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SecAF, CSAF testify on FY 2017 AF posture

SecAF, CSAF testify on FY 2017 AF postureWASHINGTON (AFNS)

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the fiscal year 2017 Air Force posture on Capitol Hill Feb. 10.

Both James and Welsh stressed that the need for airpower continues to rise and the gap between the U.S. Air Force and its closest pursuers is closing.

“Bottom line here is that … we are fully engaged in every region of the world, in every mission area, across the full spectrum of military operations,” James said. “Put simply: we have never been busier on such a sustained and such a global basis.”

The Fiscal Year 2017 Air Force Posture Statement states the president’s fiscal 2017 budget aims to build, train and equip an Air Force capable of responding to today’s and tomorrow’s threats.

“The United States can’t fight, much less win, today’s wars without airpower,” Welsh said. “That’s just the way modern warfare has moved. The demand signal for that airpower continues to rise. While we work hard to continually become more efficient, which we must, and to minimize the cost of effectively operating our Air Force, if less capability or less capacity or less readiness eventually means we lose even one more young American on the battlefield, we’ll all wish we’d made better investments.”

In her opening statement, James outlined her three priorities: taking care of people, balancing readiness and modernization, and making every dollar count, which are the foundation of the president’s fiscal 2017 budget.

“Airmen and their families are the Air Force’s most important resource and our budget reflects this truth,” James said.

The Air Force stopped downsizing and started right-sizing total force end strength to address a number of key areas to include cyber, nuclear, maintenance, intelligence, battlefield Airmen, and the remotely piloted aircraft community.

James stated her second priority is getting the balance right between readiness and modernization.

“As we have explained in the past, less than half of our combat air forces are ready today for a high-end fight,” James said. “Our aircraft inventory is the oldest it’s ever been, and our adversaries are closing the technological gap on us quickly so we simply must modernize.”

In 2013, sequestration put a strain on the Air Force, forcing the service to park jets, delay upgrades and halt training, which created a gap in readiness.

“For the last two years we have been trying to rebuild that readiness but of course our Airmen have needed to respond to real-world events across the globe,” James said. “If we return to sequestration in (fiscal 2018), this will exacerbate the readiness problem and set us ever further back. If this happens, our Airmen could be forced to enter a future conflict with insufficient preparation.”

In order to equip the force, the Air Force has invested in the F-35 Lightning II, KC-46 Pegasus and the long-range strike bomber, but modernization doesn’t stop there.

“The platforms and systems that made us great over the last 50 years will not make us great over the next 50,” Welsh said. “There are many other systems we need to either upgrade or recapitalize to ensure viability against current and emerging threats. Without additional funding, the only way to do that is to divest old capability to build the new. That requires very difficult, emotional decisions decisions that simply must be made if we are truly to provide for the common defense.”

According to the Fiscal Year 2017 Air Force Posture Statement, as the challengers of the Air Force employ increasingly sophisticated, capable and lethal systems, the Air Force must modernize to deter, deny and decisively defeat any actor that threatens the homeland and its national interests.

“Twenty-five years of combat operations have dramatically impacted our total force readiness, significantly aged our equipment and has shown the brilliance of our Airmen and the loyalty of their families,” Welsh said. “The world is changing, the threat is changing and our Air Force must change with it if we’re to remain relevant. Today, American airpower is a given and I believe it’s our job, collectively, to ensure this nation’s ability to deliver that airpower, when and where it matters most, does not diminish over time.”

The posture reflects the third priority, which is the Air Force’s commitment to preserving taxpayer dollars with a number of initiatives that include streamlined energy usage and cost saving ideas directly from our Airmen.

MacDill Airmen watch over DOD aircraft in foreign nations

MacDill Airmen watch over DOD aircraft in foreign nationsMACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS)

A single error on an airport approach procedure can put the lives of pilots, crew members and their passengers in danger. To protect Defense Department aircraft, specialized teams of air traffic controllers personally ensure they land safely when flying abroad.

