Tuesday, January 20, 2015

MacDill hosts first of numerous '15 cross-service exercises

by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

1/20/2015 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., --
The 6th Air Mobility Wing kicked off its first of numerous cross-service exercises, as they hosted a massive 300 sortie Navy F-18 pilot training exercise from Jan. 4-17, 2015.

The F-18 Hornet and Super Hornet jet aircraft belong to the Strike-Fighter Squadron ONE ZERO SIX (VFA-106), a Navy training squadron that prepares the finest Strike Fighter aircrew and maintenance professionals for the fleet and the fleet marine force in support of combat operations around the world.

The 106th chose MacDill Air Force Base because of its top-notch accommodations, geographical location, and proximity to training specific complexes.

"The Deployed Unit Complex located at MacDill has great facilities that are able to accommodate our training, operations, and maintenance efforts," said Navy Lt. Nathan Miller, VFA-106 instructor pilot.  "MacDill is also an ideal location because of it nearness to the Avon Park Range Complex, where all of our training takes place."

The large scale exercise focused the nearly 300 flights around the air-to-ground training phase, where new pilots tested their skills at a bombing range.   During their immersion, the VFA-106 was able to successfully introduce future F/A-18 pilots to the critical training that will be demanded of them once they go to their operational squadrons.

"MacDill AFB supported our operations and personnel with extreme professionalism and dedication," said Miller.  "We were able to create a great working relationship that allowed us to maximize our training efforts and pave the way for future operations with the 6th [Air Mobility Wing]."

On top of the success of the training exercise was an overwhelming positive outcry from the local community.

Leading the charge in community involvement was 2nd Lt. Patrick Gargan, 6th AMW media operation Officer, who organized multiple media days and the release of up-to-the-minute information on the exercise's status. Within the short duration of the exercise, Gargan's efforts lead to over 100,000 FaceBook views, 11 local media stories, and 22 photos for the Department of Defense.

"With such a fantastic community support system, we want to do all we can to give back. For some all it takes is a couple of weeks of the world's finest pilots showcasing their second-to-none skills," said Gargan. "The 6th Air Mobility Wing is proud to host such events that serve so many valuable purposes. We are extremely excited at this year's upcoming schedule of exercises."

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force visits Scott

by Senior Airman Tristin English
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

1/15/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. --
The Air Force has moved forward with new programs that have affected the enlisted corps and Airmen need to learn how to deal and adapt with the changes - those were just two messages shared by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody during his visit here Jan. 11-13. Cody and his wife, Athena, spent several days meeting with Airmen to discuss changes that involved the Enlisted Evaluation System and force management programs affecting the troops.

A hot topic during the Airman's Calls was the changes to the Enlisted Performance Reports and how they promote teamwork. Cody explained that the Air Force understands how important it is to be a team and not just look out for you.

"We understand that strength is in the team," said Cody. "Given everything that we have taught you this far, starting in basic training, the effect we know a team has and how you have to come together as a team  to do what you have to do as an Air Force. What would make anyone think that the Air Force values an individual who is willing to step over everyone else to make themselves look better?"

Cody expressed that suicide, domestic violence, financial hardships, sexual harassment, and sexual assault in the Air Force are great concerns to him.

"Those are the emails I dread to see coming to my box. That's what keeps me up, and those are the ones that come in at two in the morning. So that's the kind of stuff we try to figure out how to support you and your families. What we do is hard. It's hard on you, and it's hard on your families so we have to somehow get after this in a different way," said Cody.

Other interests talked about were the sequestration budget and how it's affecting that Air Force, educational benefits, tuition assistance training, promotions and retirements.

Cody said, "Last year was tough for us because we had to go through a lot of stuff - tough stuff. [The] mission is always hard, but with great airmen like everyone in this room, we got it done. For the first time since 1947, we are going to be the smallest Air Force ever. We are trying to create as much stability as we can as we move forward, and it's going to be a challenge. We just have to keep moving forward."

