Tag Archives: USAF

Leaders with ICE in their veins

Bagram leaders visit Airmen, Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Lion

By Col. David Miller
21st Operations Group

As I was preparing to take command of the 21st Operations Group, one of my former Airmen called me to see if my leadership expectations had changed. He was preparing his own leadership expectations briefing for his first commander’s call, and he wanted to know if I still had a one-word expectation for my officers and NCOs — “Lead!”

I responded I still had a one word expectation for myself and the leaders I worked with, however, I went on to explain that how they lead is an indispensable part of the conversation. Why? It is our job as leaders to create and sustain an environment for our people to succeed professionally and personally. Moreover, in such a dynamic security and fiscal environment, and at a time when we continue to expect more and more from our Airmen, how we act is just as important as what we do.

Now, I would not presume to make judgments or prescriptions about the environment of every unit … but I do believe, as our leaders of the past did, that leadership is a “team sport” and that a dialogue about leadership expectations is a healthy thing for any organization, particularly as we build and shape the next generation of officers and NCOs.

I suspect many of you know the old maxim, “The pace of the pack is set by the leader.” And, no doubt throughout your careers you have seen this metaphor in action in the form of a particular NCO, commander or supervisor. Reflecting on the question above, however, necessitates a more sophisticated reading of this phrase. Not only does the leader set the pace of the pack, he is responsible for determining the pack’s direction, membership, care and feeding, and rest stops along the way. In short, the leader must be guided by certain principles that make up his or her core leadership philosophy.

Throughout my career I have many valuable leadership traits, but I have witnessed three that rise above the rest as fundamental to effective leadership in the 21st Century Air Force: Integrity, competence and empathy.

Integrity as a fundamental leadership trait should be no surprise to Airmen as it is one of our core values. It speaks to our character, our ability to see the right in any situation, and our Airmen need to see it manifest in our decision making. They don’t expect us to shy away from the hard tasks, or make decisions based on some misplaced sense of privilege or pride.

On the contrary, they expect their leaders to display a moral excellence, set the highest standards, gather the necessary information and embrace the tough decisions mindful of the consequences. Why? Because that’s what we pay leaders to do! In short, decisions that are based on “math” and not “manhood,” and centered on a foundation of moral excellence will always stand up to the scrutiny of the finest Airmen in the world.

The next fundamental trait our Airmen demand of our leaders is competence. Our Airmen have every right to expect their leaders to be masters of their craft. Now, I come from an operations background, and in our community our Airmen expect our leaders to have a credibility that is derived from a career of experience in operations. This expectation is no different than the expectation that our firemen have of a fire chief or a maintainer has of his supervisor. The bottom line is that competence is based on a legacy of learning, enhances your credibility and allows you as a leader to make rapid, informed decisions under pressure. It is competence, shaped by experience, that will allow a leader to identify problems and call turns in the road before issues become crises — our Airmen deserve no less.

Last, and certainly not least, is empathy. I think of empathy as the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and view the world as they see it. It is a leadership trait that is extremely difficult to master, but it is also incredibly important for a leader to make the effort every day. How else is he or she is going to be able to understand and appreciate what our Airmen are going through? It is empathy that will inform a supervisor how to motivate a particular individual, and it is empathy that will let a leader know when an individual needs a break or has taken on too much.

In today’s environment, we are constantly asking our Airmen to do more with less, and they continue to surprise me each and every day with how often they raise their hand and get after it no matter how difficult the challenge. Our Airmen are able to do this because they are highly capable and motivated, and it is here where empathy is most critical for a leader in that it allows him or her to distinguish enthusiasm from capability. In sum, a 21st Century Airman requires a leader who can identify with him and see the world through his eyes.

There are many traits that we value in our leaders, and our followers for that matter, and I have picked three in order to promote discussion and debate. For your work center or functional area, the most critical traits may be slightly different. The key is that, as we build, lead and teach the next generation of Airmen, they learn the importance of integrity, competence and empathy.

We need leaders with ICE in their veins to ensure we remain the most lethal, professional and combat-relevant Air Force on the planet … our Airmen deserve no less!

August recruitment tweet chat

 Air Force Week - New York

The Air Force Recruiting Service participated in its third “office hours” tweet chat, #AsktheAF on @usairforce, Aug. 8 and received over 130 recruitment questions from Twitter followers. During the hour-long Web event, AFRS officials and the Air Force Social Media Team answered questions about enlistment eligibility requirements, Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test scores and other career field-specific questions. The first 26 questions were answered during the tweet chat, and the rest of the unanswered questions are below. The next recruitment tweet chat takes place Sept. 12 from 3-4:30 p.m. CDT. The next Air Force Recruiting Service tweet chat will take place in October.

Q27: What is the process of enlisting for the Air Force?
A27: Check out basic requirements here: http://bit.ly/18q1gDB and here http://tiny.cc/bwgf0w.

