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.”

Disbrow confirmed as under secretary of the Air Force

Disbrow confirmed as under secretary of the Air ForceWASHINGTON (AFNS)

The U.S. Senate recently confirmed Lisa S. Disbrow as the new under secretary of the Air Force to ensure efficient and effective management of Air Force resources.

In this position, Disbrow oversees the Air Force’s annual budget of more than $120 billion and serves as the co-chair of the top Air Force corporate decision-making body, the Air Force Council.

“Being prior Air Force and having walked in those shoes helps me understand and appreciate the challenges and stresses our Airmen face on a daily basis,” Disbrow said. “I know when we are creating visions of how it will be implemented in the field, because I have been there. We have incredibly bright people in the Air Force and I get a sense of how valuable every single person is and how hard they work.”

Working with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the vice chairman prior to her current position, Disbrow gained a lot of understanding of the issues the service leaders faced.

“That insight will help me enormously in my new position because I saw things across the full spectrum of issues, and to see and understand the joint operations side is a huge benefit for me,” Disbrow said. “The insight to processes like (Office of the Secretary Defense), budgeting and programming, (just to name a few) is invaluable to me here and I am completely amazed at the people who come from outside and can do this job; it’s a lot of complex, moving pieces.”

Disbrow discussed her top priorities, starting with ensuring Airmen know and feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.

“The work we do is important and I want every Airman to know how much they matter,” Disbrow said. “The vice chief and I want to make sure Airmen who are separated or retired with symptoms of (post-traumatic stress disorder) get what they need.

Taking care of Airman has been the number one priority for the secretary of the Air Force since she took charge and one of the best ways to do that is by growing the force.

“We just got approval to plus up our numbers so the question we need to ask is, as we grow, how do we bring capable and diverse people into our ranks?” Disbrow asked. “We need a wide range of skills and a diverse group of people with different ways of thinking. It will help our Airmen out enormously to grow quick, but we need to make sure we are growing with the right people.”

She also wants to push hard for top-line dollars the Air Force needs to support the Defense Department and the nation.

“I want to make sure we get what we need to focus on getting the mission done,” Disbrow said. “I also want to invest in our IT infrastructure because it supports every mission we have. We need to be able to modernize that so it can continue to support the growing needs of the Air Force.”

As under secretary of the Air Force, Disbrow is also charged with providing for the welfare of more than 664,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian Airmen and their families.

“Every morning when I walk in through the (Pentagon) River Entrance, I pause and think about the enormity of the things going on here and how I play a role in all of that – it’s very exciting,” Disbrow said.

Disbrow also discussed the role every Airman plays in the overall Air Force mission.

“Every person, no matter the rank, (has) a critical role to play in the mission and we need them to think about ideas on how they can make things better for the next person or for the next mission,” Disbrow said. “Our people are highly valued. Airmen for life – that’s what I want them to think. I want them to know they are part of something really important and we need their ideas. Every single person is mission critical.”

First Partner Nation Silver Flag concludes at Andersen AFB

First Partner Nation Silver Flag concludes at Andersen AFBANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNS)

After spending more than a week sharing civil engineering techniques, 54 engineers from the U.S. Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force, South Korean air force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force concluded the Partner Nation Silver Flag exercise Feb. 19 at Andersen Air Force Base.

The event was the first time partner nations were presented the opportunity to travel to Guam to trade engineering practices with each other and the U.S. Air Force. Previously, Silver Flag primarily consisted of U.S. Airmen, ranging from 120-130 trainees.

“This is the first Partner Nation Silver Flag that we have done; that’s what makes this so special,” said Master Sgt. Michael English, the 554th RED HORSE Squadron acting Silver Flag flight superintendent. “We were able to bring four of our closest allies and partners together to train and build the partnerships we need in the event that we need to call on each other for battle.”

Silver Flag is a U.S. Pacific Command multilateral subject matter expert exchange led by engineers from the 554th RED HORSE Squadron. The exercise is designed to build partnerships and promote interoperability through the equitable exchange of civil engineer related information.

The contingency environment training focused on bare-base bed down, sustainment operations and recovery after attack.

After the kickoff of Partner Nation Silver Flag, students divided into groups based on their specialties, which included command and control, electrical, power production, heavy repair and emergency management.

As the week progressed, engineers trained on properly performing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear procedures and set up a mobile aircraft arresting system, emergency airfield lighting system and high voltage power generation and distribution systems.

“The training from the (U.S. Air Force) was great, along with working with the JASDF, (South Korean air force) and RSAF and learning their techniques,” said RAAF Cpl. Michael Breen, a plumber. “The camaraderie between all of the nations was fantastic.”

One of the more satisfying parts of the exercise was watching participants who didn’t have CBRN experience, learn it and then turn around and share it with others.

