Tag Archives: USAF

Warrior Games 2013: Cancer survivor tackles new challenge

Staff Sgt. Lara Ishikawa listens to her coach at the Academy indoor track.by Randy Roughton
Air Force News Service, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Staff Sgt. Lara Ishikawa found herself among a trio of female Air Force Warrior Games athletes with a special bond. Ishikawa, Tech. Sgt. Monica Figueroa and Master Sgt. Sherry Nel are all cancer survivors and relied on each other for support and conversation during the team’s selection camp at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Before the holidays in 2009, Ishikawa, then a diagnostic imaging technologist at Aviano Air Base, Italy, never imagined she would be running track and field events, not to mention in competition for wounded warrior athletes. She first felt a lump in her breast in December 2009, but her invasive mammary carcinoma wasn’t diagnosed until the following April.

“It’s heart-wrenching,” Ishikawa said. “Nobody expects to get cancer, and I had no family history of it. I’ve always been very healthy and active, and I tried to take care of myself. It was a shock, still a shock, but you learn to cope and move on.”

While Ishikawa, whose cancer is now in remission after multiple surgeries, a double mastectomy and reconstruction, didn’t want to compete because she didn’t have a combat-related injury, conversations with Figueroa and Nel, along with other wounded warriors, changed her mind. She was already particularly close with Nel, who she befriended near the end of her recovery from chemotherapy and radiation in the 59th Medical Wing’s Patient Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

“Lara and I are pretty much parallel with the complications we’ve had,” Nel said. “We’ve both had just about everything you can throw at us. We’d been doing it individually, thinking that we were both alone. It felt so good to find out that we were not alone. Lara really inspired me with her tenacity. She’s a little bear claw because she just grabs on to something and takes care of it. Her spirit really had me hooked.”

While the multiple surgeries sapped her energy in the past few years, she appears more than ready for the training and competition in the 100 and 200-meter and long jump track and field events.

“I feel more energetic today than I have in the past three years,” she said. “But in the past two and a half years, I had no energy because I had the surgeries, having to deal with the career, and the medications they put you on that make you tired. Last spring, I had a pretty serious surgery. After that, I could hardly walk, hardly make it up my stairs. I found it a challenge to go for a walk around the block, even though I knew it was good for me. I don’t like to sit around doing nothing, so I made myself take a walk and realized I could do that. The next thing I knew, two months later, I was running.

“With the Warrior Games, I’ve been pushed to my max. I’m really sore, but I’m working muscles I haven’t worked in 15 to 20 years, and emotionally, I’ve met some incredible people.”

After the Games, Ishikawa hopes she can continue on with her 10-year Air Force career, but if she’s not able to remain on duty, she will adjust to a new course.

“I’ve enjoyed the Air Force,” she said. “The Air Force has been wonderful to me in every way. I don’t have one complaint. On the other hand, if I get out, I can start a new life, maybe go to school. But the main goal is to stay healthy. If I’m healthy, I’m happy.”

For more information check out the 2013 Warrior Games bios.

PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Lara Ishikawa listens to her coach speak before running laps at the Academy indoor track during the Wounded Warrior Games Training Camp held in Colorado Springs, Colo., April 17, 2013. Ishikawa is stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Desiree N. Palacios)

Seven Summits Challenge Update

Members of the USAF Seven Summits team review an Everest weather brief. By Staff Sgt. Nick Gibson
920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.

May 11: Great news from the mountain! The ropes have been fixed to the summit as of yesterday, and our first summit group leaves tomorrow!!! I am not among this group, nor are any of the other Air Force team guys. We are hoping that this first rotation of summit climbers will weed out the traffic jams for the later summit groups. In the meantime, I have been resting and trying my best to eat as much as I can. I have lost over 22 pounds since leaving for this trip! I am feeling strong though, and that’s 22 pounds I don’t have to carry up the mountain with me, ha ha. I’ve treated a couple more medical cases in Base Camp and am grateful for the Himalayan Rescue Association’s Everest ER staff and facility. They have been a great help. While I am very excited to begin my summit rotation, I am finding myself thinking more and more about those back home. I look forward to seeing them again. I am in the process of planning a gallery show for my photography in Atlanta upon my return. My hope is to raise more money for the “That Others May Live Foundation!”