The Terminal Instrument Procedures (TERPS) team at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, works with nations in Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

Although they report directly to headquarters Air Mobility Command at Scott AFB, Illinois, the team is housed at MacDill AFB to be near the countries in their areas of responsibility (AOR).

“Each of us has our own countries that we deal with on a daily basis. That way we always maintain continuity of what is happening in the country,” said Tech. Sgt. Bruce Dally, a TERPS specialist assigned to the AMC Air Operations Squadron. “We get the host nation’s information off the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) website, and then rebuild it into our software and apply Air Force criteria to it.”

This special duty was created following a tragic accident in April 1996 when U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and 34 other passengers and crew members were killed when their aircraft crashed into a mountain at Dubrovnik Airport, Croatia. An accident investigation board concluded that the cause of the crash was pilot error and a poorly designed approach procedure.

In response, the defense secretary put a policy in place requiring all DOD aircraft Foreign Terminal Instrument Procedures (FTIP) be evaluated and reviewed by a TERPS office before pilots take off on a mission.

Currently, there are four specified areas of responsibility for FTIP that fall under major commands, which includes Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Combat Command and AMC. Everything the specialists do is for safety, which means even the smallest changes are recorded.

“We review and publish procedures supporting all DOD aircraft, including for the president, that fly into the AOR,” said Dwayne Emsweller, the TERPS chief assigned to the AMC AOS. “We review more than 1,200 procedures a year, and more than 600 procedures are published.”

However, the TERPS specialists cannot rely on the NGA website alone. They also work closely with their host nation counterparts for updated information, and each specialist visits their assigned countries, big or small, to build strong, trusting partnerships.

One of these established partnerships was called on in 2010 when a massive earthquake devastated Haiti, and a way to provide humanitarian aid was quickly needed.

It just so happened that six months before the crisis, Emsweller received a call from a U.S. Southern Command member in the Dominican Republic asking for assistance to get newly installed navigational equipment inspected at a host nation military airfield. Although it wasn’t his job to request this type of inspection, Emsweller was the AOR expert.

“We assisted with everything they needed to get the inspections completed, which was for one of their military airfields; San Isidro,” Emsweller explained. “When the Haiti crisis happened, the first place we wanted to stage out of was San Isidro.”

With the Dominican Republic located adjacent to Haiti, access to San Isidro gave the U.S. forces a way to quickly respond with humanitarian support.

“Something may not be our job, but as the AOR experts, we try to help out any way we can,” he said. “The troops are air traffic controllers, but when they are assigned to the unit, they are Air Force ambassadors.”

It is through enhancing partnerships with host nations that TERPS specialists are able to help ensure the Air Force can safely execute rapid global mobility.

Buddy Wing showcases South Korea, US alliance

Buddy Wing showcases South Korea, US allianceSEOSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS)

U.S. Airmen from the 36th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit traveled to Seosan Air Base, South Korea, to participate in exercise Buddy Wing with South Korean air force personnel from the 121st Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, from Jan. 25-29.

“The Buddy Wing program is a combined fighter exchange between the U.S. and (Republic of Korea Air Force) to promote solidarity among any operations we may execute,” said Capt. Shannon Beers, a 36th FS pilot. “Buddy Wing is a great opportunity to work with our Korean counterparts in deterrence exercises in the event of combat operations.”

A program conducted throughout the year, Buddy Wing takes place on the peninsula and is used to sharpen interoperability between the allied forces.

“The ROKAF and U.S. alliance is not the matter of short-term, but a long-term, everlasting one,” said Capt. Yim Chung-su, a 121st FS pilot. “I hope we are able to continue to improve the combined exercise where more ROKAF and U.S. Airmen can participate.”

Designed to increase mutual understanding and enhance interoperability, Buddy Wing exercises allow participants from both nations the opportunity to exchange ideas and practice combined tactics.

“Our number one role here is deterrence and being capable in our credibility,” Beers said. “The better we work together, the better we will be able to live up to that role.

