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Operation Unified Response makes progress in Haiti, hard work still ahead

By Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Hanson, Air Force Public Affairs Agency


Providing medical care and delivering water and food supplies are top essentials in supporting Operation Unified Response in Haiti for now, but more4285864103_a377febb69 tasks are to come in the near future.

“No one’s kidding themselves,” there are enormous tasks in front of us, in bringing stability to Haiti, said Lt. Gen. P. K. (Ken) Keen who discussed these top priorities during an interview Jan. 18, on DoD Live Bloggers Roundtable.

“We’re going to do our very best to help the Haitian people with what they need as fast as we can. It’s taking our entire military to do this, and we’re building up each day,” said General Keen who is the Joint Task Force Commander Haiti as well as the U.S. Southern Command deputy commander.

With 1,400 U.S. servicemembers on the ground, and nearly 5,000 afloat, those numbers will grow in coming days to about 5,000 on the ground and another 5,000 off shore supporting Haiti needs. The goal is to leave the lightest “footprint” by not sending in too many people for they will consume what other wise could be pushed out to the population, he said. There has to be a balance in order do to accomplish our mission. 

The Port-au-Prince International Airport is hopping with 24-hour operations, averaging 180 round-the-clock flights per day. To maximize movement, the Air Force is alloting planes 2 hours each to get in and get out whether it be to deliver supplies or to pick up evacuees. Mind you, this is includes the Air Force’s big birds such as the C-17 Globemaster III and the C-130 Hercules on a 10,000-foot runway which normally only handles about 13 flights a day.

100118-F-4177H-257While Air Force personnel are essentially running airport operations, the Haitian government determines the priorities and the order in which planes are scheduled depending on the needs at any given time.  Timeliness is crucial in meeting those top needs — especially delivering medical supplies.

“We’re doing the best we can, but have more to do,” said General Keen. “It is absolutely critical to get the ports open,” he said.  And while Haiti seaports are damaged, more U.S. Naval and Marine support are arriving , to meet crucial demands such as more hospitals.

The U.S. is an enduring partner and will remain committed to providing support to the Haitians to ensure they are able to recover from this devastating disaster. If you’re interested in helping Haiti with urgent and long-term needs, go to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund website or any number of trusted aid relief organizations such as the American Red Cross.

SOUTHCOM, who has led U.S. military support to 14 major relief missions, including assistance to Haiti in September 2008, is working closely with United Nations Stabilization Mission, or MINUSTAH, and local officials. For more information about the Air Force’s participation in the Haiti Earthquake relief effort, visit http://www.af.mil/humanitarianrelieftohaiti/index.asp. For a compilation of official U.S. Government Twitter accounts following Haiti relief, click here.

Pararescuemen receive an injured patient from coalition forces Dec. 8, 2009. The pararescuemen will administer medical care while in transit to a medical facility. The pararescuemen are assigned to the 66th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron deployed to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Angelita Lawrence)

Pentagon Airman reflects on three Afghanistan stories

The holiday season is upon us. Everyone is getting ready for their various religious and secular activities. The vast majority of American will be spending the time with family and friends. Not all.

Many Airmen are deployed around the world, far from their loved ones.

Tech. Sgt. Nathan Gallahan, International Security Assistance Force Joint

Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 1-40 Cavalry Squadron sleep after devouring Thanksgiving chow at Camp Clark, Afghanistan Nov. 26. The soldiers have been patrolling daily and helping train the Afghan National Army since their arrival to the camp approximately one month ago. (ISAF Joint Command photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Gallahan)
Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 1-40 Cavalry Squadron sleep after devouring Thanksgiving chow at Camp Clark, Afghanistan Nov. 26. The soldiers have been patrolling daily and helping train the Afghan National Army since their arrival to the camp approximately one month ago. (ISAF Joint Command photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Gallahan)

Command, Afghanistan, recently wrote a blog about spending the holidays deployed to Afghanistan. Someone in the White House must have liked it. Sergeant Gallahan’s “Holiday Cheer for the Heroes” post appears on The White House Blog. He writes how appreciative servicemembers are to receive support from the American public, whether through simple cards or video greetings.

Then there were the holiday cards and smiles. I didn’t anticipate that.

At each location I visited, there were all these cards and banners reassuring the soldiers America loved them, supported them and prayed for their safe return. I saw soldier upon soldier holding these cards up and showing their friends what amusing little anecdote was scribbled within. The only possessions these soldiers had were what they could carry on their back and holiday cards from school children from across our beautiful nation.

These letters, cards, candies, cookies … especially cookies … reach these guys and bring smiles to their faces when happiness in warzones is a rare commodity.

But these days, sending care packages via mail to such remote sites is really hard, especially since you need to know someone here before you can send anything (for security reasons, sending them to units or “any soldier” is no longer allowed). The Department of Defense has a site though, that allows you to send video messages to service members. It’s a great way to show support over the holidays and is a lot faster than mail, which can take a month or more, sometimes, to arrive here.

