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Dudette passes 1,000 combat flight hours

Dudette passes 1,000 combat flight hoursSOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS)

Maj. Jennifer received a hero’s welcome from members of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing as she surpassed the 1,000 combat-hour milestone in the F-15E Strike Eagle at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Feb. 13.

Jennifer, a weapon systems officer assigned to the 391st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, achieved the milestone during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

“The hour milestones in the jet are big deals,” said Capt. Kevin, a 391st EFS pilot, who accompanied Jennifer on the mission. “Our opportunity to accrue hours is finite, and every one of them is special. To reach 1,000 hours in a category as unique as combat time is pretty special; it means someone has invested a lot of time and effort into their job.”

Achieving this milestone is a career defining moment for any F-15E aircrew member, even more so for females, which make up approximately 10 percent of Strike Eagle pilots and the WSO community.

“With so much time as a close air support subject matter expert, she is well versed in integrating with the joint terminal attack controllers,” said Kevin, who has been flying with Jennifer since 2010. “She can take broken and barely intelligible communications on a secure radio and efficiently turn it in to mission success for the ground forces.”

Jennifer logged her first combat sortie in 2009, during the first of her two tours in Afghanistan, and has compiled more than 1600 flying hours and 220 combat sorties during her career.

“Reaching this milestone to me represents my willingness to serve and protect Americans in a flying capacity each time I go out and fly,” Jennifer said. “I’m very proud to serve and keep the enemy here instead of being back at home.”

She was also a member of the historic Dudette 07 mission in 2011, which was the first F-15E Air Force combat mission comprised entirely of female aircrew members.

“You can count on Jennifer to be thorough and reliable in her job,” Kevin said. “Her performance is nothing short of what you would expect from an experienced and professional aviator; it goes to show it doesn’t matter what your gender is – the girls can hang with the best of them, and are capable of being the best themselves.”

(Editor’s note: Last names were not included due to security and safety reasons.)

B-1B Lancer sets rotational records before leaving downrange

B-1B Lancer sets rotational records before leaving downrangeAL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS)

A B-1B Lancer that achieved rotational milestones is scheduled to leave Al Udeid Air Base soon for a six-month hiatus for aircraft modifications stateside.

The B-1 has been under the operational support of the 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron,and has set records during the July-January rotation with military members from the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.

“This rotation has supported a total of 490 sorties and enabled 4,850 bombs to be dropped in six months,” said Capt. Abraham Smith, the 379th EAMXS officer in charge. “When the B-1 leaves this will be the first time since 2001 we won’t have B1s in the area of responsibility.

“Our mission has been to provide safe and reliable combat aircraft to the bomb squadron,” Smith continued. “We’ve supported more bombs dropped in one month than any other B-1 unit.”

The previous Lancer unit supported 1,068 bombs dropped in one month, while the 379th EAMXS has supported 2,224 bombs dropped, he added.

Accomplishments of this magnitude do not come easy, he said, and being able to maintain such a high operational tempo does not come without challenges.

“Hundreds of thousands of manpower hours have been put into the past six months to keep these aircraft running and it’s been a very challenging and an exhausting deployment. However, we’ve found ways to make it enjoyable,” Smith said.

He also added that getting parts for the aging aircraft is a big challenge, but he went on to say that nothing is more satisfying than when they overcome the challenges and fix it. He also said that being able to get the aircraft turned around and back in the fight in a timely manner brings a lot of satisfaction to the team.

“We try to be prepared for the unexpected, but we can never predict what is going to go wrong on the aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Daryl Ackerman, a 379th EAMXS crew chief. “However, we combine our knowledge and resources to make sure the aircraft get fixed.”

Staff Sgt. Matthew Kwawegen, a 379th EAMXS lead crew team chief, added, “Some challenges we faced were the weather, trying to encourage the new Airmen to stay positive, making sure they pay attention to detail, and staying focused.”

In order for the B-1 to continue its daily operations there are teams of Airmen that ensure the aircraft’s capabilities are mission ready.

