Mustache March

by Maj. Jon Quinlan
507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

mustacheSo it’s March, and what’s the first thing you think about in this glorious month? Mustache March of course! This year, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh issued a challenge to the force during the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium to grow our mustaches in honor of our aviation heritage and to remember those brave Airmen who fought before us.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had an all-in Mustache March, have we?” Welsh said. “I’m putting the smack down on you guys. Air Force-wide Mustache March, MAJCOM competitions.”

What’s the deal with Mustache March and the Air Force? Three-time ace pilot Brig. Gen. Robin Olds was one of those legendary Airmen and he sported an equally legendary mustache. He was a “triple ace” with a combined total of 16 victories in World War II and the Vietnam War. Every March, I see his picture with his handlebar “bulletproof” mustache that he flagrantly wore against military regulations. Some say he was one of the greatest aerial warriors America ever produced, a fighter pilot’s “fighter pilot.”

This brings us to today and our generation of Airmen. Sure there is plenty of frustrating news about lowered budgets, draw downs and Air Force reductions in force. But, as professional Airmen, we should stay away from that noise. One way for me, and maybe you, is to grow and be proud of your mustache. Be proud to be an Airman and have pride of our traditions and heritage.

Yes, your wives, significant others, co-workers and bosses may ridicule your sorry excuse for a mustache. That’s what makes Mustache March so great! We know mustaches are generally at a low point of acceptance in America. But, we can keep it real and proudly grow our disturbing facial hair in the name of tradition and in accordance with AFI 36-2903. Maybe some of our units can even set up fundraisers to donate money for a good cause while having some fun too.

In case you were wondering, here is a excerpt from AFI 36-2903.

3.1.2.2. Mustaches. Male Airmen may have mustaches; however they will be conservative (moderate, being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme) and will not extend downward beyond the lip line of the upper lip or extend sideways beyond a vertical line drawn upward from both corners of the mouth.

Our CSAF has thrown down the gauntlet. Let’s grow some mustaches.

Doolittle Raiders: real superheroes

By Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Looking around the auditorium, legends fill the room. A Tuskegee Airman subtly takes his seat in the crowd, and Medal of Honor recipient George “Bud” Day arrives in his wheelchair. Hundreds have come to honor three men standing onstage – the Doolittle Raiders.

Lt. Col. Dick Cole, Lt. Col. Ed Saylor and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, all three Doolittle Raiders, received much recognition during their last official reunion, April 17-20, 2013, on the Northwest Florida coast. 

During this handful of days, thousands of people, young and old, came out to show their support.

Three Doolittle Raiders

The Doolittle Raiders started with 80 Airmen in their unit, but 71 years later, only four remain, the youngest being in his early 90s.

These Raiders did something extraordinary April 18, 1942 – they delivered the first blow to Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Who won the World Series 71 years ago? For that matter, who won the Super Bowl a few years ago? Seventy-one years is a long time. Things that seem important in the moment, but are forgotten easily, rarely make for impactful moments to be written in the history books of our children and our children’s children. But an event whose impact can be lived today through a country’s freedom is something few can say they’ve been part of. 

The Doolittle Raiders can say this. All 80 of them. And America hasn’t forgotten it.

I can say this with confidence. For four days, the Raiders were treated like the heroes they are.  People lined walls by the hundreds, waiting in line up to two hours just to shake a Raider’s hand and to get an autograph. Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base Airmen filled auditoriums in hopes to ask these Raiders a question. 

The same question was asked throughout the week. What was going through your mind knowing you’re going to take off on a mission you may not return from?

Though the responses varied slightly, the message was consistent – their only thought the mission. The feeling of fright fell to the wayside, and they focused on their task at hand – send a message to Japan that we can hurt them at home.

And that’s exactly what they did.

Under the command of then Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, 80 men flew 16 aircraft off a carrier in the Pacific, dropping bombs on oil storage facilities, factory areas and military installations.

When news of the raid reached Americans, spirits rose through the roof. The raid was considered a huge psychological win.

Many things have changed during the past 71 years. Our freedom is not one of those things. 

Thatcher

Watching folks interact with the Raiders reminds me of how folks would react to meeting Superman. Children jump at the chance to take a picture with a Raider, prodding at Mom and Dad until they get their face time with one of the heroes. 

World War II veterans don their old but pristine uniforms. Cut in front of a lady who’s in line to get an autograph from a Raider, and your health is at risk – I learned this while maneuvering through the line to interview folks. Not good.

As an Airman, it’s heartwarming to see how those before me are treated. It hasn’t always been this way for those who have served. Pull aside any person wearing a “Vietnam” ball cap, and they’ll tell you that firsthand. However, first they will thank you for your service, since few have done the same to them.

Knowing that because of men like Cole, Saylor and Thatcher, I have an Air Force to serve in and freedom to enjoy … well to me … hero doesn’t do them justice. All 80 of them.

Aim high, Raiders. Fly, fight, win.

Watch the Doolittle Raiders reunion video on the Air Force’s BlueTube page on YouYube.

PHOTO: (top) From right, retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, Staff Sgt. David Thatcher and Lt. Col. Ed Saylor, Doolittle Raiders, stand before the aircraft they used in World War II’s Doolittle Raid, April 20, 2013 at the Destin Airport. The men were attending their final reunion together, as they are only three of the four living Raiders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)
(bottom) David Thatcher, a staff sergeant during the Doolittle Raid, smiles with pride as he listens to a speaker talk about the Doolittle Raiders, April 20, 2013 in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. This was the final dinner of the Doolittle Raiders’ last reunion. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)

 

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

Strength, courage on the home front

By Staff Sgt. Nicholas BreamSgt Bream and the 387th ELRS
96th Logistics Readiness Squadron

I was afforded the opportunity to share a heartfelt story of my experience while I was deployed on convoy duty in Iraq. The Learning Channel (TLC) came to my house before I arrived home and recorded the strength and courage that it takes my wife Nicole and three children, Amanda, Joseph, and Jessi to carry on everyday life while I am deployed.