Staff Sgt. Amber Kelly-Herard, 18th Air Force command chief executive assistant, said "I thought Chief Cody was very honest in giving us the answers, even if he felt we weren't going to like it. He gave a little insight on what we could expect from the new retirement system, which from the sound of it seems like a pretty good deal. I also was impressed by him staying afterward inviting anyone to come speak to him and his wife."

"Keep it simple. Do your best every day. Be the best airman, and be the best person," said Cody. "You won't be the best every day, you won't always be number one, and you won't always be in that mode but that's ok. Nobody really is. Just do your best for as long as you can and then you may be the next chief master sergeant of the Air Force, or maybe you won't, but that doesn't mean it's going to define how successful you are and how important you are

290th JCSS honors fallen with brick dedication

by Senior Airman Vernon L. Fowler Jr.
6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs

1/16/2015 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- "We are here, 33 years after Air Florida Flight 90 crashed, to honor those fallen JCSE leaders by dedicating the first brick in our unit brick garden to their legacy," said Master Sgt. Sean Abene, 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron Element NCO in charge, during the squadron's brick dedication ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Jan. 14, 2015.

Personnel in attendance observed as Abene held up the brick engraved with the names of Sgt. Maj. James Dixon, JCSE operations sergeant major, Maj. Ralph Herman, JCSE operations officer, and Lt. Col. George Mattar, JCSE commander before his death, for all to see.

The three Joint Communications Support Element members being honored died in an aircraft accident Jan. 13, 1982, while departing Washington D.C. The plane, Air Florida Flight 90, had accumulated too much snow on its wings preventing it from reaching the proper speed and altitude to avoid striking the 14th Street Bridge and plunging into the Potomac River.

The ceremony was held to dedicate the first of many bricks that will be placed to create the 290th JCSS' brick garden.

Prior to the ceremony's conclusion, the honor of placing the first brick into the soil was given to Brig. Gen. James Eifert, the Assistant Adjutant General-Air and Deputy Commander of the Florida Air National Guard, and Col. Kirby Watson, JCSE commander.

As the brick was placed, Abene added some final words.

"This brick, bearing the names of our three fallen comrades, will eventually be surrounded by bricks bearing the names and messages of past, present, and future 290th JCSS members," said Abene. "Also the individuals, groups, and organizations that positively affected our squadron, enabling it to fulfill its mission in an outstanding fashion and make Greater JCSE, including 290th JCSS of the Florida Air National Guard, the best and most sought after communications unit in the world."

Grand Forks AFB recognizes Airmen becoming U.S. citizens

by Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

1/15/2015 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Today the Warriors of the North  recognized six of their fellow Airmen in a special way.

During the wing quarterly awards ceremony held Jan. 15 more than 250 civilians and service members witnessed six Airmen from various units on base being recognized for becoming U.S. citizens in 2014.

"Over the past year these individuals have worked diligently to become American citizens," said Tech. Sgt. Brooke Scott, who served as one of the ceremony's emcees.   "Through hard work and perseverance they were each deemed naturalized citizens. They have dedicated their lives not only to the United States Air Force, but the United States of America.  On behalf of Colonel Paul Bauman please join us in congratulating them on their important achievement."

The six Airmen were:
Airmen 1st Class Danny Pham from the 319th Logistics Readiness Squadron ; Irinieta Tabuyaqona from the 319th Contracting Flight and Hugo Degan from the 319th Force Support Squadron,  who were naturalized Aug. 22 2014.

Also recognized were Airman 1st Class Herman Longsworth from the 319th FSS, naturalized May 16, 2014, and Airman 1st Class Marco Guerrero-Nacif from the 319th Civil Engineering Squadron, who was naturalized Oct. 17, 2014.