Q28: I was diagnosed with asthma, but I went into a specialist and found out I don’t have asthma, will this disqualify me?
A28: Take your medical documents to your recruiter to have the MEPS doc review for final decision.

Q29: What seems to be the biggest concern among recruits before leaving for BMT?
A29: The biggest concern among recruits before leaving for any basic training is being ready physically.

Q30: I have 2 associates degrees and 10 years work experience. If I enlist can I enter as an officer?
A30: You will need a bachelor’s degree to join as an officer.

Q31: How long does it take to get  approval after doing a consult for ADHD? I did a consult because extra documentation was needed.
A31: It can take between 6-8 weeks

Q32: Is it possible to switch from a different branch to try out for pararescue school?
A32: Yes, but it depends on your branch and also on qualifications & jobs available in Prior Service program. http://bit.ly/14epz4G.

Q33: After BMT, you go to MOS school, correct? Then once you go, how do you or they find what’s right for you?
A33: In the Air Force you will know what your job is before going to tech school. Tech School is after BMT.

Q34: Can I enlist while I am a junior in high school and take the ASVAB right away?
A34: Yes, HS juniors entering their senior year can process for the AF which includes taking the ASVAB.

Q35: What does a civilian health system specialist do in the Air Force? Why is the Air Force hiring so many for this job?
A35: Take care of Airmen. Health professional jobs are in need and the Air Force has a robust civilian workforce.

Q36: What is the best book to use to study for the AFOQT?
A36: Any AFOQT study guide at your local book store or library.

Q37: What is the ASVAB score in order to be a surgical service specialist?
A37: The minimum score required is General 44.  Recommend studying for higher score to be competitive.

Q38: Why doesn’t the Air Force give waivers for color vision?
A38: You must be able to see green/red in order to be able to do your job.

Q39: Would you recommend loadmaster for women?
A39: If you qualify for it and want it, list it. I have heard great things about that job.

Q40: Is there a schedule for BMT when you enlist and do you get to choose that schedule?
A40: BMT is a regimented schedule. Check out http://tiny.cc/wxgf0w for a week-by-week look at BMT.

Q41: What is the current policy on prior service members?
A41: The prior service program will access approx. 250 applicants in 2013. Please visit http://bit.ly/1brW5Dj for more details.

Q42: What do SOF (SOWT) do when they are not deployed? Just hang out on base, or do they have a lot of training?
A42: They train a lot when at home station to fine tune their craft. They must always be prepared to deploy.

Q43: What seems to be the biggest concern among recruits when they leave for BMT?
A43: The biggest concern among recruits before leaving for any basic training is being ready physically.

Q44: Is it possible to get a position in OSI as an officer straight from OTS and college?
A44: Officers can go straight to OSI from OTS and ROTC.

Q45: Is there a demand for psychologists in the AF? I’d love to eventually use my degree to help our soldiers.
A45: Depends on needs of the AF. You must have an unrestricted license. Talk to a recruiter if interested.

Q46: Will all required skills and training (not including education) be taught/provided in an AF school (the academy, ROTC, etc.)?
A46: There are technical and leadership schools taught by the Air Force and joint services for all career fields.

Q47: Can you join if you have asthma?
A47: Asthma is a potentially medically disqualifying condition, but the Dr at MEPS will make that determination. Ask your recruiter to have the MEPS DR prescreen your Asthma medical records for a preliminary ruling.

Q48: What’s the best way to book a medic job without leaving for basic as general medical?
A48: Sometimes it is easier to book it in BMT since those jobs are reserved for Trainees in BMT only, vs MEPS.

Q49: I already have the job, but what is the process for deciding what language I will learn as a Cryptologic Linguist?
A49: You will be assigned your language in tech school based on your DLAB score.

Q50: What are the requirements for becoming a pilot?
A50: Meet gen reqs http://bit.ly/12KwCAu, obtain a degree on your own or earn one after enlisting, then apply for commission.

Q51: I’m 5 lbs over the weight limit for my height. Can the recruiter still start the recruiting process with me?
A51: The recruiter cannot start the process until you are under the maximum allowable weight.

Q52: Can you join if you have a documented mental illness (such as bipolar 2 disorder)?
A52: Unfortunately no. Anyone required to take medication daily (besides birth control for females) is automatically disqualified.

Q53: What is the best book to use to study for the officer candidate test (AFOQT)?
A53: Any AFOQT study guide at your local book store or library.

Q54: What are the responsibilities of a security forces officer?
A54: Check out more info here: http://www.airforce.com/careers/detail/security-forces-officer.

Q55: How old do you have to be to officially start talking to a recruiter about joining and getting everything together?
A55: You must be at least 17 years of age to officially start talking to a recruiter.

Q56: Will the Air Guard accept E-5 transfers from the Army Reserve?
A56: Please contact the local air guard unit you want to transfer to or go to this site for info. http://bit.ly/15P3wjP.

Q57: I was diagnosed with Melanoma about 3 years ago; I have since had this cleared, do I still have to wait the required 5 years?
A57: Yes, you have to wait 5 years from the date the doctor has cleared you.