Congratulations, Sergeant Gallahan, on the honor!

Pararescue in Afghanistan

What’s it like for Airmen who are dedicated to saving the lives of others? Fortunately, I’ve never had to rely on the services of pararescuemen during my deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Squadron highlights capabilities during Afghan rescue mission gives a first-hand look at the Airmen of the 66th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron of Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.

A soldier is wounded during a joint British and Afghanistan National Army

Pararescuemen receive an injured patient from coalition forces Dec. 8, 2009. The pararescuemen will administer medical care while in transit to a medical facility. The pararescuemen are assigned to the 66th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron deployed to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Angelita Lawrence)
Pararescuemen receive an injured patient from coalition forces Dec. 8, 2009. The pararescuemen will administer medical care while in transit to a medical facility. The pararescuemen are assigned to the 66th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron deployed to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Angelita Lawrence)

patrol in Helmand Province. Shot through both legs, his condition worsens while being cared for by the medics. It is time to call in the professionals to get him off the battlefield and to the hospital. The radios erupt with words the crews had been standing by for:


Rushing from their squadron tents and huts, located close to the flightline and their HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, the crews run to the waiting aircraft, strap in, start the engines and within minutes they are airborne on their way to the patient.

Time is of the essence and these Airmen from the 66th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron take it very seriously.

On board the helicopter, racing back to the base, the pararescuemen work as a team, tending to the patient. One handles all injuries below the waist, while the other takes care of any concerns above. They work quickly to bandage the wound on the left leg, preventing any further blood loss and verifying no nerve damage occurred.

Whiteman Airman survives IED blast

One thing I learned at the Indiana University School of Journalism and the Defense Information School is the danger of using a quote lead. The instructors warned against using them. They rarely work well to grab the reader’s attention, the instructors said.

Sometimes, they work.

Here’s one that grabbed my attention from Whiteman Airman recalls moment of terror:

“I don’t remember seeing a flash or hearing a boom. I just remember waking up in the turret with my head on fire.”

That is what Staff Sgt. Charles Holley recalled from the moment an improvised explosive device exploded and bathed his Humvee in fire last year in Tiqurit [sic], Iraq.

This excellent feature tells of an Airman’s actions following an improvised explosive device attack on the vehicle he served as gunner.

(Pentagon Airman is written by Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs.)

New Air Force plan targets energy

WASHINGTON — Air Force officials here released its new energy plan Dec. 9 to serve as the framework for communicating Air Force energy goals and further expands a culture shift “where Airmen make energy a consideration in everything we do.”

Debra Walker, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, logistics and environment, said “the case for action to reduce our energy consumption and diversify our energy sources is more compelling than ever.

“Military forces will always be dependent on energy, but we must dramatically reduce the risk to national security associated with our current energy posture,” she said.

The Air Force is the largest user of energy in the federal government, Ms. Walker said. The Air Force Energy Plan supports Air Force priorities and provides links to energy goals established by the federal government. It involves energy-focused considerations from initial design and acquisition through effective use of Air Force resources.

“Integrating energy considerations into Air Force operations is not new,” Ms. Walker said. “While we have recently developed overarching policy guidance, the Air Force Energy Plan provides us with a foundational, comprehensive plan from which to execute programs.”

The plan is written in an easy-to-read style to explain installation energy requirements, goals and targets, Ms. Walker said. “But these requirements, goals and targets are part of a larger plan that includes acquisition and technology, changing the culture and how we train and indoctrinate people about considering energy in their duties and other matters,” she added. “It also strongly considers aviation operations.”

Col. Suzanne Johnson, the chief of policy and planning, worked on the plan for more than two years. The final product is laid out in four sections: core document with an overview, and three appendices: aviation operations, infrastructure and acquisition.

The plan calls for a three-part strategy, Colonel Johnson said. The plan provides guidance to Airmen to help reduce demand, increase supply — through a variety of alternative and renewable types of energy — and change the culture.

“We are proud of the energy initiatives already implemented by the Air Force,” Ms. Walker said. “But this gets an actual, institutionalized, long-range energy plan into 2035. Otherwise, we have no unity of purpose, no unity of effort.”


Sharing pride in our nation

Tech. Sgt. Chris Orbits chats with residents Oct. 16, 2009, during a visit to the U.S. Soldier's and Airmen's Home in Washington, D.C. Sergeant Orbits made the visit with the National Capital Region Joint Enlisted Council. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Stan Parker)

Post by Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Hanson, Air Force Public Affairs Agency

We 23.2 million living U.S. veterans make up a unique group. We come from all walks of life. We are young, old or somewhere in between. Whether we’re a man or woman makes no matter.  We are Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Coast Guard and Marines. Our boots march to a different beat — freedom’s beat. We hold proud traditions. We are powerful. We are one.

