Goodbye Mica, Thank You
By Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs / Published November 15, 2016
Tyndall Airmen provide a final salute to retired U.S. Air Force Military Working Dog, Mica T204, at the end of her final patrol Nov. 14, 2016 at Tyndall Air Force Base. Mica provided over 4,500 hours of counter-explosive operations and installation protection for more than 45 air assets and 7,000 military, civilian, and retired personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz/Released)
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - In the early morning hours, Tyndall Airmen paid final respects to one of their own as they prepared for one final patrol together.
Retired military working dog Mica was laid to rest Nov 14 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Mica was retired from service in February from the 325th Security Forces Squadron. She was assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base from Nov. 26, 2012 to Feb. 19, 2016.
According to Mica’s Air Force Commendation Medal, she distinguished herself in the performance of outstanding service to the United States as a patrol and explosive detector dog.
Mica provided over 4,500 hours of counter-explosive operations and installation protection for more than 45 air assets and 7,000 military, civilian and retired personnel. She served in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Enduring Freedom, and Inherent Resolve.
After returning from her last deployment Mica was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. She received round-the-clock care from her dog handlers after surgery.
“We all took turns taking care of her after one of her surgeries, just like you would an infant, feeding her and bathing her -- it was a rough two weeks,” said Tech. Sgt. Eric B. Hoffman, NCO in charge of the Military Working Dog section. “These dogs live their lives in literal service, so it’s important to us to show that respect when their time is done. She lasted a lot longer than anyone said she would and she had people around her who really cared for her a lot.”
Mica was adopted by Maj. Mari Metzler, 325th Aerospace Medical Squadron aerospace physiology flight commander.
“She was playing with a toy when I came to see her, I went into the kennel and sat down cross-legged. She put her paws up on my knees and just kind of stared at me and we just hit it off,” Metzler said. “I fell in love with her right there.”
On the first day Mica was released to Metzler, the pair immediately started to bond.
“We went straight to the beach the first day and just ran. Ever since then, I would take her out every day for runs on the beach. We did that for a solid seven months,” Metzler said.
Mica’s condition would eventually deteriorate and her retirement cut short.
“She is, and always will be, a military working dog, the final patrol was the perfect tribute to her because that’s always in her heart,” she said. “She’s real special, and I was so lucky. She was very beautiful, I’m just happy that she’s home.”
Mica’s former handler, Staff Sgt. Justin J. Paczesny, had this to say about her in an emotional social media post, “My baby girl, three and a half years together side by side. The cancer has taken its toll and she is being taken from this earth far before her time. Best four legged partner a man could ask for. MWD MICA T204 ‘Princess of Tyndall,’ I love you. All dogs go to heaven, especially a Guardian of the Night.”
Surrounded by familiar faces and family members, Mica and Metzler walked down a pathway lined with Airmen rendering the final salute.
Safeguarding the Airfield: CRG Defenders Provide Air Base Defense in Northern Iraq
By Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo, U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs / Published November 21, 2016
U.S. Air Force Capt. Scott Hlavin, 821st Contingency Response Group defense force commander, scans the horizon while assisting in a perimeter watch at Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, Nov. 17, 2016. The 821st CRG is highly-specialized in training and rapidly deploying personnel to quickly open airfields and establish, expand, sustain and coordinate air mobility operations in austere, bare-base conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)
QAYYARAH WEST AIRFIELD, Iraq -- Giulio Douhet's military concept states, "the only effective way to counter air power is to destroy its bases on the ground."
As such, air base defense serves as the core of Air Force security forces' doctrine. It's the foundation from which the career field planted its roots.
"The history books of security forces are riddled with examples of how air bases, when defended by the Army, weren't sufficient," said Capt. Scott Hlavin, 821st Contingency Response Group defense force commander. "Not because the Army personnel weren't trained or capable. They just weren't air minded. That's where the security forces defender comes into play."