“Buddy Wing is a unique opportunity to work with the ROKAF, learn how they do things and teach them different techniques from our end,” he continued. “Interoperability is vital to our success. Knowing that I have capable combat partners and they also have faith in me helps to execute the mission here on the peninsula.”

Some of the challenges faced create better learning opportunities.

“The biggest challenges are working with unfamiliar terms and in different airspaces,” Beers said. “We’ll work through those differences in mission planning so we have a better understanding now versus in a real-world incident.

“A large part of being a fighter pilot is working on mission planning,” he continued. “We conduct the planning to go over every detail, including potential contingencies that may arise. In the event of a real-world foreign aggression, we would have anticipated that problem and executed successfully.”

This Buddy Wing included four F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 36th FS and more than 10 KF-16C Fighting Falcons from the 121st FS.

“My favorite part in the Buddy Wing is starting the exercise with U.S. from the beginning,” Yim said. “There have been some other combined exercises, but Max Thunder and Buddy Wing exercises are the only ones which we can train together from planning until the end of flight. In that sense, this exercise is really important and I like the part where we both can plan together.”

The alliance between the U.S. and South Korea has been prevalent for more than 62 years.

“The success of Buddy Wing program is imperative to our success in the event of real-world contingencies,” Beers said. “The more we practice, the better prepared we are in the war front.

Mobile ICU improves care for wounded troops being transported

Mobile ICU improves care for wounded troops being transportedAL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS)

The mission of the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron here is to provide medical care for wounded service members, while flying them to locations where they can receive further treatment.

The unit provides this service to U.S. military members, as well as coalition partners, supporting Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel during aeromedical evacuations.

In 2015, more than 1,000 patients with a variety of injuries including gunshot wounds, brain trauma and blast injuries were flown out of the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility by the squadron. The unit’s Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT), which consists of a doctor, nurse and therapist, provides care for the most critically wounded and has treated 10 service members since Jan. 1.

“We are basically a mobile intensive care unit,” said Master Sgt. Illeana, a 379th EAES respiratory therapist from Maryland. “We have everything we need to give people the most definitive patient care, just like they would receive in an ICU at a hospital.”

This mobile ICU consists of a five-member AE crew, a CCATT and about 1,000 pounds of equipment and supplies, including ventilators, medication, cardiac monitors and bandages. A team of medics configure an aircraft, usually a C-17 Globemaster III or C-130 Hercules, to serve as a specific mission’s ICU.

Once the aircraft is configured to support the AE mission, the AE crew loads the equipment into the aircraft and prepares to receive patients.

“Our basic aeromedical crew is able to provide outpatient and medical-surgical inpatient services to the people we transport,” said Lt. Col. Russel, the 379th EAES commander. “We add specialty care teams to this basic complement to enhance in-flight capabilities. Our critical care air transport teams provide intensive care treatment such as advanced ventilation management, trauma resuscitation, medical stabilization and other therapies typically found in any hospital ICU.”

Illeana said being a part of the CCATT is very rewarding.

“For me, it’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever done,” she said. “Bringing our warriors back to their families and loved ones; being a part of that is very special.”

Illeana has been a respiratory therapist for nine years and is currently serving on her third deployment, the first as an AE crew member. On her first AE mission to Afghanistan she helped evacuate three Soldiers wounded by an explosion.

“When we arrived to pick up the Soldiers,” Illeana said, “the Soldiers and their comrades were so happy. They knew they were getting help, they had hope they would see one another again and they never doubted that.”

Caring for service members in what is likely their worst moments is a challenging and humbling experience, said Capt. Heather, a 379th EAES flight nurse from New York, who has flown on about 50 AE missions.

“On my last deployment to Afghanistan, we were called out on an urgent mission after a bombing,” she said. “One Soldier couldn’t see and he knew his supervisor, who was also wounded in the blast, was on the plane.

“We cared for him and kept him informed of everything that was going on, provided him with pain medicine and all he wanted was for someone to hold his hand,” she continued. “He couldn’t see anything and didn’t know what was going on, so I held his hand for about five hours during the flight to Germany.”

