Wednesday, July 16, 2014

“Like watching your kid grow up”: B-2 Spirit 25th Anniversary

by 1st Lt. Christopher J. Mesnard
Air Force Global Strike Public Affairs

7/16/2014 - Barksdale Air Force Base, La. -- The first B-2 Spirit to "slip the surly bonds of earth" celebrates its 25th anniversary of flight July 17, 2014, providing the Airmen and civilians who work with the airframe a chance to reflect on the strategic impact 20 aircraft can have in the entire Department of Defense arsenal.

The image, first envisioned by World War II pilot and poet John Gillespie in his poem High Flight, is illustrative of the first Spirit to ever achieve flight.

The unique capability the B-2 brings to the U.S. Air Force is further amplified by the small fleet of 20 aircraft. But thanks to specialized maintenance crews, pilots able to fly grueling hours to accomplish missions and devoted support networks, the mission of the Spirit has proven critical in every major aerial campaign since the 1999 Operation Allied Force.
Before the airframe proved itself ready for operation, it underwent a stringent test and validation period at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

"Early on we would tear the airplane apart and put it back together, then tear it apart and put it back together," retired Chief Master Sgt. Brian Hornback and former Air Force Global Strike Command, Command Chief Master Sgt. and B-2 crew chief said. "Then we had engineers out there writing down everything we did and validating it."

According to Hornback, who worked with the B-2 from production at the Northrop Grumman Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, to Edwards AFB and finally Whiteman AFB, Missouri, the test phase was grueling. However, it prepared crews for the success that followed in 1999's stealthy air campaign over Bosnia, originating from a third of the way around the world.

After the first operational aircraft delivery in 1993, the crews at Whiteman AFB still had to work hand-in-hand with their civilian technicians, to continue learning the ins and outs of the aircraft.

Drawing on the growing experience of specialized maintenance Airmen and teams of civilian engineers and maintainers, the crews built their readiness skills the same as they do today; they flew training sorties, used simulators, and became intimately knowledgeable with their aircraft. All the preparation and readiness was intended for the day they would receive the call to eliminate opponents' anti-air defensive networks for other aircraft to operate.

The first chance the B-2 had to prove itself operationally came March 24, 1999 with the start of Operation Allied Force.

"We worked in concert with our [technicians] to turn those six airplanes, two going out, two coming back, and two getting ready to go," Hornback said on the operations out of Whiteman. "And, we were the only thing that could drop GPS munitions at the time."

The success of the B-2 and its crews is evident in the numbers; it flew less than one percent of the total missions but dropped 11 percent of the ordinance during the 78-day conflict, according to the AFGSC Office of the Historian.

"It felt pretty special [going] from a production center to recovering airplanes returning from combat," Hornback said. "It was like watching your kid grow up and graduate."

Over the course of the Spirit's time in service, it has provided strategic capability for the U.S. Air Force, able to slip undetected into hostile airspace and deliver crippling blows to targets unaware of their presence--a legacy its crews hope to continue into the future.

All in: The celebration of Capt. David Lyon's life

by Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan
21st Space Wing Public Affairs

7/3/2014 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As hundreds gathered on the six-month anniversary of Capt. David Lyon's death, the Team Pete family was brought together through the celebration of a man's life. The impact he had on others was clearly shown by the stories crowd members were whispering as the ceremony began; stories of a man who truly gave it all in everything he did.

Eagle Park, where the base 5Ks start and finish and where most units hold summer picnics, was re-named in his honor June 27 at 1 p.m., almost exactly six months to the minute he and other members of his team were struck by a vehicle borne improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. The park, located behind the base gym and bowling alley, is a fitting memorial for a man whose aim was to bring people together, work hard, be committed to others and bring out the best in everyone.

"He was passionate about life, he was passionate about serving in the military and its mission," said Capt. Dana Lyon, David Lyon's widow. "He was all-in about his people, he knew he wanted to bring the best out of everyone because he knew it took a team to accomplish the mission; that's the quality of the man and leader he was."

During the memorial service, which drew a crowd reminiscent of David Lyon's larger than life personality, several base members spoke; some were his friends and others his commanders. One phrase stuck out and was repeated many times, "David Lyon was a leader of people."

His parents, Bob and Jeannie Lyon, said he exhibited that trait very early in life. Jeannie raised David by herself until fifth grade when Bob came into David's life. Bob, who was new to the family, said David taught him how to be a better father.

"It was apparent early on that he was special," said Bob Lyon. "Since he graduated from the Academy, he would always talk about his new friends and how many people he got to work with. It's still astounding to me how many people he touched. My son David grew into a giant."

His leadership carried on through his time in service as a logistics readiness officer, where he was constantly at the top of his profession. Five years into his service, he had already won several annual awards but felt he hadn't truly made the difference he wanted to, so he volunteered with the help of his squadron and group commander for an out-of-the-ordinary deployment, where he could make the most difference, said Col. Charles Arnold, David's former Mission Support Group commander.

