‘Eddie the Eagle’ star soars

'Eddie the Eagle' star soarsNAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas (AFNS)

Hugh Jackman, star of the upcoming movie “Eddie the Eagle,” received a civic leader flight in an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth from the 301st Fighter Wing Feb. 19 in a display of Air Force Reserve combat capability and air superiority.

“This is kind of a dream come true,” Jackman said before the flight. “I’m very, very excited, a little nervous, and I’m fully aware how lucky I am to have this opportunity.”

The wing flew Jackman prior to a sneak preview movie offered to base military members, employees, retirees and their families.

“There’s an incredible amount of gratitude,” he said. “When you’re actually here on the base and you realize the dedication to this area of service, it’s humbling and it’s something all of us are very grateful for.”

Jackman’s co-star, Taron Egerton, and director of Eddie the Eagle, Dexter Fletcher, also visited and watched Jackman’s flight from the air traffic control tower.

Egerton, in a special twist, coached Jackman through the jet’s takeoff in a role reversal of the movie. In the film, Jackman acted as Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards coach and Egerton performed as Eddie, the first ski jumper to represent Great Britain in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

Jackman experienced a few aerial maneuvers in the F-16, which involved a spiral dive from 8,000 feet and a low pass over the runway. He handled the flight well and, upon landing, had only a few words to say about his experience, “It was awesome.”

The pilot, Lt. Col. David Efferson, the 457th Fighter Squadron commander, said he had never flown a celebrity this famous before but that the excitement is a good thing for the Air Force.

“Anything that we can get out, as far as our name and what we do, is good because our Airmen work so hard and do amazing things for our country,” Efferson said. “Flying Hugh Jackman showcased us in a way that we normally don’t have the chance to do. It was an honor to meet him, but for me, I’m more happy over the spotlight he’s brought to our Airmen, the base, and the U.S. Air Force.”

After the flight, the Eddie the Eagle stars then headed to the Movie Reel Theater for a meet and greet with service members before the movie presentation.

AF rapid response unit enhances their skills during Patriot Sands

AF rapid response unit enhances their skills during Patriot SandsHUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. (AFNS)

The distinct sound of helicopters hovering, mixed with the roar of jet engines and automatic weapons fire from a nearby range, filled the air on a cool, sunny day in southeast Georgia.

Members from the 315th Airlift Wing’s Airlift Control Flight (ALCF) took part in Patriot Sands, a training exercise that kicked off Feb. 17 at Hunter Army Airfield.

The exercise incorporated the resources of several ALCF units, as well as affiliate agencies such as the FBI’s Rapid Response Team and the Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team.

ALCF is a rapid response unit comprised of experienced airlift and operations team members. This includes Airmen from nine Air Force career fields, who manage, coordinate and control air mobility assets in austere locations under combat conditions. Unit members are ready to deploy to any part of the world in 36 hours.

“Exercises like Patriot Sands are essential to our mission,” said Maj. John Ramsey, the 315th ALCF commander. “The pilots get to experience heavier loads than they normally do. The aerial porters get to work away from their home station, which helps them develop their skills. The loadmasters get operational experience with rolling stock, which isn’t normal to their everyday mission. And finally, we get the chance to practice and train on our mission set, which is setting up an airfield where we are able to handle the command and control of aircraft.”

For 315th ALCF members, the exercise started at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, where they loaded a C-17 Globemaster III, piloted by a crew from the 317th Airlift Squadron, and flew to Hunter AF.

“This type of training is an excellent example of how we stay mission ready and mission focused,” said Col. Caroline Evernham, the 315th Operations Group commander. “The ALCF works hard with their affiliates to ensure they are trained and ready to prepare their equipment for transport at any time. The efficiencies gained from this week’s training will help us when we really need it.”

One of the main items loaded onto the C-17 for the training was a large, tan-in-color container a hardside expandable light air mobility shelter (HELAMS).

The HELAMS, once set in its desired location, transforms from a plain box to a fully expanded and functional command and control center with doors, windows and electricity. This workspace is then used to house the communications equipment and gear needed for ALCF’s operational readiness.