Q58: What’s the advantage of joining the AF over the Marines?
A58: It’s really a personal preference. To decide which branch is right for you, meet with a recruiter from each branch. Prepare questions, set goals & gather as much info as possible. Weigh pros/cons, make your decision & don’t look back.

Q59: Will a recruiter help me put together all the paperwork for a congressional nomination to the Academy?
A59: Contact the AF Academy Liaison Officer nearest to your area for assistance. http://www.academyadmissions.com/admissions/outreach-programs/find-your-admissions-liaison-officer/?school=&state=&city=

Q60: When should I start applying for ROTC. I am enlisted active duty and in the DEP.
Q60: Typically Dec 1 of your senior yr of high school. If you’re active duty, you can enroll after upgrade training at your 1st duty location.

Q61: Are the physical requirements the same to be an officer as they are to be enlisted?
A61: There’s not much difference from an enlistment physical vs a commissioning physical, unless you’re applying for flying, etc.

Q62: What are the age requirements to take the ASVAB?
A62: You may take the ASVAB at 17 years age of age, in high school, & must take it prior to your 28th birthday.

Q63: Is it hard to join the Air Force?
A63: No, provided you pass the requirements to join. Check out basic requirements here: http://www.airforce.com/joining-the-air-force/enlisted-overview/ & http://www.airforce.com/contact-us/faq/eligibility/

Q64: I want to become a fighter pilot, how long is the process from BMT to becoming a pilot?
A64: If you enlist w/ a Bachelor’s Degree (required for pilots), you can apply for OTS & Pilot Training after 12 mos on station. Once at pilot training, it takes another 12-18 mos, depending on aircraft platforms, to complete and become an Air Force pilot.

Q65: Are spouses of AD members allowed to join? How about single parents?
A65: Spouses of active duty are permitted to join.  The single parent policy just changed & they can now join. Check with your recruiter or airforce.com for details.

Q66: What scores are required on the ASVAB to qualify for loadmaster?
A66: The minimum scores required are Mechanical 60 or General 57.  Recommend studying for a higher score to be competitive.

Q67: Could I join the Air Force with a 40 on the ASVAB, with a GED?
A67: Min AFQT score req is 36, but majority of those waiting for BMT scored > 50. Contact your recruiter to discuss your scores.

Q68: Do you have to serve a certain number of years before going in college under the G.I. Bill? How does it work?
A68: You can get a better understanding of how the GI Bill works here: http://www.gibill.va.gov.

Q69: What should I be studying for the ASVAB?
A69: You can purchase an ASVAB study guide at any major bookstore or check one out from your local library.

Q70: What is the difference in training for enlisted and officers?
A70: Check out these sites for more info: http://www.airforce.com/joining-the-air-force/basic-military-training/, http://www.airforce.com/joining-the-air-force/officer-training/, & http://www.airforce.com/joining-the-air-force/commissioned-officer-overview/.

Q71: If I enlist during my senior year in high school, how long after I graduate do I leave to BMT?
A71: It takes about 2-3 months to process a fully qualified applicant, then another 3-9 months to ship to BMT, but you won’t ship until after you graduate from high school.

Q72: Got allergy induced asthma at age 8. Went away around age 10, but never checked with a doctor about it? Am I disqualified?
A72: Asthma is a potentially medically disqualifying condition, but the doctor at MEPS will make that determination. Ask your recruiter to have the MEPS doctor prescreen your Asthma medical records for a preliminary ruling.

Q73: In MOS school, how do they find what fits best for you?
A73: MOS is an Army term. AF has AFSC. Your jobs selections are based on ASVAB, physical and background check.

Q74: Who actually fires the weapon systems on an AC-130 gunship and how do I become that person?
A74: The gunner does. If you qualify with your ASVAB, physical and background check, you can list that job as one of your choices you are interested in. Contact your local recruiter for more information.

Q75: What is a competitive AFOQT score?
A75: I would suggest aiming for 70’s/80’s, also aim for a composite of 210 minimum, suggest 240 or higher to be competitive.

Q76: Is it possible to have a family as a linguist or any job for that matter?
A76: Each applicant must meet the requirements in order to apply for the AF, as well as each career field.

Q77: Does community college count for credits as to help you and enter as a higher rank?
A77: 44 accredited college credits: E-2: 45+ accredited college credits: E-3

Q78: Am I too tall to be an A10 pilot? I’m 6’4″.
A78: No, you aren’t too tall. You must be between 5’4” and 6’5” in height to be a pilot.

Q79: If you are joining directly after graduating from high school what is the best route to becoming an officer?
A79: You must have a Bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA to apply for OTS, so focus on getting a degree and maintaining a high GPA to be competitive, along with meeting all other requirements.

Q80: I signed my acceptance letter for the HPSP Scholarship in May. How long does security clearance take?
A80: If you signed and sworn in, then it’s already been done. That was part of the fingerprinting & background check at the time of application.

