Dispatch from the AOR–One interesting experience for an AF Reserve M.D.

Below is a post from Lt. Col. E. Mark Shusterman, M.D., who is serving as the tour doctor with the Tour for the Troops.

TourDrI’ve done a few things during my 14 year Air Force Reserve career that most doctors, let alone most people, would not have the opportunity to experience in the civilian world; this gig has to be right up there on the not-quite-usual scale… A couple of months ago, I hardly imagined being on tour with the Band of the USAF Reserve, Kid Rock, Jessie James, and Carlos Mencia, traveling to six countries in barely two weeks. But an e-mail showed up in my inbox, and here I am; funny how life brings some marvelous adventures in the most unexpected ways. And an adventure this has been.

When I found out that I would be providing medical support for this mission, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As it turned out, this job has not been much different than that of any medical professional providing care to a group of seventy or so performing artists, technical crew, and other personnel, traveling at break-neck speed from country to country in tactical airlift and tanker aircraft, putting on almost nightly shows for U.S. and coalition troops at various “undisclosed” locations throughout South-West Asia and Europe. Ah, yeah…

Fortunately, so far, the need for my services has been confined to dispensing the occasional decongestant, headache pill, and suturing up the lacerations of road crew who roll off fifteen foot stages to narrowly escape a crushing death beneath thousand-pound equipment cases tumbling off fork lifts. At a place somewhere in a middle-eastern desert one needs to wear armor to fly into. Ah, yeah again…

It’s been one interesting experience. Just the sort of thing I’d hoped for when I joined the Air Force Reserves a year or so after medical school graduation.

Lt. Col. Mark Shusterman, an Air Force Reservist, is a physician traveling with the 2009 Tour for the Troops. Tour for the Troops is sponsored by the Air Force Reserve. See photos, video and updates on the Tour for the Troops Facebook fan page.  Follow Air Force Reserve on Twitter @AFRC. Look for tour updates on Twitter at #Tour4Troops

Dispatch from the AOR–Running with the Rock Stars on Tour for the Troops

Running with the Rock Stars on Tour for the Troops

by Lt. Col. Ann Peru Knabe

I’ll never make it as a rock star – I love my sleep too much. But I’m spending two weeks with some real rock stars on the Tour for the Troops; these artists rarely sleep.

Lt Col Knabe escorts the Tour for the Troops

Lt Col Knabe escorts the Tour for the Troops

The tour is sponsored by the Air Force Reserve, and features musician Kid Rock, comedian Carlos Mencia and singer / songwriter Jessie James.

And they do put in long, long days as they travel into combat zones. They’ll play seven concerts across the AOR (area of responsibility) and Europe before the tour ends.

Seven shows in less than 12 days is no easy feat. The performing artists are short on sleep as they spend hours setting up, performing sound tests, signing autographs, touring bases, posing for photos with the troops, and, of course, performing.

Despite the long hours cramped on a plane with equipment, the performers remain positive and focused, working to the point of exhaustion.

There’s commitment behind the scenes, too, as the tech and production crews set-up and tear down stages at every location. There are no divas on this trip – they all have enormous stage talent, and yet enormous responsibility setting-up sound and light gear. There are no autograph sessions or after-parties for most of the roadies, they have a date with a loadmaster who is packing the plane.

Meanwhile additional deployed Airmen and Soldiers work behind the scenes at each location to ensure the tour’s success.  They welcome the artists, dedicating scarce resources and manning to ensure the shows’ success.

The tour is an amazing total force effort: Before leaving the U.S., two Air Force Reserve aircraft were packed with artists, backup singers, a  full support team and more than 45,000 pounds of cargo, including a grand piano, the bands’ instruments, and all the lights, sound and electronic equipment used during the show. It’s enough to fill two semi-trucks. Reserve aerial porters load and unload the aircraft at each location, and Reserve crews fly the group. The Band of the Air Force Reserve, itself, is comprised of musicians who belong to the regular Air Force, and features soloist, Angelina Johnson, a Guardsman who joined the Reserve component after serving on active duty. Plus there are civilians manning the production team, putting together the stage, lights and sound system. They all work together to ensure a sensational show is offered at every venue.

