Tag Archives: military

Left behind

By Senior Airman Alexandria Mosness
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

A 4-year old girl with shoulder-length, light-brown hair and big brown eyes sat on the edge of the countertop with her legs dangling over the side, swinging back and forth. A strong man three times her size with hardworking hands touched her gently, and looked at her with tears streaming down his weathered face. “Mommy is not coming back. Mommy is in heaven with Grandpa,” he told her as his voice cracked. The brave little girl reached her tiny hand up to his sad face and wiped away his tears, as she said, “Don’t worry Daddy, it will be okay.”

But it was not okay; her mother, my aunt, had committed suicide only days earlier.Suicide prevention

Everyone has heard about suicide, but many people may not think it will affect them. But I guarantee if you ask around, it hits closer to home than you might think.

Yet, we still believe it won’t be someone we love. I didn’t think I would ever hear the news that my aunt Maria, who was only in her mid-30s, would take her own life.

I was a freshman in high school when I turned around at lunch one day with a smile still fresh on my face from a joke I overhead, when I saw my father’s pain-stricken face. I knew right then something was very wrong.

From then on the moments are a blur. When I look back, all I sense is a heavy dread and pain, a pain that tears deeply each time I look at my little cousin Olivia. Although Maria committed suicide about 8 years ago, it still breaks my heart to think about the life she missed out on.

She, like many people who commit suicide, dealt with depression. The one thing I wish I could have shown her was her funeral and all the people who sat in the pews crying. I wish she would have been able to see her 4-year-old daughter walk down the aisle of the big church, side-by-side with the coffin, and lay a rose on top of her mother’s lifeless body. I wish she would have felt the love of those who cared for her dearly, and those that might have been able to pull her off of that edge.

But my wishes are just that… wishes.

What I don’t want is for you to be the one wishing. Once a loved one takes his or her life, we have no control. We are the survivors, and we are the ones who must keep going.

From the time I began high school and throughout my military career, I have been inundated with computer-based training modules, classes and countless Airmen days on the topic of suicide.

But even with all of this knowledge and available resources, the Air Force battles this issue. Some might not think it can happen to them or someone they know,

So, what can we do to help those in need?

Many may think it is cliché, but I always smile at everyone. I always think especially since I am a survivor, what if that one act brings them back. Maybe it is not that simple, but kindness does go a long way.

We are always told to be good wingmen. This goes hand-in-hand with improving our resiliency. When you see your co-worker down or acting different, pull him or her aside. See what is wrong. A lot of times, all people need is someone to talk to.

If someone comes and tells you of a plan to hurt him or herself, don’t laugh it off. The person is reaching out to you. Listen and then help find the assistance he or she may need.

Social media is huge these days. We may take what our friends say online as a joke or not take them seriously, but if you start noticing a trend or something that makes you raise your eyebrows, do something about it. Heck, it might not be anything, but how would you feel if you found out later that person had harmed him or herselves? You truly can save lives.

There will always be challenges in this world, but if we all take that extra step and treat people like valued human-beings, maybe we can stop losing our Air Force family to this dreadful thing.

I know that if we had seen the warning signs, my little cousin would not be walking around on Easter grasping a picture of her mother because she missed her, but instead holding her hand and celebrating the joyous moments in life.

Photo: (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

121,000 pounds in 15 seconds

By Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
U.S. Air Forces Central

Their flight suits are soaked through with sweat, it’s 110 degrees outside and the smell in the U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III resembles a high school locker room — we’re 30 minutes into our 15-hour mission.

Air DropLike the majority of people who like to browse news on the war, I’ve seen many pictures and videos of supplies and cargo being dropped from an aircraft … the pallets of supplies float gracefully down and that is that. Never do I see the blood, sweat and tears that go behind getting those pallets to where they need to be.

The crew is alerted around 9 a.m. and arrives to the squadron 40 minutes later. They assemble for a highly detailed pre-mission brief that prepares the Airmen for what they will face during their mission.