Saving lives and returning America’s warriors to their families is the reason many AE professionals serve.

“That’s why we do this,” said Lt. Col. Patrick, a 379th EAES nurse. “It’s hard to put into words. We often look back on our missions and reflect on what we did. What we think about the most is, because of what we did, someone will get to go home and see his or her family.”

Before deploying to Al Udeid Air Base, Patrick participated in an air show at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. During the event, he manned a CCATT display when two service members, both amputees, visited him.

“One of them was carrying his daughter with his prosthetic arm,” Patrick said. “I didn’t know him, but someone else took care of him and he was able to come back and be there for his little girl. How much better does it get?”

Editor’s note: Last names were removed due to security concerns.

Training squadron ‘doubles down’ in effort to grow RPA pilot ranks

Training squadron ‘doubles down’ in effort to grow RPA pilot ranksJOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS)

The 558th Flying Training Squadron ramped up efforts to double the remotely piloted aircraft pilot ranks with the start of its first 24-person class Jan. 11 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

The larger class sizes are part of ongoing initiative announced by the Air Force in 2015 to increase the number of career RPA pilots across the service.

“The RPA community as a whole is experiencing manpower issues and there is a need to train more pilots to help ease the overall strain on the career field,” said Lt. Col. John Stallworth, the 558th FTS commander. “We have worked diligently since last April to ensure we can meet the increased demand for trained ‘18X’ pilots.”

Previously, RPA pilot training classes started with 12 students; by May, each will begin with 24 students. With 16 projected classes starting each fiscal year, the number of pilots trained annually will jump from 192 up to 384.

One of the big challenges for the unit, which has been the sole source of RPA pilot training in the Air Force since January 2011, during the transition will be increasing overall production by 71 percent during fiscal 16, while at the same time, creating the permanent student production pipeline to be at full operational capability for fiscal 2017, said Lt. Col. Jason Thompson, the 558th FTS director of operations.

The 558th FTS graduated 191 student pilots in fiscal 2015 and are projected to graduate 290 in fiscal 2016.

“Overall production counts not just students, but also includes the additional instructors needed to handle the increased load,” Thompson said. “There is a considerable amount of moving pieces in regards to getting both the students, as well as the instructors, ready to make this mission a reality.”

To help meet the increased student demands, Stallworth said the unit has hired roughly half of the 42 new instructor billets put on the books, which will see the squadron grow from 62 instructors to 104 over the next few months.

“Our instructor cadre will be roughly 50 percent military and 50 percent civilian,” Stallworth said. “The (instructors) are doing a great job being flexible during this time of growth; they’ve done everything we have asked and more throughout this process.”

To aid in creating the permanent production stream of RPA pilots, the inside of the 558th FTS building is undergoing a major renovation project.

“The renovations include additional simulator rooms, plus additional classroom and office space,” said Maj. Michawn, a 558th FTS RPA flight instructor and officer in charge of the renovations. “Through our detailed planning with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, the 502nd Civil Engineering Squadron and the contractor, we have mitigated most of the potential impacts to the students or their training time.”

The renovations, costing approximately $1.15 million, started Jan. 18 and are expected to be complete by early July, said Michawn, while noting any delays or deviations to the current plan have the potential to reduce RPA student production capacity.

After the renovations are complete, students will be split into six flight rooms vice the old three, with a typical class of 24 being broke into two halves of 12, Stallworth said. While half the class is working on academics, the other half will be training on the simulators, minimizing down time to the maximum extent possible and at the same time, keeping instructor workloads manageable.

Despite the renovations, the transition to larger class sizes wouldn’t work without the dedicated work of the 558th FTS unit schedulers.

“Our scheduling team has been absolutely critical to making this ‘plus-up’ happen,” Stallworth said. “Between academics and making sure everyone gets their ‘sim’ time in, we haven’t had any major hiccups and this is primarily due to their efforts in thinking through the problems and coming up with flexible solutions.”

