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WASPs, original ‘Fly Girls’ of ’40s, awarded Congressional Gold Medal

By Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Hanson, Air Force Public Affairs Agency

I’m willing to bet that until recently, there were many people who had never heard of WASPs. And no, I’m not talking about White Anglo Saxon Protestants or the insect related to the bee, either.

100309-F-6414K-110The Women Airforce Service Pilots, or the WASPs, were civilian female pilots employed to fly military aircraft for the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. They flew fighters, bombers, cargo planes and training aircraft in the U.S. so the men could fight the battles overseas.

Well  March 10, and fittingly during Women’s History Month,  the WASP corps joined the ranks of other WWII heroes, the Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Codetalkers  in being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal which President Barack Obama signed into law July 1, 2009.  Obamasigns

Some 60-plus years ago, 1,100 women aviators were selected from the 25,000 hopefuls to take to the sky in the much-needed support of the war effort. The more flying experience you had, the better your chances. These ladies were the original “Fly Girls.”

Within two years, the Nation began to stabilize and the women’s services were no longer needed. They were severed from service as if they had never existed.

Their hours upon hours of delivering all types of air frames, and test piloting planes fresh off the assembly were all for naught – they were given nothing but a thank you and even had to pay their own way home. While most of the women went back to raising families, many also continued their aviation careers. Their efforts went unnoticed for decades, when finally in 1977, President Jimmy Carter gave the WASPs veteran status.

There are less than 300 surviving WASPs today. So, I’m happy to see it wasn’t too late at least for the surviving women to be recognized for being a part of our living history. The WASPs paved the flying path for future women pilots to follow and proved that yes, women can fly, too.

Click here to read more about these inspiring women and their incredible stories.

Photo captions, upper left:  Chief Master Sgt. Beth Sieloff (left) shares a light moment with Women Airforce Service Pilot member Virginia Wise (right) and Ms. Wise’s escort, Penny Hunt, before a wreath-laying and remembrance ceremony March 9, 2010, at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Erica J. Knight)

Photo caption, lower right:  President Barack Obama signs S.614 in the Oval Office July 1 at the White House. The bill awards a Congressional Gold Medal to Women Airforce Service Pilots. The WASP program was established during World War II, and from 1942 to 1943, more than 1,000 women joined, flying 60 million miles of noncombat military missions. Of the women who received their wings as Women Airforce Service Pilots, approximately 300 are living today. (Official White House photo/Pete Souza)

Dispatch from an Airman in Haiti — Team Efforts

Chief Master Sergeant Tyler Foster is the Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs deployed chief of operations at the Troussaint Louverture International Airport in Port au Prince, Haiti.  He and his team are supporting U.S. Southern Command relief efforts in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the nation.

Most air traffic controllers work in an air conditioned state-of-the-art facility with a panoramic view of the airfield they manage. They put in their 8 hours, jump in their car, head home, kiss the kids and wife and maybe even enjoy a nice cold brew in front of the tube.

I did say most, right?

Combat ControllerMost of the time, combat controllers are deployed into war zones. These tip-of-the-spear battlefield Airmen manage air traffic while dodging bullets and shooting bad guys. There’s no office. They don’t even shave most of the time because there’s not enough water. The cushiest part of their job are the knee pads built into their uniforms. The commute to work? How about a free-fall drop from 10,000 feet? Not your cup of tea? Maybe the 10-mile ruck march into 14,000 foot mountains with 120 pounds on your back? That’s a typical day in the Air Commando CCT’s office.

Here, it’s a little different. They walk to work here. It’s only about a quarter mile to the office … a fold up table and some chairs in the middle of the infield at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport. No air conditioning. It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s noisy. And rather than directing air strikes on hostile forces in Afghanistan, they’re controlling hundreds of flights per day bringing life saving supplies for the people here who need them.

Normally, this airport handles about 35 aircraft per day. Last Saturday, we managed about 240. For you math whizzes out there, that’s one aircraft every 6 minutes. If you’re a history buff, then you’ll remember the freshly minted U.S. Air Force had it’s “3-minute beat” during the Berlin Airlift back in ’48-’49 … landing one aircraft every 3 minutes. We’re moving some serious tonnage into this LZ. To date, it’s about 3.5 million pounds … that’s water, food and medical supplies for the millions of Haitian survivors here. Not one fixed or rotary wing aircraft hits the tarmac here without a combat controller’s DNA on it.

