Thursday, May 15, 2014

U.S. Navy Helicopters Assist CAL FIRE in San Diego County Firefighting Efforts

by Commander, U.S. Third Fleet Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Six flight crews from the "Merlins" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 provided firefighting support to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) in response to wildfires throughout San Diego County May 15.

At the request of CALFIRE, the six specially-equipped MH-60S Nighthawks are supporting firefighting efforts in the vicinity of Camp Pendleton, Calif. by conducting aerial water drops.

"The critical part of our role is supporting CAL FIRE to help save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate great property damage," said Lt. Cmdr. Todd Stansfield, C3F Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) Lead. "We have Navy personnel and their families that live and work in the areas of San Diego threatened by the fires. Our efforts support both our people and the communities we live in."

In August 2011, U.S. Third Fleet, Naval Air Forces Pacific and Navy Region Southwest entered into a memorandum of understanding with CALFIRE. Under the agreement, naval units provide helicopters when notified by CALFIRE of weather conditions favorable to wild fires.

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Wing Pacific prepares ready, trained and certified resources to combat wildfires and crews conduct semi-annual training with CAL FIRE to ensure an immediate response capability in support of local authorities for emergency events. The assigned crews are capable of being airborne within four hours of receiving a request for assistance to combat fires.

Navy helicopters will continue to assist in efforts to combat the San Diego County wildfires until CAL FIRE deems assistance is no longer needed.

Joint, interagency and international relationships strengthen U.S. Third Fleet's ability to respond to crises and protect the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners.

Reserve F-22 pilots fill integral role during Red Flag Alaska 14-1

by Capt. Ashley Conner
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

5/15/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- Red Flag Alaska 14-1 kicked off Monday with a Reserve F-22 pilot leading the entire strike force as an exercise mission commander.

"As mission commander I am responsible for coordinating the efforts of each individual package," said Maj. Shane Bohlman, 302nd Fighter Squadron F-22 pilot. "This includes strikers, air-to-air escort, suppression of enemy defenses, airlift and airdrop, close air support, air-to-air refueling operations, dynamic targeting, and personnel recovery."

With over 1,300 fighter hours in the F-15C and F-22 and 12 Red Flag exercises under his belt in both Nevada and Alaska, Bohlman understands what it takes to coordinate a large force exercise.

"In general there are two common themes with each mission. One, there are many different ways to accomplish a mission and each one may be successful. However, everyone must execute the same plan or else the efforts of each package will cancel, vice providing synergistic effects. Two, no plan survives first contact with the enemy so contingency plans must not only be thorough but also well-communicated," said Bohlman. "Based on my experience, I am able to tailor my briefs and instruction to highlight what is going to be important to each individual flight member."

In addition to Bohlman, the 477th Fighter Group has seven pilots participating in various flying roles alongside their active duty counterparts in the 3rd Wing.

"The 90th and 302nd FS began spin up training for this summer's Red Flags in January," said Maj. Brian Budde, 302nd FS Weapons Officer. "I've participated in approximately 10 Red Flags and I learn something new every time. The opportunities to fly with this many assets over such great range airspace are few and far between. Tactical proficiency in large fore exercises atrophies over time so there are lessons re-learned and new scenarios that require new tactical problem solving."

Red Flag is conducted on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex with air operations flown out of Eielson and JBER. During this iteration of the exercise U.S. Air Force F-22s, F-15Cs, F-16 aggressors, C-130s, C-17s, A-10s, KC-135s, E-3s along with a Navy EA-6B and F-16s from Singapore will participate.

"Our top priority during Red Flag is to ensure that young pilots are receiving the combat training they need to go to war," said Col. David Piffarerio, 477th Fighter Group deputy commander. "The experience that the Reserve brings to the scenario enhances the training of the less seasoned pilots."

Red Flags were established in the mid 1970's is to give pilots their first 10 combat missions in a simulated combat environment. The first Red Flag Alaska, then called Cope Thunder, was held in 1992.

Military academy helps at-risk youth get back on track

by Jim Hart
JBER Public Affairs

5/15/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- They look like Soldiers, running to and fro, marching in formations, shouting cadences. They eat like Soldiers, in a chow hall, three times per day. They live on a military installation, JBER, in Camp Carroll, on the Richardson side. They live in a basic-training type environment; high-stress, and high-focus.

It's the Alaska Military Youth Academy, part of the National Guard Youth Challenge program. AMYA is for at-risk teens who have dropped out of school.

