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.

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.

Air Force 101: Talks aim to improve legislation for AF missions

Air Force 101: Talks aim to improve legislation for AF missionsWASHINGTON (AFNS)

A day after the Air Force flew a B-52 Stratofortress over South Korea in the wake of their northern neighbor’s nuclear bomb test, Air Force officers discussed the service’s nuclear capabilities with policymakers Jan. 11.

The hour-long discussion, part of an ongoing series, touched on North Korea’s Jan. 6 test and why the Air Force responded with a show of force. It also delved further into the U.S. military’s triad system, which deters a nuclear attack using strategic bombers, missile silos and submarines.

Organized by the Air Force Legislative Liaison Office at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, the Air Force 101 sessions inform policymakers on various topics.

“We don’t write policy. That’s not our job,” said Maj. Justin Ballinger, a legislative liaison. “What we do is educate how the policy and legislation affects us, and what we can do with what is given to us.”

The bi-monthly sessions cover “airpower from the ground up” and hot topics such as a briefing on cyber security that had officers talk about policies related to Air Force missions.

“They spoke on the things that the current legislation allows us to do and some of the things that we’re handcuffed with,” Ballinger said.

The sessions by the liaison office, which Ballinger described as an arm of the executive branch, also save time and energy to highlight Air Force matters.

“The more folks we can reach out to and educate, the better returns we get when it comes to responsiveness for policy and other issues,” he said.

At the latest session, three Air Force officers spoke to about 60 policymakers on nuclear operations an issue recently thrusted into the spotlight.

“It gives us an opportunity to build that initial foundation for a lot of them,” said Maj. Nathan Perry, the chief of airborne capabilities for Air Staff 10 that handles the service’s nuclear mission. “If a handful of them left this door smarter than they were when they walked in on nuclear deterrence, then mission accomplished.”

To Perry, who has flown B-2 Spirits, the session was a unique chance for him and others to communicate in person with policymakers who may alter the future of nuclear operations one day.

“For us to be able to say that we are credible and reliable all the time,” he said of nuclear deterrence, “we have to be able to correspond about it, talk about it and prove it.”

Allowing Capitol Hill staffers to interact with Airmen who’ve had prior experience on a specific issue may also indirectly shape new policy.

“Being over here talking and sharing our experience, we absolutely influence the process,” said Maj. Stephen Bonin, a senior emergency actions officer with the National Military Command Center who once served as a missile maintainer.

The goal of the sessions is to improve the decision making of policymakers.

“I can’t tell you what the composition of the triad should be or how many weapons we should have,” Bonin said, “but I can tell you all the information so you can make an informed decision.”

Eric Mattson, a Hill staffer who works for U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer of Washington, said the session helped expand his knowledge on nuclear capabilities.

“As I work here there may be a time when I will work with this kind of policy,” Mattson said. “I think it’s important for us as policymakers to know what can be done better.”

One aspect that the Air Force is pushing to modernize is its aging aircraft, of which many are part of the triad system. In October, Air Force officials awarded a multibillion-dollar contract to build 100 long range strike bombers to replace legacy bombers, such as B-52s that are more than 50 years old.

Bombers play a critical role in nuclear deterrence since they’re easily visible, unlike submarines or intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The low-level flyover of the B-52 and fighter aircraft only a few hours from the demilitarized zone of the Korean Peninsula was a prime example.

“That’s what the bomber portion gives you,” Perry said. “It allows the whole world to see that we’re getting it done. It’s definitely a game of chess and it takes a lot of work.”

How the Air Force will evolve and continue its nuclear deterrence mission will be up to those making legislation.

“You need to take a serious look at what is the strategic narrative that we want to push for some of these capabilities,” Perry told the policymakers. “Please help us use our capabilities to do what we need to do.”

Solar Ready Vets program to begin first class at Hill AFB

Solar Ready Vets program to begin first class at Hill AFBHILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AFNS)

The Solar Ready Vets program announced by President Barack Obama during a visit to Hill Air Force Base in April 2015 will begin training the first class of 24 veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce.

The training, which begins Feb. 1, is being provided by Salt Lake Community College in partnership with the Department of Energy, which oversees the initiative. Some of the training will take place in Hill classrooms and some will be online “self-driven” learning.

“We’ve got to be relentless in our work to grow the economy and create good jobs,” Obama said during his visit. “I think everybody here at Hill understands that one of the most important aspects of national security is strong economic security.”

Hill was chosen to be part of the program based on the number of exiting military personnel from the installation, the strength of the surrounding solar market and the capacity of nearby training institutions.

The base acquires 20 percent or more of its overall energy from renewable energy sources. The base’s solar array installation was completed in June 2009, making it Utah’s largest ground-mounted photovoltaic system at the time.

“We take pride in the energy initiatives we have underway here,” said Col. Ron Jolly, the 75th Air Base Wing installation commander.

Obama said the new program is one of many steps to help nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get a job.

Hill is the fourth base to implement the program, which is already underway at Camp Pendleton, California; Fort Carson, Colorado; and Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia; and has already delivered 150 military veterans ready-to-begin careers in the solar energy career field, one of the fastest growing job sectors in the country.