Q81: Is there a maximum allowed age to enlist?
A81: Yes, you must be in BMT prior to turning 28.

Q82: How good are your military job-training schools?
A82: They are top notch and provide all Airmen the initial training required for their job. We are the greatest Air Force in the world for a reason.

Q83: Is it possible to join even though I have glasses? I’ve been told you need perfect vision.
A83: You can have an eye refraction level of no worse than + or – 8.0.  When applying, your vision will be fully evaluated at your pre-entry qualification physical. Individual jobs may have stricter vision requirements.

Q84: I’m going to have a minimally invasive surgery in my early 20s, will this keep me out of the AF?
A84: It could.  You will need to wait until you’re cleared by your doctor and then gather all medical records requested by the recruiter, to submit for review at MEPS for final determination.

Q85: How often do trainees at BMT get to use phones and how much time are they allotted?
A85: They will be able to call during Week 4 & Week 7; other days & times will be dictated by the TI and the trainee’s performance.

Q86: Can I still sign even though I’m over weight. I’ve heard of people joining and losing the weight at basic?
A86: No, you must meet the minimum requirements prior to applying.

Q87: How often do new Airmen get picked for 1N jobs?
A87: We fill all openings we get each year with qualified applicants.

Q88: Can you apply for a scholarship more than once or is it a “one and done” deal?
A88: That depends on the scholarship you are applying for. Call 1-800-423-USAF to speak with us about different options.

Q89: What can you tell me about the job space systems operations?
A89: You can learn more about a career in Space Systems Operations with the U.S. Air Force here: http://www.airforce.com/careers/detail/space-systems-operations.

Q90: What’s the best way to book a 4N0X1 MOS besides joining as open medical general?
A90: We don’t have MOS, that is an Army term. We have AFSCs. Requirements include an ASVAB General: 50, no fear of blood, driver’s license, and you must meet all other requirements. If qualified, you can list that among the other jobs you qualify for and are interested in.

Q91: What type of requirements do you need for the Pararescue?
A91: AFQT-36, General-41. You must also pass the PAST test. Check out the PJ page on www.airforce.com/careers for more info.

Q92: What is the minimum ASVAB score to become a jet pilot?
A92: The ASVAB isn’t required for commissioned officers.  To become a pilot you must meet gen requirements: bit.ly/12KwCAu, obtain a degree on your own or earn one after enlisting, then apply for commission
URL: http://www.airforce.com/contact-us/faq/eligibility/#qualifications-to-fly

Q93: What’s the ASVAB score to be a radiologist?
A93: The minimum score required is General 44.  Recommend studying for higher score to be competitive.

Q94: What are the rules on tattoos?
A94: The rules vary based on imagery, message, size & location.  Check out http://bit.ly/111YFdA for more info. 
URL: http://www.airforce.com/contact-us/faq/eligibility/#policy-tattoos

Q95: Can I go to BMT between my junior and senior year of high school or will tech school not allow me?
A95: No, you can begin the process and swear into DEP, but cannot attend BMT until after you have your diploma.

Q96: Does everyone who goes to MEPs and passes the physical swear in at that visit? Can someone wait if they feel unsure?
A96: You won’t be scheduled to process until you are 100% sure to join. We don’t allow applicants to “window shop” jobs…if you go to MEPS, you are swearing in.

Q97: How long is flight school?
A97: About 18 months.

Q98: Are there a lot of Loadmaster openings each year?
A98: There are about 2,359 Airmen in that job, so it all depends on how many openings we have each year.

Q99: What SF unit does the AF have that would conduct operations like the Army?
A99: There are duties & bases that will allow you to experience different aspects of SF. It would all depend on where you are stationed as to what missions/deployments you will be on.

Q100: If I am already an E2 from being an Eagle Scout and I have 20+ college credits, would that make me E3?
A100: No, you will be an E-2. To earn E-3, you must meet the requirements for that advanced rank.

Q101: When will females be allowed to apply for special op jobs like PJ or TACP?
A101: We’re still awaiting policy changes from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Check updates here: http://1.usa.gov/111Ydf8

Q102: How competitive is the intel officer selection process for ROTC cadets right now?
A102: You can ask the ROTC detachment you are currently at or are interested in for information. You can also go to http://www.afrotc.com for more information.

Q103: How has the sequester affected future Air Force recruits?
A103: As of right now, it hasn’t affected those who remain successful and stay out of trouble.

Q104: If I have an ASVAB score of 45 with a bachelors can I be a captain or not?
A104: No, OTS officers come in as an O-1 if selected.

Q105: How long will it take from enlisting to leaving for BMT?
A105: It varies. However, you can expect around 3-9 months.

Q106: What’s the most likely job to get once enlisting?
A106:  Jobs in demand are ever-changing based upon needs of the Air Force. It depends on the needs of the Air Force and your qualifications.

Q107: What are the jobs the Air Force is really looking to recruit?
A107: Jobs in demand are ever-changing based upon needs of the Air Force. Critical career fields include special ops & linguists.

