Al Udeid shop operates most productive AF wheel, tire repair facility

Al Udeid shop operates most productive AF wheel, tire repair facilityAL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS)

The 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron operates the only wheel and tire repair facility in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility and the most productive facility in the Air Force.

In the past year, the squadron’s wheel and tire maintenance team produced 3,000 serviceable tires, more than any other Air Force wheel and tire shop.

“We average between eight and 10 tires a day,” said Staff Sgt. James Mercatell, a 379th EMXS aerospace maintenance craftsman from Sebastian, Florida. “There are days when we’ve received 25 tires, and we have the capability to turn 30 wheels and tires in a single day.”

Unserviceable wheels are pulled off aircraft and delivered to the shop. Once received, each wheel is broken down and inspected.

“A couple days ago we received 30 wheels and we had stuff everywhere, but we got every wheel and tire out, with 15 being completed in one shift,” Mercatell said. “We inspect everything to ensure each wheel is serviceable, and it can be reassembled safely and properly.”

Nearly 10 Airmen work in the wheel and tire repair facility. These Airmen look for anything that would make a wheel unserviceable such as cracks or signs of corrosion. The inspection is a thorough process and includes hand cleaning of every wheel, as well as an inspection by the 379th EMXS nondestructive inspection team to detect potential micro fractures, which are invisible to the human eye.

“As the only wheel and tire repair facility in the AOR, we disassemble, inspect and reassemble wheels and tires for any aircraft in the AOR,” said Senior Airman Michael Dalleo, a 379th EMXS aerospace maintenance apprentice from Enfield, Connecticut.

Dalleo said the work he does has an impact every day.

“I get to work on seven different aircraft, and I see the direct effect of what we do and how it supports operations,” Dalleo said. “I take great pride in knowing what we do enables missions across the AOR. Planes can’t take off or land without tires.”

The 379th EMXS has enabled more than 20,000 sorties and more than 683 million pounds of fuel to be off-loaded in 2015. Because of the unit’s dedicated mechanics, Al Udeid Air Base’s KC-135 Stratotanker fleet was able to take-off from the base and fly more than 100,000 combat hours and perform more than 54,000 aerial fuel transfers.

Having a hand in those accomplishments has special meaning for every one of his Airmen, Mercatell said.

“We provide a lot to the fight and we all understand the magnitude of what we do every day,” Mercatell said. “That’s why we carefully inspect each item. We want to make sure we support the fight so our planes can fly; if they’re not flying, then they’re not able to support our brothers and sisters in arms who need us.

“The best part of the job is knowing we support the fight,” he added. “We make a difference. The wheels we work on go on aircraft across the AOR and those aircraft fly missions to take out bad guys.”

Senior Master Sgt. Adam Otto, the 379th EMXS maintenance flight chief from Hastings, Michigan, said the dedication the Airmen in the wheel and tire section display is impressive.

“Most of the Airmen here have never worked together before and many have never worked in a wheel and tire shop,” Otto said. “They get trained, they come here and they come together to support the mission. We rely on them to become a cohesive team in a minimal amount of time.

“They’re turning more tires than any other shop in the Air Force and they have the capability to produce up to 30 tires in a day,” he continued. “The work this team does is very important because without our aircraft flying, more people would be in harm’s way.”

Air Force senior leaders share lessons learned from Desert Storm

Air Force senior leaders share lessons learned from Desert StormWASHINGTON (AFNS)

During recent visits to Howard University and the University of Maryland, two Air Force senior leaders shared memories and lessons learned from Operation Desert Storm with more than 160 Washington, D.C., area Air Force ROTC cadets as part of the Air Force’s focus on the 25th anniversary of the conflict.

Brig. Gen. Craig La Fave, the special assistant to the chief of the Air Force Reserve and military deputy to the total force continuum, deputy chief of staff strategic plans and programs, visited AFROTC Detachment 130 cadets at Howard University Feb. 10. La Fave flew C-141 Starlifters during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, taking part in the massive airlift effort that made the successful buildup and execution of the war effort possible.

During his time with the cadets, La Fave shared personal stories and discussed how the Gulf War shaped the way airpower is used today, as well as how it changed the tactics used by our enemies.

“Operation Desert Storm was a great example of what an overwhelming Air Force can do,” La Fave said. “Today, our enemies have learned from that and they know they cannot challenge us out in the open. We may never see that type of warfare again. Our enemies now try to fight us from within cities and through cyber warfare. And we have to be capable in both types of warfare.”

