Comms program hits 100,000 hours of warfighter connectivity

Comms program hits 100,000 hours of warfighter connectivityHANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFNS)

A program managed here to ensure warfighters can stay connected despite differing networks and austere environments recently reached a significant milestone and is also on a path to keep moving forward.

The Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) program reached 100,000 combat flight hours Jan. 30. The system, which provides coalition interoperability among air, space and surface systems by forwarding and translating voice and data across disparate networks, began operating in theater in 2008.

In 2015 alone, the system flew on more than 1,500 combat missions and 21,000 combat flight hours.

“For more than seven years now, BACN has been deployed supporting warfighter critical communication needs,” said Maj. Gen. Craig Olson, the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks program executive officer. “This capability has revolutionized the way we think about communications, providing strategic agility to DOD and coalition partners through increased interoperability and range extension for ground, air and space forces.”

BACN began as an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration in 2006 to meet the challenges associated with operating in mountainous regions with limited line-of-sight, and in 2009 became a Joint Urgent Operational Need program to support Operation Enduring Freedom. It currently operates on two airborne platforms: one manned, the E-11A aircraft; and one remotely piloted, the Global Hawk Block 20s.

According to program officials, BACN provides the warfighter a high-altitude relay, providing reliable, dynamic communication links. Its myriad abilities include: an extended range of voice and tactical data networks; data exchange and translation across TDNs using various message standards and systems; voice communications interoperability between disparate radio systems; and unification of separate TDNs into a seamless, larger network.

The group operating the system in theater realizes the benefits BACN provides.

“BACN has been instrumental in extending communications and enhancing situational awareness throughout Afghanistan,” said the contracting officer’s representative for the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron. “The missions range from support for troops in contact to enabling strikes against key targets. BACN is a key part of the C2 backbone.”

They also realize the significance of the milestone.

“The entire team in country is proud to have contributed to passing the 100,000-hour milestone for the BACN program,” said the 430th EECS commander. “Having the E-11As overhead on a 24/7 basis has provided important radio bridges and datalink extensions to the warfighters on the ground and in the air. We are happy that we can support the ongoing efforts of the entire Freedom’s Sentinel and Resolute Support missions.”

And the program office is working to ensure this support can continue. In December, they released a notice of contract action. They intend to award a sole source follow-on contract for operations and support to Northrop Grumman Corp. for operating and maintaining the BACN system payloads. The work is expected to begin in January 2017 and may continue through January 2021 in optioned intervals of no more than 12 months each. Work will include continued payload operations and maintenance, periodic software upgrades and providing spares and repair parts.

“Achieving 100,000 combat flight hours for a program with JUON origins is an incredible milestone which highlights the importance of this capability,” Olson said. “BACN has become a true force multiplier, and it is laying the foundation for the future of aerial layer networking. The BACN team and I are excited about the future of the program and we are ready to support this warfighter requirement for as long as it’s needed.”

(Editor’s note: Names from expeditionary units were not included for security reasons.)

16th CMSAF speaks with intel Airmen

16th CMSAF speaks with intel AirmenWRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS)

A former chief master sergeant of the Air Force spoke with members of the National Air and Space Intelligence Center when he visited Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Jan. 29.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy told Airmen about what his career was like, what is happening with enlisted performance reports, and what the budget is looking like these days.

“I look out at you and say, ‘We’re going to be OK,’” Roy said. “We are going to have some bumps, but you are on the ground doing it every day. There are some challenges as I said, but I think we are ready for them.”

Roy gave some insight on how he got so far in his career. When speaking of his accomplishments and regrets, he mentioned that nothing he did could have been completed without his team.

“You are only one person,” he said. “You can only be successful if you have a good team. Setting the priorities up front made the world of difference in my mind. As a team, we sat down and talked about what we were going to tackle. I couldn’t have gotten where I am without the support of those around me.

“Be sure to thank someone in your life that supports what you do. Thank them for the sacrifices they make every day.”

