Airman Dies in Iraq
MSgt. Steven E. Auchman, of Waterloo, N.Y., was killed in Iraq on Nov. 9. He died from injuries he received when multiple rocket-propelled grenades were fired on his unit’s location in Mosul.
Auchman, 37, was a radio maintainer providing tactical support for an Army Stryker brigade at the time of the attack, according to an Air Force announcement.
He had arrived in Iraq in October from his home station of Ft. Lewis, Wash., where he was the support superintendent for the 5th Air Support Operations Squadron.
MC Rates Decline
The Air Force in Fiscal 2004 posted a Total Force mission capable (MC) rate of 75.4 percent, down slightly from the previous year’s 75.9 percent rate. The drop comes after three years of readiness improvements.
After a decade of decline, MC rates bottomed out in 2000 at 72.8 percent—meaning less than 73 percent of the Air Force’s aircraft were ready to perform their primary missions in that year. (See “Aircraft Readiness Shows Slight Drop,” below.)
The drop largely was attributed to problems related to the aging aircraft fleet created by the “procurement holiday” of the 1990s, as well as the adjustments USAF had to make when it closed two of its five depots and a spare parts shortage due to chronic underfunding.
USAF was able to reverse the decline by making the remaining depots more efficient and improving spare parts availability. Beginning in 2001, aggregate MC rates began inching upward.
IG Faults Academy Leaders
A Defense Department inspector general report released in December said that the “root cause” of the Air Force Academy’s sexual assault problem was the failure of “successive chains of command over the last 10 years to acknowledge the severity of the problems.” The IG faulted but did not name eight former academy officers as being responsible for the problem.
Those individuals, stated the DOD IG report, “contributed to cultural problems, kept the magnitude of the problems from being visible to USAF leadership, and prevented effective criminal investigations.”
DOD and Air Force officials at a Dec. 7 news conference announced the results both of the DOD investigation and a separate investigation by the Air Force IG, which focused on how cases of alleged sexual assault were handled.
David S.C. Chu, the Pentagon’s top personnel official, said that the Air Force had taken action “months ago” to correct problems at the academy. The new reports, he said, will “inform our policy decisions” for the entire department, not just the Air Force.
When questioned, Chu said it was not time to “name the specific individuals,” adding that “there’s a separate set of processes that will deal with that.” He did say that retirement of individuals would not preclude DOD from taking action.
BRAC Colors Actions
Recent Congressional demands that the Air Force keep in active service aircraft it had planned to retire are probably related to the upcoming base realignment and closure (BRAC) round, according to Air Combat Command’s operations director, Maj. Gen. Bruce Hoffman. He recently told Air Force Magazine that “everybody is very BRAC-sensitive.”
Lawmakers are taking every action in their power to protect and bolster military bases within their constituencies, in the hope that their facilities will be spared.
Over the past two years, Congress has barred the Air Force’s moves to divest itself of various aircraft to help finance upkeep of the remainder. Lawmakers instructed USAF to bring back into active service some of the B-1B bombers that the Air Force had retired. They also prohibited USAF from retiring aged KC-135E tankers and a portion of the F-117 stealth fighter fleet.
These types of actions, however, are “probably a temporary thing,” Hoffman said at Langley AFB, Va. He believes that once the impending BRAC round is complete, lawmakers likely will be less sensitive about force structure changes.
UAVs in Iraq Have Quadrupled
Unmanned systems are becoming more and more numerous in US combat operations, according to military officials. In just the past year, the number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) deployed to Iraq has more than quadrupled from less than 100 to more than 400, stated an Air Force news release.
UAVs are providing the “most-requested capability among combatant commanders in Southwest Asia,” the release said. The demand for the persistent surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities offered by unmanned systems continues to rise, and a new generation of small UAVs is helping to meet that need.
“We’ve seen a huge growth in the total numbers of UAVs in the theater,” said Dyke Weatherington, deputy director of the Pentagon’s UAV planning task force. “Most of that growth [is] in the area of small UAVs.”
