Re-blued

 By Senior Airman Ulla Stromberg
99th Inpatient Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician

Being from Manhattan, Kan., an individual isn’t exposed to too terribly much. Cuisine was only as worldly as the Chinese/American buffet and entertainment rested in a dive bar or bowling alley. The one thing about this community, however, was the people. Being home to the students of Kansas State University and a great many of our soldiers from Fort Riley, the majority of the population’s faces were constantly changing. Human interaction and the life experiences heard from those soldiers and students broadened our worldly horizons.

Senior Airman StrombergAs I grew older, I was more informed and cognizant of the purpose of the military member. I loved hearing their stories and began to notice how those realities behind the tale developed their admirable character. I would watch those uniformed men and women at the local grocery store who always maintained an unwavering sense of purpose and seemed slightly more considerate of their loved ones who were with them. My eyes were opened when I realized this consideration came from the thought that the moment I had observed may have been due to this family seeing each other for one of the first or last times in the midst of a seemingly endless deployment season. I admired their sacrifice, their selflessness. To me, the uniform stood for a great many things. I hadn’t the foggiest idea what in the world occupational badges or rank insignias stood for. I just knew as an outsider looking in that the uniform stood for sacrifice. Sacrifice brought discipline and discipline brought pride and purpose. I enlisted in the United States Air Force at the earliest opportunity.

Because we are human, it is easy to fall into routine, to become complacent. However, one must always remember how they felt upon graduation from basic military training (BMT) when they received their Airman’s Coin. BMT pushes you, it brings you to hell and back but what emerges is a polished and refined individual who now sees the color of the flag in a brighter shade of red, white and blue. My advice is to always remember that moment, that character transition, and to remember that “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.” You traded a day of your life to come into work and put on that uniform. Make it count. If you remember these things, with the aid of your wingmen and leadership, ANYTHING is attainable.

Quote by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1944, D-Day.

Photo:U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ulla Stromberg, a 99th Inpatient Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, takes the blood pressure of Airman 1st Class Matthew Lancaster, a 99th Air Base Wing photographer, April 4, 2011, at Mike O’Callaghan Federal Hospital at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Stromberg was recently named one of the Air Forces’ 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year. The Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon is awarded to 12 enlisted Airmen who display superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements throughout the year. Air Force Association officials will honor the 12 recipients September 2011 during the Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Rubi)

Mountains

 By Senior Master Sgt. Kathleen McCool
Air Force Recruiting Service

While on an aircraft recently my seven-year-old son pointed out the window and asked me what was below. As I replied “mountains” he got a strange look on his face and said “that’s funny, they don’t look so tall from up here.” Senior Master Sgt. McCool

As I reflected on what he said I realized his statement mirrored my career. As I was looking ahead at each challenge I faced, the mountains appeared so tall, but as I climbed them and looked back down I discovered they weren’t as tall as I thought they were.

My first “mountain” came on the morning of Aug. 3, 1995, when my dad drove me to the Military Entrance Processing Station in Phoenix, Ariz. I can remember it as if it was yesterday — standing under the fluorescent lights outside the building. The fear that had been building over the last year in the Delayed Entry Program was now staring me in the face. I was leaving home for the first time to attend Basic Military Training (BMT). The “mountain” seemed enormous and I almost begged my dad to take me back home, but his words of encouragement were the reason I was able to walk into the building that morning and survive the next six weeks of basic.

It wasn’t until three years later when I returned to BMT that I realized the “mountain” didn’t seem so tall. These experiences continued throughout my career as a health services apprentice, a member of the base honor guard, a military training instructor and here in recruiting duty. I have been fortunate to have many mentors and peers along the way who made the climb much more enjoyable. As you face mountains, find someone to help with your climb and know that someday you will be able to look back on each “mountain” in a different light.

Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kathleen McCool (right), Air Force Recruiting Service recruiter screening team superintendent, counsels a prospective recruiter. She was recognized as the Air Education and Training Command senior noncommissioned officer of the year for 2010. (courtesy photo)

Strength, courage on the home front

By Staff Sgt. Nicholas BreamSgt Bream and the 387th ELRS
96th Logistics Readiness Squadron

I was afforded the opportunity to share a heartfelt story of my experience while I was deployed on convoy duty in Iraq. The Learning Channel (TLC) came to my house before I arrived home and recorded the strength and courage that it takes my wife Nicole and three children, Amanda, Joseph, and Jessi to carry on everyday life while I am deployed.