Following his speech, Roy took some questions from the audience. He gave answers for a variety of topics, but many questions were directed toward the new EPRs.

“There are obviously a lot of changes with the evaluation system,” Roy said. “Every time you do that there is a bump.”

Despite the bumps in the system, he placed the primary importance on feedback. With well-conducted feedback, the system will take care of itself.

“Under the old system, were you getting and receiving appropriate feedback?” Roy asked. “How do you expect someone to grow if you don’t come up with a plan? You as a leader, as a supervisor, are responsible for doing that. Are you sitting down with Airmen and giving them feedback?”

He reiterated his point by pushing the idea that a relationship is what is needed to provide good, constructive feedback. A supervisor and his Airmen must have a healthy understanding of each other for the constructive part to take place.

“It is all about relationships,” Roy said. “Being a supervisor every day is all about relationships. It is not a text, not a tweet; it is face-to-face. There is nothing more important than face-to-face with Airmen.”

AF announces year two adjustments to enlisted evaluations, promotions

AF announces year two adjustments to enlisted evaluations, promotionsWASHINGTON (AFNS)

Incorporating various observations and assessments from the first year under the new enlisted evaluation and promotion systems, the Air Force is making several adjustments for year two to ease execution and strengthen processes.

In 2015, the Air Force began execution of the new enlisted evaluation and promotion systems with the goal of ensuring performance as the main factor when promoting or evaluating Airmen. The new systems also increased a commander’s opportunities to identify top performers and clearly indicate an Airman’s promotion potential to the boards.

Enlisted performance reports available for review by senior NCO evaluation boards will decrease from the previous 10 to five years beginning with the calendar year 2016 master sergeant evaluation board. This change allows an increased focus on recent performance and compliments implementation of restricted stratification and forced distribution rules that also emphasize recent performance.

With the change from reviewing 10 years of reports decreased to five years, the Air Force is also transitioning to a single-phase process for the upcoming master sergeant evaluation board.

Starting with the 2016 promotion cycle, the master sergeant evaluation board will be condensed into a single-phase process in which all weighted factors and board scores are combined into one score for each Airman. Accordingly, this single-phase approach will eliminate the EPR points as a separate weighted factor similar to senior and chief master sergeant evaluation boards.

“After going through the first master sergeant evaluation board in 2015, we were able to assess our capacity to review all eligible Airmen. We now know our systems, facility and annual board schedule can support boarding all eligible technical sergeants,” said Brig. Gen. Brian Kelly, the director of military force management policy. “This adjustment allows every technical sergeant a chance to have their performance reviewed on its own merit directly by the board.”

Under these adjustments the master sergeant evaluation board will review all eligible technical sergeant selection folders containing each Airman’s evaluation brief, EPRs closing out within five years of the promotion eligibility cutoff date (PECD), and all decorations received over the Airman’s entire career. Any Article 15 received within two years of the PECD and recommended for placement in the selection folder by a commander will also be visible.

Another announced adjustment for 2016 is the continuation of the previously-planned reduction in points associated with time-in-service and time-in-grade. For calendar 2016, the multipliers for calculating total TIS and TIG points will be reduced again by another one-third, impacting the 2016 E-5, E-6, E-7, E-9, and 2017 E-8 promotion cycles. The Air Force will again conduct analysis on the impact of this change and determine if future reductions to completely eliminate the TIG and TIS weighted points from the Weighted Airman Promotion System will continue in calendar 2017.

Finally, beginning in calendar 2016, EPR point calculations for promotion to grades E-5 and E-6 will be based solely on an Airman’s last three forced distributed reports in their current grade. This adjustment provides an equitable method for transitioning from the legacy to the new system. Accounting for legacy EPRs, if in current grade, is accomplished by considering and factoring them into an Airman’s promotion recommendation. This allows a clean break under the new Forced Distribution system where no points are awarded for legacy EPRs.