Partnering with the 502nd Trainer Development Squadron at Randolph to meet the need for more simulators, work is currently underway to design and build six new instrument simulators, as well as creating hardware and software upgrades to be made to 10 existing simulators to meet the improved training capabilities of the six new simulators, Stallworth said.

The simulators are linked together so students have the opportunity to practice instrument flying procedures in a dynamic airspace environment similar to what they will encounter during real-world flight operations.

“The T-6A-like simulators being developed with the (502nd TDS) will be state of the art and we appreciate the efforts of the entire trainer development team in helping make this happen,” Stallworth said.

Another key element in ensuring mission success is the teamwork that has been on display between all the Joint Base San Antonio mission partners involved in the project, with crucial support coming from the 502nd Air Base Wing’s communications and contracting squadrons.

“The 502nd ABW has been tremendous in supporting the needs of our training mission,” Michawn said. “There have been a few challenges along the way, but all the players are focused on getting the mission done.”

(Editor’s note: In accordance with current Air Force guidance, the last names of the RPA operators in this story have been omitted due to operational security constraints.)

James applauds DOD Force of the Future initiatives

James applauds DOD Force of the Future initiativesWASHINGTON (AFNS)

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James declared her support of department-wide reforms focused on improving quality of life for military parents, following Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s Jan. 28 announcement on the next round of Force of the Future initiatives.

“I applaud Secretary Carter and welcome these announcements as a positive step forward for our Airmen and their families,” James said.

James has been vocal about her support for extending maternity leave, and the importance of a comprehensive update to the Air Force’s current policy, including paternity leave reform as well.

“This change places our Air Force in the top tier of organizations that offer 12 weeks maternity leave to new mothers,” James said. “The department will also be introducing legislation to increase paternity leave to 14 days across the total force.”

The maternity benefit will be offered to the over 200,000 women in uniform today, who comprise 14.8 percent of enlisted personnel and 17.4 percent of the officer corps in the Defense Department.

Also included in the comprehensive package of family benefits are the following: expansion of adoption leave; extending childhood development center hours to a 14-hour minimum; modifying or installing mother rooms at each instillation; an examination of additional options for child care; allowing service members to postpone a permanent change of station in certain instances where it is in the best interests of the family; and covering the cost of egg and sperm cryopreservation for active-duty service members.

“This is the right thing to do,” James said. “This groundbreaking policy carefully balances our priority focus on mission effectiveness with ongoing efforts to attract and retain talent in a changing workforce.”

James said more details, including effective dates, will be made available as the services begin planning for implementation.

For more information on the next round of Force of the Future initiatives click here.

AF Selective Re-enlistment Bonus program list triples

AF Selective Re-enlistment Bonus program list triplesWASHINGTON (AFNS)

Air Force officials released details on the fiscal year 2016 Selective Re-enlistment Bonus program Feb. 1. This year’s program, consisting of 117 Air Force specialties eligible to receive bonuses, is a substantial increase from the previous year’s program where 40 Air Force specialty codes were eligible.

The program’s expansion coincides with Air Force plans to grow the force to meet mission demands in the face of changing geopolitical situations, and to address key gaps in nuclear, maintenance, cyber, intelligence, remotely piloted aircraft and support career fields through fiscal 2017.

According to Col. Robert Romer, the chief of military force policy for the Air Force, the criteria used to determine career fields eligible for re-enlistment bonuses includes current and projected manning levels, re-enlistment trends, career field force structure changes, career field stress levels, and the cost levels associated with training new Airmen.

“This year’s SRB list increased by nearly threefold as we focused on retaining key experience while continuing our deliberate plan to grow our force,” Romer said. “We are increasing our accessions and training pipeline to support the increased growth, but these new enlistees won’t be seasoned for some time. Retaining the experience we have is critical to our success in reaching target end strength.”

All AFSC bonus changes are effective Feb. 1, 2016.

For more information, contact the local military personnel flight re-enlistment section.

The fiscal 2016 list is available on myPers with secured access here.

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