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From USAFE Live: USAFE Commander visits NASCAR

Below is a re-post of a story from our colleagues at USAFE. General Roger A. Brady, USAFE Commander, writes about the bigger picture from a visit to NASCAR.


by General Roger A. Brady

I must admit I was never much a fan of NASCAR.  I had glimpsed the sport while surfing channels, but it always just appeared to me to be a herd of cars all packed together making left hand turns and a lot of noise.  When finding myself in a conversation that drifted toward NASCAR, I would usually say, “I don’t get it”.

Of course, I have known for a number of years that our Air Force sponsors  NASCAR and several other sports to increase public awareness of our mission and aid in recruiting young Americans who may want to serve with us.  NASCAR is attractive to many, young and not so young, who like speed, technology, and high-end competition.  But, since I didn’t really “get it”, I had never taken the opportunity to represent the Air Force at a NASCAR race.  That changed on Sunday, 16 August when I represented the Air Force at the Michigan International Speedway.

My staff arranged this opportunity with the Air Force Recruiting Service after I said, “I guess I ought to do this once”.

The impressions of that day at the race are indelible.  I was met at the track just before 9 a.m. by Airmen from the recruiting service and taken into the infield to the area where preparations by all the drivers and crews were well underway for the 2 p.m. race.  Many fans who had purchased access to the infield were also there.

First and foremost, NASCAR fans are incredibly patriotic.  My aide de camp, Captain Denise Shea, and I were constantly stopped by fans of all ages who wanted to shake our hands, have their picture taken with us, and thank us for our service.  It was humbling.

Many had served in the military themselves, while others said, “I never served but I have tremendous appreciation for those who do”.  I reminded them that their hard-earned tax money pays our salary and makes it possible for us to do what we do.

I also found that the NASCAR community, organizers, drivers, pit crews, etc., know and respect our NCOs and Officers from the Recruiting Service who work with them on a daily basis throughout the long NASCAR season.  They are an accepted part of the NASCAR family.

As I spent time with the men and women who haul the race cars and equipment from race to race, the pit crews, mechanics, engineers, the crew chiefs and drivers, I saw attributes of this sport that are very much like our Air Force.

Our Air Force is currently affiliated with the Richard Petty Racing Team, and I had the honor of meeting Mr Petty, arguably the founder and certainly a legend in NASCAR.  He is totally engaged, very friendly, and passionate about this sport which is also a huge business.

I got a very real sense from everyone we talked to that success is the result of a team functioning at maximum capacity, and it is ALL ABOUT THE TEAM.  The drivers may be the “rock stars” of the sport, but they more than anyone know that their success is a function of the team.

One driver was apologetic about having scraped the wall during practice trials the day before, causing the crew a very long night repairing the car for the race.  The crew was just as quick to say, “not a problem, if you weren’t pushing the limits, we wouldn’t be very happy with you.” They support each other, are quick to critique their own performance and hold each other accountable.  Just like in our Air Force.

In fact, I met several members of the team who were former Air Force NCOs, and they all expressed appreciation for how their Air Force experience had contributed to  their success as members of a NASCAR team.

Part of the day’s activity included the mandatory meeting of all drivers and crew chiefs.  It was very much like a crew briefing we conduct before a mission.  There was a very, very strong emphasis on safety, and the “rules of engagement” for safely getting into and out of pit row for pit stops and how to conduct themselves under “caution flags” were discussed in detail.

The meeting concluded with a prayer by a chaplain and best wishes for a safe race.  I felt very much at home.

In my conversation with Mr Petty and Reed Sorenson, the driver of #43 car that we sponsor, I got the very straightforward message that they respect our Air Force and its people, and that having the Air Force logo on their car means they have to represent the high standards to which we hold ourselves.  Much like how we feel when we wear the “U.S.” on our service dress and have U.S. Air Force on our ABUs.

As I stood beside Reed Sorenson’s mother, a four-ship of A-10s from the Michigan ANG passed overhead and she said, “seeing your airplanes overhead always takes my breath away.” Me too.

I don’t know that you’ll find me regularly attending every NASCAR race near me for the rest of my life, but this brief experience was a poignant reminder that there are thousands, millions of Americans who respect and appreciate us, our institution and our mission.