With this level of logistical movements, ramp space comes at a premium sometimes. When we first got here … 7 hours after the President of Haiti requested humanitarian assistance … this LZ was in utter chaos. There were 42 aircraft jammed into a parking ramp designed to accommodate 9. They were parked under each other’s wings, nose to nose, on the taxiway, even on the runway … it was pure mayhem. It took this team of pros a full day to untangle that mess. By then, we were landing one aircraft every 30 minutes or so. As this op matured, combat control teams worked with planners at the newly stood up Haiti Flight Operations Coordination Cell at Tyndall AFB, Fla., to design a system to avoid air traffic and ramp space congestion and conflicts. We call it a “slot” system.

Combat Contoller FieldIt’s really pretty simple as long as everyone follows the rules. Call up the HFOCC, reserve a slot time, fly here on time, land, off-load your cargo and passengers, then get out of Dodge on your reserved take off time. Simple, right? Sometimes, not so much. For whatever reason, an aircrew may spend more time on the ground than they’re allotted. That affects other aircraft in the holding pattern waiting to land. Sometimes they run low on fuel and have to divert. Sometimes we have the maximum number of aircraft on the ground here at the airport … can’t land more or we go back to day 1 … not good. So flights are diverted … as they are at every airport … for safety reasons. There’s no favoritism. A plane is a plane to us.

Still some people just don’t get it and bust their reserved times. Think about it like this: have you ever made reservations for dinner at a nice restaurant? Maybe you’re running late, so you call. They hold your table for 20 more minutes. You show with your lovely lady, enjoy dinner, wine and pleasant conversation. You run up a nice $300 tab. You’re there an hour and a half … 45 minutes past your reserved time. Now there’s a couple who’s celebrating their 10th anniversary waiting for their reserved table … you know, the one you’re sitting at. They are late to seat and eat, so that has a ripple effect on down the line. Ultimately, other customers leave and eat elsewhere because, well, it’s just rude to make people wait that long when they’re hungry and wanna eat. In the end, customers are ticked, and the restaurant loses money.

Here, the same principle applies. Only instead of money, every busted minute over the allocated slot time may mean a life is lost because much-needed supplies didn’t make it here on time. It’s an easy fix. Get here on time. Get your cargo offloaded in time to make your takeoff time and get out of the next guy’s way. We’ll bring you in and get you out … you have to do everything in the middle quickly.

We’re all here to help, and that includes helping each other too. 

 Photo Cutlines:  

Top right:   A U.S. Air Force Combat Controller from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field Fl., exits a helicopter on a drop zone in the outer lying area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where humanitarian aid will be air dropped and distributed by members of the United Nations Jan 21, 2010.  Department of Defense assets have been deployed to assist in the Haiti relief effort  following a magnitude 7 earthquake that hit the city on Jan. 12, 2010.(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. James L. Harper Jr.)

Lower left:  A U.S. Air Force combat controller from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., assesses a potential relief supply air delivery drop zone during Operation Unified Response in Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan. 19, 2010. The U.S. Department of Defense contingent is part of a larger national and international relief effort led by the U.S. Agency for International Development in response to the Jan. 12, 2010, 7.0 earthquake here. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.)

Air Force expeditionary medical teams headed to Haiti

By Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Hanson, Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Med blog picIn the continued effort to use all assets available within the Department of Defense, the U.S. Southern Command is sending a special Air Force medical team to help the people in Haiti.

Within the next 24 hours, an Expeditionary Medical Support, or EMEDS, team will be arriving to provide for more much-needed medical support to those awaiting medical care after the devastating 7-pointer that left Haiti helpless in its quake, Jan 12.

On Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010, Col. (Dr.) Mark E. Mavity, the Director of Medical Readiness for the Air Force Medical Support Agency out of Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., participated in DoD Blogger’s Roundtable (listen here) to discuss the “combat converted” medical team’s capabilities and what they will do once they arrive in Haiti.

The EMEDS team will join the 40-plus medical personnel from Hurlburt Field, Fla., who were on the ground within 24 hours after devastation hit.

Colonel Mavity explained that with the capability to get in an area quickly, and using a “building block” approach, EMEDS’ flexible platform will “tailor its capabilities to the situational needs” the team will soon face. The first stage will be an EMEDS 10(a 10-bed capacity deployable hospital) which will quickly be established to an EMEDS 25 within 48 hours from initial set up.

With an established EMEDS team in place the Air Force medical personnel will be able to stabilize patients and move them to additional levels of care in as quick of manner as possible.

Accustomed to the trauma of combat care conditions, the EMEDS teams will adapt its capabilities to include handling infants, and elderly among the many wounded. Colonel Mavity is confident of his team’s agile responsive forces are more than ready to provide primary care, surgical and intensive care capabilities, flight meds, and preventative medical care.

Medical is a heartfelt profession and volunteers for this effort weren’t hard to find, said Dr. Mavity. “We have more folks who are willing and who want to help than we can get out the door.”

