Hill’s F-35s drop first weapons
MDAA recognizes Air Force Missile Defender of the Year
Comm Airmen keep $84M network running

A shared love, goal, mission

A shared love, goal, missionLAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS)

(This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Joining the Air Force, commissioning, becoming a pilot, progressing to the rank of major all of these things define the word “minority.” Majs. Regina Wall and her husband, Jared Wall, have done all of the above.

Regina, the 86th Flying Training Squadron assistant director of operations, and Jared, the 47th Operations Group T-6A Texan II standardization and evaluation branch chief, have shared almost every duty station and three deployments since beginning their careers in 2005.

The Walls’ story began in 2005 at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, where they first met during the Air and Space Basic

Course. Upon completion of ASBC, they found themselves on their way to Offutt AFB, Nebraska, where they completed Initial Flight Training with a follow-on to Laughlin AFB.

After arriving to Laughlin AFB, the Walls officially began their pilot careers in the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training program.

“Not only did we both get assigned to class 07-04, but our assigned seats were right next to each other in the flight room,” Regina said.

After the completion of the T-6 program, Jared continued at Laughlin AFB as a T-1 Jayhawk student and Regina moved to Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, Texas, to fly the T-44A Pegasus. This was the couple’s first experience with a long-distance relationship.

“It was a good test for our relationship,” Regina said. “We both knew by being in the military we might have to spend some time apart, and it was something we needed to be prepared for.”

But this long-distance relationship was only temporary. On Dec. 14, 2006, toward the end of pilot training, Jared proposed to Regina. Two days later, the newly engaged couple got married. Now join-spouse, Jared and Regina got assignments to fly the C-130 Hercules at Dyess AFB, Texas.

From Dyess AFB, the Walls deployed together three times to Kuwait and were able to see various parts of the world and share unique and life-changing experiences.

“Sharing our deployments together and day-to-day Air Force life together has been a great experience,” Jared said. “It has allowed us to easily relate to each other. It also helps that during those deployments and during much of our career, we have had very similar jobs and the same mission.”

After their time at Dyess AFB, Jared and Regina relocated to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, in the spring of 2012.

Once in Alaska, the Wall family grew by one. Their first child was born in the fall of 2012 and would change the way Regina and Jared would go about their lives.

“It wasn’t just about us anymore,” Regina said. “Making decisions about our positions, assignments and deployments affected more than ourselves. We had to do what was best for our whole family.”

While still keeping their family’s needs in mind, the Walls kept progressing with their careers and moved back to Laughlin AFB in January 2014. Regina became a T-1A Jayhawk instructor pilot and Jared, a T-6A Texan II instructor pilot.

Since arriving here, the Walls have changed more than duty titles. They have also had their second child and have both promoted to the rank of major together.

Though they were promoted to major on the same day, this is unlikely to be the case for the next rank of lieutenant colonel, as the Walls will have to compete against each other to see who pins on first.

“We have a healthy competition,” Regina said. “Of course I like to win, but if I was to get beat-out by anyone, I’d want it to be him.”

At this point Jared and Regina aren’t sure of an exact career path to take, but they are ready for whatever the future holds.

“We’re just going to do our best in the positions we hold now and go from there,” Jared said. “We know we can’t always get the exact assignment we want, but we’ve learned to compromise with each other and find a balance.”

Although moving from base to base, deploying and working long and erratic hours can be stressful for mil-to-mil spouses; Jared, Regina and their two children have found a balance in the military and their personal lives.

“We’ve learned to craft many of our career decisions around our family and relationship,” Regina said. “It’s not always easy, but sometimes what’s best for our careers may not be what’s best for our family.”

While there are many stressors and roadblocks in a mil-to-mil marriage, Jared and Regina have clung to the positives.

“It is very easy for us to relate to each other,” Jared said. “We speak the same Air Force language.”

Both Jared and Regina are thankful for what they have thus far and are eager to see what comes next.

“We’ve overcome every obstacle we’ve been presented with so far,” Regina said. “Only time will tell what comes next.”

Airman’s quick, calm response helps save life

Airman’s quick, calm response helps save lifeMCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. (AFNS)

It was this past Christmas and the restaurant was nearly empty. Michael Hamilton, a cook, fell to the ground during his shift. The restaurant staff had no medical training and panicked, unsure of what to do.

A waitress remembered speaking with a patron, who had mentioned she was a medic, just minutes before in the lounge area.

The patron was Staff Sgt. Christina Begeal, a 22nd Medical Group aerospace medical technician, who had just happened to be relaxing in the restaurant on her night off.

