Reservists Take Guam Rotation
Approximately 300 airmen with the 93rd Bomb Squadron, Barksdale AFB, La., deployed in January to Guam to fulfill an Air and Space Expeditionary Force (AEF) rotation of heavy bombers to the region. They relieved an active duty unit, also from Barksdale.
In recent months, USAF has sent bomber units to Andersen AFB, Guam, at the request of US Pacific Command, to bolster the US military presence in the Pacific. (See “Airpower for a Big Ocean,” July 2004, p. 36.)
The Reservists of the 93rd BS, which is USAF’s only Air Force Reserve Command B-52 unit, will serve its rotation at Andersen. The unit took six B-52s to the US territory in the Western Pacific, a 17-hour flight from Louisiana.
Chu Claims Benefits “Hurtful”
Pentagon official David S.C. Chu set off a political firestorm recently with his comment that benefit boosts for active and retired military members and their families are “hurtful” to national defense.
The Wall Street Journal quoted Chu, who is the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, in a Jan. 25 article on the rise in military survivor payments, pensions, medical care, and other benefits. He said, “The amounts have gotten to the point where they are hurtful. They are taking away from the nation’s ability to defend itself.”
Chu’s comments evoked outrage from veterans service organizations, including the Air Force Association. The American Legion, responding in the Feb. 7 Wall Street Journal, called the remarks “a slap in the face to every veteran” and said that “caring for veterans isn’t a matter of economics but a moral contract.”
AFA’s Chairman of the Board, Stephen P. “Pat” Condon, declared, “Our nation can and will pay for national defense and veterans care if asked—it is the responsiblity of a wartime President to lead the way.” He added that AFA “understands the need to balance the budget, but it must not be done on the backs of veterans.”
Small Bomb Aces Tests
The Small Diameter Bomb, a developmental precision weapon, passed its first two live weapons tests, contractor Boeing said in January. Two Small Diameter Bombs were launched from an F-15E Strike Eagle at 15,000 feet and scored “direct hits on each target” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
The goal of the testing program is to “deliver the SDB capability to the warfighter in 2006, as promised,” said Col. Jim McClendon, miniature munitions group commander at Eglin AFB, Fla.
Once the baseline weapon goes into production, Boeing plans to begin developing a more advanced Increment II variant for use against moving targets.
The first test, Dec. 13, struck a scoring board. The second test two days later destroyed a Russian rocket launcher.
The Small Diameter Bomb is a satellite-guided, 250-pound class weapon that promises the accuracy of the highly successful Joint Direct Attack Munition in a smaller size, reducing collateral damage concerns.
USAF Temporarily Grounds B-1Bs
USAF’s fleet of 67 B-1B heavy bombers was temporarily grounded this winter when one aircraft’s nose gear collapsed after it had successfully landed and taxied to a parking spot at a forward base. The bomber, which was supporting operations in Southwest Asia, belongs to the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth AFB, S.D.
The incident prompted USAF officials to launch an immediate safety inspection of all B-1s. On Jan. 5, within six days of the grounding, the service returned the bomber fleet to flight status.
An Air Combat Command statement said, “Concerns leading to the flight suspension have been addressed.”
F-15E Adds Capabilities
An F-15E at RAF Lakenheath, UK, was recently the first Strike Eagle to fly with the 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition. The JDAM expands the F-15E’s attack capabilities by combining near-precision targeting with a smaller weapon, which helps reduce the potential for collateral damage.
The fighter on Jan. 7 also employed the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod. With the Sniper pod, “an F-15E weapons system officer can now independently launch satellite-guided weapons,” stated a Jan. 12 Air Force news release. It added, “Previously, such launches required ground support coordinates.”
The upgrade cuts the time between target identification and bombs on target, said Col. Kent Laughbaum, commander of the 48th Operations Group at Lakenheath. The pod receives the necessary coordinates by satellite and can forward the information directly to the JDAM.
Airmen from USAF’s 4th Air Support Operations Group, based at Heidelberg, Germany, assisted the sortie. Joint terminal attack controllers ran air control for the mission in a simulation that “resembled weather in Southwest Asia,” the release stated.
