Military News

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Rescue squadron implements successful paramedic ride along program

by Master Sgt. Luke Johnson
943rd Rescue Group Public Affairs

6/11/2014 - DAVIS MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE Ariz. -- Pararescuemen are among the most highly trained emergency trauma specialist in the U.S. Armed Forces and in order to maintain the highest level of medical trauma readiness PJ's continually work on perfecting their emergency medical skills.

The 304th Rescue Squadron, based at the Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon, successfully implemented the first ever ride  along program with a civilian emergency response agency where pararescuemen and medical technicians assigned to the unit perform hands emergency medical care alongside civilian emergency medical technicians.

The program, which started in the fall of 2013, allows PJ's and other medically trained Airmen in the unit go on ride alongs with the Skamania County Emergency Medical Services Department in Washington State, which is one of the largest counties in the state.

"We had to overcome a lot of legal hurdles to get an agency to accept us under their umbrella to let us provide hands on patient care," said Master Sgt. Bobbi Kennedy, 304th RQS independent duty medical technician. "We (304th RQS) and Skamania County went through a lengthy legal process, and the ride along program was approved where our guys are covered under their liability."

For Staff Sgt. Matthew Trevino a PJ assigned to the 304th RQS and EMT for the city fire department, the ride along program provides him with exceptional patient care opportunities, and it's also a chance to receive in-depth trauma care training.

"I schedule my training around their monthly training classes where they review the cases from the previous month," said Trevino. "They review patent files and discuss how they can improve their patient care process, and this class provides a lot of in-depth patient care information and treatments provided."

Trevino feels this program provides him some of the most valuable medical training he has received because it is true patients care, not just working with simulations.

"Through this ride a long program, we are able to provide  hands on patient care, and we (PJ's) need to become comfortable in providing trauma care," said Trevino.

The higher comfort level of providing trauma care translates in to lives saved and also increased operating capabilities for the PJ teams.

"Once you have a higher level of patient care, you can focus on the surrounding environment because you have a better understanding of what is going on with the patient" said Trevino. "You can monitor the safety of a situation, and the overall view of the situation surrounding you; this is very important in a combat environment."

Due to the size Skamania County, an area approximately 1,672 square miles, patient transport times can be lengthy, not only must EMT's provide immediate trauma care they must also be very proficient in providing appropriate patient support care while in transport to the hospital.

"Response times and patient transport times can be up to two hours as compared to five to ten-minuets in my civilian job as an EMT," said Trevino. "We've got to closely monitor patient care during the long transport times."

Communicating their patient's condition to the receiving hospital is a critical skill that is very useful when PJ is in a forward deployed environment and due to longer transport times in Skamania County they can perfect their communication skills to the receiving medical teams.

"We've got to make sure the doctors receiving the patient have an understanding of the medical condition, and we provide them with the accurate information either over the phone or once we get to the hospital," said Trevino.

Trevino would like to see other PJ units across the country establish the same ride along program that the 304th RQS and the Skamania County EMS have created.

"We've got a very good model for other EMS agencies to follow," he said. "I also hope that other rescue units and rural EMS services will be able to provide the same program that we have and accept Air Force PJ's under their legal umbrella."

Kennedy is working on implementing the program into the 304th RQS medical upgrade training program and also including the entire 920th Rescue Wing and 943rd Rescue Group into the program.

"They always reach out to provide us additional advanced EMT training, and the best part is there is no cost to the unit for this invaluable training," said Kennedy.

Reserve squadron's training program preserves theater expertise

by Dana Lineback
940th Wing Public Affairs

6/12/2014 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- When Col. James Kovac talks about the Korean theater of operations, Air Force leadership listens.

That respect from top brass has been earned.

Kovac, a traditional reservist with the 701st Combat Operations Squadron, March Air Reserve Base, California, has accumulated 18 years' military experience, including 25 major exercises, in the Korean area of responsibility.

As Air Force expertise across today's joint military environment becomes increasingly vital, Kovac has become impassioned about cultivating a team of theater experts through a new program, the Joint Air Component Coordination Element.