"If you talk to them, they may let you know they've left school because they became disinterested, dissatisfied; there were other things going on in their lives that made it difficult for them to balance it," said Dr. James Jones, deputy director of AMYA.

"For instance, you get a kid who comes because he's dealing with family dynamics that are seemingly insurmountable, and those family dynamics keep them from focusing on their school work."

The reasons the kids dropped out are legion, but the way they end up here is singular - they all volunteered.

No one can force them to attend the academy, and no one can force them to stay.
The term "troubled teens" or "at-risk" is frequently associated with juvenile delinquency, but that's not the case with these students.

In fact, it is a prerequisite they have no current troubles with the law, and they are not convicted felons.

They cannot be court-ordered to attend the academy; they come for the discipline to finish the very education they walked away from.

The success rate for academy students finishing school with a diploma, GED or school credit recovery is 85 to 92 percent.

After they graduate, approximately 38 percent enlist in the military, 12 to 14 percent go to college. Jones said less than one-half of one percent get into trouble with the law within five to 10 years after graduating.

Success isn't cheap; failure is worse Between federal and state money, the spending per AMYA student is $31,000. This is roughly twice the funding (federal and state) for Alaska public school students.

The requirement is around $17,000 total, with the state contributing only $4,300; Alaska invests approximately $14,000 more per student than required by the Challenge program in order to allow for state-specific requirements.

On the face of it, the program is comparatively expensive.

However, when the poverty rate and societal costs associated with a dropout are taken into account, along with the costs of possible incarceration, the price is much lower over the long run.

By comparison, incarceration can cost between $59,000 and $79,000 per person per year in Alaska.

According to a study by Northeastern University, incarceration rates among dropouts are three times higher than high school graduates, and 63 times higher than college graduates - not 63 percent, but 6,300 percent.

According to the study, a dropout will cost taxpayers $292,000 over their lifetime through lost tax revenue, higher cash in-kind transfer costs and incarceration. This makes the Academy a comparative bargain.

Rough life Jones said 15 to 25 percent of the kids come from a broken home; still others are dealing with peer pressure and the related fallout.

But there is a common theme with the current generation of students that also plays a role.
"There's an entitlement mentality - they want something but don't necessarily want to work for it," Jones said, "So that's where the change takes place in this environment, because we let them know that everything they receive here, they have to earn."

That includes beds.

"They call it 'Hell Week,' but it's two weeks long," said Austin McIlrath, an AMYA graduate from Eagle River. "You're sleeping in a bed roll on the ground with a sleeping bag, waking up at about six in the morning doing a bunch of [physical training] for two weeks straight.
"After that, you go from a 'candidate' to a 'cadet.' When you get that cadet status is when you get the privilege of sleeping on a bed, sitting down to eat, standing at parade rest instead of attention - you get more relaxed."

They also run everywhere, side-step in the chow line, and they have to ask for permission to do anything.

"We let them know, we're not trying to make them robotic," Jones said. "What we're trying to help them understand is these are just parts of the process to get them into the structure and discipline of regimentation so that now - without the distractions of social media - iPads and iPods, they now have an opportunity to be a teenager and do some things that will advance their life."

"I didn't like it at all," said Brandon Pete, cadet platoon sergeant from Glenallen.
Pete dropped out of high school when he was 16.

Like so many of his peers, he had trouble with authority and was dealing with anger problems.

"I dropped out of school because I was an outcast, I was always put down, I was being told I wasn't going to be anything - teachers were telling me that, so there was a point where I gave up," Pete said.

He said his goal now is to return to high school and earn his diploma, perhaps even join the Army.

"Since I've been here, I've felt that I have a purpose, I'm worth something more than what everyone else is telling me,"

Pete said. "Before I [arrived at AMYA], people we telling me I wouldn't make it
past the first two weeks. Me being here 31 days now, I've started to realize I'm not what people say I am."

It doesn't happen in a vacuum The majority of applicants come because of word of mouth, or seeing the results in other kids.

Austin McIlrath had fallen behind in school credits. They tried home schooling, but it didn't work as planned. He had to do something.

"He came to me and wanted to go," said Lisa Hodge, Austin's mom. "When his brother graduated from the program in 2006, [Austin] wanted to go. He's always been military-minded. He couldn't go until he was a certain age, and when he was that age, he went."

Mentors make all the difference "Before I came here, I was trying to find a mentor," said Pete. "No one would do it. I went to my uncles, no one would do it. I went to people I thought would, like teachers who said they would help me out, but they didn't do it."
Then a family friend came into his life and took the role. This friend fostered some of Brandon's siblings and has been faithful to his word.