“What surprised me the most was when I found out I was given students who were not disciplined in the career field, (individuals, who) had no background in CBRN operations,” English said. “When we came together at the end of the week, they were very knowledgeable. They were actually teaching some of the command and control student’s techniques that I shared with them. That definitely surprised me, but I was happy to see that.”

For many of the students, this was their first time training with other nations and for some, leaving the country.

“This was my first time going overseas for training, but these opportunities don’t come very often,” said South Korean air force Master Sgt. Park Cheong-hae, an airfield lighting specialist. “Although I was nervous, I was very happy I was able to get this great opportunity for training.”

On the final day of the event, the trainees displayed what they learned throughout the week by conducting one final exercise.

Due to the multiple nations speaking different languages, several translators were selected throughout Pacific Air Forces to alleviate the confusion between languages.

One of the translators was U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Hyojin Kim, a 392nd Intelligence Squadron cryptologic linguist from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, who translated English into both Korean and Japanese for South Korean air force and JASDF students.

“There are many times when there is a communications breakdown because of a language barrier,” Kim said. “Interpreters are very important, because they bridge that gap, allowing seamless communication and understanding between the people.”

With the help from the translators and communication via gestures, the training gradually became smoother for the participants. By the end of the week, some cadre didn’t require translators as much as they did at beginning of the Partner Nation Silver Flag.

Pacific partners practice humanitarian assistance during Cope North

Pacific partners practice humanitarian assistance during Cope NorthNORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS (AFNS)

Military members from six nations joined together for a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief deployment throughout the region of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Feb. 14-18.

The deployment is part of Cope North 16, a multilateral exercise, including the U.S. Air Force and air forces from across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Col. Brian Toth, the CN16 lead for the U.S. Air Force, said the HA/DR portion enhances regional capabilities to respond to crises and lays the foundation for the expansion of regional cooperation in the face of real-world contingencies.

“Humanitarian assistance and disaster response is an awesome capability we can provide,” Toth said. “The ability to have our forces train together allows us to understand what each part brings to the response and what we can provide together to provide the aid any country in the region may ask for.

“It demonstrates our commitment to working together with our coalition partner countries across the Pacific,” he continued. “We work well together and provide a strong presence – and we know we can rely on each other in a time of need.”

Members from the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard partnered with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, South Korean air force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and Philippine Air Force reacted to a fictional, yet realistic, disaster scenario that was said to affect the Marianas region.

“What we’re focusing on is interoperability, learning from one another how to better respond to disaster situations,” said Sharon Rohde, the CN16 HA/DR lead planner. “It’s about overcoming not only language barriers but differences to how we do business, whether that’s regulatory in nature or based on our understanding of the situation. We open up communication and derive lessons learned to be better prepared in response to disaster.”

The exercise scenario posed a severe impact from a typhoon traversing between the islands of Tinian and Rota, prompting Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to issue a simulated request for immediate assistance to Guam’s neighboring islands. During the HA/DR response, Guam acted as the hub for all aid efforts. From Guam, crews traveled to two deployed operation centers on “spoke” locations on Rota and Tinian.

Upon notification of the emergency, coalition units responded in a phased approach based on real-world response plans by deploying Royal Australian Air Force combat controllers and Andersen AFB’s 36th Contingency Response Group teams to the islands to survey airfield conditions and establish security for incoming aid flights.

The notional disaster tested the main training objectives of airfield assessment team insertion and substandard airfield operation. Bringing together Airmen from varying Air Force specialties, multilateral contingency teams demonstrated their ability to assess and operate previously inaccessible airfields within 12 hours of notification.

“Contingency response of this type is one of our major functions,” said Lt. Col. Glenn Rineheart, the 36th Mobility Response Squadron commander and exercise mission commander on Rota. “Cope North provides the ability for our Airmen to respond to a foreign location and operate only with those assets which were brought in order to surmount challenges with equipment and personnel and the environment. There is a lot to be gained from operating away from main base.”

After declaring the airfields as safe, contingency teams provided continued communications and aerial port support to allow aircrews to deliver aid. Within hours of the airfield opening, coalition teams began set up of an expeditionary medical support health response team mobile hospital, which stands ready on Guam to deploy to real-world disasters.

Expeditionary medical teams deploy to save lives

From emergency resuscitation to life-preserving surgery, the teams are well-equipped and trained to handle a large variety of possible ailments, yet the priority for medics and nurses lies with triage and initial stabilization of patients.

“The EMEDS-HRT is the first-line response package in the region,” said Staff Sgt. Carlos Rance, a 36th Medical Group medical logistics contracting officer. “We set up the ER tent first, and within a 12-hour period we have a fully operational medical facility that allows our teams to treat more than 300 patients. During this exercise we get the opportunity to not only complete a full setup, from the box up, but doctors and medics also get valuable hands-on experience on what it’s like to operate exclusive with the equipment we carry.”