Larger systems also remain valuable. Weatherington noted that a UAV with strike capabilities such as USAF’s MQ-1 Predator “can take action very early … and, in many cases, eliminate the threat entirely.”
Coalition partners are also joining in UAV operations. According to the London Sunday Times, Royal Air Force officers are working with their USAF counterparts at Balad AB, Iraq, and Nellis AFB, Nev., in controlling Predators. The Times said that the RAF confirmed participation but would not reveal how many pilots are involved.
The Pentagon now has more than a dozen UAV systems in its inventory, and more are in development. Beyond reconnaissance and strike, several UAVs can identify targets and feed that data in real time to attack platforms such as AC-130 gunships operating in the area.
Langley-Bound F/A-22 Rolls Out
The first F/A-22 destined for an operational squadron has been undergoing a standard regime of postproduction checkouts and flights in preparation for its delivery to USAF this spring. Raptor #4041 on Oct. 27 rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s assembly facility in Marietta, Ga., ready for its final predelivery workout.
This first operational Raptor is bound for Langley AFB, Va., where it will join the 1st Fighter Wing’s 27th Fighter Squadron.
Test and training F/A-22s are already being flown at Edwards AFB, Calif., Nellis AFB, Nev., and Tyndall AFB, Fla.
Officials at Langley plan to borrow a pair of Raptors from the training unit at Tyndall, according to Inside the Air Force. These “loaners” will be used to ease the transition of 27th FS pilots and maintainers from the F-15C to the F/A-22, which is expected to reach initial operational capability by the end of 2005.
The first Tyndall F/A-22 should arrive at Langley in January, Lt. Col. Jim Hecker, 27th FS commander, told ITAF. A second should follow by March, while the first Raptor actually belonging to Langley is due in May, he told the newsletter.
X-43 Scramjet Nears Mach 10
NASA’s experimental X-43A “Hyper X” research vehicle shattered the speed record for an air-breathing vehicle in November when it flew to nearly 10 times the speed of sound during a test flight.
The X-43’s supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) engine may be the predecessor for a wide range of military and space propulsion systems. Hypersonic weapons and reusable space launch vehicles are two prominent areas that could benefit from the technology.
“Because scramjet engines have significantly fewer moving parts than traditional turbojet engines and do not, like conventional rocket engines, require oxidizer … for combustion, they will allow for the design of smaller, simpler, more reliable, and affordable reusable [launch] vehicles,” stated a news release from contractor Boeing, which is teamed with ATK to develop the X-43A for NASA.
The scramjet fires hydrogen fuel through a stream of supercompressed air that is pushed through the engine using the vehicle’s speed. The previous record for an air-breathing engine was also held by the X-43A, when in March it reached Mach 6.83.
For the Nov. 16 flight, NASA’s long-serving B-52B mothership took off from Edwards AFB, Calif., and carried the X-43A to a launch location off the Pacific coast.
Fewer Vets Sit in Congress
The newly elected Congress will have fewer members who are military veterans.
Of the 50 Senators and Representatives who are departing Congress in January, 22 were veterans. Among their replacements, only nine have previous military experience, according to Copley News Service.
Much of the decline is attributable to larger demographic trends. The huge population of World War II veterans has continued to age and shrink, and the creation of the all-volunteer force in 1973 has greatly reduced the number of US citizens who gain military experience.
In the new Congress, roughly a fourth of the 535 members will be veterans.
AC-47 Crew Buried at Arlington
The remains of a six-man crew of an AC-47 gunship shot down during the Vietnam War were buried in November, as a group, at Arlington National Cemetery. The remains from their crash site in Laos had only recently been positively identified.
The airmen buried on Nov. 5 were Cols. Theodore E. Kryszak and Harding E. Smith, Lt. Col. Russell D. Martin, and CMSgts. Harold Mullins, Luther L. Rose, and Ervin Warren.
The crew was flying a nighttime armed reconnaissance mission over southern Laos on June 23, 1966, when its AC-47 “Spooky” gunship went down in flames. A DOD news release said no parachutes were observed, no emergency beepers were heard, and an aerial search of the site found no evidence of survivors.
