By Staff Sgt. Antonio J. Gonzalez
Air Force Public Affairs Agency
A 7.9-magnitude earthquake devastated the country of Nepal on April 25, causing widespread damage, killing thousands, and leaving millions without basic necessities. The U.S. quickly responded by sending two Air Force C-17s to deliver personnel and cargo in support of disaster-relief operations. Here is a social media recap of our day one relief efforts. Continue reading Nepal Earthquake Relief – Day One→
By Staff Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay
438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Traditionally, women in our country bore children and stayed home to raise them while the men left home to defend our nation against her enemies.
Times have definitely changed; today both men and women in the armed forces sacrifice greatly for just causes. We live in a world where life, love and the pursuit of happiness are common themes among Americans.
In keeping with this motto, many people say that their lives really started the day they arrived in the U.S. to pursue a new life or the day that they met their soul mate; for me it was actually a little different. My life started a couple years after getting married when at age 20 I became a mother and again at age 24.
During the month of April we take time to reflect on the reason most of us wake up every morning and willingly put our lives on the line. It is designated as a Department of Defense-wide observance, the Month of the Military Child.
As a U.S. Air Force photojournalist and the mother of two beautiful girls I have the distinct honor of doing both; defending my country and pursuing my version of happiness and count myself lucky to have the freedom to do so. But it has not been easy.
Before my oldest daughter, Avah, now five, was even two, I was called to serve on my first deployment at the same time my husband, a USAF crew chief, went on his remote tour to a base in southern Korea. On opposite ends of the world we were required to function as parents and as Airmen.
The day I left my daughter for the first time she was one and a half. It felt like the life was sucked right out of me and remained gone until the day I returned home to her four months later.
This time while serving in Afghanistan on a slightly longer deployment as an advisor to Afghan air force public affairs airmen, I have been placed into a slightly less difficult situation.
My daughters, Avah and Sophia, age one, are now with the only other person that I trust with my life and theirs. His name is daddy, and he is acting as both mommy and daddy; the prince charming that my daughters need him to be in my absence.
He has taken on the unique challenges that come with being a male mommy. The daily tasks that are usually performed by myself are now met with “I don’t like this food” or “my mommy does it different.”
My daughters don’t totally understand why I chose to serve and that it is sometimes necessary for me to be gone, however they adjusted like champs to the drastic change.
Never-the-less, at 4 foot 11 inches, I’ve never been compared to any super hero other then Mighty Mouse, the legendary super hero that fights evil despite his small size, until recently when my daughter compared me to the pink ‘Mighty Morphin Power Ranger’.
She said that I was “fighting the bad guys” and “teaching people how to take great pictures.”
I often get notifications from my daughter’s teacher explaining how I am never far from conversation in a classroom filled with four and five year-old girls that see me as a real life super hero.
The fact that my daughter brags to her friends and truly believes that I wear a pink leather outfit under this multi-cam uniform makes me laugh and inspires the hope and strength that I need to continue to move forward in helping enhance the capabilities of Afghanistan.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to travel on a humanitarian mission in southern Afghanistan and saw firsthand that I was lucky.
Using a popular video chat system, I sat and explained some of the privileges and freedoms we enjoy to my daughters. It is easy to take many of these things for granted.
Of course my conversation was met with more questions than a five and one year-old could understand, but I was pleased to hear that although I’ve missed a birthday, the holidays, the tooth fairy’s first visit and the Easter Bunny so far that I was still a prized mommy.
A statement that was reiterated by, ” don’t worry mommy, it’s ok that you’re gone but remember when you’re done doing your job we are all going to Disney World like you promised when you left.”
I have accomplished many things in my life, yet to me none mean more to me then my two greatest ones who wait anxiously for my return home. So although April is the designated month for military children, they should be rewarded and cherished for the sacrifices they make year-round on behalf of our nation’s defense.
As members of the greatest military on the planet, we recognize and honor those who are willing to make great sacrifices in the cause of freedom. On Saturday in the same place that the American republic was born, I was privileged to come face to face with a group of Libyan fighters who had made those sacrifices.
At the request of the Department of State, the Secretary of Defense had directed two medical assistance missions in Libya. In the first mission, four wounded fighters were transported to medical facilities in Europe by a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
A C-17 Globemaster III aircraft assigned to the 172nd Airlift Wing out of Jackson, Miss., carried out the second mission, landing at Boston Logan International Airport in the midst of a massive winter storm after a nearly 13-hour flight from Libya. As the senior Air Force representative sent to the location, I had the honor of greeting the flight.