Receiving a steady stream of typhoon victims who were hypothetically transported from Tinian for medical care, medical technicians and military doctors practiced real-time care procedures on simulated injuries ranging from burn wounds and open fractures to psychological distress and child delivery.

Focused on the patient

When patient condition required a higher echelon of care, a team or flight nurses and medical administrators ensured expedient aeromedical evacuation to a location with a fully functioning hospital.

“The focus of this whole exercise is the patient,” said Australian Flight Lt. Emma J. Dingle, a Royal Australian Air Force flight nurse and CN16 aeromedical evacuation liaison. “It is really important for us to understand how each country functions, so that when we do have to come together for joint disaster responses, we can do it smoothly and effectively and have the best outcome for the people who are in need of help.”

The aeromedical evacuation exercises culminated with a joint rescue event Feb. 17. Coalition search and rescue aviators located simulated downed aircrew in open waters off the coast of Guam and performed a subsequent rotary wing evacuation by U.S. Navy’s Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25.

Planning success through past lessons learned

For the first time, international HA/DR mission planners gathered during a two-day subject matter exchange and tabletop exercise before kickoff. Airmen from three nations shared their experiences, failures and successes during responses as far ranging as the 2011 tsunami in Japan and the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal.

“This year we added a tabletop exercise, which allowed participants to collaborate before exercising,” Rhode said. “This facilitated discussion about actual disasters that occurred in the Pacific and to hear that firsthand experience from somebody who was actually there and could speak to specific issues that occurred.”

Experts also discussed the integration with civilian agencies that would take important roles in real disaster response situations, such as international civic aviation authorities and USAID coordinators.

“Typically the civilian response agencies can handle most emergencies, even large once,” said Scott Aronson, the senior USAID humanitarian assistance adviser to U.S. Pacific Command. “But the U.S. military has unique abilities that either no one else has or nobody can deploy as quickly. We know, for instance, the CRGs capabilities during an HA/DR event are likely one of the unique abilities we might call on.

“As the lead federal agency for disaster response, we participated to make sure the exercise is realistic from our perspective and to have that face-to-face time with the people and agencies we will see in the field,” Aronson continued. “The biggest challenge is understanding each other’s capabilities and Cope North allows both sides to see what the other brings to the table and how those things work together. Maintaining those relationships is essential.”

Following the tabletop exchange, the teams practiced multinational interoperability during the stressful team building required during mission planning.

“The planning group this year was incredible to see,” said Royal Australian Air Force Squadron Leader Chris O’Byrne, the Australian HA/DR scenario planning lead and exercise mission commander on Tinian. “When you see service members come together and realize that they’re talking about the same thing, while calling it by a different name, and we notice that all the time; it’s an amazing thing to see.”

International interest rises

Because of the resounding successes of HA/DR exercises in the past, an increased number of medical subject matter experts from Bangladesh, Canada, India, Indonesia, Malasia and Thailand visited the HA/DR portion as observers this year to witness operations firsthand and gather information on how to improve or establish their own contingency programs.

“Natural disasters are the ‘when’ not the ‘if’ of contingency scenarios and HA/DR is becoming more and more important and recognized as a critical capability, which is why our partner nations have sent their observers to the tabletop and field training exercises,” O’Byrne said. “During the conduct of the field training, the observers saw the U.S.-led CRG in Rota and the Australian Contingency Response Squadron on Tinian, which will allow them to see how different agencies would react.”

Success in numbers and increased interoperability

Through effective use of its hub-and-spoke relief plan, the coalition teams successfully evacuated approximately 40 patients, moving more than 180 passengers, conducting 30 airdrops and transporting more than 438,600 pounds of cargo from island to island, Rhode said.

“Each year, this exercise has been getting more advanced,” she said. “We are learning more about what types of cargo can go on what types of aircraft or what type of communication capability each country uses. We learn it in the exercise and then when things really kick off, we are not starting from square one. We’re working in the interest of saving lives and no one country can do it all themselves, so it’s a lot easier to get on board and figure out the problem together.”

Currently ongoing, this year marks the 87th iteration of exercise Cope North, which includes a long-standing, multinational HA/DR event designed to increase interoperability and develop a synergistic disaster response capability between the U.S. Air Force, Japan Air-Self Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force. The second half of Cope North will shift the focus to air combat training, which will include air-to-air and air-to-ground combat and large force employment training.

Mildenhall KC-135s support French operation

Mildenhall KC-135s support French operationRAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS)

Three KC-135 Stratotankers, along with 50 Airmen from the 100th Air Refueling Wing at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, temporarily deployed to Istres-Le Tube Air Base, France, in support of Operation Juniper Micron.

The U.S. has been supporting the French government in Operation Juniper Micron at their request since 2013, providing air refueling and airlift support of French operations in Mali and North Africa.