Kovac and Brig. Gen. Robert Polumbo, mobilization assistant to the commander, 12th Air Force, have worked together to solidify JACCE as a certified program with an extensive training criteria.

The JACCE program focuses on developing teams of experienced personnel from across the spectrum of six major functional areas represented in an air operations center. The program's goal is to provide combatant commanders with trusted advisors trained to lead in a joint, multinational environment.

"Establishing good relationships requires a profound understanding of the professional and personal culture of members from other branches of service, as well as a big-picture understanding of a joint operation," Kovac said.

"The aim of JACCE is to work as a team with a commander and his AOC. We're providing expertise, but it's important to be humble, approachable and credible in that role. It's not about who's right, but what's right," Kovac said.

The program is a tradeoff of active duty dollars for reserve component continuity, with JACCE team members having an average of seven years' experience in theater, according to Kovac. He contends the program is a perfect mission for the Reserve component.

"The active duty's corporate knowledge experiences a changeover every few years. The continuity for this level of expertise lies within the Guard and Reserve. You can't buy this kind of expertise. It takes years to develop."

Other members of the 701 COS have joined Kovac in his efforts, working to capture lessons learned, compile concept products, and implement a three-year certification program to develop JACCE directors.

Tech. Sgt. Tom Fabrie and Master Sgt. John Ervin, along with Maj. Todd Nerlin, assistant director of operations, and Master Sgt. Shawn Bowen, JACCE superintendent, have spent 18 months developing an extensive communications directory and the program's training plan.

Kovac said the training program is rigorous, with three levels of certification. Participants maintain a dual-career certification and must commit to participating in a minimum number of joint exercises annually to stay current.

"This certification ensures we're sending the right people to participate in these major exercises or, if the situation arises, a real-world contingency. What this training does is clearly define the role of a JACCE director so every combatant commander and each element of an AOC can depend on the capability of that director and his team."

Col. Kevin Cavanagh agrees the program is demanding, but professionally rewarding. Cavanagh, former commander of the 940th Wing, Beale Air Force Base, California, has participated in the JACCE training program for the past two years.

"This is a full-up training program that prepares Reserve senior leaders to integrate and build relationships with U.S. and Korean naval, air and land component commanders in this theater," Cavanagh said.

As the incoming deputy director of air, space and information operations at Air Force Reserve Command headquarters, Cavanagh said he will advocate for continued Reserve commitment to the program.

"In my new position, I hope to encourage AFRC to consider expanding its role in this training," he said.

The JACCE program's successes at major exercises, including KEY RESOLVE and ULCHI FREEDOM GUARDIAN, have garnered Pacific Air Force's praise and piqued the interest of United States Air Forces Europe, according to Kovac.

"Headquarters units aware of the resource a JACCE provides are clamoring for more," he said.

Fulfilling the growing demand for training JACCE directors has fallen on the 701 COS team. Kovac met recently with Air Force Reserve leaders to request funding to formalize the program.

"We've proposed a mobile training team to take the concept to other theaters of operation. The issue, of course, is funding for the program," Kovac said.

In spite of service-wide funding challenges, he's hopeful about the possibility of expanding JACCE.

Maj. Gen. Donald Ralph, mobilization assistant to the commander, USAFE and Air Forces Africa, shares Kovac's optimism.

On the heels of his participation in JACCE training at KEY RESOLVE '14, Ralph recently advocated for bringing the training program to other theaters.

"Leadership wants this capability in our theaters. The next step would be the 'how' and 'what will it look like' as the Korean and European theaters train under very different sets of assumptions," Ralph relayed to Maj. Gen. William Binger, 10th Air Force commander.

In his feedback, Ralph touted the value of the JACCE program and praised the training efforts of Kovac and his team, urging Binger to recognize the 701 COS for all the unit is doing, in addition to their Korean mission, for the Reserve, European Command and USAFE.

The top-level support is validating to Kovac.

