shaking a hand, high fiving them or giving them a cup of coffee, we are there," James said. "If you want to talk about whatever [that's OK]. Talk about 'Call of Duty' - because I throw down like a hoedown. I'm not bragging, I'm just saying."

During the 2013 holiday season, the chapel used this process during morale checks for Airmen who live in the JBER dorms.

"People were shocked to see us but when they realized it was a chaplain and a chaplain's assistant just saying 'Hey, how are you doing?' there was a conversation and they were pleased to see us," James said. "Before that, it was them at attention and 'there is a major and a technical sergeant at my door. What do I do?"

The recognition and willingness of individuals wanting to come and talk to the chaplains is one of the bigger advantages of the blitz, said Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Roland Reitz, JBER chaplain.

"They're more comfortable with us coming around," said Reitz. "There is not a stigma about talking to a chaplain because we are part of the unit. We are part of the furniture; we are just out and about with them so it's not strange to for us to be walking through the unit because they know who we are."

The process is so effective that other base chapels have reached out to the JBER chaplaincy staff, which has blazed a trail, Reyes said.

"It's not being prideful or anything, that's just how we need to think because things are changing like this," Reyes said, snapping his fingers three times. "We just can't sit around and wait for someone to say 'Hey maybe it's time to [do something].'"

Investigation board determines cause of KC-135 Crash in May

Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

3/13/2014 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- Air Mobility Command has released the results of an accident investigation that examined what caused the May 3, 2013, crash of a KC-135 in the Kyrgyz Republic. The crew of three, en route from the Transit Center at Manas to Afghanistan on a combat aerial refueling mission, perished in the mishap.

Upon takeoff, a flight control system malfunction, the board found, generated directional instability, causing the aircraft's nose to slowly drift from side-to-side or "rudder-hunt." This condition, not fully diagnosed by the crew, progressed into a more dangerous oscillatory instability known as a "Dutch roll." The board identified that a poor layout of key information in the inflight manual and insufficient crew training contributed to the mishap by detracting from the crew's ability to act on critical information during their troubleshooting to turn off either of two cockpit switches which may have eliminated the malfunction.

Having not recognized the Dutch roll condition, the crew initiated a left turn to remain on-course along the planned route of flight and used a small amount of left rudder to coordinate the turn. The use of rudder, while in a Dutch roll, increased the aircraft's oscillatory instability. The ensuing large side-to-side movements of the aircraft varied the crew member's foot pressure on the rudder pedal which caused inadvertent fluctuations in rudder position. These fluctuating rudder movements, coupled with slight right rudder use while rolling out of the turn, compounded the Dutch roll severity and produced extreme airframe stress that caused the KC-135's tail section to separate from the aircraft. The subsequent, uncontrollable descent resulted in an in-flight explosion.

"Our hearts go out to the family members and friends of these Airmen," said Brig. Gen. Steve Arquiette, who led the accident investigation board. "Having attended the memorial service at Manas and later interviewing many co-workers, I know these Airmen were highly regarded and are greatly missed. The investigation team, with the help of our industry and Kyrgyz government partners, pushed through months of intense fact finding for the primary purposes of understanding what happened that day and to honor the crew's service to our nation."

The three Airmen who perished are:

Tech. Sgt. Herman Mackey III, 30, of Bakersfield, Calif.

Capt. Victoria Ann Pinckney, 27, of Colorado Springs, Colo.

Capt. Mark Tyler Voss, 27, of Boerne, Texas

A unique combination of six factors--flight control malfunctions, insufficient crew force training, incomplete crew checklist response, use of rudder while in a Dutch roll condition, crew composition, and cumbersome procedural guidance--all came together during the flight's short 11-minute duration and resulted in this accident.

"The crew encountered a condition that they had not realistically experienced in training, and when coupled with decisions based on their relatively low recent experience levels, were presented with an unrecognized hazardous and difficult situation to overcome," the general said. "It has been the focus of our investigative team, throughout these months of hard work and travel to the accident scene in the Kyrgyz Republic, to do everything we can to fully understand the facts surrounding this tragic string of events."

The aircraft was assigned to the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., and was flown by members of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. The crew and aircraft were flying out of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing at the Transit Center Manas.

The report is available on the Air Force Freedom of Information Act Reading Room website,

Top training, realistic combat threats - warriors made on Idaho soil

by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/13/2014 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Red smoke bellows from the hilltop as Marines and Air Force combat controllers barrel out the back of a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter.

