Tag Archives: USAF

Dispatch from an Airman in Haiti — Team Efforts

Chief Master Sergeant Tyler Foster is the Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs deployed chief of operations at the Troussaint Louverture International Airport in Port au Prince, Haiti.  He and his team are supporting U.S. Southern Command relief efforts in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the nation.

Most air traffic controllers work in an air conditioned state-of-the-art facility with a panoramic view of the airfield they manage. They put in their 8 hours, jump in their car, head home, kiss the kids and wife and maybe even enjoy a nice cold brew in front of the tube.

I did say most, right?

Combat ControllerMost of the time, combat controllers are deployed into war zones. These tip-of-the-spear battlefield Airmen manage air traffic while dodging bullets and shooting bad guys. There’s no office. They don’t even shave most of the time because there’s not enough water. The cushiest part of their job are the knee pads built into their uniforms. The commute to work? How about a free-fall drop from 10,000 feet? Not your cup of tea? Maybe the 10-mile ruck march into 14,000 foot mountains with 120 pounds on your back? That’s a typical day in the Air Commando CCT’s office.

Here, it’s a little different. They walk to work here. It’s only about a quarter mile to the office … a fold up table and some chairs in the middle of the infield at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport. No air conditioning. It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s noisy. And rather than directing air strikes on hostile forces in Afghanistan, they’re controlling hundreds of flights per day bringing life saving supplies for the people here who need them.

Normally, this airport handles about 35 aircraft per day. Last Saturday, we managed about 240. For you math whizzes out there, that’s one aircraft every 6 minutes. If you’re a history buff, then you’ll remember the freshly minted U.S. Air Force had it’s “3-minute beat” during the Berlin Airlift back in ’48-’49 … landing one aircraft every 3 minutes. We’re moving some serious tonnage into this LZ. To date, it’s about 3.5 million pounds … that’s water, food and medical supplies for the millions of Haitian survivors here. Not one fixed or rotary wing aircraft hits the tarmac here without a combat controller’s DNA on it.

With this level of logistical movements, ramp space comes at a premium sometimes. When we first got here … 7 hours after the President of Haiti requested humanitarian assistance … this LZ was in utter chaos. There were 42 aircraft jammed into a parking ramp designed to accommodate 9. They were parked under each other’s wings, nose to nose, on the taxiway, even on the runway … it was pure mayhem. It took this team of pros a full day to untangle that mess. By then, we were landing one aircraft every 30 minutes or so. As this op matured, combat control teams worked with planners at the newly stood up Haiti Flight Operations Coordination Cell at Tyndall AFB, Fla., to design a system to avoid air traffic and ramp space congestion and conflicts. We call it a “slot” system.

Combat Contoller FieldIt’s really pretty simple as long as everyone follows the rules. Call up the HFOCC, reserve a slot time, fly here on time, land, off-load your cargo and passengers, then get out of Dodge on your reserved take off time. Simple, right? Sometimes, not so much. For whatever reason, an aircrew may spend more time on the ground than they’re allotted. That affects other aircraft in the holding pattern waiting to land. Sometimes they run low on fuel and have to divert. Sometimes we have the maximum number of aircraft on the ground here at the airport … can’t land more or we go back to day 1 … not good. So flights are diverted … as they are at every airport … for safety reasons. There’s no favoritism. A plane is a plane to us.

Still some people just don’t get it and bust their reserved times. Think about it like this: have you ever made reservations for dinner at a nice restaurant? Maybe you’re running late, so you call. They hold your table for 20 more minutes. You show with your lovely lady, enjoy dinner, wine and pleasant conversation. You run up a nice $300 tab. You’re there an hour and a half … 45 minutes past your reserved time. Now there’s a couple who’s celebrating their 10th anniversary waiting for their reserved table … you know, the one you’re sitting at. They are late to seat and eat, so that has a ripple effect on down the line. Ultimately, other customers leave and eat elsewhere because, well, it’s just rude to make people wait that long when they’re hungry and wanna eat. In the end, customers are ticked, and the restaurant loses money.

Here, the same principle applies. Only instead of money, every busted minute over the allocated slot time may mean a life is lost because much-needed supplies didn’t make it here on time. It’s an easy fix. Get here on time. Get your cargo offloaded in time to make your takeoff time and get out of the next guy’s way. We’ll bring you in and get you out … you have to do everything in the middle quickly.

We’re all here to help, and that includes helping each other too. 

