Tag Archives: korea

Day in the life of a U-2 crew chief

By Senior Airman David Owsianka
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

U-2 crew chiefImagine working on something worth approximately $60 million and being responsible for the safety of another person’s life. For the crew chiefs of the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, that’s just another day at work as they repair and maintain U-2 Dragon Ladies to ensure the squadron’s pilots can safely complete their reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

Continue reading Day in the life of a U-2 crew chief

Week in Photos, July 27, 2012

By Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

This Week in Photos, see what the U.S. Air Force is doing across the globe — from Korea to Afghanistan to Florida! These Airmen keep us flying high!

Photo: Maintainers from the 81st Fighter Squadron pull out firing pins and chalks to ready an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft for takeoff before a night combat search and rescue training mission July 20, 2012. The maintainers took part in Dacian Thunder, a month-long partnership building exercise that included U.S. Air Force, Romanian air force, U.S. Marine Corps and Royal Air Force participants. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Natasha Stannard)

Fighting the bad guys, taking great pictures

By Staff Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay
438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

SSgt. Nadine Barclay
SSgt. Nadine Barclay

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.

Our veterans, my heroes

By Col. George Farfour
90th Missile Wing vice commander

As we approach Nov. 11, Veterans Day, I am reminded more readily that those of us wearing the uniform have a special bond with those who have worn the uniform — our veterans. We share an identity that transcends any differences we may have. We unite in a duty to serve and sacrifice for our great nation, to ensure liberty and freedom continues to have a solid foundation in America as the beacon of hope for the world. I submit for your consideration the story below which occurred earlier in my career. Remembering this story helps frame for me, on a personal level, our obligation to our veterans. I hope it does for you as well.

After an uneventful visit to the base barber shop, I thought I would kill some time in what had promised to be an uneventful day. I decided to visit the clothing sales store — not to buy anything, but just to browse around.

Upon entering, I circled around toward the book section to see what was new. As I picked up a copy of some book, I noticed out of the corner of my eye an older gentleman, perhaps 70, struggling to pick out some merchandise. I paid closer attention and saw he was having trouble reading the tags.

Not wanting to appear patronizing, I just watched a while, not offering any assistance. As time progressed and he made no headway in his search, I felt something inside tell me to help. Maybe it was the small Purple Heart pin on his hat that motivated me, I really don’t know. Slowly, I moved toward him and asked if I could help him find something.

I was relieved when he turned and pleasantly said, “Yes, I can’t seem to find the American Defense Service Medal ribbon.” Immediately, I noticed a sheet of paper organized in lists in one hand and ribbons in the other. He was obviously reconstructing his old ribbons and medals for display or wear.

We worked through the list together, talking as we went. He told me how he was finally going to get all of his medals together and put them in a shadow box on the wall for his grandchildren. He had recently received word that he was awarded several medals and decorations from World War II that were forgotten as he was a medic assigned to another unit. The list outlined awards and decorations from World War II and Korea.

As we double checked the list, he explained what each attachment meant. “This arrowhead means an amphibious assault landing — went in on the first wave at Normandy. This Combat Infantryman’s Badge means I was in continuous combat with the enemy for 30 days in a row. We got this one and the Combat Medic’s Badge. This is a new one, the Prisoner of War Medal. Didn’t have that one when I was a POW. This one here, we all got for going to defend South Korea in 1950.”

He didn’t brag, he just stated matter-of-factly what they all meant.

In the course of our conversation, he learned I was an Air Force officer. From then on, he addressed me as “Sir.”

He acted glad that I’d helped, and was even more appreciative when I asked the clerk to run a copy of the “order of precedence” ribbon chart for him to take home. As he walked to the counter to pay for his ribbons and badges, I told him I was honored to help him. He replied, “Thank you, sir.” I thought it was odd for a man of 70 to be calling me sir, but I guess that’s just the type of man he is.

As I walked toward my car, my thoughts turned to the hundreds of injured soldiers he must have helped, the faces he must have looked into and reassured as bombs fell around them and bullets whizzed by, the helplessness he must have felt as he watched someone’s son, husband, father and brother die in his arms. The great exhilarations of battle, the fear of death he faced each day, all swirled in my head. Each time his country called, he was there, ready to do what had to be done. I owe him — we all owe him, and all those like him — for what we have today. This world is not perfect, but it is closer due to their sacrifice.

From the beaches of Normandy to the hills of Korea, he served his country with pride and, from the number of awards, with great distinction. There are many veterans out there with a similar story. Whether it is the jungles of New Guinea, the deserts of Africa, Kuwait or Iraq that their stories highlight, the frigid cold of a Korea or an Afghanistan winter or the rainy season in the Mekong Delta, they all have done this country a great service. When we think of war, we tend to think most often of the dead, but Veterans Day is a day to also remember all those who served their country. Gen. George S. Patton said it best in a post-World War II speech: “Everyone always talks about the heroic dead, well damn it, there’s a lot of heroic alive ones out there, too!”

