By Jug Varner

As a general rule I am very careful about my computer files and always strive to retain a backup in case of accidental erasure of an important article. Only in such instances as a computer failure have I lost any, but the back-ups generally saved the day… until now.

Early in 1994, I made a special trip to the Air Force Academy to write a feature story for the printed version of Keeping Apace, which I later transferred to a computer version and retained in my Air Force archive. Recently I eliminated the general ARMED FORCES link in the left column of my home page in favor of individual links for each service and DOD. It was then that I realized the Air Force Academy story was missing.

When or how this happened is a mystery, but it is gone, as apparently is its back-up. So I am using THIS LINK [ ] as a crutch until I can locate the missing files or create another article from the original hard copy story.


By Staff Sgt. April Lapetoda, 89th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Andrews AFB, MD - 7/7/2004 (AFPN) — An Air Force pilot whose leg was amputated above the knee will soon fly again.

On June 18, Air Force surgeon general George Taylor medically cleared Lt. Col. Andrew Lourake, Commander’s Action Group chief, to return to flight status.

This came after a battery of medical and mobility tests in San Antonio and hours of testing in a flight simulator in Wilmington, Del. The only thing standing between Lourake and a pilot seat now is the wait for a formal training slot to open so he can requalify.

“This will set a great precedence for the Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Scott Gray, 89th Airlift Wing commander. “It shows how well the Air Force takes care of its own and how far technology has come to enable this to happen. I am 100-percent confident that Colonel Lourake will be as great of a pilot as he was before his injury and will strengthen our crew force.”

While a lost limb once resulted in a discharge from the service, breakthroughs in high-tech prosthetics are allowing military members to fight their way back to active duty.

Colonel Lourake’s tenure as a pilot ended Oct. 31, 1998, because of a motocross bike accident. He was thrown approximately 15 feet into the air and fractured his left leg when he landed. While hospitalized the leg became infected, requiring multiple surgeries over a period of more than three years leading to eventual amputation.

While researching prosthetics, Lourake discovered the C-Leg, a computerized artificial limb that can analyze movement at the rate of 50 messages per second and can adjust to changes in terrain. The C-Leg made the decision to have his leg amputated a lot easier, Lourake said. “Simply knowing the technology was out there that could enable me to transition back to the cockpit helped make that decision.”

In 2002, he became the first U.S. service member to be fitted with a C-Leg. After the surgery, he underwent more than 500 hours of physical therapy. Now medically cleared to return to the flight deck, he said it feels as though “a long road is coming to an end.”

After becoming an amputee, Lourake began trips to nearby Walter Reed Army Medical Center two and three times per week to visit with and encourage war wounded personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who have lost limbs. “I feel as though I have been thrust into being a role model for other people with disabilities,” he said. “I am able to show them they can achieve what they want, if they put their mind to it.”

Prior to his accident, Lourake served as a special-air missions pilot for the 99th Airlift Squadron, logging more than 1,000 hours transporting U.S. leaders, foreign dignitaries, and various heads of state. After he completes formal training, he will return to that role.

“I’ve had a huge amount of support from my commanders, squadron members and doctors,” Lourake said. “I didn’t get to this point without the team effort. To me, this whole experience solidifies the fact that the Air Force is one big family.”

B-52 TURNS 50

By J. Manny Guendulay, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Barksdale AFB LA - 6-30-05 - AFPN — Even though it recently turned 50, it is still capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory. And its lifespan has been calculated to extend beyond the year 2040.

June 29, 2005 marked the 50th anniversary for the B-52 Statofortress, also known as the “Big Ugly Fat Fellow,” or perhaps more familiar to most — the “Buff.”

That initial aircraft, number 52-8711, was the first of more than 740 Stratofortresses and the beginning of a bombing community rich with history.

For more than 40 years, the B-52 has been the primary manned strategic bomber force for the United States. It is a long-range, heavy bomber capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet, and can carry nuclear or precision-guided conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.

A total of 744 B-52s were built - the last, a B-52H, delivered in October 1962. Only the H-model is still in the Air Force inventory and is assigned to Air Combat Command and the Air Force Reserve here and at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

The first of 102 B-52Hs was delivered to Strategic Air Command in May 1961. The H-model can carry as many as 20 air-launched cruise missiles. In addition, it can carry the conventional cruise missile that was launched from B-52G models during Operation Desert Storm, officials said.

In a conventional conflict, the B-52 can perform air interdiction, offensive counter air and maritime operations. During Desert Storm, B-52s delivered 40 percent of all the weapons dropped by coalition forces, officials said. It is highly effective when used for ocean surveillance and can assist the Navy in anti-ship and mine-laying operations. Two B-52s, in two hours, can monitor 140,000 square miles of ocean surface.

All B-52s are equipped with an electro-optical viewing system to augment the targeting, battle assessment, flight safety and terrain-avoidance system, thus further improving its combat ability and low-level flight capability, officials said.

Starting in 1989, an ongoing modification has been incorporating the Global Positioning System, heavy stores adapter beams for carrying 2,000-pound munitions and additional smart weapons capability.

The use of aerial refueling gives the B-52 a range, limited only by crew endurance. It has an unrefueled combat range in excess of 8,800 miles.

The aircraft’s flexibility was evident during the Vietnam War and, again, in Operation Desert Storm. B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and they decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard, officials said.

The Gulf War involved the longest strike mission in the history of aerial warfare when B-52s took off from here, launched conventional cruise missiles and returned — a 35-hour, nonstop combat mission.

During Operation Allied Force, B-52s opened the conflict with conventional cruise missile attacks and then transitioned to delivering general purpose and cluster bombs on enemy positions and staging areas.

The 8th Air Force museum is also commemorating the anniversary by adding postcards and signed pictures of General Eubank to its inventory.

The B-52B that General Eubank flew is one of four of its kind still in existence and is displayed at the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland, Neb.


By Staff Sgt. Chawntain Sloan, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, ID (AFPN) February 7, 2006 — They aren’t mad scientists who wear lab coats and pocket protectors, and their expertise extends far beyond the confines of their think tanks. They were chosen because they’re the Air Force’s most innovative thinkers and they’re turning ideas into operational force enhancers all over the world.

The Air Warfare Battle Lab is one of seven that has been paving the road for a leaner and more lethal Air Force since 1997. “Each is specialized, but they all have the same goal in mind — to develop an idea into something the war fighter can use to do their job better,” said Lt. Col. Mark Koopman, deputy commander of the battle lab.

“Our battle lab looks for innovative ways to improve expeditionary operations, from initial deployment through employment and sustainment at the area of responsibility to redeployment back home. That is essentially our mission,” the colonel said.

While some of their unique concepts originate from within the network of officers and enlisted Airmen from more than 25 different career fields, the majority come from their biggest source of inspiration — you.

“People need to realize we are here for them,” said Tech Sgt. Brian Humphrey, aircraft maintenance systems project officer. “If they have a need or know of some sort of solution out there, we want to know about it.”

Whether it’s coming from the boardroom or the flight line, the battle lab relies on input from both the military and civilian sectors.

“At least every 10 months to two years, we visit all (major command) headquarters, and take a contingent of people from all the battle labs to meet with the functional managers who know best about what is going on and what is needed the most,” Colonel Koopman said. “We also go to maintenance symposiums all over the world to get the most cutting edge and up-to-date information from contractors and the blue suiters that may attend those.”

Their best feedback comes straight from the horse’s mouth.

“The warfighters can have the smallest ideas or the simplest needs, and there are so many ways we can meet those needs,” said Sergeant Humphrey, who spent 16 years as an F-16 crew chief. “I couldn’t do my job without getting input from the flight line and maintenance units.”

Once they have gathered their ideas, these professionals approach the most difficult part of their job - sorting through and deciding which ones have merit.

“We take the ideas that were submitted and the reasons why. We definitely take a personal view of everything and look at it, but it has to make a big impact and meet expeditionary needs,” Colonel Koopman said. “Every idea that comes to us, we consider, but there’s a finite number of people and money that we have to work ideas.”

When an idea shows promise, it is upgraded to an initiative for approval and funding. Of the more than 470 initiatives the battle lab has reviewed so far, about 40 have either fully or partially changed the lives of warfighters. Business is not due to slow down any time soon.

The battle lab is currently working 20 initiatives that have been approved for funding and three draft initiatives that are in the approval process, Colonel Koopman said. The Airmen work as a team to get an idea from concept to development in 18 months.

“I am the lead on three projects and a team member on four others,” Sergeant Humphrey said. “Even though I am not a team lead on all those projects, it helps to have a good working relationship with the rest of the people on your team because the initiative doesn’t stop if I go on leave. It doesn’t stop if I go on a temporary duty assignment for another initiative. I have to constantly be working on those initiatives and relying on the other team members to help me.”

Despite the hectic schedule, the impact one idea can have on their clients is enough to keep them going.

“My biggest reward has been knowing that I can take an idea from the concept stage to development and find a need for it out there in the war fighters — the guys whose boots are on the flight line, the guys who are deploying to the desert — and I can give them this widget that is going to improve their war fighting capabilities in about 18 months,” Sergeant Humphrey said. “I know I am making a difference for them.”

Click here to submit an [ ]IDEA


BY Master Sgt. Scott King, 40th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) 5/2/2006 — Roughly 15,000 miles above the Earth’s surface a communications satellite provides vital information to all branches of the U.S. military. It joins more than 9,000 other items in space that are tracked by the Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System, known as GEODSS.

There are three operational GEODSS sites that report to the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, CO: Detachment 1 in Socorro, NM; Detachment 2 in Southwest Asia; and Detachment 3 in Maui, HI. Each site is responsible for tracking thousands of known man-made deep-space objects orbiting Earth at an altitude of 10,000 to 45,000 kilometers. These objects range from active payloads, such as satellites, to space junk, such as debris from launch vehicles and satellite breakups.

“As various on-orbit satellites perform their military, civilian or scientific functions, we monitor the relative presence of every man-made deep-space object in earth orbit,” said Bruce Bookout, GEODSS site manager with Northrop Grumman Technical Services.