Reservist Heads Active Unit
According to Air Force Reserve Command, an AFRC officer is now commanding a permanent active duty operational Air Force unit for the first time in history. Lt. Col. John Breeden on Dec. 17 became commander of the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Indian Springs AFAF, Nev.
The 11th RS trains crews to operate the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, which has been used so successfully in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Turning leadership of the unit over to an AFRC officer features prominently in USAF’s move to use Indian Springs as a test location for its Future Total Force initiative to test new ways to integrate active duty and air reserve component personnel. (See “Editorial: The Unified Air Force,” January, p. 2.)
“What we’re trying to do here [at Indian Springs] is integrate the Air National Guard and Reserve to put the best people in the best positions to move forward the future of the Air Force,” Breeden said.
Breeden is a former A-10 pilot who returned to the Air Force as a full-time Reservist after the 9/11 terror attacks.
DOD Picks Presidential Helo
The Navy Department in January picked a Lockheed Martin-led team to design and build the next generation Marine One Presidential helicopter.
Selection of the Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland team was somewhat of a surprise because defeated Sikorsky had built every Presidential helicopter since 1957. Further, the winning “US101” helicopter, though built in the US, will feature roughly one-third foreign content. That gives the Europeans a rare victory in a US military acquisition program.
The purchase of 23 helicopters for Presidential support is one of the few large military helicopter competitions on the horizon. The next one will determine the Air Force’s choice for its next generation combat search and rescue helicopter. Some defense analysts believe Lockheed Martin’s win may have earned it an advantage in the USAF competition. Both Sikorsky and Lockheed have been cited as the leading competitors in the CSAR purchase, likely of 132 aircraft.
In announcing the decision, Navy acquisition executive John J. Young Jr. said Lockheed’s proposal “was judged more likely to meet … government requirements on schedule, with lesser risk, and at a lower cost.”
The Air Force is consolidating operations in Central Asia, and Bagram AB, Afghanistan, is the beneficiary. The 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram is growing, said Brig. Gen. James P. Hunt, wing commander, in a Jan. 3 news release.
Growth of the unit to more closely match the size and organizational structure of standard wings heralds the shift of the 455th AEW from a “temporary presence to an enduring presence,” stated the release. The unit’s primary mission is to provide aerial cover for US and coalition ground troops in Afghanistan.
Hunt said the consolidation would continue over “the next year or so” as USAF adjusts its footprint in Southern Europe and Southwest Asia “to just a few bases to save personnel and resources.”
The 455th is adding new support units and buildings, now built on concrete pads rather than gravel. Hunt predicted the wing will remain at Bagram “for a long time to come.”
Last USAF F-4s Are Deactivated
The 20th Fighter Squadron, the Air Force’s last operational F-4 unit, deactivated Dec. 20 at its host base, Holloman AFB, N.M., ending a 33-year training partnership with the German Luftwaffe.
Since 1972, the “Silver Lobos” used F-4E and F model Phantom IIs to train German air crews. At the inactivation ceremony, Lt. Gen. Klaus-Peter Stieglitz, Luftwaffe Chief of Staff, lauded the “longest-lasting military project” between the two air forces. The deactivation “is not the end of our objective here at Holloman,” he noted.
The Luftwaffe will continue to train aircrews in New Mexico but in the future will use the European Tornado fighter-bomber, according to a Dec. 22 USAF news release.
Most of the Vietnam-era F-4s are bound for the Air Force “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.
Chinese Military Power Grows
By 2020, communist China may be spending more on its military capabilities than the United Kingdom, Germany, and France combined, according to a new assessment by the CIA’s National Intelligence Council (NIC). In its January “Mapping the Global Future” report, prepared to help the government identify long-term trends, the NIC found that America’s European allies risk military irrelevance.
European Union member states, most of which are also NATO allies, “historically have had difficulties in coordinating and rationalizing defense spending in such a way as to boost capabilities,” the report stated.
Already, EU members’ military forces “have little capacity for power projection,” the NIC asserted. Despite this, the report said, defense spending in the UK, France, and Germany is “likely to fall further behind China and other countries over the next 15 years.”
Still, the NIC granted that the EU might serve as a strong model of “global and regional governance,” providing rising powers with a “Western” alternative to reliance on the United States. The council said that an “EU-China alliance, though still unlikely, is no longer unthinkable.”