We see those “heroic alive ones” every day. Perhaps it’s a Veterans of Foreign Wars cap, a sticker on a car, a pin on a suit, a Purple Heart license plate, an American Legion shirt, or maybe it’s your dad, grandpa, brother, sister, uncle or just a close friend. If you see one of these “heroic alive ones,” go over and shake their hand just to say, “Thank you.” It’s a small gesture, but a meaningful one. Their greatest pleasure, or payoff so to speak, is the freedom we still have, due in large part to their sacrifice and example.

I met a hero. And though I haven’t been asked to do what he did, I’m ready, when my country needs me. Meeting him, seeing his example and accomplishments, strengthened my resolve and boosted my pride. Some people say there are no heroes left, our kids can’t look up to anyone. Well, I say they’re blind. Heroes are everywhere … you just have to look.

I met one in clothing sales.

Fat Sergeant Takes on the Great Wall!

An Air Force Fitness Blogger recently took his running to a new level during the Great Wall of China Marathon. This story was conveyed to Air Force Live by Senior Master Sergeant Kenneth Holcomb.

SMSgt Ken Holcomb, a.k.a. The Fat Sergeant, at the Great Wall of China
SMSgt Ken Holcomb, a.k.a. The Fat Sergeant, at the Great Wall of China

Some of you may remember SMSgt Kenneth Holcomb, who maintains a fitness blog under the pen name of FatSergeant. (If not you can refresh your memory here.) After completing the Air Force Marathon he actually stepped up his training and started looking for a new challenge.  Soon after arriving to his new assignment in Seoul, Korea, he found that challenge when he heard about the Great Wall of China Marathon. When he told his wife about the marathon she responded with, “You’ve got to do it.  It’s a chance of a lifetime!”  Shortly after that conversation, Ken started training with a local triathlon group and for the next six months he trained faithfully. “When it was time for the race, at 44 years old, I was in the best shape of my life,” he said.

Nearly 1,500 participants made the trip to China to run the race, but only 500 of those brave souls were signed up for the full marathon.  Others were signed up for either the half marathon, 10K or 5K.  Regardless of the length of the race, all individuals were in for a challenge on “The Wall!”

“On race day you could feel the excitement in Ying Yang Stadium,” said Ken,  “it was crazy!”  “All around me I  heard different languages and I started to wonder if I was at the Great Wall of China or the Tower of Babel,” he said.

Click below to watch a video clip of SMSgt Holcomb during the race.

Great Wall Marathon 2010

The course started with a short flat stretch of road before it veered off and headed up the mountain for about 4.5km and led to a large gate that read “Welcome to the Great Wall”.  This is where things get interesting!  Almost immediately the stairs start to wind up… and up… and UP! Ken’s strategy was to go slow and steady on the extreme inclines and cautiously pick up the speed on the decline. “The stairs were very steep with great variance in size.  You can only take them so quickly,” he said.  The end of this stretch of the wall was extremely steep but after 3.2km  he was on the stretch of road outside Ying Yang Stadium.

The course then took him out into the local towns where people were lined up waving and cheering.  “I must have given a couple hundred high fives to the children as I passed through the towns,” Ken said.  “This is where I picked up the pace a bit. I felt great at this point. I was doing it!”

Eventually the course took him back towards the stadium where everyone was cheering!  Unfortunately, the celebration had to wait for the full marathoners. They were given a green wristband to show they had returned from the village and it was time to face the toughest portion of the race: The Climb back up the wall!

At this point the runners had traveled over 22 miles. If you have ever ran a marathon, you know this is the point that things start to fall apart for some runners. Your energy reserves have been depleted and everything starts to cramp up.  It’s almost unimaginable that you would be headed back up the wall at this point.  It’s amazing what you can do when you set your mind  to it.

“The climb back up the wall was grueling and one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced,” Ken explained.  “At times I was literally crawling up  the stairs on my hands and feet.”  SMSgt Holcomb was able to make it back up the Great Wall,  cross the finish line and claim his medal. He ended up finishing in a little over 5 hours which placed him in 78th place overall out of a field of almost 500.

“As a Senior NCO, I think it’s important to set the example for the younger troops,” SMSgt Holcomb explained.  “I write about my fitness struggles and achievements in hopes that it will  inspire others to do the same.”  You can check in on his adventures at http://fatsergeant.blogspot.com/.

On behalf of the U.S. Air Force, Congratulations SMSgt Holcomb! Your accomplishment is a testament to what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it!