Once processed through customs, it’s time to arm up and head to the plane. Today is my first combat airdrop mission; our location is somewhere in Southwest Asia. The air is heavy with humidity — you can actually feel the air on your skin. At this point, all we’ve done is place our bags on the C-17 and already our flight suits are drenched in sweat. Drops of perspiration are falling off the loadmaster’s face. We have 13 hours left in the day.

Even in the cargo bay of the massive aircraft, room is at a premium. More than 73,000 pounds of JP-8 fuel loaded on 40 pallets fill the aircraft from tail to nose, leaving just enough space for us to walk along the sides. The loadmaster’s voice comes over the speakers “ready for takeoff.” Within seconds our warehouse with wings is in the air.

Estimated time over target is two hours. The lights dim and things begin to cool off as we ascend.

As we get closer to the drop zone, Staff Sgt. Russ Johnson, an 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster, signals a 30-minute warning. My two partners are no strangers to documenting airdrops, but for me, this is a new experience.

I strap myself into a seat in the back by the door. The aircraft dives, dips and dodges its way through the mountains of Afghanistan — I eye up the closest pile of puke-bags in case things go south for this guy.

The door opens at about 1,000 feet above the ground. I knew Afghanistan was mountainous, but I couldn’t have been prepared for what I saw. The mountains are high and the aircraft is low. It feels as though I could reach out and touch the mountaintops — I wasn’t too far off.

It’s game time. Red light … yellow light … green light. Within two seconds, 36,500 pounds of JP-8 fuel violently races past me and out the aircraft, floating down to coalition troops on the ground. Our second pass drops another load.

Gearing up for our third drop, a stop is made at Bagram Airfield (BAF) to refuel and load up another 48,000 pounds of Meals, Ready to Eat. As we’re parked on the ramp, the doors open and the tail goes down. For anyone who hasn’t been to BAF, it’s a sight to see. A bowl of mountains surround the airfield. On the ramp of the aircraft lay two loadmasters enjoying the sunset on what appears to be a peaceful evening.

With one pallet left to load on the plane, sirens go off. The peaceful moment disappears as the crew loading the plane runs for cover because, make no mistake about it, we are at war.

Air DropThe news team and aircrew shelter in place on the aircraft. The sirens disappear and a new noise is heard. A pair of fighter jets and helicopters take to the sky. We all agree, someone is about to have a bad day.

More than an hour passes before the last pallet is finally loaded.

The sun is down and the sky is dark. Red lights illuminate the cargo area of the plane.

In preparation for the last drop of the mission, the lights dim. Looking through the viewfinder of my camera is a daunting task as visibility is close to nonexistent. We’re effectively an invisible flying Wal-Mart under the night sky. In a matter of 10 seconds, the doors open, the MREs blast out the door and we are on our way home.

Fifteen hours for about 15 seconds of actual action. Action that will keep my brothers and sisters fed, and their vehicles working.

The men and women of the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron from Joint Base Charleston are game changers. They allow coalition forces to sustain operations in some of the most austere locations on Earth. They are force multipliers.

Video: Airlift supports warfighter

Photo: (Top) Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Adams, an 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster, observes 36,500 pounds of JP-8 fuel fly out the back of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft over Afghanistan July 8, 2011. The C-17 dropped more than 121,000 pounds of food and fuel during a 15-hour mission. Supplies were dropped to U.S. and coalition troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri) (Bottom) Staff Sgt. Adams releases 48,000 pounds of Meals, Ready to Eat out of the C-17 on July 8, 2011 over Afghanistan during the concealment of the night sky. The crews also airdropped more than 73,000 pounds of JP-8 fuel during their mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)

What sets the Air Force apart?

by Lt. Col. Calvin Daniel
Commander, 97th Force Support Squadron

Since my time in recruiting, one thing I often think about is our shared Air Force culture and what that means to each Airman. In the Marine Corps, every Marine is a Rifleman first, and of course everyone knows about “The few, the proud…” In the Army, everyone is a Soldier first, with the Army brand so strong that people in my hometown use the word “military” and “Army” interchangeably. In the Navy, the shared experience of sea duty still carries the notion of adventure and mystique, which has endured for hundreds of years. Along these lines, what then is the draw for someone to join and remain in our Air Force? In my opinion, the things that should instill this desire to join and longing to stay are pride in our glorious past, our professional standing in the present and rapt attention to the future.

