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

Air Force 101: Talks aim to improve legislation for AF missions

Air Force 101: Talks aim to improve legislation for AF missionsWASHINGTON (AFNS)

A day after the Air Force flew a B-52 Stratofortress over South Korea in the wake of their northern neighbor’s nuclear bomb test, Air Force officers discussed the service’s nuclear capabilities with policymakers Jan. 11.

The hour-long discussion, part of an ongoing series, touched on North Korea’s Jan. 6 test and why the Air Force responded with a show of force. It also delved further into the U.S. military’s triad system, which deters a nuclear attack using strategic bombers, missile silos and submarines.

Organized by the Air Force Legislative Liaison Office at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, the Air Force 101 sessions inform policymakers on various topics.

“We don’t write policy. That’s not our job,” said Maj. Justin Ballinger, a legislative liaison. “What we do is educate how the policy and legislation affects us, and what we can do with what is given to us.”

The bi-monthly sessions cover “airpower from the ground up” and hot topics such as a briefing on cyber security that had officers talk about policies related to Air Force missions.

“They spoke on the things that the current legislation allows us to do and some of the things that we’re handcuffed with,” Ballinger said.

The sessions by the liaison office, which Ballinger described as an arm of the executive branch, also save time and energy to highlight Air Force matters.

“The more folks we can reach out to and educate, the better returns we get when it comes to responsiveness for policy and other issues,” he said.

At the latest session, three Air Force officers spoke to about 60 policymakers on nuclear operations an issue recently thrusted into the spotlight.

“It gives us an opportunity to build that initial foundation for a lot of them,” said Maj. Nathan Perry, the chief of airborne capabilities for Air Staff 10 that handles the service’s nuclear mission. “If a handful of them left this door smarter than they were when they walked in on nuclear deterrence, then mission accomplished.”

To Perry, who has flown B-2 Spirits, the session was a unique chance for him and others to communicate in person with policymakers who may alter the future of nuclear operations one day.

“For us to be able to say that we are credible and reliable all the time,” he said of nuclear deterrence, “we have to be able to correspond about it, talk about it and prove it.”

Allowing Capitol Hill staffers to interact with Airmen who’ve had prior experience on a specific issue may also indirectly shape new policy.

“Being over here talking and sharing our experience, we absolutely influence the process,” said Maj. Stephen Bonin, a senior emergency actions officer with the National Military Command Center who once served as a missile maintainer.

The goal of the sessions is to improve the decision making of policymakers.

“I can’t tell you what the composition of the triad should be or how many weapons we should have,” Bonin said, “but I can tell you all the information so you can make an informed decision.”

Eric Mattson, a Hill staffer who works for U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer of Washington, said the session helped expand his knowledge on nuclear capabilities.

“As I work here there may be a time when I will work with this kind of policy,” Mattson said. “I think it’s important for us as policymakers to know what can be done better.”

One aspect that the Air Force is pushing to modernize is its aging aircraft, of which many are part of the triad system. In October, Air Force officials awarded a multibillion-dollar contract to build 100 long range strike bombers to replace legacy bombers, such as B-52s that are more than 50 years old.

Bombers play a critical role in nuclear deterrence since they’re easily visible, unlike submarines or intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The low-level flyover of the B-52 and fighter aircraft only a few hours from the demilitarized zone of the Korean Peninsula was a prime example.

“That’s what the bomber portion gives you,” Perry said. “It allows the whole world to see that we’re getting it done. It’s definitely a game of chess and it takes a lot of work.”

How the Air Force will evolve and continue its nuclear deterrence mission will be up to those making legislation.

“You need to take a serious look at what is the strategic narrative that we want to push for some of these capabilities,” Perry told the policymakers. “Please help us use our capabilities to do what we need to do.”

Attaches use C-12 to support humanitarian efforts in Maldives

Attaches use C-12 to support humanitarian efforts in MaldivesBANGKOK (AFNS)

Members of the Bangkok Defense Attach Office recently completed a humanitarian mission to the Maldives.