Guerrero-Nacif's fellow 319th CES co-worker Airman 1st Class Julio Duran Sangabriel was naturalized Nov. 20, but was not able to attend the ceremony, but the crowd still applauded the achievement after his name and date of citizenship was announced.

"Cut Training" solving problems for McChord Airmen

by Staff Sgt. Tim Chacon
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

1/16/2015 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- The saying doing more with less is not an option for members of the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. They are simply trying to do the same with less. Due to recent large cuts in their manning numbers the Airmen of the 62nd AMXS have been undermanned, especially in the aircraft hydraulics section.

With some creative thinking and flexibility, they have found and implemented a solution that is working for them.

In December four Airmen, who are crew chiefs assigned to the 62nd AMXS, graduated a month long course to make them certified in all hydraulic 5-level core tasks.  The course was thought by Air Education and Training Command through a field training detachment at McChord Field.  These crew chiefs will be utilized when necessary in both Air Force Specialty Codes to help with manning shortages.

"The process is called cross utilization training. AFSCs are identified with surplus manning and Airmen are trained into similar specialties, "said Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Kellner, 62nd  Aircraft  Maintenance Squadron superintendent. "We are increasing our capabilities as our man power decreases."

The hydraulics section of the 62nd AMXS was the most undermanned section in the squadron and was the first to receive the help.

"We have lost 10 people in the past year. Not just with C-17 experience, but flightline experience in general," said Tech Sgt. Daniel Rosenberg 62nd AMXS element lead. "We had to get creative and think outside the box to increase our capacity."

Each of the cross trainees were hand selected by their leadership based not only on availability, but pre-existing knowledge and reliability.

Tech. Sgt. Patrick Starskey, 62nd AMXS crew chief, is one of the first four Airmen to complete the training.

"I'm happy to help. Where I come from if there is work to be done, you do it. It doesn't matter whose job it is," said Starskey.  "Not only can I help them with tasks, but If I discover a hydraulics issues during my normal [crew chiefs] checks I can trouble shoot it on my own and determine if it is a problem or not."

As with any new process it takes time to truly see the results and understand how it's going to work.

"A lot of the tasks crew chiefs and hydraulics do are similar, so it's not a hard transition," said Staff Sgt. Dustin Michel, 62nd AMXS hydraulics specialist. "The process is going well, if we keep it going it will get even better as we go."

The 62nd AMXS plans to train four more Airmen in the next year and will start to look at what other AFSCs can benefit from the cross utilization.

CMSAF visits Hickam, shares knowledge with Airmen

by Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez
15th Wing Public Affairs

1/20/2015 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody visited with Airmen and hosted separate all-calls with junior and senior enlisted Airmen during his visit here Jan. 15-16. 

Cody's discussion-style all-calls allowed for Airmen to openly express their career concerns or opinions.

"I liked how he made it a priority to come and talk to the bottom tier of the enlisted force," said Airman 1st Class Sarai Crook, 15th Comptroller Squadron.  "It made him approachable for Airmen like me to communicate with him. It wasn't just a 'Q and A', it was a discussion."

A major topic Cody addressed during his discussions was the implementation of the new enlisted performance report process, which he said will take time and effort to get right.

"These are big changes that require some real work by leadership and by you all in order for us to get our heads around why we're going in the direction we're going," Cody said. "We'll learn along the way ... and we'll make adjustments on execution. I think we're getting after everything that our Airmen are telling us, so I ask you to look at [the process] in its entirety; look at the end state, and work with us to get where we need to be."

Other topics addressed included concerns with joint basing, retention challenges in critical career fields, and the Air Force's ongoing plan to combat sexual assaults.

"[Sexual assault] is a big problem and it's a problem we will have to work at forever," Cody said. "We have to look out for each other and treat each other with dignity and respect."

Joining Cody on his visit was his wife, Chief Master Sgt. (ret) Athena Cody, Chief Master Sgt. Sandra Pfeffer, the first sergeant special duty career field manager, and Senior Airman Ariful Haque, one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of 2014.