Deep Freeze Ends for AFRC
With C-17s from McChord AFB, Wash., ready to resume control of Operation Deep Freeze, Air Force Reserve Command ended its missions to Antarctica. For the past four years, AFRC C-141C Starlifters, now the last C-141s in service, flew the Deep Freeze missions.
The flights deliver crews, equipment, and researchers to McMurdo Station, on Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf. This winter, crews from the 445th Airlift Wing, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, March ARB, Calif., flew the Deep Freeze missions, via American Samoa and New Zealand.
This Deep Freeze flying season ended in February. Active duty aircrews from the 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord will take over when the new airlift season begins in August.
Will Pre-emption Spread
The National Intelligence Council report also noted that modern military capabilities clearly favor attackers. That fact may encourage countries other than the United States to favor pre-emptive strikes.
Modern weapons, as demonstrated by the US from the 1991 Persian Gulf War on, feature long ranges, precision delivery, and highly destructive conventional warheads. This may “create circumstances encouraging the pre-emptive use of military force,” the report stated.
“The increased range of new missile and aircraft delivery systems provides sanctuary” to attackers, the council wrote. Therefore, until defenses can catch up, “there will be great premiums associated with the ability to expand conflicts geographically in order to deny an attacker sanctuary.”
Further, recent campaigns have shown that early battles “often determine the success of entire campaigns,” the NIC wrote. “Under these circumstances, military experts believe pre-emption is likely to appear necessary.”
Targeting Gets R&D Emphasis
The Defense Department on Jan. 7 released its list of Fiscal 2005 Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations (ACTDs), which feature projects intended to improve military targeting capabilities.
DOD received nearly 100 proposals from military services, combatant commanders, defense agencies, and industry. The services and warfighting commands reviewed the list and “provided their requirements for operational capabilities,” stated a Pentagon news release.
Among the 15 ACTDs approved for 2005 are:
- Rapid Airborne Reporting and Exploitation for target detection, identification, and characterization.
- TACSAT-2 Roadrunner to produce responsive and affordable satellites.
- Viper Strike for precise targeting with minimal collateral damage.
- Weapons Data Link to demonstrate weapon retargeting in flight.
The ACTD program aims to quickly develop and field technologies that meet urgent combat needs. Previous ACTDs included the Predator and Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles.
Boeing Narrows Failure Focus
An Air Force official said the investigation team looking into the failure of Boeing’s Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle to place a dummy satellite into proper orbit on Dec. 21, 2004, is “making solid progress.”
Col. John Insprucker, director of the evolved expendable launch vehicle (EELV) program, said he is “confident” the USAF-Boeing investigation team will “find solutions that allow us to avoid this problem on future flights.”
The medium-lift version of Boeing’s Delta IV family of launchers, one of the USAF-sponsored EELVs, successfully boosted a satellite into orbit in November 2002.
Officials said the primary purpose of the December Delta IV heavy launch was to test ground and flight systems in an “all-up” demonstration of an operational mission. Among the test objectives that were successful were flying three common booster cores, flying the first 16.5-foot diameter cryogenic upper stage, and flying the new upper stage through a long-duration, three-burn profile.
During the launch, sensors mistakenly indicated a cutoff of fuel to the main engine. Officials expected to complete the two-month investigation by early March.
Environmental Study Expands
Air Combat Command officials in January announced they will prepare a supplement to a previously completed study on the Realistic Bomber Training Initiative. The proposed RBTI would expand bomber training flights over the Southwest.
ACC is issuing the supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) in response to an October decision by a US court of appeals. (See “Aerospace World: Ranchers Win Round,” December 2004, p. 18.)
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that the Air Force had not addressed all the relevant environmental questions associated with the RBTI. The initiative would increase the number of low-level training flights over New Mexico and Texas.
The supplemental EIS will “address the effects of wake vortices on ground structures associated with RBTI aircraft training,” according to a Jan. 12 ACC news release. It added that the EIS would “also address the effects of RBTI on civil and commercial aviation as specified in the court’s ruling.”
The earlier ruling did not reject RBTI training flights; it simply ordered the Air Force to study the issue further before proceeding.