“We train, certify and evaluate all the load crews,” Kwawegen said. “When we deploy as a unit we evaluate the load crews throughout the deployment, as well as load and do the maintenance to ensure everyone is loading safely and efficiently.”

SecAF makes first official visit to Travis

SecAF makes first official visit to TravisTRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS)

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James visited Travis Air Force Base Jan. 8 to meet with Airmen, discuss her priorities and see firsthand the base’s mission and capabilities as the western seaboard’s mobility air forces hub.

To begin her visit, James received a detailed mission brief from senior base leaders to discuss cornerstone functions of the installation such as the seamless total force integration of three separate wings, the employment of three major mobility weapons systems and Travis AFB’s strategic location serving as the lifeline to the Pacific theater.

Throughout her day-long visit, James ate lunch with Airmen, toured a number of facilities to include Air Mobility Command’s largest aerial port and held an all call to speak to the greater base populous.

During her all call, she discussed her three main priorities: taking care of people, balancing today’s readiness with the modernization needs of tomorrow and making every dollar count as well as the challenges faced by today’s Air Force operating within the parameters of a fiscally constrained environment.

“Today’s Air Force is the smallest it has ever been, with the smallest number of people,” she said. “And at the same time, the number of missions we fly around the world has skyrocketed … we have got to do better.”

James also spoke on the importance of mobility airpower, more specifically Travis AFB’s role to the mission of Global Reach, and the capabilities the men and women here present to the strategic Air Force vision.

“You all are playing a crucial role in our Air Force and national defense because nothing happens without rapid global mobility and that’s what Travis is all about,” she said. “What’s going on here is extremely impressive. Travis features a highly integrated total force, three major mobility weapons systems and one of the largest aerial ports and hospitals. Then you add on the mission-set of the contingency response wing. It’s a very unique blend.”

James re-emphasized her capstone message, “Nothing happens without rapid global mobility.

“Thank you again for the long days, the long deployments and time spent away from home,” she continued. “I know this takes its toll. I hope that in the next year or two we will have changes that will ease this somewhat. But truth in advertising, I think we are going to remain a very busy Air Force.”

Precision strikes keeping enemy on target

Precision strikes keeping enemy on targetORLANDO, Fla. (AFNS)

Lessons learned in past conflicts have now made it possible to bomb enemy targets within just a few feet to reduce collateral damage, a top Air Force commander said Feb. 25 at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium.

Since World War II, the accuracy of bombing attacks has improved from around 3,300 feet away from a target to only 10 feet in current operations.

“We went from missing a target by over half a mile as the norm to literally putting (numerous) 2,000-pound (joint direct attack munitions) through the same hole,” Lt. Gen. Charles Brown Jr., the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, said at the symposium.

Brown pointed to two reasons for the advent of precision-guided bombs.

“The innovation of Airmen and industry to pursue advances in technology were applied to a problem of achieving increased accuracy, and second, merging (that) innovation with the successes and lessons of past conflicts,” Brown said.

Improvements to the Air Force’s GPS satellite constellation, which launched its last Block IIF-type satellite in early February, could place airstrikes even closer. The next round of GPS satellites, Block III, is expected to begin launching next year.

“If we don’t have GPS, it would be very difficult,” Brown said. “GPS is hugely important in what we do. All of our partners across the region are dropping GPS-guided munitions.”

Of all the weapons deployed in the command’s region, 99 percent of them are precision guided.

“Because we have that capability, it allows us to take very few weapons and to use them to greater effect,” he said.

There’s still increased activity in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, where coalition members have released more than 37,000 weapons since August 2014, according to its airpower statistics.

Ongoing airstrikes have restricted the movement of enemy fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“They no longer have the capability to take large swathes of land by surprise,” Brown said. “A lot of that has to do with good airpower.”

Strikes have also destroyed the terrorist group’s revenue sources, such as its banks, and oil and gas facilities.

“That precision has been truly effective,” he said.

But there has been some ambiguity with the U.S.-led coalition sharing airspace with the Russian military that is protecting the Syrian regime.

“The Russians’ presence has changed the air defense environment and increased the complexity in the region,” Brown said.