Sure, there are glitches, like the time we flew to a forward operating base in Iraq and left the autograph cards back at Kirkuk. But the troops were appreciative to have their first VIP guests in four years. And there are laughs, like the time Jessie had a brown hairy wolf spider scare her out of her room in Incirlik.

The tour is exhausting, but it’s only two weeks of my life. That’s a sharp contrast to Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen spending six months to a year in the war zone. As the Tour for the Troops finishes its trip through the AOR, the Air Force Reserve salutes all deployed service members and says “thank you” to their supportive families. We’ll soon be back home in the U.S. , but the personal sacrifices of our men and women in the armed forces will not be forgotten.

Lt. Col. Ann Peru Knabe, an Air Force Reservist, is the public affairs officer traveling with the 2009 Tour for the Troops. Tour for the Troops is sponsored by the Air Force Reserve. See photos, video and updates on the Tour for the Troops Facebook fan page.  Follow Air Force Reserve on Twitter @AFRC. Look for tour updates on Twitter at #Tour4Troops

Global Strike Command assumes ICBM mission

AFGSCShieldOn December 1, 2009, the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) gained three missile wings, one each at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.; Malmstrom AFB, Mont.; and Minot AFB, N.D.  The new command, activated in August, will assume the 20th Air Force mission, including that organization’s responsibility for the all of the United States’ 450 ICBMs.  Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, Commander, AFGSC, welcomed the Airmen who will now fall under his command. Below is the transcript of his welcome address.

To the Men and Women of 20th Air Force and the 576th Flight Test Squadron

On December 1st, the Nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile force will transfer to Air Force Global Strike Command.  This action marks yet another milestone in the comprehensive roadmap laid out by the Secretary of the Air Force and our Chief of Staff to strengthen both the capability and the credibility of the Air Force nuclear enterprise.  It also reflects the Air Force’s firm and unshakable conviction that the most powerful weapons in our Nation’s arsenal are a special trust and responsibility – and, one of the Air Force’s top priorities!  Consolidating the ICBM force and the long-range, nuclear-capable bomber force under a single major command will enhance our ability to uphold the high standards required to operate, maintain, secure and support nuclear deterrence and global strike forces.

Even though the Cold War has ended, the world remains a dangerous and uncertain place. For this reason, the strategic nuclear triad continues to be the foundation of our national deterrent posture.  Each one of the triad’s three legs – the ICBM, the long-range bomber, and the sea-launched ballistic missile – makes a unique and complementary contribution to our national security.  The ICBM leg is the most available and responsive to national leadership.  Continuously on alert and deployed in 450 widely dispersed locations, the overall size and characteristics of the Minuteman III force presents any potential adversary with an almost insurmountable challenge should he contemplate an attack.  He cannot disarm the ICBM force without using up almost all of his own forces and, in the process, leaving himself vulnerable to the remaining two legs of the triad.  Therefore, he has no incentive to strike in the first place.  That’s the point.  In this way, the ICBM contributes immeasurably to both deterrence and stability in a crisis.

For this reason, a safe, secure and credible ICBM force – and a long-range, nuclear-capable bomber force — remains a critical Air Force mission and responsibility.  For the women and men of Global Strike Command that means we have an extraordinarily important mission; noble and worthy work to perform; work that demands the utmost in professionalism, discipline, excellence, and pride.

Everyone in Twentieth Air Force and the 576 FLTS should know that the entire senior leadership of the Air Force is extremely proud of each and every one of you, and of what you do every day.  With every alert tour, with every dispatch, every post, and every test you demonstrate over and over again that you truly are among the best and brightest who have ever served in the Air Force.

Now, as a member of the Air Force’s newest major command, you’ll be a valued member of an elite and highly-disciplined team – a team that values individual responsibility for success, uncompromising adherence to standards, superior technical and weapon system expertise, and pride in our nuclear heritage and mission.  Our Nation’s senior leaders and our fellow citizens are counting on you to get it absolutely right—every time.

