A handshake to remember

By Airman 1st Class Aaron Jenne
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The stress finally started to permeate upon the realization that tomorrow I would come eye to eye with one of the most recognized faces in the world.

I was excited since I first received news Jan. 12 that I would get to see Air Force One land at Raleigh-Durham International Airport and possibly have a chance to shake President Barack Obama’s hand Jan. 15.

I received the honor because I had recently been chosen as Airman of the month, along with two others from my office, as a reward for outstanding performance.

Tuesday night, I tried to watch TV and unwind. Each time I came close to relaxing I remembered one more detail needing preparation for the morning. My anticipation for the next day quickly turned to anxiety.

After a restless night, my wife and I got up at 4 a.m. to prepare for our 6:45 a.m. departure.

We talked all the way to Raleigh. Neither of us could believe that we were going to meet the president.

The doors didn’t open until 9:30 a.m. and we got there early to be at the front of the line.

When the doors opened, we were herded to one end of a staging area. Our group huddled toward the front, waiting excitedly. When security released us to the roped off area on the tarmac, we realized we were actually at the back of the room and were some of the last to exit.

As a photographer, I wanted to be at the front so I could take good photos, not to mention I was selfishly hoping for an opportunity to shake the president’s hand.

Air Force One landed and taxied to it’s final destination. The president’s car pulled up between Air Force One and our waiting area, and I thought he would probably get right into his car without shaking any hands.

I was frustrated. All of the things I had planned for weren’t happening. As my hopes for the day were falling through, Obama rounded his car and made his way toward us and everything changed.

I forgot everything. I wasn’t frustrated anymore, I was just excited. My only thought was trying to get a good picture. Holding the camera over my head I was snapping pictures as fast as the camera would take them.

Obama kept getting closer and I kept bobbing and weaving in an attempt to catch him between the people in front of me. Finally he stood right in front of me. Looking through my lens it looked like there was a lot of room between the two people in front of me.

140115-F-OB680-470Then, he was looking directly at me saying something.

“And how are you doing today?” Obama asked.

I lowered my camera in confusion, surely he wasn’t talking to me, but he was, and as I shook his hand three words just floated out of my mouth with no thought on my part.

“Good. You sir?”

In response as he turned to go to the next person, Obama, my commander in chief, gave me the thumbs up.

Then the moment was over, and the camera was back up. He climbed into his car with one final wave, and the motorcade began its long procession away from the airport.

The rest of the day, I told everyone I interacted with that I just shook the president’s hand. Some people didn’t believe me, most were impressed and excited I had this opportunity.

I shared this story because I was excited to meet my commander in chief. He gave me something to aspire to in my military career. I hope that no matter how high I rise in the ranks, how important my mission is or how tight of a schedule I have, I still take time to brighten someone’s day like the president did for me.

I am happy I had this opportunity. I was impressed Obama took the time to ask me how I was, when my only thought was taking pictures. I know that my wife and I will remember this moment for the rest of our lives.

Opinion: A death while serving will never be senseless

by Air Force Staff Sgt. William Banton
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs

Air Force bids farewell to Combat Talon I
Hollywood has always had a “hot-or-cold” relationship with the U.S. military, sometimes praising our efforts, like the post-World War II-era movies, and sometimes questioning our actions, as in many Vietnam-era movies.

Now it is the current generation of veterans and service members who face the public scrutiny of Hollywood’s media machine. The products of this industry have already started to define the history of today’s veterans.

The most recent example of the media coverage of service members’ actions, the theatrical version of the book “Lone Survivor” ( a film I have not yet seen), brings to light the heroism and sacrifice of U.S. service members.

I recently watched an interview from a reputable news source in which the reporter used the words “senseless death” in highlighting the actions of the modern-day warriors depicted in this film — the type of people I’ve been honored to work with.

While watching this interview, I found myself amazed at the impressions many Americans have regarding the U.S. military and the sacrifices made to protect this country.
To be blunt, some people don’t get it.