The general assured that this situation won’t stop coalition airstrikes.

“It’s been my position since the Russians showed up that we will not cede the airspace,” he said. “We will continue to operate where we need to on a day-to-day basis to execute the mission.”

CCAF breaks record for 6th consecutive year

CCAF breaks record for 6th consecutive yearMAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS)

The Community College of the Air Force awarded 23,206 associate of applied science degrees in 2015, breaking the record for number of graduates for the sixth consecutive year.

“CCAF had an amazing year in 2015. We think CCAF is more relevant and more popular than ever before,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Leap, the CCAF commander. “The education helps our Airmen form better habits of mind, improve critical thinking skills, increase their diversity of thought and become more innovative.”

CCAF is the largest community college in the nation with 2,000 courses and more than a quarter of a million students.

Every CCAF degree makes Airmen more proficient and increases their performance within their primary Air Force specialty, Leap said. These degrees are earned through Air University, which is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The prestigious accreditation means that they meet the same strict standards as other SACS schools such as the universities of Georgia and Florida.

Over the years, CCAF has adapted to better serve Airmen by adding programs like Air Force Credentialing Opportunities On-Line, which enables Airmen to earn industry-recognized certifications.

“One of the most exciting developments within CCAF in 2015 was the emergence and expansion of the AF COOL program. We stood up AF COOL last year and made available nearly 1,000 new certifications to our enlisted Airmen,” Leap said.

The Air Force is also in the process of changing its policy to allow enlisted Airmen to obtain an unlimited number of credentials, books and prep material as long as the overall cost doesn’t exceed a lifetime cap of $4,500.

In 2015, CCAF improved the speed at which it loaded civilian credit to student’s records by 60 percent. This was achieved by embracing new technologies and improving processes.

Despite the improvements, Leap admitted that it still takes too long to load civilian course credit to student’s records.

“Our civilian employees have worked an enormous amount of overtime during the past seven months,” Leap said. “Despite the progress we made, we know we still have room for improvement and we’re looking for innovative ways such as electronic transcripts and a new student information system to continue to provide better support to our students.”

Looking back, CCAF awarded 9,276 degrees in 1987. Since then the numbers of graduates have more than doubled despite the fact that there were almost 100,000 more enlisted Airmen back then.

“The success of our CCAF graduates last year epitomizes the Air Force’s emphasis on the deliberate development of our enlisted members,” said Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Hollis, the CCAF vice commandant. “We distinguish ourselves as the most capable enlisted force in the world because generations of senior leaders prioritized our development and CCAF is an extraordinary instrument of that.”

Army, Air Force collaborate on education, innovation

Army, Air Force collaborate on education, innovationJOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS)

Gen. David G. Perkins, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), visited officials from Air Education and Training Command Jan. 7-8 to collaborate with Air Force leaders on advancing education and innovation within the respective military services.

Perkins spoke with Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, the AETC commander, and Air University leaders at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, broaching on several subjects affecting both commands, from the future of recruiting to the emergence of new technologies.

TRADOC is the Army counterpart of AETC.

“As you deal with a very fast changing world, everybody wants to innovate so you want to be at the cutting edge,” Perkins said. “One of the keys to innovation is a wide-level of collaboration. Those units that collaborate a lot tend to innovate a lot.”

Army and Air Force leaders discussed employing technologies to train and educate Soldiers and Airmen, not just in the classroom, but in perpetuity when they return to their units. Leveraging new technologies for continual education is vital to reach and recruit younger generations entrenched in an information-saturated world.

“We talked about things like leveraging the Cloud and personal devices,” Perkins said. “The generation of Airmen and Soldiers we’re recruiting are very comfortable in doing things on their personal devices. They want the information right there in front of them; they want to be able to customize how they receive information, so we have to change our education systems to facilitate that.”

Recruiting is a challenge, as industry, colleges, and the military services vie for the same pool of potential applicants, Perkins elaborated. Numbers for those who qualify for both the Air Force and Army have decreased in recent years.

AETC and TRADOC officials are adapting to the changing recruiting environment by directing recruiters to actively educate potential recruits on the many opportunities offered through military service.

