Tag Archives: Blog

Crossing Into the Blue

Megan Morrison is an intern with the Air Force Public Affairs Agency.  With her last day approaching on Friday, she took this opportunity to reflect on her summer with the agency.

The Air Force takes care of their people.  It’s a sentiment I’ve heard many times in my life, from sources biased and unbiased.  Whether it was from my father who once worked on an Air Force base or from reports in the newspaper, everyone agreed the Air Force is a family.  From the day I began my internship with the Air Force Public Affairs Agency earlier this summer, their staff proved this to be true.

I came to the office in May through the Workforce Recruitment Program.  The WRP connects federal employers nationwide with students with disabilities, creating opportunities for summer employment.  Nearly 5,000 students have been employed with this program since 1995, and this year I’m fortunate enough to be one of them.  The organization took me from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro to Arlington, VA, for a three month program.  Having the chance to live right outside of Washington, DC, and work at a professional organization is still something that blows my mind.  My only prior encounter with Washington was visiting the city on a class trip seven years ago, during which we stood near the White House fence and took pictures.  Cut to the present, when I’ve now had the opportunity to actually take a tour of the White House via the WRP.  To go from the fence to the front door is an experience I’ll never forget or stop talking about.

My internship is primarily in the area of social media, but the most amazing part of this experience is that I’ve never been limited to one department.  From day one I’ve been invited to participate wherever possible, allowing me to work with the agency’s media center as well as the Trademark and Licensing department.  Perhaps most importantly, I’ve been treated as a fellow employee.  My time as an intern hasn’t reflected that seen on TV or in movies; I don’t pick up dry cleaning or coffee.  Instead I focus on helping the staff produce quality products, both internal and external.  While I may still be a college student, no one at the agency has ever put it to me that way.  My participation has been valued and I’ve been respected.  As anyone who’s ever held an internship or entry-level position can agree, that means more than anything.

As the saying goes, the Air Force takes care of their people, whether they are a Senior Master Sergeant, a Senior Airman, or a senior in college who didn’t know the difference between those positions three months ago.  I have been so fortunate to work in this office for the past several months, and I will always be touched both personally and professionally by the experiences I’ve had since crossing into the blue.  My sincerest thanks go to the Workforce Recruitment Program as well as the staff of the Air Force Public Affairs Agency, who’ve given me much more than a description to put on my resume.  I’ve been given an opportunity and I can’t wait to put this experience into practice.

To have and not have–DoD social media access

Lately, there have been numerous articles about social media and the Department of Defense. One day there’s an article that most sites will be accessible, then later there’s an article that they’ll be closed. Today, an article in Stars and Stripes described this as, “a bad case of social networking schizophrenia” because of the near-daily changing tide.

Source: www.stripes.com

On July 31, Maj. Gen. Henry C. “Hank” Morrow, 1st Air Force commander, wrote a commentary on www.af.mil titled, “The ‘happy’ medium between OPSEC and social networking: Can it be achieved?” The General postulates, “Advocates for the sites feel they provide a forum where ideas, opinions and imagery can be freely shared with a worldwide audience. Antagonists feel that posting too much information can compromise operational security, or worse cost troops their lives, simply from a 140-character “tweet.” “So, is there a happy medium between the two? From a commander’s perspective, I believe the answer is yes, provided users stick to three basic rules of engagement.” The General goes on to lay out his guidelines for how social media can be made viable by following common sense.

So if we don’t find a happy medium, where does that leave those of us who maintain these social networking sites for the Air Force, Navy, Army, and Marines? We don’t know. Most of us who administer the sites are public affairs people. We don’t get the final say on what sites are open or blocked. The best that we can do is offer suggestions to the communications and CIO types. Ultimately, if they say that a site will be closed, it will be closed. What that means is that Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines will have to access sites from home or via a commercial modem (as many currently do). Overall though, our hope is that we’ll continue to provide news and stories to the public and the military members using the growing social networks, and continue to allow every Airman to be a communicator.

In the meantime, you can follow the conversation and register your comments on the DoD Web 2.0 Guidance Forum. The site is “a new [Department of Defense] initiative to solicit input from the public” and “an approach to engage the public in DoD considerations of web 2.0 capabilities.”

As always, send us your comments or suggestions about what you want to see on the Air Force social media sites. We welcome your input. And keep an eye out for some upcoming changes and updates on our sites.

Paul F. Bove, Digital Media Strategist

Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Emerging Technology Division

Airmen Achievements

Air Force officials recently selected the service’s top enlisted members, naming the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2009.

An Air Force selection board that convened at the Air Force Personnel Center considered 33 nominees who represented major commands, direct reporting units, field operating agencies and Air Staff agencies to select the 12 based on superior leadership, job performance and personal achievements.

The nominees are authorized to wear the Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon, while the 12 winners will wear the bronze service star device on the ribbon. The winners will also wear the Outstanding Airman of the Year Badge for one year from the date of formal presentation.

The winners are:
— Staff Sgt. Johanna Aviles from Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.
— Senior Master Sgt. Mary Bechdel assigned to RAF Molesworth, England
— Master Sgt. Tyrone Bingham of Offutt AFB, Neb.
— Senior Airman Channel Bolton-Scholl from McChord AFB, Wash.
— Tech. Sgt. John Carter assigned to RAF Mildenhall, England
— Tech. Sgt. Manuel Herrera of Scott AFB, Ill.
— Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Horton from Hill AFB, Utah
— Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Laufer assigned to Maxwell AFB, Ala.
— Tech. Sgt. Marisol Lozada of Cannon AFB, N.M.
— Master Sgt. Christopher Pollock from Kadena Air Base, Japan
— Senior Airman Alexander Royal of Peterson AFB, Colo.
— Senior Master Sgt. Jeffery Steagall from Peterson AFB

Air Force Association officials will honor the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year during its Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in September at Washington, D.C. The Airmen will also serve as members of the AFA’s enlisted advisory council for the next year.