While veterans are not guaranteed a job, the DOE reports that all of the participating veterans have been extended job offers from renewable energy companies participating in the initiative. Starting salaries for these types of positions average $20 to $24 per hour. The program prepares veterans to be strong candidates for a wide range of solar energy careers, including management, photovoltaic installation, sales and technical positions.

According to the DOE, the Defense Department is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government. So, to meet new goals set out in an executive order signed March 19, 2015, for the federal government to reduce emissions, some of the Solar Ready Vets graduates may return to bases, helping build solar arrays that improve energy security.

The program is tied to the DOD’s SkillBridge initiative, a program designed to equip active-duty military personnel within six months of moving to veteran status with skills to enter the civilian workforce.

The DOE is working with the DOD to expand Solar Ready Vets to a total of 10 military bases by late spring 2016.

“We have eight currently registered with more Airmen expressing interest every day. Many are currently working through the application process,” said Capt. Joshua Tate, the deputy director of the 75th Force Support Squadron.

The classes are paid for by the DOE during the startup phase and funding for continuing classes can be paid for by the members’ GI Bill benefits, Tate said.

AF stands up Chief Master Sergeant Academy

AF stands up Chief Master Sergeant AcademyMAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS)

The Chief Master Sergeant Academy faculty at Maxwell Air Force Base is preparing for the first class of students in April. The academy’s activation re-establishes the fourth level of enlisted professional military education and marks the first time the Air Force has had a stand-alone faculty and facility dedicated to the development of its top enlisted grade.

The academy replaces the eight-day legacy, in-resident Chief Leadership Course that was closed in 2011 after seven years due to budget cuts, and the subsequent facilitated distance learning course that was discontinued after a one-year test.

“The new academy will deliver dynamic curriculum at a more executive level,” said Chief Master Sgt. David Scott, the academy’s first commandant. “We will teach to the joint and Air Force institutional competencies and ensure our chiefs are a ‘full-up round’ and ready to serve at higher levels of leadership.”

The academy fills the education void for enlisted members between the Air Force Senior NCO Academy and those assuming the rank of chief master sergeant, he said.

Though the Air Force SNCOA fulfills the necessity for its graduates to meet appropriate Air Force and joint institutional competency requirements, a similar course was needed for chief master sergeants to meet their rank-appropriate requirements.

The academy’s curriculum is designed to bridge students’ perspectives from the operational to the strategic level and is broken into five modules: educational theories; national security; strategic leadership; synergized engagement, including strategic thinking, communication and negotiations; and integrated development.

“The creation of this academy speaks to the tremendous impact and responsibilities of our chief master sergeants, providing our new chiefs the opportunity to reflect and think deeply about leading and cultivating a professional culture in the Air Force,” said Col. Ed Thomas, the Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education commander. “It’s an in-depth, monthlong course that will drill in on today’s challenges, the skills required as airpower leaders and how to think critically and strategically as these leaders assist commanders in solving the problems we face today.”

A 32-hour prerequisite consisting of read-ahead material and general administrative tasks must be completed before students attend the course in residence. Students will receive access to Air University’s learning management system 30 days before attending the academy, which is housed in Kisling Hall on Maxwell’s Gunter Annex.

The first of three beta classes is scheduled to begin in early April, spanning 20 academic days with a mix of 48 total force chief master sergeant-selects and current chief master sergeants. The Air Force Personnel Center, along with its Air Reserve Component counterparts, has begun scheduling students for the class based on promotion sequence number. The Air Force Chiefs’ Group will select and schedule current chief master sergeants.

The two other beta classes are scheduled for June and August, each with 72 total force students, before the academy begins full production in November, concurrent with the 2016 E-9 promotion release.

Starting with the November class, the academy will conduct seven classes annually, educating 750 total force students per year (500 active-duty and 250 Air Reserve component members). Each class will be broken into nine seminars, each with 12 students.

IRS Form 1095 available on myPay

IRS Form 1095 available on myPayWASHINGTON (AFNS)

All active-duty, Guard, Reserve, retiree and civilian Airmen will need proof of health care coverage when filing their federal tax returns for 2015.

“This is the first year that Affordable Care Act requires health care validation for filing their taxes and Airmen need this information,” said Robert W. Burke, the Air Force Accounting and Finance Office director, finance division.

Under the ACA, U.S. citizens and legal residents are required to obtain and maintain a minimum standard of health care insurance, called minimum essential coverage. The proof of minimum essential coverage will be provided by the Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service Form 1095. TRICARE is one of many health providers qualifying for this coverage.

In January 2016, Defense Finance and Accounting Service is required to provide each employee with the IRS Form 1095 for employment during 2015. A hard copy form is scheduled to be mailed to each employee and the form will also be available electronically through myPay under the taxes section.

“The Air Force would like to stress the importance for Airmen to elect to receive the form electronic only,” Burke continued. “This action will save the Air Force $200,000 and cause no environmental impact.”

Additional information about the impact of the ACA can be found here.