For more information about senior NCO evaluation board processes or other adjustments related to enlisted evaluation and promotions, visit the myPers website.

High year of tenure extension for 122 specialties

High year of tenure extension for 122 specialtiesJOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS)

Eligible senior airmen, staff sergeants, technical sergeants, and master sergeants in 122 Air Force specialties can apply for a high year of tenure extension and, if approved, will be able to extend between 12 and 24 months past their current HYT.

Eligible Airmen who apply for an extension should be approved by their unit commander or civilian leader, and should meet regular re-enlistment criteria as well. Airmen with a re-enlistment restriction are not eligible to apply for an HYT extension.

The HYT extension application window will be open Feb. 1, 2016, through May 31, 2017.

Eligible Airmen with a current HYT in February 2016 should apply as soon as possible to obtain approval prior to their current HYT. Eligible Airmen with a current HYT March 1-May 31, 2016, should apply at least 30 days prior to their current HYT. All other eligible Airmen should submit their requests for extension at least 120 days prior to their current HYT.

Eligibility is limited to specific control Air Force specialty codes and grades as of Jan. 26, 2016, but the following Airmen may also apply:

- Airmen who previously held an eligible AFSC, who are projected to return to the eligible AFSC on or before Sept. 30, 2017, and who have a current HYT between Feb. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017, may apply. Airmen in this category should provide documentation showing their projected return date with their HYT extension request.

- Airmen who are in a special duty or developmental special duty assignment, who have an eligible AFSC, and who have an assignment availability code or date eligible for return from overseas date that expires on or before Sept. 30, 2017, may apply. Airmen in this category should provide documentation of the eligible AFSC with their HYT extension request. DEROS and AAC curtailment requests will not be approved for this program.

Airmen approved for an extension should get required retainability within 10 days of being notified or they will forfeit the opportunity for an HYT extension.

For complete eligibility criteria and application information, go to the myPers website, select “Any” from the search drop down options and enter “FY16/17 High Year of Tenure Extension Program” in the search window.

For more information about Air Force personnel programs, 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.

3-time Super Bowl champ, AF pilot reflects on America’s game

3-time Super Bowl champ, AF pilot reflects on America’s gameFORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS)

Super Bowl 50 is just days away and it’s hard not to wonder how one of the U.S. Air Force Academy’s best all-time players fits into that history.

Chad Hennings won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys during the 1990s, and his first appearance was within a year’s time of flying his A-10 Thunderbolt II in a combat sortie in northern Iraq.

Hennings, a 1988 Academy graduate, led the nation with 24 sacks and was awarded the Outland Trophy during the 1987 season an award that recognizes the nation’s best interior lineman.

Committed to serve

Following graduation, Hennings now a member of the College Football Hall of Fame was drafted by the Cowboys in the 11th round of the 1988 draft. Before he could even suit up in the NFL, Hennings had to first fulfill his military commitment, a move that was initially hard to accept.

“I wouldn’t say there were regrets, (but) it was an emotional struggle because I wanted to be able to compete,” Hennings said.

From a character perspective, he knew without a doubt what he needed to do because he made a commitment and he was going to stick to it. The drive to compete, however, made his transition from school to pilot training and then into his active-duty squadron a difficult one. That void would eventually be filled with friendly competition as an A-10 pilot.

“We did compete on the range; we competed for performance,” he said. “There (was) always competition and it was a healthy competition.”

After pilot school, Hennings was stationed in the U.K. and deployed twice to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in 1991 and 1992. While deployed, he flew 45 combat sorties in northern Iraq in support of Operation Provide Comfort, an international relief effort after the Gulf War.

After getting settled into the Air Force, Hennings said he contemplated making a career out of it.

“Football was a distant memory and something in the past that I never really thought about until the Air Force went through the reduction in force and they started the waivers in the spring of ‘92,” he said.