Q108: What’s the age range to join the Air Force?
A108: Non-prior service applicants must be at least 17 to apply and in Basic Military Training before their 28th birthday.

Q109: Has the sequester affected tuition aid for future Air Force recruits?
A109: Tuition Assistance was reinstated several months back and we have not been briefed on any future affects.

Q110: What are the qualifications for an Air Force sniper?
A110: You must be in a Security Forces career field, try out and be accepted. You can inquire more about this position at your duty station.

Q111: Will I be able to be commissioned into the Air Force in 2017 with all the budget cuts?
A111: Generally, if you meet the requirements & are accepted, you can be commissioned, but we can’t speculate on specifics this far in advance.

Q112: What’s the usual ASVAB score required to become a ground vehicle maintainer or mechanic?
A112: Check out minimum scores by Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) here: http://www.military.com/ASVAB/0,,ASVAB_MOS_USAF.html. Recommend studying for higher score to be competitive.

Q113: How hard is it to get an Aerial Gunner Slot?
A113: If you qualify, you can list it on your job choices along with the other jobs you are interested in.

Q114: Does the AF still offer the buddy system? Is that just to be shipped off together, or what?
A114: AF has a limited Buddy Program and those who enlist under it will be together for BMT. Call your recruiter for more details.

Q115: What is the ASVAB score for security forces and how is the ASVAB scaled?
A115: The minimum is General 33.  Recommend studying for higher score to be competitive. Visit http://official-asvab.com/understand_app.htm for more info.

Q116: What are the requirements to be a MP?
A116: The Air Force version of MP is Security Forces. Requirements include basic requirements to enlist in AF, minimum 33 in ASVAB General Aptitude Area & valid driver’s license.

Q117: When should I sign up for ROTC before, after, or during tech school?
A117: ROTC is a college program, so you would enroll in it like you would when applying for any college after high school. Check out http://www.afrotc.com for more info.

Q118: What are the requirements to be an officer?
A118: You must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 3.0 GPA.  Check out http://www.airforce.com/joining-the-air-force/officer-overview/ for more info. 

Q119: Any college recommendations for AFROTC?
A119: Must be a college that offers ROTC.  Visit http://www.afrotc.com/college-locator/overview/ for more information.

Q120: What is the required score on ASVAB to be in Air Transportation?
A120: The minimum scores required are Mechanical 47 and Administrative 28.  Recommend studying for higher scores to be competitive.

Q121: What does a combat rescue officer go onto missions?
A121: That is classified and we cannot disclose that information.

Q122: Can a permanent resident be a pilot in the AF? Are there any other jobs for residents where they can stay in the air?
A122: Pilots are officers and must be U.S. citizens.

Q123: I’m a firefighter for the U.S. forest service. I would like to become a FF for the AF. What ASVAB score will I need?
A123: The minimum score required to work in Fire Protection is General 38.  Recommend studying for higher scores to be competitive.

Q124: Is there a vision requirement to become a pilot?
A124: A pilot’s distance vision can be no worse than 20/70, correctable to 20/20. Near vision must be 20/20, uncorrected.

Q125: Is there a job for an Air Force pilot in special ops?
A125: Yes, but it depends on which aircraft you fly, the mission and the needs of the Air Force.

Q126: How long is tech school for EOD?
A126: Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technical training is 162 days. You can learn more about becoming an EOD here: http://www.airforce.com/careers/detail/explosive-ordnance-disposal-eod.

Q127: I want to be an intelligence officer what college major should I do?
A127: You can have any degree, but the higher the GPA the better your chances of being selected by the board.

Q128: Does having a piloting license in any way benefit you when wanting to become an Aeriel gunner?
A128: No, an Aeriel Gunner is an enlisted job and does not require flying an aircraft.

Q129: How can I find addresses of men and women in the Air Force to write letters to show support? I have looked everywhere with no luck.
A129: For more information on what you can do to help support Airmen, please visit www.uso.org.

Q130: Why are AF soldiers training to fight against Christians and US patriots? What exactly have they done in the past 5 years?
A130: We don’t have soldiers, we have Airmen and each Airman is trained in their respective career field, none of which include the kind of training in question.

Q131: What is the job description for Security forces and your opinion?
A131: SF was my primary AFSC and I loved every minute of it! Click here for a job description http://www.airforce.com/careers/detail/security-forces-specialist.

Q132: What’s it like for spouses in the Air Force?
A132: You can learn more about what it’s like for spouses and families in the U.S. Air Force here: http://www.airforce.com/parents-family/.

Q133: How does one become an air traffic controller in the Air Force?
A133: You must score a minimum ASVAB 33 General & Mechanical 57, as well as pass a physical and background check to be eligible to list it among the other job choices.