"The JACCE program is an exposure to what's out there in organizational training and certification tracking, with the ultimate goal of producing an invaluable list of 'go to' theater experts for our combatant commanders," Kovac said.

"The importance of preserving our lessons learned and protecting our relationships in the various theaters of operation simply can't be overstated."

25 is NCO DOD Language Professional of the Year

by Natela Cutter
DLIFLC Public Affairs

6/12/2014 - MONTEREY, Calif. -- Tech. Sgt. Brandi Fast of the 25th Intelligence Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., is the Defense Department's 2013 Language Professional of the Year.

The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center made that announcement during the annual Advanced Command Language Program Manager Workshop June 3 here.

The award recognizes outstanding military language professionals and their accomplishments and highlights the critical role military linguists play in supporting missions around the world.

"Tech Sgt. Fast spent hundreds, even thousands of hours helping others achieve their language proficiency goals - where did she ever find the time?" said Col. David Chapman, DLIFLC commandant. "She is incredible."

Among her many accomplishments during the award period Fast deployed twice to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility where she utilized her diverse language skills to support special operations missions. Her language skills proved critical in the support of a downed allied helicopter that resulted in the successful recovery of 14 aircrew members.

Back at the 25 IS, Fast demonstrated outstanding professionalism by managing her unit's Cryptologic Skills Program. The 25 IS reports to the 361st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group at Hurlburt and to the Air Force ISR Agency at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, Texas.

Off-duty, the direct support operator dedicated 700 hours to language study, sustaining a 13,000 word vocabulary, adding 3,000 more across three languages.

"As a linguist, knowledge of a foreign language gives me the chance to do a very special thing," Fast wrote in her personal essay: "Best Practices for Raising and Maintaining Language Proficiency" as part of her nomination package. "(It's) the chance to make an impact with such a specialized skill and see a difference on a battlefield - the chance to be on the cutting edge of war."

Runner-up honors to Fast went to Spc. Shawn Pitcher, from the 715th Military Intelligence Battalion, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

In recognition of his accomplishments, the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command gave Pitcher the opportunity to go on a one-month foreign language immersion trip to the country of his choice.

"I just returned from Singapore yesterday," Pitcher said. "What I enjoyed most about the Chinese language immersion is my classmates came from all over the world and had different viewpoints on cultural and political issues. And no one spoke English!"

The United States Marine Corps' 2nd Radio Battalion won the DOD Command Language Program of the Year award.

The CLPM course, attended by 120 service members this year, teaches linguist managers who assist military linguists in maintaining their language capabilities. Approximately 700 CLP managers across DOD manage linguist careers and report on the status of language training and readiness to their commanders.

Editor's Note: Air Force ISR Agency Public Affairs contributed to this story.

Senior NCO awarded Lt. Gen. Gordon A. Blake Aircraft Save Award

Headquarters Air Force Flight Standards Agency

6/12/2014 - Oklahoma City, Okla. -- Master Sgt. Linda Sawyer of the 325th Operations Support Squadron, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., earned the Lt. Gen. Gordon A. Blake Aircraft Save Award for her contribution to aviation safety excellence while deployed to Jordan. Sawyer is the first nominee selected for the award since July 2011.

On Nov. 1, 2013, while providing transient alert services, Sawyer drove on a parallel taxiway in preparation to provide Follow-Me service to an approaching aircraft. The C-130 was about 3.5 miles out when Sawyer noticed an unauthorized truck on the runway. She immediately notified the control tower about the truck and advised the controllers that the runway was unsafe for the arriving C-130. The controller instructed the C-130 to "go around" just as the aircraft was about to cross the landing threshold, resulting in a pass of only 75 to 100 feet over the vehicle.

The driver of the truck sped toward the departure end of the runway with Sawyer in chase. The suspect left the runway environment, and parked near a building. After the driver entered the building, Sawyer observed the situation from her vehicle and reported to the tower that all vehicles were off the runway. The C-130 landed safely.

