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First Partner Nation Silver Flag concludes at Andersen AFB

First Partner Nation Silver Flag concludes at Andersen AFBANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNS)

After spending more than a week sharing civil engineering techniques, 54 engineers from the U.S. Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force, South Korean air force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force concluded the Partner Nation Silver Flag exercise Feb. 19 at Andersen Air Force Base.

The event was the first time partner nations were presented the opportunity to travel to Guam to trade engineering practices with each other and the U.S. Air Force. Previously, Silver Flag primarily consisted of U.S. Airmen, ranging from 120-130 trainees.

“This is the first Partner Nation Silver Flag that we have done; that’s what makes this so special,” said Master Sgt. Michael English, the 554th RED HORSE Squadron acting Silver Flag flight superintendent. “We were able to bring four of our closest allies and partners together to train and build the partnerships we need in the event that we need to call on each other for battle.”

Silver Flag is a U.S. Pacific Command multilateral subject matter expert exchange led by engineers from the 554th RED HORSE Squadron. The exercise is designed to build partnerships and promote interoperability through the equitable exchange of civil engineer related information.

The contingency environment training focused on bare-base bed down, sustainment operations and recovery after attack.

After the kickoff of Partner Nation Silver Flag, students divided into groups based on their specialties, which included command and control, electrical, power production, heavy repair and emergency management.

As the week progressed, engineers trained on properly performing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear procedures and set up a mobile aircraft arresting system, emergency airfield lighting system and high voltage power generation and distribution systems.

“The training from the (U.S. Air Force) was great, along with working with the JASDF, (South Korean air force) and RSAF and learning their techniques,” said RAAF Cpl. Michael Breen, a plumber. “The camaraderie between all of the nations was fantastic.”

One of the more satisfying parts of the exercise was watching participants who didn’t have CBRN experience, learn it and then turn around and share it with others.

“What surprised me the most was when I found out I was given students who were not disciplined in the career field, (individuals, who) had no background in CBRN operations,” English said. “When we came together at the end of the week, they were very knowledgeable. They were actually teaching some of the command and control student’s techniques that I shared with them. That definitely surprised me, but I was happy to see that.”

For many of the students, this was their first time training with other nations and for some, leaving the country.

“This was my first time going overseas for training, but these opportunities don’t come very often,” said South Korean air force Master Sgt. Park Cheong-hae, an airfield lighting specialist. “Although I was nervous, I was very happy I was able to get this great opportunity for training.”

On the final day of the event, the trainees displayed what they learned throughout the week by conducting one final exercise.

Due to the multiple nations speaking different languages, several translators were selected throughout Pacific Air Forces to alleviate the confusion between languages.

One of the translators was U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Hyojin Kim, a 392nd Intelligence Squadron cryptologic linguist from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, who translated English into both Korean and Japanese for South Korean air force and JASDF students.

“There are many times when there is a communications breakdown because of a language barrier,” Kim said. “Interpreters are very important, because they bridge that gap, allowing seamless communication and understanding between the people.”

With the help from the translators and communication via gestures, the training gradually became smoother for the participants. By the end of the week, some cadre didn’t require translators as much as they did at beginning of the Partner Nation Silver Flag.

More robust US airpower needed, AF leaders tell lawmakers

More robust US airpower needed, AF leaders tell lawmakersWASHINGTON (AFNS)

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and other senior leaders testified before the House Armed Services Committee about readiness and the fiscal year 2017 Air Force budget request Feb. 12.

The panel, which also included Lt. Gen. John Raymond, the deputy chief of staff for operations, and Lt. Gen. John Cooper, the deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering and force protection, testified that with today’s national security challenges, the world needs a strong American joint force. The joint force depends upon Air Force capabilities and requires airpower at the beginning, the middle and the end of every joint operation.

“Since our establishment in 1947, the Air Force remains the world’s first and most agile responder in times of crisis, contingency and conflict,” Goldfein said.