Maj. Gen. Vincent Mancuso, the mobilization assistant to the Air Force chief of staff, spoke to AFROTC Detachment 330 cadets at the University of Maryland Feb. 18. Mancuso flew F-4 Phantom “Wild Weasel” aircraft throughout Desert Storm. He spoke to the cadets about personal leadership lessons he learned as a young pilot during the conflict and how those lessons are applicable to the cadets as they begin their Air Force careers as officers.

“This was a fantastic opportunity to help shape our next generation of Airmen,” Mancuso said. “They are hungry to understand what they will face when they get into the active Air Force. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to share with them, to give them that understanding and share some wisdom that might make their own journey a little better. I find that to be particularly valuable.”

Cadets said the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts from Desert Storm veterans was an invaluable experience.

“We read about these wars in the history books, but to hear from someone who has that firsthand experience and can tell us what they did and why things happened really helps us to apply the lessons learned,” said Cadet Maj. Daniela Carchedi, who is assigned to AFROTC Detachment 130. “We are able to draw from that to prepare us for what we will be facing in the future. The lessons we learn from these leaders who came before us are extremely valuable.”

Lt. Col. Gardner Joyner, the AFROTC Detachment 130 commander, said the importance of the interactions between Air Force senior leaders and the cadets cannot be measured.

“To have someone from the Pentagon here, it really reinforces the lessons we are trying to impart on them,” Joyner said. “To have the general here to discuss the lessons learned from Desert Storm helps the cadets to understand why we do what we do.”

Imparting knowledge gleaned from Desert Storm was rewarding for the Air Force senior leaders as well.

“This is really full circle for me,” La Fave said. “I started as an AFROTC cadet and now I have the opportunity to come back 30 years later and speak to a detachment and tell my story and the Air Force story and discuss how effective we were and what we learned through Desert Shield and Desert Storm. It was special to see these sharp, young cadets ready to go at the front end of their careers.

“I hope my story can help to shape their future. They have a great future in the Air Force.”

AF announces Operation Colony Glacier casualty recovery

AF announces Operation Colony Glacier casualty recoveryWASHINGTON (AFNS)

The Air Force announced Feb. 19 the names of two Airmen who have been recovered from a C-124 Globemaster II aircraft that was lost in 1952.

Capt. Kenneth Duvall and 2nd Lt. Robert Moon have been recovered and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

On Nov. 22, 1952, the Globemaster crashed while en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, from McChord AFB, Washington. There were 11 crewmen and 41 passengers on board. Adverse weather conditions precluded immediate recovery attempts. In late November and early December 1952, search parties were unable to locate and recover any of the service members.

On June 9, 2012, an Alaska National Guard (AKNG) UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew spotted aircraft wreckage and debris while conducting a training mission over the Colony Glacier, immediately west of Mount Gannett. Three days later, another AKNG team landed at the site to photograph the area and they found artifacts at the site that related to the wreckage of the C-124. Later that month, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and Joint Task Force team conducted a recovery operation at the site and recommended it continue to be monitored for possible future recovery operations.

In 2013, additional artifacts were visible and every summer since then, during a small window of opportunity, Alaskan Command and AKNG personnel have been supporting the joint effort of Operation Colony Glacier.

Medical examiners from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used testing done by the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, along with other forensic evidence, in the identification of the service members. DNA testing continues to identify the remaining personnel. The crash site continues to be monitored for future possible recovery.

For more information, contact Air Force Public Affairs at 703-695-0640. For service record specific information, contact the National Archives at 314-801-0816.

Desperate treatment used at Bagram to breathe life into NATO ally

Desperate treatment used at Bagram to breathe life into NATO allyBAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS)

A specialized team dispatched from San Antonio Military Medical Center combined efforts with the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group to perform life-saving treatment on a NATO partner Feb. 18.

The patient was suffering from adult respiratory distress syndrome secondary to influenza B, and had to be admitted and intubated to the Craig Joint Theater Hospital on Feb. 13. His condition worsened over the next 48 hours, and the decision to rapidly activate and deploy an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation team was reached in order to keep the patient alive.

ECMO works by bypassing the lungs and infusing the blood directly with oxygen, while removing the harmful carbon dioxide from the blood stream. This procedure requires a team of eight, highly-qualified medical personnel to initiate and continue around-the-clock treatment.

“I am grateful for the team that came from SAMMC. This is truly the only chance our patient has of surviving,” said Maj. (Dr.) Valerie Sams, the 455th EMDG trauma czar who coordinated the life-saving care. “With his lung failure and kidney decline, he is still at about a 50 percent mortality risk. However, I think with his relatively young age and lack of significant chronic medical conditions, there is considerable hope.”

The hospital, supported with a staff of 40 providers, nurses, technicians, pharmacy, radiology, and lab personnel, provided tireless care in the intensive care unit. On top of that, around 30 transport medics were used to ensure that the patient could be moved out of theater to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Altogether, nearly 80 military members provided 120 hours of continuous medical care for one NATO ally to have a chance at life.