"When David was deployed, he would call us and say 'they need me and they need us,'" said Jeannie Lyon. "He was making a difference and he said he was having the best time of his life."

While on his deployment, he served with Army Special Forces training Afghan Commandos, where his commander Col. Brian Petit, now with the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, said he made a tremendous difference.

"He was a man of great presence and of great impact, not only contributing to the mission but he was a man of incredible integrity and character," said Petit. "He was exceptional working with the Afghans, it was a very difficult job. He seemed to just have a gift for everything he did and he made a tremendous difference in our mission. As a small team, everyone knew [David Lyon]. When we lost Dave on Dec. 27, it was devastating to our unit. If someone who is joining the Air Force wants a role-model, this is the man. He was intelligent, physically fit, morally straight, compassionate and tough as nails."

David Lyon's contributions to many people's lives, both here and in foreign lands, have been memorialized several different ways. Thule Air Base, Greenland, ran a 13-mile memorial and the Navy's newest pre-positioned motor vessel, which will provide agile combat support by prepositioning munitions afloat within theaters of operation, will be named in his honor. Lt. Col. Jim Lovewell, who was David Lyon's previous squadron commander, brought home coins and pictures from the run at Thule AB, and the ceremony to rename the ship will happen later this year.

While his military service will remain part of the history of the armed services, the stories people were whispering in the audience were about him as a man.

"I would love people to know the person and the man he was outside of the military machine everyone knows him as," said Dana Lyon. "His passion for people and relationships did not fade out of uniform. He was a gatherer of people, he either saw the potential in someone or wanted to find it and help them achieve it. He absolutely made me a better woman, just as he helped others achieve their goals. I hope people continue to share his story because he set a great example; it's so unfortunate the good ones go early but I was blessed to be his wife if only for five short years."

As the ceremony concluded, the crowd began a 5K memorial run, starting and ending with push-ups. A bench, two stones and a plaque sit at the park now with a walkway, where thousands of service members will start and end their base 5Ks.

The plaque reads, "Leader, mentor, warrior, beloved husband, son, brother, friend, a man of character and integrity. Capt. Dave Lyon served as the logistics readiness officer for the 21st LRS at Peterson Air Force Base, CO. Dave was a 2008 USAFA grad and stand-out athlete. He will always be remembered for his love for God, his family and those he lived to serve."

Air Guard percussionist taps out after 24-year performance

by Senior Master Sgt. Paul Mann
I.G. Brown Training and Education Center

7/14/2014 - MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- After 24 years in team harmony with military bands, including the Air National Guard Band of the South, a career percussionist here tapped out his grand finale for the residents of Panama City, Florida, July 3.

Master Sgt. Eric Odiorne and the ANG Band of the South's 40 other members finished their summer tour, playing for a military audience during a change of command ceremony at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base, Florida, followed by two performances in nearby Panama City, Florida, as part of the city's Pier Park Summer Concert Series, with the last show being a Fourth of July fireworks concert.

A typical annual training, or A.T. day, has different definitions for nearly every member of the ANG. The definition for the ANG Band of the South on July 3 was a two-hour road trip that started at 5 a.m. However, for Odiorne it was a ride to his farewell performance.

For Odiorne, the fireworks added the boom to the final concert of his military career. For the band, it was the last show in their annual road tours, which entertain and educate thousands with military music and regalia.

The band will play on, but without Odiorne.

"I will really miss the people, the comradery, and the interactions with the audiences," said Odiorne.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in September 1986 and played for the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps at the Marine Barracks, a short walk from the nation's Capital. He also played for the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California.

"I loved serving and being a Marine, but wanted to finish what I had started in college and complete my computer programming degree," said Odiorne.

He earned his degree, but remembered his time serving as a band member.

It was a trade show four years later that brought him back to the service. There, he met Airmen from the ANG Band of the Smoky Mountains, who told him the band was in need of a percussionist. Within months, Odiorne enlisted with the Tennessee Air National Guard.

"Eric has been welcoming and kind," said Master Sgt. Patrick Hydo, remembering the first time they met. "Quickly after I  joined the unit he became both a friend and mentor."

Over the next twenty years, Odiorne and the Air National Guard Band of the South played for audiences throughout the southern U.S. and across the world.

In 2008, the band deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and Odiorne was there with his percussion talents. He and other band members said the deployment still holds special memories.

"I am in denial that he is retiring," said Tech. Sgt. Traci Carico. "There was a special bond formed [during deployment]. Eric was a key part of holding the group together and has always been a great mentor for our Airmen."

That bond resonates through the team.