All of this is exciting, but please keep in mind that there are veterans all over the country who are trying to summit their mountains back into reality after serious physical and psychological injuries. Please engage your veterans and find ways within your community to help. I suggest speaking with you local veterans association or Veterans Affairs office for support opportunities.

I hope all you guys are well and while it isn’t final, it sounds like my group might be leaving on May 16th to head up the mountain for a May 20th summit day!!! Let’s hope the weather holds!

PHOTO: Captains Marshall Klitzke, Colin Merrin and Kyle Martin review a Mount Everest weather brief sent from Air Force weather forecasters as they work to establish a date range for their summit attempt.

Information courtesy of USAF Seven Summits Challenge blog. For more information, follow the team’s progress on the Seven Summits website, Seven Summits blog and Facebook page. You can also visit the 920th Rescue Wing Facebook page. The USAF 7 Summits Challenge is not officially sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Air Force. It is a team of military members acting unofficially, and with no DOD financial assistance, to spread goodwill about the U.S. Air Force.

How I became an American Airman

Amn Weckerlein and familyby Airman Basic Martin Weckerlein

Last Friday, almost 13 years after I graduated from German Army basic military training, I graduated from United States Air Force Basic Military Training.

I was a former German tank commander and military training instructor in the Bundeswehr, serving as required for my native country. Now, I will be an air transportation specialist in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, serving my adopted country.

I like the military lifestyle. It is organized and has a structure. If you work hard, you can advance faster, go through the ranks, get more responsibility, and always learn something new. You always meet new people and get to move around the world. 

I joined because I liked the military. I gave up my German military career so that my American wife, Julie, could have her U.S. Air Force career. I don’t regret my decision, as we have a beautiful family and a great life. But, I was missing the military, and I’m glad to have this opportunity to serve again.

Since I already served in the military, and since I was once an instructor myself, there weren’t really any surprises for me during U.S. Air Force BMT. I was reminded, though, about the importance of patience. Most of the trainees were much younger than me. They didn’t catch on to military lifestyle as fast as I wanted them to. I was picked as element leader in the first week, and it was easy to fall back into the instructor role. I knew I could do the things that were required, but the others were still learning. I had to slow down and be hands-on with helping others, teaching them to pay attention to detail.

There were many differences between German military basic training and U.S. Air Force basic training. At the time of my service, all young men had to serve. Not everyone wanted to be there. Eventually, everyone learned what they needed to learn and came together as a team. But in the U.S. military, everyone volunteers. While there were still attitude problems every now and then, ultimately, everyone wanted to be there, and I could sense the difference.

I am glad I have this second opportunity to serve again, and I look forward to my Air Force Reserve career.

PHOTO: Airman Basic Martin Weckerlein stands on the parade field with his family after graduating from Air Force Basic Military Training on April 12. Weckerlein was assigned to the 326th Training Squadron, Flight 270, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. (Courtesy photo)

Week in Photos, Jan 11, 2013


U.S. Air Force Week in Photos graphic

By Airman 1st Class Krystal Tomlin
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

You know the drill; here are some amazing images to wrap up an amazing week in the U.S. Air Force.

Photos: A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft sits on the runway at Pago Pago International Airport in American Samoa, Dec. 16, 2012. The 446th Airlift Wing aircrew from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. traveled to Royal Australian Air Force Base Richmond, Australia in support of a joint operation. Tropical Cyclone Evan passed over American Samoa Dec. 12 -16 causing 6,000 people to take shelter in evacuation centers and $4.1 million in damages to infrastructure. The puddle in the foreground is a result of the rains from that storm system. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jon Polka)

BMT graduation, Jan. 12, 2013

By Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

As they do every Friday, trainees who completed their eight weeks of basic military training graduated to become full-fledged Airmen in the U.S. Air Force, Jan. 11, 2013, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

However, this graduation’s backdrop was not the usual parade field. Instead, Airmen graduated under the overhang of their own squadron buildings due to previous day’s weather.

As family and friends gathered around, Warrior and Honor Flights stated their Oath of Enlistment and made the step from trainee to Airman.

Oath of Enlistment video

Afterwards, the air was filled with joy and excitement of both the Airmen and their guests.

Congratulations to the Air Force’s newest Airmen!