All posts by ktomlin

Weston “Seth” Kelsey fencing

U.S. Airman competes in 2012 Olympics


Weston “Seth” Kelsey fencingBy Airman 1st Class Krystal Tomlin
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Today is the opening day of the 2012 Olympics. It’s a big day for many athletes from around the world as they step onto an international stage to represent the excellence of their home nations. We wish the best to all the participants, but one in particular has a special cheer from the U.S. Air Force.

Weston “Seth” Kelsey is one of Team USA’s all-time most accomplished epee fencers, according to his Team USA bio. He’s also a U.S. Airman. As a captain with the 310th Force Support Squadron, Kelsey is not only representing America as a nation; he is representing the Air Force and the U.S. military.

“It’s awesome, I really like the Air Force and all the people that I work with,” Kelsey said. “I feel honored that I get to represent them. It’s that core value of excellence. It’s also a lot of pressure on the other hand. I have to bring my best game on the day that I compete because I know everyone’s going to be there watching and supporting me.”
Good luck to you, Captain. We’ll be cheering for you.

Contributions to this story were made by Senior Airman Elisa Labbe of 460th Space Wing Public Affairs.

Photo: Weston Kelsey, right, fences U.S. Olympic Training Center teammate Jimmy Moody on June 8, 2012. Kelsey, a former U.S. Air Force Academy fencer and now three-time Olympian, has been fencing for approximately 20 years. Kelsey is an Air Force captain with the 310th Force Support Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kathrine McDowell)

Integrity, Service, Excellence

Strengthening our core


 Integrity, Service, ExcellenceBy Col. Jim Dryjanski
National War College

The greatest threat to the United States Air Force right now is not external. It is from within. The allegations of sexual misconduct at Lackland Air Force Base splashed across the news will undoubtedly be fully investigated and criminal behavior will be prosecuted appropriately.

The victims will be heard and they will be cared for, but the bell cannot be unrung. The reverberations from “Jerry Springer-esque” moral failure can shake public trust.

Senior leaders of our Air Force and the Department of Defense will look deeply, far beyond the current trial, to see if there are any institutional root causes in climate, leadership, training and oversight that need to be addressed.

We can expect some necessary actions to be taken, but will disciplinary action or the implementation of recommendations from various independent top-down strategic reviews be sufficient? Probably not, if we as Airmen don’t recognize the moral battle being waged or fail to act from the grassroots-level to strengthen our core. The stakes are incredibly high–so should be our attention and urgency.

Lackland Air Force Base is known as the “Gateway to the Air Force.” Every enlisted trainee must pass through this training crucible in order to earn the title of “Airman.” The center of our identity as Airmen is found in our core values: Integrity first, Service before Self, and Excellence in all we do. Every Airmen can spout these core values…Integrity, Service, Excellence are easy to remember and easy to say, just as former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Fogleman designed them. So what’s the problem?

The words Integrity, Service, and Excellence are ubiquitous in our Air Force. Like the sound of a dripping faucet they can fade into the background over time. They are on power point slides, on wall-hangings in various offices, and they are all over the social media outlets of our Service. But, are they only words? Only words to be recited in speeches by commanders and enlisted leaders? Only words to be cited by those very same leaders when an Airmen breaks a rule or regulation?

Yes, they are…if we let them be. If we lose sight of the moral truth that our core values are grounded in, these mere words of Integrity, Service, and Excellence lose their true meaning and true power.

Sunshine is often the best antiseptic. Increasing transparency of our training and strengthening the accountability of our instructors at Basic Military Training in this light will help. But, more broadly, all Airmen in our Air Force should use this opportunity to illuminate why our Core Values are much more than mere words.

Let’s be clear about one thing, the vast majority of our Airmen–like their joint brothers and sisters in arms, are honorably serving our nation at a very critical time in our history. They are among the very best our nation has to offer, and they are making the extraordinary look ordinary around the globe every single day. That said, no Airman is exempt from the temptation in life to do the easier wrong, rather than the harder right. We must be prepared to win this battle every single day..

It is up to Airmen–wingmen, leaders, warriors to calibrate our moral compasses to true north and give life to our Core Values where the rubber meets the road during our toughest times.. Lou Holtz, former head football coach at Notre Dame, had a great way of boiling complex ideas down to their essence. He has said there are three questions people have when they meet you.

