This 2015 Year in Photos feature Airmen around the globe involved in activities supporting expeditionary operations and defending America. This yearly feature showcases the men and women of the Air Force.
We have selected a few of our favorites from the gallery, which you can view fully at:
By Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.
Air Force Social Media
It’s not a foreign principle in the Air Force to understand that we participate, train, educate and support one another as fellow Airmen. In my opinion, it’s truly part of what makes us the world’s greatest Air Force.
But what does that really look like?
Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to work side-by-side with members of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard. I’ve seen firsthand that there isn’t any difference in our performance, standards and expectations for one another as Total Force Airmen. I’m glad to be a part of a truly diverse organization where it’s really important to embody all aspects of the organization to grow and become better in the future.
“We are absolutely committed to creating a fully integrated operationally relevant and capable total force,” said Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Air Force chief of staff. “One Air Force.”
During my deployments to the Middle East, I’ve had the privilege to really learn from my Guard and Reserve brothers and sisters in the Air Force. I learned that they carried pride in the uniform and their respective component. What drew them to the Air National Guard or Reserve was the same thing that drew me — wanting to serve my country in an honorable way. Not only did I work with them, but I also lived with them in a deployed environment.
When we worked long days and nights pulling security detail on the flight line or providing input about current operations to our leadership, we realized that in order for unit cohesion and morale to improve it would be imperative for us to address the issues that stood in front of us.
We talked about our different experiences and jobs in the Air Force. We shared old war stories while at our current war. The conversation became a bridge that would allow us to discover the root of our issues with one another. Simply, I had brought my negative bias and stereotypes about Guardsmen and Reservists into this environment. Those thoughts didn’t help bring us together faster but became a barrier for me personally.
One conversation led me to discover that I had a misconception of what the other parts of the Air Force did. I admitted to my fellow Airmen that I assumed I knew their mission and vision.
“We are held to AFIs and regulations just like Active Duty,” said Air National Guard Tech Sgt. Charlette Castro.
We are all Airmen, and it’s our duty to incorporate the institutional competencies of the Air Force. We also need to remember that our responsibility to brothers and sisters in the profession of arms isn’t segregated to active duty only. It encompasses the Total Force.
I’m glad to be part of a truly diverse organization where it’s really important to embody all aspects of the organization in order to grow and become better.
By Senior Master Sgt. Larry Gallo
Air Force Cycling Team
I just went back and re-read my daily post from a year ago when we were on the road to the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.
Life seems to come full circle as I’ve done the same things at the same time for the last 10 years like attending RAGBRAI. The only things that change are the faces of the people sitting behind me in the van. This year, we have 17 people who are riding with us in a convoy, and only three of us have returned as riders. These people will plug into the larger group totaling 125 riders.
You can see the excitement and some anxiety on the faces of the newbies as they ponder how they will hold up during a week of riding.
Each year, I look in the rearview mirror of the van we are traveling in, and focus on the faces of the riders coming out of Texas. I feared for some of them may not being able to the finish the 500+ miles on their bicycles.
So far all of them have succeeded. This year’s group has some of the same anxieties, but I believe they will divide and conquer. Mainly because I have watched them take care of each other on training rides, and I saw how they have gotten stronger and more confident.
The first three days of RAGBRAI is the test. The first day has its challenges of climbs and the third day is the mandatory century (100 miles) day for the Air Force riders since the distance gives us more opportunities to assist other riders with maintenance and first-aid issues.
Making it through the mental dealings of forcing your body to obey you with three consecutive days of riding is a challenge.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights from our trip to RAGBRAI last week.
By Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.
Air Force Social Media Team
Practice? Check. Uniform? Check. Family, friends and supporters in the stands? Check. Oh wait, I’m not competing. I’m at Marine Corps Base Quantico for the Department of Defense Warrior Games.
Being a former athlete myself I felt the energy and competitiveness but also the preparation and skill needed to execute at a high level just like you would for battle. Well, these warriors have done that throughout the Warrior Games.
It’s often said during intramural Air Force sports that there is no rank on the field or on the court in the art of competition. I personally think that is said because it allows you to relax and just have fun and compete. Throughout my interactions with the Air Force Wounded Warrior Team, I couldn’t distinguish if I was speaking with a captain, chief master sergeant or airman basic.
One thing I can say as a former high school athlete and a non-commissioned officer in the world’s greatest Air Force is that these athletes move as one despite their challenges. They have to overcome anxiety or find the physical strength to endure a now rigorous activity that beforehand seemed as though it was second nature.
These warriors help paint a beautiful, harmonious picture of what it means to be a United States Airman and uphold the core values in and out of uniform.
Senior Airman Kevin O’Brien smiles as his mother, Betty, kisses his cheek during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games June 24, 2015, in Quantico, Va. O’Brien survived complications caused by a brain tumor in order to compete and represent the Air Force in the pistol and track and field events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Family members cheer as members of service teams proceed onto the field during the opening ceremony of the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., June 19, 2015. The Warrior Games feature athletes from throughout the DoD who compete in Paralympic-style events for their respective military branches. (DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett)
Capt. Christy Wise works out during the Intrepid Center ceremony at San Antonio Military Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, June 12, 2015, as part of her recovery from an above-knee amputation. Wise competed in the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games just two months after losing her lower limb. (Department of Defense photo by EJ Hersom)
By Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.
Air Force Social Media Team
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, between 11 and 20 percent of 100 veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in a given year. Also, Traumatic Brain Injury is much more common in the general population than previously thought, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) program works hand-in-hand with the Air Force Survivor Assistance Program and Airman and Family Readiness Centers to ensure Airmen receive professional support and care from the point of injury, through separation or retirement and for life.
This year, the AFW2 team is at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, for the 2015 DoD Warrior Games from June 19-28. If you can picture the Olympics but with a military twist then you would be able to get a glimpse of what the Warrior Games are all about. It’s all about competition, camaraderie and commitment.
“I thought that nobody understood me, and I felt alone,” said U.S. Air Force veteran Master Sgt. Lisa Hodgdon, an Air Force wounded warrior athlete. “My wounded warrior care manager told me about the DoD Warrior Games. The Warrior Games are more than just sports; they’re about family.”
The adaptive sports and athletic reconditioning activities play a fundamental role in recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration of service members back to their units, or as they transition into the civilian environment.
“I’m just happy to be a part of the team and to serve in any capacity to assist our warriors in their recovery,” said Nicole Hart, AFW2 career readiness program manager.
Sports have the ability to bring people together from all walks of life. Sometimes just being accepted into a group or team is the genesis to a ground breaking social improvement in the life of that person.
“Without the Warrior Games and the AFW2 staff I don’t know if he would be here,” said Tami Caswell, wife of Tech. Sgt. Jason Caswell, Air Force wounded warrior athlete. “Because of the Warrior Games we have gained a family. It is truly a lifesaving program for the warrior and the caregiver.”
During my interactions with the AFW2 staff and faculty throughout the Warrior Games, I was amazed at the “service before self attitude” demonstrated. It is said that the Air Force is an Airmen’s family away from family, and that is truly the mindset of the staff, coaches, caregivers and athletes of the AFW2 program.
“The AFW2 program and the Warrior Games give wounded warriors like me what we need in order to overcome any barriers in our life,” said U.S. Air Force veteran Master Sgt. Lisa Hodgdon, an Air Force wounded warrior athlete.
Now it’s your turn. How has your experience been with the AFW2 program?