"I haven't known Eric for as long as some of the others, but I absolutely adore his complete sense of ease," said Tech. Sgt. David Fairchild. "There has not been a situation that I have been in with him where he has not been the epitome of our band - confident, relaxing and welcoming."

With his instruments packed away, Odiorne will orchestrate his career as a software developer at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

"Juggling two separate careers was becoming too difficult to balance, so something had to give," said Odiorne. "This final tour was fantastic, and I'm just happy that I was able to be part of it with my Guard family."

Air drop training on target for heavier loads

by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead
103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs

7/15/2014 - CHICOPEE, Mass.  -- An Air Force C-130H Hercules aircraft assigned to the 103rd Airlift Wing jettisoned two sets of container delivery systems as part of a training exercise over Westover Air Reserve Base here July 12.

The mission was to drop four container delivery systems using high-velocity parachutes, said Tech. Sgt. Robert Ewings, an air transportation specialist with the 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron.

"It is a low altitude drop to get supplies into an area for troops when landing a plane is impossible," said Ewings.

The drop was another step in the overall training required to get the Flying Yankees at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Connecticut closer to their goal of air dropping "heavies" and military personnel. A goal shared by the unit as a whole.

These "heavies" according to Senior Airman Kevin Leist, an air transportation specialist with the 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, are pallets built-up with approximately 3,000 pounds of material like wood, concrete or water that is meant to simulate real-world equipment.

"We all have had a really good opportunity in the past couple of months to build upon what was just a vision nine months ago," said Maj. Chris Thiesing, tactics officer with the 118th Airlift Squadron. "Now, we're actually dropping CDS, which is the container delivery system, and in the future we are going to be dropping heavy equipment as well as real-world personnel."

"It's impressive that we have come so far in our conversion in such a short period of time," said Col. Fred Miclon, vice commander for the 103rd Airlift Wing, who went out to drop zone to witness the drop. "We have not had our aircraft a year yet and we are already training for air drop missions with live drops like this one. We have all the pieces in place to continue our conversion well ahead of the timeline. The teamwork and integration between maintenance, operations and mission support to make this happen is impressive to say the least. Once again everyone in the wing is focused on one goal and mission, and to complete our conversion ahead of schedule, getting everyone trained so that we can get back in the fight is what it is all about."

A tremendous amount of coordination and work is invested into these drops. Leist said one "heavy" will free fall for about 12 seconds and requires about three hours of preparation including packing the parachute. This does not include the flight time, or the amount of coordination and communication that goes into the mission by other units.

"We've come a long way and it's a testament to the aerial port folks who are building the equipment we're dropping, a testament to maintenance for keeping the planes flyable and a testament to all of the new navigators, flight engineers, loadmasters and pilots that have all come together from different parts of the Air Force," said Thiesing.

Overall, the C-130H made three deliveries over the drop zone. They dropped two containers during the first two deliveries and on the third, they dropped what they called a training bundle; an eight pound sand bag with a parachute attached to it.

Dropping sand bags, container delivery systems, and eventually "heavies" and personnel, is the mission for the 103rd Airlift Wing going into the future and means the unit will be a frequent flyer over "bean bag" drop zone. Which is what Westover's drop zone has been historically called.

"We're doing a lot of good work and it will be great looking back six months to a year from now to see how far we've come," said Thiesing.

ANG Airman selected to serve on Veterans Affairs advisory group

by Master Sergeant Marvin R. Preston
Air National Guard Readiness Center Public Affairs

7/16/2014 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- An Air Force chief master sergeant assigned to the Air National Guard Readiness Center here has been selected to serve on the Defense Detail Team to the Department of Veterans Affairs recently.

Chief Master Sgt. Christopher C. Guy, the personnel career field functional manager will serve on a three-member team that will provide recommended solutions on enhanced data sharing and the efficient transfer of the separating or retiring members' service treatment records from the Department of Defense to the DVA.

"My goal for this tour with the Department of Veterans Affairs is to advise, assist and facilitate the elimination of the benefit claims backlog by Sept 30, 2015," said Guy. "The team and I will be doing everything within our abilities to help accomplish that goal as early as possible."

The Veterans Benefit Administration is aggressively pursuing its Transformation Plan, a series of tightly integrated people, process, and technology initiatives designed to eliminate the claims backlog and achieve the goal of processing all claims within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy in 2015.

"On a typical day the team learns about issues, specific data sharing needs between the departments and we facilitate the creation of solutions and follow up on the progress," said Guy. "My ultimate goal is to make sure we uphold the solemn vow and our duty to help any and all veterans who require assistance."

The selection of Guy to the Defense Detail Team is an example of a deliberate shift within the total force, starting with senior leader assignments.

Chief master sergeants and other senior noncommissioned officers from the Air National Guard have recently been selected to interview with major commands and serve at joint task forces which offer another voice to be heard from the total force.