Working with DAO Colombo, the Colombo U.S. Embassy political office and the Special Operations Command-Pacific, the Bangkok DAO delivered medical supplies and books to some of the more remote atolls in the Maldives. The Bangkok and Colombo attach s also met with local leaders and the Maldivian National Defense Force leadership.

“This was a great chance to use the C-12 (Huron) to access one of the more remote islands and deliver aid directly to those in need,” said Capt. Mike Reed, the Colombo U.S. Embassy Civil Military Support Element chief. “Despite what many westerners might consider primitive conditions, the locals are extremely welcoming and hospitable.”

“The Maldivian locals opened their lives to us without question; we found it professionally and personally rewarding to engage both the local villagers and the MNDF,” said Jacob English, a Colombo DAO defense liaison officer.

The C-12 crew from Bangkok agreed missions like this one exemplify the power of joint and interagency effort on the ground during “phase zero” operations. Phase zero refers to the concept of taking coordinated action in peacetime to affect the strategic environment. Long-term partnerships are built with continual effort and presence. Often, remote locations like the Maldivian atolls are difficult places to advance U.S. interests, but it is in these remote locations where advancement of those interests is most critical.

“The power of the Defense Attach Service C-12 to enable synergy between the DAS, SOCPAC, and Department of State is unparalleled in austere situations like the Maldives or parts of Africa, and the Air Force and Navy team at DAO Bangkok is proud to be a part of that force multiplier,” said Col. Dave Diehl, a C-12 pilot and Bangkok air attach .

Beyond the critical phase zero operations, the flying was not exactly boring either. The Huron is specifically used by the attach service to access locations where commercial service is limited or not available. The C-12 in Bangkok is always in high demand to provide support to other DAOs in the region, and has been used in Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar and Cambodia.

During this visit, the Huron provided the means to transport humanitarian supplies which not only helped local Maldivians in immediate need, but opened many doors to local leaders and defense officials. By the end of the mission the C-12 crew was able to land at six different Maldivian airports, including two never before visited by U.S. military aircraft.

“It was both fun and rewarding for the crew making it all happen,” Diehl said. “The pilots leaned heavily on their C-130 (Hercules) experience on the short fields and Master Sgt. Brian Roberts used all his skills acquired as a former crew chief to help with minor maintenance and cargo loading, all critical to mission accomplishment.”

The mission overall was deemed a great success by SOCPAC and the embassy in Colombo. The attach s were thanked and invited back with the C-12 as soon as possible. The DAO Bangkok crew is already planning the next mission and should use lessons learned on this flight to increase efficiency on the next go-around both in the Maldives and as they support other regional partners.

“Executing these missions both regionally and within Thailand showcases the United States as a partner who cares, and it is defense attach s and the DAS C-12s at the forefront of that effort,” Diehl said.

Disbrow confirmed as under secretary of the Air Force

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solar Ready Vets program to begin first class at Hill AFB

Solar Ready Vets program to begin first class at Hill AFBHILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AFNS)

The Solar Ready Vets program announced by President Barack Obama during a visit to Hill Air Force Base in April 2015 will begin training the first class of 24 veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce.

The training, which begins Feb. 1, is being provided by Salt Lake Community College in partnership with the Department of Energy, which oversees the initiative. Some of the training will take place in Hill classrooms and some will be online “self-driven” learning.

“We’ve got to be relentless in our work to grow the economy and create good jobs,” Obama said during his visit. “I think everybody here at Hill understands that one of the most important aspects of national security is strong economic security.”

Hill was chosen to be part of the program based on the number of exiting military personnel from the installation, the strength of the surrounding solar market and the capacity of nearby training institutions.

The base acquires 20 percent or more of its overall energy from renewable energy sources. The base’s solar array installation was completed in June 2009, making it Utah’s largest ground-mounted photovoltaic system at the time.

“We take pride in the energy initiatives we have underway here,” said Col. Ron Jolly, the 75th Air Base Wing installation commander.

Obama said the new program is one of many steps to help nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get a job.

Hill is the fourth base to implement the program, which is already underway at Camp Pendleton, California; Fort Carson, Colorado; and Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia; and has already delivered 150 military veterans ready-to-begin careers in the solar energy career field, one of the fastest growing job sectors in the country.