The waitress rushed to Begeal and brought her into the kitchen. Upon seeing the emergency, Begeal responded immediately, aware that the victim was having a seizure.

“He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t move,” Begeal said. “So I told him, ‘If you can hear me, squeeze my hand one for yes, two for no,’ and he could do that.”

She directed the two other staff members to call 911 and to help her care for the victim. They moved the victim to a safer location and treated him for shock, she said. They elevated his legs and put something soft around him. Begeal checked his pulse and his eyes for reaction to light.

At one point, Hamilton stopped breathing and Begeal gave him rescue breaths until he started breathing on his own again. Before paramedics arrived on scene, he came around.

She continued to communicate with him and asked if he had eaten any food recently or was currently on any medication, so she could relay the information to the paramedics.

“When Emergency Medical Services got there, it seemed like he was paralyzed; he was so exhausted from the seizure,” Begeal said. “They loaded him in the ambulance and took him to the hospital.”

At the hospital, Hamilton was evaluated, treated and released back to work.

“I didn’t think what happened that day would have happened so quickly,” Hamilton said. “If she hadn’t been here, there would have been more questioning, more chaos and less stability.”

When Begeal returned to the same restaurant a few weeks later, Hamilton approached her and thanked her for saving his life.

“I was really glad she was there to help because everybody else was frantic,” he said. “She stepped up, called the shots and made me feel like everything was going to be OK.”

Begeal stressed that basic care provided to a victim in the midst of waiting for paramedics to arrive is crucial and wanted to spread the message.

To emphasize the importance of bystander intervention and self-aid and buddy care, she is coordinating to teach a certified CPR course to the restaurant staff.

Every 22nd Air Refueling Wing Airman is trained in SABC, bystander intervention, basic situational awareness, and many other life-saving lessons. They are trained to employ this knowledge to help individuals during an emergency situation anytime and anywhere it may occur.

“If someone needs a helping hand I will be there so would any other McConnell Airmen,” Begeal said. “The willingness of our Airmen to step up in so many different critical situations is what makes us the wing of choice.”

Comm Airmen keep $84M network running

101BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS)

With hundreds of thousands of megabytes of data whizzing along miles of fiber optic wire, only stopping briefly to be digested by a network computer before blazing off to its next destination, managing this cyber domain requires a skilled team of expertly trained individuals; in the case of a deployed network, it takes two teams.

Airmen from the 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron Network Operations and Client Systems sections have the critical responsibility of ensuring that the systems required for command and control, accountability, and more are functioning properly and are adequately protected from cyber threats.

“We manage the $21 million network control center, the brain of the $84 million network,” said Master Sgt. Ernest Dinolfo, the network operations section chief. “Today, everyone relies on the network and it’s a vital piece of the mission. We use it for everything from email to mission planning. It needs to be accessible to everyone so we can do our jobs.”

Monitoring the fidelity of more than 200 specialized servers that facilitate the use of nearly 6,000 unique individual and organizational accounts keeps network operations manned almost all hours of the day. They are tasked with making sure the systems are up to date with the newest protection and operating software, sometimes a challenge in and of itself.

“I’d say one of the biggest headaches we have while deployed is getting patches to work properly,” Dinolfo explained. “Sometimes computers won’t accept them, or they will, and it will break them. That’s why we have special test systems here to vet each patch before it is pushed out to the user. Often times we even have to manually install it to an individual user system.”

When it comes to troubleshooting and assisting those individual computer systems that just won’t take an update, the client systems technicians are there.

“We are kind of like ‘Geek Squad,’” said Senior Airman Andrew Dawson, the 455th ECS Client Systems technician. “We are responsible for keeping everything from the desk to the wall working. We install all the software and make sure it runs properly.”

In addition to the computers on the network, client systems technicians also fix telecommunication devices, printers, and other hardware accessories. Since arriving in 2015, they have improved processes, updated older devices, and helped increase efficiency in units all across Bagram Airfield. While any given problem could have a simple solution, these Airmen are tied into the more intricate bigger picture.

“When I fix something, I know that it is really important. I get to see what that system does and who uses it,” Dawson said. “I know when I helped the rescue squadron I improved their response time in saving lives. I feel a direct impact to the mission and it makes me feel good.”

Chester McBride: A true wingman

Chester McBride: A true wingmanMAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS)

Phillips Brooks, the American Episcopal clergyman who authored “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” once said, “Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.”

The quote from a renowned Christian lyricist mirrors the life of Air Force Special Agent Chester McBride, killed in action Dec. 21, 2015.