Veterans Day is today–the one federal holiday in which Americans can celebrate the living Armed Forces and what we stand for, what we fight for and what we sacrifice our lives for — America’s freedom. 

So, in turn I think that we, the veterans, owe those who support us a huge thank you back. You send us packages when we’re deployed. And I can tell you, that I well with pride whenever a perfect stranger comes up to me and says, “Thank you,”  or even every now and again buys me lunch. You believe in us. You mourn for us. You cheer for us when we return home from war. You help our families cope. Thank you America for without your support we couldn’t do what we do.

I also would be remiss to not thank veterans, especially those who are retired. Now that I live in the D.C. area, I get to visit many a fine veteran at the Armed Forces Retirement Home, also known as the U.S. Soldiers and Airmen’s Home. It gives me great joy to see their smiles and listen to the real-life stories of those men and women who served during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Despite ages and generations that separate us, we understand each other. It makes me feel so proud to continue to carry freedom’s torch for them.

Another way a person can honor veterans is through a great program called Honor Flight. This program enables veterans a chance to come to our nation’s capital to see the war memorials. Our World War II vets are given top priority, but it is also for those who served in other wars, too. The best part is that they are greeted by hundreds of cheering fans when they arrive. The website also provides arrival information and dates for upcoming visitors if you’d like to be a part of a welcome team.

Not a year goes by where our servicemembers aren’t somewhere in the world helping to solve conflicts. And while some might think that Veterans Day is yet another way for retailers to capitalize on a federal holiday, I thank you for remembering that it means so much more.

There are all sorts of way to give a thanks to a veteran any day. To learn more about veterans, go to the “Veterans History Countdown” on the VA Web site. You can also get lots of great facts on their FAQ page.

SMSgt Rex Temple. Source: http://afghanistanmylasttour.com/

Year of the Air Force Family–Deployed perspective

Over the past week, in recognition of Year of the Air Force Family, we’ve been bringing you a number of different perspectives about military life and how it relates to our active duty Airmen and their families. Today’s post comes to us from SMSgt. Rex Temple, who writes a blog called Afghanistan: My Last Tour. SMSgt Temple has been writing about his missions and deployed life via his blog and on Twitter (follow @afghanistanlast). In his post below, he talks about how much the Air Force Family has meant to him and his wife.

SMSgt Rex Temple. Source: http://afghanistanmylasttour.com/
SMSgt Rex Temple. Source: http://afghanistanmylasttour.com/

While I am on the other side of the world embedded with the Afghan National Army and trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, on the other side of the world is a special person who faces different challenges and performs a daily juggling act.  This person is none other than my loving wife.  Prior to us meeting, she was an Emmy award-winning journalist who often produced stories about military families and the stressors of deployment.  At that time, she really didn’t understand the concept of the military family but she would air the warm-hearted stories anyhow.  Now that we are married, I have introduced her to my Air Force family and with my yearlong deployment she is experiencing first-hand what she couldn’t truly appreciate when she first interviewed those resilient military spouses and children.

Overnight, she became the accountant, the cook, the mechanic, the house cleaner, the handyman and the caregiver to our furry children Charlie and Sammy.  Prior to this deployment we shared these responsibilities, but now she has to perform a circus act and balance this with a fulltime job too.  Often the news media or I will depict in my blog www.Afghanistanmylasttour.com the sacrifices military members make while being deployed and the luxuries we long to have.  But the families we leave behind make tremendous sacrifices too and my wife is no different.

It’s not just deployments, but frequent PCS moves, moving household goods, changing spouse’s jobs, uprooting children and

SMSGt Temple and wife Liisa. Source: http://afghanistanmylasttour.com/
SMSGt Temple and wife Liisa. Source: http://afghanistanmylasttour.com/

enrolling them in new schools and shipping family pets can be disruptive to military family’s lives.  Fortunately the Air Force recognizes the sacrifices military families make and provides a supporting foundation and a plethora of tools and resources to help lessen the pain.  The Airman and Family Readiness Center is like Grand Central Station and provides an array of services beneficial to the Airman and family members.  The Fitness Center is a great place to shed some pounds or maintain a healthy physique.  The Education Center is invaluable especially since the 9/11 GI Bill has been enacted.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great savings when we shop at AAFES and commissary facilities.  Lastly, my favorite is traveling Space-Available to Alaska, Hawaii or foreign countries and staying at FAM camps and lodges to indulge myself during a vacation.  At MacDill AFB, I can even rent a boat and get away from reality while fishing for shark, snapper, and grouper.  These are only a handful of resources the Air Force offers to its members and their families.

Despite being in a combat zone in Afghanistan, my spouse is free to enjoy all of the activities I mentioned above without me.  My Air Force family has embraced her with both arms.  Should something tragic happen to me, I have an inner peace knowing my Air Force family will always be there for my wife.