He added that the last 25 years of continuous combat operations and reductions in the total force, combined with budget instability and lower funding, have resulted in one of the smallest, oldest and least ready forces across the full spectrum of operations in Air Force history.

Goldfein also stated the Budget Control Act further degraded readiness while limiting recovery. While the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 provided some readiness recovery and modernization efforts, the Air Force needs permanent relief from BCA with consistent and flexible funding, more manpower and time to recover readiness.

For the past two years, instead of rebuilding readiness for future, high-end conflicts, Airmen have responded to events across the globe leading and in support of the joint force while remaining the world’s greatest Air Force. A return to sequestration would worsen the problem and delay the Air Force goal to return to full-spectrum readiness, Goldfein said

“We are too small and you have seen us trying to build back up capacity so we can do what our nation needs,” Goldfein said.

To improve mission quality, the vice chief of staff said the budget includes a modest upsizing of the total force to address a number of key areas, including critical career fields such as intelligence, cyber, maintenance, and battlefield Airmen. Aircraft maintenance career fields are approximately 4,000 maintainers short. The manpower requested will keep existing aircraft flying at home and abroad.

“We have offered numerous retention incentives to our older maintainers so they will stay and retain that training, that expertise, but we are digging a continuous hole as we go forward,” Cooper said.

According to Goldfein, this budget request prioritizes readiness and modernization over installation support. Today’s Air Force maintains infrastructure that is in an operational excess. There are 500 fewer aircraft now compared to 10 years ago, therefore, a reduction and realignment infrastructure would best support Air Force operational needs by base realignment and closure, he said.

Airmen are educated, innovative, motivated, and willing to ensure the Air Force continues to outwit and outlast opponents and defend the United States from harm, Goldfein said. They assure air superiority so American ground forces can keep their eyes on enemies on the ground rather than concern themselves with enemy airpower overhead.

“This budget request is an investment in the Air Force our nation needs,” Goldfein said. “America expects it; combatant commanders require it; and with your support for this budget request, our Airmen will deliver it.”

AF Safety Center marks 20th anniversary

AF Safety Center marks 20th anniversaryKIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS)

This year the Air Force Safety Center commemorates the organization’s 20th anniversary. Since its designation, the basic mission has remained the same: preserving lives and combat capability through mishap prevention.

Safety was originally designated under the Office of the Inspector General at Norton Air Force Base, California, shortly after the Air Force became a separate department in 1947. In 1992, safety became a separate entity with the creation of the Air Force chief of safety position.

The Air Force Safety Center was activated Jan. 1, 1996, as a result of recommendations accepted from the Blue Ribbon Panel on Aviation in 1995, which consolidated all safety functions at Kirtland AFB.

“As we take a moment to remember our heritage, I encourage all Airmen to join us in our commitment to advancing the safety culture for the Air Force,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Mueller, the Air Force chief of safety and Air Force Safety Center commander. “Safety messages from our past are just as enduring today.

“The lessons we learn will enable the Air Force to safeguard Airmen, protect resources and preserve combat readiness for the future,” Mueller continued.

The safety center develops policy, and provides guidance, education, training and oversight of the Air Force safety and nuclear surety programs to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of safety education and training, risk management, and mishap prevention. These programs cover aviation, occupational and space safety, as well as conventional and nuclear weapons, directed energy, human factors and other emerging technologies. The safety center’s goal is to conserve Air Force resources by eliminating mishaps through proactive hazard identification and risk management consistent with operational requirements.

Over the past 20 years, the safety center has worked hard to reduce the number of preventable mishaps. In a snapshot, the Air Force has incurred an average of 24 Class A aviation mishaps per fiscal year producing a rate of 1.15 Class A’s per 100,000 flight hours for manned aircraft. Those aviation mishaps resulted in an average of 15 fatalities per year. The last five years were below the 20-year average with fiscal 2014 ending with only seven aviation flight Class A’s for a rate of .43 per 100,000 flight hours.