“Those who utilize space to fight the war on terrorism need to ensure that those assets are available and are under no threat. We act as a passive police force, watching for natural or artificial interference,” he added.

Each GEODSS site transmits its orbital data to U.S. Strategic Command's Joint Space Operations Center located at Colorado Springs. The center maintains a satellite catalog of every man-made object in Earth’s orbit.

GEODSS performs its mission using a one-meter telescope equipped with highly sensitive digital camera technology, known as Deep STARE. Each detachment has three of these telescopes that can be used in conjunction with each other or separately. These telescopes are able to “see” objects 10,000 times dimmer than the human eye can detect.

The Deep STARE system is able to track multiple satellites in the field of view. As the satellites cross the sky, the telescopes take rapid electronic snapshots, showing up on the operator’s console as tiny streaks. Computers then measure these streaks and use the data to figure the current position of a satellite in its orbit. Star images, which remain fixed, are used as references or calibration points for each of the three telescopes.

“Space is the ultimate high ground, giving us the ability to communicate over long distances and determine exact locations through the Global Positioning System,” said Maj. Jay Fulmer, Det. 2 commander. “Many of our service members on the front lines use technology that is greatly enhanced through the use of space. U.S. its allies have the ability to operate unencumbered in the medium of space, allowing our troops direct access to space-derived force enhancements.”

Thinking big is what these people do.

“As mankind continues to explore and exploit the realm of space there needs to be some accounting and understanding of the medium,” Bookout said. “Space is a new realm to the human experience. We’ve learned much during the last 50 years, but we still have much more to learn.

“Space surveillance provides critical information on the location of every man-made object in space. It ensures our space-based assets are protected from potential on-orbit collisions or from adversaries who might try to take away our abilities to operate in space. This guarantees the warfighter access to space-derived tools they need to execute their mission,” he concluded.


Forwarded by Bill Reid

Edwards is the Air Force Flight Test Center where virtually all new U.S. military aircraft are first flown. It is located on dry lakebeds in the middle of the desert which give plenty of space for test flights.

Space Shuttle Discovery landed here August 2005 when weather in Florida was bad.

To see these Open House and Air Show photos and a variety of other outstanding photos taken by Fred Bruenjes, CLICK HERE. []


RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) - For his display of heroism in the face of hostile enemy fire, a helicopter flight engineer from Hurlburt Field, Fla., Master Sgt. Robert Colannino Jr., has been named the 2005 Pitsenbarger award winner.

The Air Force Sergeant's Association gives the Pitsenbarger award annually to an enlisted Airman for heroic acts, on or off duty, that save a life or prevent serious injury. Its namesake, Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger, was posthumously promoted in 2000 when his Air Force Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Sergeant Pitsenbarger was awarded the Medal of Honor for treating and protecting scores of wounded infantrymen — while under intense enemy fire and being mortally wounded himself — near the Vietnamese capital of Saigon in 1966.

Sergeant Colannino was flight engineer aboard an MH-53M Pave Low during a night resupply mission when the nose of his helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade that exploded inside the cockpit between the two pilots and Colannino. The three crewmembers were significantly injured from shrapnel and debris, but the other flight engineer, sitting below the overhead control panel, received the most significant injuries and became incapacitated.

The pilot found an open field and landed the badly crippled aircraft. Sergeant Colannino then took action with weapon in hand to defend the aircraft and crew. When he heard his fellow engineer’s cry for help, Colannino lowered the back of the seat, released his restraining belt and pulled the engineer out of the cockpit into the cabin to assess his injuries. He administered first aid then focused his attention on the other crewmembers' injuries. He helped one of the pilots get out of his seat because his eye injury interfered with his vision.

Sergeant Colannino then heard the aircraft commander shout that he needed help shutting down the aircraft. The sound of the helicopter was drawing the enemy to their position. The enemy was almost on target and their mortar rounds were beginning to fall when Sergeant Colannino remembered that fuel cables ran the length of the cabin. He found the cables and pulled them to stop the engines. His actions stopped the rotor and allowed the crew and team to escape.

Courtesy of Air Force Personnel Center News Service



Ability to rapidly project and sustain an effective combat force close to a potential battle area is the ultimate measure of airlift effectiveness.

Threats to U.S. interests have changed in recent years, and the size and weight of U.S. mechanized firepower and equipment have grown in response to improved capabilities of potential adversaries.

This trend has significantly increased air mobility requirements, particularly in the area of large or heavy outsize cargo. As a result, newer and more flexible airlift aircraft are needed to meet potential armed contingencies, peacekeeping or humanitarian missions worldwide.

The C-17 Globemaster III is the newest, most flexible cargo aircraft to enter the airlift force. It is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operating bases or directly to forward bases in the deployment area.

The Globemaster can also transport litters and ambulatory patients during aeromedical evacuations when required. The inherent flexibility and performance of the C-17 force improve the ability of the total airlift system to fulfill the worldwide air mobility requirements of the United States.

Read the complete article here. []


By Lisa Terry McKeown, 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. (AFPN) 2-16-06 — How do you get 30 bases, hundreds of personnel and tons of aircraft and equipment together in one place?

The answer: cyberspace.

For the second time since its conception in September, aircrews from the 23rd Fighter Group stepped into a simulated exercise called Virtual Red Flag.

The virtual war recently fought here via the cyber-super highway included Airmen from various military installations around the world. Air crews and ground operators linked up to “fight” the enemy in a completely virtual environment.

The exercise created scenarios based on information and tasks in specific areas of the world. The simulated data can include geographical features, maps, weather and movements of the forces.

The participants are briefed at the beginning of their day through a multi-view video conference. Plans, charts and other pertinent information are also sent to each location so they can be referenced during the meeting. From there, the participants head to their simulators and into “combat”.

“The simulators do everything but burn gas and pull G-forces,” said Steven Callich, 23rd Operations Support Squadron. The 23rd Fighter Group’s A-10 Thunderbolt II simulator was only one of many types of aircraft involved in the exercise. F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, B-52 Stratofortresses, B-1 Lancers and helicopters were all tied into the event.

“Working in a simulated environment gives us a training capability that we wouldn’t get otherwise,” said 1st Lt. Joden Werlin, 75th Fighter Squadron. “We also get to see the tactics used by other squadrons. It makes inter-operations much cleaner.”

One of the biggest benefits of Virtual Red Flag is its versatility. Pilots can train with numerous aircraft in all types of weather, all types of combat environments, day or night, in most any location in the world. Another benefit is cost savings. The Air Force estimates that one hour in a simulator costs less than six minutes of flying an actual aircraft. Virtual Red Flag also removes the need for transporting, lodging and feeding aircrews — additional cost savers.

A key difference between training in a virtual environment and training live is that exercise controllers can modify the intensity or even freeze the action while the program is running. This enables air crews to train and learn from situations in ways not possible in real-world training.

Virtual Red Flag has not replaced the Red Flag exercise that takes place every year at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. However, Mr. Callich hopes that in the future, the simulator will be able to mirror more of what happens at Red Flag. “Our goal is to be able to link up and meet training requirements that match what we do in the air,” he said.

With imagery upgrades and ever-advancing technology, that goal may be reached before long.


Cape Canaveral Air Force Station FL - Nov. 6, 2004 - A Delta II launch vehicle carried a Global Positioning System satellite nearly 11,000 miles above Earth from here today.

The satellite replaces one of 24 in the constellation that experts call the most accurate navigation aid ever for U.S. war fighters.

The constellation provides continuous, precise three-dimensional location information (latitude, longitude and altitude), velocity and exact time to worldwide users. The satellite is expected to be fully operational in December.

“America’s defense relies heavily on space and missile forces,” said Col. Mark Owen, 45th Space Wing commander here. “With one GPS-guided bomb Military leaders can destroy a target that in World War II would have required an average of 648 bombs to destroy.”

“This satellite joins a constellation that is playing a stellar role in ensuring U.S. war fighters have the tools needed to continue to fight and win today and in the years ahead,” he said.


By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

Washington (AFPN) — A team of experts is looking into whether a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel may have located a hydrogen bomb missing off the coast of Georgia since 1958.

Air Force officials said there has never been a danger of a nuclear explosion from the weapon because the bomb has no arming capsule.

The 20-person team came from the Air Force, Navy, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, national laboratories and Department of Energy. The team took water and soil samples at the site where retired Lt. Col. Derek Duke believes the bomb may have landed.

The Air Force lost the bomb following a midair collision between a B-47 Stratojet and an F-86 Sabre. The bomber was severely damaged, and the pilot was worried that if he tried to land with the bomb aboard, the 400 pounds of conventional explosives aboard might detonate. He requested permission to jettison the bomb. Controllers gave the pilot permission, and he dropped the weapon in Wassaw Sound near Tybee Island.

The sound is shallow, and the 7,500-pound weapon may have burrowed as much as 15 feet into the mud. After 10 weeks of searching, Air Force officials listed the bomb as “irretrievable.”

For the last five years, Colonel Duke has been searching the sound for the weapon. He detected unusual radiation readings in an area and notified authorities. On Sept. 29, the interagency team went to Savannah, Ga., and met with Colonel Duke and his team.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Frank Smolinsky said the talks were constructive and that Colonel Duke’s team shared all the information — and the way it had gathered the information — with the interagency team.

On Sept. 30, the team took four boats out to the area where Colonel Duke believes the weapon may lie and took water and soil samples. The samples will go to national laboratories for testing. Colonel Smolinsky said he could not say when testing will end, “but it will be several weeks at a minimum.”

If tests determine the bomb may be in the area, Air Force officials will consult with local, state and federal officials, before deciding what to do next. There is no danger of a nuclear detonation, but the conventional explosives that are a part of the bomb may be unstable, officials said.


By Tech. Sgt. James B. Pritchett, 403rd Wing Public Affairs

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE MS 12/28/2005 — The “Hurricane Hunters” of Air Force Reserve Command's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flew their last mission of the record 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season in December.

The squadron's aircrews flew more than 145 missions into 25 storms and logged more than 1,500 flight hours. They did this while flying a new aircraft and operating from another base.