Kerry Seeks More Troops
In January, 21 Democratic Senators sent a letter to President Bush calling for the Administration to fund more soldiers and marines in the Fiscal 2006 budget. The letter, initiated by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), noted that more than 40 percent of the troops in Iraq are Guardsmen or Reservists.
Democrats are not the only ones saying additional ground forces may be needed. On Jan. 9, two Republican Senators—Bill Frist (Tenn.) and John Sununu (N.H.)—said operations in Afghanistan and Iraq were straining Guard and Reserve personnel.
The Administration has resisted increasing military end strength, saying that would create a long-term expense to fix what they believe is a temporary manpower shortage.
Lawmakers authorized an increase of 20,000 active duty soldiers and 3,000 marines in the Fiscal 2005 defense budget. They did not increase USAF end strength, and Kerry’s letter makes no mention of increases in airmen or sailors.
Both the Air Force and Navy are in the midst of reducing their force levels. USAF leaders say the service must shed about 20,000 personnel to meet its authorized end strength. (See “Aerospace World: Jumper Says No Forced Cuts,” November 2004, p. 15.)
|Raptor Program Continues To Progress
Langley Gets Second Raptor
The 27th Fighter Squadron, Langley AFB, Va., in mid-January received a flight-worthy F/A-22 Raptor on a six-month loan from Tyndall AFB, Fla., to begin conducting operational training. The 27th is slated to reach initial operational capability with the F/A-22 later this year.
Langley already had possession of one F/A-22, but that bird has been used exclusively for maintenance training, a Langley spokesman said. In September 2003, Tyndall began receiving the first operational Raptors to develop an F/A-22 tactics and qualification training capability.
Jumper Qualifies To Fly F/A-22 …
The Air Force’s top uniformed official completed qualification training in the service’s new air dominance fighter in January. Gen. John P. Jumper, Chief of Staff, took his final qualification flight Jan. 12 at Tyndall AFB, Fla.
According to Jumper’s Air Force biography, the F/A-22 is the 10th type of Air Force aircraft the Chief has flown. He began his career flying the C-7 and was an F-4 combat pilot during the Vietnam War.
At a press conference after his flight, Jumper explained that he needed to qualify in the new fighter to gain firsthand knowledge to help him better understand how to use the advanced aircraft. He said, “The Raptor does everything we had hoped it would do, plus some.”
… And Speculates on Crash
Speaking with reporters following his qualification flight, Jumper said he believed the Dec. 20 crash of an F/A-22 at Nellis AFB, Nev., was caused by a software error.
The Air Force had not concluded its investigation into the crash, but it did return the fleet to flight status by Jan. 6, following a 17-day grounding. (See box “USAF Quickly Returns F/A-22s to Flight,” February, p. 35.)
|Sambur Sees Long Delay in Getting Tankers
Marvin R. Sambur, recently departed Air Force acquisition executive, said in January that it will take until approximately 2018—or as late as 2024—for the service to purchase 100 new refueling tankers. Under the now-defunct leasing deal with Boeing, USAF would have acquired 100 KC-767s within the next five years.
“The goal in my mind is starting the [tanker] recapitalization process as soon as possible,” Sambur told defense reporters shortly before he resigned his post in January. However, budget constraints made leasing a much faster way to field the aircraft. With a purchase, he explained, it will take two to three years to begin the process, after which the Air Force would probably be limited to six or seven aircraft per year. Under this scenario, the 100th tanker would arrive in 2024.
More optimistic assumptions of 10 tankers per year would complete the buy around 2018, so “we’ve lost eight years in this process,” he said.
The advanced age of the 500-plus KC-135 fleet makes this worrisome. “Look at the mathematics,” Sambur said. The acquisition of 100 tankers is just the beginning of the tanker recapitalization effort. From 2018, “if you start another procurement of 100, with the same time scale,” the average age for the KC-135s will reach 71 years, Sambur said. That is “getting into some scary areas.”
Keeping the Stratotankers is not a viable option. “The Air Force will not re-engine these planes,” he said, because “you don’t put good money into something that’s 45 years old.” Uncertainties can lead to events like the grounding of 40 percent of the fleet in 1999.
