Tag Archives: air & space conference

What does war sound like?

What does war sound like?

I don’t know. I do know what my experience of briefly coming under fire sounds like…

Like a metal filing cabinet falling on a concrete floor.

Earlier this year I deployed for six months to southern Iraq. I felt fortunate I was going to a base where news of combat or violence was less than in other areas.

Five days after arriving, it was Inauguration Day in the United States – the only day where this Pentagon Airman was glad he wasn’t in the Washington area. I didn’t have to deal with the folks coming to the nation’s capital to watch history unfold. I was content watching it on Armed Forces Network on the little television in my office.

On the television was the newly sworn-in Vice President Joseph Biden shaking hands with Associate Justice John Paul Stevens. As if on cue with the handshake…


A sound filled the building that resembled a metal filing cabinet falling on a concrete floor. A quietness lasted for several long seconds.

People stuck their heads out of their offices and asked each other what that was.  A cry of “get down!” filled the building. Airmen hit the deck.  After the required time, they donned protective gear and started doing their post-attack duties.

We learned enemy fire did strike about a half-mile away on the surrounding Army compound. Fortunately, the attack did not hurt anyone or damage anything.

I know my experiences don’t even come close to comparing what Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines in contact with the enemy experience daily. During the Air & Space Conference and Technology Symposium, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz highlighted the heroism of two explosive ordnance disposal Airmen facing danger every day: Senior Airman Danny Williams and Tech. Sgt. (ret.) Matthew Slaydon. (CSAF addresses AFA convention). The Air Force’s “Portraits in Courage” series honors the extraordinary actions of Airmen who have faced and heard war.

This was my experience, though. Thought I’d describe it.

Air & Space Conference Daily Wrap-up (Day 3)

This is the daily blog from the Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2009. Master Sgt. Russell Petcoff is blogging from the site.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

The third and final day of the Air & Space Conference and Technology Exhibition started big. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a speech. Word was the secretary was going to make a big announcement. He received applause after he commented on KC-X, the next generation aerial refueling tanker.

“Finally, I am pleased to announce that source selection authority is returning  to the Air Force for the KC-X refueling tanker,” Secretary Gates said. “I don’t need to belabor the importance of getting this done and done right, and my office will continue to have a robust oversight role. We are committed to the integrity of the selection process, and cannot afford the kind of letdowns, parochial squabbles, and corporate food-fights that have bedeviled this effort in the past.

“I have confidence that the KC-X selection authority is in good hands with the service’s leadership team of Secretary [Michael] Donley and General [Norton] Schwartz,” Secretary Gates added.

The secretary complimented the efforts of all Airmen during his address for their “achievements we cherish.”
“Since 9/11, hundreds of thousands of Airmen have gone about their duties – usually unheralded, and unrecognized by the usual metric of medals and media coverage,” the secretary said. “Often they are on the ground, in the dirt, and sometimes under fire – doing their jobs without fail and without complaint. More than 100 have made the supreme sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The secretary highlighted how Airmen who are supporting ground troops “have made a life or death difference.” To illustrate, Secretary Gates told the story of Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Horton, Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

“Sergeant Horton destroyed more than seven tons of enemy explosives while deployed to Iraq in the hair-raising vocation of [explosive ordnance disposal] technician,” Secretary Gates said. “His expertise with the tactics of enemy bombers led to the capture of six bomb makers in the Kirkuk region. In one instance, he pulled our injured soldiers from a vehicle after an [improvised explosive device] attack, and then cleared the extraction zone to medevac the wounded, earning a Bronze Star for his efforts.”

Briefings galore
Today featured a lot of briefings by Air Force leaders. Thirteen Air Force generals sat down and held a four-star forum. Later in the day, Chief Master Sgt. James Roy gave a briefing. The story about Chief Roy’s briefing is still being written. Check back at www.af.mil to see what he had to say.

Useful give-away
Picking up give-aways in the exhibition hall is one way to help pass the time between briefings. The other day I wrote about the “sticky brain.” The vendor today gave out mini lava lamps. An Air Force laboratory offered up pens in the shape of a giant chili pepper. One vendor had a big hit. They gave away protective rubber skins for a popular brand of smart phone that seems to be tethered to every officer. One lieutenant colonel said it was the best give away as she clicked away on another message. Now, that company really knows its audience.