I’ve spent seven years, five months and nine days in the military. Four years were devoted to honoring the dead as member of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard and two years as a public affairs specialist for the 1st Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla. I have had the privilege to spend my career writing about or honoring the sacrifices of true American heroes.

While I am in no way an expert on every service member and why they do what they do, I feel the need to spell something out: while these sacrifices are tragic, they will never be senseless.

It’s not about glory, sacrifice or honor, though many noble people have achieved all three. Many great men and women will tell you this is just a job and they need the paycheck. I’ve had those days too.

It doesn’t matter if they are stellar service members, are still trying to find their niche, or if they signed up for the benefits or for the education. The men and women of the armed services are less than one percent — of more than 300 million citizens – who have sworn to defend this country with their lives.

This is a country people die trying to enter — just for the slim chance of having a better life. This is a country in which countless numbers have died to uphold the ideals of freedom its founding fathers established more than 200 years ago.

No matter what you think of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the current state of this country, a death in the service of others — when so few are willing to step up — will never be senseless.

During my career as ceremonial guardsman I preformed hundreds of funerals for veterans and service members. Some of the people were more famous than others, like Chief of Staff of the Air Force Lew Allen Jr., or the first Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, Paul W. Airey. Some of the funerals were more memorable then others, like the young child at his parent’s funeral who was clearly oblivious to what this loss meant. Or the man who was the only person at his father’s funeral who was so grateful for the service we provided that he insisted on personally shaking everyone’s hand.

Of all the funerals I served at, the ones that stand out the most were repatriation ceremonies.

These funerals involved remains which had been missing, in some cases, 30 to 40 years. These funerals always stand out to me because I was able to see the faces of families who had lived their whole lives without their loved ones, and how much that sacrifice affected their lives.

I was able to look into the eyes of a wife who finally received closure after years of uncertainty. In those moments, I was able to truly understand how meaningful that person’s life was to her. For me, that is not senseless.

Hollywood, for better or worse, will always be there to dramatize the actions of great people. Their doing so is another way of ensuring their deaths will never be senseless– for the only senseless death in the service of the country is one which is forgotten.

Now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts?

Every Dollar Counts initiative update

By Gen. Larry O. Spencer, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force

EDC logo
The Every Dollar Counts campaign is off and running! Airmen across the Air Force—military and civilian, active, Guard and Reserve—have embraced the idea of helping the Air Force make the best use of our scarce resources. I have provided some examples of great work that is ongoing below. We also activated our month-long “Airman Powered by Innovation” website, and the response has been overwhelming. We received over 1,700 ideas the very first day, and as of May 10, we have received more than 5,700 ideas. Now, we are hard at work evaluating ideas to identify those we can implement quickly—others that require Air Force instruction (AFI) or legislative changes will take a bit more time and work. Either way, our pledge is to evaluate and turn the ideas as quickly as possible and provide our Airmen feedback through the assessment process.

The evaluation process is quite impressive. We established a 16-person Airman Innovation Operations Center comprised of selected Air Staff functionals working full time. The team processes Airmen’s idea submissions and monitors the website forum that allows suggestions and permits real-time discussion via blog format. Once offices of primary responsibility have been identified, final disposition will be determined for each submission. When a suggestion is approved and implemented, the ideas will then be cross-fed across Air Staff, major commands and wings to generate cost savings Air Force-wide. So, keep those good ideas coming! Also, we are working on a transition plan for good ideas after the website closes on June 1, so that we can sustain the momentum going forward. 

To help inspire our Airmen, I want to highlight some incredible stories of Airmen and organizations that already epitomize the spirit of “Airmen Powered by Innovation” efforts. I hope the awesome work of these superstars will motivate people to go back and take a hard look at their programs and try to find ways to be more cost-conscious, recheck equipment surveys, find savings, identify redundant requirements and eliminate waste where possible. If you have a good idea we want to hear about it.