"It means a lot, personally," said Pete. "I've never had a father figure in my life."
The instructors also play a major role in his development and outlook.

"It makes me feel like someone cares about me," said Pete. "In my life I haven't really had people there, except mom, but she only talked to me when she wanted to, and she wasn't always there to talk to me.

So, having team leaders [similar to drill instructors] invest their time in me helping me get to where I need to go, it feels really good, keeps me motivated to carry on."

Camaraderie builds a sense of kinship and belonging; it's why the military seeks to develop it in units. The bonds from this kind of instruction can last for years.

Leonard Bundridge has been an instructor for 20 years at the academy, and spent a combined 23 years in both active-duty Army and Air National Guard.

"One time I was in Afghanistan, and ran into a former cadet," said Bundridge. "It was a pretty proud moment, because the young man was being successful and doing what he had to do."

He said he's taught more than 5,000 students over his career, and can't go anywhere without running into a former student.

"Last night I saw a cadet from 1996, hadn't seen him since '96. We talked for 15 minutes. He's in his 30s and the last time I saw him he was 16," said Bundridge.

Volunteers have a tremendous effect "I think they have a positive effect due to the fact the kids get a chance to talk to someone who is not a staff member and can speak freely. I think the mentors bridge that gap between the rigid life and when they eventually cross over to post-graduation life.

"Sometimes, we [staff and volunteers] may be some of the first positive role models these young men and women see. Some of them come from abusive backgrounds, or there may be drug use and things like that. For them to see that we're not trying to take advantage of them in any way, we don't want anything from them and we want them to succeed, I think that makes a huge difference," Bundridge said.

Volunteer mentors are people from the community, both civilian and military, who come in regularly to sit down with the students and help them through some tough questions and issues, as well as letting them vent.

As Brandon Pete pointed out, the students may have been looking for a father or mother figure for a long time, and a mentor might be exactly what they need.

Success stories abound "I was just talking about one the other day, his name is John Briody," Jones said. "John has been active-duty in the Navy since about 1997. He came here because of some traumatic events in his life. He graduated from here when he was 17. His dad was Air Force, and he wanted to go Air Force, but they wouldn't accept him, so he went into the Navy. And this year John is likely to be one of the youngest [senior chief petty officers] in the Navy. He's married, has two children and is stationed in Italy."
There are many other success stories the staff and relatives talked about, when lives were put back on track because someone cared enough to work with them.

AMYA demonstrates a large social investment into kids who would statistically have a bleak future without the intervention.

It's largely a cooperation between state and federal agencies, but the effort also benefits greatly from community involvement.

So the next time there's a red school bus in the area with some young people in uniforms, or they're cleaning up around the building, standing in formation or simply walking by, a simple pat on the back or a smile could be another step in the advancement of these young people's lives.

To become a mentor, contact the AMYA Recruiting, Placement and Mentoring section at 384-6120 for more information.

Mission spotlight: Life support provisions at a moment's notice

by Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/15/2014 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy  -- The responsibility of stocking, preparing and shipping more than $6 million worth of equipment and supplies falls upon the 31st Medical Support Squadron Airmen tasked with the preservation of medical supplies that might one day - save a life.

Preparation is the key for medical logistics technicians who ship and stock these supplies, which are used to treat patients and shipped out in major catastrophes, both locally and downrange. The war reserve materials warehouse supports the mission through contingent operations.

"We anticipate the unexpected," said Staff Sgt. Prapaporn Wangsuttisomsri, 31st MDSS, medical logistics technician. "Our job consists of processing, packing and maintaining the essential materials that could potentially impact thousands supported through medical relief efforts."

The fruits of their labor may not be seen in the warehouse, but upon arrival at an unforeseen catastrophe. Teams unload aircraft pallets - or assemblages - specifically tailored to assist in the precise type of aid they will be providing. The pallets are organized by priority and the first ones unloaded contain the essentials for the emergency room and surgical tent.

"Once we receive the deployment tasking order, we begin to palletize and prep the cargo," said Staff Sgt. Terissa Cruz, 31st MDSS medical materiel NCO in charge. "Once the assemblage is received in the area of responsibility, the deployed team begins to set up the surgical tent and continue down the priority list until they are fully functional. The teams are literally building the most essential rooms of a hospital out of these deployable medical clinics."

The war reserve material equipment list includes anything that would be in a hardened hospital, conveniently tailored for field use. This includes medication, medical equipment and even fire extinguishers.