While veterans are not guaranteed a job, the DOE reports that all of the participating veterans have been extended job offers from renewable energy companies participating in the initiative. Starting salaries for these types of positions average $20 to $24 per hour. The program prepares veterans to be strong candidates for a wide range of solar energy careers, including management, photovoltaic installation, sales and technical positions.

According to the DOE, the Defense Department is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government. So, to meet new goals set out in an executive order signed March 19, 2015, for the federal government to reduce emissions, some of the Solar Ready Vets graduates may return to bases, helping build solar arrays that improve energy security.

The program is tied to the DOD’s SkillBridge initiative, a program designed to equip active-duty military personnel within six months of moving to veteran status with skills to enter the civilian workforce.

The DOE is working with the DOD to expand Solar Ready Vets to a total of 10 military bases by late spring 2016.

“We have eight currently registered with more Airmen expressing interest every day. Many are currently working through the application process,” said Capt. Joshua Tate, the deputy director of the 75th Force Support Squadron.

The classes are paid for by the DOE during the startup phase and funding for continuing classes can be paid for by the members’ GI Bill benefits, Tate said.

AF stands up Chief Master Sergeant Academy

AF stands up Chief Master Sergeant AcademyMAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS)

The Chief Master Sergeant Academy faculty at Maxwell Air Force Base is preparing for the first class of students in April. The academy’s activation re-establishes the fourth level of enlisted professional military education and marks the first time the Air Force has had a stand-alone faculty and facility dedicated to the development of its top enlisted grade.

The academy replaces the eight-day legacy, in-resident Chief Leadership Course that was closed in 2011 after seven years due to budget cuts, and the subsequent facilitated distance learning course that was discontinued after a one-year test.

“The new academy will deliver dynamic curriculum at a more executive level,” said Chief Master Sgt. David Scott, the academy’s first commandant. “We will teach to the joint and Air Force institutional competencies and ensure our chiefs are a ‘full-up round’ and ready to serve at higher levels of leadership.”

The academy fills the education void for enlisted members between the Air Force Senior NCO Academy and those assuming the rank of chief master sergeant, he said.

Though the Air Force SNCOA fulfills the necessity for its graduates to meet appropriate Air Force and joint institutional competency requirements, a similar course was needed for chief master sergeants to meet their rank-appropriate requirements.

The academy’s curriculum is designed to bridge students’ perspectives from the operational to the strategic level and is broken into five modules: educational theories; national security; strategic leadership; synergized engagement, including strategic thinking, communication and negotiations; and integrated development.

“The creation of this academy speaks to the tremendous impact and responsibilities of our chief master sergeants, providing our new chiefs the opportunity to reflect and think deeply about leading and cultivating a professional culture in the Air Force,” said Col. Ed Thomas, the Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education commander. “It’s an in-depth, monthlong course that will drill in on today’s challenges, the skills required as airpower leaders and how to think critically and strategically as these leaders assist commanders in solving the problems we face today.”

A 32-hour prerequisite consisting of read-ahead material and general administrative tasks must be completed before students attend the course in residence. Students will receive access to Air University’s learning management system 30 days before attending the academy, which is housed in Kisling Hall on Maxwell’s Gunter Annex.

The first of three beta classes is scheduled to begin in early April, spanning 20 academic days with a mix of 48 total force chief master sergeant-selects and current chief master sergeants. The Air Force Personnel Center, along with its Air Reserve Component counterparts, has begun scheduling students for the class based on promotion sequence number. The Air Force Chiefs’ Group will select and schedule current chief master sergeants.

The two other beta classes are scheduled for June and August, each with 72 total force students, before the academy begins full production in November, concurrent with the 2016 E-9 promotion release.

Starting with the November class, the academy will conduct seven classes annually, educating 750 total force students per year (500 active-duty and 250 Air Reserve component members). Each class will be broken into nine seminars, each with 12 students.