In 1994, a US search team that had been led to a crash site found aircraft wreckage, personal effects, and a crew member identification tag. The next year, an excavation team recovered human remains and other IDs. The remains subsequently were identified through DNA, dental, and X-ray testing.
US Removes DMZ Troops
The United States recently removed most of its troops from the Demilitarized Zone that separates North Korea and South Korea, leaving a skeleton force. About 40 US troops will remain in the Panmunjom Joint Security Area, wire services reported.
The move was part of a new cooperative defense agreement between the US and South Korea that shifts American forces farther south. Most will eventually inhabit a facility near Osan Air Base.
US officials expect the new locations to be easier to defend and operate from than the old locations closer to North Korea.
Five Firms Net $2B for MPE
The Air Force recently awarded a group of contracts worth up to $2 billion to develop the Mission Planning Enterprise.
BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and TYBRIN Corp. were awarded indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts. The companies will work to “deliver mission planning capability to joint service warfighters,” according to the Nov. 4 contract announcement. The work is to be completed by November 2009.
The award will streamline the service’s mission planning work and eliminate stovepipes and duplicative efforts that had been spread over 23 contracts, reported Federal Computer Week. The new arrangement with only five contracts is designed to ensure that contractors “design interoperable systems using an enterprise approach to field capability quickly,” Pat Dagle, program lead, said in a statement to FCW.
F-16 Shells Hit School
Rounds from an Air National Guard F-16 on an evening training mission accidentally struck a New Jersey middle school in November. The F-16 was using New Jersey’s Warren Grove training range on Nov. 3 at about 10 p.m. when several 20 mm shells rained down on the school.
The F-16 belongs to the District of Columbia ANG, which flies out of Andrews AFB, Md. The pilot, who had not been identified, immediately notified ground controllers that his gun had discharged.
There were no students in the school at the time. Custodial staff, though present, were uninjured.
Officials could not immediately determine why the school, more than three miles from the military weapons range, was hit. At a hearing Nov. 17, Maj. Gen. David F. Wherley Jr., commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, told lawmakers that preliminary evidence indicated the school was well beyond the gun’s effective range when the shots went off.
Investigators are “trying to determine whether it was a system failure or whether it was an actual pull of the trigger for another purpose,” said Wherley.
By mid-December, the investigation into whether pilot error or an equipment malfunction was responsible was still ongoing.
Sears Pleads Guilty
Boeing’s former chief financial officer, Michael M. Sears, in November admitted he began job negotiations with Air Force civilian acquisition officer Darleen A. Druyun before she retired from the Air Force. At the time, she was still in a position to favor Boeing in contract actions.
Sears pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting illegal employment negotiations, for which he likely would serve six months.
Sears also admitted that in 2000 he helped Druyun’s daughter obtain a job with Boeing at Druyun’s request. At the time, Boeing was working to obtain an aerial refueling tanker contract from the Air Force. Druyun previously pleaded guilty to favoring Boeing in several other Air Force acquisition competitions. She was sentenced to a nine-month prison term and probation time.
Air Force acquisition chief Marvin R. Sambur on Nov. 17 announced his resignation. He will depart office on Jan. 20 or sooner if a successor is named.
Sambur came to the Air Force from private industry in 2001. One of the first steps he took was to attempt to eliminate some of the authority and responsibility that had been captured by Darleen Druyun during her 10 years as one of the Air Force’s top civilian acquisition officials. (See “Washington Watch: Acquisition Gets a Scrub Down,” p. 9.)
Shortly before he announced his resignation, Sambur said he had been cleared of wrongdoing in the ongoing tanker controversy, at the core of the Druyun scandal. He said that Defense Department Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz notified him in mid-November that “there was no evidence of wrongdoing,” Reuters reported.
“They cleared me in that there was nothing improper or illegal with respect to my e-mail communications with Boeing on the tanker negotiations,” Sambur said.
|Bombers Prove Their Maritime Capability
In an exercise reminiscent of Gen. Billy Mitchell’s sinking of a captured German battleship in 1921, US bombers recently sank a variety of targets in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
There were two major differences, however. First, the Navy this time was eager to cooperate with the Air Force. Second, the targets were moving. Exercise Resultant Fury, held in mid-November, proved that long-range strike aircraft equipped with the right equipment can destroy moving maritime targets in any weather condition.