Our ultimate success in this important work depends upon everyone assigned to Global Strike Command.  As your Commander, I promise to do all within my power to ensure you get the right guidance, right manpower, and right resources required to do your job; and, to ensure the well-being of you and your families.  It’s my honor and privilege to serve alongside you as together we build a model command!

Unique support team pulls together in Afghanistan

Lt. Col. Antonio Castillo, Commander of Regional Support Team Capital in Kabul, Afghanistan took some time out to share his perspectives on a unique team he commands in Afghanistan. Composed of Air Force, Army and Navy, this group started from the ground up.

“When Airmen attend Combat Skills Training they usually have a good idea about the job they will be performing downrange; perhaps they will be part of some type of training team, or will perform duties somewhere as an individual augmentee. However, for most Airmen tasked to fill Joint Expeditionary Taskings (JET), they may actually be surprised where they ultimately end up, and may discover they are not performing the mission they originally were intended to perform.

If flexibility is the key to Airpower, then this is a story about the flexibility demonstrated by the group of Airmen and Sailors who comprise Regional Support Team Capital.

Originally, I was slated to be a planner in Northern Afghanistan for an organization I’ve never heard of. When I called the personnel office in Kabul en-route for a ride to Camp Eggers, I discovered my original job no longer existed and that he would be doing “something else” which would be revealed to him later.

As I arrived at Camp Eggers in Kabul, I discovered that not only would I not be a planner in the North as he originally thought, but instead I would be commanding something called a Regional Support Team (RST) for the Kabul Capital Region. I immediately asked myself “what is an RST?”

I later discovered my team would be responsible for assisting Regional Command Capital and the Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan’s embedded teams with the facilitation of logistical and engineering requirements. In actuality the RST would have many functions; it would serve as CSTC-A’s forward presence in the Capital Region, as a liaison for various unresolved issues, and basically fill a wide variety of roles once performed by the former Afghanistan Regional Security Integration Commands (ARSICs), which were by design much larger and more powerful organizations than the RST.

Before any RST-related actions could take place there were a few minor obstacles that needed to be overcome; it was now Sept. 4, and the RST had to achieve initial operating capability by Sept. 20 and full operational capability by Oct. 21, 2009. We had no equipment, no offices, and no personnel assigned.

Additionally, I was a major at the time, a Political Military Affairs Officer serving as an RST Commander with four Army colonel Combat Arms counterparts. How could any of this ever come together?

With a notional list of names and equipment that were to comprise the RST, I spent two weeks reading all of the Army orders in the CSTC-A Joint Operation Center pondering the future of his command to be.

The original plan was for RST-C to be collocated with RC-C; a theory which made sense due to the support relationship between the two organizations. So I assembled support in order to conduct a site survey at Camp Warehouse, where RC-C’s Headquarters resided. However all this would change during a meeting when someone much higher ranking than me suggested he try the much more support-friendly Camp Phoenix as a home for the RST-to-be. To me, these were the marching orders I was looking for. As soon as this guidance was given, I gladly gave up his unauthorized chair in the JOC and corner bunk in the tent at Camp Eggers and began conducting site surveys at Phoenix.

The real irony of it all was that of an entire list of 12 personnel projected to come to RST-C, we only received one. Whatever happened to the original people who were supposed to comprise the initial RST remains a mystery; however the RST began to get more personnel, one here, two there, until it reached its current strength of eight. Each person came to RST-C under different JET taskings and all under different sets of circumstances.” — Lt. Col. Antonio Castillo Castillo

Below are excerpts from members who make up the Regional Support Team — Capital. Here are their stories:

“When I was first deployed to Afghanistan I was told I would be the Superintendent for engineers. Our mission was to mentor Afghan National Army on the various CE skill sets. We did this for a short period but then were told that our mission would be changing. We shipped several hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment to various Forward Operating Bases. Now I am the Superintendent for the Regional Support Team-Capital.”  — SMSgt Larry V. Keesee, Air Force, RST-Capital Superintendent