Today, the Defenders assigned to the 821st CRG hold the pen in their hands to write the pages of history. They are on the front lines in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, providing air base defense for Qayyarah West Airfield in northern Iraq.
Situated just 30 miles south of Mosul, Qayyarah West Airfield is a strategic launching pad and frontline resupply depot. It is one of the northern-most hubs for coalition airpower in Iraq.
The contingent of Defenders here is responsible for the security and safeguarding of a five kilometer airfield.
“Our mission is threefold, it includes working with our joint partners [Army], our Iraqi brethren, and the one we take most personally, defending this air base to allow for unhindered air operations”, said Hlavin.
"An airfield is vulnerable," he said. "We have the world’s greatest Air Force. When we are in the air no one can touch us, but when we are on the ground we are just as vulnerable as the next guy. Our aircraft are too valuable and too important as strategic platforms in the fight against [ISIL] or whoever the enemy may be. It's our mission to ensure our air base is ready to go."
Since the 821st CRG's arrival in mid-October, security forces personnel have secured an additional kilometer perimeter around the airfield; hardening defenses and enabling security resources to be freed up for supplementary operations.
"This is definitely something you read about in history books and never think you will be part of it," Hlavin said. "A lot of times we are behind the front lines. But here at Qayyarah West, our core principles of integrated air base defense are alive and well."
The 821st CRG is highly-specialized in training and rapidly deploying personnel to quickly open airfields and establish, expand, sustain and coordinate air mobility operations in austere, bare-base conditions.
"Our forces set the stage for that gap between the Army seizing an airfield and our follow-on forces setting up an even more in-depth posture to protect our assets on the ground," said Hlavin. "In order to achieve that end state, you have to maximize your efforts, your firepower, your weapon systems and you have to have the right people."
Hlavin added that while his Defenders are young, they have grown during their time at Qayyarah West.
Senior Airman Jonathan Sorber, 821st CRG first in security team member, is on his first deployment and is one of those Airmen. His duties situate him on the edge of the fight against ISIL. In full kit and armed with a M240 Bravo, he scans out across the unimpeded terrain surrounding the air base. He is the first line of defense for the sprawling airfield.
"My mission here is to support the opening of the air base and provide elite airfield security," said Sorber. "We work every day, providing security on the frontlines. Ultimately, we are the ones between the bad guys and our guys, and at the end of the day when everyone makes it home safe, we know we did our jobs."
Defenders bear the responsibility for the safekeeping of their fellow Airmen. They are the "sheep dogs." The hours are unforgiving and the shifts often isolating, but their mission remains essential to the overarching objective of projecting superior airpower within the region.
"It’s not easy joining up to go to war," Hlavin said. "You find yourself thrust in your first deployment here in the middle of Iraq. It’s not easy. But seeing the troops actually grow and learn, watching them grow out here in the real deal is humbling; coming back with smiles on their faces knowing they kept the base safe on their shift."
In addition to air base defense, an essential function of the 821st CRG Defenders' role at Qayyarah West remains increasing interoperability with their Iraqi counterparts.
"Our end goal is to start furthering our training with our Iraqi partners," Hlavin said. "We want to get them up in the towers, out on the berm and running their own security. We want to ensure that when we hand this base off to them they have the power projection capability to defeat future threats"
Although the language barrier remains an obstacle, Hlavin said relationships continue to develop.
"You see that they aren't much different than we are," he said. "Many of them are young, have families and are fighting for the future of their country.
"It's exciting to watch and see what the future of Iraq is. We have a lot of friends who started this over a decade ago feeling as though their sacrifices were for nothing. Today, we are here watching them have their airplanes flying and fighting a common enemy. It’s a humbling experience to be a part of."
Air Force wants about 1,900 airmen to retrain into undermanned jobs
By: Stephen Losey, November 13, 2016, Air Force Times, (Photo Credit: TSgt Chuck Walker/Air Force)
The Air Force hopes to have about 1,917 enlisted airmen retrain into 95 undermanned career fields, according to a Nov. 10 list obtained by Air Force Times.