Photo Cutline:  U.S. Air Force Capt. Rob Clontz, 1st Special Operations Support Squadron takes the pulse of a wounded Haitian at a casualty collection point at the Port-Au-Prince airport Jan. 15, 2010.  Department of Defense assets have been dispatched to Haiti to assist with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief after a magnitude 7 earthquake hit the country on 12 Jan. 2010.  U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James L. Harper Jr.

Visit our Haiti Earthquake relief  page for more information about the relief effort.  For a compilation of official U.S. Government twitter accounts associated with Haiti relief, click here.

Report from an Airman in Haiti

Chief Master Sergeant Tyler Foster is the Air Force Special Operations CommandPublic Affairs deployed chief of operations at the Troussaint Louverture International Airport in Port au Prince, Haiti.  He and his team are supporting U.S. Southern Command relief efforts in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the island nation.

100115-F-1443G-011America’s Airmen hit the ground running here early this week as part of the U.S. Southern Command contingent associated with earthquake relief operations.

Combat Control Teams from Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla., immediately established control of the airspace and have facilitated more than 125 landings here. Today Haitian air controllers returned to duty, providing long range control while the CCTs prioritized incoming aircraft, directed landings and take offs while balancing confined parking ramp space.

Special Operations weathermen kept incoming and outgoing aircrews apprised of real-time weather data enabling safe and smooth operations at this austere location.

Air Force pararescue jumpers waded into the fray of destruction, assisting civilian rescue agencies operating within the devastated capital. More than 20 people who were still alive were reported to have been removed from the rubble.

100115-F-9712-029Air Force security forces teamed with Navy relief flights to provide security at multiple humanitarian supply landing zones. Today’s flights marked a significant milestone as incoming supplies reached the many victims in need of life-sustaining support. 

Through it all, Air Force medium and heavy lift cargo aircrews pushed their equipment and selves to the limit to maximize inbound supplies and equipment while evacuating American victims of the 7.4 earthquake that struck here January 12.

Support personnel continue to build the base of operations in order to sustain the forces executing and facilitating this immense humanitarian relief effort. Over the last five years, USSOUTHCOM has charted 14 successful relief operations, including Haiti in September 2008.

Cutline for top right photo:  Staff Sgt. Caleb Barmody helps to unload supplies from a Charleston C-17 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Jan. 15, 2010. Air Mobility Command is participating in a swift and coordinated relief effort to save lives and alleviate human suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake. Sergeant Barmody is an air transportation journeyman with the 817th Global Mobility Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katie Gieratz)

Cutline for bottom left photo:  U.S. citizens evacuate from Toussaint Louveture International Airport, Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Jan. 15, 2010. The evacuees were flown out on a C-17 Globemaster III from Dover Air Force Base, Del. Haiti was struck by an earthquake that leveled much of the countries infrastructure. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russell E. Cooley IV)

NY Times OpEd missed the mark

We normally don’t respond one way or another what opinions come out in the OpEd pages regarding the Air Force, but this one really missed the mark and we offer a few counterpoints to the New York Times readers. Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Norton Schwartz does a great job at explaining that the Air Force is engaged and is in the fight.

To the Editor:
“Up, Up and Out,” by Paul Kane (Op-Ed, April 21), recommends disbanding the Air Force because of vague claims that ours is a redundant service and apparently not at war.

Mr. Kane’s conclusion dismisses more than 71 percent of the 330,000 active-duty Airmen who, along with their Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve teammates, have deployed since 2001. These warriors directly execute and support combat operations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In that period, 45 Airmen have been killed in combat and more than 500 wounded. The Air Force routinely responds rapidly to urgent calls from ground forces in dire circumstances — with the unrivaled combat precision and reliability Airmen routinely bring to bear.

Our Airmen prove their worth and commitment in distinctive service that prevents war and reduces the cost of conflict in American blood and treasure. We have done so faithfully in every conflict since our inception.

Today’s Air Force brings specific capabilities to the joint fight to defend the homeland, deter aggression, help those in need and defend the freedoms we all enjoy. This resonates with the American people because they recognize the vital importance of Air Force global vigilance, reach and power.

We proudly secure our nation’s skies and our sister services from attack, any time and any place. Airmen will be there when America needs them, and every serving member of the Army, the Navy and the Marines knows it.

(Gen.) Norton A. Schwartz
Air Force Chief of Staff
Washington, April 21, 2009

We own the sky — hands down. We (joint DOD) bring more coordinated force than anyother nation in the world should our nation decide to. There is no other force in the world capable of striking a target anywhere on the globe in such a short amount of time.

Looking at the opinion piece in the NY Times, take a look at Quatto and his counter: “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”