B-1B Lancer sets rotational records before leaving downrange

B-1B Lancer sets rotational records before leaving downrangeAL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS)

A B-1B Lancer that achieved rotational milestones is scheduled to leave Al Udeid Air Base soon for a six-month hiatus for aircraft modifications stateside.

The B-1 has been under the operational support of the 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron,and has set records during the July-January rotation with military members from the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.

“This rotation has supported a total of 490 sorties and enabled 4,850 bombs to be dropped in six months,” said Capt. Abraham Smith, the 379th EAMXS officer in charge. “When the B-1 leaves this will be the first time since 2001 we won’t have B1s in the area of responsibility.

“Our mission has been to provide safe and reliable combat aircraft to the bomb squadron,” Smith continued. “We’ve supported more bombs dropped in one month than any other B-1 unit.”

The previous Lancer unit supported 1,068 bombs dropped in one month, while the 379th EAMXS has supported 2,224 bombs dropped, he added.

Accomplishments of this magnitude do not come easy, he said, and being able to maintain such a high operational tempo does not come without challenges.

“Hundreds of thousands of manpower hours have been put into the past six months to keep these aircraft running and it’s been a very challenging and an exhausting deployment. However, we’ve found ways to make it enjoyable,” Smith said.

He also added that getting parts for the aging aircraft is a big challenge, but he went on to say that nothing is more satisfying than when they overcome the challenges and fix it. He also said that being able to get the aircraft turned around and back in the fight in a timely manner brings a lot of satisfaction to the team.

“We try to be prepared for the unexpected, but we can never predict what is going to go wrong on the aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Daryl Ackerman, a 379th EAMXS crew chief. “However, we combine our knowledge and resources to make sure the aircraft get fixed.”

Staff Sgt. Matthew Kwawegen, a 379th EAMXS lead crew team chief, added, “Some challenges we faced were the weather, trying to encourage the new Airmen to stay positive, making sure they pay attention to detail, and staying focused.”

In order for the B-1 to continue its daily operations there are teams of Airmen that ensure the aircraft’s capabilities are mission ready.

“We train, certify and evaluate all the load crews,” Kwawegen said. “When we deploy as a unit we evaluate the load crews throughout the deployment, as well as load and do the maintenance to ensure everyone is loading safely and efficiently.”

SecAF makes first official visit to Travis

SecAF makes first official visit to TravisTRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS)

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James visited Travis Air Force Base Jan. 8 to meet with Airmen, discuss her priorities and see firsthand the base’s mission and capabilities as the western seaboard’s mobility air forces hub.

To begin her visit, James received a detailed mission brief from senior base leaders to discuss cornerstone functions of the installation such as the seamless total force integration of three separate wings, the employment of three major mobility weapons systems and Travis AFB’s strategic location serving as the lifeline to the Pacific theater.

Throughout her day-long visit, James ate lunch with Airmen, toured a number of facilities to include Air Mobility Command’s largest aerial port and held an all call to speak to the greater base populous.

During her all call, she discussed her three main priorities: taking care of people, balancing today’s readiness with the modernization needs of tomorrow and making every dollar count as well as the challenges faced by today’s Air Force operating within the parameters of a fiscally constrained environment.

“Today’s Air Force is the smallest it has ever been, with the smallest number of people,” she said. “And at the same time, the number of missions we fly around the world has skyrocketed … we have got to do better.”

James also spoke on the importance of mobility airpower, more specifically Travis AFB’s role to the mission of Global Reach, and the capabilities the men and women here present to the strategic Air Force vision.

“You all are playing a crucial role in our Air Force and national defense because nothing happens without rapid global mobility and that’s what Travis is all about,” she said. “What’s going on here is extremely impressive. Travis features a highly integrated total force, three major mobility weapons systems and one of the largest aerial ports and hospitals. Then you add on the mission-set of the contingency response wing. It’s a very unique blend.”

James re-emphasized her capstone message, “Nothing happens without rapid global mobility.

“Thank you again for the long days, the long deployments and time spent away from home,” she continued. “I know this takes its toll. I hope that in the next year or two we will have changes that will ease this somewhat. But truth in advertising, I think we are going to remain a very busy Air Force.”

Precision strikes keeping enemy on target

Precision strikes keeping enemy on targetORLANDO, Fla. (AFNS)

Lessons learned in past conflicts have now made it possible to bomb enemy targets within just a few feet to reduce collateral damage, a top Air Force commander said Feb. 25 at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium.

Since World War II, the accuracy of bombing attacks has improved from around 3,300 feet away from a target to only 10 feet in current operations.

“We went from missing a target by over half a mile as the norm to literally putting (numerous) 2,000-pound (joint direct attack munitions) through the same hole,” Lt. Gen. Charles Brown Jr., the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, said at the symposium.