Other than the hands-on training that ALCF receives from setting up their equipment during the exercise, team members also benefit from the affiliate agencies that they have partnered with to accomplish their training objectives.

“We make sure that the sister services and Department of Defense affiliates are current and ready for a real-world missions,” said Master Sgt. Mark Schmidt, 315th ALCF Operations NCO in charge.

ALCF teaches the FBI and other affiliate agencies to properly prepare their equipment for air mobility, Schmidt said. This includes the standardization of weighing, fueling, packing, cleaning, inspecting and sorting of their equipment so that it’s ready to load when the aircraft gets on station.

Patriot Sands is an annual Air Force Reserve Command exercise for ALCF to train in accordance with their designed operational capability mission statement to deploy as a contingency response element. The exercise is scheduled to last for five days.

Kadena launches Pacific region’s first MC-130J five-ship formation flight

Kadena launches Pacific region's first MC-130J five-ship formation flightKADENA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS)

Instead of the usual howl of jet engines, members of Kadena Air Base heard the growl of 120 turboprop blades chopping the air as the 17th Special Operations Squadron’s MC-130J Commando IIs dominated the airfield scene Feb. 17.

Within an hour of standing by at stations, the aircraft took to the skies during the Pacific region’s first five-ship formation flight involving the new specialized mobility aircraft.

The formation was part of the 353rd Special Operations Group’s training exercise that tested the 17th SOS and the 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron to launch a short-notice, large-scale tasking.

“We routinely fly two ships, but we mobilized five ships to test our ability to generate aircraft in full force, to make sure our maintenance can support that, and to make sure we can do the planning in case we are ever asked to fly a large formation,” said Maj. Brad Talley, the 17th SOS assistant director of operations.

As part of that assessment, team members evaluated their formation flying and short runway landings; combat systems operators tested their cargo air drop timing; and loadmasters tested their cargo delivery system rigging abilities.

“We mobilized all available personnel in the squadron to execute this mission, while all five planes were able to accomplish all cargo drops, land in a small landing zone, maintain formation, and return safely,” Talley said.

Though the team successfully accomplished the exercise objectives, it wasn’t a simple process. Despite complex procedures, the 17th SOS Jakal team members overcame the challenges to ensure mission completion.

“The most difficult portion was the planning and safe execution of the mission, since most of our squadron isn’t used to that level of de-confliction complexity,” said Senior Airman Zach Harmon, a 17th SOS MC-130J Commando II loadmaster.

To Talley, the best part of the mission was seeing the whole team fly together and build camaraderie.

“My favorite part was flying in close formation with all my Jakal brethren, exploring various formation geometries, and seeing how well each crew flew,” Talley said.

The 17th SOS was activated as a permanent unit at Kadena AB on Aug. 1, 1989, and is instrumental in carrying out wartime and contingency operations in support of U.S. and allied special operations forces.

The 17th SOS began the transition from the MC-130P Combat Shadows to the MC-130J Commando IIs in Dec. 2014, with the latest aircraft arriving on Kadena in Oct. 2015. Technological advances allow the Commando II to set new standards for safety and accuracy in executing clandestine missions.

The new aircraft specializes in nighttime, low-level infiltration/exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces as well as air refueling missions for special operations’ vertical lift aircraft.

The 353rd SOG, made up of more than 800 Airmen, is the only Air Force Special Operations Command unit in the Pacific and is integral to AFSOC. The group conducts wartime and contingency operations planning and execution as well as humanitarian and relief operations, all the while maintaining global mobility readiness for special forces around the world.

Hill’s F-35s drop first weapons

f-35HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AFNS)

Airmen from the 388th and 419th fighter wings dropped laser-guided bombs at the Utah Test and Training Range the week of Feb. 25, marking the first time an F-35 Lightning II combat unit has deployed weapons from the F-35A.