The large-scale exercise involved numerous Air Force and Navy systems and personnel. Air Force systems included B-1B, B-2, and B-52H bombers, F-15E fighters, E-3 AWACS command and control aircraft, E-8C surveillance aircraft, and KC-135 tankers. Navy F/A-18 fighters also participated. The exercise was run from the air operations center at Hickam AFB, Hawaii.
B-52s flying from Guam and Louisiana successfully targeted and destroyed a variety of ships. Most dramatic was the destruction of the decommissioned USS Schenectady, a 522 foot-long former Navy tank landing ship, which was set adrift in the Pacific for this exercise.
Perhaps more significant, however, was the destruction of several targets being pulled behind remotely controlled tugboats. Even small surface ships can be a threat if used by hostile nations, modern-day pirates, or terrorists. For example, in 2000 al Qaeda forces using a small boat carrying explosives struck the Navy destroyer Cole, killing 17 sailors.
For the exercise, the towed targets represented enemy ships, while the tugboats themselves were considered friendly. The close proximity of the vessels forced the strike aircraft to accurately track the moving targets to avoid collateral damage, officials said.
Maj. Gen. David A. Deptula, operations director for Pacific Air Forces, said that Resultant Fury proved long-range airpower can help control the sea in all conditions.
Deptula told Air Force Magazine that maritime control is important to the commander of US Pacific Command, but that the capability had “atrophied” during the 1990s. PACAF therefore decided to match up bombers stationed in the Pacific with satellite guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Northrop Grumman’s developmental Affordable Moving Surface Target Engagement (AMSTE) system.
This was the first time AMSTE was used at sea, and the system allowed specially modified JDAMs to be rapidly retargeted in flight with new data from orbiting E-8 Joint STARS aircraft. This can be done “at such a rate of speed that it doesn’t matter how fast the ship is moving,” Deptula said.
The integration of command and control systems with long-range aircraft and precision weapons provides “a new capability,” Deptula said, “the capability to rapidly conduct maritime interdiction in a matter of hours, in all weather, day or night, anywhere in the Pacific theater.”
The JDAMs are guided by the Global Positioning System, providing an all-weather capability. Currently, precision maritime interdiction by air requires skies clear enough to use laser guided weapons.
More than 300 airmen, sailors, and marines participated in the $10 million exercise.
|USAF Plans Improvements for Kyrgyzstan Base
The Air Force plans to pump up to $108 million in improvements into Manas Air Base, in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan. The changes will help reduce the austerity of the facility, making it more like a permanent operating location.
An Air Force news release stated that the effort would include building 20 dormitories with 1,000 rooms to replace the temporary tents that have been used to house airmen since Operation Enduring Freedom began in Afghanistan.
Kyrgyzstan has been a valuable ally in the war on terror, and the location north of Afghanistan made Manas a prime operating location, even though the landlocked former Soviet republic is still very remote.
The two biggest challenges in the construction program have been “local contractors’ capabilities and the availability of materials,” said Capt. Ken Herndon, engineering flight chief for the 778th Civil Engineer Squadron, Robins AFB, Ga. “It’s taking up to six months to get materials for projects that could have been done by now,” he said. Civil engineering groups from Robins are handling much of the work.
Herndon also told reporters that a dining hall, gym, medical clinic, passenger terminal, recreation center, and other facilities would be built on a 25-acre site. Roughly half of the first $40 million, to be spent through next year, will go into the local economy, Herndon noted.
|ACC Creates Air-Ground Operations Office
Air Combat Command recently created an office to coordinate its air-to-ground operations with the Army. The Joint Air-Ground Operations (JAGO) office, at Langley AFB, Va., will serve as the Air Force’s focal point.
“The office will address immediate air-ground issues, develop long-term strategies, integrate all command activities on the subject, and act as the service’s single point of contact for all operational issues in support of ground forces,” officials said in a news release.