The hurricane season typically runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. But this year the season started early. The unit flew into Hurricane Adrian in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central America in the third week of May. In early December, squadron aircrews flew into Hurricane Epsilon — the season’s 14th Atlantic hurricane and only the fifth December storm recorded in more than 120 years.

The unit met another milestone, flying every mission in the new WC-130J Hercules. This ushered in a new era in weather reconnaissance for the Hurricane Hunters, who are part of the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base MS. “We completed conversion to the J-model two years ahead of schedule,” wing commander Brig. Gen. Richard R. Moss said. “This is the culmination of a lot of work enabling the WC-130J to perform its mission.”

General Moss said his crews are excited about the new aircraft that improve the unit’s ability to provide data to forecasters and decision makers when it is most needed. Increased situational awareness of the crew and the increased safety of the J-model's performance enhance the unit's ability to locate and monitor the intensity of these dangerous storms.

Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Hurricane Hunters' home Aug. 29, provided the unit’s biggest challenge. When the massive storm crashed into the Gulf Coast, it caused widespread damage to facilities and infrastructure at Keesler and in the surrounding communities. Many of the unit's facilities sustained damage, some of it severe, including the wing's headquarters. It is estimated that repairs will cost between $30 to $40 million.

The wing evacuated its aircraft before the storm and continued flying reconnaissance missions from Ellington Field, near Houston.

Initial damage assessments in Mississippi made it clear the wing's aircraft would not be able to return home immediately. While many reservists and civilians working for the 403rd returned to begin cleanup, the aviation mission moved to a temporary location at Dobbins Air Reserve Base GA and continued supporting the hurricane reconnaissance mission without a single missed tasking. More than 200 people went to Dobbins, and at least 25 percent of them suffered severe loss or total destruction of their homes — but they knew the importance of keeping the mission going.

After the hurricane season, these Hurricane Hunters were not through flying. Before the season ended, the unit was already tracking winter storms to help forecasters determine the severity of Nor'easters and other winter weather activity off both coasts.


Original forwarder unknown.

Returning freshmen had the chore of writing a paper on why they chose to return to cadet life. I hope this kid's hands in an airplane turn out half as good as his brains as a freshman at the Air Force Academy.

By Joseph R. Tomczak

So after our sunburns have faded and the memories of our winter break have been reduced to pictures we've pinned on our desk boards, and once again we've exchanged t-shirts and swim suits for flight suits and camouflage, there still remains the question that every cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs has asked themselves at some point:

“Why did we come back? Why, after spending two weeks with our family would we return to one of the most demanding lifestyles in the country? After listening to our 'friends' who are home from State or Ivy League schools chock full of wisdom about how our war in Iraq is unjust and unworldly, why would we return? And after watching the news and reading the papers which only seem to condemn the military's every mistake and shadow every victory, why would we continue to think it is worth the sacrifice of a normal college life?”

Is it because the institution to which we belong is tuition-free? Anyone who claims this has forgotten that we will, by the time we graduate, repay the U.S. taxpayer many times over in blood, sweat, and tears.

Is it because the schooling we are receiving is one of the best undergraduate educations in he country? While the quality of the education is second to none, anyone who provides this as a main reason has lost sight of the awesome responsibility that awaits those who are tough enough to graduate and become commissioned officers in the U.S. Air Force.

I come back to the Academy because I want to have the training necessary so that one day I'll have the incredible responsibility of leading the sons and daughters of America in combat. These men and women will never ask about my Academy grade point average, their only concern will be that I have the ability to lead them expertly - I will be humbled to earn their respect.

I come back to the Academy because I want to be the commander who saves lives by negotiating with Arab leaders… in their own language.

I come back to the Academy because, if called upon, I want to be the pilot who flies half way around the world with three mid-air refuelings to send a bomb from 30,000 feet into a basement housing the enemy… through a ventilation shaft two feet wide. For becoming an officer in today's modern Air Force is so much more than just command; it is being a diplomat, a strategist, a communicator, a moral compass, but always a warrior first.

I come back to the Air Force Academy because right now the United States is fighting a global war that is an 'away game' in Iraq - taking the fight to the terrorists. And whether or not we think the terrorists were in Iraq before our invasion, they are unquestionably there now. And if there is any doubt as to whether this is a global war, just ask the people in Amman, in London, in Madrid, in Casablanca, in Riyadh, and in Bali. This war must remain an away game because we have seen what happens when it becomes a home game.

I come back to the Academy because I want to be a part of that fight.

I come back to the Academy because I don't want my vacationing family to board a bus in Paris that gets blown away by someone who thinks that it would be a good idea to convert the Western world to Islam.

I come back to the Academy because I don't want the woman I love to be the one who dials her last frantic cell phone call while huddled in the back of an airliner with a hundred other people seconds away from slamming into the Capitol building.

I come back to the Academy because during my freshman year of high school I sat in a geometry class and watched nineteen terrorists change the course of history live on television.

For the first time, every class currently at a U.S. Service Academy made the decision to join after the 2001 terror attacks. Some have said that the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan only created more terrorists. I say that the attacks of September 11th, 2001 created an untold more number of American soldiers; I go to school with 4,000 of them. - and that's worth missing more than a few frat parties.

Joseph R. Tomczak
Cadet Fourth Class,
United States Air Force Academy

Comment from jaw

“After reading this article by Joseph R. Tomczak, it made me proud once again to know that we still have young people with a good head on their shoulders.

Being an Air Force retiree, everyday I hear the misgivings of the civilian population about the war in Iraq. “We should have done this and should have done that,” they are saying.

Little do they know that military personnel never think who is right or who is wrong, they are sent there to do a job, and never stop short of coming away with a victory.

My hats off to Cadet Tomczak, for he is sure to be one of our top future leaders, and the military needs more leaders of his caliber to bring our troops home safely.”


DAYTON, OH. 6-16-05 (AFPN) - An exhibit highlighting the Air Force's early Cold War reconnaissance opened to the public at the National Museum of the United States Air Force here June 15.

Dragon Lady: The U-2 and Early Cold War Reconnaissance exhibit joins the museum's permanent displays in the Cold War Gallery.

The U-2 has played a vital role in American strategic intelligence for more than 50 years. The unique high-flying reconnaissance jet was designed early in the Cold War to over fly and photograph military activities in the Soviet Union and other communist nations.

Nicknamed “Dragon Lady” after a 1930s comic strip character, the aircraft has been used by the U.S. Air Force, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The museum's exhibit highlights the U-2 aircraft, reconnaissance missions and photo interpretation. Featured artifacts include a U-2 pilot suit and an A-2 camera set.


By Rudy Purificato, 311th Human Systems Wing Public Affairs

BROOKS CITY BASE, Texas Jan 2005 - (AFPN) — Air Force Research Laboratory scientists have launched a study here that supports the development of a new flight-warning system designed to significantly enhance pilot safety.

Incidents of general aviation pilots violating controlled airspace led to the study, which focuses on safely using laser light for a new aviation signaling system.

“It became obvious to air traffic controllers that a secondary warning system beyond radio communications is needed to let pilots know to change course,” said Maj. (Dr.) Laura Barnes, principal investigator for the optical radiation branch in the laboratory’s human effectiveness directorate.

The potential for navigational confusion near critical infrastructures prompted the aviation community to find an effective secondary signal warning system, Major Barnes said. This proposed system would be a better alternative to today's broadband light sources, such as ground-based warning lights, that cannot be effective across long distances.

The study, conducted in phases, began with a preliminary investigation using experienced pilots. Ten pilots observed a series of laser signals, varying in intensity, during simulated day and night flight scenarios.

“We're fine-tuning the system to ensure that cognitive interpretation (of the laser signals) is satisfactory,” Major Barnes said. Specifically, the proposed signaling system must not be confused with the many distracting light sources typically encountered over urban areas and must not hamper navigation. (Courtesy of Air Force Material Command News Service)


By 1st Lt. Katherine Kebisek, Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

8/16/2006 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN) — In an effort to improve safety and comfort for patients being transported on high-deck aircraft, Air Mobility Command officials plan to soon acquire several high-deck patient loading platform, or HDPLP, vehicles.

The HDPLP is a vehicle with a series of hoists that allows the cab and patient seating area of the vehicle to rise to the level of the entrance on an aircraft. This is similar to some ramps and vehicles used at civilian airports that allow people to enter and exit planes without having to climb stairs.

Most aircraft used for aeromedical evacuation, often C-17 Globemaster IIIs and C-130 Hercules, have short, low-angle ramps that allow vehicles and patients to be rolled directly on to the aircraft.

On high-deck aircraft such as the KC-135 Stratotanker, a patient loading system, or PLS, is used. The PLS ramp uses the same angle of elevation as that on the C-9 Nightingale, an aircraft that transported patients until 2003. However, to reach the entrance of high-deck aircraft, the PLS is much longer and higher than any ramp on C-17s or C-130s.

While the PLS has been effective, the units have been heavily used. Over time, parts have become very difficult to maintain and replace due to the system's highly specialized design. And while the PLS is safe, staff and patients have at times felt apprehensive about crossing the high-level ramp while exposed to inclement weather.

“We're looking at the next generation of solutions to load patients and war fighters,” said Col. Stephen Prizer, command nurse at AMC. “This time instead of a ramp we're looking at a vehicle designed to drive on city streets from the hospital to the plane. The cab will rise and patients will walk straight from the vehicle onto the plane.”

The concept for HDPLP vehicles was illustrated by a model used at the Special Olympics in Los Angeles several years ago. The proposed vehicle that AMC is purchasing would be similar in that it would meet all requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but would also be configured to transport injured war fighters on NATO litters. The vehicle should be able to accommodate a variety of configurations, holding up to six patients on NATO litters and 10 additional ambulatory patients.

“The HDPLP vehicles will provide for a more seamless transition for patients transiting the (aeromedical evacuation) system,” Colonel Prizer said. “Patients won't have to be carried on a litter down a long ramp that is exposed to the wind, rain, sun and heat; they'll be able to move directly from the aircraft onto the climate-controlled vehicle. It should provide an added measure of patient safety and comfort to all of our patients on high-deck aircraft.”