The Learning Channel wanted service members who were deployed and had a special family event they wanted to share. In my case, when I was deployed in 2008 on convoy duty, Nicole gave birth to my son Joseph in Germany with only her friends by her side as I was on mission and could not be there with her. It was almost six months before I got home and the only way Joseph knew me was through a webcam and the sound of my voice. But as soon as he saw me he knew exactly who I was. And then in March of 2011 she gave birth to my daughter Jessi while I was not due back for another six weeks. I sat back and thought to myself “Wow.” I can’t imagine what it must be like to do that by herself and still take care of our other children and attend college full time.

Amanda and Nicole enjoyed watching shows about military members reuniting with family members after a deployment. One evening Amanda asked me via webcam if “Mommy and Daddy could surprise her like that when I came home.” I was excited to be able to surprise her like she wanted and to be able to share it with other people. After a few months of going back and forth with ideas we finally decided that we would make the show about my daughter getting her Girl Scout “Strength and Courage” badge awarded. Amanda helped out Nicole in every way that a 6 year old could. Amanda stepped up to take my place helping around the house, picking up the living room and folding laundry.

From that point on I handed the planning over to Nicole and the Girl Scout leader Elizabeth to work with the production crew. They set it up to be recorded at my home in Florida during a Girl Scout meeting. They invited a local fire fighter to talk about how much strength and courage it takes to do his job. After talking about that for a few minutes he then moved to introduce me, saying how it took more strength and courage to do my job overseas in hostile environments.

They all worked it perfectly so that when I got home from the airport all I had to do was walk in the door and surprise Amanda and her Girl Scout troop. She had no idea I was coming home yet and she was in total shock that her dad was the one to award her this achievement. After I surprised Amanda, Nicole had a surprise for me — getting to see my daughter Jessi for the first time in person since she was born. Up until then I had only seen her via webcam and pictures Nicole sent me. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to finally hold her.

I have deployed two times, and both times they have been for more than six months. Every military member, myself included, has to be ready at a moment’s notice to pick up and go somewhere else for duty. Whether it is for one day or 12 months we are not the ones who have it hard. It’s the family and loved ones we leave behind who are expected to carry on daily life without us.

Photo: Airmen with the 387th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance flight deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation New Dawn from September 2010 to April 2011.

Command Chief Master Sergeant Forum: professionals, leaders, wingmen

By Airman 1st Class Krystal Tomlin
Air Force Public Affairs

Chief Master Sgt. Pat BattenbergIn attending Air Force Association’s 2011 Air & Space Conference & Technology Exposition, I had the opportunity to sit in on the Command Chief Master Sergeant Forum where the chiefs answered questions from the participants on any topic relating to the Air Force and leadership.

A number of interesting questions were brought up. What’s the biggest challenge to the enlisted force? How can supervisors best lead millennial troops? Do you have any advice for junior enlisted Airmen?

As I was listening to the responses to these questions I began to notice that from the day we receive that cherished Airman’s coin and the even greater treasure of being called an Airman each one of us has the answers.

When asked if all Airmen are professionals, all of the chiefs agreed without a doubt that we are absolutely professionals. Command Chief Master Sergeant to the Director of the Air National Guard Christopher Muncy said that with all of the training and education requirements that Airmen have to maintain we may even be more professional than our civilian counterparts. This professionalism is something that we learn in basic training and solidify throughout our career.

Another recurring theme was taking care of each other and trusting leadership. These were part of nearly every topic, and though they were usually brought up as two separate things, I believe that they go hand in hand.

Chief Master Sergeant William W. Turner, Command Chief Master Sergeant for Air Force Special Operations Command, said that one of the biggest stressors for the enlisted force is uncertainty of the future. Chief Master Sergeant John T. Salzman, Command Chief Master Sergeant of the U.S. Air Force Academy, followed that up by saying Airmen know with certainty that they will deploy, but they don’t know what will happen to their family. The solution they offered was to trust that leadership will make the right decisions.

A piece of advice that Chief Master Sergeant Pat Battenberg, Command Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force District of Washington, gave to Airmen might also help leaders at all levels gain the trust that will help alleviate some stress, and it involves taking care of one another. He said to try to find a way to say yes even when it may be easier to say no.

Munsy wrapped it up nicely when he reminded us that the first thing we were ever issued in the military was a wingman.

We keep our uniforms, equipment and personal appearance in inspection order, so ask yourself, are you taking the same care with your wingmen?

Photo: Chief Master Sgt. Pat Battenberg, Air Force District of Washington command chief, answers a question from a member of the audience Sept. 19, 2011 at the Command Chief Master Sergeant Forum during the Air Force Association 2011 Air & Space Conference & Technology Exposition in National Harbor, Md. The forum was an opportunity for Airmen to have a direct line of communication with top leaders in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Melissa Goslin)

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)