"We have it all," said Senior Airman Megan Grose, medical logistics technician. "From x-ray units to air conditioners, plus everything that we would need to support power, water, and oxygen for a field hospital."

Once operational, caregivers have the ability to provide emergency care, surgery, radiology, pharmaceutical needs and more.

"Our job is essential to the ability to provide relief efforts to others," Grose said. "If we don't complete our mission, we lose the ability to treat injuries. Untreated injuries can become casualties, so we do our job accurately and efficiently in order to contribute to humanitarian relief and the healing of those in need."

Face of Defense: Marines Grant San Diego Youth’s Wish

By Marine Corps Sgt. Timothy Lenzo
1st Marine Division

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., May 15, 2014 – He stands noticeably smaller than the Marines to his right and left. Their frames fill out their camouflage utilities and flak jackets, while his looks a couple sizes too small.

Despite the noticeable size difference, Ryan Forbes, a 13-year-old native of San Diego, held his own with the Marines of Lima Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. His grin from ear to ear could be seen as they joked during lunch and when describing the lifestyle of the Marines in the field.

Forbes received a small taste of that lifestyle when he was made a “Marine for a day” with the battery. The Marine Corps coordinated with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant Forbes’ wish May 13. Forbes was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer in January, but he hasn’t let his current treatment hinder his enthusiasm for the military.

Forbes arrived with his parents and brother in the morning, but after a short meeting and a long drive, he was seen in flak jacket and Kevlar. He talked to Marines about various weapon systems, ate a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, called orders through the radio and participated in a fire mission at the gunline.

It was an eventful day that culminated with him fulfilling one of his dreams.

“I came out and fired a howitzer,” said Forbes with a grin. “It shook me.”

Forbes has wanted to join the military for several years. He spends time learning about the different branches, what it takes to complete recruit training and the various weapon systems. He saw some of the same weapon systems today.

“I learned a lot about different guns like the 240B (machine gun) and the SAW (squad automatic weapon), and how a howitzer works,” Forbes said.

With the smell of artillery fire still in the air, Forbes relaxed with his section during lunch. Forbes and his brother Jason seemed right at home with the Marines. With an M777 lightweight howitzer as their backdrop, they talked and laughed like old friends.

“Guys just never change,” said Navy Lt. Katrina Landa, the battalion surgeon. “He just sat down with the Marines and joked and told stories.”

While Forbes enjoyed the visit, many felt the Marines got just as much enjoyment, if not more, from their guest of honor.

“I think the Marines got a really good sense of helping other people,” Landa said. “They are usually so focused on the mission, but here they got to see the human side. They saw how they inspire a young child.”

Forbes returned home with a handful of gifts and souvenirs from the Marines. While they gave him shirts, plaques and trinkets, Forbes gave the Marines something more. His grin was transferred to the Marines in attendance who couldn’t help but enjoy his youthful enthusiasm. They won’t forget Forbes soon as they honored him with his name taped on their howitzer.

Celebrating 65 years: USAF Aircraft Gunnery School evolves into USAFWS

by Airman 1st Class Jake Carter
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

5/15/2014 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.  -- The United States Air Force Weapons School celebrates the 65th anniversary of their ongoing mission here May 15.

Beginning in the late 1940s, the USAF Aircraft Gunnery School performed fighter gunnery training for more than 3,000 enlisted cadets and pilot officers. Pilots attending the school had to have 300 hours in combat-type aircraft. The first class included both enlisted cadets and pilot officers. The cadet program was a continuation of the Army Air Forces policy that ended in the early years of the Air Force.

The 3595th Flying Training Wing conducted the first AF Fighter Gunnery Meet May 2, 1949. The school invited all tactical fighter units within the continental United States and within Air Training Command.

USAF Aircraft Gunnery School, a forerunner of today's USAFWS, opened its doors on May 15, 1949. The USAFWS itself activated as the USAF Fighter Weapons School in 1965, inactivated in 1966, and activated once again in 1981 as the USAF Weapons School, a designation it carries to the present day. Smaller units, known as named activities, performed the mission during the periods of inactivation.

Assigned aircraft changed over the years in concert with Air Force inventories and technological advancements.

In the early 1970s, the 64th and 65th Aggressor Squadrons, flying T-38s and F-5s were established as a part of the school to improve air-to-air skills by providing accurate threat replication for dissimilar air combat training.