Cody thanked JBPHH Airmen for what they do, and reminded them of the important role they play in the Air Force.

"We are significantly engaged globally, more today than in the history of our country," Cody said. "We're in the longest sustained combat operations and we are the smallest Air Force since 1947. That's your legacy. You serve in a time in our Air Force and our country that is unprecedented because it's being done with an all-volunteer force. You should be proud of that, and you should be proud that you are shaping our future. It's important to know how much we appreciate you and your families so thanks for what you do."

Face of Defense: Shooting Victim Seeks to Inspire Others

By Elaine Sanchez
Brooke Army Medical Center

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Jan. 20, 2015 – An Army officer who was severely wounded in a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, last year is using his near-death experience to give others a new lease on life.

“I believe I was given a second chance,” said 1st Lt. John Arroyo, who is recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center here. “I hope my story inspires others to realize that it’s never too late to make a change or to make a difference.”

Arroyo had three deployments under his belt when he arrived at Fort Hood in November 2013. The California native had enlisted in 1998 as a truck driver, but jumped at the opportunity to earn a Green Beret just a few years later. After a dozen years in Special Forces, Arroyo was commissioned and selected for the Medical Service Corps.

Shots Fired at Fort Hood

He was assigned to the 1st Medical Brigade at Fort Hood as a platoon leader. On April 2, 2014, Arroyo was pulling into ther brigade headquarters parking lot when he heard shots fired. He had just stepped out of his car as another car parked close by. He had no idea the driver was Army Spc. Ivan Lopez, who was just minutes into a shooting spree across post.

Lopez already had shot and killed two soldiers and wounded more than a dozen others in another building by the time he pulled into the brigade parking lot.

The next shot Arroyo heard was the one that ripped through his throat. Gasping for breath, Arroyo stumbled back to his car and fell to the ground. He lay there, bleeding profusely, and struggling to breathe.

“I thought, ‘Is this it? Am I going to die?’ he recalled. “But then I heard a voice telling me to get up -- to hurry and get up.”

Close Encounter With Shooter

With his wife and three children in mind, Arroyo drew on his last reserves of strength to stand up and find help. He held his throat to stanch the bleeding and stumbled toward a man. He suddenly realized he was about to seek aid from the shooter. “I was within 10 feet of him, but he never saw me,” he said. “He walked right past me into the building and started shooting again.”

A few soldiers spotted Arroyo from across the parking lot. They called out: “Soldier, are you OK?” He was somehow able to answer: “I’ve been shot.” With no time to spare, they raced Arroyo to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. Meanwhile, the shooter was confronted seconds later by a military police officer. She fired a shot at him, and he responded by committing suicide. Four soldiers, including Lopez, were killed and 16 others were wounded that day.

Critically injured, Arroyo was rushed to surgery and transferred to Scott and White Memorial Hospital for further care. He was told his voice box and right arm were damaged beyond repair. Yet, two months later, he was talking again and, after months of intense rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid here, has regained the use of his right hand.

His swift recovery wasn’t surprising, he said.

“I was given a second chance by God,” he added. “I should have died in the parking lot that day. I believe I am here for a purpose and will continue to heal.”

Sharing His Story to Help Others

Hoping to inspire others, Arroyo said, he began sharing his story with everyone from inmates to students to fellow patients and service members. “I want everyone to realize that if they’re breathing, they have the opportunity for a second chance,” he explained.

Arroyo returned to Fort Hood last month to speak at the hospital’s Holiday Ball and to thank the staff for saving his life. One of the nurses was in tears after Arroyo told her another soldier who had been shot in the spinal cord was walking again, thanks in part to her care.

“I went back to the spot where I was shot,” he said. “And I wasn’t upset at what had happened. I felt grateful that I was given a second chance to make a difference.

“I don’t focus on tomorrow -- I finish today,” he added. “And I plan to make each day count for something.”