Q134: What are the different routes to becoming a pilot and what types of missions are available?
A134: Meet general requirements: http://bit.ly/12KwCAu, obtain a degree and apply for commission. Missions vary depending on the aircraft flown and current Air Force operations.
URL: http://www.airforce.com/contact-us/faq/eligibility/#qualifications-to-fly

Q135: What is the minimum ASVAB score to enlist into the Air Force?
A135: The minimum AFQT score required is 36, but majority of those waiting for BMT score > 50. Recommend studying for higher score to be competitive.

Q136: What would be the best career choice if i wanted to be an FBI special agent post-AF?
A136: Security Forces, OSI and Intel are good career field choices.

Q137: When I get my permanent base when can I get into on base housing?
A137: If married, you will in-process and talk to the housing office about base housing availability. If single and enlisted (E-1 to E-4), you can get assigned to on base dormitories.

 

Oklahoma tornado assistance

by Tech. Sgt. Steve Grever
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

A Tinker Fire and Emergency Services crew responds to the May 20 tornado that struck Moore, Okla. Twelve base firefighters and one safety officer were immediately dispatched to assist with rescue activities in the vicinity of 19th street and Interstate 35 in Moore, and one surgeon was dispatched to OU Medical Center. More help has been provided overnight with lights, vehicles, water trucks and volunteer Airmen are preparing to assist with crowd control and recovery efforts. (Photo courtesy of Tinker Fire and Emergency Services) Airmen from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and about 250 members from the Oklahoma National Guard continue to work with local and federal agencies providing search, rescue and recovery efforts after a tornado devastated the area May 20. First responders from Tinker AFB were immediately dispatched to Moore, Okla., and one base surgeon was sent to Oklahoma University Medical Center to treat the injured. The 507th Air Refueling Wing Crisis Action Team also worked diligently to provide emergency response teams lights, vehicles, water trucks and volunteer Airmen to assist with crowd control and recovery efforts.

Col. Steven Bleymaier, 72nd Air Base Wing commander, said the base activated its Emergency Family Assistance Center May 20 to ensure Airmen and their families received food, clothing and emergency financial assistance to help them recover from this tragedy. Bleymaier also requested the community’s help to provide temporary shelter to those displaced by the storm.

Air Force Personnel Center officials activated the Air Force Personnel Accountability and Assessment System to ensure Airmen and their families in the Moore and Oklahoma City, Okla., were accounted for and provided assistance. Airmen can access the AFPAAS website from the Air Force Portal and the AFPC website.

We’ve compiled a list of links and resources for military members and their families seeking assistance and support from Tinker AFB agencies and other organizations. Airmen and family members can call the Tinker Emergency Family Assistance Center for more information at 405-749-2747. Civilians can call the American Red Cross-Central Oklahoma at 405-228-9500. More information about the disaster relief efforts can also be found at the Tinker AFB public website.

Links

  • Tinker Emergency Family Assistance Center, 405-749-2747
  • Tinker Airman & Family Readiness Center, Bldg. 6001, 405-739-2747
  • Military OneSource, 800-342-9647, www.militaryonesource.com
  • Employee Assistance Program, 800-222-0364 (24 hours)
  • American Red Cross-Central Oklahoma, 405-228-9500, www.okc.redcross.org
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency, 800-621-3362, http://www.disasterassistance.gov/
  • Federal Employee Education & Assistance Fund, 800-323-4140
  • Animal Welfare – 405-297-3100

Resources

PHOTO: A Tinker Fire and Emergency Services crew responds to the May 20 tornado that struck Moore, Okla. Twelve base firefighters and one safety officer were immediately dispatched to assist with rescue activities in the vicinity of 19th street and Interstate 35 in Moore, and one surgeon was dispatched to OU Medical Center. More help has been provided overnight with lights, vehicles, water trucks and volunteer Airmen are preparing to assist with crowd control and recovery efforts. (Photo courtesy of Tinker Fire and Emergency Services)

Warrior Games 2013: Airman faces challenge at Games as TBI victim

Capt. Mitchell Kieffer gears up for a bike ride during the Wounded Warrior Games training camp.by Tech. Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
Air Force News Service, Colorado Springs, Colo.

By looking at him, you would never be able to tell he is a battle-tested, combat-injured Airman. He is a testament to invisible wounds and just how their effects can become visible in everyday life.

Capt. Mitchell Kieffer is a mathematician at heart and an operations research analyst at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. The three-time Air Force triathlete and personal trainer was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., working at the Air Force Research Laboratory there when he got the opportunity he had been waiting for — a deployment.

He had volunteered to go into an engineering job at AFRL to increase his chances of deploying. He got his wish in 2010 and left for Iraq with a team from the Army Corps of Engineers.

“I was an Air Force guy in an Army uniform,” Kieffer said. “I was attached to the Baghdad Resident Office, and I volunteered to be an operations officer for them. I planned and executed a lot of movements to the different project sites. We were there to build police stations, hospitals, telecommunications centers, tank facilities for their Army and all sorts of stuff.”

Keiffer said for the most part, the deployment went smoothly. He had been there for five of the six months of his deployment and travelled “outside the wire” more than 40 times without incident. Typically, he and his team would use lightly-armored SUVs when they were going downtown and mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles on the outskirts of town.

