Tag Archives: Pacific Air Forces

U.S. Air Force: Sharpening our skills

By Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr. Air Force Social Media

Your U.S. Air Force is a global force. The complex operations and missions that our Airmen are responsible for stretch far beyond our nation’s borders into other areas of our world. You will take comfort in knowing our Airmen are constantly training and sharpening their skillset to meet the expectations of our leaders. Take a look below of a recent Pacific Theater exercise meant to ensure peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Uecker, 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew team chief, tightens a guided bomb unit onto an A-10 Thunderbolt II during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. The A-10 can hold up to 16,000 pounds of mixed ordnance, employing a wide variety of conventional munitions including general purpose bombs, cluster bomb units, laser guided bombs, joint direct attack munitions, rockets, illumination flares and the 30 millimeter cannon, capable of firing 3,900 rounds per minute. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
Staff Sgt. Christopher Uecker, 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew team chief, tightens a guided bomb unit onto an A-10 Thunderbolt II during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. The A-10 can hold up to 16,000 pounds of mixed ordnance, employing a wide variety of conventional munitions including general purpose bombs, cluster bomb units, laser guided bombs, joint direct attack munitions, rockets, illumination flares and the 30 millimeter cannon, capable of firing 3,900 rounds per minute. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
Airmen from the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit load munitions onto an A-10 Thunderbolt II during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. Exercises such as this help test team Osan's ability to survive and operate in wartime constraints. The weapons Airmen from the 25th AMU are responsible for 10 varieties of conventional munitions that can be loaded onto the A-10 frame. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
Airmen from the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit load munitions onto an A-10 Thunderbolt II during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. Exercises such as this help test team Osan’s ability to survive and operate in wartime constraints. The weapons Airmen from the 25th AMU are responsible for 10 varieties of conventional munitions that can be loaded onto the A-10 frame. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
Staff Sgt. Christopher Uecker, 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew team chief, tightens arming wire on an A-10 Thunderbolt II during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. The arming wire holds the guided bomb unit in place until proper aerial release. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
Staff Sgt. Christopher Uecker, 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew team chief, tightens arming wire on an A-10 Thunderbolt II during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. The arming wire holds the guided bomb unit in place until proper aerial release. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
Staff Sgt.Woodrow Walkup and Senior Airman Kameron Whitener, 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew team members, prepare to load 30 millimeter rounds onto an A-10 Thunderbolt II during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. The A-10 is a highly accurate and survivable weapons-delivery platform, capable of carrying up to 16,000 pounds of munitions including the 30 millimeter cannon which can penetrate tanks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
Staff Sgt.Woodrow Walkup and Senior Airman Kameron Whitener, 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew team members, prepare to load 30 millimeter rounds onto an A-10 Thunderbolt II during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. The A-10 is a highly accurate and survivable weapons-delivery platform, capable of carrying up to 16,000 pounds of munitions including the 30 millimeter cannon which can penetrate tanks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
Senior Airman Kameron Whitener and Airman 1st Class Brandon Jones, 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew team members, prepare to load 30 millimeter rounds onto an A-10 Thunderbolt II during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. Each team has three Airmen who are all responsible for different portions of the load. The one-man is the supervisor, the two-man is responsible for tools and aircraft preparation and the three-man is responsible for driving the jammer and munitions preparation. Without each member, the crews would not be able to properly load munitions in the safest way possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
Senior Airman Kameron Whitener and Airman 1st Class Brandon Jones, 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew team members, prepare to load 30 millimeter rounds onto an A-10 Thunderbolt II during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. Each team has three Airmen who are all responsible for different portions of the load. The one-man is the supervisor, the two-man is responsible for tools and aircraft preparation and the three-man is responsible for driving the jammer and munitions preparation. Without each member, the crews would not be able to properly load munitions in the safest way possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
Weapons load crew team Airmen from the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare to load munitions onto A-10 Thunderbolt IIs during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. The munitions Airmen can load up to 16,000 pounds of mixed ordnance onto the A-10 airframe. The A-10 is powered by two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines producing 9,065 pounds of thrust each, and the A-10 is capable  of reaching speeds of 450 nautical miles per hour. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
Weapons load crew team Airmen from the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare to load munitions onto A-10 Thunderbolt IIs during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. The munitions Airmen can load up to 16,000 pounds of mixed ordnance onto the A-10 airframe. The A-10 is powered by two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines producing 9,065 pounds of thrust each, and the A-10 is capable of reaching speeds of 450 nautical miles per hour. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
Staff Sgt. Christopher Uecker and Senior Airman Nathan Smith, 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew team members, drive a guided bomb unit to be loaded onto an A-10 Thunderbolt II during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. The weapons section of the 25th AMU is responsible for the maintenance and loading of various missiles, pylons, and other armament systems onto the A-10 fleet. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
Staff Sgt. Christopher Uecker and Senior Airman Nathan Smith, 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew team members, drive a guided bomb unit to be loaded onto an A-10 Thunderbolt II during the Vigilant Ace 16 exercise on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 1, 2015. The weapons section of the 25th AMU is responsible for the maintenance and loading of various missiles, pylons, and other armament systems onto the A-10 fleet. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)

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

Airman reveals tough past to help fellow Airmen with future

By Master Sgt. Matthew McGovern
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

140305-F-YN203-002bIt was 1999, and a young weather officer appeared to have everything going for him: a wife, Linda, two handsome teenage sons whom he adored, J.R. and Ryan, and a promising Air Force career for this prior-enlisted officer.