Capturing the Action

Megan Morrison is an intern with the Air Force Public Affairs Agency. She recently had the opportunity to listen to Airmen from the U.S. Air Forces Central Combat Camera Team speak about their jobs, as well as their impact on the Air Force and media.

Everyone has a story to tell, and the Airmen based out of the Combined Air Operations Center prove it on a daily basis. These Airmen are part of the U.S. Air Forces Central Combat Camera Team, traveling across Central Command to document Airmen’s contributions to the Air Force and chronicle the impact air power has on Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Each team consists of a photographer, videographer and print journalist, but their jobs entail much more than just chronicling events.

“Our job is to tell a story and to tell it with emotion and to tell it in the best light as possible; not to just strictly look through the viewfinder and click the shutter. Every time we take a picture, there’s a purpose and there’s a direction,” said Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller, a photojournalist for the team.

The team members are aerial qualified, allowing them to cover various missions across Afghanistan and Iraq. This enables them to fly as air crew, providing safety to their fellow crew members in addition to documenting events.

“We all are airmen first, and we are there to enhance the mission, whether that means taking imagery, taking a story or fighting back,” said Capt. Phil Ventura, the team leader.

In recent months, the team has participated in missions such as a humanitarian airlift, delivering relief supplies to Pakistan, as well as operational missions connected to Provincial Reconstruction Teams. In these ventures, the Combat Camera Team works alongside fellow Airmen to help Afghan people with rebuilding facilities like schools and government buildings.

When participating in these missions, the team must travel with enough gear to assimilate and protect themselves. “We’re attached to anybody, from air crew to infantrymen, and we need to be able to basically have a good impression or set a precedent every time we go into a different crew,” said Senior Airman Brian Economides, a videographer with the team.

Since this team operates almost entirely digitally, they must also carry equipment to transmit their stories and images for archival purposes and/or publication. When technology isn’t available, the team relies on the creativity of its members to pull through to relay information as quickly as possible.

Last month, the team worked together to cover a delivery by a C-17 crew to a remote location. Airman Economides sent his video footage back with the C-17 pilot, while Staff Sgt. Stacia Zachary wrote her story by hand until she could reach a computer to transcribe and upload the story.

With the team’s products appearing throughout the Department of Defense, blogs, and international reports, they provide a first-hand look at the operations overseas via their articles, photos and videos.

As a print journalist, Sgt. Zachary understands the impact of her position. “It’s humbling to see how many outlets use our products; not just for news media,” she said. “Operational commanders and leaders throughout the Department of Defense rely on it to make informed decisions.”

Rescue effort at sea

An international rescue effort is currently en route to a ship in the Atlantic approximately 700 miles off the west coast of Ireland.  A crew member on board container ship “Pascha” has fallen seriously ill and needs urgent medical attention.

The ship’s distance from land makes it impossible for the traditional sea rescue operations to reach; and the U.K.’s Rescue Coordination Center requested the assistance of the U.S. military forces who are based in England.

An RAF Nimrod maritime surveillance aircraft launching from RAF Kinloss in Scotland will provide coordination for the airborne effort that will include a total of four different aircraft platforms.

Two HH-60G helicopters with Pararescuemen from the U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s 56th Rescue Squadron based out of RAF Lakenheath will perform the actual rescue.  In order to get to the rescue site, the helicopters will need to refuel en route.  The aircraft refueling the helicopters are MC-130P’s from Air Force Special Operations Command’s 352nd Special Operations Group based at RAF Mildenhall.  This is an aircraft specially fitted to refuel helicopters, but its range requires that it refuel mid-flight as well, for this kind of long distance flight.

The 100th Air Refueling Squadron out of RAF Mildenhall is launching a KC-135 to refuel the MC-130P, providing the range that is vital to this mission.

A very similar effort was dispatched employing these same units on December 10th of last year.  That mission was successful in retrieving the patient and getting him to medical care in time.

“We’re working fast with our U.K. partners to try to get to this sailor in time to help.  We have some of the best-trained crews in the air right now who are intent on getting this patient stabilized and to safety,” said Col. Jay Silveria, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing.  The 56th Rescue Squadron is a part of the 48th Fighter Wing.

The helicopters will take their patient to a location in Shannon, Ireland, where medical providers will be waiting to take him to a nearby hospital.

Thanks to the Public Affairs office at RAF Mildenhall and to Staff Sgt. Nathan Gallahan & Tech. Sgt. Marelise Wood for the photos.


RAF Lakenheath, England — Capt. John Frederick, a 56th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk pilot, talks with the Rescue Coordination Center at RAF Kinloss about an ongoing rescue. A worker on a cargo ship approximately 700 miles west of Ireland requires immediate medical attention, and the U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force are working together to make it happen. The route the helicopters from RAF Lakenheath will take to the ship is sketched on the map. (U.S. Air Force photo / Staff Sgt. Nathan Gallahan)

RAF Mildenhall, England — An MC-130P Combat Shadow from the 352nd Special Operations Group prepares for takeoff in support of a rescue effort of a crew member onboard a container ship off the coast of Ireland. The rescue effort involves coordination between the U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force units. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Marelise Wood)