AMC officials expect a contract will be awarded for the vehicles in September, and to receive the first vehicle about six months after the contract has been finalized. Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and Travis AFB, Calif., will receive the first HDPLP vehicles since they have the highest number of high-deck aeromedical evacuation missions. Additional vehicles are planned for Andrews AFB, Md., and Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

“The new vehicles will fill an important niche in transferring patients on and off high-deck aircraft in all types of weather,” Colonel Prizer said. “This initiative is clearly a step forward in the global patient movement business.”


By Lea MacDonald,
Forwarded by Airburd.

It was noon on a Sunday, as I recall, the day a Mustang P-51 was to take to the air. They said it had flown in during the night from some U.S. airport, the pilot had been tired.

I marveled at the size of this plane dwarfing the Pipers and Canucks tied down beside her. Much larger than in the movies, she glistened in the sun like a bulwark of security from days gone by.

The pilot arrived by cab, paid the driver then stepped into the flight lounge. He was an older man, his wavy hair was gray and tossed and looked like it might have been combed, say, around the turn of the century. His bomber jacket was checked, creased, and worn. It smelled old and genuine. Old Glory was sewn prominently to its shoulders. He projected a quiet air of proficiency and pride devoid of arrogance. He filed a quick flight plan to Montreal Expo-67, Air Show then walked across the tarmac.

After taking several minutes to perform his walk-around check, the pilot returned to the flight lounge to ask if anyone would be available to standby with fire extinguishers while he “flashed the old bird up… just to be safe.”

Though only 12 at the time I was allowed to standby with an extinguisher after after a brief instruction: “If you see a fire, pull this lever!” I later became a firefighter, but that's another story.

The air around the exhaust manifolds shimmered like a mirror from fuel fumes as the huge prop started to rotate. One manifold, then another, and yet another barked. I stepped back with the others. In moments the Packard-built Merlin engine came to life with a thunderous roar as blue flames knifed from her manifolds.

I looked at the others' faces. There was no concern so I lowered the bell of my extinguisher. One of the guys signaled to walk back to the lounge. We did.

Soon after, we could hear the pilot doing his preflight run-up. He had taxied to the end of runway 19, out of sight. All went quiet for several seconds and we raced from the lounge to the second story deck to see if we could catch a glimpse of the P-51 as she started down the runway. We could not.

There we stood, eyes fixed to a spot half way down 19. Then a roar ripped across the field, much louder than before, like a furious hell spawn set loose. Something mighty was coming this way.

“Listen to that thing!” said the controller.

In seconds the Mustang burst into our line of sight, its tail was already off the ground, moving faster than anything I'd ever seen on runway 19. Two-thirds of the way down 19, the Mustang was airborne with her gear going up. The prop tips were supersonic. We clasped our ears as the Mustang climbed hellishly fast into the circuit - to be eaten up by the dog-day haze.

We stood for a few moments in stunned silence trying to digest what we'd just seen. The radio controller rushed by me to the radio.

“Kingston radio calling Mustang.”

He looked back to us as he waited for an acknowledgment. The radio crackled.
“Kingston radio, go ahead.”
“Roger Mustang. Kingston radio would like to advise the circuit is clear for a low level pass.”

I stood in shock because the controller had more or less just asked the pilot to return for an impromptu air show!

The controller looked at us.

“What?” he asked. “I can't let that guy go without asking. I could never forgive myself!”

The radio crackled once again.

“Kingston radio, do I have permission for a low level pass, east to west, across the field?”
“Roger Mustang, the circuit is clear for an east to west pass.”
“Roger, Kingston radio, we're coming out of 3000 feet, stand by.”

We rushed back onto the second story deck, eyes fixed toward the eastern haze.

The sound was subtle at first - a high-pitched whine, a muffled screech, a distant scream. Moments later the P-51 burst through the haze, her airframe straining against positive G-forces and gravity, wing tips spilling contrails of condensed air, prop-tips again supersonic, as the burnished bird blasted across the eastern margin of the field, shredding and tearing the air.

At about 400 mph and 150 yards from where we stood, she passed with an old American pilot saluting. Imagine! A salute!

I felt like laughing. I felt like crying. She glistened, she screamed, the building shook, my heart pounded. Then the old pilot pulled her up and rolled, and rolled, and rolled out of sight into the broken clouds and indelibly into my memory.

I've never wanted to be an American more than on that day. It was a time when many nations in the world looked to America as their big brother, a steady and even-handed beacon of security that navigated difficult political water with grace and style; not unlike the pilot who had just flown into my memory.

He was proud - not arrogant, humble - not a braggart, old and honest, projecting an aura of America at its best. That America will return one day. I know it will.

Until that time, I'll just send off a story; call it a reciprocal salute, to the old American pilot who wove a memory for a young Canadian that's stayed a lifetime.


By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - 9/14/2006 - (AFPN) — As Americans pause to observe POW/MIA Recognition Day Sept. 15, teams of military and civilian experts will be excavating sites in Europe, South Korea, Solomon Islands, Alaska and Hawaii, looking for remains to help identify service members still missing from past wars.

Teams from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, based at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, will be on the job, working to provide the fullest possible accounting of America's missing and living up to their command's motto, “Until they are home.”

Additional teams are preparing for similar missions next month in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, said Maj. Brian DeSantis, a JPAC spokesperson.

POW/MIA Recognition Day honors the sacrifices America's missing service members and their families have made for the country, said Army Brig. Gen. Michael C. Flowers, JPAC's commander.

But the day also offers an important reminder that the United States is committed to bringing its fallen servicemembers home so they can be returned to their families — and it won't give up, no matter how long it takes or how difficult it might be, General Flowers said.

Read the rest of the story here [ ].


Forwarded by Colonel Charlie “Gunship” Spicka via BGen Bob Clements, USAF (Ret)

This is a great video (in two parts) of the new Russian Sukhoi SU-35/37. Don't turn it off when the film stops temporarily for buffering or when the first part goes black. Wait for the second part to begin.

The video lasts 6 minutes and 37 seconds and the video frame has a counter. There is sound and you should be able to enlarge this to full screen.

Good stuff… and you get to see the “Cobra” maneuver several times, where the aircraft pitches up, nearly stops moving forward, then continues on it's original flight path.

Take care and FLY SAFE!!!

CLICK HERE [ ] to start.


The Columbus Dispatch, 7/1/04
Forwarded by CPO Don Harribine USN (Ret)

FAIRBORN, Ohio — When Maj. Gen. Edward Mechenbier attempted to raise his arms to still the cascade of applause saluting his 44 years in the military, many in the audience may not have noticed that he couldn't lift his elbows to shoulder level. Having spent hours with his hands bound behind him and suspended by his arms above the floor of the “Hanoi Hilton,” his shoulders had been dislocated so frequently that they afforded him just enough mobility to return a salute.

“I don't know how I kept it from the doctors,” he confided, referring to the flight surgeons whose stamp of approval he needed to continue flying planes. But retiring as the last remaining active-duty Vietnam POW and — at age 62 — the oldest military pilot yet flying, he had no more secrets to keep.

His final hours at the controls of a C-141 Starlifter had taken him to Hanoi two days after Memorial Day to bring home a pair of American-flag-draped aluminum cases holding the remains of two soldiers thought to have been Mechenbier's comrades in arms during the Vietnam War.

“That was the single most-emotional thing I've done in over 44 years,” he said yesterday from the hangar auditorium at the U.S. Air Force Museum, near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The emotional freight of the plane he piloted away from Hanoi was not simply the caskets in the cargo hold. Thirty-one years ago, when he was released after six years as a POW, he was brought to freedom from Hanoi on the very airplane he piloted a month ago to pick up the MIA remains.

When his F-4C Phantom fighter jet was shot down over the Vu Chu rail yards outside Hanoi in 1967, he parachuted toward a group of locals taking potshots at his descending, sitting-duck form. The bullets missed, but his back was broken.

Forbidden to converse with fellow POWs, he developed an elaborate set of hand signals to communicate. Pressed by his captors about the digital semaphores, he said, he convinced the guards that an upraised middle finger was an expression of salutation and friendship. When a group of anti-war activists arrived from the United States, Mechenbier recalled with a wry smile, “That's how the guards greeted them.”

To stave off insanity after rules on inmate conversation were slightly relaxed, he taught his buddies German. Then, like some odd precursor to a jailed Martha Stewart, he schooled them in the art of wine selection and the proper steps for hosting a formal dinner. They argued about the best wine to serve with coq au vin while they were dining on rotten pumpkin and turnip tops.

Brushing aside the easy temptation to talk about bravery at his farewell fete, he mentioned only that — during a stint in the Ohio Air National Guard — he had managed to keep Ohio safe from West Virginia, Indiana and Michigan. He joked of his retirement, “When you're getting run out of town on a rail, get in front and make it look like a parade.”

Turning his gaze to his wife, Jerri, and the couple's four children — three of them orphans adopted from Vietnam, Thailand and Korea — he said, “I owe each and every one of you a big chunk of my heart.” Of the retirement that officially begins this morning, he said, “I don't plan to be a Wal-Mart greeter. But generals and commanders don't do very much.”

Deflecting praise as though it were a left hook and appearing a little befuddled by all the arm-pumping congratulations and platitudes tendered in goodbye notes from both President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, he looked like a man who would rather be anywhere but in the limelight.

It brought to mind a quote from author/historian Bruce Catton on the aging Civil War heroes he had met as a youth: All that was real had taken place when they were young; everything after had simply been a process of waiting for death, which didn't frighten them much…. They had seen it inflicted in the worst possible way on boys who hadn't bargained on it, and they had enough old-fashioned religion to believe without question that when they passed over they would simply be rejoining men and ways of living they had known long ago.


Desert Storm Veterans Return
By TSgt Jeffrey Williams, 506th Air Expeditionary Group PA

Kirkuk AFB Iraq, 1/17/04 (AFPN) — When Saddam Hussein ordered his forces to march south through Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, little did he know of the resolve of the young airmen who would rise to the occasion to repulse the attack.

