Part of the solution

By Capt. Chris Sukach

Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

We’ve all done it.  Encountered a problem or frustration and said, “This is messed up.  Someone should fix it.”  And maybe we’ve complained about the frustration and possibly even offered up solutions, but how often do we see those solutions through?

Ken Fisher, Chairman of the Fisher House Foundation, is a person who not only provides solutions to problems, but sees those solutions through to fruition.  Just seven months ago he learned that families who travel to Dover Air Force Base, Del. to witness the dignified transfers of their loved ones sometimes had difficulty finding lodging when hotels in the area were fully booked.

Even though they were in the midst of building 14 other Fisher Houses at the time, Ken and his team leapt into action to build a unique Fisher House, one that would provide families with not only a place to stay, but a place where they could gather, pray and reflect. 

Mr. Fisher said that he and his team chose to take responsibility for fulfilling a need they knew existed.

“It’s so easy to say it should be someone else’s problem,” he said.  “But while you’re doing that, the problem grows.  The need grows.  So we chose to be part of the solution.”

Tops in Blue: It’s not just singing, dancing we do

 

Pre-show setup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Airman 1st Class Jette Warnick

I had no idea what I’d be getting into when I joined Tops In Blue for their 2010 tour.

As a fairly new Airman in a family where the last of us to enlist joined when the draft was still in effect, I knew basically nothing about the military as a whole.  A few months after I arrived at my first duty station, Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, I noticed signs posted all over the base with a picture of a girl singing and the word, “Audition.”  A music major before I joined the Air Force, I couldn’t resist trying out.

After sending in a video audition and going to the worldwide competition in January, I was surprised and overjoyed when I made it into Tops In Blue.  At this point I’d seen the 2009 team perform and thought I knew what Tops In Blue was all about.

Staging, a three-month process, showed me the work and dedication that was needed to put this tour together.  Performers not only do a show, but are also the roadies.  Before each show, we unload 64,000 pounds of equipment from the trucks and then spend roughly four to five hours setting up the stage.  Each member of Tops In Blue has a specific job to do during this time.  For instance, my area of responsibility is audio, which has me running power cables and setting up speakers.

When the stage is fully set up, we sound-check, and the performers find their own little corner to get ready for the show.  For the females, this can be somewhat of an ordeal initially.  Makeup has to be flawless, and our hair has to be huge in order for the entire audience to see all of us clearly.  Eleven women in what is usually a fairly crowded space, with limited outlets for irons, can be an interesting time.  However, we have never had any trouble with teamwork and looking out for each other.  One way or another, everyone always gets show-ready.

Next is the performance, which is roughly about 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Tops In Blue is a high-energy show with lots of dancing and audience interaction.  We put our all into making our choreography precise and all of our movements big, so that the people sitting in the back of the audience can get just as good of a show as those in the front row.  It can feel like a workout a lot of the time, but for the most part it’s just as much fun as it looks.

After the show, we grab a bite to eat, start tearing down the stage, and load all the equipment back into the trucks.  This takes about another three hours.  We usually end up going home to the hotel around 2 a.m. to catch a few hours of sleep before waking up the next morning and traveling to the next city or base where we will be performing.

We just got done with four shows in a row where we traveled to a different state each morning for another show.  I don’t know how we did it, but the last night, when we were very sleep deprived, was our best show out of the four.

Being a part of Tops In Blue is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  It is mentally and physically exhausting, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I enjoy making people happy, and one of the purposes of this program is to improve morale for those men and women serving in the military and for their spouses and family that support them.  I like being able to impact so many people’s lives in such a positive way by doing something I love.

PHOTO: Members of the Air Force’s Premier Entertainment Showcase, Tops In Blue, set up a stage in preparation for the June 11, 2008, show at Soldier Field. (Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven L. Shepard)

After weather delays, Discovery revealed during ‘Rollback’

By Lance CheungXenon lights

Defense Media Activity-San Antonio

Nov. 3, 2010

Despite weather from the west rolling through the area a few days ago, I finally watched the sun set and xenon lights (click for video) come on from 1/4 mile away.

Seeing Discovery revealed (click for video) was momentous. To see the culmination of will, drive, integrity and technology in the stylized shape of a bird destined to soar was moving.

I can hardly wait to see this bird lift its wings upward. Check out this cool video of the rollback of the Rotating Service Structure.

PHOTOS: (Top) Space shuttle Discovery shines in the distance, seen from the media center Nov. 3, 2010, at the Kennedy Space Complex, Fla. In the marina, a mooring points to launch complex 39A where xenon lights cast beams into the sky and clouds. Between now and launch time, numerous checks will be accomplished before the mission will be ready to go, but because of a weather delay the launch is expected to be Friday. Late that morning the space travelers will head to the launch complex to be strapped in and prepare to blast-off into space. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)
(Bottom left) Photographers stand ready for the rollback of the rotating service structure and reveal of orbiter Discovery at launch complex 39A, Nov. 3, 2010, Kennedy Space Complex, Fla. The clouds are a weather front that has delayed the launch by one day. Weather forecasting is handled by the 45th Weather Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)
(Bottom right) The massive rotating service structure swings away from the space shuttle revealing the orbiter Discovery Nov. 3, 2010, at the Kennedy Space Complex, Fla. Between now and launch time, numerous checks will be accomplished before the mission will be ready to go. But, because of a weather delay the launch is expected to be Friday. Late that morning the space travelers will head to the launch complex to be strapped in and prepare to blast-off into space. STS-133 will be commanded by retired (USAF) Colonel Steve Lindsey. This final flight of Discovery will be piloted by active duty (USAF) Col. Eric Boe. The lead mission specialist is (USAF) Col. Alvin Drew. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)

Rain forecast highlights 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron support to Discovery

By Lance Cheung

Defense Media Activity-San Antonio

Nov. 2, 2010

It’s been a few days of waiting near Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, mainly due to weather conditions. It’s given me a chance to learn about how closely the Kennedy Space Center and neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Station rely on the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron at nearby Patrick Air Force Base to forecast weather for all operations.

The only concerns for the shuttle launch, as of Nov. 2, are the possibility of low-level clouds or rain showers within 20 nautical miles of the Shuttle Landing Facility. In the event of lightning, an 80-foot lightening mast is positioned atop the Fixed Service Structure high above the Space Shuttle Discovery.

PHOTO: During the “Kennedy Space Center: Today & Tomorrow” tour, the Space Shuttle Discovery can be viewed from one mile away on Launch Complex 39A, at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Nov. 1, 2010. The adjusted takeoff date is Nov 3. To make Space Shuttle launches as economical as possible, their reuse is crucial. Unlike rocket boosters previously used in the space program, the Space Shuttle’s solid rocket booster (SRB) casings and associated flight hardware are recovered at sea. The expended boosters are disassembled, refurbished and reloaded with solid propellant for reuse. The two retrieval ships that perform the SRB recovery, the Liberty Star and Freedom Star, are unique vessels specifically designed and constructed for this task. (Courtesy photo/Lance Cheung)

Looking back into space program history

By Lance Cheung

Defense Media Activity-San Antonio

Nov. 1, 2010

Today I had the opportunity to visit the greatest American rocket ever built: Saturn V. The Apollo crews (who consisted of military pilots, many from the Air Force) got to fly the most powerful American rocket ever built. What an amazing sight to see how much this rocket dwarfs the people who flock to see it.

PHOTO: Saturn V rocket. (Photo courtesy\Lance Cheung)