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KC-135 crew saves F-16 pilot from ejecting over enemy lines

KC-135 crew saves F-16 pilot from ejecting over enemy linesMCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. (AFNS)

A KC-135 Stratotanker crew from McConnell Air Force Base saved an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot from ejecting over Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-held territory in 2015, which could have resulted in the Airman’s captivity or death.

While deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the crew responded to an F-16 fuel emergency and escorted the aircraft from ISIL territory to allied airspace.

“We were in the area of responsibility and were already mated with some A-10 Thunderbolt IIs that were tasked with observing and providing close air support for our allies on the ground,” said Capt. Nathanial Beer, a 384th Air Refueling Squadron pilot. “The lead F-16 came up first and then had a pressure disconnect after about 500 pounds of fuel. We were expecting to offload about 2,500 pounds.”

After the F-16 disconnected a second time, the pilot went through his checklists and told the crew he had a fuel system emergency. Over 80 percent of his total fuel capability was trapped and unusable.

The F-16 could only use up to 15 minutes of fuel at a time, so the crew escorted the aircraft to its base while refueling every 15 minutes to avoid an emergency.

“The first thought I had from reading the note from the deployed location was extreme pride for the crew in how they handled the emergency,” said Lt. Col. Eric Hallberg, the 384th ARS commander. “Knowing the risks to their own safety, they put the life of the F-16 pilot first and made what could’ve been an international tragedy a feel-good news story. I’m sure they think it was not a big deal, however, that’s because they never want the glory or fame.”

Even after the crew escorted the F-16 back, they completed the rest of their daily missions, achieving 100 percent success.

“In my thoughts, what motivates them is a higher calling to be the best at the mission and take care of their fellow Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen,” the commander said.

Tankers like the KC-135 have made it possible to extend the range and persistence of Operation Inherent Resolve air operations, enabling coalition aircraft to maintain a 24/7 presence.

High voltage Airmen keep power going at Eielson

High voltage Airmen keep power going at EielsonEIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFNS)

Driving through the mountains in the beautiful, sunshine of summer; braving the harsh, cold winters; and ensuring the light-filled airfield is always lit is something Senior Airman Travis Bothast and Airman 1st Class Anthony Cooper know all too well as electrical systems Airmen.

Bothast, a 354th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems journeyman, works with exterior high-voltage overhead lines while Cooper, a 354th CES electrical systems apprentice, handles airfield lighting.

Both Airmen maintain high-voltage equipment. Bothast works on utility poles that conduct 12,470 volts, while Cooper works on airfield lighting systems that push out a maximum of 5,000 volts.

“Anything over 600 volts is considered high voltage,” Bothast said.

The electrical systems career field is broken down into three categories: interior, exterior and airfield. Both Airmen are trained in all three areas making them versatile, although they are generally assigned to one section.

Bothast’s section maintains all the streetlights, parking lot lights and overhead lines on the base. He is also responsible for maintaining the utility poles on the Yukon Training Range, which spans more than 25 miles in the Alaska wilderness.

“Being outside, we don’t get stuck at a desk,” Bothast said. “We get out and see the base, the mountains, the beautiful views and get some fresh air.”

Cooper’s section maintains all the lights and signs on the airfield.

“We conduct light inspections,” Cooper said. “There’s about 1,200 lights and 81 signs.”

Bothast and Cooper both said they enjoy the hands-on work and agreed the weather is a challenge in Alaska.

“We always wear gloves for safety, but sometimes you need to take them off to get a better grip on things,” Cooper said. “When it’s 20 below, it can get hard to concentrate.”

Bothast said finding access to certain utility poles on the range can be very difficult in the winter months and climbing up them can be nerve-racking.

“We have to figure it out,” Bothast said. “We can’t put things aside to work on when the weather is nicer.”

Bothast also explained they have new fall restraint equipment to use when climbing poles.

“No more free climbing,” Bothast said. “The belt squeezes you to the pole so you won’t fall off.”

Bothast and Cooper’s career field is extremely important to the mission at Eielson AFB.

“If the power goes out, we will be there fixing it until it’s restored,” Bothast said. “We keep the mission going.”

Cooper’s section is critical to control the lights on the airfield.

“The power source for the airfield lights starts and ends in the vault,” Cooper said. “If there’s something wrong with the electric, nothing will work on the airfield. It’s always our number one priority; if something is down, we go out immediately and fix it.”

One of Cooper’s priorities in airfield lighting is taking edge lights down when a B-52 Stratofortress aircraft lands.

“The edge lights at the bottleneck are cut in closer than the rest of the runway,” Cooper said. “When the B-52 is scheduled to land, we go out and remove the set of edge lights so it can land safely. We then quickly put them back so the F-16 Fighting Falcons can use them for their landing.”

Without the expertise of the electrical systems Airmen, Eielson AFB could potentially be even more dark than normal for the cold, Alaskan winters.

“It’s a rewarding job,” Bothast said. “People rely on us to get the power back up. At the end of the day, it’s nice to sit back and know we have everything back up and running. Everything is good and people are happy.”