 Photo Cutlines:  

Top right:   A U.S. Air Force Combat Controller from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field Fl., exits a helicopter on a drop zone in the outer lying area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where humanitarian aid will be air dropped and distributed by members of the United Nations Jan 21, 2010.  Department of Defense assets have been deployed to assist in the Haiti relief effort  following a magnitude 7 earthquake that hit the city on Jan. 12, 2010.(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. James L. Harper Jr.)

Lower left:  A U.S. Air Force combat controller from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., assesses a potential relief supply air delivery drop zone during Operation Unified Response in Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan. 19, 2010. The U.S. Department of Defense contingent is part of a larger national and international relief effort led by the U.S. Agency for International Development in response to the Jan. 12, 2010, 7.0 earthquake here. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.)

Operation Unified Response makes progress in Haiti, hard work still ahead

By Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Hanson, Air Force Public Affairs Agency


Providing medical care and delivering water and food supplies are top essentials in supporting Operation Unified Response in Haiti for now, but more4285864103_a377febb69 tasks are to come in the near future.

“No one’s kidding themselves,” there are enormous tasks in front of us, in bringing stability to Haiti, said Lt. Gen. P. K. (Ken) Keen who discussed these top priorities during an interview Jan. 18, on DoD Live Bloggers Roundtable.

“We’re going to do our very best to help the Haitian people with what they need as fast as we can. It’s taking our entire military to do this, and we’re building up each day,” said General Keen who is the Joint Task Force Commander Haiti as well as the U.S. Southern Command deputy commander.

With 1,400 U.S. servicemembers on the ground, and nearly 5,000 afloat, those numbers will grow in coming days to about 5,000 on the ground and another 5,000 off shore supporting Haiti needs. The goal is to leave the lightest “footprint” by not sending in too many people for they will consume what other wise could be pushed out to the population, he said. There has to be a balance in order do to accomplish our mission. 

The Port-au-Prince International Airport is hopping with 24-hour operations, averaging 180 round-the-clock flights per day. To maximize movement, the Air Force is alloting planes 2 hours each to get in and get out whether it be to deliver supplies or to pick up evacuees. Mind you, this is includes the Air Force’s big birds such as the C-17 Globemaster III and the C-130 Hercules on a 10,000-foot runway which normally only handles about 13 flights a day.

100118-F-4177H-257While Air Force personnel are essentially running airport operations, the Haitian government determines the priorities and the order in which planes are scheduled depending on the needs at any given time.  Timeliness is crucial in meeting those top needs — especially delivering medical supplies.

“We’re doing the best we can, but have more to do,” said General Keen. “It is absolutely critical to get the ports open,” he said.  And while Haiti seaports are damaged, more U.S. Naval and Marine support are arriving , to meet crucial demands such as more hospitals.

The U.S. is an enduring partner and will remain committed to providing support to the Haitians to ensure they are able to recover from this devastating disaster. If you’re interested in helping Haiti with urgent and long-term needs, go to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund website or any number of trusted aid relief organizations such as the American Red Cross.

SOUTHCOM, who has led U.S. military support to 14 major relief missions, including assistance to Haiti in September 2008, is working closely with United Nations Stabilization Mission, or MINUSTAH, and local officials. For more information about the Air Force’s participation in the Haiti Earthquake relief effort, visit http://www.af.mil/humanitarianrelieftohaiti/index.asp. For a compilation of official U.S. Government Twitter accounts following Haiti relief, click here.

Report from an Airman in Haiti

Chief Master Sergeant Tyler Foster is the Air Force Special Operations CommandPublic Affairs deployed chief of operations at the Troussaint Louverture International Airport in Port au Prince, Haiti.  He and his team are supporting U.S. Southern Command relief efforts in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the island nation.

100115-F-1443G-011America’s Airmen hit the ground running here early this week as part of the U.S. Southern Command contingent associated with earthquake relief operations.

Combat Control Teams from Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla., immediately established control of the airspace and have facilitated more than 125 landings here. Today Haitian air controllers returned to duty, providing long range control while the CCTs prioritized incoming aircraft, directed landings and take offs while balancing confined parking ramp space.

Special Operations weathermen kept incoming and outgoing aircrews apprised of real-time weather data enabling safe and smooth operations at this austere location.

Air Force pararescue jumpers waded into the fray of destruction, assisting civilian rescue agencies operating within the devastated capital. More than 20 people who were still alive were reported to have been removed from the rubble.