Creation of the office is one of many steps being taken to facilitate coordination between the Air Force and Army. USAF is working to improve the training and efficiency of its battlefield airmen—combat controllers, joint terminal attack controllers, and the like—who work closely with ground units. ACC also plans to improve its close air support capabilities.
The new JAGO office has two branches. The Battlefield Airmen Division “focuses on the Air Force career fields which work on the front lines of ground operations, oftentimes embedded with Army units,” according to the ACC release. The Close Air Support Division will focus on air operations to support ground forces.
Col. Michael Longoria, director of the JAGO office, said recent operations have shown the Air Force that there are “serious deficiencies in this air-ground domain that we can and must fix.”
The Army is also addressing the problems, and it plans to establish a Battlefield Coordination Detachment at Shaw AFB, S.C., later this year.
“This has to be a situation where all of the forces work together,” said former ACC commander Gen. Hal M. Hornburg at an October meeting with reporters. He said command officials created the office “to put our money where our mouth was, and say that we are going to not only get serious about the modernization and the recapitalization of our airplanes, but also [about] the people on the ground who make all this happen.”
Hornburg described Operation Anaconda, the 2002 battle in Afghanistan, as “probably the most recent and awful example” of lack of coordination between ground and air planners while the operation was being laid out. According to Hornburg, Anaconda demonstrated “a failure of planning bailed out by a tremendous … operational synergy.”
He said that ACC is “deadly serious about CAS,” but added that the Air Force doesn’t need to buy any specific platform to “prove a point” about that mission. The Air Force may have to educate the Army, however, because some soldiers still believe the A-10 is the only aircraft that can provide close air support, Hornburg said.
An ACC spokesman said the JAGO office will work closely with counterpart Army offices but will not have soldiers permanently assigned to its staff.
|Wargame Spotlights WMD Hazards
When Air Force leaders last fall got the results of a recently concluded major wargame, they were told that, in a scenario involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD), global strike capability is vital and Blue Forces must have immediate freedom to act.
These and other lessons were drawn from the Unified Engagement 04 wargame hosted by the Air Force and US Joint Forces Command. The game featured 385 participants, 42 percent from the Air Force. The setting was South Asia in the year 2015. The Blue and Red Force capabilities and systems were those expected to be in use in 2015.
The scenario involved an unstable, nuclear-armed nation being taken over by extremists with ties to international terrorism. Coalition forces had a limited objective—to gain and maintain access to the nation and to seize and disable the nuclear weapons before they could be dispersed.
The scenario proved “very stressing,” said Brig. Gen. R. Mike Worden, director of operational plans and joint matters on the Air Staff, in an interview with Air Force Magazine. The distances involved, the need to make quick decisions with uncertain intelligence, and the requirement to maintain a persistent presence over the battlespace brought a lot of “insight into what brings value” into this type of scenario, he said.
The game was “absolutely not” fixed for the Blue Team, said Lt. Col. Stuart Haire, wargame coordinator, and the Red Team was given free reign and the ability to “win.”
Many details of the wargame are classified, but the insights gained included:
• Intelligence collection operations can, unintentionally, tip off the enemy. In the wargame, the Red Team noted such operations and quickly dispersed its nuclear weapons. Worden said potential adversaries have been able to watch how the US prepares for military action from Operation Desert Shield in 1990 to the kickoff of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. By 2015, there may be even more tip-offs, he added.
• The appetite for more data must be moderated by the need to make quick decisions with less than perfect intelligence. An enemy has the option of moving quickly, and coalition forces must be able to do the same.
• Forward basing of Blue Forces proved critical in preventing the complete dispersal of the Red Team’s WMD. Worden said distance and operational access were critical issues, and the scenario presented a complex search environment.
• A “limited war” can quickly escalate if the enemy believes it is in a war for national survival. The Blue Team had difficulty controlling the nature and scope of the war: Haire said keeping the adversary in check and “reading” his intentions were “very tricky.”
