All posts by adick

What independence means to me

By Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

7/3/12 — In a few days, we, as Americans, will celebrate one of the most, if not the most, important date for the U.S. — our Independence Day.

As I figure out what I’ll be doing this Fourth of July, I also want to make sure I take the time to reflect on this most reverent of days.

What does Independence Day represent to me?

I mean, we’ve all been taught in school what led to our independence and how we achieved it, but what does it really stand for?

For me, Independence Day is more than just a day America gained its freedom. I learned from my Grandpa Randall, who loved to research our family heritage, that my family is deeply rooted in American soil.

The Randall side of the family emigrated from England on one of the first boats to the U.S. Our family is related to President Ulysses S. Grant, and one of our ancestors fought alongside President George Washington in Valley Forge. My family settled and fought for America’s independence, and for me, it’s pretty inspiring to know I have those roots.

However, that’s the beauty of being an American. It doesn’t matter if your roots are 236 years old or just a few days, we can all take pride in America and celebrate its independence.

One of the main reasons I joined the Air Force was to follow in my father’s footsteps and serve my country — to earn my place next to those who have served before.

While it’s not always fun or easy being in the military, I enjoy living the Air Force way of life. It’s truly amazing to know I’m a part of something bigger than myself.

For those times when life seems difficult, I think on my family and friends. Those are the people who get me through the hard days. Those are the faces I brought to mind while downrange recently. Those are the people whose lives I personally protect while in service to America, so that July 4th will always remain their Independence Day.

This Independence Day, I want to remember those who paid the sacrifice for America to gain her freedom. While we enjoy the company of our family and friends this Fourth of July, we should remember our nation was built on blood, sweat and tears.

Blood: The blood of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for America’s freedom, such as Army Private 1st Class James Arnold, who was killed in the Vietnam War. Though I didn’t personally know Arnold, as I reflect on the reason his name is on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., I am truly grateful and indebted to him for his sacrifice to this great country.

Sweat: The sweat of those who have worked hard to make America what it is today, such as the immigrants who toiled and labored to become citizens, or the settlers who moved west to create a life for themselves.

Tears: The tears of those who mourn for the ones lost to gain America’s freedom, such as the family of Capt. Francis Imlay, who recently paid the ultimate price during Operation Enduring Freedom. Again, I didn’t know Imlay, but I sympathize with his family and the families of the more than 6,000 military members who have died during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn. I am thankful for all they gave to help keep America free.

So, enjoy the fireworks, enjoy the food, enjoy the company, but also remember to enjoy the independence and freedom we have and take the time to reflect on what those two words mean to you.

On this Independence Day, remember we have freedom at its finest, but not without a price.

Photo: The American Flag is flown over Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 9, 2011. The flag represents America’s freedom and the many military members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for U.S. independence. Americans will celebrate 236 years of freedom July 4, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick)

Week in Photos, June 29, 2012

By Senior Airman Grovert Fuentes-Contreras
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Air Force Week in Photos, June 29, 2012 – We have aircraft and boots on ground. Can’t go wrong with those!

Photo: Lt. Col. Dave Owens waits for a signal to move while navigating terrain during combat survival training at Joint Base Charleston-Weapons Station, S.C., June 21, 2012. The 437th Operations Support Squadron conducts the training, which is designed to teach aircrews and other personnel to implement survival techniques to evade enemy forces and to signal friendly forces. Owens is the 15th Airlift Squadron commander. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class George Goslin)

The view from the other ridge

By Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher
NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs

Yesterday, as I climbed out of my truck parked on the side of the section of 30th Street that overlooked the Garden of the Gods, I knew I was in the right spot. My mission was to get video and photographs of the Modular Airborne Firefighting System-equipped C-130s that were dropping retardant on the Waldo Canyon fire, and we had found our ring-side seats.

There’s a common perception out there that MAFFS is the game-changer; that once they arrive, the fire is beaten, everyone can go home. I wish that were the case. The truth of the matter is that MAFFS is just one of many players in a coordinated production, and sitting on that ridge yesterday, we could see that production being played out. Helicopters with water buckets passed one another in the air over and over again as they picked up loads of water from a nearby reservoir and then flew up into the mountains to drop them before repeating the process again. Tiny Forest Service aircraft led large tankers on drop runs before breaking off to get out of the way for the next run. I got a chance to see our MAFFS aircraft makes several runs — always working in coordination with the other players, always with a specific purpose, always as part of a strategy. This is chess, not checkers.

And that was just what I could see from my staked out spot on that little ridge.

I know there are hundreds of firefighters on the ground up in those mountains who are hot, tired, and doing everything they can to contain a force of nature. Everyone is doing their part. Everyone is working in synch, and that’s the only way this thing is going to be stopped.