“We are tremendously dependent on these tankers,” he said. “If you suddenly have a problem, it’s too late. If suddenly you have this widespread issue, which causes widespread groundings, you can’t fix them overnight.”
Sambur asserted, “You need an insurance policy. … You’ve got to start it.”
Despite the urgency, Sambur is skeptical of allowing EADS to build—in Europe—a tanker for the Air Force. “This is a very important asset for this country,” he noted. “We should be careful if we decide to go with a foreign entity that we make sure that a large percent of it is built in the United States.”
An EADS tanker built in Europe that is common to the Airbus built in France “may give you a lower price, but in my mind this is too important as asset not to be built here in the United States,” Sambur said.
Refueling capability is part of what makes the United States a global power, he said, and that capability cannot be given away.
|Silver Stars Go to Five Valorous Airmen
Five Air Force battlefield airmen recently received Silver Stars for their valiant combat actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. They were cited for “particularly noteworthy acts of bravery,” said James G. Roche, then-Air Force Secretary, at the December ceremony at Pope AFB, N.C.
Lt. Col. James E. Fairchild, TSgts. Eric J. Brandenburg Jr. and Jason U. Quesenberry, and SSgts. Thomas E. Case and Michael S. Shropshire earned the Silver Stars, the Air Force’s third-highest award for valor. Their achievements were outlined in an Air Force news release.
During Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, Fairchild, as an F-15E weapons system officer, worked with tactical air controllers on the ground to coordinate the drop of a laser guided bomb after his aircraft had exhausted its 20 mm ammunition in low-level strafing runs. His Strike Eagle dropped the LGB on enemy forces within 660 feet of friendly ground troops.
Brandenburg was attached to an Army ranger unit in western Iraq during a three-day firefight, when he worked his way forward amid intense fire to gain a better vantage point to direct close air support. At one point, an exploding shell blew him into the air.
Quesenberry, who was also attached to a ranger unit in western Iraq, was wounded but managed to save his team’s only communications link—his radio and GPS unit—from a burning vehicle. Despite the fact that he was bleeding heavily, he refused medical treatment so he could coordinate air support for his team’s evacuation.
Case, also with an Army unit in Iraq during a firefight, fought off the enemy while coordinating air strikes. He controlled up to 14 aircraft at one time, all while being hit by bits of concrete and shrapnel, some hits being strong enough to knock him down.
Shropshire’s Army team in Iraq was surrounded and attacked during a fierce sandstorm. He coordinated close air support, switching from his radio to his rifle and, at times, leaving the security of an armored vehicle to confirm enemy armor locations. He directed strikes that took out 10 tanks.
Fairchild is now serving as commander of the 17th Air Support Operations Squadron, Ft. Benning, Ga. Brandenburg, Quesenberry, and Case are also part of the 17th ASOS. Shropshire serves with the 20th ASOS, Ft. Drum, N.Y.
|Cebrowski Calls for “Cost Strategy”
The Pentagon’s transformation director said in a December paper that DOD must shift from a budget strategy to a cost strategy. “These are profoundly different things,” said Arthur K. Cebrowski, who was director of force transformation at the time.
He said the department has “always been good at budget strategy,” but something better is needed now. According to Cebrowski, a cost strategy can encompass both cuts and new initiatives.
“We have to be willing to shed some things” to free resources, he asserted shortly before Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld slashed a variety of high-profile Air Force programs to meet new budget goals.
Cebrowski said DOD must “stop paying more for decreasing returns and simply pay less” for capabilities. Obtaining small numbers of high-end assets is a risky strategy because it reduces US options, he wrote. This narrows DOD’s capabilities, creating “the risk of being strategically outflanked, which is exactly what happened to us on September 11th,” the day of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
A broader range of less-expensive capabilities is important because DOD also has to “impose costs on our enemies,” he said. The United States must try to win the cost battle.
Cebrowski cited cruise missile defense as an example. He said that interceptor missiles cost up to $3 million apiece, but enemies could obtain cruise missiles for about $100,000. “We are on the wrong side of that cost technology curve,” Cebrowski noted, saying DOD needs to look for other ways to perform the cruise missile defense mission, perhaps through directed energy weapons.