The Senior Enlisted Leader Management Office was unveiled by ANG Command Chief Master Sgt. James W. Hotaling to state and wing command chiefs during the annual Command Chief's Huddle at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center, Wisconsin, recently.

"The Air Force Chiefs Group was soliciting nominations for the assignment from each Major Command and after reading through the position description, there was a mutual understanding and agreement that this opportunity and my skill sets were the best fit for the total force," said Guy. "I was contacted as the most eligible candidate for this opportunity."

The SELMO ensures that ANG senior enlisted leaders receive the same opportunities for development of those in the active component.

"The ANG senior leadership is committed to seeking and providing greater opportunities for Guardsmen to serve at the highest levels of government, to represent the Air Force, and the DoD", said Guy. "This helps to break down barriers in order to successfully carry out the Air Force mission. We are one force and I am an American Airman."

With the Active, Reserve and Guard components increased integration, the future of the total force could look even more different in the years ahead.

"This is one of the first steps in a cultural change," said Guy. "One day in the not so distant future the Air Force may have a Guardsman as a command chief at an active component wing, or an active duty chief as a state command chief. One day the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force could be a Guardsman, the possibilities for all Airmen become endless."

513th reservists to fly in RIMPAC 2014

by Staff Sgt. Caleb Wanzer
513th Air Control Group public affairs

7/16/2014 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, OKLA. -- About 60 reservists from the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron and the 513th Air Control Group are set to participate in the world's largest military naval exercise this week at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, is a joint-naval exercise held biannually that involves armed forces from countries around the world. This year's exercise involves more than 40 ships and submarines, 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel from 22 nations.

The reservists, who fly and maintain E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, have been to RIMPAC once before in 2010.

Lt. Col. Louis Fournier, the assistant director of operations for the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, said that their aircrews will represent the only Air Force airborne command and control in the entire exercise.

"We'll be the only Air Force AWACS in the skies, but we look forward to integrating with the Navy E-2 Hawkeyes that will also be supporting the exercise," Fournier said.

The E-2 Hawkeye fulfills an airborne warning and control mission similar to the Air Force's E-3 Sentry and is capable of operating from a carrier. The E-3 is capable of tracking aircraft and ships at a range of more than 250 miles, providing airborne command and control of U.S. and allied forces.

According to Fournier, the 513th reservists will gain valuable experience deploying and operating with other U.S. and allied assets that is rare on a typical training mission. The aircrew members won't be the only ones to benefit, either.

"For us to be successful, it takes a team effort," he said. "We take our own maintainers who will have to perform all of their normal tasks on the jet in a completely different environment."

The 513th AWACS Airmen will join reservists from the 507th Air Refueling Wing, who are currently flying refueling missions in support of RIMPAC. The 507th flies and maintains the KC-135 Stratotanker.

ACC Commander holds all call at Homestead ARB

by Maj. Brooke Cortez
482nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/16/2014 - HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla.  -- In a recent visit to Homestead Air Reserve Base, U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, held an all call for members of the base July 14.

During the all call, the general discussed sequestration challenges as well as efforts to ensure continued air superiority through replacing legacy fleets and selectively refurbishing existing assets.

"We live in a world of limited resources," Hostage said. "It's an interesting and unstable world... bad stuff is going to happen and we're going to be called upon to respond, and we're going to have to be ready."

Preventing a hollow force is one of the overarching principles outlined in the 2014 ACC Strategic Plan. Hostage discussed how he's prepared to accept the short term risk of minimally maintaining current aviation assets to fund development of an advanced air fleet.

Currently, the 482nd Fighter Wing here supports the ACC combat mission with 26 F-16 aircraft. Looking toward the future, it is postured to eventually transition to the F-35 next-generation airframe.

According to the ACC Strategic Plan, potential adversaries are acquiring or developing the means to challenge the U.S. military and threaten the U.S. homeland. Hostage noted that investing in advanced fleets of aviation will help ensure the military is prepared for future threats.

The wing is the host unit for an Active Duty unit integrated under the Total Force Integration (TFI) initiative. The general commented that the Air Force is committed to the TFI path of 'One Wing, One Boss, One Fight.' One of the challenges of TFI the general outlined was getting outdated legislation updated regarding regulations on use of a militia force, which impacts the Air National Guard.

The all call was concluded with Hostage sharing his perspective on service, and how the country and military has changed throughout his 37-year career.

"What's unique about our society is that we have a Bill of Rights that gives individuals unalienable rights that cannot be taken away by the majority," he said. "The reason we're all sitting here today is because somebody put on a uniform generations ago, fought and died to protect us, to protect that flickering flame of liberty."

The general calculated that just 5 percent of the entire world's population throughout history has experienced what it's like to live with liberty, and that people in the military represent a fraction of that population.

The community is extremely supportive of the military, and Hostage described what many uniformed military members experience out in public today.