• You can never have too much global strike capability, and it needs to be at hand. Even after “kicking the door down” in the early hours of the campaign, Blue Forces could not assume the door would stay open. Blue Forces need to be prepared to counter air defenses throughout the campaign and keep the combat zone safe for a persistence force.
• Once nuclear weapons are “on the loose,” the Blue Team needs predelegated authority to act quickly and decisively. The stakes would be too high to wait, one official said.
• Response options were limited by supply problems and deployment timelines. Worden said this facet of the wargame contributed greatly to its realism: Coalition forces had to fight within the constraints of a real, unexpected deployment and could not play as if they had unlimited assets at their disposal.
• Effectively seizing and disabling Red’s nuclear weapons will require new joint and interagency concepts. In the future, with stakes that could include WMD, it is “absolutely critical [that] our interagency process be more efficient,” Worden said.
|Hornburg: ACC Must Pursue Basic Missions, Even in Wartime
Even in wartime, Air Combat Command needs to keep a focus on its Title X “organize, train, and equip” mission, said Gen. Hal M. Hornburg, the ACC chief who retired on Nov. 17.
When he assumed command of ACC in November 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom dominated ACC’s attention. Hornburg quickly determined that the command “needed to have mission areas to focus on, rather than programs,” he told Air Force Magazine on Oct. 29, shortly before his retirement.
Without that change in focus, said Hornburg, “we’d have just been doing current operations 24 hours a day.” There would have been no way for ACC to continue “to focus on the corporate requirements we had to support the Air Force,” he added.
Speaking at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference in September, Hornburg said: “We were all over the map. … It was interesting to me that the priority of the day was in direct proportion to the last phone call. In other words, if [Gen. John P. Jumper, Chief of Staff] called, … we knew what our priority was until he called again. Then the priorities were likely to change. It was hard to keep our eye on the ball.”
Hornburg explained in October that the constantly evolving wartime concerns had pushed ACC into a program-for-the-day management style. He found himself saying, “I’m going to work today on F-22 and tomorrow on F-35.” Instead, he said, he “wanted to focus on mission areas rather than the programmatics.”
Hornburg said the relatively short tenures of recent ACC commanders “may have contributed” to the lack of focus. However, he added, he did not view that as a significant concern. Hornburg served as ACC vice commander under both Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart and Jumper.
A three-year tenure is the “sweet spot” for a commander’s tenure, he said. “I saw some commanders [at ACC] stay so long that they made fundamental, positive changes,” at first, but later, “some things actually changed in a more negative than positive way.”
After making major changes, those longer serving commanders were “just tinkering with all the little stuff,” said Hornburg, who served seven tours at Langley AFB, Va., home to ACC. He added, “The big stuff started to get away.”
|ABL Achieves “First Light”
The Airborne Laser program achieved a major milestone in November when the ABL’s laser achieved “first light.”
First light represented the first time the laser’s six chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) modules were connected and successfully fired together. “This proves the laser hardware is ready to go,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. (sel.) Ellen M. Pawlikowski, ABL program director for the Missile Defense Agency.
The COIL, which will later be mounted aboard a specially modified 747, will be used to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles. The ABL system is expected to be a key component in MDA’s missile defense plans, as it has the ability to destroy missiles while they are still over enemy territory.
A second ABL milestone, first flight of the 747 with the beam and fire-control systems installed, was expected by year’s end.
Officials said in a news release that the ABL is “the most advanced boost-phase segment of MDA’s layered system designed to protect the United States, its allies, and its deployed troops from a hostile missile attack.”
|The Iraq Story Continues
By Nov. 29, a total of 1,251 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The fatalities included 1,248 troops and three Defense Department civilian employees.
Of those casualties, 981 Americans were killed in action by enemy attack, including the three DOD civilians. The other 270 troops died in nonhostile incidents, such as accidents.
OSI Nets 148 Iraqi MANPADS
Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) agents operating out of Kirkuk Air Base in northern Iraq have collected 148 man-portable air defense system surface-to-air missiles from the area around the base, officials announced in November. That is the most MANPADS of any unit operating in Iraq.