We stayed up there, getting our photos and video, until a Colorado Springs police car came up 30th, telling everyone to move out of the way, that emergency vehicles were going to be coming this way. Sometimes doing your part means packing up and getting out of the way, so that others can do theirs, so we stowed our gear back in the truck and left. In the rearview mirror, I could see a MAFFS aircraft make another run on the mountainside. The production went on.

From our vantage point, we could see firefighting helicopters going back and forth from the reservoir to the fire. We were up there for a few hours, and I don’t think they stopped once.

The first five minutes we were there, this commercial tanker dropped retardant on the ridge north of the Garden of the Gods. Commercial and military tankers are up there making drop runs as long as the weather and visibility will allow them. Their goal isn’t to put out the fire, but to box it in with lines of retardant. Once it’s contained, it can run out of fuel and die.

One of the MAFFS aircraft, either from the 302nd Airlift Wing here in Colorado Springs or from the153rd Airlift Wing from the Wyoming Air National Guard. The little airplane above it is a U.S. Forest Service aircraft. They fly ahead of the MAFFS and mark where they want the MAFFS to drop with a line of smoke. Then, they break off and wait for the next MAFFS before making another run.

Top photo: Another shot of MAFFS dropping retardant. The retardant is made of 80 to 85 percent water, 10 to 15 percent ammonium sulfate, a jelling agent and red coloring. The red in the retardant helps aircrews see where they have dropped previous loads. Along with containing the fire, the retardant acts as a fertilizing agent. Because the MAFFS discharges the agent in a mist, the fire retardant does not cause damage to buildings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. J. Doscher)

Waldo Canyon fire

Waldo Canyon Fire

By Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Agency

As the Waldo Canyon fire engulfed the U.S. Air Force Academy has continued, base residents some U.S. Air Force Academy campus residents were evacuated to safety June 26, 2012, Colorado Springs, Colo. Experience this force of nature from the perspective of an Academy photographer with these captivating images.

Photo: A tremendous smoke cloud builds around the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 26, 2012. Winds in excess of 65 mph created billowing and rapidly building smoke from the local Waldo Canyon fire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

Honoring our heroes

By Maj. Gen. Darren W. McDew
Air Force District of Washington Commander

In the National Capital Region, you do not have to look far to find monuments honoring our heroic Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have paid the ultimate price in defense of our great Nation.

Maj. Gen. Darren W. McDew

This weekend, Americans will visit the memorials and cemeteries in Washington D.C. and throughout the U.S., as well as in Europe and the Pacific, to honor the hundreds of thousand fallen service members who have given their lives for our country and our freedom.

Many will remember grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles who served in World War I and World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the first Gulf War. Many more will pay tribute to husbands, wives, sons and daughters who recently lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Think about that … memorials and military cemeteries spread across this nation and throughout the world. The VA’s National Cemetery Administration maintains approximately 3.1 million gravesites at 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and U.S. territories, as well as in 33 “soldiers’ lots” and monument sites. The American Battle Monuments Commission manages 24 overseas military cemeteries, and 25 memorials, monuments and markers to honor those who served in World War I or World War II. The overseas locations memorialize more than 218,000 Americans with nearly 125,000 gravesites, and commemorate an additional 94,000 on “Tablets of the Missing.”

In Arlington National Cemetery, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment Soldiers (The Old Guard), U.S. Marine Corps Ceremonial and Guard Company Marines, U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guardsmen, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard members and U.S. Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard members will place more than 250,000 grave decorating flags. The flags will remain through Memorial Day.

The numbers are staggering, but they do not account for thousands more buried in state veterans’ cemeteries throughout the country.

The numbers also tell a story. These heroes hailed from every town and city in America. They came from every walk of life – young men and women straight out of high school and college to farmers, policemen, teachers, doctors, lawyers – you name it. Their ethnic backgrounds are equally as diverse. But they all had one thing in common – they served our nation during times of peace and war. They served as shields for America to keep war from reaching our front door. Unfortunately, too many lost their lives in foreign lands never to see their families again.

Today, we are faced with the grim reality that the number of fatalities since we began operations in Afghanistan and Iraq is up to more than 6,400. Every one of those losses is a loss to our nation, a loss to our military, and, most importantly, a loss to the families who grieve.

On this Memorial Day, at 3 p.m., wherever you are, I encourage you to pause and participate in the National Moment of Remembrance established by Congress. This is a moment of reflection and an opportunity to demonstrate our gratitude for our fallen warriors.

On Memorial Day and every day, let’s continue to make sure our heroes are never forgotten.

I thank you for your service and wish you a safe holiday weekend.

Remembering Arlington Airmen