All posts by Tanya Schusler

U.S. Air Force aeromedical evacuation

Libyans, Airmen: the Bond of Freedom

By Maj. Michael Meridith
18th Air Force

As members of the greatest military on the planet, we recognize and honor those who are willing to make great sacrifices in the cause of freedom. On Saturday in the same place that the American republic was born, I was privileged to come face to face with a group of Libyan fighters who had made those sacrifices.

At the request of the Department of State, the Secretary of Defense had directed two medical assistance missions in Libya. In the first mission, four wounded fighters were transported to medical facilities in Europe by a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

A C-17 Globemaster III aircraft assigned to the 172nd Airlift Wing out of Jackson, Miss., carried out the second mission, landing at Boston Logan International Airport in the midst of a massive winter storm after a nearly 13-hour flight from Libya. As the senior Air Force representative sent to the location, I had the honor of greeting the flight.

The Libyan Transitional National Council had requested the transport of fighters to American medical facilities because their injuries could not be treated in Libya. This is a testament to the esteem in which American medical professionals are held. This esteem holds true for the unsung aeromedical evacuation (AE) professionals that ensured the safe, comfortable transport of these wounded warriors.
U.S. Air Force aeromedical evacuation

I saw that esteem firsthand in the emotional hugs and handshakes shared between the Libyans and the AE crew as the patients departed. In those farewells I saw more than just a physician-patient relationship; I saw respect between two groups of individuals who had made the conscious decision to put everything on the line for the cause of freedom.

We often speak of how air mobility “answers the call” and “delivers hope.” AE crews are hard at work across the globe every single day, answering those calls and saving lives, whether thousands in the case of major humanitarian crises or the 22 that debarked the aircraft at Logan. These professionals will humbly tell you, as one did that evening, “we’re here to help out … that’s what we’re called to do. We bring the guys back safely.”

While their modesty does them credit, it’s important to recognize the contribution of AE professionals is far-reaching. In fact, these experts have conducted more than 179,000 patient movements and 36,000 sorties since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 19, 2003. That averages out to nearly 12.4 potentially life-saving missions a day.

While no one can predict exactly what the future of Libya holds, I wonder what the wounded warriors will think about America when they return home. I don’t doubt they will be thankful for the care they received, but I wonder if they will also recognize that at least part of that care was provided by warriors like themselves … linked by a common bond: the willingness to sacrifice for freedom.

Photo: U.S. Air Force aeromedical evacuation crews, along with local emergency medical personnel, assist Libyan fighters off of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft at Boston Logan Airport Oct. 29. At the request of the Department of State and directed by the Secretary of Defense, the U.S. military is supporting U.S. and international medical assistance efforts in Libya. Specifically, the U.S. Air Force transported 22 wounded Libyans to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Salem, Mass. (Photo by Walter Santos)

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Command Chief Master Sergeant Forum: professionals, leaders, wingmen

By Airman 1st Class Krystal Tomlin
Air Force Public Affairs

Chief Master Sgt. Pat BattenbergIn attending Air Force Association’s 2011 Air & Space Conference & Technology Exposition, I had the opportunity to sit in on the Command Chief Master Sergeant Forum where the chiefs answered questions from the participants on any topic relating to the Air Force and leadership.

A number of interesting questions were brought up. What’s the biggest challenge to the enlisted force? How can supervisors best lead millennial troops? Do you have any advice for junior enlisted Airmen?

As I was listening to the responses to these questions I began to notice that from the day we receive that cherished Airman’s coin and the even greater treasure of being called an Airman each one of us has the answers.

When asked if all Airmen are professionals, all of the chiefs agreed without a doubt that we are absolutely professionals. Command Chief Master Sergeant to the Director of the Air National Guard Christopher Muncy said that with all of the training and education requirements that Airmen have to maintain we may even be more professional than our civilian counterparts. This professionalism is something that we learn in basic training and solidify throughout our career.

Another recurring theme was taking care of each other and trusting leadership. These were part of nearly every topic, and though they were usually brought up as two separate things, I believe that they go hand in hand.

Chief Master Sergeant William W. Turner, Command Chief Master Sergeant for Air Force Special Operations Command, said that one of the biggest stressors for the enlisted force is uncertainty of the future. Chief Master Sergeant John T. Salzman, Command Chief Master Sergeant of the U.S. Air Force Academy, followed that up by saying Airmen know with certainty that they will deploy, but they don’t know what will happen to their family. The solution they offered was to trust that leadership will make the right decisions.

A piece of advice that Chief Master Sergeant Pat Battenberg, Command Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force District of Washington, gave to Airmen might also help leaders at all levels gain the trust that will help alleviate some stress, and it involves taking care of one another. He said to try to find a way to say yes even when it may be easier to say no.

Munsy wrapped it up nicely when he reminded us that the first thing we were ever issued in the military was a wingman.

We keep our uniforms, equipment and personal appearance in inspection order, so ask yourself, are you taking the same care with your wingmen?

Photo: Chief Master Sgt. Pat Battenberg, Air Force District of Washington command chief, answers a question from a member of the audience Sept. 19, 2011 at the Command Chief Master Sergeant Forum during the Air Force Association 2011 Air & Space Conference & Technology Exposition in National Harbor, Md. The forum was an opportunity for Airmen to have a direct line of communication with top leaders in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Melissa Goslin)

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New blog design

By Tanya Montgomery
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Yes, it’s still us! We rolled out a new blog design today, and we’re taking care of the finishing touches. You can still expect to see the same of kind of content that highlights the perspectives, experiences, and mission of our Airmen. We’re excited about this new design, and we hope that you are too. As always, we’re open to suggestions and making things better for you, our readers.