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“Prior to coming to Afghanistan I was not aware of my final destination. I originally was supposed to be assigned to an Embedded Training Team of approximately 15 people. Once I arrived at Camp Phoenix, I still had no idea as to where I would be assigned. After being at Camp Phoenix for a few days, I was informed that I would going to Forward Operating Base Blackhorse. However, prior to my departure, my Master Chief informed me that I had been slotted for a tasking to work with Regional Support Team Capital as their Information Technology Support NCOIC, and here I am today.” — IT1 Monica Spain, Navy RST-Capital IT/ADMIN/COMMO NCOIC

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“I came from ARSIC-W region where I did all kinds of jobs; from construction pushing dirt to mechanical work fixing Humvees’s and some electrical work. At times it seemed like I was just loaned help, but I took up the challenges as they came. My specific career field is Power Production with an Air Force Civil Engineering background. When I was re-missioned to Camp Phoenix I expected to be doing someone’s dirty work for a while. However I was lucky enough to land a job working at the newly formed Regional Support Team Capital. While here I’ve been lucky enough to travel to downtown Kabul and help with projects such as lighting for a university, classrooms for military staff college, among other projects which directly improve Afghan and coalition forces’ relations and security.

With a handful of personnel this shop was built from the ground up, literally. We started with a large tent-sized building and some computers lying on the floor! We now have a well-oiled machine. Working for this RST has been a great experience; my only regret is that I didn’t have more time to spend with a great group of individuals in Regional Support Team-Capital.” — Staff Sgt. Yurac Guzman, Air Force, RST-Capital Engineer NCOIC

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“I began my journey with ARSIC-West at Camp Stone. After working a Camp Stone and FOB Rescorla in the Province Farah, I was re-missioned to Camp Phoenix, Kabul. At that time, I was tasked to work with the 48th BSTB as their NCOIC In/Out Processing Liaison. Regional Support Team Capital serves as my alternate work area, where I am the pavements and heavy equipment operator NCOIC. I am happy to work with such a fascinating group of Navy and Air Force personnel. My experience here at RST-C has been a quite rewarding experience to present, and I hope to gain more insight prior to my departure next month.” — Staff Sgt. Harris, USAF

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“I am currently deployed to Camp Phoenix Kabul, Afghanistan as part of the Regional Support Team-Capital (RST-C). Prior to my assignment, I was stationed aboard the USS Bulkeley (DDG-84), home ported in Norfolk, Virginia. As our Nation fights, so does our Navy. The Navy thought it was necessary to support our brothers in arms with the global fight. And with the training and technical knowledge gained from Fort Jackson, Combat Training Course, I was forward deployed to Afghanistan. Apprehensive about my tour, I gladly accept my orders in support of the global fight. Upon arrival I found myself sleeping in tents awaiting permanent billeting and duty assignment. Well after two weeks of waiting, I was finally able to call RST-C my home. Despite the 3 man show, I was greeted with open arms by the then Major Castillo. Despite the lack of equipment and proper guidance, we managed to salvage whatever we can lay hands on to put an office together. And with the collaborative effort by all, we were able to set up RST-C, which now comprises of eight personnel. These personnel include engineering, logistical support, and Information Technology.” — LS1 (AW) Georgiana Johnson, Navy, RST-Capital Logistics NCOIC

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“I originally came to Camp Phoenix with a 19 man team to work in the Engineering office. Not too long into our time here, we got word that things were going to change significantly. Although, that was about all the information that we got at the time. It wasn’t until a couple weeks later, that some guidance finally came down as to what we were going to do. The team that had come to Camp Phoenix together was being dispersed throughout Afghanistan. I was tasked to support Regional Support Team-Capital because I was already working some projects in the Capital area. The already established SOPs for Project Management were completely shaken up. We had to re-invent the wheel in a sense in that we had to figure out where we fit in, who we report to, who approves the projects, and how to properly route the projects. This all had to be done while not decreasing the workload at all, and standing up a completely new team.  The team that I joined consisted of just two people, Maj Castillo, the RST-C Commander, and myself. We did not have much of a team and no office of which we could call ours. It was in this situation that I continued to accept new project request, line up transportation to make site visits, and manage all the projects that I had been working on since arriving at Phoenix. After showing up with one team and an already established project management process, I have had to join a completely new team and establish our own project management processes while integrating with Coalition partners and a truly joint team.” — 1Lt John Jaszkowiak, Air Force, RST-Capital Lead Engineer