Brown pointed to two reasons for the advent of precision-guided bombs.

“The innovation of Airmen and industry to pursue advances in technology were applied to a problem of achieving increased accuracy, and second, merging (that) innovation with the successes and lessons of past conflicts,” Brown said.

Improvements to the Air Force’s GPS satellite constellation, which launched its last Block IIF-type satellite in early February, could place airstrikes even closer. The next round of GPS satellites, Block III, is expected to begin launching next year.

“If we don’t have GPS, it would be very difficult,” Brown said. “GPS is hugely important in what we do. All of our partners across the region are dropping GPS-guided munitions.”

Of all the weapons deployed in the command’s region, 99 percent of them are precision guided.

“Because we have that capability, it allows us to take very few weapons and to use them to greater effect,” he said.

There’s still increased activity in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, where coalition members have released more than 37,000 weapons since August 2014, according to its airpower statistics.

Ongoing airstrikes have restricted the movement of enemy fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“They no longer have the capability to take large swathes of land by surprise,” Brown said. “A lot of that has to do with good airpower.”

Strikes have also destroyed the terrorist group’s revenue sources, such as its banks, and oil and gas facilities.

“That precision has been truly effective,” he said.

But there has been some ambiguity with the U.S.-led coalition sharing airspace with the Russian military that is protecting the Syrian regime.

“The Russians’ presence has changed the air defense environment and increased the complexity in the region,” Brown said.

The general assured that this situation won’t stop coalition airstrikes.

“It’s been my position since the Russians showed up that we will not cede the airspace,” he said. “We will continue to operate where we need to on a day-to-day basis to execute the mission.”

Army, Air Force collaborate on education, innovation

Army, Air Force collaborate on education, innovationJOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS)

Gen. David G. Perkins, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), visited officials from Air Education and Training Command Jan. 7-8 to collaborate with Air Force leaders on advancing education and innovation within the respective military services.

Perkins spoke with Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, the AETC commander, and Air University leaders at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, broaching on several subjects affecting both commands, from the future of recruiting to the emergence of new technologies.

TRADOC is the Army counterpart of AETC.

“As you deal with a very fast changing world, everybody wants to innovate so you want to be at the cutting edge,” Perkins said. “One of the keys to innovation is a wide-level of collaboration. Those units that collaborate a lot tend to innovate a lot.”

Army and Air Force leaders discussed employing technologies to train and educate Soldiers and Airmen, not just in the classroom, but in perpetuity when they return to their units. Leveraging new technologies for continual education is vital to reach and recruit younger generations entrenched in an information-saturated world.

“We talked about things like leveraging the Cloud and personal devices,” Perkins said. “The generation of Airmen and Soldiers we’re recruiting are very comfortable in doing things on their personal devices. They want the information right there in front of them; they want to be able to customize how they receive information, so we have to change our education systems to facilitate that.”

Recruiting is a challenge, as industry, colleges, and the military services vie for the same pool of potential applicants, Perkins elaborated. Numbers for those who qualify for both the Air Force and Army have decreased in recent years.

AETC and TRADOC officials are adapting to the changing recruiting environment by directing recruiters to actively educate potential recruits on the many opportunities offered through military service.

“The challenge in many ways in the recruiting environment is that as the military has gotten smaller, fewer and fewer Americans have any personal contact with the military whatsoever,” Perkins said. “They don’t have any firsthand experience, so many folks don’t think of it as an option. They don’t know about the professional development, leader development, and the educational opportunities offered in both the Army and the Air Force. So, we have to get our recruiters to spend time educating parents, as well as recruits, about these opportunities.”

Perkins also traveled to Austin, Texas, meeting with retired Adm. William H. McRaven, the University of Texas chancellor, to start a dialogue on the similar challenges each faces in administrating a large, complex university system. They shared ideas on developing learning tools that can be distributed in a very disperse manner, Perkins explained.

One of the topics of interest discussed between Perkins and AETC leaders was the relatively new Army University.

Army University officials integrated 70 separate TRADOC internal school programs under one university system while syncing instruction with a variety of other TRADOC institutions. Air University is similar in structure.

Last year, Army officials began a process to understand, visualize and describe ideas framed by the Army Operating Concept. The ideas in the AOC are foundational for shaping the strategy for the future of the Army, which includes developing adaptive and innovative leaders and officers. Army University plays a huge role in that respect, Perkins said.

“What we need are adaptive leaders who are critical thinkers and can exploit the initiative,” Perkins said. “We not only have to train them to do certain tasks, but we have to educate them on how to learn, because the world is changing so quickly. Great organizations are learning organizations. When people graduate from Army University, we don’t want them to leave Army University; we want them to take Army University with them to their unit.”