"The good news is that the American public today appreciates what we do," he said. "You can wear your uniform in public - in an airport, you can't go 20 paces without someone thanking you for your service. That wasn't the case when I came in 37 years ago. I was not allowed to wear my uniform unless I was inside the ROTC building because people would throw stuff at us. The American public associated the politics of war with the warrior. That's not the case today."

Along with a supportive community, Hostage explained how he always makes a point of thanking members for their service.

"I try to make it a point to tell our Airmen that your service is important," he said. "You're preserving something that is really unique in our in human history and that's liberty. You're preserving it for future generations, so thank you for serving and doing what you do for your country."

Vice Chairman: Budget Request Covers More Than Afghanistan

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2014 – The $58.6 billion in supplemental overseas contingency operations funds the Pentagon is seeking for fiscal year 2015 supports global missions beyond Afghanistan, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the House Armed Services Committee today.

Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. said that while the $26 billion drop in the OCO budget compared to the current year is indicative of the drawdown in Afghanistan, readiness, unanticipated contingency operations and indirect support missions continue globally.

“There’s an awful lot in this request that is outside of Afghanistan, but that supports Afghanistan,” Winnefeld said. “[Last year’s sequester spending cuts] squeezed our ability to absorb within the department unanticipated operations.”

He cited 2011’s Operation Tomodachi in Japan as an example. The earthquake and tsunami relief humanitarian mission caused the Defense Department to absorb some $90 million in expenses beyond those budgeted for routine ship deployment and operations. “We have a lot less capability to do that now than we did before,” he said. The vice chairman also noted the Army’s 2013 deployment of the MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile system in Turkey in response to the crisis in Syria.

If the request is approved, $500 million of the $5 billion Counterterrorist Partnership Fund portion of the funding will be earmarked to train and equip vetted elements of the moderate Syrian armed opposition to and to weaken extremists groups, Pentagon officials said.

“If we had taken kinetic action in Syria last year, then this is the first place we would turn -- that small, $500 million fund,” Winnefeld said.

But readiness, he asserted, remains on the forefront of DoD priorities, and the 2015 budget request includes money to train all of the services into the full spectrum of operations.

Airmen and Soldiers conduct joint training

by Staff Sgt. Russ Jackson
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

7/16/2014 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Airmen and Soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord participated in a water training exercise at American Lake here July 14 and 15, 2014.

Airmen from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron's Red Team practiced helocasting alternate insertion and extraction training with Soldiers from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

Helocasting is an airborne technique used by special operations forces units for amphibious insertion into a military area of operation. The unit is flown in by an aircraft, in this case an MH-47 Chinook helicopter, to an insertion point above the water where the STS members jumped out of the helo and into the water.

The 160th SOAR was tasked with AIE training and called the STS in hopes their Airmen would have the training requirement to take part in the exercise. Red Team had not practiced AIEs in some time and agreed to join in the two-day training.

During that span, the group conducted 10 daytime helocast iterations and eight nighttime helocast iterations. Their operations included soft duck insertions, which involved personnel pushing an inflated zodiac boat out of the back of the helicopter into the water and jumping in after it, ladder training and hoist training.

"As combat controllers, we can attach to Navy [special operations forces], Operational Detachment Alpha, or Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, so we have to be smart on every type of infil and exfil," said Staff Sgt. Dallas Stoll, 22nd STS combat controller. "This is why we practice fast roping, helocast master, and repelling which are all counted as AIEs."

As one of the most currently trained helocast masters available, Stoll was chosen to be the STS team leader for the exercise to ensure the members of Red Team could get the proper upgrade training.

To become a helocast master, an Airman must be an E-4 or above, signed off by the unit commander and have two daytime iterations and two nighttime iterations, one with non-combat equipment and one with combat equipment each.

"As a helocast master, it's my responsibility to ensure my Airmen don't jump from the aircraft unless we're 10 feet above the water and moving no faster than 10 knots of airspeed," Stoll said. "Once we're in that profile, I ensure my guys unhook, get out and get accounted for in the water as safely as possible."

Soldiers from the 160th SOAR needed to accomplish the upgrade training for helocasting special operations forces members out of their aircraft. They used this opportunity to train for extracting members from the water via a rope ladder and hoist methods as well.

The 22nd STS is a unit of the 24th Special Operations Wing based at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The primary mission of the 24th SOW is to provide special tactics forces for rapid global employment to enable airpower success.

The 24th SOW is U.S. Special Operations Command's tactical air and ground integration force and the Air Force's special operations ground force to enable global access, precision strike and personnel recovery operations
In addition to AIEs, STS members train in high altitude low opening and static line parachute jumps, demolition, controlling landing zones and helicopter landing zones.
Airmen from the STS can attach to numerous outside units across the Department of Defense and must be proficient in just about everything.