With the standup of Air Combat Command in 1992, the school entered a dramatic shift from its 43-year focus on almost exclusively fighter aviation. At that time, the "fighter" was dropped from its title and became the 'United States Air Force Weapons School,' bringing in bomber, helicopter, electronic combat and space Weapons Instructor Courses over the next several years,

The mission of the USAFWS is to train tactical experts and leaders of Airmen, skilled in the art and science of integrated battle space dominance across all war fighting domains.

"Today the Air Force weapons school boasts 18 squadrons at eight geographic locations, 24 WICs and three advanced enlisted courses in its arsenal. The school sends over 100 new graduates out to the field every six months with the mission to take what they've learned and prepare their units for combat operations," said Col. Adrian Spain, USAFWS commandant. "As a school, they holistically ensure the readiness of the entire force by updating new graduates with the latest education in tactics, techniques and procedures for their primary weapons systems and integrated war fighting."

With the latest sequestration, the USAFWS has seen some of the largest numbers of students in the school's history.

"The weapons school is currently executing class 14A, the largest in recent history with 155 students accepted, and is coming off a virtually unprecedented shutdown in the fall of 2013 due to sequestration," Spain said. "It is three months into a revamped syllabus that maintained the quality the Air Force has come to expect of its graduates at a significantly reduced cost."

The 65-year tradition of excellence associated with the mission performed by the USAFWS continues as today's graduates help to transform and inspire our nation's combat capabilities and the next generation of Airmen.

"The difference on tomorrow's battlefield will be determined by our ability to effectively integrate war fighting capabilities in Air, Space [and] Cyberspace with our Joint and Coalition partners," Spain said. "It's the graduates of the Air Force weapons school that are best armed with an education and experience that allows them to teach those hard lessons to our front line units to ensure readiness across the force."

Niagara reservists complete Silver Flag

by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Caya
914th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

5/14/2014 - NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. -- Airmen from the 914th Force Support Squadron honed their bare base skills during a recent deployment to Silver Flag at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia.

During the week-long course, Airmen formed a Personnel Support for Contingency Operations team, or PERSCO,  to build and maintain bare-base operations at mock forward-deployed locations.

Fourteen Airmen from active duty, Guard and reserve components honed a variety of specialty-related skills, said Chief Master Sgt. Antonio Borrelli, 914th FSS superintendent .

"It worked out quite well," added Borrelli.

Services members received additional training on providing food service, mortuary affairs and lodging under simulated wartime conditions, while PERSCO members received training on accounting for deployed forces, processing casualty reports and conducting personnel sustainment actions.

It's more of a refresher course than anything, said Borrelli. The Airmen should be doing all this training at home-station, and Silver Flag is a culmination to ensure home station training is on par with the Air Force standard.

PERSCO Specialist Senior Airman Jennifer Bright was part of a team of four 914th personnel specialists who completed the training.

The first two days were classroom instruction, followed by a written test on the third day. The fourth day was the preparation for the exercise followed by a day-long exercise and graduation, said Bright.

The living conditions were very humbling, said Bright. The duration of the training was setup like a genuine deployed location.

Silver Flag was very important because there are AFSC aspects the junior Airmen need to focus their training on, said Bright, and mentioned that during Silver Flag the Airmen worked on tasking that senior enlisted usually handled back at home station.

"It was really good training," said Bright. "I learned a lot."

91st defender named one of Air Force's 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year

by Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

5/12/2014 - MINOT AIR FORCE, N.D -- Becoming one of the Air Force's 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year takes superior leadership, outstanding job performance, community involvement, and personal achievements.

Once an Airman is nominated by their leadership, he or she will go on to compete against Airmen in their specific Major Command. After winning at the MAJCOM level the Airman goes on to compete at the Air Force level, competing with other Airmen who have also won at their MAJCOM level.

"The Air Force 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year award is huge and rarely seen at the base level," said Col. Kevin P. Cullen, 91st Security Force Group commander. "In fact, I've only met one other award winner in my entire 22-year career."

For Norfolk, Virginia, native, Staff Sgt. David Wallace III, competing, let alone winning, was never in his plans when he joined the Air Force.

"It's still surreal even for me now," said Wallace.

Before joining the Air Force, four years ago, Wallace worked as a bank teller, an information technology assistant and was a student at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where he studied law.

"I came in open general, and I haven't looked back ever since," said Wallace. "The lord has blessed me, so I'm pretty ecstatic to be where I am."

Wallace works in the plans and programs section of the 91st Security Forces Group. His duties include providing tactical and strategic support for the security movements of vital national assets across the prairies of North Dakota.