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“I was tasked to Kabul about two months after returning from Korea.  Nobody really knew what the tasking entailed, and in fact there wasn’t much information about where in Kabul the tasking was.  It wasn’t until I was closer to Combat Skills Training when I finally was able to research and contact personnel at Camp Phoenix.  The tasking was to support Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix, developing construction projects for the entire country.  However, what wasn’t known was how long CJTF Phoenix would be around.  Shortly after arriving on station, it became apparent that the engineering function I was to perform didn’t exist.  So, I made up a job for myself and began shipping cargo to Forward Operating Bases throughout the country, and also supported what was left of my original team with computer support and data management.  The cargo was primarily generators and HESCO barriers, but ultimately included whatever we could get out of our makeshift storage yard to support new and existing FOBs.  About halfway through the tour, it was decided that all of the engineering personnel would be split into the RSTs.  Having known the RST Capital superintendent and engineer officer, as well as the commander, I thought I would make a good fit in that team, and so lobbied to move to RST Capital. Thankfully, I was accepted.  Since the move to RST Capital, I’ve found a clear sense of purpose.  We are establishing construction contract procedures, fulfilling past obligations, and helping the Afghan people as much as possible with rebuilding their own security forces.  This makes the deployment worthwhile, and while I certainly miss being home, especially after such a short homecoming, having a sense of purpose, a good mission, and a good team certainly makes it easier.” — TSgt Marcinkowski, Air Force, RST-Capital Engineer NCOIC

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“During the initial 5 months of my 365 day tour, I served as the Logistics Officer for the 2nd Brigade/ 205th Corp in RC South’s Zabul Province. Having mentoring teams scattered about 14 Forward Operating Bases throughout Zabul’s varied and rugged terrain called for heavy reliance upon air support and joint coordination with the CSS Kandak for troop sustainment. I often took the advantage of opportunities to convoy out to remote sites with the ulterior motive of taking in the amazing geography of this country. It didn’t take long before I realized the South was a “hot bed” of enemy activity. Nonetheless, along with the upcoming transition to the Brigade Combat Team Force Structure came the rumors of me, along with many others being re-missioned from the south to Kabul’s Phoenix. Having enjoyed the autonomy of the small FOB environment and forming close bonds with my fellow service members, I did have reservations about moving to a new place/ new job with many unknowns. Upon my arrival at Phoenix and meeting my new team members of the RST-C, I was relieved to see such a small shop of high caliber individuals, willing to go above and beyond to facilitate the completion of whatever ANSF engineering and logistical requirements on the table. This is a higher echelon of duties and responsibilities that’s broadening my knowledge of many different things on a much bigger scale in which I’m very grateful for.” — Capt. Derek Wrench, Air Force, RST-Capital Logistics OIC

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An organization that was originally supposed to be comprised of Army personnel ended as one comprised of JET Airmen and Sailors, all who originally were assigned to others missions. Nowadays when you deploy you don’t know where you will ultimately end up or know exactly what you will be doing, but in the case of RST-C, the perfect storm came together and formed a highly cohesive and effective team that truly encompasses the meaning of flexibility.

A reminder about common sense on social networks

OPSEClogo copyAs the use and popularity of social networks continues to increase, an occasional reminder to use the Internet wisely couldn’t hurt. A little common sense can help protect your reputation, as well as prevent potentially costly repairs to a virus-infected computer. We’d like to remind Airmen, and everyone online, of a few basics that can be helpful. If you have specific questions or issues, contact your CSA or local help desk for assistance.

  • Don’t click on a link you don’t recognize–especially if it was sent to you via email.
  • Don’t post pictures or comments that might be embarrassing, or that might be in violation of UCMJ.
  • Don’t post information that could compromise OPSEC.
    vmail_poster

For more specific information, click here or consult “New Media and the Air Force

Retro posters courtesy of SMSgt Raymond Sarracino, AFPAA

Posted by Paul F. Bove, Digital Media Strategist

Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Emerging Technology Division