“We had heard on the news that something had happened,” said Special Agent Helen Stewart, the commander of Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 405, at Maxwell Air Force Base. “The first reaction was just disbelief. I tried to keep my emotions in check because I wanted to be positive. No Airman’s life is more valuable than another, but my immediate thought was to Chester.”

McBride enlisted in the Air Force in 2008 as a security forces member, serving at Moody AFB, Georgia. Revealed as a mature, sharp Airman by all who knew him, the NCO was recruited to serve as a member of OSI in 2012.

Shortly after arriving at Det. 405 in 2012, Chester began pursuing a deployment. In years past, multiple deployments were canceled. While frustrated with the progress, the native of Statesboro, Georgia, continued to excel. He graduated with a master’s degree in public administration from Valdosta State University, continuously standing out among his peers. He was offered a position in the FBI once his active-duty service commitment ended.

McBride, postured for success both in and out of uniform, finally got his wish: a deployment to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in October 2015.

“He was so excited about the deployment,” Stewart said. “While he missed his family here, his bond with his deployed family was strong. Constantly sending us pictures and contacting us often about the experience he was having over there, I knew he believed in the mission he was doing.”

While on a joint patrol outside of Bagram, McBride and five other American troops were attacked and killed by a suicide bomber. While the investigation is still underway, first-person accounts describe McBride’s final moments as characteristically heroic. The former Savannah State University football player shielded his linguist, laying down his life for his teammate. She is alive today because of McBride.

“Immediately, I tried to FaceTime him, but he didn’t answer,” Stewart said, fighting back emotions. “Then I sent him a text message, but he didn’t answer.”

During the time that the Air Force was notifying McBride’s parents, social media had already narrowed the unknown status of her Airman for Stewart. Aware that her subordinate was gone, but without official notification from her chain of command, she couldn’t gather her unit to give them the news.

“We couldn’t be officially notified until they (family) were,” she explained. “That was the longest, toughest day of my 15-year Air Force career. When I finally received the notification, it was devastating. I didn’t know the details, just of the loss.”

After trying to figure out how to take care of his family in Georgia, Stewart turned her attention to the unit, wondering, “How are we going to be OK?”

With grief still present throughout the detachment, and after a funeral for McBride in his hometown, Maxwell AFB organized a memorial in his honor Jan. 13.

Pain and tears spread throughout the silent auditorium as co-workers told stories of their wingman’s loving heart and his affection for their families, but mostly of his smile.

“The stories about him would be the same if told in the past, not after the incident,” Stewart said. “His small moments of being a true wingman, spanned from pacing everyone during their PT test to his final moment of heroism, showed the man Chester truly was. He believed in the Air Force’s core values 100 percent, and he lived them. He was always there, always willing and most of all he was always a wingman … always.”

McBride was posthumously decorated with a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star with Valor, and an Air Force Combat Action Medal, adding to his Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, and Army Achievement Medal.

Stewart said that when Brig. Gen. Keith Givens, the commander of Air Force OSI, told McBride’s family at their home in Georgia about Chester’s final moments , they weren’t surprised to hear of his heroics.

“That act was him,” Stewart said smiling. “That is who he was, the ultimate wingman. I knew he had my back and everyone’s back in here. He is the guy you want to go to war with. That was Chester McBride. That’s his legacy.”

Welsh presents AF update at AFA

Welsh presents AF update at AFAORLANDO, Florida (AFNS)

Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III outlined Air Force operations from 2015, the service’s plan for 2016, and what is to come in the future at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium Feb. 25.

“We moved 350,000 tons of cargo last year, roughly. We also moved about a million passengers. Our mobility pros, along with the great aeromedical team, moved about 4,300 wounded warriors and other patients around the globe last year to (get) care they needed,” Welsh stated. “We have Airmen of all shapes, sizes, types and mission areas who are following the trail of terror that (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) leaves and every time they identify footprints, they make sure the person who left them doesn’t have the opportunity to walk that trail again. It’s a slow, steady drumbeat of professional performers that make a difference over time.”

There are roughly 22,000 Airmen deployed around the globe every day, Welsh said. The Air Force flew about 1.7 million hours last year, which is 195 years of flying, 300,000 of those being combat hours.

“This is an incredible enterprise folks, and it just never stops operating, all the time,” Welsh said. “It’s a thrill to be a part of this, and the Airmen who are making it happen are sitting amongst you out there.”

Welsh listed a number of areas the Air Force must focus on in order for the service to continue its airpower superiority: nuclear infrastructure and aircraft modernization, remotely piloted aircraft enterprise health, total force readiness, and Airmen.