The pioneers of airpower were larger than life, selfless in death and Airmen of fundamental integrity in everything they did. Gen. Billy Mitchell sacrificed his career for integrity, standing firm in the correct belief that the Air Force would be more effective as a separate service. Countless Airmen went to their deaths in wooden air frames covered in canvas, sacrificing their lives so people continents away could live freely. We have a brave and glorious heritage, ultimately framed by selfless actions that continue to this very day.

Day by day, I’m struck by the professionalism of our Airmen. I’m often told how nice Air Force members are. It’s true; take the pleasant, smiling captain who yielded you a parking space at the Commissary. Put him or her behind the stick of a C-17 Globemaster III, however, and that competent professional will accomplish the mission every single time, much to the chagrin of weary enemies. Or consider the nice staff sergeant who coaches little league. Imagine that same sergeant – a security forces member – responding to a suspect trying to gain access to our base, intending to harm our people or resources. Rest assured, our people and resources will remain undisturbed if that sergeant has anything to say about it. Even today, we remain devoted Airmen who accomplish the mission with the quiet professionalism of well-trained warriors and the humble gratitude of a nation we are sworn to protect.

What really sets the Air Force apart is that we constantly scan the horizon, not only to see the next threat, but to also have already sorted a response. Want to bring down our satellites? We’ll be ready, and you should be keeping a close eye on yours. Thinking about taking down our network? We’ve been thinking about that too, and made it more secure. Think you can hide from our remotely piloted vehicles? A lot of bad guys aren’t around anymore to ask how that worked out for them. And we’ll be working on nanotechnology – planes the size of shot glasses with cameras to collect intelligence in the smallest nook or cranny that an enemy may hide in.

America's AirmenAs a service, the Air Force has always accomplished the nation’s mission with integrity, and let’s face it, a bit of flair; streaking across the wild blue yonder, airframes gleaming, scarves billowing in victory or sacrifice. Our Airmen, from general officers to technical sergeants, remain consummate professionals in discharging their duties. Finally, we take pride in countering threats well before an enemy realizes their capability could be a threat. For these reasons, I feel pride in this Air Force – a long, blue distinguished line. And I hope that my fellow Airmen do as well.

An Airman rises to honor a fallen Soldier

By Maj. Rosaire Bushey
AETC Public Affairs

Today I had the privilege to be a very small part of several hundred people who gathered to honor a fallen warrior. Army Sgt. Thomas Bohall returned to Texas today from Afghanistan and he was met by a line of respect that stretched for more than half a mile.

Fallen Soldier Words, however, are a poor substitute to the sights and more specifically to a single face in which a whole world of non-verbal emotion collided.

Lining the road there were uniforms, mostly ABUs, the odd BDU, flight suits, civilian slacks, skirts, suits. They were representative of the team that makes the military work. They were worn by every skin tone you could consider and they came equipped with boots, shoes, pumps, and heels; with berets, flight caps, garrison caps and even cowboy hats, and they stood under a double line of 50 state flags – everywhere you looked you could see all of America represented.
At the end of the line, through the base gates, two ladder trucks from local fire departments formed an arch across the road, with an American flag hanging. And as the procession approached, what little noise there was ceased. Cars stopped, contractors doing grounds maintenance stood at attention and doffed their hats, uniformed service members saluted.

As Sgt. Bohall passed I dipped my eyes and in a fraction of a second, locked eyes with a woman who I can only assume was a wife, girlfriend or sister. I’ll never know. She was no more than two feet away. She was sitting sideways in her car, facing directly into the row of us lining the road. Her face, wracked with grief and desperately straining to hold back tears that would end her connection with us, was a storm of emotion.

Salute a fallen SoldierBarely visible beneath the grief there was also a hint of a smile on her tear-stained lips. That near-smile and her wide eyes spoke clearly of pride – the pride she had for Sgt. Bohall – Thomas — regardless of the relationship they shared. Mostly, however, I saw in her face thankfulness. She was staring at people who had never met Thomas, never met her or her family, and yet here they were. On some level I think she probably understood at that moment that Thomas had always been around family, even when he was far from home.