The fiscal 2017 Non-Commissioned Officer Retraining Program, or NCORP, also needs airmen to retrain out of 292 enlisted positions in 20 overmanned Air Force specialty codes.
That is higher than the 1,801 retraining-in slots in 59 undermanned career fields that were at one point on the list for the 2016 NCORP, but less than the 491 retraining-out slots in 13 overmanned career fields.
The Air Force Personnel Center declined to provide the list directly to Air Force Times, and said the numbers change on a daily basis.
But even if the numbers change, the list that was current on Nov. 10 provides a glimpse at where the Air Force sees its undermanning problems.
"We continue to grow the force and are maximizing our accessions," said Brig. Gen. Brian Kelly, director of military force management policy, in a Nov. 2 release announcing the retraining window. "As a result, training seats are at a premium and most AFSCs are at or near max capacity. Correspondingly, our retraining opportunities are limited and focus on balancing the inventory between AFSCs where our inventory is healthier and those where manning is lower in both the first-term airman and NCO retraining areas."
The most retraining opportunities will be for first-term airmen seeking to enter the security forces career field — 145 slots to enter the 3P011A dog handler field and 82 slots to become 3P011B combat arms security forces, for 227 slots total.
And some of the jobs with large numbers of retraining slots could help the Air Force address its maintenance shortfall. For example, the 3S211 education and training AFSC — which has 167 retraining-in slots for first-term airmen and 33 staff sergeant slots, a total of 200 — is responsible for developing maintenance, operations and support training programs.
And airmen in the 1A111 flight engineer AFSC, which has 70 retraining-in slots in all, performs visual inspections and in-flight duties for aircraft, as well as non-scheduled aircraft maintenance.
The NCORP list also has 157 retraining opportunities to become 1B411 cyberspace defense operations airmen, 100 for 1A911 special missions aviation airmen, and 150 for aerospace medical service airmen, which includes 59 for 4N051C independent duty medical technicians and 91 for 4N051F flight and operational medicine technicians.
The list also includes 81 slots for airmen to retrain as 5J011 paralegals.
The bulk of the retraining-in slots, 1,286, are for first-term airmen. The list also includes 510 slots for staff sergeants, 100 for technical sergeants and 21 for master sergeants.
Most of the airmen the Air Force needs to retrain out of overmanned career fields are staff sergeants, with 157 retraining positions identified. Another 115 tech sergeants and 20 master sergeants will have to retrain out of their current jobs.
Vehicle and vehicular equipment maintenance airmen, 2T311, are most overmanned, with 52 billets out of which airmen will need to retrain. The 4N011 aerospace medical service career field which is the most junior skill level in the job — has 44 retrain-out slots. And 3E311 structural airmen and 1N111A geospatial intelligence analysts have 32 and 30 retrain-out slots, respectively.
"Those AFSCs identified as eligible for retraining-out represent areas where the current inventory of airmen, based on skill and grade, is healthy enough to take some risk," AFPC said in the Nov. 2 release. "Those AFSCs identified as eligible for retraining-in currently have lower inventories where current risk can be reduced by adding additional airmen."
AFPC said the Air Force this year launched a program called the Air Force Work Interest Navigator, or AF-WIN, to help NCOs find career fields they might be interested in retraining into. The program has airmen answer questions on their interests, skills and work histories, creates a list of jobs that could suit them, and compares their interests to entry-level AFSCs.
But in the release, Master Sgt. Kristie Reece, the superintendent for AFPC's enlisted skills management branch, said airmen should still talk to their retraining adviser, because the AF-WIN program doesn't recognize if an airman is eligible for a particular career field, or if it has any openings.