Lt. Col. George Watkins, the 34th Fighter Squadron commander, said dropping weapons from the F-35 allows pilots to more fully engage the aircraft and confirm that everything works as planned.

“This is significant because we’re building the confidence of our pilots by actually dropping something off the airplane instead of simulating weapon employment,” Watkins said.

Air Force F-35s have dropped weapons in test environments, but this is the first time it’s been done on jets designed to deploy once the Air Force declares initial operational capability, which it plans to do between August and December. IOC will be announced when the Air Force deems the F-35 combat capable.

Lt. Col. Darrin Dronoff, the director of Hill’s F-35 Program Integration Office, said that while this achievement is a significant step toward Air Force IOC, the milestone goes beyond that mark.

“The pilots and weapons loaders in the 388th and 419th fighter wings are perfecting their skills not only to prove aircraft capabilities, but they’ll also be the Airmen called upon to take the F-35 to combat, whenever that call may come,” he said.

Hill’s F-35 pilots will begin flying the F-35 in four-ship formations, which is the standard configuration flown in contested combat scenarios, as early as March.

Minot tests Minuteman III with launch from Vandenberg AFB

Minot tests Minuteman III with launch from Vandenberg AFBVANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS)

A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, and the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, aboard the Airborne Launch Control System, launched an unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test reentry vehicle Feb. 20 from Vandenberg AFB.

The ICBM’s reentry vehicle, which contained a telemetry package used for operational testing, traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent. All Minuteman III test launches are supported by a team from the 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg AFB.

“The flight test program demonstrates one part of the operational capability of the ICBM weapon system,” said Col. Craig Ramsey, the 576th FLTS commander. “When coupled with the other facets of our test program, we get a complete picture of the weapon system’s reliability. But perhaps most importantly, this visible message of national security serves to assure our partners and dissuade potential aggressors.”

Minot AFB is one of three missile bases with crew members standing alert 24/7, year-round, overseeing the nation’s ICBM alert forces.

“It has been an amazing experience for the operations and maintenance members of Team Minot to partner with the professionals from the 576th FLTS, 30th Space Wing and 625th STOS,” said Maj. Keith Schneider, the 91st MW Task Force director of operations. “Everyone involved has worked hard and dedicated themselves to the mission.”

The ICBM community, including the Defense Department, the Energy Department and U.S. Strategic Command uses data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation. The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational credibility of the Minuteman III and ensures the United States’ ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies and partners.

Structural maintainers provide backbone of RPAs

Structural maintainers provide backbone of RPAsCREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS)

When people have a blemish, they see a dermatologist; when they have a physiological problem, they see an orthopedist. For the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, aircraft structural maintainers fill both the aesthetic and structural maintenance roles to keep remotely piloted aircraft in check.

Aircraft structural maintenance is part of the fabrication flight at Creech Air Force Base. The flight consists of the nondestructive inspection shop and the metals technology shop, which work together to ensure the life of the RPA enterprise is sustained with aircraft fully capable of mission execution.

“Depending on the base, aircraft structural maintenance is responsible for repair and fabrication of aircraft skin, structures, metallic tube assemblies, windows, canopies and corrosion control,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel, a 432nd Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance craftsman. “Here we focus on performing advanced composite repairs.”

RPAs are mostly constructed of advanced composites materials which are as strong or stronger than metal but are superior in areas such as weight and stealth. These factors help give RPAs their 18-24 hour endurance time, high flight ceiling and the ability to stay off of some radar detection. Materials included in these composite groups used in RPA construction are carbon fiber, Kevlar and specialized versions of fiberglass.

“The RPAs are unique in that they’re made completely of composite material,” Daniel said. “In my opinion, this is the future of aviation because composites are stronger, cheaper, more durable, and they don’t corrode. Like everything, they aren’t invincible so we fabricate and repair the skin and structure for the aircraft.”

If damage to the aircraft is suspected during an inspection, the structural maintainers will determine the type of damage, the severity and whether or not it’s repairable.