Off-duty ground mishaps continue to be one of the Air Force’s biggest challenges. On-duty ground fatalities averaged five per year, while off-duty ground fatalities reached an average of 55. The Air Force finished fiscal 2014 with three on-duty and 42 off-duty ground fatalities, marking the lowest fatality rate in 10 years. Current efforts to promote a risk management-based safety culture on duty challenge Airmen to be accountable for their actions off duty.

During the past 20 years, weapons safety has developed automated site planning generating more than 20,000 explosive site plans. On the nuclear side, two decades of effort of Independent Nuclear Design Certification and developing and refining the policies and procedures to ensure nuclear surety have continued to strengthen the nuclear enterprise. Weapons safety has also made great strides in the areas of improving radiation safety and the evolving field of directed energy.

Recognizing the growing congestion in space and growing reliance upon its use, the Air Force formalized space safety as a mission operations discipline within the safety center in 2013. In just two years, the Air Force’s space safety accomplishments earned global status with efforts such as standardizing policy across the Defense Department, academia and civil agencies such as NASA. Achievements included cooperative efforts in the development of small satellites, participation in commercial launch mishap investigations, and as a leader in the international community with regard to tracking procedures.

The safety center remains committed to applying lessons learned while identifying new solutions for an ever-expanding array of challenges.

“Our history and heritage are the foundation of what we do and who we are; they enable us to maintain a lasting legacy of excellence,” Mueller said. “The Air Force commitment to sustain a center of safety professionals reinforces the importance of safety to mission accomplishment.”

Pacific partners practice humanitarian assistance during Cope North

Pacific partners practice humanitarian assistance during Cope NorthNORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS (AFNS)

Military members from six nations joined together for a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief deployment throughout the region of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Feb. 14-18.

The deployment is part of Cope North 16, a multilateral exercise, including the U.S. Air Force and air forces from across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Col. Brian Toth, the CN16 lead for the U.S. Air Force, said the HA/DR portion enhances regional capabilities to respond to crises and lays the foundation for the expansion of regional cooperation in the face of real-world contingencies.

“Humanitarian assistance and disaster response is an awesome capability we can provide,” Toth said. “The ability to have our forces train together allows us to understand what each part brings to the response and what we can provide together to provide the aid any country in the region may ask for.

“It demonstrates our commitment to working together with our coalition partner countries across the Pacific,” he continued. “We work well together and provide a strong presence – and we know we can rely on each other in a time of need.”

Members from the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard partnered with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, South Korean air force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and Philippine Air Force reacted to a fictional, yet realistic, disaster scenario that was said to affect the Marianas region.

“What we’re focusing on is interoperability, learning from one another how to better respond to disaster situations,” said Sharon Rohde, the CN16 HA/DR lead planner. “It’s about overcoming not only language barriers but differences to how we do business, whether that’s regulatory in nature or based on our understanding of the situation. We open up communication and derive lessons learned to be better prepared in response to disaster.”

The exercise scenario posed a severe impact from a typhoon traversing between the islands of Tinian and Rota, prompting Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to issue a simulated request for immediate assistance to Guam’s neighboring islands. During the HA/DR response, Guam acted as the hub for all aid efforts. From Guam, crews traveled to two deployed operation centers on “spoke” locations on Rota and Tinian.

Upon notification of the emergency, coalition units responded in a phased approach based on real-world response plans by deploying Royal Australian Air Force combat controllers and Andersen AFB’s 36th Contingency Response Group teams to the islands to survey airfield conditions and establish security for incoming aid flights.

The notional disaster tested the main training objectives of airfield assessment team insertion and substandard airfield operation. Bringing together Airmen from varying Air Force specialties, multilateral contingency teams demonstrated their ability to assess and operate previously inaccessible airfields within 12 hours of notification.

“Contingency response of this type is one of our major functions,” said Lt. Col. Glenn Rineheart, the 36th Mobility Response Squadron commander and exercise mission commander on Rota. “Cope North provides the ability for our Airmen to respond to a foreign location and operate only with those assets which were brought in order to surmount challenges with equipment and personnel and the environment. There is a lot to be gained from operating away from main base.”