Airmen who are interested in applying for retraining must be on at least their second enlistment, be a staff sergeant or staff sergeant-select through master sergeant, and have a skill level of at least five in their control AFSC, or a three-level if a five-level does not exist. Staff sergeants must have less than 12 years of service, and technical and master sergeants must have no more than 16 years of active service by Sept. 30.
Testing For Success
by SSgt Tyler J. Dalton
On the 25th and 27th of October the National Test Center at the Kirtland AFB Education Center opened its doors all day for the first-ever 377th Security Forces Group CLEP-A-THON. During this two day period a team of proctors from Lewis University, headed by Mr. John Harvey, administered 72 CLEP/DANTES tests to 38 Defenders. The result was nothing short of impressive: 144 credit hours were earned throughout the two day period. That translates to $36,000 in Tuition Assistance funding saved.
SrA Patrick Murphy, 377 WSSS taking a CLEP test.
“This really is a great resource to have available,” Said SrA Cody Madama, 377th Weapons System Security Squadron, or 377 WSSS, who earned 12 credits towards his CCAF from 3 CLEP/DANTES exams. “It helps speed up your degree progression, saves TA funding, and fits into the irregular duty hours that most Security Forces work.”
For those who may be unfamiliar with CLEP/DANTES testing they are a series of exams covering a wide variety of topics which, if passed, grant the test taker college credit without ever having to set foot in a classroom. The intent is to give Airmen credit for knowledge gained outside the classroom and avoid unnecessary or redundant courses which could delay degree progression.
SF Airmen focused on their testing.
“It was nice to have the option to get credit in one day for subjects I had already studied instead of spending 8 weeks in a class,” Said SrA Brad Hall, 377 WSSS, who earned 6 credits in one day. “I definitely plan on coming back to test again.”
These tests are free for military members and range from 3 to 9 credits each and typically take just over an hour to complete. Additionally, these tests have no impact on an Airman’s $4,500 annual Tuition Assistance allotment. In total, the amount of money saved in this 12-hour event was equal to 8 years of TA funding. These tests are also available to Airmen who are not currently eligible for TA funding. The National Test Center is open to all personnel every Tuesday and Thursday for CLEP and DANTES testing. To schedule a test call 505-265-3947 or visit www.lewisu.edu.
319th SFS to Open Newly Renovated Firing Range
By Senior Airman Ryan Sparks, 319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs / Published October 21, 2016
Members of the 319th Security Forces Squadron fire their weapons in the prone position Oct. 21, 2016, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. The combat arms instructor team used the experienced security forces members to test the functionality of their newly-renovated firing range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Sparks)
Staff Sgt. Frank Witmer, 319th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, charges an M-4 carbine rifle Oct. 21, 2016, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Witmer fired the test rounds for the safety inspection of the newly-renovated firing range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Sparks)
A few 5.56-millimeter NATO rounds lie on the ground of the firing range Oct. 21, 2016, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. The newly-renovated range has concrete floors that will allow all fired and live rounds to be properly disposed of better than when there were gravel floors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Sparks)
GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
The 319th Security Forces Squadron here is scheduled to open their newly renovated firing range November 1.
Tech. Sgt. James Layton, 319th SFS NCO in charge of combat arms, said the year-long, $3.5 million refurbishment eliminates the need for Airmen to travel to other bases during the harsh winters that would close the range before the renovations were made.
According to Layton, the earth berm backstop was replaced with a rubber composite backstop, concrete replaced gravel flooring, more sound dampening material was added and a new heating and air system was installed.
Layton said this will be a “soft” opening to meet mission requirements and they plan on having a grand opening when the rest of the renovations are complete in the near future.
Maj. Laura Showman, 319th SFS commander, is excited about what this range can provide.
"The renovated range is beautiful. This is now the nicest range I've ever seen on an Air Force Base. It's exactly what we need for a range in this part of the world; it's enclosed so we can heat it and keep our students' fingers from freezing," said Showman. "This new range is definitely going to improve the quality of our Security Forces annual weapons qualification training and all the training we provide across the base."