From November 1990 to May 1991, Senior Airmen Elbert Bembry, Edward Timberman, Darrell Wiedenbeck, and Airman 1st Class Steven Sepeda were young A-10 Thunderbolt II crew chiefs. Staff Sgt. Benjamin Hoover was an A-10 weapons loader. They worked together out of the King Fahd International Airport in Saudi Arabia, as members of the 23rd Combined Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Still working on A-10s 13 years later, this particular “band of brothers” is stationed together here to finish the job they so diligently started so long ago. The then-young airmen have since gained in rank and responsibility, and are now charged with leading the future generation of aircraft maintainers.

Airmen Sepeda and Timberman are now technical sergeants, Airmen Wiedenbeck and Bembry are master sergeants, and Sergeant Hoover is now a senior master sergeant. All are deployed with the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB Arizona.

During a recent reunion of the five sergeants, they had a lot to remember. All of them said they remember the fright they had when the scud missiles started flying.

“I saw the scud missile that hit the bunker in Dhahran,” said Sergeant Sepeda, who was only a few miles away at the time.

“We started getting hit shortly after that because a civilian news reporter tipped off our A-10 location,” Sergeant Wiedenbeck said. “Before that, the scuds were just going overhead.”

They laugh about some of the antics that happened back then, but said they know the uncertainty of the situation gave them a greater seriousness, especially in bunker dives.

“During the first scud attack, the sirens scared me so bad that I just put on my gas mask,” Sergeant Timberman said. “I just got out of bed, put my mask on and ran to the bunker in my underwear. I was later instructed to put my pants on.”

“Timberman and I were under an aircraft listening to (former) President Bush on the radio as the first wave of the attack was coming back,” Sergeant Bembry said. “We were scared but not afraid. I was a young dude then.”

Sergeant Bembry also recalled his daily lunch routine then. “I was known as PBJ because I ate two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch each day for six months,” he said. “I haven't eaten peanut butter since I left Desert Storm.”

None of them have forgotten the oil fires in Kuwait. “It was like an eclipse,” Sergeant Sepeda said. “The sun was up but couldn't come through.”

Despite the camaraderie, friendship, humorous experiences, uncertainty and the dedication to work, all the airmen said they still feel the loss of their friend and colleague, 1st Lt. Patrick Olson, a 26-year-old native of Washington, N.C.

Flying an A-10 reconnaissance mission over Kuwait on Feb. 27, 1991, the lieutenant faced some bad weather and was hit by a surface-to-air missile. He tried landing with only one engine and no hydraulics, when the aircraft landing gear collapsed upon landing and flipped, killing Olson.

Sergeant Hoover said he was greatly affected by Lieutenant Olson's loss. “He brought me mail and a pair of gloves that day. He always took care of us. He was a good friend. That day I watched him die. I watched him crash. I was told, 'You are his family. Go pick him up.' And I did.”

Sergeant Timberman also reflected on his loss: “I never knew what it was like to lose a friend or family member until that point,” he said. “It was the first time I lost someone I knew. It still (affects) me today.”

Looking to the future, Sergeant Hoover said he believes the training of the previous generation affects the current one. “We were gliding on the successes that Vietnam duty gave us,” he said. “We wanted to make our predecessors proud. We had to work to be the best. Laser-guided bombs and other high-tech weaponry were born in Vietnam. We got to use them in Desert Storm. It made us look like heroes.

“What I learned from Desert Storm prepared me well for the rest of my career,” he said. “I've got some great guys. These guys wanted to come to Iraq with me. There's no limit to the talent that we brought over here.”

After 13 years of uncertainty over the future of Iraq since Operation Desert Shield began in 1990, the five 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron airmen said they are happy to be here. “We thought it would have been the end of the Iraq situation during Desert Storm,” Sergeant Bembry said. “We never thought we'd be back. Hopefully this time, this will be it.”

“I think there is a sense of urgency for Iraq and this whole operation in the eyes of the American public and for many of us,” Sergeant Sepeda said. “It has dragged on for 13 years. I think people are getting tired of this and want it to be over with.”

“We were all disappointed that we didn't get to finish the job back then,” Sergeant Wiedenbeck said, “but we understood the politics of the situation.

“I'm glad we are a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom,” he said, “especially being here when Saddam Hussein was captured. On Dec. 13, our alert A-10s launched shortly after our scheduled aircraft sorties. For security reasons, we are not able to verify the exact reasons for their mission or their location, but in our hearts we firmly believe our A-10s were overhead protecting our Army brethren during the capture of the Ace of Spades, Saddam Hussein. It's great to now be 150 miles north of Baghdad, since we couldn't finish the job 13 years ago. We're all glad we had a second opportunity. This is one last hurrah for the five of us. This situation is resolved here.”

Sergeant Timberman summed up the feelings for the group: “In three to four years, this will be the end of a generation, the end of an era,” he said. “We just hope the airmen of tomorrow can carry the baton. We hope to be able to watch television and hear of the good things coming out of the troops we're training now. That will be our biggest test.”


By LtCol Bob Thompson, USAF, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Balad AFB, Iraq (AFPN) 6/7/2006 — Patrolling the sky over Iraq for more than 2,250 hours in May, the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron here leads the largest unmanned aerial vehicle operation in the world with one of the Air Force’s smallest aircraft — the unmanned MQ-1 Predator.

Providing “real-time eyes-in-the-sky,” this squadron of about 20 aircraft is often the critical link between ground commanders and what is around the next corner in combat. “We’re the largest game in town and an integral part of just about every large joint operation in Iraq,” said Capt. Fred Atwater, 46th ERS commander.

Predators often work closely with ground forces. Flying more than 130 missions in May, they patrolled convoy routes, supported ground force raids and flew as aerial sentries to deter attacks on infrastructure and people. “We’re the most requested asset in theater,” Atwater said. “Our aircraft fly for 20 to 22 hours straight without refueling. We can provide a commander with full-motion video of the battlefield and an armed presence that stays overhead, on station, throughout his mission.”

Able to carry two Hellfire missiles, the Predators not only hunt insurgents throughout the country, they also defend the squadron’s home at Balad AB. By working closely with Army quick reaction forces, Captain Atwater’s unit patrols the base’s perimeter.

For the rest of the story, CLICK HERE [ ].


9/22/2006 - ARLINGTON, Va. (AFPN) — The Air Force Memorial's stainless steel spires were finished Sept. 21 with the placement of the top segment of the third spire, providing the first complete view of the memorial's design.

Located on a promontory overlooking Arlington Cemetery, and reaching a height of 270 feet, the memorial will transform the greater Washington, D.C., skyline and provide visitors with a commanding view of the nation's Capitol., according to retired Maj. Gen. Edward F. Grillo Jr., president of the Air Force Memorial Foundation.

“The reality has lived up to the dream that we've had for almost 15 years since we embarked on this project to develop the memorial,” said General Grillo. “As we remove the cranes and peel away the blue plastic covering to reveal the stainless steel in the next few weeks, the nation will finally be introduced to this lasting tribute to the men and women of the Air Force and its predecessor organizations.”

Designed by the late James Ingo Freed, an architect with Pei Cobb & Partners, the spires are evocative of the bomb-burst flying formation made famous by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

“We are expecting over 30,000 people to join with us to celebrate the official dedication of the memorial,” the general said. “As an Air Force veteran, I am incredibly excited about the planned events and wish to extend an invitation to all Americans to join us in Arlington Oct. 14.”

Click on model photo [ ].


Randolph AFB TX (AFPN), June 4, 2004 -
Under the new system, lodging officials can accept and confirm space-A lodging reservations up to 30 days in advance based on low projected occupancy rates.

The window for reservations decreases as the percentage of projected occupancy rises. For example, when a projected occupancy rate is 65 percent or less, space-A guests can make reservations up to 30-days in advance. At 80 percent, the reservation window is two weeks. It is seven days for 85 percent, and three days for 86 percent or greater.

Higher priority customers may not bump space-A customers with confirmed reservations. Neither can they be bumped once they are assigned lodging except during contingencies, emergencies or when the installation commander determines higher priorities exist.

Commanders may establish a policy limiting the number of days space-A guests may stay in on-base lodging to no more than 30-days per year. (Courtesy of Air Force Education and Training Command News Service)


Air Force Squadron Fights in Iraq
and Afghanistan from Nevada Base

By Sally B. Donnelly, TIME, 12-24-05
Forwarded by Charles Spicka, Col, USAF (Ret.)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE NV — Six days a week, Shannon Rogers kisses his wife and two young kids goodbye and wheels his battered 1989 Chevy Cavalier out of the driveway of his suburban Nevada home. The houses here are cookie cutter, done in beige stucco.

Like most of the other dads and some moms in this traditional middle-class community, Rogers heads down Interstate 215, toward his job near Las Vegas, using the 30-minute drive to make the mental transition from family man to workplace professional. But Rogers will end up in a place far different from that of his fellow commuters: when he arrives at work, he will be at war in Iraq.

Rogers, an Air Force major and experienced fighter pilot, is part of an elite group of U.S. troops playing a crucial role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the U.S.'s most notorious playground. From Nellis Air Force Base, outside Las Vegas, Rogers controls a Predator, a flimsy drone that has been transformed from a spy plane into one of the wars' most lethal weapons. Predators played a key part in catching Saddam Hussein and have killed al-Qaeda suspects in Pakistan and Yemen. In September a Predator tracked 11 insurgents who had attacked a U.S. base in Iraq, then killed them as they fled.

What makes the Predator mission and Rogers' job so unusual is the 7,000 miles between pilot and plane. Basing the crew members at home rather than at the front keeps them out of harm's way and saves the military money. Still, “for us, it's combat,” says Rogers, 34, who has been deployed to battle zones twice, most, we're flying over Iraq. It feels real.”

Certainly the decisions they face are life and death, as TIME observed when it was recently granted exclusive access to operations of the Air Force's 15th Reconnaissance Squadron, which commands 25 Predators from Nellis. It was 10:30 p.m. in Nevada, 9:30 a.m. in Iraq, and after two hours of watching insurgents fire a pickup-truck-mounted 50-caliber machine gun at U.S. troops in western Iraq, Rogers and the sensor operator with whom he works were given the command to shoot the truck.