Can I trust you?
Do you care about me?
Are you committed to excellence?

If “yes” is the answer to those questions, people want you on their team. How do you get to “yes?” Holtz has three rules to live by.

Do the right thing.
Care about people.
Do your best.

Simple and profound rules to live by and strengthen our core and our team: Integrity First, Service before Self, and Excellence in all we do.

Aim High…Fly, Fight and Win!

Photos: The Air Force core values are integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.  (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

Tokyo Pride Parade

Pride in uniform


By Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Perhaps the phrase, “Have pride in your uniform,” evokes flashbacks of basic training or a particularly exacting first sergeant, but in the spirit of National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, I think we can look at this phrase in a new light.

I’m proud of my nation, my president, my Air Force and my colleagues for giving us the current state of LGBT rights in the United States. As a bisexual service member, being able to put on my uniform and live the core values of integrity, service and excellence to their truest meaning has instilled immeasurable pride in wearing that uniform. The past year has seen some significant changes to LGBT rights as a whole, but no change has been more pivotal to those of us serving in the armed forces than the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” last September.

“Because we repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans can serve their country openly, honestly, and without fear of losing their jobs because of whom they love,” said President Barack Obama in his proclamation of LGBT Pride Month for June 2012.

It’s hard to imagine the repeal only happened a few short months ago. Life has gained a sense of normalcy I never had thought possible prior to the repeal. Just being able to answer the question of “What did you do for fun this weekend?” openly and honestly is a breath of fresh air.

About two months ago, Tokyo had its first pride parade, which will continue annually. I walked the parade route through Harajuku and Shibuya with 11 other service members from bases around Honshu. I can’t begin to describe the feeling of walking with the 2,500-person-strong parade and seeing the 2,000 spectators, Japanese and a few Americans I recognized from base, all cheering us on and waving rainbow flags. Participating in an event like that would have been unimaginable just two years ago.

My pride isn’t limited to just the repeal of DADT, though. Obama referred to LGBT rights as simply being human rights, and said his administration continues to engage with the American and international communities to promote and protect those rights.

I attended a reception in honor of LGBT Pride Month at U.S. Ambassador John V. Roos’ house in Tokyo on June 4, and I spoke to some of the guests representing LGBT communities from around the world. It was truly eye-opening to see the great variation of acceptance people see depending on where they are born. Countries like Holland have supported LGBT equality since World War I, while other countries still consider homosexuality to be a criminal offense. As our country continues to move forward, I am incredibly thankful to be American, and to live in this age of new possibilities.

So here it is, my “pride in uniform.” I’m proud of my government and my commander-in-chief for allowing me to serve openly. I’m proud of my country for fighting for my rights just as much as I fight for theirs. I’m proud of my unit for accepting me for who I am and holding my value as an Airman above my orientation. I’m proud of my LGBT friends for showing honest solidarity as we embrace this new future. I’m proud of the rest of my friends for supporting me through the good times and especially the bad, regardless of their own orientation. Mostly, I’m proud to be a bisexual Airman serving the world’s greatest air power.

As the month of June comes to a close, be proud of the fact that we have successfully done what some have said would destroy unit cohesion and morale, while instead strengthening the bonds with our fellow service members though honesty. Be proud of those who came out of the proverbial closet to bravely fight for their rights before it was socially acceptable to do so. And, if you are part of the LGBT community, be proud of who you are, because the only person who can ultimately define your true worth is you.

Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Luke Bullard, left, and Master Sgt. Marc Maschhoff, both from Misawa Air Base, Japan, pose for a photo June 4, 2012, at the home of U.S. Ambassador John V. Roos in Tokyo. The ambassador held a reception Monday evening to commemorate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, which President Barack Obama has proclaimed each June since taking office in 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)

U.S. Air Force firefighters training

Week in Photos, June 22, 2012


U.S. Air Force firefighters training

By Airman 1st Class Krystal Tomlin
U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Air Force Week in Photos – Mmmm, mmmm, good.