“(It’s important) to make sure that these great, great young Americans believe that what they do is important, that we do everything we can to improve the environment they work in day to day, to make them feel like they are valued contributors, like their decisions make a difference,” Welsh said about Airmen in RPA operations. “We have a manpower issue in our Air Force and the secretary has made it her number one focus this year during the budget cycle. Right now, let’s fix where we know we are broken, stabilize, then figure out how to start filling in the holes in our Air Force that have been created by standing up new enterprises while we drew down the Air Force as a whole.

“Total force size matters … readiness matters,” Welsh continued. “The less ready they are, the more risky it will be for them to respond, meaning the conflict will last longer and we will count risk in terms of lives lost; that’s not acceptable. So everything we can be doing to improve readiness, we need to be doing.”

Welsh emphasized the importance for the Air Force to go “back to the basics” and outlined 10 fundamentals for Airmen to think about:

1. People matter

2. High ground is still high ground, and we own it

3. Airpower is our greatest asymmetric advantage

4. Airpower is a game changer … it’s time for Airmen to lead joint operations

5. Quantity has a quality all its own

6. The Air Force is “low density/high demand,” and without it you lose

7. “One Air Force,” it’s the only way we’ll succeed

8. Can’t build an Air Force overnight, can’t teach Airpower in a generation

9. Leadership must be an asymmetric advantage

10. Technology/innovation at the heart of success air forces that fall behind the tech curve fail!

Welsh finished his speech by recognizing several Airmen and members of industry for their hard work in making the Air Force great.

Master Sgt. Gareth Davis, the 21st Comptroller Squadron Financial Services flight chief at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, said it was extremely humbling to share his story with the chief of staff and those attending the symposium.

“If you believe in our core values, then live our core values; if you believe in our Airman’s Creed, then live the Airman’s Creed,” he said. “Live your life worthy of what you say you believe.”

CE Airmen help keep Yokota operational

CE Airmen help keep Yokota operationalYOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS)

From keeping the flightline mission ready to maintaining the roads and sidewalks, the behind scenes work done by a small group of Airmen known as the “Dirt Boys” keeps Yokota Air Base’s mission going.

The 374th Civil Engineer Squadron pavement and equipment shop understand aircraft operations depend on their ability to ensure the flightline remains fully operational.

“Our number one job is to maintain the airfield,” said Master Sgt. Frank Uecker, the 374th CES pavements and equipment shop section chief. “Through heavy rain, hail or snowfall, ensuring that the airlifting mission here at Yokota is not infringed on is why we’re here.”

Cement spalls are the most notable obstacle the Dirt Boys face when working to keep. A spall is broken up, flaked or pitted concrete. Environmental factors stress the concrete, causing it to become damaged and often creating spalls.

“Removing the small breaks as soon as they appear on the airfield is a key part of our preventative maintenance practices,” said Senior Airman Richard Mora, a 374th CES pavements and equipment apprentice.

Additional preventative maintenance practices include clearing storm drains to prevent the runoff of rain or melted snow from flooding the airfield, removing weakened trees that threatened structures and cutting grass.

“Nobody would ever think that cutting the grass would be an important task to accomplish,” Mora said. “However, doing so prevents birds from nesting as well from grass from becoming overgrown and roaming onto runways.”

The pavements and equipment shop also works to eliminate foreign object debris from the airfield.

“Whether it is propeller or jet engines, aircraft on the airfield have the potential to suck in FOD,” Uecker said. “By eliminating FOD, we prevent unnecessary wear and tear to the engines.”

From shovels and jackhammers to cranes and bulldozers, the duties of the Dirt Boys require them to be experts of a wide assortment of machinery. Their expertise allows the shop to assist other shops and squadrons around base.

“We assist any and every one on base that needs a helping hand,” Mora said. “From helping the heating and ventilation shop install a unit to supporting the maintainers with our cranes to hoist an engine, we do it all.”

Mora admitted that the most challenging part of his duties was staying up to date of job knowledge.

“You have to be knowledgeable and have a hunger to learn if you want to be successful,” Mora said. “You can’t doze off or get sidetracked. People’s lives can’t afford it. From pedestrians and traffic to the Airman standing next to you, their safety and yours depends on your awareness.”

From repairing cement spalls on Yokota’s airfield to sawing down trees that may pose a threat to structures around base, their dirt covered uniforms at the end of the day is a small sacrifice to ensuring the base’s mission is not negatively impacted.

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.

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