Air & Space Conference Daily Wrap-up (Day 2)

This is the daily blog from the Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2009. Master Sgt. Russell Petcoff is blogging daily from the site until Sept. 16.

Air Force public affairs professionals are working hard to get information out to Airmen concerning the Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2009. In addition to traditional methods of written stories, photographs and video stories, they are using such tools as this blog and Twitter.

“Social media is just another tool in our communication toolkit,” said Capt. Chris Sukach, Air Force Public Affairs Agency emerging technology chief. “Twitter allows us to provide real-time updates to our audience while receiving immediate feedback from them. It provides the opportunity for more people to engage in conversations about their Air Force.”

Tomorrow, we will be Twittering from a couple of presentations. They include:
• Secretary of Defense Update, by Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Robert M. Gates, 9 a.m.
• The Current and Future National Guard, by Gen. Craig R. McKinley, 11:25 a.m.
• The Enlisted Force, by Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Roy, 3:20 p.m.

All times are Eastern Standard Time.

People interested in following the tweets can look for one of several Air Force Twitter handles: http://twitter.com/US_Air_Force , @usairforce, @afpaa, @airforce, @airforcelive, @airforcenews and @USAFThunderbird.

In addition to Twitter, we will post updates of events to the Air Force’s official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/USairforce.

Chief of Staff’s keynote address
Gen. Norton Schwartz, chief of staff of the Air Force, gave his keynote address at the second day of the AFA Conference.

During his address, General Schwartz spoke on his vision for the future, jointness, the Year of the Air Force family and honored heroic sacrifices of Airmen.

“A year ago, I spoke of a ‘back-to-basics’ approach for the Air Force, a bit of triage in which we had to recalibrate in critical areas where we had lost focus,” General Schwartz said.

“We navigated through a challenging but ultimately healthy period of inspection and introspection with a recommitment to our heritage of excellence,” he added.

Read my story here.

At the end of his address, General Schwartz honored a Korean War veteran. He presented Dolphin D. Overton III with the Distinguished Service Cross. Mr. Overton’s military records were not accurate due to clerical omissions. Recently, the Air Force Board for Corrections of Military Records updated Mr. Overton’s military records.

Watching the giant video screens, it was easy to see Mr. Overton overwhelmed with emotion at the presentation.

The DSC citation reads:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, has awarded the Distinguished Service Cross to (then) First Lieutenant Dolphin D. Overton III, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy of the United Nations as Group Leader of twenty-five F-84 type aircraft, 49th Bomber Wing, Fifth Air Force on 28 June 1952. On that date, Lt Overton’s group was diverted against a target of truck convoys discovered by a previous recce flight. Working in and through an overcast, Lt Overton planned and executed a very difficult attack, sequencing his aircraft in such a manner as to provide maximum coverage of the target with minimum risk from heavy ground fire. With disregard for his own safety, Lt Overton remained in enemy fire under the overcast so that he could visually direct the attacks and withdrawals. So successful was Lt Overton’s direction of the attack, that one hundred fifty trucks were destroyed and confirmed by photograph, making it one of the largest such strikes of the War. Lt Overton’s command of this strike in such adverse conditions and with such devastating results highlights his superb flying skill and extraordinary heroism in the face of fierce enemy opposition. Lieutenant Overton’s actions reflect great credit upon himself, the Far East Air Force, the United States Air Force and the United Nation’s Command. Signed, Michael B. Donley, Secretary of the Air Force and General Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff.

Rock star general
Today there were a lot of Junior Air Force ROTC cadets in the hallways. For someone working in the Pentagon, seeing a general is somewhat old hat. Not for them. Lt. Gen. Richard Y. Newton III, deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel, received the rock star treatment. When he walked through the halls, cadets from Hampton (Va.) High School flocked around him to ask questions about the Air Force.

Meeting old friends
Opportunities to meet old co-workers continue on this second day of the conference. I ran into Lt. Col. John T. Thomas, public affairs officer for Air Force Global Strike Command. Colonel Thomas and I served together at International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2007. It was great meeting the colonel again. Gave him a “sticky brain” I wrote about yesterday which he seemed to appreciate.