AF presents fiscal year 2017 budget

AF presents fiscal year 2017 budgetWASHINGTON (AFNS)

The Air Force presented its fiscal year 2017 president’s budget request Feb. 9 following the Defense Department and sister services’ budget briefings.

Maj. Gen. Jim Martin, the Air Force budget director, presented the service’s budget request and said the fiscal 2017 budget request supports the defense strategy, resources combatant commander requirements, continues readiness recovery from fiscal 2016, but still reflects the many tough choices the service had to make to live within the limits of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act.

The Air Force requested a top-line budget of $120.4 billion in Air Force-controlled funding that continues to take care of people, strike the right balance between readiness and modernization, and make every dollar count.

Martin said the temporary relief provided by the BBA allows the service to restore end-strength to recover some critical skill sets; continue the top three modernization programs, but at reduced rates for the F-35; sustain capacity to meet combatant commanders’ most urgent needs and readiness for today’s fight; and resource strategic assets in nuclear, space, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission areas.

The budget supports a total force end strength of 492,000 personnel and that the service will continue to assess capability gaps and grow end-strength to meet that demand where they exist, he said.

To help with that effort, this budget supports a 1.6 percent pay raise for active-duty and civilian personnel; adds approximately 100 basic training and tech training instructors, and supports approximately 2,100 accessions above fiscal 2016 levels; increases Officer Training School accessions to a maximum capacity of approximately 1,100 candidates; implements the training and integration of enlisted remotely piloted aircraft pilots into the RQ-4 Global Hawk community; and offers a skills retention bonus for critical career fields such as intelligence, cyber, maintenance and battlefield Airmen.

For readiness, this budget request funds flying hours to executable levels and weapons system sustainment to near capacity. It ensures advance weapons schools and combat exercises like Red Flag and Green Flag are fully funded to help in a long-term effort to restore full-spectrum readiness; supports 60 RPA combat lines while sustaining critical space programs; and continues to establish 39 cyber teams and trains these cyber Airmen to meet today’s and tomorrow’s threats.

The fiscal 2017 procurement budget preserves top modernization programs, sustains our space procurement strategy, invests in the nuclear enterprise, and funds munitions to near capacity to support ongoing operations and to start replenishing current inventories, Martin said.

“Unfortunately, in this budget, we had to sacrifice modernization for current readiness, and, as a result, were forced to delay five F-35s, some fourth-generation modifications, and delay completion of the recapitalization effort of the C-130H in fiscal 2017,” he said.

The budget supports the goal of maintaining assured access to space and viability in contested and increasingly congested environments by continuing the block buys of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency System satellite vehicles 5 and 6 and Space Based Infrared System 5 and 6; and funding five Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle launch services, three of which are competitive launch opportunities.

“We appreciate the relief BBA gives, but tough choices remained, leaving critical capability, capacity and readiness gaps,” Martin said. “Budget stability and the repeal of BCA limits are necessary for the Air Force to remain true to its long-term strategy and to meet all the demands we are being asked to meet, both today and in the future.”

For more information about the Air Force’s fiscal 2017 budget request, click here.

IRS Form 1095 available on myPay

IRS Form 1095 available on myPayWASHINGTON (AFNS)

All active-duty, Guard, Reserve, retiree and civilian Airmen will need proof of health care coverage when filing their federal tax returns for 2015.

“This is the first year that Affordable Care Act requires health care validation for filing their taxes and Airmen need this information,” said Robert W. Burke, the Air Force Accounting and Finance Office director, finance division.

Under the ACA, U.S. citizens and legal residents are required to obtain and maintain a minimum standard of health care insurance, called minimum essential coverage. The proof of minimum essential coverage will be provided by the Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service Form 1095. TRICARE is one of many health providers qualifying for this coverage.

In January 2016, Defense Finance and Accounting Service is required to provide each employee with the IRS Form 1095 for employment during 2015. A hard copy form is scheduled to be mailed to each employee and the form will also be available electronically through myPay under the taxes section.

“The Air Force would like to stress the importance for Airmen to elect to receive the form electronic only,” Burke continued. “This action will save the Air Force $200,000 and cause no environmental impact.”

Additional information about the impact of the ACA can be found here.

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