I was also privileged to meet some great folks who, like ourselves, are passionately involved in a very high-end enterprise that requires the highest level of selfless commitment to the team and the mission to be both safe and successful, and who understand the responsibility  associated with attaching yourself to a values-driven organization with a lofty mission.

Bottomline: there’s a lot of good stuff to learn at a NASCAR event.  Many thanks to the proud professionals of our Air Force Recruiting Service for providing me this opportunity!!

Roger A. Brady General
USAFE Commander
U.S. Air Forces in Europe

Air Force Colonel discusses Heavy Airlift Operations from Hungary

For the first time ever, 12 nations have come together, independently of NATO, to fly in support of their national requirements for Strategic Airlift Capability. “While we don’t take operational directions from [NATO], our nations are free to use their flying hours to support NATO missions,” U.S. Air Force Col. John D. Zazworski, Jr., commander of the Heavy Airlift Wing, Papa, Hungary, told bloggers during a Department of Defense Bloggers Roundtable teleconference July 29.  You can hear the audio from the teleconference here.

During the official activation ceremony of a first-of-its-kind multinational Heavy Airlift Wing at Papa Air Base, Hungary, July 27, U.S. Air Force Col. John Zazworsky gives thanks to the 12-nation team who, during the last 10 months, stood up the organization that will provide strategic airlift worldwide for humanitarian, disaster relief, and peacekeeping missions in support of the European Union, United Nations and NATO. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott Wagers)

Dispatch from USAFELive–12 nations’ first C-17 and one awesome mission

Below is a dispatch, originally posted on USAFE Live, by Col. John Zazworsky (below right), Commander, Heavy Airlift Wing, Pápa Air Base, Hungary. Col. Zazworsky discusses the importance of the new multinational Heavy Airlift Wing, a collaboration between 12 nations to provide strategic airlift capability.

Team, Mission and Future – that’s what I tell the members of my wing, the first-of-its-kind Heavy Airlift Wing, based at Pápa Air Base, Hungary.  I challenge all 131 of them – from 12 different nations — to guide their work using these three priorities.  We’ve built a multinational team; we’re focused on executing C-17 missions and we’re literally making history as we shape the future.

The concept is simple, and yet profound: a partnership effort to make possible for 12 nations what any one of them could not do alone.

The Heavy Airlift Wing is the operational-level flying unit brought to life by the unprecedented Strategic Airlift Capability, or SAC, Program.  After two years of discussions, 12 nations officially signed onto the program just over 10 months ago, creating a consortium of both NATO and non-NATO nations with a common goal.

All 12 nations have a need for strategic airlift – the ability to transport troops, mechanized firepower and oversized equipment weighing tens of tons between continents.  Yet all faced daunting dollar signs in acquiring an airframe capable of doing so.
While some of the SAC nations own tactical airlifters – smaller cargo aircraft that hold less and fly shorter distances, like the C-130, none but the US own strategic airlift aircraft.  And yet each nation has commitments to fulfill for NATO, the European Union and the United Nations.  For instance, all have obligations to equip and resupply their troops currently supporting NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

The solution: collectively organize, train and equip a multinational unit to jointly own and operate three C-17s with global reach and power.

The first of our fleet is now in hand, already hard at work.  I had the honor of receiving SAC 01 from the master builders at Boeing Tuesday and took off from Long Beach, Calif., for Charleston AFB, S.C., to load up forklifts, cargo loading vehicles and other heavy equipment.  These items will allow us to carry out logistics functions at Pápa.

I was just awed to watch my team in action these past couple days: a talented and energized crew of pilots, loadmasters and flying crew chiefs from Norway, Sweden and the U.S. making our mission a reality… not to mention the others back home ensuring all goes smoothly.  The nations have sent their best for sure.