Army University is located at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Army University was established July 7, 2015.

Shipping blood, saving lives

Shipping blood, saving livesAL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS)

The Blood Transshipment Center (BTC) at Al Udeid Air Base provides blood to more than 30 forward operating locations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

In 2015, the center shipped nearly 23,000 units of blood to nine countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan. The blood was used in transfusions helping save 222 people, including 18 U.S. service members, as well as Afghan and Iraqi citizens.

“Over the past six months, 65 percent of blood transfusions were conducted in Iraq,” said Master Sgt. Stephanie Washington, the 379th Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron diagnostics and therapeutics flight chief. “The majority of those transfusions were conducted on Iraqi’s with blood we shipped. So far in 2016, we’ve shipped 210 blood products and 722 pounds of dry ice, enabling 88 blood transfusions helping save 14 people.”

Blood is needed to sustain life and it’s critically needed on the battlefield. Dry ice is also in high demand to ensure blood is kept at a temperature of about zero degrees Fahrenheit.

The BTC can house up to 2,000 units of blood and more than 4,000 pounds of dry ice. The facility prepares several shipments each week, with many units of blood going to Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

Shipping blood and dry ice internationally is not easy, said Capt. Jennifer Swann, the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group BTC officer in charge.

“Prior to any shipment, blood must be thoroughly tested, entered into a tracking database, carefully loaded and approved to leave Qatar,” she said. “Some countries also have unique requirements before any hazardous material can be shipped to those nations, including blood or dry ice.

“Iraq, for example, has a four-day lead time before we can ship any blood or dry ice there, so if I need to send blood or plasma to Iraq, I can’t move that cargo until the fourth day,” Swann continued. “I’ll make the request on day zero and if there’s a flight four days later, it’ll go out.”

Swann said she plans shipments two weeks in advance and ensures her team conducts routine inventory of their blood stockpiles. She said the goal is to have blood delivered to the BTC within seven days of collection and to have it shipped to locations across the CENTCOM AOR as soon as possible.

“I look out to see what units have blood that will expire and what units have conducted transfusions recently; every location has a minimum amount of blood they would like to have on hand so every week we do our best to meet that and ensure they have what they need,” Swann said.

Senior Airman Celina Garcia, the 379th EMSS BTC logistician, is responsible for ensuring the BTC has the supplies and equipment needed to sustain its mission. She also ensures the blood the BTC packs is delivered to the flightline, often delivering the blood herself with a forklift.

“My responsibility is to get the blood we pack to the flightline where it’s loaded onto aircraft,” Garcia said. “I enjoy my job very much because I know the blood we provide is saving lives. Blood is a necessity and it’s critically needed during war.”

Swann said she’s proud of Garcia and her BTC team for the commitment they’ve displayed over the past year.

“We’ve stayed here for up to 16 hours at times to ensure we did everything we had to do and there was never a single complaint,” she said. “Everyone knows what we do is vital. We come in early some days, stay late others and they never question that. I’m very proud of them.”

The BTC receives blood shipments from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, after blood is donated by volunteers and collected at several Armed Services Blood Program Donation Centers.

Washington said it’s vital people donate blood so the Defense Department maintains its blood inventory. In 2011, she worked as a lab technician at Craig Joint Theater Hospital. She said the blood bank was the most important section of the lab.

“If you didn’t have the blood on hand, people wouldn’t survive,” she said. “If it wasn’t for donations, the ASBP and the operating locations within the AOR wouldn’t have any blood; only 5 percent of the eligible donor population in the United States actually donates and you need donors to keep the inventory going. There are direct AOR impacts from blood donations; when you donate to the DOD blood donor centers, eventually, that blood is shipped to people who need it.”

Remembering Desert Storm: Where we are today in the Total Force Continuum

Remembering Desert Storm: Where we are today in the Total Force ContinuumWASHINGTON (AFNS)

“See all those contrails heading north, captain?” the salty lieutenant colonel asked me on Jan. 16, 1991.

“Yes sir!” I replied flying as a brand new aircraft commander in the C-141B Starlifter.

The contrails covered the darkening sky and seemed like hundreds of fingers reaching north into Iraq to grab Saddam Hussein. “That means we are at war,” said the colonel, as the cockpit fell silent and each crewmember pondered the greater implication of the contrails.

That was a quarter of a century ago this week, marking the opening salvo in Operation Desert Storm. The operation was an American shock and awe campaign to evict Hussein from Kuwait and displayed airpower that the world had not seen since Operation Linebacker II over Vietnam.