He's been awarded below the zone in 2012, 2013 Air Force Global Strike Command Airman of the Quarter and Air Force's 2013 Outstanding Security Forces Support Staff Airman of the Year.

Wallace found out he was now one of the 12 OAY from the AFGSC commander, Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson.

"It completely went right pass me, when he said it," started Wallace, "but when I got off the phone with him I realized this was something pretty big."

Wallace said with hard work and dedication, your feats will begin to speak for themselves.

"If you keep doing your job every day and doing it well, I don't see why you wouldn't be recognized for your actions," said Wallace. "And if you aren't for some reason, keep pressing forward because you're not only making yourself better, but you're making the Air Force better as a whole."

While he was competing within the 91st SFG, Wallace had a philosophy he used: "If I win, great, but I'm going to go in with high hopes and whatever the outcome is I'm just going to press forward. If I don't win I'm still going to be the same person I am today."

Wallace was recognized as a "superior performer" during the base's AFGSC staff assistance visit. He reinvigorated seven-year-old Site Defense Plans for 165 strategic facilities. He has also performed as an exercise controller during three major wing-level training events, leaving a lasting impression on all Airmen from his peers to his leadership.

"This is a great accomplishment, and it attests to the great men and women we have in the 91st Missile Wing and at Minot AFB," said Col. Robert Vercher, 91st MW commander. "I've never been stationed with a 12 OAY and feel honored to be here at Minot with Staff. Sgt. Wallace."

Wallace says he's fairly new to the Air Force but he hit the ground running and will continue to run.

"As one of the 12 OAY I believe I'm in a position where I can be a voice for others, the Airmen stationed at Minot AFB or other AFGSC bases even beyond that," said Wallace. "I want to be able to take in and absorb and listen to what other people are telling me."

USAFEC pursues excellence through Chief Learning Officers

by Capt Brooke Brzozowske
U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs

5/14/2014 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Seven chief learning officers from companies across the nation came together to exchange ideas about learning organizations and transformation plans here May 9, 2014.

Dr. Darcy Lilley, Air Mobility Command's chief learning officer, hosted the event and discussion alongside members of the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's Learning Transformation office.

"Each of the individuals here brings a valuable skill to the enterprise - the group includes companies' talent managers, organizational learning leaders, and members who specialize in developing leadership," said Lilley. "Some of the members also come from other branches of service, overall representing a great pool of knowledge resources."

Maj. Gen. Rick Martin, USAFEC commander, also recognized the value added by hosting such a group of individuals.

"I want to capitalize on the wealth of experience in this room," said Martin during one of the round-table discussions. "The EC considers learning and critical thinking as vital adjuncts to many important AF focus areas including AFSO21 and resiliency initiatives."

The primary goal of the EC's Enterprise Learning team is to develop and integrate innovative ways of learning across the command, explained Lt. Col. Brent Mesquit, USAFEC Learning Transformation office chief.

"We want to be an organization skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge," Mesquit said. "As members of the enterprise learning office, we want to continue to develop and grow our learning capacity at the individual, team and organizational level."

While here, the CLO's participated in round table discussions and attended a Mobility Operations School Technology and Learning tour. The tour highlighted innovative iPads developed for a Contingency Response Mission Planner's Course, a maintenance simulator brief and a cargo load simulator activity.

Each of the activities offered the group an opportunity to discuss the transformation of organizations into learning organizations via the implementation of various learning techniques.

"Ultimately, this is about the pursuit of excellence and this type of feedback and discussion saves lives," Martin stated. "We want the CLO's to see how hungry we are for feedback and the opportunity to evolve our learning culture within the EC."

DOD Releases Figures on Sexual Harassment in Military

By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2014 – Emphasizing that the Defense Department continues to encourage victims to come forward, Pentagon officials released a report today that says just under 1,400 cases of sexual harassment occurred in the military last year.

The congressionally mandated report defines sexual harassment as an unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that can affect a career, job performance or create an abuse workplace.

Of the 1,366 cases reported, 59 percent were substantiated, the report says. The numbers of people who formally reported a case of harassment and those who made informal complaints were split nearly evenly. Informal allegations are those that were not submitted through a service’s equal opportunity office, but reached commanders through other means.

In releasing the report, a senior Defense Department official told reporters those who alleged sexual harassment were predominately female enlisted members from the same unit as the alleged offender, with the majority holding the pay grades E-1 to E-4. The alleged offenders were predominantly male co-workers in pay grades from E-5 to E-9.

As with cases of sexual assault, DOD officials believe harassment in the military is often under-reported. “We want a climate where everybody reports whenever they’re offended,” one official said.