In a second, she was gone, replaced by the low rumble of 74 motorcycles from the Patriot Guard, providing top cover for Sgt. Bohall and his family.

Salutes were lowered, cars moved, groundskeepers went back to work, but it was all quieter now. Did it matter that we were there; that we took an insignificant portion of our lives and saluted a fallen comrade?

Had you seen this woman’s face, her eyes, her gratitude, you wouldn’t even ask.

It made a difference. It mattered … a lot.

Photos: (Top) A U.S. Army carry team transfers the remains of Army Sgt. Thomas A. Bohall, of Bel Aire, Kan., at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, June 7. Sergeant Bohall was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky. (Bottom) A crowd gathers as a motorcade processional transporting the remains of Army Sgt. Thomas A. Bohall. Sergeant Bohall was one of six soldiers from Fort Campbell who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and killed by an improvised explosive device during an insurgent attack May 26, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photos by Don Lindsey)


Toughest Military Jobs–In the words of Firefighter SSgt. Thomas Ryan

Toughest Military Jobs,” a new series from The Military Channel, highlights some of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. Military.  In the series’ latest episode, viewers follow Air Force airmen as they trek through the forest defusing bombs; watch Air Force fire fighters extinguish a C-130 engulfed in flames; learn how Army chemical soldiers fight a nerve gas attack, and see how ammunition specialists handle dangerous munitions.  The episode premieres Thursday, May 27, at 9 PM (check local listings).  SSgt. Thomas Ryan is a Fire Contingency Instructor for Silver Flag Exercise Site, where he trains military firefighters on how to operate in the AOR.  He has been an Air Force firefighter for more than six years.

Becoming a military firefighter was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Although the perception that ‘firedawgs’ work out all day while waiting for an emergency resounds heavily in the mouths of our Civil Engineering counterparts, we know it’s all in love. The truth to the matter is we work three times longer each day than almost everyone on base during our 24 hour shift. We spend as much time with our firehouse counterparts as we do our own families. We work on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and miss many other milestones and celebratory moments in our family’s lives. But we gain a family in the process. Yes, we do cook dinner like a family would at the fire station because we are a family. We do sit down and watch a movie usually somewhere about 13 hours into our shift, probably somewhere right around the same time you are sitting down with your kids to do the same. Some of us are workout fanatics while others focus on improving their lives through online schooling. Just like any large family, there are many different personalities and interests. The one thing we all have in common is our desire to save lives and property.

When the bells go off and the emergency information blares over the loud speakers, we shift from a family to a fine-tuned machine with only the mission on our minds. We are the best trained firefighters in the world and we are extremely proud of that fact. If we are responding to a structural alarm, aircraft emergency, hazardous materials emergency, auto accident, confined space rescue, medical emergency or any of the multiple other areas we specialize in, you can guarantee we will get the job done and done well. We take pride in every call, from saving someone’s life to waking up at 0300 to reset the alarms at the dorms when someone burns their microwave popcorn. Since I’ve joined, there hasn’t been one day I wasn’t happy I was going to work and I know I speak for most of my brothers and sisters when I make that statement.

Growing up in New York I spent most of my adult life in factories, doing construction, and working on the docks of trucking companies. I’ll always be proud of the 26 years I spent in New York but I feel that those experiences made me appreciate all the more what the military has provided to my family over the last six years. I look forward to serving as many years as possible. And although I recently left the firehouse to become a Fire Contingency Instructor at Silver Flag, I still carry that pride and sense of family with me every day. These days I get to shift my focus from protecting the general public to preparing my brothers and sisters for the fight overseas. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have had the opportunity to meet and train firefighters from Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, all the way to our Coalition Forces. I can confidently say that anywhere military firefighters reside, you will be taken care of in your time of need.

You can take a look into the life of a military firefighter and also how we train them here at Silver Flag in this week’s episode of Toughest Military Jobs.