Pro player

Hennings separated from active-duty Air Force in April 1992 and transitioned to the Air Force Reserve. He continued to serve in the Reserve individual mobilization augmentee program for almost 10 years.

The next month, Hennings found himself in Dallas working out for the Cowboys.

“It was extremely stressful, initially transitioning in ‘92, because I’m leaving one career for another,” he said. “I’m moving from one continent to another, taking on a whole new different position. There were a lot of just stress factors there, and it wasn’t assured that I would make the team.”

Hennings said it was tough coming into the league and competing at a level of competition that was much higher than he experienced before.

But all the downtime spent in the weight room and working out when he wasn’t flying during his deployments and TDYs paid off. He would go on to secure a spot on the team, and kick off what would eventually be a nine-year career with the Cowboys, playing in 119 games and recording 27.5 sacks.

In his first season, Hennings and the Cowboys would go on to beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl 27.

“It was pretty surreal,” he said. “I essentially flew a combat mission and then played in the Super Bowl all within a year’s time.”

He compared that Super Bowl experience to his first combat mission. He said he knew he had a job to do, and being around a set of guys who were experienced made it easier to navigate and process all of his emotions.

During his next three seasons, Hennings would go onto win two more Super Bowls with the Cowboys.

“You got to a point in our culture of being a Dallas Cowboy, that that’s what was expected. We knew we were the best team out there,”

Hennings said. “I kind of compare that analogy to being a fighter pilot. It’s kind of that confident arrogance, where you know you’re good, you know your abilities; you walk out there, you don’t flaunt it, but you walk with an extreme amount of confidence.”

It wasn’t until the latter part of Hennings’ career that he fully appreciated winning three Super Bowls, he said.

Two decades after he appeared in his last Super Bowl, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 30, Hennings has a sincere admiration for those moments in time and truly appreciates how special those teams really were.

“As a kid growing up, all your heroes, the role models that you looked up to on the gridiron you know those guys they were able to hold that trophy up,” Hennings said. “I was a Minnesota Vikings fan, so they went there four years and they never won one, and that’s where I realized too how difficult it is, not only to just get to the Super Bowl, but to win one how truly special that is.”

Hennings said one of the best memories is from Super Bowl 30, where he recorded two sacks a Super Bowl record that he shared with several other players before it was broken the next year.

Humble beginnings

Being a solid performer on the gridiron and in his jet, Hennings has always tried to strive for excellence.

Growing up in Elberon, Iowa, Hennings would sometimes put in 12-plus-hour days helping his father and grandfather on their farm, where they predominately raised corn and a feedlot operation for cattle. He’d help wherever needed, whether feeding the cattle, bailing hay, driving tractors, or performing maintenance.

“The work ethic came from watching my father, my grandfather, but a lot of it I can attribute it to my older brother, who really pushed me to workout with him,” he said.

Hennings’ older brother, Todd, was a couple years older and was the quarterback for their high school football team. Hennings said he was a tight end, and he recalled his brother dragging him off to run routes and lift weights.

“When I started to see the success of all the hard work that I put in, then it became more of a self-driving motivation than having somebody externally motivate me,” he said.

That motivation to be a better player and better person carried over when it was time to attend college. Hennings had several scholarships, but said he wanted a “holistic experience.” He yearned to be challenged academically and wanted to have the experiences a typical college graduate wouldn’t have.

Looking back, the leadership skills gained, the experience of flying jets, and the camaraderie within his fighter squadron are things that gave him skills he used on the gridiron and in his everyday life.

“You know, it all worked out great,” Hennings said. “I had an experience flying that I would never trade. If I had to do it all over again, I would do it exactly the same.”

Where he is now

Today, Hennings lives outside of Dallas, where he’s a partner in a commercial real estate company and does a lot of public speaking, which he said is his way of giving back.

“That’s my passion now in this last half of my life, is to be an evangelist, in essence, for that aspect of a need of character in our community and for us as individuals,” Hennings said.