The reported harassment cases militarywide were significantly lower than the number of reported sexual assaults. Earlier this month, the department reported 5,061 cases of sexual assault for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2013, a 50-percent increase over the previous year. Defense officials said assaults often are preceded by harassment and that they are determined to stamp out both.

“We aren’t leaving any options off the table to prevent sexual harassment,” one DOD official said, with the department expected to place a greater emphasis on improving oversight and training, as well as putting stronger mechanisms in place for managing sexual harassment incidents.

Keesler reserve wing 'installs' new command chief

by Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo
403rd Wing Public Affairs

5/15/2014 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- "You are charged to continue to perpetuate our traditions, our customs and our courtesies. From this day forward, we expect you to enhance the image and prestige of the noncommissioned officer corps."-- First paragraph of the Chief's Charge

Newly promoted Chief Master Sgt. Christopher L. Barnby accepted his charge and the duties of 403rd Wing command chief master sergeant during a wing installment ceremony May 3.

More than 600 wing members attended the ceremony, the first of its kind for the Air Force Reserve unit, which served a dual purpose of promoting Barnby and introducing him to the wing.

"A command chief is an important position, just as important as a commander, so this ceremony served as an assumption of responsibility, officially installing Chief Barnby as our command chief in front of the wing," said Col. Frank L. Amodeo, 403rd Wing commander. The colonel got the idea while on a joint assignment. The Army holds change of responsibility ceremonies for its departing and incoming command sergeants major.

Chief Barnby, who was the first sergeant for the 908th Security Forces Squadron, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, now serves as the principle advisor to the commander on matters of health, welfare and morale, professional development, good order and discipline, and the effective employment of the wing's 1,400 enlisted members.

"I'm honored and humbled to be selected for this position," said the new command chief. "Any time you are in a leadership position it's not about you, it's about the Airmen. And, just like me, a person can come in as an airman basic and rise to the challenge. An Airman's golden aspirations are based on the decisions they make. I want to empower our Airmen to make the right decisions, do the right things, and take ownership in this wing."

The event, similar to an assumption of command, started off with the chief's promotion followed by the reading of the Chief's Charge and concluded with the singing of the Air Force Song. The ceremony left a lasting impression on Chief Master Sgt. Leon E. Alexander, 908th Maintenance Squadron superintendent, who, along with other wing chief master sergeants, joined Chief Barnby on the stage to administer the Chief's Charge to the wing's newest enlisted leader.

"This is exactly what the entire command needs to put in place to introduce their command chiefs to their respective wings," he said. "To say it was the best enlisted recognition I've witnessed would be an understatement. The 403rd Wing left me awestruck. I was so overwhelmed with pride that I got choked up trying to read the charge."

"This is a different scope of responsibility, similar to a commander, so this installment ceremony raised the bar, and I thank Colonel Amodeo for giving me this opportunity to make a difference in this wing and the Air Force Reserve," Barnby added.

"I selected Chief Barnby because he is the right leader at the right time for me and our enlisted Airmen in the 403rd Wing. The least I could do was ensure he was introduced to the wing in a manner that affords this very important position the respect and honor it deserves," said the colonel.

Military customs and courtesies reminders

by Senior Airman Daniel Phelps
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/12/2014 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- While going through basic military training, Air Force customs and courtesies become engrained into the minds of young Airmen entering the service. However, as time goes by, it is not uncommon for some of those basic practices to slip from mind and be forgotten.

Since etiquette and professionalism is important and helps present a strong military force, it is nice to have reminders of some of those things that might have fallen to the back burner.

-Saluting commanders' vehicles: All military members have the responsibility to salute moving staff vehicles. Staff vehicles are government vehicles used for official business.

These vehicles can be a car, van or bus, but are usually cars.

A staff vehicle may have an officer's rank displayed on a bumper plate on the right front bumper, or on a flag located on the right front fender (note: marked staff vehicles are usually only for officers in the rank of colonel or above).

- Back packs and purses: In accordance with Air Force Instruction 36-2903, "Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel," Airmen must ensure any backpacks worn while in uniform fit within certain parameters.

Black backpacks may be worn with any uniform combination, but solid-color black backpacks are the only versions authorized while wearing any blue uniform. Airman battle uniform-patterned, olive drab or sage green backpacks may be worn with the ABU.

Small logos are authorized, but backpacks with ornamentation, a high gloss, designs or hanging or dangling objects are not approved to wear while in uniform. Backpacks may have small gold or silver clasps, but no chains.