This exercise proved, once again, that Soldiers and Airmen from Joint Base Lewis-McChord can train together, fight together and run a base together.

Four WWII Vets awarded the French Legion D'Honneur

by Airman 1st Class Ned T. Johnston
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

7/16/2014 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Seventy years ago on June 6, 1944, U.S. and French forces led an invasion on German-occupied Western Europe in the invasion of Normandy, which led to the restoration of the French Republic and contributed to the victory of the Allies in the war.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy opened eligibility to all U.S. veterans who fought on French territory in any of four major campaigns during World War II to be awarded the Legion D'Honneur, the highest decoration in France.

In commemoration of the actions of four Florida World War II veterans, French nationals assigned to the U.S. Central Command on MacDill Air Force Base awarded each veteran with the French Legion D'Honneur during a French National Day celebration July 14, 2014.

In attendance were more than 200 military members from U.S., French and coalition forces, World War II veterans and their family members.

Key note speaker for the event was French army Brig. Gen. Bernard Commins, CENTCOM French senior national representative.

"It is my honor to award these gentlemen who came to help our country when it was under duress," said Commins. "The fact that 70 years later we can celebrate these men is proof of the long lasting friendship between our countries."

Along with the French medal, the World War II veterans received a letter of congratulations from the French Consul in Miami, Florida, a medallion filled with sand from Omaha Beach, and a French detachment coin.


Army Private 1st Class Philip Melici was a pipeline patrolman and served for 23 months in England, France, Belgium and Holland. He landed on beaches at Normandy and constructed gasoline storage tanks while under fire and pumped gasoline from ship tanks to the constructed storage tanks. Melici laid four and six-inch pipes up to the front lines and pumped fuel to gasoline depots. Melici was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four service stars, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Honorable Service Lapel Button.

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Vincent Dematteo was a radioman assigned to USS Maloy and served in Normandy and Omaha Beach. His actions contributed to the shooting down of a German bomber. Dematteo was awarded the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two service stars.

Army Sgt. Orman Feltz was a cook assigned to the 3rd Army Headquarters. He took part in the Battle of France, Normandy, the Battle for Brittany, and the push across France. Feltz was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.

Army Capt. Robert Staib was assigned to the 524th Signal Battalion and the Tactical Air Command. He served in Normandy, Ardennes, Central Europe, Northern Europe and Rhineland. Staib was wounded in action in Belgium on Dec. 28, 1944. Staib was awarded the World War II Victory Medal, a Purple Heart, the European-African-Middle Eastern with six service stars, and the Meritorious Service Medal.

USNS Mercy Departs Pearl Harbor for RIMPAC's Sea Phase

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Pyoung K. Yi

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departed Pearl Harbor July 15 to participate in the sea phase of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014, the world's largest international maritime exercise.

While underway, Mercy is scheduled to participate in various events including simulated medical evacuations (MEDEVAC), a mass casualty exercise and subject-matter expert exchanges (SMEE) with other RIMPAC participants.

"I am looking forward to operating with different allied partner nations," said Capt. Michael Perkow, mission commander aboard Mercy during RIMPAC. "This is a great opportunity for everyone to learn together and operate in a multinational environment."

The MEDEVAC simulations are scheduled to arrive within Mercy's task force and other participating ships. The simulations will test each ships' medical department's ability to respond and evaluate patients, and then decide whether they need to be brought to Mercy for a higher level of medical care.

"I am looking forward to testing our junior officers, integrating their skills and knowledge they've learned so far with our previous engagements with other countries," said Cmdr. Angelo Lucero, a staff member for Mercy's directorate for nursing services.

The mass casualty exercise is scheduled to simulate an oil platform accident with 40 patients being brought to Mercy, allowing the ship's staff to train in an environment in which a large amount of injured people are loaded onto the ship.

SMEEs are slated to take place with medical personnel from other nations participating in RIMPAC.

"The SMEEs are for Mercy's staff to learn best practices other navies have developed and also for our allied partners to learn some of our best practices," said Perkow.

This year's RIMPAC marks the first time in the exercise's history that hospital ships have participated. Twenty-two nations, 49 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

Alaska Reservist saves Airman's arm after ATV rollover

by Maj. Ashley Conner
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

7/16/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- The swift actions of an Airman during an ATV accident saved the limb and probably the life of a fellow Airman.

Airman 1st Class Makayla Conant, 477th Security Forces Squadron, was the passenger in a Razor ATV being driven by fellow Security Forces member, Staff Sgt. Philip Strumsky, when the ATV fell on its side after accelerating too quickly from a stopped position.

"The ATV flipped over on my side and the roll cage landed on my arm just below my elbow and trapped me in," said Strumsky. "It was excruciating pain and I looked down to see if my hand was still attached."

Conant immediately unbuckled herself and Strumsky, who was wearing his seat belt, helmet and gloves, and with the help of another friend lifted the roll cage off of Strumsky.