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Cherishing life, past heroes

By Capt Amber Millerchip
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

I’m Capt Amber Millerchip, Chief of Emerging Technology for the Air Force Public Affairs Agency, and I’d like to share with you how one of my deployments changed me. Last week, we (AF Social Media) asked you on Facebook to share with us what you planned to do to honor fallen service members on Memorial Day. We read such amazing stories, and we were inspired to try something new. In order to highlight some of your stories, we want you to be guest bloggers and send us posts for the USAF blog (instructions are below). I hope that my blog post will inspire you to write your own post.
Capt Amber Millerchip

As a third generation Air Force officer, Memorial Day weekend is more than time off from work, picnics and fun in the sun; it’s a special time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about enjoying the break and spending time with family, but what’s more important is taking the time to reflect, honor and remember those veterans who’ve served and those who’ve died for our great nation.

Last summer, I deployed to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation Center, Dover Air Force Base, Del., where all of our fallen service members arrive home from combat. During the dignified transfers, I shared in the ultimate loss of parents, spouses and children. Some were silent welcoming their loved one home and others cried out their despair, their heartbreak so evident I barely could maintain my military bearing and at times just couldn’t stop my tears from falling.

I come from a very big military family and thank goodness we’ve never lost anyone to combat, but I did lose a best friend. She died in a joint exercise in Egypt. In her short life, she was a such as bright star. Her amazing spirit shone through her eyes and affected everyone she met. When I was at Dover, I couldn’t help but think of her, and although I didn’t get to help her on her final journey, at least I was able to help those that I could. 

My deployment was one of the most intense and honorable experiences of my life, and I felt blessed for the opportunity to help my fallen comrades on their final journey home. Looking back, I realize they helped me more than I helped them. Their sacrifices and their family’s sacrifices deeply touched me. I am a better person and Airman after these experiences. I realized with every fallen service member I encountered, it could be me, or one of my brothers, troops or friends serving. The experience renewed my pride in my service and gave me such an appreciation for my life. I will NEVER be the same again.
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I decided to start a Memorial Day tradition every year. I’m going to do something remarkable. Something that reminds me that life is precious, beautiful, and that I should live life to the fullest– now! This past weekend I decided to do sky diving to honor my fallen comrades, including my friend and my grandfather, a former WWII hero who didn’t die in combat, but flying later on in his life. Not sure what next year will be, but I can promise you it will be a grand adventure, and I’ll be thinking about these special people all the way.

We want to know how the USAF has taught you a lesson or inspired you. Send us your own stories for our consideration at afbluetube@gmail.com. We need from you at least 300 words, a headline, a byline, and a photo with a caption. We’ll fix typos and grammatical errors, but we won’t change your writing style. Remember to keep entries family friendly and relevant. Profanity or solicitation will not be read. We will pick the best and share them with our social media followers.

PHOTOS: (Top) This is me in action at Dover Air Force Base, Del. I was waiting for the vehicle transporting the family to the flight line for a dignified transfer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik). (Bottom) An up-close photo of my grandfather and a crew member in front of his A-20 Havoc.

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Behind the scenes of Team Rescue at Space Shuttle Endeavour launch

By Lt Col Robert Haston
920th Rescue Wing Chief of Safety                   

No space shuttle crew ascends to the Heavens without a few angels on its shoulders. The 920th Rescue Wing, stationed out of Patrick Air Force Base, is always on deck to ensure the astronauts are safe in case of a mishap. In this blog post, Lt Col Haston, an HH-60G Pave Hawk Pilot,  provides us with a glimpse of the 920th Rescue Wing’s mission before, during, and after launch.

Team Rescue

Our support for the launch starts three hours before launch (L-180 in NASA lingo) when two HH-60s from Patrick AFB arrive at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) to be ready for different types of launch area emergencies (Modes I-IV). At L-120 the first of two more HH-60s is at 6,000 feet over the 20 by 60 mile launch danger zone. They use radar and ship tracking receivers to get a long range picture of boats approaching the area.

Since ships may be closing at up to 30 knots, we initially scan an area a third of the size of Florida. We contact and move the ships, which can be difficult considering the ship may be roughly the size and weight of the Empire State Building, and we are talking to a watch captain who has a limited command of English.

Once we have sorted the big boys out, we have to deal with the professional fishermen who are generally no problem unless they are asleep below decks, which might require pushing their boat around with our rotor wash to wake them up. We also have to deal with sport fishermen and pleasure boaters who run the gamut from competent to clueless. Hopefully there isn’t a swarm of them. In the middle of this (around L-90) we pop up and get gas from a Marine Tanker.

We go land and get ready for our real job, covering for potential post launch mishaps. Modes V-VII (at or near the SLF) are pretty much a helicopter show, so they aren’t too complicated unless the Shuttle winds up in the water or trees, leaking poisonous hydrazine, etc. Mode VIII is overwater rescue which may take place off the Carolinas, and involve three tankers and four helicopters, plus more assets coming down from Cherry Point or New York. From exercises, I can say that the real challenge is if we all arrive on scene to find the astronauts, sort out who gets which, who goes to what hospital, and which tanker goes with which helicopters. Hopefully it isn’t on a moonless night in bad weather.

For more information on Team Rescue, see this story. It was posted toward the end of April to coincide with Endeavour’s original launch window.

PHOTO: Every time a space shuttle takes off, the Rescue Reservists from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, are on hand in case of emergency. The 920th Airmen are charged as guardians of the astronauts during NASA space shuttle missions to and from the Kennedy Space Center. This includes four HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and crew, three HC-130 P/N King aircraft and crew and about 15 pararescuemen, not to mention all of the maintenance support personnel who keep these aged aircraft flying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Matthew C. Simpson)