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.

Attaches use C-12 to support humanitarian efforts in Maldives

Attaches use C-12 to support humanitarian efforts in MaldivesBANGKOK (AFNS)

Members of the Bangkok Defense Attach Office recently completed a humanitarian mission to the Maldives.

Working with DAO Colombo, the Colombo U.S. Embassy political office and the Special Operations Command-Pacific, the Bangkok DAO delivered medical supplies and books to some of the more remote atolls in the Maldives. The Bangkok and Colombo attach s also met with local leaders and the Maldivian National Defense Force leadership.

“This was a great chance to use the C-12 (Huron) to access one of the more remote islands and deliver aid directly to those in need,” said Capt. Mike Reed, the Colombo U.S. Embassy Civil Military Support Element chief. “Despite what many westerners might consider primitive conditions, the locals are extremely welcoming and hospitable.”

“The Maldivian locals opened their lives to us without question; we found it professionally and personally rewarding to engage both the local villagers and the MNDF,” said Jacob English, a Colombo DAO defense liaison officer.

The C-12 crew from Bangkok agreed missions like this one exemplify the power of joint and interagency effort on the ground during “phase zero” operations. Phase zero refers to the concept of taking coordinated action in peacetime to affect the strategic environment. Long-term partnerships are built with continual effort and presence. Often, remote locations like the Maldivian atolls are difficult places to advance U.S. interests, but it is in these remote locations where advancement of those interests is most critical.

“The power of the Defense Attach Service C-12 to enable synergy between the DAS, SOCPAC, and Department of State is unparalleled in austere situations like the Maldives or parts of Africa, and the Air Force and Navy team at DAO Bangkok is proud to be a part of that force multiplier,” said Col. Dave Diehl, a C-12 pilot and Bangkok air attach .

Beyond the critical phase zero operations, the flying was not exactly boring either. The Huron is specifically used by the attach service to access locations where commercial service is limited or not available. The C-12 in Bangkok is always in high demand to provide support to other DAOs in the region, and has been used in Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar and Cambodia.

During this visit, the Huron provided the means to transport humanitarian supplies which not only helped local Maldivians in immediate need, but opened many doors to local leaders and defense officials. By the end of the mission the C-12 crew was able to land at six different Maldivian airports, including two never before visited by U.S. military aircraft.

“It was both fun and rewarding for the crew making it all happen,” Diehl said. “The pilots leaned heavily on their C-130 (Hercules) experience on the short fields and Master Sgt. Brian Roberts used all his skills acquired as a former crew chief to help with minor maintenance and cargo loading, all critical to mission accomplishment.”

The mission overall was deemed a great success by SOCPAC and the embassy in Colombo. The attach s were thanked and invited back with the C-12 as soon as possible. The DAO Bangkok crew is already planning the next mission and should use lessons learned on this flight to increase efficiency on the next go-around both in the Maldives and as they support other regional partners.

“Executing these missions both regionally and within Thailand showcases the United States as a partner who cares, and it is defense attach s and the DAS C-12s at the forefront of that effort,” Diehl said.

AF presents fiscal year 2017 budget

AF presents fiscal year 2017 budgetWASHINGTON (AFNS)

The Air Force presented its fiscal year 2017 president’s budget request Feb. 9 following the Defense Department and sister services’ budget briefings.

Maj. Gen. Jim Martin, the Air Force budget director, presented the service’s budget request and said the fiscal 2017 budget request supports the defense strategy, resources combatant commander requirements, continues readiness recovery from fiscal 2016, but still reflects the many tough choices the service had to make to live within the limits of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act.

The Air Force requested a top-line budget of $120.4 billion in Air Force-controlled funding that continues to take care of people, strike the right balance between readiness and modernization, and make every dollar count.

Martin said the temporary relief provided by the BBA allows the service to restore end-strength to recover some critical skill sets; continue the top three modernization programs, but at reduced rates for the F-35; sustain capacity to meet combatant commanders’ most urgent needs and readiness for today’s fight; and resource strategic assets in nuclear, space, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission areas.

The budget supports a total force end strength of 492,000 personnel and that the service will continue to assess capability gaps and grow end-strength to meet that demand where they exist, he said.

To help with that effort, this budget supports a 1.6 percent pay raise for active-duty and civilian personnel; adds approximately 100 basic training and tech training instructors, and supports approximately 2,100 accessions above fiscal 2016 levels; increases Officer Training School accessions to a maximum capacity of approximately 1,100 candidates; implements the training and integration of enlisted remotely piloted aircraft pilots into the RQ-4 Global Hawk community; and offers a skills retention bonus for critical career fields such as intelligence, cyber, maintenance and battlefield Airmen.