On the surface, things appeared to be going well. However, pressure was mounting that no one could see.

With overwhelming pressure at work, unresolved marital issues, separation from his family and agonizing feelings of extreme hopelessness, on March 11, 1999, Capt. Robert Swanson, decided to end his life.

Thankfully, he survived his attempt and eventually received help through Air Force therapists who want Airmen to persevere during difficult times and seek help before suicide seems like an option.

Fifteen years later, Swanson, now a colonel and the Pacific Air Forces chief of weather operations, knows suicide wasn’t the right answer to his problems and is encouraging Airmen to seek help before life’s issues get too overwhelming.

He found not only the hope he craved, but also life-renewing reasons to keep on living.

“If I could tell this young captain anything, I’d tell him to hang on; the future gets better,” he explained. “I’d tell him he’d miss the opportunity to see his boys grow into young men, and that he’d miss the opportunity to see the pain and agony subside and the chance to see the sunshine again.”

His path to healing was not easy. He met with a psychiatrist almost daily for six months for intense therapy sessions designed to put him back on the path to a healthy state of being.

“I read your file; you’re really good at telling us everything we want to hear,” his psychiatrist told him. “I’ve seen your IQ and you’re smarter than I am. Nothing I’m going to do, or say, is going to get through to you, until you are willing to take a chance, and let me try to help you.”

Only when he was ready to accept his psychiatrist’s advice did he start to heal — and the healing came almost immediately.

“We got rid of the anti-depressants,” Swanson said. “I hated them, and they really interfered with me making real progress.”

His psychiatrist taught him how to look at the world realistically; how to examine different events in his life, sort through his reactions to these events and figure out what is normal behavior and what emotions are distorted.

“People who are depressed have a distorted view of the world,” Swanson explained. “For example, if a depressed person breaks a glass, they feel terrible, like an utter failure as if nothing is ever going to work again properly.”

Since 1999, Swanson learned how to face life’s challenges head on and understands that negative feelings like anger, depression and guilt don’t result from bad things that happen to him, but from the way he thinks about them.

He learned to make changes on his road to happiness including remarrying and accomplishing many of his life-long goals, including earning his Ph.D., completing more than 20 marathons, witnessing his sons graduate from college and achieving the rank of colonel.

“I’m at the happiest point in my life now and I want to show others that they also can make it through and be happy again,” he said.

Swanson went to making the hardest decisions of his life as a colonel — to go public about his suicide attempts in hope of possibly reaching someone struggling with overwhelming emotional pain.

“I’ve been thinking about coming forward for quite some time,” Swanson said. “I can’t help but feel that one of the reasons I’m here, and why I survived two suicide attempts, is to make a difference in someone else’s life.”

With the uncertainty sequestration has on the Air Force, and the ongoing force-shaping decisions affecting every Airman, he thought this was a critical time to come forward.

“I know our Airmen are worried about what will happen next with their careers, will they survive force shaping and if not how it will it affect them and their loved ones,” Swanson said. “It is to be expected that Airmen may be a little anxious, depressed, sad and overwhelmed with emotion and not know exactly how to handle it. Some may even reach the point that I reached on March 11, 1999, when I tried to take my own life — this is why I have decided to come forward.”

Lt. Col. Andrew Cruz, the PACAF chief of mental health services, is hopeful that more Airmen will seek assistance when needed.

“It’s important to understand that seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of courage and strength,” Cruz said. “The Air Force is doing its best to change the stigma of mental health, primarily through our communication efforts and how it’s characterized. The mental health clinic is just one resource. People can access military family life consultants, Military OneSource, chaplains, behavioral health providers in patient centered clinics, and many other national and local help resources.”

Swanson encourages all Airmen to remember to keep wingman communication lines open and to take the opportunity to seek help from chaplains, mental health, and other trained therapists, if needed — for yourself or others.

“The right mechanism to receive help is different for everybody. It’s finding that right person and getting to the point where you accept there may be an alternative future,” he explained. “Not every psychiatrist, psychologist or chaplain is going to be the right person for that. You’ve got to connect with your therapist, and sometimes it may take similar backgrounds or personalities to make this happen.”

Suicide is a decision that can’t be undone and Swanson is proof that those feelings of depression and hopelessness can be overcome with the right help — life does get better.

“What I know for sure is that suicide is a permanent fix to short-term problems,” Swanson said. “But I can promise you, that if you work hard at changing how you view the challenges we all face in life, you can get through anything — and I mean anything. So I encourage everyone who is a part of our Air Force family to seek the help they need to get them back on the road to a healthier outlook on life.”

The Air Force wants all Airmen to seek help early before life’s problems become overwhelming and lead to distress.

For more information about suicide awareness and prevention, call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or text 836255 or visit http://www.afms.af.mil/suicideprevention.

PHOTO: Col. Robert Swanson recently came forward to express his desire to testify of a time in which he attempted to end his own life earlier in his Air Force career. Swanson said it’s critical that Airmen keep communication lines open, and to seek out help from a source that works for them and that they can connect with. Swanson is the Pacific Air Forces chief of weather operations at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff Sgt. Nathan Allen/Released)