54 selected for Undergraduate Flying Training program

54 selected for Undergraduate Flying Training programJOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS)

Fifty-three company grade officers and one major have been selected for the Air Force’s Undergraduate Flying Training program.

The UFT annual selection board convened in January to consider active-duty candidates for the program. Those selected will attend pilot, remotely piloted aircraft, combat systems officer or air battle manager training.

“The board members evaluated each officer based on their officer performance record, the pilot candidate selection method test score, and the Air Force Officer Qualification Test score,” said Maj. Chris Russell, an F-15 assignments chief.

Pilot training candidates will attend specialized undergrad pilot training at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Vance AFB, Oklahoma; or Laughlin AFB, Texas.

RPA selectees will attend training at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. ABM candidates will attend training at Tyndall AFB, Florida, and CSO candidates will attend training at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida.

“The UFT selection board was extremely competitive this year.” said Maj. Stephen Barbour, the air battle manager and air liaison officer assignments chief. “There was an abundance of quality applicants with increased interest in the RPA selection.”

For more information about the UFT program, visit the Air Force Special Flying Programs section in myPers.

For more information about Air Force personnel program go to the myPers website. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following the instructions on the Air Force Retirees Services website.

GAO denies protest, Air Force proceeds with LRS-B

GAO denies protest, Air Force proceeds with LRS-BWASHINGTON (AFNS)

The Government Accountability Office denied The Boeing Company’s protest of the Long Range Strike Bomber contract award following a comprehensive review of the source selection process. The Air Force was confident that the source selection team followed a deliberate, disciplined and impartial process to determine the best value for the warfighter and the taxpayer.

“We look forward to proceeding with the development and fielding of this critical weapon system. This platform will offer the joint community the required capability needed to meet our national security objectives and the evolving threat environment,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “It is important to ensure affordability in this program and the ability to leverage existing technology as we proceed forward.”

The service plans to procure 100 LRS-B aircraft. The aircraft preserves the president’s options for missions across the full range of military operations from permissive to anti-access/area denial environments. It will serve as the air component of the nuclear triad, providing a visible and flexible nuclear deterrent capability.

“Our Nation needs this capability,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “The current bomber fleet is aging. The technology advantage the U.S. has enjoyed is narrowing. This new bomber will provide unmatched combat power and agility to respond and adapt faster to our potential adversaries.”

Mobility Airmen assist first responders after Kabul airport attack

Mobility Airmen assist first responders after Kabul airport attackBAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS)

Four Airmen deployed with the 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron at Bagram Airfield sprang into action following a Jan. 4 terrorist attack on a compound in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The Airmen were in Kabul as part of U.S. Central Command’s materiel recovery element, inspecting equipment for air transport out of Afghanistan. While eating dinner at an eatery on the military side of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, they heard and felt a blast.

“We were done eating and sitting there then we heard (the blast) and we felt it,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Longshaw, deployed from the Utah Air National Guard at Salt Lake City International Airport. “The building shook, and then (Tech. Sgt. Chad Huggins) came in after that; he was pretty visibly upset.”

Huggins, deployed from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, was outside talking on the phone when he saw and felt the blast.

“You heard it, and saw the flash and the next thing it was like a movie,” he said. “I got pushed into the wall and my phone went flying. I don’t even know how to explain it.”

Huggins said he picked up his phone and ran back into the restaurant to find his comrades. About a quarter-mile away, a 15-foot-deep crater sat where the vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated.

“I was staring at these guys,” Huggins said about the situation, “and they were staring back. Then they started speaking and I couldn’t understand them; my ears were ringing. They asked, ‘Are you OK,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, we need to go.'”

The team left the restaurant and went back to their temporary billeting, still reeling over what they had just experienced. Then came the call for help.

“One of the civilians came in from (readiness management support) and asked for our help,” Longshaw explained. “So we got up and started to help; did what we could and whatever we were asked to do.”

Staff Sgt. Tobi Wagner, deployed from Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, had just lied down in his bunk. “(Airman 1st Class John Michael Aradanas) grabbed my ankle and said, ‘Hey, we need to help those contractors. C’mon, let’s go.’ So I got up, put on some shorts and went to go help. I was still a little out of it so I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I knew I wanted to help.”

Aradanas, deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord , Washington, is serving on his first deployment. He said his adrenaline was “through the roof” at that moment.

“I was just trying to help,” he said. “It went by quick, just watching all of these people come in and doing what I could to comfort them.”

The four Airmen all pitched in to help set up a temporary area, where nurses constantly checked on the civilians, mostly contractors, who were injured in the attack. Then they stuck around for the next eight hours, sitting with patients and comforting them; doing whatever was needed of them.

“It brought you back down to reality real quick,” Wagner said. “They came in and were covered in debris and they were hurt. You’d see fresh cuts and blood. Everyone was kind of disheveled because they couldn’t get any of their stuff.”