After declaring the airfields as safe, contingency teams provided continued communications and aerial port support to allow aircrews to deliver aid. Within hours of the airfield opening, coalition teams began set up of an expeditionary medical support health response team mobile hospital, which stands ready on Guam to deploy to real-world disasters.

Expeditionary medical teams deploy to save lives

From emergency resuscitation to life-preserving surgery, the teams are well-equipped and trained to handle a large variety of possible ailments, yet the priority for medics and nurses lies with triage and initial stabilization of patients.

“The EMEDS-HRT is the first-line response package in the region,” said Staff Sgt. Carlos Rance, a 36th Medical Group medical logistics contracting officer. “We set up the ER tent first, and within a 12-hour period we have a fully operational medical facility that allows our teams to treat more than 300 patients. During this exercise we get the opportunity to not only complete a full setup, from the box up, but doctors and medics also get valuable hands-on experience on what it’s like to operate exclusive with the equipment we carry.”

Receiving a steady stream of typhoon victims who were hypothetically transported from Tinian for medical care, medical technicians and military doctors practiced real-time care procedures on simulated injuries ranging from burn wounds and open fractures to psychological distress and child delivery.

Focused on the patient

When patient condition required a higher echelon of care, a team or flight nurses and medical administrators ensured expedient aeromedical evacuation to a location with a fully functioning hospital.

“The focus of this whole exercise is the patient,” said Australian Flight Lt. Emma J. Dingle, a Royal Australian Air Force flight nurse and CN16 aeromedical evacuation liaison. “It is really important for us to understand how each country functions, so that when we do have to come together for joint disaster responses, we can do it smoothly and effectively and have the best outcome for the people who are in need of help.”

The aeromedical evacuation exercises culminated with a joint rescue event Feb. 17. Coalition search and rescue aviators located simulated downed aircrew in open waters off the coast of Guam and performed a subsequent rotary wing evacuation by U.S. Navy’s Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25.

Planning success through past lessons learned

For the first time, international HA/DR mission planners gathered during a two-day subject matter exchange and tabletop exercise before kickoff. Airmen from three nations shared their experiences, failures and successes during responses as far ranging as the 2011 tsunami in Japan and the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal.

“This year we added a tabletop exercise, which allowed participants to collaborate before exercising,” Rhode said. “This facilitated discussion about actual disasters that occurred in the Pacific and to hear that firsthand experience from somebody who was actually there and could speak to specific issues that occurred.”

Experts also discussed the integration with civilian agencies that would take important roles in real disaster response situations, such as international civic aviation authorities and USAID coordinators.

“Typically the civilian response agencies can handle most emergencies, even large once,” said Scott Aronson, the senior USAID humanitarian assistance adviser to U.S. Pacific Command. “But the U.S. military has unique abilities that either no one else has or nobody can deploy as quickly. We know, for instance, the CRGs capabilities during an HA/DR event are likely one of the unique abilities we might call on.

“As the lead federal agency for disaster response, we participated to make sure the exercise is realistic from our perspective and to have that face-to-face time with the people and agencies we will see in the field,” Aronson continued. “The biggest challenge is understanding each other’s capabilities and Cope North allows both sides to see what the other brings to the table and how those things work together. Maintaining those relationships is essential.”

Following the tabletop exchange, the teams practiced multinational interoperability during the stressful team building required during mission planning.

“The planning group this year was incredible to see,” said Royal Australian Air Force Squadron Leader Chris O’Byrne, the Australian HA/DR scenario planning lead and exercise mission commander on Tinian. “When you see service members come together and realize that they’re talking about the same thing, while calling it by a different name, and we notice that all the time; it’s an amazing thing to see.”

International interest rises

Because of the resounding successes of HA/DR exercises in the past, an increased number of medical subject matter experts from Bangladesh, Canada, India, Indonesia, Malasia and Thailand visited the HA/DR portion as observers this year to witness operations firsthand and gather information on how to improve or establish their own contingency programs.