Since December 2015 alone, the 100th ARW has flown more than 750 sorties, refueled more than 2,900 French aircraft, and off-loaded nearly 28 million pounds of fuel while supporting French operations.

The strategic decision to temporarily deploy the KC-135s to Istres is the result of the continual evaluation of how to best support French ally forces in the air and on the ground.

The long-standing relationship between the U.S. and France enables operational success by allowing a forward-based presence of U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa assets and the ability to move forward quickly in support of French operations.

Dudette passes 1,000 combat flight hours

Dudette passes 1,000 combat flight hoursSOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS)

Maj. Jennifer received a hero’s welcome from members of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing as she surpassed the 1,000 combat-hour milestone in the F-15E Strike Eagle at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Feb. 13.

Jennifer, a weapon systems officer assigned to the 391st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, achieved the milestone during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

“The hour milestones in the jet are big deals,” said Capt. Kevin, a 391st EFS pilot, who accompanied Jennifer on the mission. “Our opportunity to accrue hours is finite, and every one of them is special. To reach 1,000 hours in a category as unique as combat time is pretty special; it means someone has invested a lot of time and effort into their job.”

Achieving this milestone is a career defining moment for any F-15E aircrew member, even more so for females, which make up approximately 10 percent of Strike Eagle pilots and the WSO community.

“With so much time as a close air support subject matter expert, she is well versed in integrating with the joint terminal attack controllers,” said Kevin, who has been flying with Jennifer since 2010. “She can take broken and barely intelligible communications on a secure radio and efficiently turn it in to mission success for the ground forces.”

Jennifer logged her first combat sortie in 2009, during the first of her two tours in Afghanistan, and has compiled more than 1600 flying hours and 220 combat sorties during her career.

“Reaching this milestone to me represents my willingness to serve and protect Americans in a flying capacity each time I go out and fly,” Jennifer said. “I’m very proud to serve and keep the enemy here instead of being back at home.”

She was also a member of the historic Dudette 07 mission in 2011, which was the first F-15E Air Force combat mission comprised entirely of female aircrew members.

“You can count on Jennifer to be thorough and reliable in her job,” Kevin said. “Her performance is nothing short of what you would expect from an experienced and professional aviator; it goes to show it doesn’t matter what your gender is – the girls can hang with the best of them, and are capable of being the best themselves.”

(Editor’s note: Last names were not included due to security and safety reasons.)

Painting squadron pride

Painting squadron prideHOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS)

When it comes to taking care of the F-16 Fighting Falcons at Holloman Air Force Base, aircraft structural maintenance technicians have a major responsibility.

As corrosion experts, they strip and re-paint F-16 tails replacing Luke AFB’s “LF” with Holloman’s “HO.”

“The letters on the tail are designators for what Air Force base you’re assigned,” said Staff Sgt. Gregory Liggins, the assistant NCO in charge of corrosion control with the 49th Maintenance Squadron. “There’s a lot that goes into replacing them.”

Recently, the 54th Fighter Squadron’s F-16 flagship experienced the swap as Airmen sanded down the vertical stabilizer, primed it for painting and gave the aircraft a fresh coat of paint along with brand new decals and local markings.

“This is the most important jet on base,” Liggins said. “It represents the wing as well as the 54th Fighter Group. There’s no other jet like it on this base, and that’s why it’s decorated the way it is.”

Replacing everything on the tail of an aircraft is an extensive process requiring attention to detail and patience.

“The whole process takes roughly five days,” said Airman 1st Class Robert Rocha, an aircraft structural maintenance technician with the 49th MXS.

Rocha, who joined the Air Force to learn how to work with sheet metal, and other Airmen who share his passion, inspect every aircraft twice a year for corrosion. After an aircraft’s semiannual mandatory washing, they are taxied into one of three paint booths where the corrosion experts conduct a paint score.

“When an aircraft comes in, we’re required to do a paint score,” Liggins said. “Basically, we’re walking around the jet looking at areas that have bare metal, chipped paint and primer spots. Then we check the thickness of the paint with a gauge. We update all of this information for planning, scheduling and documentation.”

Once the average paint thickness on a jet is worn too thin, the entire aircraft has to be sandblasted and repainted. The technicians at corrosion control do any painting the aircraft needs short of this. Touch ups, replacing symbols and anything that will fight deterioration are just a few things these Airmen do.

“These guys here are outstanding,” Liggins said. “They follow instructions, and they have attention to detail, which is key. A lot has been put on them, but they step up to the challenge.”

Every job in the Air Force contributes to the overall mission. For the Airmen in the aircraft structural maintenance shop, this means keeping the aircraft in prime shape and able to withstand the elements.

“We’re all one big oiled machine,” Liggins said. “In the end, we’re the ones who have the biggest responsibility when it comes to protecting the aircraft from corrosion.”