“I am extremely proud of how all the medics came together to care for this patient,” said Col. Gianna Zeh, the 455th EMDG commander. “They worked non-stop around the clock for six days. They had an unfailing commitment to serve this patient. They never gave up as a team and continuously problem solved to keep him alive. This is a great example of medics providing trusted care, anywhere.”

The patient will need at least seven to 14 days of additional ECMO treatment, and while his condition may still be grim, it is because of the combined efforts of deployed teams he now has a chance at recovery.

Tuskegee Airmen share life lessons

Tuskegee Airmen share life lessonsWASHINGTON (AFNS)

Three members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen visited with Airmen at the Pentagon during a meet and greet hosted by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James Feb. 16.

Retired Col. Charles McGee and former Cadets William Fauntroy Jr. and Walter Robinson Sr. shared stories and insights about their lives as Tuskegee Airmen and as civilians after they left the military.

“I had a breadth of understanding of what could be, because I had accepted the training and the discipline,” said Robinson, who went on to be the first black postal manager in Washington, D.C.

The Tuskegee Airmen were named after the Tuskegee Army Airfield near Tuskegee, Alabama, where they received their pilot and aircraft maintenance training during World War II. The Tuskegee Airmen were not just flyers but also radio operators, navigators, bombardiers, aircraft maintainers, support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air.

“It was an interesting concept because the policy was … we (blacks) weren’t capable of doing anything technical, to include maintaining and flying airplanes,” McGee said.

However, Congress passed a law allowing the Army to contract the primary phase of military pilot training to civilian schools; the Tuskegee Institute applied and received the contract.

“We couldn’t fly yet, but our instructors were black pilots,” McGee said.

While the Tuskegee Airmen were still learning how to fly, they were also dealing with segregation.

“I hate(d) segregation, yet on the other hand it brought us together from 1941 to 1949, when the Air Force closed the segregated bases,” McGee said. “We became lifelong friends and we still get together annually; of course, some of us come in wheelchairs now, but that’s life.”

Fauntroy, who grew up in the District, remembered the cadet corps at his high school and was surprised by the synergy he witnessed.

“The thing that impressed me at Tuskegee was how the pilots and mechanics worked so closely together,” Fauntroy continued. “That’s the one thing I liked about the Army Air Corps was that we were working together and when I started to fly, I understood if it wasn’t for that guy taking care of this airplane, I wouldn’t be up here flying … it was a team concept.”

While the red jackets the Tuskegee Airmen wear symbolize their “Red Tails” name and the achievements in the sky above Germany during World War II, they also represent other victories as well. The 996 pilots and more than 15,000 ground personnel who served with these units flew more than 15,500 combat sorties and earned more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses.

“Have you heard of ‘Double Victory?’ We were fighting a war against Hitler in Europe and we were fighting a war against racism at home,” said McGee, who has more than 6,000 flying hours.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s successes encouraged President Harry Truman to integrate the armed forces in 1948.

“We honor the service and sacrifice of all our Airmen year-round, but I’d like to take a moment to highlight the Tuskegee Airmen,” James said. “Their legacy is so important, not just to our Air Force, but to our nation. Their skill and bravery in the skies over Europe helped us win the war against fascism and their perseverance at home helped us down the path of diversity in our military and our nation.”

Hurricane Hunters fly research missions into atmospheric rivers

Hurricane Hunters fly research missions into atmospheric riversKEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS)

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, “Hurricane Hunters,” spent Feb. 11-24 flying through “atmospheric rivers” in the Pacific Ocean stretching from Hawaii to U.S. West Coast in efforts to improve storm predictions.

The squadron teamed up with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, Scripps Institution of Oceanography California, and Oregon and Washington emergency management offices for the research mission aimed at improving forecaster’s ability to predict where these atmospheric river storms will make landfall.

Atmospheric rivers, a corridor of concentrated moisture in the atmosphere, can lead to flooding, mudslides and damaging winds, and El Nino events contribute to warmer ocean waters which fuel these rivers with moisture. The organizations are taking advantage of one of the strongest El Nino seasons in the past 60 years to view the evolution of storms.

“We are tasked to fly during these specific events within the El Nino period in certain areas over the Pacific Ocean to collect information such as water vapor and temperature. This will allow meteorologists to forecast the amount of rain that is going hit California,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Talbot, a 53rd WRS senior meteorologist.

Two Air Force Reserve WC-130J Super Hercules completed three missions with both crews flying 2,300 mile treks simultaneously within the atmospheric rivers. For two missions one crew flew out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and the other crew from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. The last mission required a crew to fly a mission from Travis Air Force Base, California.