The Libyan Transitional National Council had requested the transport of fighters to American medical facilities because their injuries could not be treated in Libya. This is a testament to the esteem in which American medical professionals are held. This esteem holds true for the unsung aeromedical evacuation (AE) professionals that ensured the safe, comfortable transport of these wounded warriors.
I saw that esteem firsthand in the emotional hugs and handshakes shared between the Libyans and the AE crew as the patients departed. In those farewells I saw more than just a physician-patient relationship; I saw respect between two groups of individuals who had made the conscious decision to put everything on the line for the cause of freedom.
We often speak of how air mobility “answers the call” and “delivers hope.” AE crews are hard at work across the globe every single day, answering those calls and saving lives, whether thousands in the case of major humanitarian crises or the 22 that debarked the aircraft at Logan. These professionals will humbly tell you, as one did that evening, “we’re here to help out … that’s what we’re called to do. We bring the guys back safely.”
While their modesty does them credit, it’s important to recognize the contribution of AE professionals is far-reaching. In fact, these experts have conducted more than 179,000 patient movements and 36,000 sorties since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 19, 2003. That averages out to nearly 12.4 potentially life-saving missions a day.
While no one can predict exactly what the future of Libya holds, I wonder what the wounded warriors will think about America when they return home. I don’t doubt they will be thankful for the care they received, but I wonder if they will also recognize that at least part of that care was provided by warriors like themselves … linked by a common bond: the willingness to sacrifice for freedom.
Photo: U.S. Air Force aeromedical evacuation crews, along with local emergency medical personnel, assist Libyan fighters off of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft at Boston Logan Airport Oct. 29. At the request of the Department of State and directed by the Secretary of Defense, the U.S. military is supporting U.S. and international medical assistance efforts in Libya. Specifically, the U.S. Air Force transported 22 wounded Libyans to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Salem, Mass. (Photo by Walter Santos)
“It was both a rewarding and humbling experience to assist, even in a small way, with the tsunami recovery efforts on Honshu.”
In the PACAF Pixels blog post “Assisting Japan perspective from Week 1,” Lt. Col. Steve Goodman, a Combat Rescue Officer, lends his experience and reaction of initial search and rescue operations in some of the areas in Japan most devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
“While we witnessed some devastating sights, not everything we saw was disheartening. As horrific as the pictures on the news are, they can’t capture the true gravity of what has happened to the Honshu coastline. It’s horrible. However, what the news hasn’t captured is what made the greatest impression on me. The Japanese people are doing a very good job in the wake of the disaster. They are a model of resilience and organization. While they continue to work through challenges and welcome help with the greatest of them, they have a lot to be proud of.”
Lt. Col. Goodman goes on to explain how when he arrived on scene in some locations, he was surprised to find small organized groups of survivors. This inspired him, as through all of the death and devastation around them, the Japanese remained calm.
“There was no looting or pushing to the front of the line, only selflessness. No one asked for a ride further away, towards greater warmth or safety. All of that calm, despite the significant losses they had already sustained.”
What further inspired him was that even though he and his men jumped at every opportunity to go out and find more people and offer more help, they consistently found the Japanese Self Defense Force doing more than their fair share of the work. Through their perseverance, he discovered there is always more that can be done.
“American efforts have been notable, specifically with the opening of airfields and the ship-to-shore movement of supplies. However, the greatest efforts have been the Japanese recovery efforts. We shouldn’t lose sight of that while we maintain pride in our own efforts to help.”
To read the entire blog post by Lt. Col. Goodman go here and find out more about the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) as well as what they are doing for Japan, visit PACAF Pixels, a blog with posts written by PACAF Airmen.
*Occasionally, Air Force Live puts the spotlight on individual blogs written by Airmen or their family members. These blogs provide an unofficial glimpse into the various aspects of Air Force life. Opinions expressed are those of the bloggers and are not endorsed by the US Air Force.
Even though she’s a writer by trade, Staff Sgt. Sarah Brown has found that some things are best said through pictures.
That’s why she posts a mix of photos and articles on her personal blog, Daily Gingerbread, about her second deployment to Afghanistan. She’s currently serving as a Public Affairs Airman for the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan.
On the blog, she records her life in Kabul, sharing her experiences with the Afghan people in a war environment while supporting NATO forces as they train the Afghan military.
“This is a land of vast differences,” she wrote recently. “Rugged terrain and tenuous beauty, all surrounding a fragile hope for the future. We came to make it a better palce for the people who live here, to give them a sense of the world around them and let them know that there is more to life than just survival, that with hard work and determination (and maybe a bit of luck) anything is truly possible.”