An author of three books, he’s also married with two children, who are both in college.

Keeping the C-17 in the fight

Keeping the C-17 in the fightAL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS)

The C-17 Globemaster III is a versatile aircraft in high demand across the globe. The airframe is used to haul cargo, transport passengers and medically evacuate wounded service members.

The 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron maintenance team at Al Udeid Air Base helps keep the base’s C-17 fleet mission ready by performing regular maintenance on each aircraft. The unit provides the only tier two C-17 maintenance capability in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility with the ability to replace engines and perform fuel cell work.

“Our goal is to maintain our C-17s so they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice,” said Senior Airman Matthew Vanderbosch, a 8th EAMS C-17 crew chief from Buffalo, New York. “We need to make sure the aircraft is crew ready. We configure the cargo bay for each mission, inspect everything on the aircraft and call in specialists, as needed, to fix problems quickly.”

Conducting preflight inspections is one of the many responsibilities of 8th EAMS crew chiefs. During inspections, nearly a half dozen crew chiefs inspect every system on the aircraft, Vanderbosch said.

“We inspect the interior and exterior of the aircraft, all lights, computer systems, hydraulics, every brake and tire … everything,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Hill, a 8th EAMS C-17 crew chief from Helena, Montana. “Each inspection consists of hundreds of items.”

Ensuring the C-17, an aircraft called upon to evacuate 80 U.S. Embassy personnel from Yemen in February 2015, is mission ready is vital, Hill said.

“Everything we do here has an impact. Every time we support a jet launch we’re making things happen,” Hill said. “Whether it’s moving passengers across the AOR, delivering munitions or delivering humanitarian aid like water, blankets or food to people in need; we are here to support all of that.”

One day, Vanderbosch was informed of a C-17 waiting to takeoff to transport wounded Soldiers out of Afghanistan. The aircraft was fueled up, the pilot was ready to start engines and the aeromedical evacuation crew was ready to go. However, there was one problem two tires needed to be replaced.

“Without hesitation, a team of us went out to the jet, jacked it up and replaced the tires,” Vanderbosch said. “Behind every flight crew, there’s a team of crew chiefs and specialists ensuring they can do their jobs, because if we don’t do our jobs, the flight crews can’t do their jobs.

“Knowing we were able to help bring those Soldiers home and get them the care they needed … being a part of that, was pretty cool,” he continued.

During his time at AUAB, Vanderbosch said he’s replaced C-17 brakes, lights and more tires than any other time in his Air Force career.

The 8th EAMS maintainers perform maintenance actions on a routine basis in an effort to ensure assets are available at the time of need, Hill said.

“We track the maintenance needs for every aircraft; we assign people as necessary, perform our inspections and focus on preventative maintenance so we take care of problems before they arise,” Hill said.

The 8th EAMS currently has a logistics departure reliability rate of nearly 93 percent. That means for every 10 aircraft assigned to missions, nine take off on time.

The LDRR is one of many achievements made possible by the hard work of the 8th EAMS maintenance team, said Capt. Danielle Rogowski, a 8th EAMS maintenance operations officer from St. Cloud, Minnesota.

“Our guys understand the importance of what they’re doing and they see the impact of what they do every day,” she said. “When a C-17 is transporting service members across the AOR or when someone needs to get medevac’d out, that’s possible because of the work my Airmen do.”

Rogowski said she’s impressed with the dedication her Airmen bring to the mission.

“I’m so proud of our people, to do what they do every day in extreme heat; I’m having to pull them off of stands to take breaks because they won’t stop. If something is broke, they won’t stop until it’s fixed,” she said. “To display such tenacity, that’s impressive and they bring that tenacity every day. They come here ready to go, focused on getting the mission done.”

In 2015, the 8th EAMS supported more than 1,700 sorties delivering nearly 24,000 tons of cargo and more than 9,000 people to locations across the CENTCOM AOR.