Both developed a case of what Rogers calls the “trembles” - the nervousness of wanting to kill the enemy but injure no one else, combined with the enormity of taking human lives. Just as Rogers pushed the button to let fly one of the Predator's Hellfire missiles, a car appeared and started to drive toward the pickup. His partner's job is to keep the missile locked on target or, if necessary, divert it to a place where it would cause as little damage as possible. “What do we do, sir?” the partner asked in a shaky voice. “Stay on the target and hope he drives fast,” said Rogers coolly. The car passed, and the truck exploded violently when the Hellfire struck. Rogers let out a whoop and exchanged high fives with his partner.

The Predator is an unlikely star. In military terms, it is an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV. It was first flown a decade ago and for years was armed with only an unsophisticated camera for intelligence gathering. After the fall of 2000, when Osama bin Laden was spotted in Afghanistan by an unarmed Predator, the U.S. government sped up a program to fit each aircraft with two Hellfire missiles. Awesome sounding but benign looking, the 27-ft.-long Predator is painted a dull gray and shaped like an upside-down spoon with wings. The drone is made of lightweight composite plastic and metal and has a tiny, propeller-driven engine - adapted from a snowmobile's - with a decidedly unimpressive top speed of only 150 m.p.h. Rogers' previous craft, the supersonic F-15 jet fighter, can fly up to 900 m.p.h.

The Predators commanded by the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron are launched and landed by troops at the front, but while they are in the air, up to 24 hours straight every day, they are controlled by Air Force crews sitting in six grounded cockpits at Nellis. Each cockpit consists of two large armchairs set in front of banks of computer screens with keyboards, control joysticks and live video images. Video is relayed from a camera mounted on the bottom of the Predator not only to Nellis but also to troops on the ground, commanders in the region and the Pentagon.

The crew consists of a pilot who flies the plane and launches missiles and a sensor operator who controls the camera and the laser targeting device for the two Hellfires. The crew members communicate with troops and commanders in the war zone through secure instant-messaging systems as well as radio transmissions routed through a mission controller who sits in a command center at Nellis and issues
orders to the crew.

The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have proved the worth of unmanned aircraft - which are cheaper and, because there is no pilot to be shot down, politically more palatable than traditional airplanes. The thousand-plus UAVs in the military's arsenal range from tiny craft that can fit in a soldier's palm to ones the size of business jets. Military analysts are predicting that within two decades, UAVs may even take over the jobs of pilots flying fighter jets. It makes economic sense; the $4 million Predator is a bargain compared with the Air Force's newest fighter, the $354 million F-22.

The effectiveness of the Predator in war zones, however, has translated into stresses in an unlikely place: back home. The operational tempo puts intense pressure on the small group of men and women who deliver death from a distance. The 180-person Nellis unit runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no holidays. The unit has logged more flight hours than any other squadron in the Air Force, yet is only 65% staffed.

Crew members are so tightly scheduled that when on duty, they have to ask permission to go to the bathroom and cannot leave their chairs unless there is someone to replace them. The troops call the Predator compound Shawshank because it reminds them of a prison.

The schedule demands that the men and women change shifts - days, evenings and overnights - every three weeks, which makes fitting into normal civilian life off base nearly impossible. Morale, say many crew members, is suffering. Crew members are experiencing more problems in their personal lives, including separation and divorce.

One may expect that being home would be a plus for the troops, but actually it's often a complication. Soldiers in the field have to cope with danger, but at least they live in one world, whereas their counterparts at Nellis commute daily from war to civilian life. “How many people can say they went to work today and killed or captured a few terrorists?” says Lieut. Colonel John Harris, commander of the 15th.

“Our people are proud they contribute to the war from home. But being at home brings some additional stresses. We're very close to a crisis.”

Rogers says he feels pulled in two directions, between spending more time helping with the war effort and being an integral part of his family. He rushes home after his day shift to jump in the pool with his kids. “At least I get to sleep in my own bed,” says Rogers. But he says being deployed in Iraq was easier because he was isolated from the daily errands and the emotional demands of family life.

His wife Laura feels differently about his being home. “It takes the edge off being a pilot's wife,” she says, “that at least I know I won't be getting that phone call in the middle of the night telling me my husband has been shot down.”


By Senior Airman Shaun Emery
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq - 6/28/2005 - (AFPN) —Carried into the Air Force theater hospital, wounded badly in the shoulder and thigh, a service member is lucky to be alive. The body armor he was wearing protected his vital organs but could not stop the bullets from tearing into his unprotected body parts.

It was not all just luck, though.

The Department of Defense stepped up to the plate during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and issued “Level 4” body armor with front and back plates. The only drawback, if there is one, is the vest weighs about 37 pounds.

In an attempt to reduce the weight but increase protection from injuries for their fellow servicemembers, Tech. Sgt. Gerald Lowry, 332nd Expeditionary Communications Squadron network administrator, and 1st Lt. Todd Turner of the Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, have teamed up to fit-test a new form of body armor while Sergeant Lowry is deployed here.

Just before he deployed, Sergeant Lowry said he noticed an article in the Wright-Patterson newspaper about new advanced body armor. Knowing that body armor was required for his deployment, Sergeant Lowry called Lieutenant Turner to see if he could do a fit-test.

“I’ve been deployed four times in my 12-year Air Force career,” Sergeant Lowry said. “I know how important safety is, and wearing this stuff makes me feel much safer.”

The new armor, which is still being tested by the Air Force, is lighter and includes bicep, leg and rib protectors. The standard ceramic plate will stop a bullet once, but the impact shatters it, Lieutenant Turner said. In contrast, the new plates would be still intact after six bullet strikes.

“This is something we’ve become more interested in because the Air Force is taking on more of the convoy escort missions,” he said. “In Iraq, convoying is a combat operation.”

While Sergeant Lowry said he does not travel on many convoys, recent insurgent actions have re-emphasized the importance of personal protective equipment.

“Our enemy is relentless,” Sergeant Lowry said. “Anything we can do to make our people safer is worth trying out.”

Sergeant Lowry frequently sends back his opinions to Lieutenant Turner. There are still some issues to work out, but for the most part “there have been more pros than cons,” he said.

No matter what the first test results say about the armor, Lieutenant Turner said he will be ready to make whatever improvements are necessary.

“The idea is to deliver the best product to the men and women who are taking bullets — they’re the ones who truly matter,” he said.


By Staff Sgt. Lindsey Maurice, 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE (AETCNS) Feb 22 06 - He stood silent, captivated by the hundreds of images on the wall before him. The memories of one of the most pivotal times in his life and American military history surfaced with every square foot.

The sepia images of pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance crews and support personnel are displayed on the mural that runs the length of the hallway at the 99th Flying Training Squadron. It tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a name hundreds of African-American men and women proudly carry.

One of these men is San Antonio native John Miles. Now 83 years old, Mr. Miles remembers when he was in his 20s as if it were yesterday. He had his whole life ahead of him when he left home for the aircraft mechanic journeyman rating school near Tuskegee, Ala., shortly after graduating high school.

“I had other interests at that time like playing sports,” Mr. Miles said. He had several sports-related college scholarships. But he had another calling. “As soon as I heard about Tuskegee I knew it was what I wanted to do,” he said. “I really wanted to learn a trade and work with my hands. It sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I jumped on the chance.”

The Tuskegee training base was relatively new when he arrived there. Before 1940, African-Americans were not allowed to fly in the U.S. military. After much deliberation, the Army Air Corps launched the “Tuskegee Experiment” in 1940, designed to test the ability of African-Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft.

The Army Air Corps selected Tuskegee Institute as its hub because of its dedication to aeronautical training. It had the amenities, engineering and technical instructors and the right climate for year-round flying. It was the perfect place to become the center for African-American aviation. But the institute was by no means easy for those willing to try.

“Tuskegee was hard work,” Mr. Miles said. “We trained hard and we worked hard. But we knew what we were doing meant something. We were paving the way for future generations.”

Having to deal with racist people at that time added to the already stressful days. “We dealt with protestors outside the base every day, There were a lot of angry people who were against Tuskegee. They didn’t accept us and they made it clear every day. But we went on with life just the same. In the end we had the last say.”

Miles spent several years training and working at Tuskegee as an aircraft mechanic before taking a civil service job at Kelly Field in 1945. He said he was excited to return to San Antonio, but he would never forget his time spent at Tuskegee. “I have so many memories,” he said. “I remember seeing (the 99th Pursuit Squadron) deploy to Italy for the war. I remember the birth of my son. I remember all the great people I met there. It is definitely a time I’ll never forget.”

Working as an aircraft mechanic at Kelly for 26 years and retiring with 30 years of civil service, he had serviced everything from the P-51 Mustang to the C-5A Galaxy. Aside from his role in the integration of African-Americans into military aviation, Mr. Miles also helped with integration into America’s favorite pastime — baseball.

While he had always had a passion for the sport, he didn’t really start playing until he came to Kelly. While he was playing for the base team, the Kelly Field Brown Bombers, a Negro Baseball League scout saw him. He was immediately signed to the Chicago American Giants, earning $300 a month plus per diem. “Here they wanted to pay me to do something I love,” he said. “You can’t beat that.”

Since he was still working at Kelly at the time, he received special permission and used his personal time during the next four summers traveling and playing games seven days a week and twice on Sundays. “It was definitely hard work. We traveled all over the U.S. living out of a bus. But it was worth it just to be able to play,” he reminisced.

Miles hit 27 home runs in 1948, his second year in the league, to be among the league’s top hitters. The next year he led the Chicago American Giants to the second half Negro American League title. He also played with many baseball greats including Jackie Robinson, who went on to become the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball.

In 1951, he ended his professional baseball career in the minors playing with the Laredo Apaches of the Gulf Coast League - the only black player on the team. “It was difficult sometimes being the only black man,” he remembered. “I couldn’t stay in the same hotels or eat in restaurants with them, but I knew I was just as good a player as any other and I loved being on that field.” He went on to coach and manage local baseball and basketball teams over the next eight years.

He completed a law enforcement course at San Antonio Junior College and became a commissioned officer. He also became an international, free-lance photographer in 1991.