100115-F-9712-029Air Force security forces teamed with Navy relief flights to provide security at multiple humanitarian supply landing zones. Today’s flights marked a significant milestone as incoming supplies reached the many victims in need of life-sustaining support. 

Through it all, Air Force medium and heavy lift cargo aircrews pushed their equipment and selves to the limit to maximize inbound supplies and equipment while evacuating American victims of the 7.4 earthquake that struck here January 12.

Support personnel continue to build the base of operations in order to sustain the forces executing and facilitating this immense humanitarian relief effort. Over the last five years, USSOUTHCOM has charted 14 successful relief operations, including Haiti in September 2008.

Cutline for top right photo:  Staff Sgt. Caleb Barmody helps to unload supplies from a Charleston C-17 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Jan. 15, 2010. Air Mobility Command is participating in a swift and coordinated relief effort to save lives and alleviate human suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake. Sergeant Barmody is an air transportation journeyman with the 817th Global Mobility Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katie Gieratz)

Cutline for bottom left photo:  U.S. citizens evacuate from Toussaint Louveture International Airport, Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Jan. 15, 2010. The evacuees were flown out on a C-17 Globemaster III from Dover Air Force Base, Del. Haiti was struck by an earthquake that leveled much of the countries infrastructure. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russell E. Cooley IV)

Sharing pride in our nation

Tech. Sgt. Chris Orbits chats with residents Oct. 16, 2009, during a visit to the U.S. Soldier's and Airmen's Home in Washington, D.C. Sergeant Orbits made the visit with the National Capital Region Joint Enlisted Council. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Stan Parker)

Post by Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Hanson, Air Force Public Affairs Agency

We 23.2 million living U.S. veterans make up a unique group. We come from all walks of life. We are young, old or somewhere in between. Whether we’re a man or woman makes no matter.  We are Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Coast Guard and Marines. Our boots march to a different beat — freedom’s beat. We hold proud traditions. We are powerful. We are one.

Veterans Day is today–the one federal holiday in which Americans can celebrate the living Armed Forces and what we stand for, what we fight for and what we sacrifice our lives for — America’s freedom. 

So, in turn I think that we, the veterans, owe those who support us a huge thank you back. You send us packages when we’re deployed. And I can tell you, that I well with pride whenever a perfect stranger comes up to me and says, “Thank you,”  or even every now and again buys me lunch. You believe in us. You mourn for us. You cheer for us when we return home from war. You help our families cope. Thank you America for without your support we couldn’t do what we do.

I also would be remiss to not thank veterans, especially those who are retired. Now that I live in the D.C. area, I get to visit many a fine veteran at the Armed Forces Retirement Home, also known as the U.S. Soldiers and Airmen’s Home. It gives me great joy to see their smiles and listen to the real-life stories of those men and women who served during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Despite ages and generations that separate us, we understand each other. It makes me feel so proud to continue to carry freedom’s torch for them.

Another way a person can honor veterans is through a great program called Honor Flight. This program enables veterans a chance to come to our nation’s capital to see the war memorials. Our World War II vets are given top priority, but it is also for those who served in other wars, too. The best part is that they are greeted by hundreds of cheering fans when they arrive. The website also provides arrival information and dates for upcoming visitors if you’d like to be a part of a welcome team.

Not a year goes by where our servicemembers aren’t somewhere in the world helping to solve conflicts. And while some might think that Veterans Day is yet another way for retailers to capitalize on a federal holiday, I thank you for remembering that it means so much more.

There are all sorts of way to give a thanks to a veteran any day. To learn more about veterans, go to the “Veterans History Countdown” on the VA Web site. You can also get lots of great facts on their FAQ page.

Air Force continues aid to Africa

While much of the media focuses on crucial war efforts in Afghanistan, many of the other great military missions in the world that are going strong and bringing hope and help to far reaching places such as Africa…AfricomCrest_HiRes

The 17th Air Force is part of  the U.S. Africa Command which has been providing humatarian support as well as military support for a decade since even before its establisment in 2007

The 17th AF, also known as Air Forces Africa, supports U.S. Africa Command via command and control of air forces to conduct sustained security engagement and operations as directed to promote air safety, security and development. For the foreseeable future, 17th AF will operate as a functional staff without assigned weapon systems.