“The challenge in many ways in the recruiting environment is that as the military has gotten smaller, fewer and fewer Americans have any personal contact with the military whatsoever,” Perkins said. “They don’t have any firsthand experience, so many folks don’t think of it as an option. They don’t know about the professional development, leader development, and the educational opportunities offered in both the Army and the Air Force. So, we have to get our recruiters to spend time educating parents, as well as recruits, about these opportunities.”

Perkins also traveled to Austin, Texas, meeting with retired Adm. William H. McRaven, the University of Texas chancellor, to start a dialogue on the similar challenges each faces in administrating a large, complex university system. They shared ideas on developing learning tools that can be distributed in a very disperse manner, Perkins explained.

One of the topics of interest discussed between Perkins and AETC leaders was the relatively new Army University.

Army University officials integrated 70 separate TRADOC internal school programs under one university system while syncing instruction with a variety of other TRADOC institutions. Air University is similar in structure.

Last year, Army officials began a process to understand, visualize and describe ideas framed by the Army Operating Concept. The ideas in the AOC are foundational for shaping the strategy for the future of the Army, which includes developing adaptive and innovative leaders and officers. Army University plays a huge role in that respect, Perkins said.

“What we need are adaptive leaders who are critical thinkers and can exploit the initiative,” Perkins said. “We not only have to train them to do certain tasks, but we have to educate them on how to learn, because the world is changing so quickly. Great organizations are learning organizations. When people graduate from Army University, we don’t want them to leave Army University; we want them to take Army University with them to their unit.”

Army University is located at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Army University was established July 7, 2015.

Painting squadron pride

Painting squadron prideHOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS)

When it comes to taking care of the F-16 Fighting Falcons at Holloman Air Force Base, aircraft structural maintenance technicians have a major responsibility.

As corrosion experts, they strip and re-paint F-16 tails replacing Luke AFB’s “LF” with Holloman’s “HO.”

“The letters on the tail are designators for what Air Force base you’re assigned,” said Staff Sgt. Gregory Liggins, the assistant NCO in charge of corrosion control with the 49th Maintenance Squadron. “There’s a lot that goes into replacing them.”

Recently, the 54th Fighter Squadron’s F-16 flagship experienced the swap as Airmen sanded down the vertical stabilizer, primed it for painting and gave the aircraft a fresh coat of paint along with brand new decals and local markings.

“This is the most important jet on base,” Liggins said. “It represents the wing as well as the 54th Fighter Group. There’s no other jet like it on this base, and that’s why it’s decorated the way it is.”

Replacing everything on the tail of an aircraft is an extensive process requiring attention to detail and patience.

“The whole process takes roughly five days,” said Airman 1st Class Robert Rocha, an aircraft structural maintenance technician with the 49th MXS.

Rocha, who joined the Air Force to learn how to work with sheet metal, and other Airmen who share his passion, inspect every aircraft twice a year for corrosion. After an aircraft’s semiannual mandatory washing, they are taxied into one of three paint booths where the corrosion experts conduct a paint score.

“When an aircraft comes in, we’re required to do a paint score,” Liggins said. “Basically, we’re walking around the jet looking at areas that have bare metal, chipped paint and primer spots. Then we check the thickness of the paint with a gauge. We update all of this information for planning, scheduling and documentation.”

Once the average paint thickness on a jet is worn too thin, the entire aircraft has to be sandblasted and repainted. The technicians at corrosion control do any painting the aircraft needs short of this. Touch ups, replacing symbols and anything that will fight deterioration are just a few things these Airmen do.

“These guys here are outstanding,” Liggins said. “They follow instructions, and they have attention to detail, which is key. A lot has been put on them, but they step up to the challenge.”

Every job in the Air Force contributes to the overall mission. For the Airmen in the aircraft structural maintenance shop, this means keeping the aircraft in prime shape and able to withstand the elements.

“We’re all one big oiled machine,” Liggins said. “In the end, we’re the ones who have the biggest responsibility when it comes to protecting the aircraft from corrosion.”

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