With so many life experiences behind him, Mr. Miles now spends his days educating today’s youth about the importance of working hard and following dreams. “The main thing I try and stress are three A’s — Attitude… Attend… and Apply,” he said. “If children can do that, they can do anything they set their mind to.”

Mr. Miles is the widower of Bernice Miles, father of six children and grandfather of 28. His children are all college graduates.


I was unable to verify the original source of this forwarded story or the identity of the narrator reporting his flight in a U-2… but if you are, ever have been or ever wanted to be a pilot, you will thoroughly enjoy his report and will appreciate his wonderment that this particular flight is…



Maj. Dean Neeley is in the forward, lower cockpit of the Lockheed U-2ST, a two-place version of the U-2S, a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft that the Air Force calls “Dragon Lady.” His voice on the intercom breaks the silence.

“Do you know that you're the highest person in the world?”

He explains that I am in the higher of the two cockpits and that there are no other U-2s airborne right now. “Astronauts don't count,” he says, “They're out of this world.” We are above 70,000 feet and still climbing slowly as the aircraft becomes lighter. The throttle has been at its mechanical limit since takeoff, and the single General Electric F118-GE-101 turbofan engine sips fuel so slowly at this altitude that consumption is less than when idling on the ground. Although true airspeed is that of a typical jetliner, indicated airspeed registers only in double digits.

I cannot detect the curvature of the Earth, although some U-2 pilot claim that they can. The sky at the horizon is hazy white but transitions to midnight blue at our zenith. It seems that if we were much higher, the sky would become black enough to see stars at noon.. The Sierra Nevada, the mountainous spine of California, has lost its glory, a mere corrugation on the Earth. Lake Tahoe looks like a fishing hole, and rivers have become rivulets. Far below, “high flying” jetliners etch contrails over Reno, Nevada, but we are so high above these aircraft that they cannot be seen.

I feel mild concern about the bailout light on the instrument panel and pray that Neeley does not have reason to turn it on. At this altitude I also feel a sense of insignificance and isolation earthly concerns seem trivial. This flight is an epiphany, a life-altering experience.

I cannot detect air noise through the helmet of my pressure suit. I hear only my own breathing, the hum of avionics through my headset and, inexplicably, an occasional, shallow moan from the engine, as if it were gasping for air. Atmospheric pressure is only an inch of mercury, less than 4 percent of sea-level pressure. Air density and engine power are similarly low. The stratospheric wind is predictably light, from the southwest at 5 kt, and the outside air temperature is minus 61 degrees Celsius.

Neeley says that he has never experienced weather that could not be topped in a U-2, and I am reminded of the classic transmission made by John Glenn during Earth orbit in a Mercury space capsule: “Another thousand feet, and we'll be on top.”

Although not required, we remain in contact with Oakland Center while in the Class E airspace that begins at Flight Level 600. The U-2's Mode C transponder, however, can indicate no higher than FL 600. When other U-2s are in the area, pilots report their altitudes, and ATC keeps them separated by 5,000 feet and 10 miles.

Our high-flying living quarters are pressurized to 29,500 feet, but 100-percent oxygen supplied only to our faces lowers our physiological altitude to about 8,000 feet. A pressurization-system failure would cause our suits to instantly inflate to maintain a pressure altitude of 35,000 feet, and the flow of pure oxygen would provide a physiological altitude of 10,000 feet.

The forward and aft cockpits are configured almost identically. A significant difference is the down-looking periscope/drift meter in the center of the forward instrument panel. It is used to precisely track over specific ground points during reconnaissance, something that otherwise would be impossible from high altitude. The forward cockpit also is equipped with a small side-view mirror extending into the air stream. It is used to determine if the U-2 is generating a telltale contrail when over hostile territory.

Considering its 103-foot wingspan and resultant roll dampening, the U-2 maneuvers surprisingly well at altitude; the controls are light and nicely harmonized. Control wheels (not sticks) are used, however, perhaps because aileron forces are heavy at low altitude. A yaw string (like those used on sailplanes) above each canopy silently admonishes those who allow the aircraft to slip or skid when maneuvering. The U-2 is very much a stick-and-rudder airplane, and I discover that slipping can be avoided by leading turn entry and recovery with slight rudder pressure.

When approaching its service ceiling, the U-2's maximum speed is little more than its minimum. This marginal difference between the onset of stall buffet and Mach buffet is known as coffin corner, an area warranting caution. A stall/spin sequence can cause control loss from which recovery might not be possible when so high, and an excessive Mach number can compromise structural integrity. Thankfully, an autopilot with Mach hold is provided.

The U-2 has a fuel capacity of 2,915 gallons of thermally stable jet fuel distributed among four wing tanks. It is unusual to discuss turbine fuel in gallons instead of pounds, but the 1950s-style fuel gauges in the U-2 indicate in gallons. Most of the other flight instruments seem equally antiquated.


Preparation for my high flight began the day before at Beale Air Force Base (a.k.a. The Ranch), which is north of Sacramento, California, and where German prisoners of war were interned during World War II. It is home to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, which is responsible for worldwide U-2 operations, including those aircraft based in Cyprus; Italy; Saudi Arabia; and South Korea.

After passing a physical exam (whew!), I took a short, intensive course in high-altitude physiology and use of the pressure suit. The 27-pound Model S1034 “pilot's protective assembly” is manufactured by David Clark (the headset people) and is the same as the one used by astronauts during shuttle launch and reentry.

After being measured for my $150,000 spacesuit, I spent an hour in the egress trainer. It provided no comfort to learn that pulling up mightily on the handle between my legs would activate the ejection seat at any altitude or airspeed. When the handle is pulled, the control wheels go fully forward, explosives dispose of the canopy, cables attached to spurs on your boots pull your feet aft, and you are rocketed into space. You could then free fall in your inflated pressure suit for 54,000 feet or more. I was told that “the parachute opens automatically at 16,500 feet, or you get a refund.”

I later donned a harness and virtual-reality goggles to practice steering a parachute to landing. After lunch, a crew assisted me into a pressure suit in preparation for my visit to the altitude chamber. There I became reacquainted with the effects of hypoxia and was subjected to a sudden decompression that elevated the chamber to 73,000 feet. The pressure suit inflated as advertised and just as suddenly I became the Michelin man. I was told that it is possible to fly the U-2 while puffed up but that it is difficult.

A beaker of water in the chamber boiled furiously to demonstrate what would happen to my blood if I were exposed without protection to ambient pressure above 63,000 feet.

After a thorough preflight briefing the next morning, Neeley and I put on long johns and UCDs (urinary collection devices), were assisted into our pressure suits, performed a leak check (both kinds), and settled into a pair of reclining lounge chairs for an hour of breathing pure oxygen. This displaces nitrogen in the blood to prevent decompression sickness (the bends) that could occur during ascent.

During this “pre-breathing,” I felt as though I were in a Ziploc bag-style cocoon and anticipated the possibility of claustrophobia. There was none, and I soon became comfortably acclimatized to my confinement.

We were in the aircraft an hour later. Preflight checks completed and engine started, we taxied to Beale's 12,000-foot-long runway. The single main landing gear is not steerable, differential braking is unavailable, and the dual tail wheels move only 6 degrees in each direction, so it takes a lot of concrete to maneuver on the ground. Turn radius is 189 feet, and I had to lead with full rudder in anticipation of all turns.

We taxied into position and came to a halt so that personnel could remove the safety pins from the outrigger wheels (called pogos) that prevent one wing tip or the other from scraping the ground. Lt. Col. Greg “Spanky” Barber, another U-2 pilot, circled the aircraft in a mobile command vehicle to give the aircraft a final exterior check.

I knew that the U-2 is overpowered at sea level. It has to be for its engine, normally aspirated like every other turbine engine, to have enough power remaining to climb above 70,000 feet. Also, we weighed only 24,000 pounds (maximum allowable is 41,000 pounds) and were departing into a brisk headwind. Such knowledge did not prepare me for what followed.

The throttle was fully advanced and would remain that way until the beginning of descent. The 17,000 pounds of thrust made it feel as though I had been shot from a cannon. Within two to three seconds and 400 feet of takeoff roll, the wings flexed, the pogos fell away, and we entered a nose-up attitude of almost 45 degrees at a best-angle-of-climb airspeed of 100 kt. Initial climb rate was 9,000 fpm.

We were still over the runway and through 10,000 feet less than 90 seconds from brake release. One need not worry about a flameout after takeoff in a U-2. There either is enough runway to land straight ahead or enough altitude (only 1,000 feet is needed) to circle the airport for a dead-stick approach and landing.

The bicycle landing gear creates little drag and has no limiting airspeed, so there was no rush to tuck away the wheels. (The landing gear is not retracted at all when in the traffic pattern shooting touch and goes.)

We passed through 30,000 feet five minutes after liftoff and climb rate steadily decreased until above 70,000 feet, when further climb occurred only as the result of fuel burn.


Dragon Lady is still drifting toward the upper limits of the atmosphere at 100 to 200 fpm and will continue to do so until it is time to descend. It spends little of its life at a given altitude.

Descent begins by retarding the throttle to idle and lowering the landing gear. We raise the spoilers, deploy the speed brakes (one on each side of the aft fuselage), and engage the gust alleviation system. This raises both ailerons 7.5 degrees above their normal neutral point and deflects the wing flaps 6.5 degrees upward. This helps to unload the wings and protect the airframe during possible turbulence in the lower atmosphere.

Gust protection is needed because the Dragon Lady is like a China doll; she cannot withstand heavy gust and maneuvering loads. Strength would have required a heavier structure, and the U-2's designer, Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, shaved as much weight as possible-which is why there are only two landing gear legs instead of three. Every pound saved resulted in a 10-foot increase in ceiling.

With everything possible hanging and extended, the U-2 shows little desire to go down. It will take 40 minutes to descend to traffic pattern altitude but we needed only half that time climbing to altitude. During this normal descent, the U-2 covers 37 nm for each 10,000 of altitude lost. When clean and at the best glide speed of 109 kt, it has a glide ratio of 28:1. It is difficult to imagine ever being beyond glide range of a suitable airport except when over large bodies of water or hostile territory. Because there is only one fuel quantity gauge, and it shows only the total remaining, it is difficult to know whether fuel is distributed evenly, which is important when landing a U-2. A low-altitude stall is performed to determine which is the heavier wing, and some fuel is then transferred from it to the other.