Moments later, the relatively calm desert sky erupts with booms as two F-15E Strike Eagles "attack" the air assault as an exercise contesting enemy force.

More Strike Eagles from the 389th, 391st and 428th Fighter Squadrons arrive on station, engage the enemy aircraft and neutralize the threat. The Marines and CCT Airmen survived the mayhem.

That action-packed 20 minutes was fictitious, yet wasn't much different than the dozens of other sorties flown during the combined-joint exercise Gunfighter Flag 14-2, hosted here, March 10-14.

Airmen from the 366th Operations Group, 366th Maintenance Group and 266th Range Squadron teamed with Sailors from Whidbey Island, Wash.; Marines from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.; British Army joint terminal attack controllers; Marine JTACs; and Air Force, Marine and British special forces for the intense combat training scenarios.

Realistic training provides the U.S. and partnered warfighters with the combat edge.

Mountain Home has the right mix of air space, modern ranges and proficient personnel, which makes this base and ranges the perfect location for this type of combined-joint training.

The 366th Operations Support Squadron hosted the exercise and solicited all participants, set up times, airspace and players for the close-air support scenarios, said Air Force Maj. Dave "Mach" Cochran, 366th OSS Wing Weapons and Systems chief.

If the U.S. Air Force, Air Guard, Navy, Marines and British partners were all pieces of an international interoperability puzzle, the 366th OSS is the mechanism to assemble the pieces.

"Our primary role at wing weapons and tactics is to be knowledgeable about all pieces," said Cochran. "We develop relationships and integration proficiency by creating and executing exercises like this. The relationships we make this week and the tactics we practice could very well be used in combat in the near future to maximize the effectiveness of the joint and coalition force."

For any enemy forces seeking refuge from America's war fighters, the Navy forces at VAQ-139 Whidbey Island, provide airborne electronic attack to suppress their air defense systems and communication nodes.

"Our squadron operates the EA-18G Growler that is one of the only purpose built aircraft in the (Department of Defense), which provides electronic attack against enemy air defenses providing a sanctuary for friendly forces," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joshua VanNyhuis, VAQ-139 training officer. "We expect to have friendly ground and air forces meet all of their objectives with zero friendly losses or fratricide by controlling the electromagnetic spectrum."

Combat air power translates to lives saved on for ground forces. No one knows this realism more than Special Forces.

"The simulated threats and scenarios we develop here will undoubtedly save lives in Afghanistan or wherever the next war takes us," said an Air Force CCT, a member of the most highly trained special operations force in the U.S. military; a team that spends more than two years in initial entry training. "This is the optimal range to work because we get the right mix of Air Force, joint and foreign partners here, and can culminate all our mutual skill sets into a perfect execution of CAS, shows of force or other assaults on realistic threat scenarios."

That realism the CCT eluded to is paramount for both air and ground forces in this type of exercise, said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Justin Summers, 266th RANS ground radar systems technician.

"Our unit's role is to portray the bad guy," said Summers. "We use real-time data and information we gain through our own intelligence to realistically simulate what the enemy does. We operate radars and simulate attacking aircraft, and then the aircrew can practice evading."

Once training is complete, the 266th RANS provides video and written feedback to the crews for training.

"We create an electronic warfare environment that they'd encounter overseas and in any contingency today," said Air Force Master Sgt. Bernard Castro, 266th RANS ground radar work center supervisor. "This isn't a practice for us, we put our prime operators in the seat and provide our pilots the most realistic training possible."

Working with Marines, Navy and British allies helps all parties out by enhancing communication across the forces, which is what you'd have in a real wartime situation, said Summers.

"We can simulate almost any threat in the world to near perfection. We add even more realism by providing exercise surface to air missile attacks, which aircrew will need to evade," said Summers. "We provide them the most realistic training opportunity available and are always seeking improvements and be ever evolving."

Today's mix of allied ground, air and space force provides national leaders the unmatched ability to take early, rapid and decisive action in combat, peacekeeping or humanitarian operations.

In training for warfare, realism is paramount, said Castro.

Mountain Home and the 266th RANS control and maintain emitter sites across almost 7,500-square miles of operational range space, and it's that access to airspace and ranges that allows for realistic, safe training and testing while providing the flexibility to accommodate the complexity of this multinational, multiservice exercise and for real world scenarios for all forces today and into the future.