The benefit is clear. The shoulder-fired missiles threaten low-flying and slow aircraft, especially upon takeoff and landing. AFOSI has been collecting the weapons through a “buy-back” program for 18 months.
An SA-7 missile hit a DHL air freighter taking off from Iraq in November 2003, but the aircraft was able to safely return for a landing. Thousands of the weapons are thought to be in circulation worldwide. The buy-back program allows AFOSI agents to “purchase certain MANPADS parts for set prices,” according to an Air Force news release.
Convoy Drivers Log a Million Miles
Air Force truck drivers aiding Army convoys in Iraq recently passed a milestone—one million miles driven. “We assumed this mission in March,” noted CMSgt. Kory Tytus of the 732nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group. “So you’re looking at just seven or eight months’ worth of driving.”
Three detachments of drivers contributed to the million-mile milestone, an Air Force news release stated. The detachments are based in Mosul, Tikrit, and at Balad AB. The driving was done at a time when military convoys were frequent targets for attack by insurgents.
“We sent out at least five convoys a day, and I would say that at least one out of the five got hit every single time they went out the gate,” said SSgt. Amelia Solomon, one of the Air Force’s convoy escorts working out of Balad. “One night, all five of our convoys got hit.”
The convoy personnel have earned more than 70 Bronze Stars and more than 20 Purple Hearts.
By Tamar A. Mehuron, Associate Editor
- USAF will reactivate the Air Force District of Washington at Bolling AFB, D.C., to provide a “single voice” in directing Air Force support to the new Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region, created by US Northern Command last fall, stated a Dec. 1 news release. A general officer will command the AFDW, which will include the 11th Wing at Bolling and other units tasked to support the new joint force headquarters.
- A new aircraft control tower used by USAF tactical controllers at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Ft. Polk, La., was dedicated Nov. 30 to SSgt. Jacob Frazier and A1C Raymond Losano, tactical air control party airmen who were killed in combat in Afghanistan. Frazier, an Illinois Air National Guardsman, was killed March 29, 2003, in a convoy ambush. Losano died during an April 25, 2003, firefight.
- Adm. Timothy J. Keating took command of North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command in ceremonies at Peterson AFB, Colo., on Nov. 5. He succeeds Air Force Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart and is the first Navy officer to hold the NORAD position, which traditionally went to the Air Force.
- Army Gen. B. John Craddock on Nov. 9 became the new commander of US Southern Command, headquartered in Miami. He succeeds Army Gen. James T. Hill.
- An Air Force MQ-1 Predator UAV crashed Nov. 24 in Southwest Asia. It was not brought down by enemy fire, according to a USAF news release. The accident is under investigation.
- DOD started a new program late last fall to highlight America’s support for troops. “America Supports You” is designed to gather information about activities that support the armed forces. DOD will share that information with troops and their families to ensure they know “the American people have stood solidly behind our military,” said Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Supporters can visit the Web site (www.americasupportsyou.mil) to share details of their activities.
- USAF space operators launched a GPS satellite aboard a Delta II rocket Nov. 6 from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. It replaces one of 24 satellites in the constellation.
- The Vietnam Veterans Memorial reopened in late October after completion of extensive lighting renovations, according to an announcement from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. >
- The 12th Reconnaissance Squadron, Beale AFB, Calif., on Oct. 28 received the first production Global Hawk UAV, marking the UAV’s transition from developmental to operational status. The unit has been operating developmental Global Hawks during combat operations in Southwest Asia.
- USAF chose 566 senior master sergeants to become chief master sergeants, out of 2,688 considered. That is a selection rate of 21.06 percent, up from last year’s rate of 19.86 percent.
- Michael L. Dominguez and Michael Montelongo were selected by Hispanic Engineer and Information Technology magazine for its Top 50 Hispanics in Business and Technology list. Dominguez is the assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs. Montelongo is assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management and the comptroller.
- Of the 183 applicants a USAF board selected last year to attend Officer Training School, it picked 25 enlisted members to trade stripes for gold bars. The board considered 205 applications overall.
- Pratt & Whitney received a $51.9 million contract to remanufacture engine combustion chambers for F-15 and F-16 aircraft. Work is to be completed by October 2008.