To ward off pirates along the African coastlines the Air Force’s very own unmanned MQ-9 Reapers sit stealthily above ready to say “ahoy” the Air Force way — with Air and Space power. Recently, a delegation of Botswana Defense Force visited Airmen of the 17th Air Force to learn about leadership though enlisted development courses.MQ-9

The team met with future enlisted leaders as well as the “seasoned” ones at the Ramstein Airman Leadership School and Kisling NCO Academy at Vogelweh Base, in Germany, near where 17th AF, also known as Air Forces Africa, is headquartered at Ramstein Air Base. They received orientations on the Air Force’s Senior NCO Academy and Chief’s Leadership Course. See story here. 090922-F-5543F-001 

While Botswana military members took back new leadership tools, they left Airmen at  the school, with a positive and lasting impression regarding the true success of the bonds and changes for good. Below is a post by Senior Master Sgt. Jim Downey, 17th AF Logistics, Installation and Mission Support, or A4/7, who shares his thoughts on what he deems a “goose bump” experience. 

“(Recently) I had the honor of sitting on a Senior NCO-NCO panel, consisting of 17th AF professionals and five very inspirational and courageous Botswana leaders:  Maj. Jenamiso Mountain, 2nd Lt. Lesedi Kelesitse, Military Command Sergeant Major Mogakolodi Sebego, Warrant Officer I Seboloko Mosimanyana and Warrant Officer II Bernard Bimbo.

 The panel was brought together to discuss Professional Military Education and more than anything to exchange our personnel PME experiences, with the Botswana leaders.  The overall purpose of the Botswana Forces visit to 17th  was to learn more about how we develop our enlisted force.

 CMSgt Farrin, the 101st Air Refueling Wing Command Chief, (who was in the course of returning from a deployment with the 449th Air Expeditionary Group at Camp Le Monier, Djibouti and was invited to take part in the visit) suggested opening the one hour panel discussion with personal introductions.

 As the Botswana leaders went around the table introducing their selves, goose bumps began to form on my arms. In those introductions we learned that we were sitting with the first Command Sergeant Major of the Botswana Defense Force, Sergeant Major Sebego and even equally (if not more) impressive, we learned we were sitting with one (out of 30) of the first women in the Botswana Defense Force (20,000 strong): Lieutenant Kelesitse. Wow! It made me think about our AF’s equivalents, Chief Master Sgt. Paul Airey and Staff Sgt. Esther Blake. Then it made me think about other transformational firsts: The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, The Tuskegee Airmen, The Women’s Armed Services Act of 1948 and President Harry S. Truman’s Executive Order 9981, which ended segregation in the armed services.

 I was “awed” by Lieutenant Kelesitse’s courage and Sergeant Major Sebego’s leadership in the face of the challenges that may come with breaking these barriers.

 I asked Major Mountain how they (Botswana Leaders) prepared to deal with the challenges of women in the BDF. Major Mountain’s answer was prompt and direct.

 “This change came from our government and our leadership embraced it and made everyone aware of the introduction of women into the BDF Officer core before it actually happened,” he said.

 All five of the Botswana leaders echoed Major Mountain’s response.  Warrant Office Bimbo, compared it to “Change Management” that we learn at our Senior NCO Academy.

 “Our leadership did the unfreezing stage well and now we are in the freezing stage,” he exclaimed proudly. I should mention that Warrant Officer Bimbo is a graduate of our USAF SNCOA.

 The 17th AF panel answered questions ranging from upgrade training and PME to our experience on the continent of Africa. Additionally, the Botswana delegation taught us that referring to someone from Botswana as a “Botswanian” is wrong.  People from Botswana are called Batswana, regardless of ethnicity. Furthermore, it was interesting to learn how the BDF is currently drafting a
Professional Military Education program that they [five present BDF leaders] feel will mirror our four-tiered process (ALS, NCOA, SNCOA and the Chief’s Course).

 Major Mountain shared with us that his BDF leadership was impressed with the U.S. enlisted core after working with them on several exercises.  He stated, that they [BDF leadership] were useed to dealing with Officers on these same positions/issues when dealing with other nations.

 The panel was one hour of a four-day Botswana familiarization event hosted here at Ramstein by our personnel directorate (A1).  Master Sgt. Deb Madden and her A1 team did an “Outstanding” job!  What I learned from this one hour will be shared with our Airmen for years to come. Thanks for the opportunity!”


To find out more on 17th AF and AFRICOM, you can interact with them on the 17th AF Facebook page and the AFRICOM Facebook page .