Sawyer's immediate notification to the control tower kept the controller from clearing the C-130 to land, avoiding the destruction of a $66M Air Force asset, and saving the lives of 19 people. Headquarters Air Force Flight Standards Agency meets quarterly to evaluate award nominations and determined that Sawyer's actions were clearly the only difference between disaster and a safe landing.

The criteria for an Aircraft Save Award, according to Air Force Instruction 36-2807, Headquarters United States Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Plans and Requirements Annual Awards Program, is action that results in the safe recovery of an imperiled airborne aircraft or help given to an endangered aircraft on the ground. The action must clearly extend beyond normal duty requirement, be professional and cast no reasonable doubt that, without this action, damage would have likely resulted.

McConnell Reserve pilots and KC-46: Ready for take off

by Staff Sgt. Abigail Klein
931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs

6/12/2014 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- With the arrival of the new KC-46 Pegasus tanker on the horizon, many McConnell Air Force Base Reserve pilots are already well acquainted with the new airframe.

Several traditional reservists within the 18th Air Refueling Squadron work regularly as commercial pilots and are already qualified by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly the KC-46 in its derivative form, the Boeing 767-200. With approximately 15 traditional reservists who work as commercial airline pilots, the 18 ARS has the luxury of prior 767 airframe experience within their ranks.

"With a new aircraft, there will be a large learning curve for everyone, including pilots and boom operators, but after the extensive training program and a check-ride, all of our pilots will be extremely qualified on the KC-46," said Lt. Col. Eric Vitosh, 18 ARS commander. "The pilots that already have Boeing 767 experience will be able to share numerous techniques on how to fly the jet more efficiently."

In addition to familiarity, the KC-46 will offer 18 ARS pilots a wider range of flying capabilities than the aircraft it will eventually replace, the more than 50-year-old KC-135 Stratotanker. It is 15 to 20 percent larger than the KC-135 and can be configured to carry 58 passengers, 54 aeromedical patients or 18 cargo pallets. The KC-46 will feature a Boeing 767 cockpit, which is the latest and most technologically advanced cockpit Boeing produces, said Vitosh. Engine and flight displays are large LCD screens compared to the original 767, which has a similar display to the one currently found in the KC-135.

Along with the to the updated technology in the cockpit, the handling of the KC-46 will be easier on 18 ARS pilots as well, said Col. Paul Wietbrock, 931st ARG deputy commander. Wietbrock, a traditional reservist, has flown the 767 for Delta Airlines for seven years.

"The KC-46 is a bigger, heavier airplane, with bigger landing gear and bigger motors, but it actually handles a lot lighter and is more responsive than the KC-135," he said. "Along with adjusting to the controls, the KC-46's larger frame will enable aircrews to stow cargo, and serve as a force multiplier for McConnell's already critical role in the air-to-air refueling mission both stateside and overseas."

While making the transition to the new KC-46 airframe may seem daunting, the challenge of flying a variety of aircraft is not new for pilots within the 18 ARS, even those who have never flown its derivative form. The 18 ARS currently includes former KC-10 Extender, C-17 Globemaster, E-6B Mercury, E-3 Sentry and B-1 Lancer pilots, said Vitosh.

"That's what is truly great about the Air Force Reserve," said Wietbrock. "We can bring this flying experience to the Air Force. It's an exciting time for McConnell, and we are very fortunate to have so much of this experience [in the 18 ARS], which will make for a smooth transition to the KC-46."

Reservists renew bond with Desert Storm AC-130A gunship

6/12/2014 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- It's been more than 23 years since Maj. Gen. Richard S. "Beef" Haddad and his copilot, Col. Randall Bright, flew No. 55-0014 on a combat mission over the "Highway of Death."

On June 12, they boarded the AC-130A gunship again - this time at the Robins (Ga.) Museum of Aviation where the aircraft is on display for the public to see.

"It was an exciting time for me and the other members of my crew," said Haddad, vice commander of Air Force Reserve Command at Robins AFB, commenting on his mission in February 1991.

"That experience helped me go to war in the future as we went to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom," he said. "It helped in terms of realizing the risks, and what it was like to be a crew member going into that kind of environment."