Photo: U.S. Air Force firefighters from the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron extinguish a simulated airplane fire at Dover Air Force Base, Del., June 12, 2012. The members of the fire protection flight regularly train for real world emergencies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Adrian R. Rowan)

One journey at a time

One journey at a time


One journey at a timeBy Senior Airman Jette Carr
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

I first realized how much inner strength effects performance when I was 15 years old and my dad and I went on a summer hike. This hike spanned backcountry across the state of Utah – from the Arizona to Idaho border – nearly 700 miles. We completed this in 43 days!

Before this trek, I was a bookworm and a couch potato. I did like the occasional mountain climb, but my body was not conditioned for much else.

I remember before we started someone commented that my legs didn’t look like a “hiker’s legs”. Without solid muscle, no matter how skinny you are, there’s going to be a jiggle.

This comment, among others, fueled my fire and because of this I learned what a bit of determination can do. Along with this new found tenacity, I learned these lessons:

Decide the outcome before you start and hold yourself accountable.

From day one of the Utah trek I was sure that I was going to make it or die trying. I had something to prove and clung to that thought. Even though I had decided I was going to finish, before my 100th mile, I had some moments where I entertained the thought of quitting.

Starting with limited hiking experience and a 50 pound backpack, wading through sand, bearing the heat and drinking from questionable water sources – at times the struggle to continue would get me down. However, I had already decided to finish and because of that I was able to keep myself going.

By knowing what you want, it’s easier to push through challenges.

A tiger can change its’ stripes.

Look at me; before the hike I’d never walked more than 10 miles in a day, but at one point during, we managed over 30 miles in a day.

At first, I wasn’t that thrilled to be walking this kind of distance, but the more I stuck to my guns and worked at it, the more I conditioned myself to enjoy the activity. If I could, I would do it again.

If at first you fail, try again.

When we reached Skyline Drive, Utah, it turned into one heck of a day.

My dad decided we should take an off-trail shortcut, per GPS, to shorten that day’s walk. I was in front looking straight ahead, so I’m still not sure what made me notice the young rattlesnake curled up a few feet in front of me. Freaked out, I called a retreat back to the main trail.

After that, dad generously offered to walk in front to make sure I’d stay safe from the snakes. A few minutes later, a diamondback slithered across the trail in front of me.

At this point, I had become increasingly agitated and wanted to turn back, but we carried on – that was, until we saw the bear footprints. They were larger than normal for a black bear, the type of bear most common to the area. They were also so fresh that the lines in the bear’s foot were visible.

This is where we were forced to turn back for safety reasons.

I was not keen on trying Skyline Drive again and I think I even encouraged my dad to try to find a new route, but no changes were made.

We tried the hike again and had the opposite experience. That section of the hike ended up being one of my favorite. Once we were on the top of that range, it became incredibly green with lakes and breathtaking views.

Take a moment to count your blessings.

As Mac Davis said, “You’re going to find your way to heaven is a rough and rocky road if you don’t stop and smell the roses along the way.”

I learned this while climbing a mountain north of Bicknell, Utah. It was such a hot day that the mixture of sweat and sunscreen were making my face sting as we climbed a steep ascent. It felt like every step I took I was losing two, sliding back in the sand. I don’t recall any trees for shade and during a rest I lay down under a scraggly bush and cried a little. It was so hard! That’s what I kept thinking to myself and even said I’d never hike up that hill again, even for a million dollars.

Looking back on that experience now, and seeing the old photos, I missed out on some serious beauty. This area was uniquely shaped with red and orange sand carved mountains. The view was outstanding! I was too busy wallowing to realize what a spectacular place it was and just how lucky I was to see it.

I’m grateful to have learned these lessons early on in my life so that I can apply them now as an Airman in the U.S. Air Force.

Joining the Air Force is giving your life to a cause that is bigger than yourself. In this transition from civilian to an active-duty Airman, you have to accept that we no longer control which state or country we live in and can deploy at a moment’s notice.

Every assignment is what you make of it. It all comes down to attitude and determination!

Cory Warburton and Jette Carr hike on a trail near Beaver Mountain Ski Resort, Utah, summer of 2003. The hike was part of a trek spanning from the bottom to the top of Utah to each boarder – a journey that took 43 days and was nearly 700 miles long. (Courtesy photo)