The Learning Channel wanted service members who were deployed and had a special family event they wanted to share. In my case, when I was deployed in 2008 on convoy duty, Nicole gave birth to my son Joseph in Germany with only her friends by her side as I was on mission and could not be there with her. It was almost six months before I got home and the only way Joseph knew me was through a webcam and the sound of my voice. But as soon as he saw me he knew exactly who I was. And then in March of 2011 she gave birth to my daughter Jessi while I was not due back for another six weeks. I sat back and thought to myself “Wow.” I can’t imagine what it must be like to do that by herself and still take care of our other children and attend college full time.

Amanda and Nicole enjoyed watching shows about military members reuniting with family members after a deployment. One evening Amanda asked me via webcam if “Mommy and Daddy could surprise her like that when I came home.” I was excited to be able to surprise her like she wanted and to be able to share it with other people. After a few months of going back and forth with ideas we finally decided that we would make the show about my daughter getting her Girl Scout “Strength and Courage” badge awarded. Amanda helped out Nicole in every way that a 6 year old could. Amanda stepped up to take my place helping around the house, picking up the living room and folding laundry.

From that point on I handed the planning over to Nicole and the Girl Scout leader Elizabeth to work with the production crew. They set it up to be recorded at my home in Florida during a Girl Scout meeting. They invited a local fire fighter to talk about how much strength and courage it takes to do his job. After talking about that for a few minutes he then moved to introduce me, saying how it took more strength and courage to do my job overseas in hostile environments.

They all worked it perfectly so that when I got home from the airport all I had to do was walk in the door and surprise Amanda and her Girl Scout troop. She had no idea I was coming home yet and she was in total shock that her dad was the one to award her this achievement. After I surprised Amanda, Nicole had a surprise for me — getting to see my daughter Jessi for the first time in person since she was born. Up until then I had only seen her via webcam and pictures Nicole sent me. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to finally hold her.

I have deployed two times, and both times they have been for more than six months. Every military member, myself included, has to be ready at a moment’s notice to pick up and go somewhere else for duty. Whether it is for one day or 12 months we are not the ones who have it hard. It’s the family and loved ones we leave behind who are expected to carry on daily life without us.

Photo: Airmen with the 387th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance flight deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation New Dawn from September 2010 to April 2011.

Security Forces 9/11 Ruck March to Remember: Team Hurlburt

By Tech. Sgt. Chad M. Reemtsma
1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron

We started with a sense of pride in the fact that there were only four of us doing what other bases were using four or five times the amount of members we had to accomplish the ruck march. We finished deeply humbled by the supporters’ sincere appreciation of the statement we were taking part in.

Tech. Sgt. Dance volunteered his personally owned vehicle as our transportation due to it having the most practical amount of space for our needs.

We departed July 28, 2011, at around 4:30 a.m. We met Team Columbus at noon at State Police Troop M, east of Brookhaven, Miss. Senior Airman Allen Buning and I took the first leg. We developed a 30 minute ruck / 1.5 hour down time schedule that worked out very well.

At roughly 6 p.m. Staff Sgt. McQuiggin and I brought our team into Monticello, Miss. We were greeted by the town with an escort and supporters on the street led by retired Master Sgt. Tim Lea of VFW Post #4889. The post let us stay the night at the Monticello Baptist Church and the Ladies Auxiliary cooked us dinner and let us use the showers.

At 5:30 a.m. we set out From Monticello, Miss., headed east toward Collins, Miss., and beyond. Around 2 p.m. Tech. Sgt. Dance brought us into Collins and it seemed like the whole town was on Main Street. Fire trucks blocked the side roads as we were led in by the Collins Police Department and the rear was brought up by Covington County who had been with us since Prentiss, Miss. The Collins city mayor was on main street and greeted us with city pins and handshakes. By 6 p.m. July 29 we made it 44 miles. We passed Collins, so we backtracked and headed into town to meet the residents of the Collins VA home. We also met James Sanford and his fellow supporters from the Veterans Outreach organization.

Heading out again at 5:30 in the morning we set out from our stopping point east of Collins toward Laurel, Miss. Around 10:30 a.m. we arrived in Laurel and received escort from the Laurel Police Department and fire dept. They escorted us to Laurel’s Veterans Memorial Museum where all members of the community were represented, from veterans to young people wanting to join the military as well as community leaders. We pressed on and made it several miles out of town before we quit for the night and headed back to Laurel for dinner, showers and lodging. The showers and lodging were provided by the Laurel Police Department, at their police training center located next to the Veterans Memorial Museum. We were treated to dinner by Laurel’s Fraternal Order of Police and the police chief.

We set out from east of Laurel at 5:30 a.m. and headed for our final destination in Bolinger/Silas, Ala. We met that deadline around 5:30 p.m. and headed back to the Waynesboro Fire Dept for the night. Waynesboro had some folks come to meet us and set us up with showers, a place to stay and a great barbecue dinner.

We slept in Aug. 1 and rendezvoused with the Tyndall Air Force Base team at around 10:30 a.m. and organized a change over ceremony and then hit the road and headed home.

Photo: (from left ro right) Staff Sgt. Michael McQuiggin, Senior Airman Allen Buning, Tech. Sgt. Daniel Dance and Tech. Sgt. Chad Reemtsma line up with their squadron’s guidon before heading out for their leg of the ruck march. The previous photo was removed due to some uniform items not being within regulations.

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