All posts by adick

BMT graduation, Jan. 12, 2013

By Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

As they do every Friday, trainees who completed their eight weeks of basic military training graduated to become full-fledged Airmen in the U.S. Air Force, Jan. 11, 2013, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

However, this graduation’s backdrop was not the usual parade field. Instead, Airmen graduated under the overhang of their own squadron buildings due to previous day’s weather.

As family and friends gathered around, Warrior and Honor Flights stated their Oath of Enlistment and made the step from trainee to Airman.

Oath of Enlistment video

Afterwards, the air was filled with joy and excitement of both the Airmen and their guests.

Congratulations to the Air Force’s newest Airmen!

A night to remember, Dec. 19, 2012

by Tech. Sgt. Crystal Lee
Armed Forces Network – Incirlik Air Base

Some things occur in life that you never forget. Things that leave a scar and others that never even heal. There are lessons to be learned from those experiences, and I learned a big lesson on drinking responsibly at the tender age of 11.

So, I volunteered to share a part of my life normally reserved for those close to me. I decided to share a time that will never leave me in hopes others don’t have to experience the pain it brought. If you know me, you know that I keep family matters private. This account, however, may help sway someone’s decision and prevent an alcohol related incident.

It was Friday, date night for my parents.

I was 11 and my little sister, Jen, was 9. We were at the age many parents start to let their kids stay home alone. Mom and dad were invited to a party in Bowie, Md., which was about an hour away.

AWESOME! Jen and I had the whole house to ourselves. We proceeded to, you know, do typical kid activities. At around 2 a.m., we heard knocking at the door. I didn’t grow up in the best neighborhood, so there was no way I was opening that door. The knocking persisted and we were terrified. Jen and I actually hid under the bed, because we thought someone was trying to break into the house.

The next morning, we woke up under the bed. We got up and knocked on mom and dad’s room door. No answer. I opened the door; they hadn’t come home.

I picked up the phone to call my grandpa and found it had been off the hook since last night. That’s when he told me mom and dad were hit by a drunk driver. He said it happened the night before around 1 a.m,. and he had tried to call us. Grandpa was the one knocking on the windows and doors.

Once we got to our grandparents house, we were told the details of the accident. My father was driving home on Oxon Hill Road when a drunk driver swerved into their lane and sideswiped them. Dad hit a telephone pole head on. Mom wasn’t wearing her safety belt, and her face went through the windshield. Dad had this crazy adrenaline rush and pulled my mom out of the car. We found out later his back was broken; he was out of commission for about six-to-seven months.

After gramps gave us the news, Jen started to freak out, and I started crying. I’m not sure if I was crying due to sadness or because I was angry as hell, probably both.

Sunday evening at around 5 p.m. our parents came home. They were lucky to survive. They recounted the events from that night. I asked dad if the drunk driver got hurt. Dad said, “No. The guy thought the whole situation was funny.”

Our lives drastically changed. No more family outings to the park, no more fun things and nothing normal for kids our ages. Instead, the next several months consisted of Jen and I taking care of our parents.

What upsets me the most is that this didn’t need to happen; responsible decisions could have prevented the entire event.

When someone abuses alcohol it affects more than just them. It has a ripple effect to everyone who cares about that person, those they hurt, and the people who are left behind to pick up the pieces. Take ownership and responsibility for your actions and what you put in your body. There are other things you can do besides drink excessively.

Find that niche that makes you happy–go to school, play video games, travel, etc. If you do drink, know your limit. Know when to say “when.” Ask yourself, “How are my actions going to impact other people?”

My life was affected by an irresponsibly selfish guy who couldn’t make the right decision concerning alcohol and almost killed my parents. Don’t be that person.

Photo: This photo was taken after a drunk driver hit the daughter of a military member. Alcohol-related incidents increase during the holiday season. (Courtesy photo)

Week in Photos, Dec. 7, 2012

by Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Throwing smoke grenades and training Afghan air forces are a couple of the cool things you’ll find our Airmen doing in this Week in Photos.

Photo: Tech. Sgt. Will Stimpson, center, and Staff Sgt. Michael Dinicola, right, evaluate Afghan air force Sgt. Razeg as he provides over watch during a mission on a Mi-17 helicopter from Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 29, 2012. The flight was a “check ride” mission, allowing an Afghan air force copilot and gunner to further train and qualify in their respective jobs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.)

Week in Photos, Nov. 30, 2012

By Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

This Week in Photos features our Airmen participating in Thanksgiving festivities around the world, securing Afghanistan and performing hot pit refueling on an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Photo: Pararescuemen with the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron secure the area after being lowered from an HH-60 Pave Hawk during a mission in Afghanistan on Nov. 7, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Through Airmen’s Eyes: Chief discusses how family, pet help PTSD issues, Nov. 29, 2012

by Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

I recently had the opportunity to work as a journalist for a couple of months at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. While there, I wrote many news articles on Air Force-level issues, with a few feature stories sprinkled in.