"We had just completed Combat Casualty Care training during Commando Warrior in Guam where they taught us what to do during a Humvee roll over and how to handle that kind of situation," said Conant. "My instincts kicked in and I did what anyone else in the situation would have done."

Conant applied a T-shirt to the wound that was now bleeding heavily, stabilized his arm and called 911.

"I was very impressed that she didn't hesitate or have a deer in the headlights moment. She remembered her training and they immediately got me out," he said. "I was glad. I knew I needed an ambulance. Quick."

The group was on an isolated dirt road five miles from civilization near Houston, Alaska. Their friend rode out to the main road to meet the paramedics and lead them back to the scene.

A member from the Houston Volunteer Fire Department arrived followed by an ambulance that took Strumsky to the Mat-Su Regional Hospital for x-rays. He was then transported to the JBER hospital where he was met by his girlfriend, Lindsey, and 477th SFS superintendent, Master Sgt. Hiram Gunter.

"I was very proud of how Makayla responded and glad that [Staff Sgt.] Strumsky wasn't hurt any worse than he was," said Gunter. "There wasn't any alcohol involved, they were all wearing the appropriate safety protection gear, they had a wingman and they remembered their training. Self-Aid and Buddy Care is more than just computer based training. It is applicable training that could save a life."

After four surgeries and seven days in the hospital Strumsky was released. He has some advice for other outdoor enthusiasts.

"It really is important to make sure that you take a friend with you when you go out," said Strumsky. "If I had been riding alone that day I doubt I would have been able to free myself with one working arm."

The 477th Security Forces Squadron is nominating Conant for a decoration for her rescue efforts that day.

JBER provides programs to families in need

by Airman 1st Class Tammie Ramsouer
JBER Public Affairs

7/16/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- A mother and child hold the most precious person in the world to them: her husband and the child's father, before he leaves on a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.

Moments like these happen every day on military bases. Fortunately, there are programs designed for deploying military members and their families for support and help while their loved ones are in another country.

The key spouses program is one of the prominent programs on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. More than 100 key spouses are actively involved with commanders and first sergeants and ensure information about deployed members and support groups is available.

More programs can be found through the JBER Military and Family Readiness Center and the Army Community Service Welcome Center on JBER, one of which is the Hearts Apart Program.

"In the Hearts Apart Program, we do events for family members of the sponsors, and all the spouses have to do to sign up for the event is to show their spouse's orders," said Tech. Sgt. Bradley Kecker, JBER Military and Family Readiness Center noncommissioned officer-in-charge. "The trip that we will be going on July 20, will be to the Alaska Zoo, but the events change quarterly. It's an event for them to get out of the house and just do something fun."

"The hearts apart program provided much-needed social interaction during my husband's deployments," said Merideth Rothstein, wife of Air Force Master Sgt. Howard Rothstein, 3rd Maintenance Group product improvement manager. "This program was a life line for me and my family."

When parents need to have a reprieve from their children, the Give Parents a Break program allows them to have a four-hour break free of charge.

"This program is paid for by the Air Force Aid Society, and parents call to schedule their child for the specific time they want to drop them off at any of the Child Development Centers," Kecker said.

Through the program, 16 hours of free childcare is provided every month to spouses.

"The Family Readiness Center had many activities to prepare our kids, help them during [the deployment] and assist in welcoming their Dad back from his deployments," Rothstein said.

The JBER Military and Family Readiness Center offers Operation Read With Me, where parents have the opportunity to record themselves on a free 30-minute video while reading their children's favorite book before their deployment.

"We have many other offers for the families, like putting a photo of their deployed loved one on a pillow case or T-shirt through Operation Sweet Dreams," Kecker said.

The car care program is a service for families while their spouse is deployed to receive a one-time oil change and safety check voucher good for 30 days at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service service station on JBER, Kecker said.

The Family Readiness Program briefs this information to all military members and their families before a deployment to ensure they are aware of the procedures. The program supports the family before, during and after deployment with opportunities such as financial readiness classes, disaster preparedness and crisis intervention, family care planning and master resiliency training.

"We have resiliency training on the Army side and we teach our key spouses about how to be a key caller, and how to keep in touch with other families during that deployment time," said Lisa Williams, Army Community Service Welcome Center family readiness program manager.

Key callers are family members that make morale calls to other family members of deployed spouses to make sure they are doing well and if that family member needs help or a day to get out of the house, the key caller will try to arrange help to that spouse.

"We do keep in touch with them on a regular basis because we deploy quite a few military members at a time, so it can be overwhelming for families," Williams said.

The JBER Military and Family Readiness Center and Army Community Service Welcome Center are not the only services that provide help to families on base through these programs but the Aurora Housing office also offers programs to residents in base housing.