The mission also made an impact on 1st Lt. Bright, now chief of plans in the AFRC Directorate of Plans and Programs at Robins AFB.

"As a youngster in the Air Force, I had seen combat," Bright said.

In early February 1991, No. 55-0014 and four other AC-130A gunships assigned to the  Air Force Reserve's 711th Special Operations Squadron left home station at Duke Field, Florida, en route to the theater of operation.

After flying several missions along the Kuwait and Iraq border, the 711th SOS reservists found themselves in the midst of chaos along the road connecting Kuwait City and Baghdad, Iraq.

During a mission on the night of Feb. 26-27, 1991, the pilot of the lead aircraft instructed Haddad to "hurry up and get up here."

The captain and his crew moved up and fired their weapons on the Iraqi forces. As they began to leave the "killbox" area, Master Sgt. Don Dew, the aircraft illuminator operator, yelled "missile launch" over the plane's radio.

While Haddad increased the engines' power and put the aircraft in a dive, his navigator, Capt. Jose Davison, released flares to divert the path of missiles. At first, the pilots thought they had been hit but then realized the flares had taken them out of danger.

The stretch of road that they had fired on later became known as the "Highway of Death" because the attack that night resulted in the destruction of 1,400 to 2,000 vehicles.

For their part, Haddad and his crew destroyed at least 20 enemy trucks and four armored personnel carriers. They received Air Medals for their actions.

Soldiers Gain Perspective Through Partnership Program

By Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa., June 12, 2014 – Scattered throughout the dense woods and rocky hills of the National Guard training center here, infantry soldiers -- with cammo faces and full "battle rattle" -- from Company C, 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry Regiment, began their four-day annual field training exercise June 9.

Embedded amongst the Maryland Army National Guard soldiers are members of the armed forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, made possible through the state partnership that the Maryland National Guard has with the Balkan nation.

"It's been great having them attached to our company," said Army 1st Lt. David Brown, acting company commander, Company C 1st Bn., 175th Inf. Reg. "They have been fully integrated into the company ... and they have been shadowing their counterparts here as well.

"We're also incorporating them into our platoons and squads as we conduct our field training exercise," Brown continued, "which is a four day, three night exercise."

Company C’s first sergeant, Army 1st Sgt. Christopher Timson, says the exercise includes training in tactical platoon movements, neutralizing mock high-value targets, and acquiring assets of value.

"The counterparts of ours from Bosnia-Herzegovina have been instrumental in helping our leaders work on operation orders and lead the platoons throughout the training," Timson said.

Brown said he felt that the partnership Maryland has with Bosnia-Herzegovina was a great opportunity for his soldiers to learn how other military forces operate.

"Despite the diversity we have in the U.S., we don't always get to interact with people from another country," he said, "so I think it's been a great opportunity for our guys ... because the way the Bosnians operate is not much different and it's good to see that, around the world, a lot of the basic infantry skills are similar."

Brown added, "I personally think that the more interactions we can get with other countries' soldiers, the more it opens up our soldiers' minds to the outside world.”

One unique interaction these infantry soldiers had was with Lt. Kristijan Pantic, a combat veteran infantry officer from the AFBiH, who shadowed Army 2nd Lt. Abram Gordon, rifle platoon leader with Company C, 1-175th.

"It was interesting when we heard that there would be a female infantry officer shadowing our platoon, and after interacting with her it has been a lot more than I expected," Gordon said.

"I've learned a lot from her -- about tactics and about being a leader," he added. "She is an infantry officer and she is leading soldiers, regardless of gender."

In addition to learning new perspectives on how Pantic leads a platoon, Gordon said, he has also learned how Bosnia-Herzegovina infantry soldiers operated in Afghanistan.

"She's given me some great tactical advice on squad tactics," he said. "She helps critique my movements and offers ways to do things better, and it all made sense. She is very competent in her skill set and is very capable in leading soldiers, and that's all that matters in a leader."

Gordon said Pantic was one of the first female soldiers in her country to join the infantry.