“Natural disasters are the ‘when’ not the ‘if’ of contingency scenarios and HA/DR is becoming more and more important and recognized as a critical capability, which is why our partner nations have sent their observers to the tabletop and field training exercises,” O’Byrne said. “During the conduct of the field training, the observers saw the U.S.-led CRG in Rota and the Australian Contingency Response Squadron on Tinian, which will allow them to see how different agencies would react.”

Success in numbers and increased interoperability

Through effective use of its hub-and-spoke relief plan, the coalition teams successfully evacuated approximately 40 patients, moving more than 180 passengers, conducting 30 airdrops and transporting more than 438,600 pounds of cargo from island to island, Rhode said.

“Each year, this exercise has been getting more advanced,” she said. “We are learning more about what types of cargo can go on what types of aircraft or what type of communication capability each country uses. We learn it in the exercise and then when things really kick off, we are not starting from square one. We’re working in the interest of saving lives and no one country can do it all themselves, so it’s a lot easier to get on board and figure out the problem together.”

Currently ongoing, this year marks the 87th iteration of exercise Cope North, which includes a long-standing, multinational HA/DR event designed to increase interoperability and develop a synergistic disaster response capability between the U.S. Air Force, Japan Air-Self Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force. The second half of Cope North will shift the focus to air combat training, which will include air-to-air and air-to-ground combat and large force employment training.

Vice chief visits Academy, discusses commitment, success

Vice chief visits Academy, discusses commitment, successU.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS)

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein visited the U.S. Air Force Academy Jan. 27 to meet Airmen and cadets, discuss the value of commitment to a higher cause, and how the Air Force will continue to excel.

In two large group sessions, Goldfein, a 1983 Academy graduate, told his audiences of total force Airmen that their special skillsets will always be in high demand.

“We have ways of thinking about our future enterprise as a force that have yet to be conceptualized,” he said. “Our Air Force is too small, too old and slightly out of balance for what the nation needs, but there is also a trifecta of opportunity to lead combined operations and joint warfare for the next decade. We have far more opportunities than challenges.”

This trifecta includes the defense secretary defining China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremism as the nation’s operational challenges. It also includes the Air Force Strategic Master Plan and Air Force Future Operating Concept.

“Our future operating concept is perfectly aligned with the Department of Defense Third Offset Strategy and central to what the Air Force provides our nation,” Goldfein said.

The general also emphasized the role Airmen and cadets have in keeping the Air Force great. He said the most significant lesson he learned as a young man was the importance of commitment to a greater purpose.

During his early cadet days, an air officer commander gave Goldfein a chance to alter his path, a test program that allowed some cadets to leave the Academy with the option of returning the following year.

After leaving the Academy, the general spent a year without direction, biking his way across the U.S. He said the kindness he was shown by strangers during his trek made him understand how special his country is and what an honor it is to protect it. Renewed, he returned to the Academy.

“I learned what it means to commit to something and I rediscovered the Academy,” he said. “A place I once viewed as a challenge became an environment full of opportunities.”

Cadet 1st Class Kristov George, the Cadet Wing commander, said the 4,000-member wing was encouraged by Goldfein’s story.

“His words are inspiring to any cadet who finds themselves in the ‘middle of the pack,”‘ he said. “It’s pretty motivational to receive a firsthand account from someone who took the Academy for granted initially, then eventually turned it around for the better. Gen. Goldfein has proved that as long as you have the will and work ethic, there’s always a way to achieve your goals.”

Mildenhall KC-135s support French operation

Mildenhall KC-135s support French operationRAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS)

Three KC-135 Stratotankers, along with 50 Airmen from the 100th Air Refueling Wing at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, temporarily deployed to Istres-Le Tube Air Base, France, in support of Operation Juniper Micron.

The U.S. has been supporting the French government in Operation Juniper Micron at their request since 2013, providing air refueling and airlift support of French operations in Mali and North Africa.

Since December 2015 alone, the 100th ARW has flown more than 750 sorties, refueled more than 2,900 French aircraft, and off-loaded nearly 28 million pounds of fuel while supporting French operations.