The team commented how one man was knocked from his bed when the blast occurred near his living quarters. He walked his hallway in bare feet on broken glass until someone was able to find him some boots to wear. Another man was saved by a treadmill, which created a pocket in the rubble where he was buried for three hours until a crane was brought in to sift through the debris.

While scenes like this aren’t necessarily the norm for most Airmen deployed to Afghanistan, it’s something which the Airmen felt prepared to support.

“When I was here two years ago they (terrorists) were much more active,” said Wagner, on his second deployment. “It felt as if we were getting attacked constantly. So I was expecting a little bit of the same. Then I got (to Bagram Airfield) and there wasn’t much of anything.”

That was the case for them until Jan. 4, when the attack occurred and their reflexes and training kicked in.

“It’s human instinct that if you see someone worse off than you, that you’re going to help them,” Huggins said. “But the Air Force did help with the training to understand how to deal with it and what to do in certain situations.”

The team said they set up lodging for the victims of the blast, consisting of about 70 beds, then comforted the victims and assisted the medical staff with anything else that was needed.

“I think we did everything that we could’ve possibly done,” Wagner said. “You sit and you listen, which is really what we did. I think that helped a lot of people.”

Although the attack, which claimed one life and injured more than two dozen others, occurred just a few days ago, each of the Airmen has had a chance to reflect on the incident.

“I figure that the guys getting hurt are the ones kicking in doors or doing convoys and stuff like that,” said Longshaw, who has previously deployed with the Air National Guard and Marine Corps. “I didn’t really think about our contractors getting blown up on the civilian side of an airport. I didn’t expect that to happen.”

For Huggins, serving on his seventh deployment, he figured incidents like this happened to other people, not to him.

“I’ve been deployed a lot,” he said. “You know the dangers and reality, but you don’t expect to be put in that situation. ‘Oh, that ain’t going to happen to me.’ Now that it has, it’s a reality check. You look at things differently.”

US conducts B-52 bomber overflight in South Korea after nuke test

US conducts B-52 bomber overflight in South Korea after nuke testWASHINGTON (AFNS)

A U.S. B-52 Stratofortress from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, conducted a low-level flight in the vicinity of Osan Air Base, South Korea, in response to a recent nuclear test by North Korea, according to a U.S. Pacific Command news release issued Jan. 9.

The B-52 was joined by South Korean F-15 fighter aircraft and U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcons, the release said.

“This was a demonstration of the ironclad U.S. commitment to our allies in South Korea, in Japan, and to the defense of the American homeland,” said Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the PACOM commander. “North Korea’s nuclear test is a blatant violation of its international obligations. U.S. joint military forces in the Indo-Asia-Pacific will continue to work with all of our regional allies and partners to maintain stability and security.”

The bilateral flight mission demonstrates the strength of the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea and the resolve of both nations to maintain stability and security on the Korean Peninsula, the release said.

Headquartered in Hawaii, PACOM is responsible for all U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps forces over half the Earth’s surface, stretching from the waters off the west coast of North America to the western border of India, and from Antarctica to the North Pole.

The B-52 is a long-range strategic bomber and part of the command’s continuous bomber presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. Upon completion of the flight over South Korea, the B-52 returned to Guam, the release said.

Hurlburt combats Zika with knowledge

Hurlburt combats Zika with knowledgeHURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS)

Following the World Health Organization declaring an international emergency and Florida Gov. Rick Scott calling a state health emergency, Hurlburt Field is taking action to protect Airmen and their families from the Zika virus.

The 1st Special Operations Medical Group began implementing precautions to fight the spread of the Zika virus at Hurlburt Field.

Protection begins with identifying the enemy.

“The first thing we do is capture mosquitos,” said 1st Lt. Claude Betene, chief of public health operations in the medical group. “We then send them to a lab at Wright-Patterson (Air Force Base, Ohio), where they identify the species of mosquito.”

This identification helps give epidemiologists an idea of the potential for the spread of the virus.

In addition to identifying the mosquitos, Hurlburt Field Public Health is making education of the Zika virus a priority. These steps include a pre-deployment briefing on how to protect against infection and a post-deployment screening of members returning from infected countries.

“We prepared a presentation for our deploying Airmen coming through public health, to inform them what Zika virus is and what they can do to protect themselves,” Betene said.

The Zika virus itself has received little attention since its identification in monkeys in Uganda in 1947, according to the WHO’s website. The lack of attention is due in part to the mild symptoms experienced by those exposed to the virus and its isolated influence; however, a potential link to the birth defect microcephaly has been identified, causing the WHO and other national health organizations to take notice.

“The virus’ suspected link to child birth defects is the main concern,” Betene said. “The virus itself is a very mild illness and doesn’t necessarily affect patients.”

Betene advised that women who are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, should practice strict mosquito protection and avoid travel to countries affected by the virus. Personal mosquito protection includes wearing long-sleeve shirts, applying mosquito repellent and getting rid of stagnant water around the house.

Following a reported case of Zika being transmitted sexually in Texas, it is advised to wear a condom during sexual activity for at least two weeks after visiting a Zika-affected area.

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