“Typically with the composite material we commonly experience surface defects most followed by delamination and disbonds,” Daniel said. “The number one enemy of composite is damage by water intrusion. The water vapor gets into a panel and then freezes at altitude, expands, and causes the panels to break.”

To construct an aircraft out of composite material, carbon is generated into thread and then woven together to make a cloth-like material or laminate. The cloth is then covered in a resin and then shaped into panels before being subjected to extreme heat and pressure to form a solid panel.

Some common issues are disbonds, a separation of the laminate from the core and delamination, a separation of multiple plies of laminate. To fix these problems the structural maintainers use tools to sand panels down to the base of the panel and then replace the layers that were sanded away.

“If we didn’t exist there wouldn’t be a means of organizational level or even field level repair,” Daniel said. “If an MQ-1 or MQ-9 had a structural flaw caused by wear and tear, moisture absorption or any way of structurally damaging the aircraft, it would eventually, dependent on the damage, become structurally unsound and not airworthy.”

Aircraft structural maintenance is extremely important because an aircraft that can’t fly is not only a loss of money for the Air Force, but in the RPA enterprise, reduces the situational awareness available to the joint commanders.

“The job can be very tedious because everything we do is very precise and has to be perfect the first time,” said Senior Airman Brian, a 432nd MXS aircraft structural maintenance journeyman. “There’s a lot on your shoulders because if you mess up, that plane is down for another 24 hours and you have to answer a lot of questions. It’s a very important job because if we mess up, a plane could crash.”

During the repair process, even if one layer of carbon fiber, Kevlar or fiberglass is improperly bonded, it could result in a mistake that still renders the aircraft unable to fly, making the shop start the process over from scratch.

Although the job may be tedious, Creech structural maintenance takes it seriously, ensuring everything is ready to go. They consistently produce an excellent quality assurance inspection pass rate of 95 percent. The average Air Force QA inspection rate is 80 percent.

(Editor’s note: Last names were removed due to security and operational concerns.)

CSAF celebrates Whiteman total force excellence

CSAF celebrates Whiteman total force excellenceWHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFNS)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III visited here Feb. 16-18 to engage with civic leaders and meet Airmen of the world’s only B-2 Spirit stealth bomber base.

While at Whiteman Air Force Base, Welsh met with leadership from the 509th Bomb Wing, the 131st Bomb Wing, the 442d Fighter Wing, and other tenant units to discuss the evolution of total force integration and to see firsthand the TFI model the base has established.

Welsh communicated his support of the TFI mission with total force leaders during roundtable meetings and spoke about the modernization of TFI and B-2 bomber missions.

During his visit, Welsh held an all call and stressed his three C’s common sense, communication and caring to Airmen from the three total force wings at Whiteman AFB, and expressed how they can integrate these concepts into their unique missions.

“Apply common sense to all we do. If it doesn’t seem right, make the change and use the chain,” Welsh said. “We have four generations in the Air Force; we must use accountable communication to work as a professional organization. And lastly, know your Airmen better. Every Airman has a story. Care enough to know it.”

Welsh also expressed his gratitude and support to the total force Airmen in attendance and reminded them that the Air Force is rich in pride.

“Never forget how critically important you are to what we are doing,” Welsh added. “We have great people with great training and education and pride we, the Air Force, are built on pride, and it shows in your performance. That’s where we come from.”

Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets IV, the 509th Bomb Wing commander, thanked Welsh for the visit and his leadership and echoed his sentiments.

“Our wing’s heritage inspires us to take pride in the work we accomplish,” Tibbets said. “We have a legacy of excellence. Through your efforts, we will continue that tradition for many years to come. Our pride will help us remain focused and allow us to face resource-constrained environments and ever evolving adversaries as we continue our strategic deterrence, global strike and combat support mission.”

Welsh wrapped up the all call with a question and answer session and reminded Airmen why he loves the Air Force and why he’s served for so long.

“I will die for you,” Welsh said. “We have only met for about an hour, and I’d die for you. I believe you’d do the same for me. That is what’s so special about the Air Force.”