- A team of USAF firemen from Travis AFB, Calif., won top honors during the World Firefighter Combat Challenge last November in Las Vegas, becoming the first DOD team to win the title. The team included active duty, reservists, and civilians. They were: TSgt. Mike Melton; SSgts. Frank Abreu, Jelani Brooks, and Harry Myers; SrA. Adam Groom and Brendan O’Neil; and David Chiodo and Shenah Flores.
- Air Force bands now deploy as part of the service’s 10 Air and Space Expeditionary Forces (AEFs), following a request from Gen. John P. Jumper, Chief of Staff. Previously, USAF bands would operate on temporary duty when they traveled to overseas theaters. Now they will be on the AEF schedule, deploying to a theater where they’ll perform at various locations during the rotation cycle. The Band of Liberty, Hanscom AFB, Mass., which was the first to deploy for an AEF rotation, found itself at Balad AB, Iraq, when the base came under attack. According to a USAF news release, the band donned protective gear and kept on playing.
- A new, automated tracking system ensures that avionics technicians at Robins AFB, Ga., have the correct parts when they need them for repairs. The Lean Depot Management System keeps data on parts, orders new items when needed, and prints tickets when repair tasks are completed.
- Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Neumann, a former B-2 test pilot who was traveling on a Boeing 737 commercial flight Nov. 9, found himself in the cockpit assisting the pilot after the airliner’s co-pilot suffered a seizure. Neumann, who is deputy commander of the 412th Operations Group, Edwards AFB, Calif., helped move the co-pilot from the cockpit. When the airliner pilot learned of Neumann’s flight experience, he tapped him to join him in the cockpit and help in landing the aircraft at the nearest alternate site, the airport at Colorado Springs, Colo.
- DOD officials in November said the conversion to the new three-region Tricare arrangement with only three contractors had been completed with the shift of the last beneficiaries to the new South Region. The transition to the new region was handled in two stages, the first ending Aug.1 and the last on Nov. 2.
- TSgt. Robert Jeeves received a Grateful Nation Award presented by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs during a Nov. 15 ceremony in Arlington, Va. Jeeves, one of six servicemen so honored in 2004, is a USAF combat controller attached to US Army Special Forces. The awardees were selected by their services for demonstrating heroism during operations in Southwest Asia.
- Veterans who participate in the VA’s health care system now have a new, more secure identity card that will help protect against identity theft. The Veterans Identity Card features the individual’s photo on front, and on the back, magnetic tape contains the veteran’s encrypted Social Security number, birth date, and a control number. The tape also notes any service-connected disability. Veterans enrolled in the VA health care system should ask for the new card at their local VA medical center. Once the VA verifies a veteran’s eligibility, officials said processing the new card would take five to seven days.
- Airmen of the 435th Materiel Maintenance Squadron, at Sanem, Luxembourg, on Nov. 9 debuted a new “tent city” kit. The “550 I” Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources base kit, the first of its kind for the Air Force, requires fewer people to set up, offers improved ventilation and lighting, and is easier to ship. The 550 I can be built in three days and includes units for housing, dining, and shower and latrine functions for 550 troops. Four of the new kits are slated for deployment by 2007. The 550 I eventually will replace all Harvest Eagle kits.
- Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards went to two Air Force units Oct. 27 in Houston during the 2004 DOD Maintenance Symposium and Exhibition. The units cited for their excellent accomplishments in field-level military equipment and weapon system maintenance were the 509th Munitions Squadron, Whiteman AFB, Mo., in the small unit category, and the 27th Maintenance Group, Cannon AFB, N.M., in the large unit category.
- Air Force success in contracts with small disadvantaged businesses and an Air Force civilian contracting officer, Carol Singleton, 311th Human Systems Wing, Brooks City-Base, Tex., earned Defense Department plaudits and two small business awards. USAF surpassed its contract target, awarding more than $2.7 billion in contracts to small disadvantaged businesses. Singleton was recognized for her efforts in securing construction contracts with qualified small businesses. The contracts totaled $2.5 billion.