For readiness, this budget request funds flying hours to executable levels and weapons system sustainment to near capacity. It ensures advance weapons schools and combat exercises like Red Flag and Green Flag are fully funded to help in a long-term effort to restore full-spectrum readiness; supports 60 RPA combat lines while sustaining critical space programs; and continues to establish 39 cyber teams and trains these cyber Airmen to meet today’s and tomorrow’s threats.

The fiscal 2017 procurement budget preserves top modernization programs, sustains our space procurement strategy, invests in the nuclear enterprise, and funds munitions to near capacity to support ongoing operations and to start replenishing current inventories, Martin said.

“Unfortunately, in this budget, we had to sacrifice modernization for current readiness, and, as a result, were forced to delay five F-35s, some fourth-generation modifications, and delay completion of the recapitalization effort of the C-130H in fiscal 2017,” he said.

The budget supports the goal of maintaining assured access to space and viability in contested and increasingly congested environments by continuing the block buys of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency System satellite vehicles 5 and 6 and Space Based Infrared System 5 and 6; and funding five Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle launch services, three of which are competitive launch opportunities.

“We appreciate the relief BBA gives, but tough choices remained, leaving critical capability, capacity and readiness gaps,” Martin said. “Budget stability and the repeal of BCA limits are necessary for the Air Force to remain true to its long-term strategy and to meet all the demands we are being asked to meet, both today and in the future.”

For more information about the Air Force’s fiscal 2017 budget request, click here.

Vice chief visits Academy, discusses commitment, success

Vice chief visits Academy, discusses commitment, successU.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS)

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein visited the U.S. Air Force Academy Jan. 27 to meet Airmen and cadets, discuss the value of commitment to a higher cause, and how the Air Force will continue to excel.

In two large group sessions, Goldfein, a 1983 Academy graduate, told his audiences of total force Airmen that their special skillsets will always be in high demand.

“We have ways of thinking about our future enterprise as a force that have yet to be conceptualized,” he said. “Our Air Force is too small, too old and slightly out of balance for what the nation needs, but there is also a trifecta of opportunity to lead combined operations and joint warfare for the next decade. We have far more opportunities than challenges.”

This trifecta includes the defense secretary defining China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremism as the nation’s operational challenges. It also includes the Air Force Strategic Master Plan and Air Force Future Operating Concept.

“Our future operating concept is perfectly aligned with the Department of Defense Third Offset Strategy and central to what the Air Force provides our nation,” Goldfein said.

The general also emphasized the role Airmen and cadets have in keeping the Air Force great. He said the most significant lesson he learned as a young man was the importance of commitment to a greater purpose.

During his early cadet days, an air officer commander gave Goldfein a chance to alter his path, a test program that allowed some cadets to leave the Academy with the option of returning the following year.

After leaving the Academy, the general spent a year without direction, biking his way across the U.S. He said the kindness he was shown by strangers during his trek made him understand how special his country is and what an honor it is to protect it. Renewed, he returned to the Academy.

“I learned what it means to commit to something and I rediscovered the Academy,” he said. “A place I once viewed as a challenge became an environment full of opportunities.”

Cadet 1st Class Kristov George, the Cadet Wing commander, said the 4,000-member wing was encouraged by Goldfein’s story.

“His words are inspiring to any cadet who finds themselves in the ‘middle of the pack,”‘ he said. “It’s pretty motivational to receive a firsthand account from someone who took the Academy for granted initially, then eventually turned it around for the better. Gen. Goldfein has proved that as long as you have the will and work ethic, there’s always a way to achieve your goals.”

CCAF breaks record for 6th consecutive year

CCAF breaks record for 6th consecutive yearMAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS)

The Community College of the Air Force awarded 23,206 associate of applied science degrees in 2015, breaking the record for number of graduates for the sixth consecutive year.

“CCAF had an amazing year in 2015. We think CCAF is more relevant and more popular than ever before,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Leap, the CCAF commander. “The education helps our Airmen form better habits of mind, improve critical thinking skills, increase their diversity of thought and become more innovative.”

CCAF is the largest community college in the nation with 2,000 courses and more than a quarter of a million students.

Every CCAF degree makes Airmen more proficient and increases their performance within their primary Air Force specialty, Leap said. These degrees are earned through Air University, which is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The prestigious accreditation means that they meet the same strict standards as other SACS schools such as the universities of Georgia and Florida.