Though I’ve written several articles that have touched me throughout my seven years in the Air Force, none have touched my heart and soul as deeply as the story of Chief Master Sgt. Richard Simonsen and his service dog, Yoko.

Spending a good portion of the day with them was truly a blessing. Yoko is a tremendously sweet and smart dog, and Chief Simonsen is an inspiration to us all. I wrote this for Wounded Warrior Month this month; however, I think we should always appreciate and remember our wounded warriors – without their sacrifices, we wouldn’t have this great country.

So, without further ado, here is the article for your reading pleasure …


Coming back from deployment, Airmen face the home-station work environment, reintegrating with family and settling back into day-to-day life.

What happens when an Airman is diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and mild Traumatic Brain Injury upon return?

For one Airman, his path to recovery has been slow, but he’s overcome the challenges he’s faced.

“I gave myself permission to let my traumatic brain injury and PTSD be there,” said Chief Master Sgt. Richard Simonsen, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling senior enlisted leader. “Then, I gave myself permission to reset everything and not be embarrassed by it.”

Simonsen’s last deployment was as a Public Affairs officer with a provincial reconstructive team in both Nuristan and Kandahar Provinces in Afghanistan. He completed 66 outside-the-wire missions with five attacks on their team. Due to the attacks, he was hospitalized for back and hip injuries and again for head injuries.

Upon return, he said he felt depressed and anxious, and he had difficulty being in crowds.

“The toughest thing is feeling you cannot be as productive as you used to be,” Simonsen said. “Concentration was more difficult; writing e-mails was more difficult; composing my thoughts and expressing myself was more difficult.”

A big piece of the recovery process for Simonsen has been his service dog.

“Yoko is a wonderful addition to my life,” said the wounded warrior. “I say she’s a resiliency tool of the first order. My recovery was really, really slow – it still is. Physically, I’m broken. And, the emotional, mental part was recovering slowly as well.”

While at the TBI clinic one day, he interacted so positively with the facility dog that it was suggested he look into getting a service dog for himself.

“Once they placed her with me, the change was almost immediate,” Simonsen said. “I’m not the old Rich Simonsen – I never will be. But, I’m a lot closer, because of her. She’s an unobtrusive companion; she provides a calming influence. She’s a good wingman for me.”

Yoko also enables him to be in crowds and speak in public, like when he speaks to Airmen at Right Start briefings or Airmen Professional Enhancement Courses. And, although Yoko is noticeable, she doesn’t detract from the chief’s message.

“A lot of his focus I felt was on ways to deal with people,” said U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Ceremonial Guardsman Airman 1st Class Nicholas Priest at an APE Course. “I thought he had a lot of valuable information on how to deal with what we may have issues with. If you have a positive work environment, it helps people work a lot harder. Look out for people, especially where sexual assault prevention and suicide awareness are concerned. We’re one force, so we need to work as a team.”

Though Simonsen said he has a tendency to isolate himself and has a hard time dealing with the physical pain from his injuries, he tries not to focus solely on the negative.

“The biggest difference on a positive side is I take a little more time to think about things before I respond,” the senior enlisted leader said. “That gives me a little more contemplative way of being.”

Aside from the resources of mental health and the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, Simonsen said his family and church have been a huge source of support for him.

“My wife has followed me around the world for going on 25 years,” he said. “She loves me no matter what. But, she knew I was suffering when I came home. She pushed me to get help. Everyone has a support system they can tap into. We need to use them in our recovery, but we also have to remember they’re there working hard and taking a lot of the stress.”

For those who may be suffering silently with PTSD, Simonsen offers this piece of advice.

“Coming forward shows courage and strength and is in line with our core values. You can go get help and still succeed in your career.”

Though there are many programs out there for wounded warriors, November helps shed light on issues facing wounded veterans as it is Wounded Warrior Month.

Click the hyperlink to view view the video on Chief Master Sgt. Richard Simonsen.

Photo 1: Chief Master Sgt. Richard Simonsen hugs his service dog, Yoko, while on a walk. Simonsen lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition he endured on a deployment to Afghanistan and the service dog helps him with his daily activities. PTSD can occur after one has been through a traumatic event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)

Photo 2: Chief Master Sgt. Richard Simonsen works as the senior enlisted leader at Joint Base Anacostia- Bolling in Washington D.C. Simonsen speaks to Airmen about his daily struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how to seek help. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)

Photo 3: Chief Master Sgt. Richard Simonsen works as the senior enlisted advisor on Joint Base Anacostia- Bolling in Washington D.C. He lives with Post Tramatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) a condition he endured from a deployment to Afghanistan last year. Yoko, his service dog, helps him with his day to day activities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)