"She's adapted to her role as an infantry officer very well, and she has shown that she is more than capable of her role as an infantry officer," he said.

Gordon said he's always been an advocate of the diverse learning opportunities gained through exchanges within the SPP.

The "SPP allows officers and [noncommissioned officers] from each partnership to learn different skills and then adapt them to meet changing needs and requirements," Gordon said.

Brown and Timson agreed.

"I think the State Partnership Program is a strength of the Guard, and I think it's great being able to work with countries from around the world on a regular basis," Brown said.

Fort Sam Houston Civil Engineering prepared shelters for migrant children

by Mike Joseph
JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs

6/11/2014 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- The 502nd Civil Engineer Squadron responded with lightning speed after the call came late on a Friday afternoon in mid-May to establish an emergency shelter to house up to nearly 1,200 unaccompanied migrant children at a Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland facility.

In less than 24 hours, the 502nd CES notified the Department of Health and Human Services that the Recruit Housing and Training facility to serve as the shelter was ready to accept children after the May 16 call. The first children arrived May 18.

"We knew it was coming but we couldn't start until we got the actual 'go,'" said John Heye, JBSA-Lackland deputy base civil engineer.

Heye said prior to the May 16 notification, the 502nd CES assessed the former basic military training facility in anticipation of its use by DHHS. The building, constructed in 1969, had been vacated in November 2013 when the 321st Training Squadron relocated to Airman Training Complex No. 2.

"We had to resurrect the building if you will," Heye said. "It had been 'quiet' since BMT had moved out. Our crew really jumped on it. We had 15 to 20 personnel who worked the whole weekend. They did a lot of inspecting and repairing at the same time."

The prior building assessments and no need for major repairs, coupled with the experience of having prepared a similar shelter, albeit on a much smaller scale, for HHS two years ago, helped speed the readiness process along.

"The comprehensive work and monumental effort our 502nd CES professionals committed in preparing this facility to receive these children, with such short notice, further demonstrates the incredible capabilities and work ethic our engineers provide in support of Joint Base San Antonio 24/7/365!," said Brig. Gen. Bob LaBrutta, 502nd ABW and JBSA commander.

Repairs were made to the air conditioning system and hot water boilers along with operational checks on the electrical and fire alarm systems. Doors also had to be repaired for security and fire egress, a bee hive removed, debris cleaned up, furniture moved, an environmental assessment completed and a lease signed.

"We'd have done the same things regardless of who would have gone into the building," Heye said. "We are fortunate to have the dedicated and skilled craftsmen that made this effort go smooth so we could support their mission."

Face of Defense: George Washington Sailors Keep Aircraft Flying

By Navy Seaman Matthew Riggs
Courtesy Article

USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, June 12, 2014 – Aircraft maintainers serving aboard here help keep the carrier’s planes mission ready.

Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department 2nd Division disassembles, repairs, rebuilds and tests specialized jet engines used by the George Washington’s aircraft.

“We’re basically the ship’s engine repair shop,” said Navy Seaman Jacob Lichty, from Waterloo, Iowa. “Our job is to ensure every jet engine we receive is perfectly ready to go in every way possible.”

According to Lichty, the carrier’s Super Hornet aircraft use two F414 jet engines and each engine is capable of producing more than 21,000 pounds of thrust.

“We used to use the F404, but this newer iteration is much more powerful, lighter, and generally much more efficient,” Lichty said.

The engines are split into several component parts called modules. Each module is dedicated to a particular part of the engine’s function. For example, the afterburner delivers more fuel into the engine, which boosts the aircraft’s thrust by more than 50 percent.

“These engines have six different modules,” said Navy Seaman Corbin Riley, from Akron, Ohio. “We rarely ever have to fix an entire engine; we replace particular modules or install newer ones as necessary.”

According to Riley, the jet engine maintenance shop has a time to repair or replenish schedule that allows each job to typically take less than 32 working hours.

The amount of work the mechanics perform depends on how often the air wing is flying. Engines only need to be serviced once they reach a state called "high time."