We are on final approach with flaps at 35 degrees (maximum is 50 degrees) in a slightly nose-down attitude. The U-2 is flown with a heavy hand when slow, while being careful not to over control. Speed over the threshold is only 1.1 VSO (75 kt), very close to stall. More speed would result in excessive floating.

I peripherally see Barber accelerating the 140-mph, stock Chevrolet Camaro along the runway as he joins in tight formation with our landing aircraft. I hear him on the radio calling out our height (standard practice for all U-2 landings). The U-2 must be close to normal touchdown attitude at a height of one foot before the control wheel is brought firmly aft to stall the wings and plant the tail wheels on the concrete. The feet remain active on the pedals, during which time it is necessary to work diligently to keep the wings level. A roll spoiler on each wing lends a helping hand when its respective aileron is raised more than 13 degrees.

The aircraft comes to rest, a wing tip falls to the ground, and crewmen appear to reattach the pogos for taxiing.

Landing a U-2 is notoriously challenging, especially for those who have never flown tail draggers or sailplanes. It can be like dancing with a lady or wrestling a dragon, depending on wind and runway conditions. Maximum allowable crosswind is 15 kt.

The U-2 was first flown by Tony Levier in August 1955, at Groom Lake (Area 51), Nevada. The aircraft was then known as Article 341, an attempt by the Central Intelligence Agency to disguise the secret nature of its project. Current U-2s are 40 percent larger and much more powerful than the one in which Francis Gary Powers was downed by a missile over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960.

The Soviets referred to the U-2 as the “Black Lady of Espionage” because of its spy missions and mystique. The age of its design, however, belies the sophistication of the sensing technology carried within. During U.S. involvement in Kosovo, for example, U-2s gathered and forwarded data via satellite to Intelligence at Beale AFB for instant analysis. The results were sent via satellite to battle commanders, who decided whether attack aircraft should be sent to the target. In one case, U-2 sensors detected enemy aircraft parked on a dirt road and camouflaged by thick, overhanging trees. Only a few minutes elapsed between detection and destruction. No other nation has this capability.

The U-2 long ago outlived predictions of its demise. It also survived its heir apparent, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. The fleet of 37 aircraft is budgeted to operate for another 20 years, but this could be affected by the evolution and effectiveness of unmanned aircraft.

After returning to Earth (physically and emotionally), I am escorted to the Heritage Room where 20 U-2 pilots join to share in the spirited celebration of my high flight. Many of them are involved in general aviation and some have their own aircraft.

The walls of this watering hole are replete with fascinating memorabilia about U-2 operations and history. Several plaques proudly list all who have ever soloed Dragon Lady. This group of 670 forms an elite and unusually close-knit cadre of dedicated airmen.


8/3/2006 - DAYTON, Ohio (AFPN) — The National Museum of the United States Air Force is getting a new look online.

The museum's new site features easy-to-navigate links to nearly 4,000 pages of museum news, exhibits, research information and more. In addition, more than 4,000 photographs will be available to download.

The new Web site was launched as part of the Air Force Public Web Program, a network of Air Force Web sites accessible by the general public via the Internet. The program standardizes how the Air Force publishes its Web content.

Check it out HERE [ ].

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on Springfield Pike, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. It closes on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission and parking are free.


By Tech. Sgt. Chris Vadnais, Air Force Print News

WAKE ISLAND (AFPN) — A 53-person team of 15th Airlift Wing Airmen, Defense Department employees and contractors arrived here Sept. 12 on a C-17 Globemaster III from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.

The team of civil engineers and communications experts came to assess damage caused by Super Typhoon Ioke and report the findings to Gen. Paul V. Hester, Pacific Air Forces commander.

“Our job is to figure out the price tag on the damage,” said Maj. Ron Pieri, 15th Civil Engineer Squadron operations officer. “We know that's going to take some time. What we don't know for sure is how much time.”

Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Yereance, one of the civil engineer team leaders, said it will be tough to tell how long the assessment will take. All his teams have seen so far is satellite imagery and notes from 36th Contingency Response Group at Andersen AFB, Guam, which arrived at Wake Island earlier this month.

“It could be anywhere from a week or 10 days to a month, possibly, just depending on how much damage is done to the facilities,” he said.

Ioke hit the atoll Aug. 31 with 155 mph winds and gusts to 190 mph. By then, Air Force officials already had used two C-17s from Hickam to evacuate all 188 of the island's residents.

For several of those residents, Sept. 12 marked a return home. After two weeks away, with only satellite photos of damage to go on, anxiety was high. “We're anxious to get back and take a look at things and see the damage or problems that we might have that we can't see from the photos,” said Jimmie Taylor, who has lived on Wake Island for a year and a half. “We just don't know how much damage there really is.”

Responses to natural disasters like this are exactly the kinds of missions U.S. Pacific Command and Pacific Air Forces officials had in mind for Hickam's C-17 fleet. The C-130 Hercules they replaced would take nearly twice as long to fly to the island and carried far less cargo. Airlift support from outside PACAF likely would take days to coordinate.

Wake Island serves as a scientific outpost and a midpoint air base for military aircraft flying across the Pacific Ocean.


By Senior Airman Tim Beckham, Public Affairs, 116th Control Wing

Robins AFB, GA 4/21/04 - Aircraft maintenance is about to change because of new tools maintainers will have at their disposal. Workers in a special test program here are beginning to integrate a new wearable computer that can be used across the maintenance spectrum.

Small personal computers, worn either on the chest or hip, are possible replacements for the typical printed manuals. “These integrated electronic technical manuals provide a wealth of information needed for technicians to perform their duties,” said TGSgt Matt Jones, the electronic manual project manager.

“Having these tools at the maintainers' fingertips is actually a virtual office on the flight line,” said Col. Terry Kinney, 116th MXG commander. “It will have much of the same desktop software that we currently use, like e-mail capabilities and the capabilities to identify, order, ship and pay for parts directly from the flight line.”

The computers have an electronic copy of technical orders (TOs) maintainers use to perform their jobs. They will also be able to send video of damages back to the shop and aircraft engineers through a wireless network. “It provides a safer more unencumbered work environment to have the TO at immediate disposal,” Kinney said.

Officials are also looking at another possible test program that will incorporate using a unique-identification system that could be a benchmark for controlling parts inventory - a DOD mandated program scheduled to become effective by 2005.

“Together they have the potential to change business on the flight line,” Colonel Kinney said. “The capability to repair, order, ship and pay for parts on the ramp will significantly reduce the amount of time it currently takes to do the same business. A great spin off is it will reduce the need for human intervention and potential administrative errors.”

The identification system is a Department of Defense-mandated program that goes into effect in 2005. Michael Wynne, acting undersecretary of defense, said, “Our vision for (the system) is to facilitate item tracking in DOD business systems and to provide reliable and accurate data for program management and accountability purposes in our engineering, acquisition, financial, property, plant and equipment accountability.


By Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein, Air Force Print News

WASHINGTON (AFPN) — Reunited in a hotel ballroom just outside Washington, D.C., a small group of former Army Air Corps members were presented with long-overdue medals in a ceremony Sept. 9, 2006.

Gen. Ronald E. Keys, Air Combat Command commander, presented Francis Goldberg, John Bucko, John McCurdy and Eugene Peterson with Bronze Star medals they had been authorized to wear for more than 62 years but were never given to them. Kay Nehring also received a Bronze Star on behalf of her father, Charles Nehring.

“It gives me great pleasure to be here today, because this is important business to take care of,” General Keys said before the presentation. “This represents a lot for the warriors of today are standing on your shoulders, the shoulders of giants.”

The men, who traveled from across the country to attend, served in the 39th Troop Carrier Squadron. They were just a few names from a long list of Airmen from the 317th Troop Carrier Group named on the orders authorizing the medal for actions made Jan. 30 through Feb. 1, 1943, while stationed in the Pacific theater. They were responsible for delivering paratroopers into combat, and had often come under fire.

It was a case of a missing “z” that led to the evening's ceremony, said Mr. Bucko, who spelled his name as Buczko during the war.

“I had written some articles in the past, and one of my readers was a guy who researches military records,” he said. “During one of his researches, he noticed that during the war, I spelled my name differently and he wanted to know why I dropped the 'z' later on. I didn't know who this guy was, calling me up and asking about it, but then he also asked if I had a Bronze Star, and I answered that I didn't. Then he told me he had papers that said I was owed one.”

From there, the story ended up in the hands of Ann Rothrock, a history buff who joined the 39th Troop Carrier Association with her husband to learn more about World War II. The association reunites members of the 39th TCS annually.

“It was really an amazing story,” she said. “Once we were sure the orders were authentic, I started looking up the names and trying to find them and make this right.”

With use of the Internet, she tracked down members across the nation. A number of men had already passed away. Some couldn't be found. But she persisted.

“It was so nice to be able to call these men and tell them they were going to be awarded for their service after all these years,” she said. “You could hear the surprise and the humility in their voices.”

With the association's annual reunion quickly approaching, Mrs. Rothrock got in touch with the Langley Air Force Base, Va., office of General Keys, who took an immediate interest and agreed to present the medals in a ceremony.

Eugene Peterson, who brought members of his family to the event, said he enjoys being around his wartime buddies again.

“We weren't over there to receive any medals,” he said. “You don't remember the specific battles or things like that. You remember the fun times you had with them, the trouble you got into. We all just did our jobs over there the best we could, and just tried to get back to our families.”


0/08/02 – NAGS HEAD, N.C. (AFPN) – Pilots from the Navy, Army and Air Force help members from the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company in West Milton, Ohio, carry a replica of the Wright brothers' 1902 glider to a nearby sand dune here Oct. 7. Volunteers and spectators from all over the world attended this year's reenactment of the Wright brothers' flight. This year's event marked the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' historic flight when they perfected their control system. Photos by Tech. Sgt. Efrain Gonzalez.
Air Force Capt. Jim Alexander, an MC-130P Combat Shadow pilot from the 9th Special Operations Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is shown flying the replica.