Airmen may wear a backpack on their left shoulder, or on both shoulders, so as not to interfere with rendering a proper salute.

-National Anthem, reveille and retreat: During the playing of reveille, retreat and the National Anthem daily, even as a civilian or in civilian clothes, you should stop and face the flag or the music if walking and stop your vehicle safely if you are still in your vehicle.

While in physical training gear, you should stop and face the flag or the music, but saluting is not necessary.

At the first sounds of Reveille or Retreat, stop where you are and turn to face the flag, or in a case where the flag is not visible, turn in the general direction of the flag or the sound and, if in uniform, stand at parade rest. If not in uniform, protocol still dictates that you stop and face the flag or the music out of respect.

However, when the Retreat music concludes, come to attention and render a salute when you hear the first note of the National Anthem.

When driving, as the first note of Reveille, Retreat and the National Anthem plays, you should bring your moving vehicle safely to a complete stop as you would if an emergency vehicle were approaching and put the car in park. Base guidance is that personnel turn off any music playing in the vehicle. Everyone inside the vehicle, including the driver, should remain seated at attention.

Shinseki Vows Action on VA Misconduct Allegations

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2014 – In testimony before a U.S. Senate panel today, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki assured a full and open disclosure process and action in response to allegations about misconduct involving patient care at VA facilities.

Fielding aggressive questions from members of the Senate’s Committee on Veterans Affairs, Shinseki maintained the VA’s commitment to provide veterans with high-quality care, timely service and safe facilities.

Responding to allegations of appointment scheduling manipulation in Phoenix, Shinseki reiterated his commitment to taking all necessary actions to identify and fix the issues and strengthen veterans’ trust through a timely and thorough VA Inspector General review.

“If any allegations are true, they’re completely unacceptable to me, to veterans, and … the vast majority of dedicated VA employees who come to work every day to do their best by those veterans,” Shinseki said. “If any [allegations] are substantiated by the Inspector General, we will act.”

Shinseki said he has directed the VHA to complete a nationwide access review of all healthcare facilities to ensure full compliance with the medical appointment scheduling policy.

A retired Army general with 38-years of military service, Shinseki vowed to get to the bottom of the allegations.

“Any allegation … any adverse incident like this, makes me mad as hell,” Shinseki said. “I understand that out of those adverse events, a veteran and a veteran’s family [are] dealing in the aftermath and I always try to put myself in their shoes.”

Shinseki also reported that Rob Nabors, the White House’s deputy chief of staff for policy, will assist the VA in its investigation of the allegations.

According to White House officials, Nabors, a son of an Army veteran, is one of the President Barack Obama’s most trusted advisors, having worked on a number of domestic and economic policy issues, including reducing the backlog of veterans' disability claims at the VA over the last year.

Shinseki told the committee that the VA conducted approximately 85 million outpatient clinic appointments last year.

As a large, integrated healthcare system, he added, VA operates more than 1,700 points of care including 150 medical centers, 820 community-based outpatient clinics, 300 veterans centers, 135 community living centers, 104 rehabilitation treatment programs and 70 mobile veteran centers designed to reach the most remote veterans.

“This is a demonstration of concern by this department, trying to make sure that every veteran -- no matter where they live in this country and even our overseas locations -- have an equal opportunity to have access to quality healthcare,” Shinseki said.

Conducting more than 236,000 appointments each day, the VA’s 300,000-plus employees provide exceptional care to the 6.5 million veterans and other beneficiaries annually, the secretary said.

“VA healthcare is comparable to that in the private sector, meeting or exceeding standards in many areas,” Shinseki said. “We always endeavor to be fully transparent, fostering a culture that reports and evaluates errors in order to avoid repeating them.”

He noted that every VA medical facility is accredited by the Joint Commission, the independent organization that ensures the quality of U.S. healthcare through comprehensive evaluations.

“In 2012, the Joint Commission recognized 19 VA hospitals as among its top performers and last year that number increased to 32,” the secretary said.

Shinseki said the most recent American customer satisfaction index ranks VA customer satisfaction among the best in the nation, equal to or better than the ratings for private sector hospitals.

“An overwhelming 96 percent of veterans who use VA healthcare today indicated they would use us again the next time they needed in-patient care,” he said, adding that 95 percent felt the same for out-patient care.

“I want them to continue to have that level of trust,” the secretary said.

The VA will continue to aggressively develop and sustain reliable systems, Shinseki said, and train employees to detect and prevent healthcare incidents before they happen.