But on this particular day, things were different.

“We were going to a place that was a one-way-in, one-way-out type of a place, so that’s really not the best case scenario,” Kieffer said. “And this time instead of taking MRAPs, we were in the lightly armored SUVs because the MRAPs were in the shop that day.”

Other factors that day led to a situation that would soon lead to a tragic chain of events. According to Kieffer, there was no close air support available, and the team was going out later in the day than normal.

“Basically we got ambushed,” he said. “The first out of the four vehicles got hit by a conventional (improvised explosive device). Our vehicle, the third vehicle, almost simultaneously got hit by an explosively formed penetrating IED, so it’s basically like a copper plate that has the munition behind it, and forms a slug and basically punches through anything. That went through our vehicle like butter about two feet in front of my forehead, and I was sitting on the blast side.”

Three of the four vehicles in the convoy were hit. In addition to the EFP IED, the attackers sprayed the vehicles with automatic weapons fire and rocket propelled grenades.

“I was knocked out for a few seconds. I can’t really remember,” Kieffer said. “Then I woke up inside (the vehicle) and the major, my boss, was next to me screaming and I was just like, ‘What the heck is going on here?’ All of the lights and AC displays were dislodged. They were hanging by the wires. The entire inside was fragged with the copper fragments, the interior was all ripped; smoke was inside.”

“‘I was like, ‘What do I do?’ I was like, ‘OK, he’s higher ranking than me,’ so I basically just laid on top of him and let the contractors do what they needed to do to break contact to get out.”

The British contractors were able to subdue the attackers and all four vehicles in the convoy managed to make it back to the base. The team changed their flat tires and fixed whatever damages they could before making the two-hour drive back to base with three busted vehicles.

“It was an act of God that we all made it out, especially with our vehicle being fragged,” Kieffer said. “Before I left, my cousin Chris gave me this four-way medal that St. Christopher is part of, and he’s the guardian of travelers. That was the main reason for Chris to give me this, so I never took it off since the day he gave it to me. And I have yet to take it off, except when I have x-rays or when I wear my blues and what not. I feel like that had a great deal to do with me getting out alive.”

Once they arrived back at the base, each person on the team was examined by the doctors. It seemed everyone was fine – until it was Kieffer’s turn. He wasn’t able to pass a preliminary traumatic brain injury test. He was sent to the hospital in Baghdad for doctors there to observe his condition.

“While I was there, things weren’t getting better,” Kieffer said. “I used to joke around with the British contractors, and we would make fun of each other and banter back and forth. I was so slow mentally it felt like English was a second language because the processing speed was so slow. They would ask me how I’m doing and it would take a bunch of time to figure out what they said, to hear it, to break down the message, to figure out what they’re trying to get across and how I would respond. That’s a long time to say, ‘I’m good.’ So the bantering back and forth stopped.”

Besides not being able to keep up with the quick-witted conversations with his comrades, Kieffer said he was worried he wouldn’t be able to do the things he really enjoyed.

“I was pretty darn scared because I always felt like school was pretty easy,” Kieffer said. “I was a math guy and I enjoyed intellectual kinds of things. It scared me quite a bit. It actually brought me to tears one time thinking I was going to be that slow forever.”

Kieffer spent a week in the hospital in Baghdad and then returned to the United States to be treated. He said after a month he began healing but he still faced some huge challenges. His TBI not only affected his cognitive thinking skills, physically it left him to deal with excruciating headaches that nothing could soothe.

He tried to keep his injury under wraps but an upcoming assignment would put him to the test. Prior to being wounded, the Purple Heart medal recipient was accepted into the Air Force Institute of Technology ‘s engineering graduate school program. Just six months after returning home from his deployment, he was scheduled to start school.

“The first assignment I did there took me seven hours straight sitting at a computer,” Kieffer said. “I had to get it done. I had to figure everything out, and it was so frustrating because I knew it shouldn’t be (this hard). It was a probabilities and statistics course and this was stuff I had known for a long time and had mastered before.”

As Kieffer pushed himself to keep up with his studies, he stumbled upon a treatment for his TBI.

“As time went on in the program, that seven hour assignment became five hours and then four hours and after a year and a half in school those assignments were taking an hour and a half, two hours tops,” he said. “I think that has been my best therapy for improving my cognitive capabilities after the traumatic brain injury. It’s been basically just doing mental workouts.

“I thank God that I was able to go that assignment because I don’t know if I would’ve had the motivation to do all that learning on my own,” he said.

He also used his time in school to research the issues he and other injured, ill and wounded Airmen were facing and used it as the subject of his thesis.

These days, Kieffer continues to exercise his mind and his body.

Since his injury, Kieffer married his wife, Ana Maria, and inherited two daughters, Ana Paula and Ana Cristina. The couple was married in his wife’s native Peru, and her family only speaks Spanish. Kieffer said learning to speak Spanish as part of a bilingual family is something that helps him keep his cognitive skills sharpened.