The strategic decision to temporarily deploy the KC-135s to Istres is the result of the continual evaluation of how to best support French ally forces in the air and on the ground.

The long-standing relationship between the U.S. and France enables operational success by allowing a forward-based presence of U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa assets and the ability to move forward quickly in support of French operations.

Bagram’s ‘Dr. Frankenstein’ finds sweet release in expeditionary confections

Bagram’s ‘Dr. Frankenstein’ finds sweet release in expeditionary confectionsBAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS)

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

He is the Dr. Frankenstein of expeditionary treat making, whipping up delicious concoctions out of care package candy bars and whatever else he can dig up. His laboratory is a tiny office, and his only tools are a little microwave and a mini fridge.

Yet, people don’t run terrified from his newest monster everyone wants a piece.

The story of deployed culinary experimentation began for Dan Johnson, the 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Group contract augmentation program manager, at Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan, in 2012. There, he had a coworker from Trinidad who specialized in making unique chocolate treats from whom he learned the tricks of the trade.

“All of what I do is in an expeditionary environment, and that surprises people,” Johnson said. “They think there is no way that I made this over here. But it’s all done in a microwave and a mini fridge in my office. It’s truly Dan’s Gourmet Expeditionary Chocolates.”

This hobby has been his creative outlet for four years in Afghanistan. He makes a batch every month or so to break up the monotony of deployed life, because as Johnson jokes, “It prolongs the inevitable descent into madness that results from writing government contracts every day.”

So where does Johnson find all the ingredients to complete the recipes he has designed? Care packages mailed from family and friends back home.

“People come to me all the time with things they get from their care packages,” Johnson explained. “I have had people bring me Twix and Twinkies, and so I came up with something out of that. Just the other day, someone brought in a bag of PayDays they got in the mail and asked if I could make something. I think I am going to mix it with a chocolate mousse; you can’t go wrong with that.”

While Victor Frankenstein only made a couple monsters, Johnson makes about 60 to 80 culinary confections per batch to distribute throughout the support group. After the batch is served to his adoring fans, he keeps one of each new specimen for himself. However, it is not to eat. Johnson carefully cuts apart the snack, takes photos of it, and transcribes meticulous notes of how it was made. All of this helps him pass on his knowledge to others who want to mimic his recipes.

Without an assistant, like Igor, to train, Johnson takes time out of his day to teach others how to make his concoctions. He has a passion teaching others to share in his experiences.

“I have always wanted to make candy but never had the opportunity to learn,” said Tech. Sgt. Felicia Smith, a 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron executive assistant. “When we first met, he was bringing in a batch of his newest treats and it cheered everyone up because it was so unexpected in a deployed environment. The reaction on people’s faces and the joy it brought them was incredible.

“I tried to make candy before and failed miserably. I was really discouraged,” she added. “It was after Mr. Johnson showed me how to do it, that I really knew what I was doing. There is an art to what he does, and he has inspired me.”

Like every good inventor, Johnson has a go-to “secret recipe” that people request all the time from him the Reeseo. While others across the world have made similar styles of this treat, his Air Force version is one of a kind. First, he takes two double stuffed Oreos and places them around a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup. Then, he uses a special chocolate to be melted over the entire treat. After that, he stamps the Air Force logo into the top. Finally, he finishes it off with powdered sugar to bring out the accent of the stamp. Over the course of his four years making delectable snacks, he has made upwards of 1,000 Reeseos.

Though Johnson has carved out a niche as a confectioner, he does not plan on taking his talents to the business realm.

“I love making these as a hobby, but I would probably come to hate it if I had to do it as a job,” he said. “I will probably keep doing this even after I leave Afghanistan, but it will just be for my family and friends.”

With all the success Johnson has had in creating culinary masterpieces from the bits and pieces of care packages, he has surely earned his place as an honorary mad scientist. And, with how good everyone says his expeditionary treats taste, he surely isn’t in any danger of being run out of town by an angry mob. In fact, it’s actually quite the opposite.

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