I was honored to be part of the largest air bridge in history, often flying 24-hour airlift missions from Torrejon and Zaragosa, Spain, or Ramstein Air Base and Rhein Main, Germany, to locations in Saudi Arabia such as Dhahran or Riyadh. The ramps at these locations were so full and it was sometimes difficult to find the assigned aircraft to preflight. Loading crews were challenged to keep up with the volume of cargo and people necessary for the fight.

We would often augment our crews with “pool pilots” additional pilots to extend our crew duty day. Each day was long and hot; our ground times “downrange” were short but filled with the apprehension of dreaded “Scud” missile alerts. Tired crews would return to Europe for a short rest before repeating the process. We were all supported by the greatest cast the world has ever known, filled with maintainers, aerial porters, fuelers, logisticians and services Airmen.

All told, the total force flew over 69,000 sorties in support of Desert Storm. The operation also saw the first comprehensive use of stealth and space technologies integrated with precision guided weapons.

Twenty-five years later, my C-141B has long ago been retired, replaced by the C-17 Globemaster III. While much of our Air Force has been modernized since that first night in the desert, our average aircraft age today stands at 27 years. We have gone from having 188 fighter squadrons during Desert Storm to 54 today. Aging combat aircraft such as our B-52 Stratofortress and KC-135 Stratotanker are slated to keep flying for a decade or more.

In Operation Desert Storm, I was an Airman in the regular component when it consisted of over 600,000 Airmen; today, it has decreased to approximately 313,000 Airmen. Even with that size, Desert Storm required more than 48,000 Air Reserve component Airmen to remove Hussein from Kuwait. As a result of a smaller force, our Air Reserve component consisting of over 105,000 Air National guardsmen and 69,000 Air Force reservists have gone from a strategic reserve force to one that provides daily operational capability and surge capacity where needed. These figures do not include the vital capability our Air Force civilian Airmen bring to the fight.

Southwest Asia is no less secure and in some ways is more complex and dangerous even though Hussein is long gone. Commitments to our friends and allies are not decreasing, so we will continue to rely on the total force more, not less.

In my current role in the Total Force Continuum Air Staff office, our team is looking for the most efficient mix of regular, Guard, and Reserve Airmen in each primary mission area. In the aggregate, our analysis shows that our Air Force is at least 12 percent too small for current requirements. Just as during the peak of Desert Storm, we are “all in” and have cleared the bench to meet current requirements.

We are also looking at policy and legislative ways to make our total force more integrated by preserving and leveraging the strengths and efficiencies of each individual component. Programs that will allow transitioning between Air Force components, provide career development opportunities, and feature our three components working more closely together will become the norm over the next 25 years.

In commemoration of Desert Storm’s largest air campaign this week, make sure you thank a veteran for serving in the operation, and ask a wingman or relative who participated about their experiences. If you’re reading this and not part of the world’s greatest Air Force, consider joining either the regular, Reserve or Guard component. We may be smaller than in 1991, but we’re the most lethal air, space and cyber force; and there is no question our total force will continue to answer our nation’s call!

Grand Forks NCO named top AF defender

Grand Forks NCO named top AF defenderGRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS)

A member of the 319th Security Forces Squadron from Grand Forks Air Force Base was selected as the Air Force Outstanding Security Forces Flight Level NCO for 2015 Jan. 8.

Tech. Sgt. Brent Kimbell, the 319th SFS NCO in charge of anti-terrorism, was named the best in his category at the squadron, major command and Air Force levels.

“It’s quite an honor,” Kimbell said. “It validates what I’ve done and what everyone that has worked with me has done because NCOs don’t win awards by themselves, they win awards for the things their Airmen do for them.”

Kimbell has been a member of the Air Force for more than 11 years and has been stationed here since April 2015.

He said that the award focuses on the whole Airman concept which includes job performance, physical fitness, education and self-improvement, and base and community involvement.

Maj. Laura Showman, the 319th SFS commander, was elated for Kimbell’s recent accomplishment.

“This is a huge win for Tech. Sgt. Kimbell and for our squadron,” she said. “I know there are more good things ahead.”

Kimbell said he’s proud to represent the “Warriors of the North” at the top level.

“This is absolutely an amazing base and a lot of people don’t realize it,” he said, adding that he hopes the award will inspire other Airmen to get involved on the base.

Kimbell said he plans to keep pushing forward to improve himself. He hopes to make master sergeant, become a first sergeant and eventually make chief if he stays enlisted. But he also has aspirations of becoming an officer. He said he wants to be able to make the biggest positive impact on Airmen’s lives.

Kimbell has words of advice for young Airmen that hope to have a successful career.

“Get involved, become the best at your job and strive to improve yourself personally and professionally,” he said. “Get out of your comfort zone because if you only do things you’re comfortable with, then you’re never going to grow.”