We take off today to complete the second leg of our 5,300-nautical-mile maiden flight to Pápa AB, the place we now call home.  Amid a vibrant and welcoming small town of 33,000 natives, our airmen and their families have built a military community of Bulgarians, Dutch, Estonians, Finns, Lithuanians, Norwegians, Poles, Romanians, Slovenians, Swedes and Americans… and of course our hosts, the Hungarians.
So many from every nation have worked tirelessly to build from scratch what’s essentially a multinational air force – without any real template of any kind — on soil that is foreign to all nations but one.  It’s literally been a pioneering effort.  And with SAC 01 under our command, we’re now ready to officially activate the wing.

On July 27, civilian and military leaders from all of the SAC nations and NATO will join us at Pápa to officially activate the Heavy Airlift Wing and to celebrate the capability we are and will be for decades to come.

As someone who’s worn Air Force blue for 26 years, I’m humbled to have this incomparable command opportunity, to see military partnerships and friendships transcend history, borders, languages and cultures… and to play a role in the future of multinational airlift.

It’s time for take-off.

Col. John Zazworsky
Heavy Airlift Wing
Pápa Air Base, Hungary

Rescue effort at sea

An international rescue effort is currently en route to a ship in the Atlantic approximately 700 miles off the west coast of Ireland.  A crew member on board container ship “Pascha” has fallen seriously ill and needs urgent medical attention.

The ship’s distance from land makes it impossible for the traditional sea rescue operations to reach; and the U.K.’s Rescue Coordination Center requested the assistance of the U.S. military forces who are based in England.

An RAF Nimrod maritime surveillance aircraft launching from RAF Kinloss in Scotland will provide coordination for the airborne effort that will include a total of four different aircraft platforms.

Two HH-60G helicopters with Pararescuemen from the U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s 56th Rescue Squadron based out of RAF Lakenheath will perform the actual rescue.  In order to get to the rescue site, the helicopters will need to refuel en route.  The aircraft refueling the helicopters are MC-130P’s from Air Force Special Operations Command’s 352nd Special Operations Group based at RAF Mildenhall.  This is an aircraft specially fitted to refuel helicopters, but its range requires that it refuel mid-flight as well, for this kind of long distance flight.

The 100th Air Refueling Squadron out of RAF Mildenhall is launching a KC-135 to refuel the MC-130P, providing the range that is vital to this mission.

A very similar effort was dispatched employing these same units on December 10th of last year.  That mission was successful in retrieving the patient and getting him to medical care in time.

“We’re working fast with our U.K. partners to try to get to this sailor in time to help.  We have some of the best-trained crews in the air right now who are intent on getting this patient stabilized and to safety,” said Col. Jay Silveria, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing.  The 56th Rescue Squadron is a part of the 48th Fighter Wing.

The helicopters will take their patient to a location in Shannon, Ireland, where medical providers will be waiting to take him to a nearby hospital.

Thanks to the Public Affairs office at RAF Mildenhall and to Staff Sgt. Nathan Gallahan & Tech. Sgt. Marelise Wood for the photos.


RAF Lakenheath, England — Capt. John Frederick, a 56th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk pilot, talks with the Rescue Coordination Center at RAF Kinloss about an ongoing rescue. A worker on a cargo ship approximately 700 miles west of Ireland requires immediate medical attention, and the U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force are working together to make it happen. The route the helicopters from RAF Lakenheath will take to the ship is sketched on the map. (U.S. Air Force photo / Staff Sgt. Nathan Gallahan)

RAF Mildenhall, England — An MC-130P Combat Shadow from the 352nd Special Operations Group prepares for takeoff in support of a rescue effort of a crew member onboard a container ship off the coast of Ireland. The rescue effort involves coordination between the U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force units. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Marelise Wood)

Story from USAFELive: First C-130 delivered to Poland

The U.S. Air Force delivered the first Polish C-130E Hercules to Powidz Air Base on 24 March 2009. In addition to the delivery of F-16s, C-130s are helping the Polish Air Force become a modern transport hub. “A crew from Hill AFB flew the aircraft from the U.S., and they were accompanied by a Polish crew who, several months ago, had completed training with the 118th Airlift Wing of the Tennessee Air National Guard.” Capt John Szczepanski, Air Force Affairs Office, Office of Defense Cooperation, captured the event and the importance of building the capability of an important U.S. ally. Read the full story here on USAFELive. (USAFE is the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, one of nine Major Commands of the U.S. Air Force.)