"We mow and trim yards weekly during the summer and provide snow removal during the winter," said Amy Sneed, Aurora Housing deployed spouse's program manager. "We also offer a one non-traditional work order per month where residents are eligible to call in for an hour of service for items that may need to be assembled, such as hanging shelves, or rearranging furniture."

Before individuals can receive these monthly incentives, they must bring a copy of their sponsor's orders to Aurora Housing or in building 338, and fill out a Deployed Spouses Program enrollment form.

All of these programs are offered to all military branches and their families on JBER.

For more information about the programs offered to military members and their families on JBER contact the JBER Military and Family Readiness center at 552-4943 or the Army Community Service Welcome Center at 384-1517. For more information about the services the Aurora Housing office offers, call them at 552-4439 or 384-3907.

Acting VA Secretary Outlines Problems, Actions Taken

From a Department of Veterans Affairs News Release

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2014 – In testimony before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee yesterday, Acting VA Secretary Sloan D. Gibson outlined serious problems regarding access to health care and key actions the department has taken to get veterans off waiting lists and into clinics.

“The trust that is the foundation of all we do -- the trust of the veterans we serve and the trust of the American people and their elected representatives -- has eroded,” Gibson said. “We have to earn that trust back through deliberate and decisive action, and by creating an open and transparent approach for dealing with our stakeholders to better serve veterans.”

Gibson discussed six priorities to begin restoring trust:

-- Get veterans off waiting lists and into clinics;

-- Fix systemic scheduling problems;

-- Address cultural issues;

-- Hold people accountable where willful misconduct or management negligence are documented;

-- Establish regular and ongoing disclosures of information; and

-- Quantify the resources needed to consistently deliver timely, high-quality health care.

Gibson said VA needs about $17.6 billion in additional resources to meet current demand for the remainder of fiscal year 2014 through fiscal 2017. This funding, he added, would address challenges such as clinical staff, space, information technology and the benefits processing necessary to provide timely, high-quality care and benefits.

“We understand the seriousness of the problems we face,” the acting secretary said. “We own them. We are taking decisive action to begin to resolve them. We can turn these challenges into the greatest opportunity for improvement in the history of the department.”

Gibson also outlined actions VA is taking now to address problems with access to VA health care:

-- The Veterans Health Administration has reached out to more than 160,000 veterans to get them off waiting lists and into clinics. VHA also has made more than 543,000 referrals for veterans to receive care in the private sector -- 91,000 more than in the comparable period a year ago.

-- VHA facilities are adding more clinic hours, aggressively recruiting to fill physician vacancies, deploying mobile medical units, using temporary staffing resources, and expanding the use of private-sector care.

-- VA is moving rapidly to augment and improve its existing scheduling system while simultaneously pursuing the purchase of a state-of-the-art system.

-- Gibson has directed medical center and network directors to conduct monthly inspections, in person, of their clinics to assess the state of scheduling practices and to identify any related obstacles to timely care for veterans. To date, more than 1,100 of these visits have been conducted.

-- Gibson has directed a comprehensive external audit of scheduling practices across the entire VHA system.

-- Gibson has personally visited 10 VA medical centers in the last six weeks to hear directly from the field on the actions being taken to get veterans off waiting lists and into clinics, and he will continue to make site visits.

-- The inappropriate 14-day access measure has been removed from all individual employee performance plans to eliminate any motive for inappropriate scheduling practices. In the course of completing this task, more than 13,000 performance plans were amended.

-- Where willful misconduct or management negligence is documented, appropriate personnel actions will be taken, including in cases of whistleblower retaliation.

-- Gibson froze VHA Central Office and Veterans Integrated Service Network Office headquarters hiring as a first step to ensure all employees are working to support those delivering care directly to veterans.

-- VHA has dispatched teams to provide direct assistance to facilities requiring the most improvement, including a large team now working in Phoenix.

-- All VHA senior executive performance awards for fiscal year 2014 have been suspended.

-- VHA is expanding use of private-sector care to improve access.

-- Gibson sent a message to all 341,000 VA employees, and has reiterated during every visit to VA facilities, that whistleblowers will be protected, and that he will not tolerate retaliation against whistleblowers.

-- Gibson has conducted more than a dozen meetings and calls with senior representatives of veteran and military service organizations and other stakeholder groups to solicit their ideas for improving access and restoring trust.

-- Gibson has made a number of personnel announcements in recent weeks, including: Dr. Carolyn Clancy as interim undersecretary for health; Dr. Jonathan Perlin, a former undersecretary for health, on temporary assignment as senior advisor to the secretary; Dr. Gerard Cox as interim director of the Office of Medical Inspector; and Leigh Bradley as special counsel to the secretary.

-- As VA completes reviews, fact-finding, and other investigations, the department is beginning to initiate personnel actions to hold those accountable who committed wrongdoing or were negligent in discharging their management responsibilities.