“High time is defined as more than 3,000 total hours of use,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin Ligtenburg, from Amboy, Illinois. “To give an example of how long that is, I’ve worked here for two years and I have never seen the same engine twice.”

Jet engines are incredibly sturdy but remain vulnerable. A single foreign object getting inside an engine can damage or ruin it.

“Although we have enough space and personnel to work on two engines at once, we prefer to only work on one at a time to keep us from mixing up parts or paperwork. Foreign object damage is something we focus to avoid,” Ligtenburg said.

The jet engine shop performs intermediate level maintenance. More extensive repair requires sending engines to shore facilities that are better equipped to work on module assemblies.

“We basically act as the quick repair shop for the jets,” Ligtenburg said. “However, we can only do so much with the equipment we have to maintain these engines.”

US flies, trains with NATO allies during Exercise EAGLE TALON

by 2nd Lt. Katrina Cheesman
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/12/2014 - LASK AIR BASE, Poland -- U.S. and NATO allies are flying and training together in the skies above Poland, June 9 to 13, during the Polish-led combined Exercise EAGLE TALON, which includes air assets from France, United Kingdom, the U.S. and Poland.

This is the first time the U.S. Air Force participated in EAGLE TALON, according to Maj. Matthew Spears, commander of the U.S. Aviation Detachment in Poland, and marks the largest deployment of U.S. Air Force equipment and personnel to Poland.

In addition to U.S. and Polish armed forces, various air assets participating in EAGLE TALON include NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control System aircraft, British AWACS and French Mirage 2000s, according to Polish air force spokesperson Lt. Col. Artur Golawski.

This sort of training with NATO allies enhances understanding of each other's tactics and procedures for future allied operations, said Polish air force Lt. Col. Pawel Marcinkowski, 3rd Training Squadron commander, Lask Air Base, Poland.

"EAGLE TALON is the next exercise in line to enhance interoperability with each other and be ready to respond to NATO contingencies if needed," Marcinkowski said.

The exercise encompasses large-force formations providing air defense, which trains pilots to attack and defend targets with NATO allies. During the exercise, NATO wingmen are either on a blue or red team to simulate friendly and enemy aircraft.

"The exercise is an excellent opportunity to exchange experience with people who are more proficient with more combat hours," said Polish air force Lt. Lukasz Gradzinski, 6th Squadron training officer from 31st Tactical Air Base, Poznan AIr Base, Poland. "I think everyone is excited about this exercise...and we [Polish air Force] want to be better and more cooperative with our NATO allies."

The U.S. Aviation Detachment in Poland coordinated U.S. participation in EAGLE TALON during the Av-Det Rotation 14-3, marking it as the largest theater security cooperation event ever hosted by the U.S. Air Force Aviation Detachment in Poland, according to Av-Det officials.

"The Av-Det Rotation 14-3 that we had previously scheduled is enhanced by the participation in EAGLE TALON, which has been an objective of both the U.S. Air Force and the Polish air force since we stood up the Av-Det," Spears, a native of Pueblo, Colo., said. "It's demonstrating our capability to support multiple operations at the same time."

Av-Det Rotation 14-3 is the third planned aviation rotation this year, involving 18 U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft from the 480th Fighter Squadron and nearly 400 personnel from the 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

More than 300 of those Airmen will support the 18 F-16 fighter aircraft at Lask Air Base, and nearly 100 Airmen from the 606th Air Control Squadron will assist in controlling the skies above Poland from Powidz Air Base.

In addition to flying together, NATO allies train to coordinate and plan successful missions on the ground before the aircraft launch from multiple air bases and meet each other in the air.

The 606th Air Control Squadron from the 52nd FW will provide tactical control to aircraft flying in Poland from Powidz Air Base during Av-Det Rotation 14-3 and EAGLE TALON. The 606th ACS is a control and reporting center unit that provides air control to various aircraft flying in the same air space.

"It has been fantastic working with our strategic partners," Capt. Kevin Mendel, 606th ACS air surveillance officer from Las Vegas, Nev., said. "I think our NATO allies and the 606th ACS have gained a lot from this experience, and have benefited from developing our coordination and interaction together."