“I noticed that if I don’t do anything intellectually, it’ll start to fade again,” he said. “That stuff goes if I have lack of sleep or high stress. Now it’s just a point of coping with it.”

Keiffer, who has scored 100 points on every active-duty physical training test he’s taken, continues to work his physical muscles in his personal training business and as an athlete in the 2013 Warrior Games. He will represent the Air Force in the Ultimate Champion – a pentathlon-style event that pits warriors from each branch of service, including Special Operations Command, against each other for the title of Ultimate Champion.

No matter what the score cards say, the resiliency and gumption displayed by wounded warriors like Kieffer, pushing through their pain – physically and mentally – has already earned them the title of champion.

PHOTO: Capt. Mitchell Kieffer gears up for a bike ride at the Academy during the Wounded Warrior Games training camp held in Colorado Springs, Colo., April 15, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Desiree N. Palacios)

Warrior Games 2013: Competing ‘medicine’ for AF wounded warrior

Master Sgt. Shawn Schwantes gears up for a bike ride at theWounded Warrior Games training camp. by Randy Roughton
Air Force News Service, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Master Sgt. Shawn Schwantes may have been a pleasant surprise for his Air Force Warrior Games coaches during the team’s training camp at the U.S. Air Force Academy. But Schwantes fully expected to flourish on the track and with his teammates because he considers sports his most effective medicine.

Representing the Air Force Warrior Games team in the men’s open 30-kilometer cycling and 1900-meter open track and field is a natural fit because of a strong running background that includes ultra marathons with distances of 26-plus miles.

“It’s medication for me,” Schwantes said. “I’m completely off my pain meds, primarily because nothing works. I’ve made the life choice to not stay at home and have self-pity and kind of wither away on a couch, because that’s not me. I live with chronic pain every day. But I’ve chosen to get up, get out, be active and I’m seeing positive results from it.”

In January 2012, Schwantes was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, chronic pain that usually develops in an arm or leg after an injury, surgery, stroke or heart attack. The pain is usually considerably more severe than the original injury.

“Because it’s very rare, and doctors still don’t fully understand it, your mind kind of just goes blank when you hear you’ve been diagnosed with CRPS,” Schwantes said. “You get very worried about what the future’s going to be like.”

Schwantes began his career in security police and combat arms in 1995 and cross-trained into tactical air control party 15 years later. By the time he showed up for his first TACP duty station at Fort Campbell, Ky., after technical training three years ago, he had a severe stress fracture in his heel and a torn rotator cuff.

“I had a bunionectomy and osteotomy in my right foot in January 2010, and a month after the procedure, I started noticing things didn’t look or feel normal,” he said. Schwantes, who was recovering from surgery in San Antonio, sent photos of his foot to his physician. His podiatrist at Fort Campbell immediately determined he had CRPS, although they needed a specialist to make the official diagnosis.

At the time of the training camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., Schwantes was waiting to hear the results from his appeal of his Medical Evaluation Board’s disability rating.

Running, especially at a competition level in the Warrior Games, gives Schwantes an outlet for coping with stress from his almost 20-year career being in jeopardy to his CRPS.

“I was told you’ll never run as fast as you did or as far as you did,” he said. “‘You’ll never upright cycle again.’ That was a huge part of my life, and I hate being told you can’t do something.”

Schwantes’ Warrior Games track coaches certainly don’t share the opinion that he lost his ability to run at a high level. Capt. Ben Payne, coach for the running events, was not only impressed by Schwantes’ running, but also by how he motivated his teammates.

“Shawn was a very talented runner from the very beginning,” Payne said. “He pushed himself in any workout I gave him. The altitude has a big effect on long-distance runners, but he’s overcome that. I’m excited to see what he does on his own (for the three weeks between the training camp and the Games), and when he shows up for the Warrior Games being fit and ready to compete with the top guys and maybe get a medal for the Air Force.”

As much as placing in the Games would mean for Schwantes, it is not what his mind is focused on as he’s training for the competition. Instead, he is relishing the relationships he’s building with his teammates and the impact it’s having on him during this pivotal time in his personal and professional life. Just being around fellow wounded warriors has been inspiring him, even as he awaits the decision on his MEB appeal.

“It ignites a fire,” Schwantes said. “It is a competition. I get that. I’m here to compete, but that’s not my priority. My priority is to be with my teammates who have made the same choice I have. Whatever condition or problem occurs, they have similar stories I have of being told they’re never going to be able to do these types of things again. Yet, here they are, world-class athletes performing at a high level, and some of them performing better than able-bodied athletes. Just to hang out with them, with the drive and passion they have, is another form of medicine for me.”

PHOTO: Master Sgt. Shawn Schwantes gears up for a bike ride at the Academy during the Wounded Warrior Games training camp held in Colorado Springs, Colo., April 15, 2013. Schwantes is stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

For more information check out the 2013 Warrior Games bios.