David Billingly is a telecommunications program manager for the Secretariat, Headquarters Air Force. Mr. Billingly completed a survey of all the telecommunication lines in the lease space for the Headquarters and after four months of analysis, he identified that there were over 1,260 unnecessary phone lines connected and being charged to the account. Once disconnected, the savings totaled $332,489. David Billingly EDC

The 103rd Rescue Squadron is part of the New York National Guard. While on TDY status to Exercise ANGEL THUNDER 2013, pararescue jumpers assigned to the squadron took advantage of a commercial wind tunnel outside of Tucson, AZ to practice their free-fall techniques for a fraction of the cost of a C-130 mission. Although the wind tunnel cannot replace actual live jumps, savings for similar training totaled more than $83,700.

The Electronic Flight Bag Team is stationed at Air Mobility Command, Scott AFB. They initiated the Mobility Air Forces’ move to electronic publications which resulted in eliminating 70-90 pounds of paper per crewmember and saved $770,000 in fuel weight per year. Overall savings including fuel and printing costs totals $2.54 million per year.

Master Sgt. Ernest Harrison is deployed to the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron. His detective work while deployed uncovered valuable equipment missing from an inventory list. Once identified, Harrison’s actions allowed Air Forces Central Command to cancel an expensive pending logistics requirement. The result saved the Air Force $348,571.

Sandra Cantrell is assigned to the headquarters Air Force staff and introduced cost-effective software that enabled the Pentagon graphics office to save time and money in printing certificates for retirements, awards, appointments and more. The old system was time consuming and wasted up to five sheets of high-quality paper. The resulting process has saved the Air Force $208,000 since it has been implemented. Sandy Cantrell EDC

Electronic Technical Orders. Over the last two years, Air Force Reserve Command led a pilot program for the Air Force to replace expensive, cumbersome and ruggedized laptops with lighter, cheaper and more flexible tablets for the maintenance community to view aircraft maintenance technical orders for their work on the flightline and in the back shops. The business case analysis estimates Air Force savings to be over $12 million per year by replacing ruggedized laptops with the tablets on an attrition basis. 

HQ Air Force Materiel Command Centralized Asset Management Team at Wright- Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The centralized management of depot-level requirements, aviation fuel and flying hours mitigated FY13 sequestration reductions and resulted in efficiencies which maximized warfighter capability and minimized Air Force risk.

Finally, I want to say thank you! As always, our Airmen have responded to the call, and it is exciting to see and read about the successes you all are having every day. Your hard work is truly making a difference. Savings from the Every Dollar Counts Campaign are being used to help pay local shortfalls as well as corporate shortfalls such as flying hours and depot inductions. Your ideas are also causing us to take another look at many of our AFIs to ensure that we are not hindering Airmen from doing their jobs. In addition, this campaign has drawn interest from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and our sister Services for potential expansion across the Department of Defense.

Every Airman, every day, can make a difference—be that Airman!

Submit your ideas on  the Every Dollar Counts website now.

A day in the Air Force

by Tech. Sgt. Mareshah Haynes, Air Force News Service

Air Force Week kicks off in New York City

There are many things that go into a day in the life in the Air Force. Airmen from hundreds of job specialties contribute to making the U.S. Air Force the greatest airpower in the world.

Check out this slideshow we compiled from photos taken by Airmen from around the Air Force to see just some of the things that go into an Air Force day.


Through her eyes: Afghanistan

by Meredith March, Defense Media Activity Air Force Production

Adjusting to different cultures is often part of the job during deployments. For Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Rosato, these adjustments include learning to navigate a foreign culture in which women are not always treated as their male counterparts’ equals.

Staff Sgt Rosato

Rosato, a truck commander for the 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Reaper Team 1 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, is the only female on a team that conducts counter-insurgency missions “outside the wire” and frequently interacts with the local population.

While she has encountered some gender-based barriers while building a rapport with the villagers, Rosato is grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of Afghanistan.

Read more about Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Rosato’s experience in Afghanistan.

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