During EAGLE TALON, the U.S. will continue to work with Polish armed forces to refuel aircraft during the exercise. To enhance flying operations, U.S. forces will hot pit refuel aircraft, which refuels the aircraft while its engine is still on and shortens the flying window while increasing capability to fix aircraft in a timely manner.

This will be the first time this process has been executed in Poland.

"It's an amazing experience to support other countries during this exercise. It's a lot of work, long hours, but I am having a blast," said Staff Sgt. Ayla Shelton, 480th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated maintenance scheduler, who coordinated U.S. weekly flying with the schedule of Polish fighter aircraft during the exercise. "It's fulfilling to know we are able to train and exercise with our allies, and that it will make future NATO operations even better."

Special Mission Aviator: Jack of all trades

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

6/10/2014 - MINOT AIR FORCE, N.D.  -- "To be in this career field, you have to want it."

For Staff Sgt. Zachary Zilm, 54th Helicopter Squadron special missions aviator instructor, the thought of performing rescue missions was one of the biggest draws to this career field.

Zilm, a native of Tucson, Arizona, joined the U. S. Air Force six years ago as crew chief on the C-5 Galaxy. His first assignment was Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. However, in 2011, he wanted to broaden his Air Force experience, so he retrained.

"I just got tired of turning a wrench," said Zilm. "I also wanted to be part of the mission and have a greater opportunity to help people."

As an SMA instructor Zilm is the safety observer and systems expert for the aircraft.

"We're a jack of all trades, helping out with anything needed to accomplish the mission regarding all facets of flight," said Staff Sgt. Jake Gornbein, 54th HS SMA, who retrained into this career field in 2012. Gorbein is a native of South Windsor, Connecticut, and has been in the Air Force for seven years.

As enlisted aircrew members, some of their duties include various flight inspections.

"If we have an emergency, I am the one who is responsible for knowing what is happening with the aircraft to recommend the best option to land safely," Zilm said. "As a back-ender for helicopters, I am also required to run the rescue hoist and act as gunner."

On an average flying day, SMAs begin with an aircraft preflight check.

"The preflight is a very specific checklist for inspecting the aircraft to make sure it is air worthy for the period it will be flying," Zilm said. "This is the inspection where major components are checked for wear and tear, security, proper operation and fluids."

After preflight, the SMA computes the aircraft weight and balance.

"This is completed based on aircraft configuration," Zilm said. "Once weight and balance is found, I then find out the aircraft performance numbers known as Take Off and Landing Data, or TOLD."

Using weight, temperature and pressure altitude, they can find out things like how fast the aircraft can go, or more importantly, how much power is required to hover and take off.

"I then attend the briefing for the flight where every requirement for the flight is briefed," Zilm said. "After the briefing we start up and go fly either training or security missions."

Although SMAs stationed here have a strictly at home mission and are not deployable, it is extremely important, Zilm added.

"We are the backbone for getting the specialized fighting force to the fight," said Zilm. "The other side of our job is rescue and saving lives, which will always be important." The special mission aviators mission at Minot AFB is 24/7 Nuclear Security for not only the 791st Missile Security Forces Squadron convoys section but the missile field as well. "We are responsible for bringing the fight with our 91st Security Forces Support Squadron tactical response force.," said Zilm. "If there is a security situation in the missile field, we will be there."

Special mission aviation, a fairly new career field, was split off from flight engineers to create specialized Airmen.

"In Minot, my sole purpose is to be the best at nuclear security and accomplish whatever is required for that mission," Zilm said.

With the exception of missile bases, SMAs are used mainly in Combat Search and Rescue with the HH-60 Black Hawk and CV-22 Osprey aircraft. They are also used as gun loaders in the C-130 gunships.

"Flying will always be the best part of the job. Nothing can beat sitting on the edge of the cargo compartment with your legs hanging out in the wind," Zilm said. "The pride you feel when saving someone or helping to create closure for a family is indescribable."