To collect weather data, crews release a dropsonde, which is a parachute-borne cylindrical device that gathers weather data not available through satellite imagery. The dropsondes collect air temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, and wind speed and direction as it drops toward the surface of the water.

An aircraft typically releases about 10-20 dropsondes; however, for these missions crews dropped anywhere from 40-60 dropsondes per flight across the width of the atmospheric river, said 1st Lt. Leesa Froelich, a 53rd WRS aerial weather reconnaissance officer. This data was sent real-time by satellite to the National Center for Environmental Prediction to create a multidimensional view of the rivers.

“This mission represents a new chapter in West Coast weather prediction by bringing capabilities of the Air Force’s weather reconnaissance squadron and their impressive C-130J aircraft to beat on the challenges of West Coast atmospheric river landfall predictions,” said Marty Ralph, the Center for Western Weather director and Water Extremes University of California San Diego/Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Knowing the amount of rain California will receive during one of these events is vital, Ralph said.

The last El Nino event in the 1990s produced more rain than the California reservoir infrastructure could handle. To alleviate strain on the reservoirs, the water managers opened the dams and let the water out. The big problem occurred when the rains stopped and too much water was let out and then it didn’t rain again for years, he said.

The data collected from the Hurricane Hunter’s missions will allow scientists to determine how much water needs to be drained, Ralph said.

“Better forecasts of landfalling atmospheric rivers can help with precipitation and river predictions in ways that support water managers in California,” said Jay Jasperse, the Sonoma County Water Agency chief engineer, which oversees operations for a key reservoir that helps supply water to 600,000 people.

“The missions were an absolute 100 percent success,” Talbot said. “All sorties flew and collected in the areas needed, helped to paint the full picture for forecasts.”

General: Airpower key to ISIL fight; strikes to continue

General: Airpower key to ISIL fight; strikes to continueFORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS) The head of Operation Inherent Resolve’s air campaign said Feb. 18 the “most precise air campaign in history” has severely hurt terrorist plans across Iraq and Syria, with more airstrikes to come.

“There is no doubt coalition airpower has and continues to dramatically degrade Daesh’s ability to fight and conduct operations,” Lt. Gen. Charles Brown Jr., commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, said of the terrorist group also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Ongoing missions by the 19-nation air coalition is exploiting ISIL’s weaknesses, as its leaders and fighters flee in large numbers due to effective airpower, said Brown, who serves as the operation’s combined forces air component commander.

“As the coalition has garnered a greater understanding of the enemy, our airpower efforts have evolved and it’s clear airpower is a vital element to this fight,” Brown said from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

Persistent ops

There are no plans for the air campaign to be impacted by a possible ceasefire to let nongovernmental agencies deliver food and medicine to starving civilians in besieged Syrian towns.

“It doesn’t stop operations against Daesh or ISIL,” Brown said of the relief effort. “The areas where most of the humanitarian aid is going are areas where we don’t operate.”

The general also denied coalition involvement in the Feb. 15 bombing of four hospitals and a school in northern Syria that left dozens of people dead.

“There are only two people flying in that area the Russians and the Syrians,” Brown said of the non-coalition forces. “I can guarantee you that it wasn’t the coalition.”

Accurate strikes

Brown also touted successful airstrikes against ISIL-controlled oil facilities and monetary centers, saying that they’ve crippled their financial resources. This has resulted in ISIL cutting funds to its fighters and combat operations.

During strikes Feb. 13, Air Force and Navy aircraft wiped out five financial targets in a few minutes in downtown Mosul, Iraq, using precision-guided bombs, he said.

“I think it surprised Daesh because we were able to do very precise weaponeering in order to strike them and also minimize civilian casualties,” he said.

Coalition aircraft, he said, have performed almost 120 airstrikes on bulk cash sites, gas and oil separation plants, and crude oil collection points to date.

Eight coalition nations recently dropped about 80 precision-guided bombs at the heart of terrorist command and control, logistics and sanctuary areas in Al Qaim, Iraq, and Abu Kamal, Syria, during another set of strikes, according to the general.

“The objective of the coalition airstrikes was to restrict Daesh movement throughout the Euphrates River Valley,” he said.

Airpower has been instrumental in ground operations, particularly in Ramadi, a former stronghold for the extremists.

“The recent success of Iraqi Security Forces in clearing Ramadi comes after months of supporting ground forces with close air support,” he said.

Brown credited airstrikes with helping take back the city of Sinjar in northern Iraq, as well as Hasakah and the Tishreen Dam in Syria.

“We are making progress,” he said. “We will continue delivering airpower to destroy and eventually defeat Daesh.”