Over the years, CCAF has adapted to better serve Airmen by adding programs like Air Force Credentialing Opportunities On-Line, which enables Airmen to earn industry-recognized certifications.

“One of the most exciting developments within CCAF in 2015 was the emergence and expansion of the AF COOL program. We stood up AF COOL last year and made available nearly 1,000 new certifications to our enlisted Airmen,” Leap said.

The Air Force is also in the process of changing its policy to allow enlisted Airmen to obtain an unlimited number of credentials, books and prep material as long as the overall cost doesn’t exceed a lifetime cap of $4,500.

In 2015, CCAF improved the speed at which it loaded civilian credit to student’s records by 60 percent. This was achieved by embracing new technologies and improving processes.

Despite the improvements, Leap admitted that it still takes too long to load civilian course credit to student’s records.

“Our civilian employees have worked an enormous amount of overtime during the past seven months,” Leap said. “Despite the progress we made, we know we still have room for improvement and we’re looking for innovative ways such as electronic transcripts and a new student information system to continue to provide better support to our students.”

Looking back, CCAF awarded 9,276 degrees in 1987. Since then the numbers of graduates have more than doubled despite the fact that there were almost 100,000 more enlisted Airmen back then.

“The success of our CCAF graduates last year epitomizes the Air Force’s emphasis on the deliberate development of our enlisted members,” said Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Hollis, the CCAF vice commandant. “We distinguish ourselves as the most capable enlisted force in the world because generations of senior leaders prioritized our development and CCAF is an extraordinary instrument of that.”

Arabian Gulf Shield improves interoperability

Arabian Gulf Shield improves interoperabilityAL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS)

Training concluded Feb. 3 at Al Udeid Air Base with a scenario designed to test Gulf Cooperation Council Liaison Officer (GCC LNO) procedures and connectivity to host nation air operations centers.

Participants from Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia used their new-found knowledge during exercise Arabian Gulf Shield, which centered on air and air defense strategies.

“This type of training is invaluable,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Combined Forces Air Component. “We have been able to improve our interoperability with our partners in the (Persian) Gulf region as well as increase the air and air defense capabilities within the coalition.”

The GCC LNO program, which is in its ninth cycle, was streamlined from 15 weeks to six and is significantly more operations focused than the previous cycles. The two-week Senior Operations Planner Program, running concurrently with the GCC LNO program, was executed for the first time during this cycle. This seminar-type training capitalized on the sharing of knowledge and experiences from Persian Gulf coalition members in order to best equip future combined air operations center liaison officers and planners. The exercise is the culmination of the new GCC LNO and senior planner programs.

“This group of highly skilled and knowledgeable officers brought a wealth of experience to the table,” said 1st Lt. Joshua Skoglund, a LNO/senior planner program coordinator. “They demonstrated the highest levels of integration and cooperation to accomplish their learning objectives.”

During the course, the senior planners concentrated on strategic planning and campaign plan development and then worked with LNOs to produce a master air attack plan and briefings for the exercise and supervised the execution of that plan.

“It’s a great concept with both classes running simultaneously and in concert with each other; one feeding the other,” Skoglund said. “Without the sharing of knowledge and experiences from our gulf partners this concept would not have become a reality.”

Since this was the first iteration of the new program, Skoglund said student feedback and learning about each individual culture has been a great experience.

“It was great to be part of this unique opportunity to learn from and be immersed in our gulf partner’s culture,” Skoglund said. “I look forward to working with them in the future in an operational environment.”

The course director, French Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Konietzko, said the highlight of the course for him was to see the participants put the lessons into action.

“It was really good to see the students from different countries and their ability to communicate,” Konietzko said. “To see the participants create and deliver their briefs and execute their plans was, for me, the top of the course.”

Konietzko said this course will increase the readiness of the coalition to deal with any current and future contingencies by allowing countries to better integrate operations.

Nominations for 2016 Fisher humanitarian award due March 18

Nominations for 2016 Fisher humanitarian award due March 18JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS)

Air Force officials are accepting nominations for the 2016 Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award.

Established in 1996 by the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force, the award is named in honor of Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, both of whom contributed extensively to the support and welfare of U.S. military members and their families, Air Force Personnel Center officials said.

The annual award is presented to an individual or organization outside the Defense Department that has demonstrated exceptional patriotism and humanitarian concerns for members of the military or their families.

Organizations and base-level personnel must contact their major command, field operating agency or direct reporting unit for applicable suspense dates and additional information regarding nomination procedures.

Each MAJCOM, FOA or DRU may submit one nomination. Completed nomination packages are due to AFPC by March 18.

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.