DOD must decrease cost, “spread it across more capabilities, create more options, and generate higher transaction rates,” he said. That way, the defense industry can continually develop new systems. “If we really buy one system per career,” he said in reference to the lengthy development cycle of many advanced systems, “you have a flat learning curve, [and] then you’re a loser.”
|Iraq WMD Hunt Officially Ends
White House officials announced in January that the Iraq Survey Group, which led the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, essentially shut down operations last October. It ended its work without finding the types of banned weapons that had been one of the key justifications for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Charles A. Duelfer, chief US weapons inspector, issued a report last October saying banned weapons had not been found in Iraq. That report was “essentially the completion of his work,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. He added that “nothing has changed” in the search for WMD since then.
When Duelfer met with the President in December, McClellan said, Bush thanked Duelfer for his work and the determination that the weapons of mass destruction “were not there.”
McClellan emphasized, “Now what is important is that we need to go back and look at what was wrong with … the intelligence that we accumulated over a 12-year period, and that our allies had accumulated over that same period of time, and correct any flaws.”
|The Many Jobs of Peter B. Teets
Air Force Undersecretary Peter B. Teets recently found himself holding two additional critical leadership positions. As undersecretary, Teets already holds the positions of Pentagon executive agent for space and director of the National Reconnaissance Office.
When James G. Roche, Air Force Secretary, and Marvin R. Sambur, service acquisition executive, resigned at the end of President Bush’s first term, Teets began filling both of those posts, as well.
“It is expected that Mr. Teets will continue in his new roles until the President appoints a new Air Force Secretary and assistant secretary for acquisition,” according to a Jan. 12 Air Force announcement. By mid-January, no formal nominations had been presented to the Senate, which must confirm the President’s selections for these two offices.
“Mr. Teets will continue to fulfill his responsibilities as undersecretary of the Air Force while performing his new duties,” the announcement read.
Some acquisition responsibilities will be deferred to Lt. Gen. John D.W. Corley, the Air Force’s top uniformed acquisition official. Corley will assist Teets by “overseeing the day-to-day operations of the service’s acquisition community,” stated the announcement.
|Tsunami Recovery Support Winds Down
The Pentagon began winding down Operation Unified Assistance, the Asian tsunami relief effort, in late January when host nations and international organizations became capable of meeting the recovery needs.
By Jan. 20, the military effort was “pretty much past the immediate relief phase, and we are rapidly moving toward … rehabilitation and reconstruction,” said Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, US Pacific Command chief, while visiting the devastated areas. “We will start right now transferring functions to the appropriate host nation and international organizations.”
Air Force operations began shutting down in Thailand and Sri Lanka when the situation in those countries stabilized. “The focus is on Indonesia,” Maj. Gen. David A. Deptula, operations director for Pacific Air Forces, said Jan. 21 to Stars and Stripes.
Fargo said the military role was especially important in Indonesia because many tsunami survivors “were isolated by damaged roads and bridges that … simply vanished.”
By any measure, the relief effort was a massive undertaking. According to PACAF, by Jan. 25, more than 14 million pounds of food, supplies, and equipment had been transported to the region by Air Force aircraft. This required 1,115 sorties.
Deptula noted that although the tonnage of materiel delivered was more during the Berlin Airlift, “that was over 400 days.” Operation Unified Assistance was less than a month old; the earthquake and resulting tsunami struck the region Dec. 26.
A fact sheet showed that by Jan. 25, 960 airmen remained on the ground, and 23 Air Force aircraft were in theater supporting the relief effort. This included two Air Mobility Command C-5s for heavy lift.
|The Iraq Story Continues
By Feb. 2, a total of 1,436 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The fatalities include 1,433 troops and three DOD civilians. The number of Americans killed in action by enemy attack is 1,100, and 336 died in noncombat incidents.
A total of 10,769 troops have been injured. Of those, 5,150 troops returned to duty within three days and 5,619 did not.
Surprise Kirkuk Raids Net Weapons
Airmen and soldiers at Kirkuk AB, Iraq, seized illegal weapons and stolen merchandise when they conducted surprise inspections of base quarters used by US contractor personnel and third country nationals.
The inspections, aided by Air Force Office of Special Investigations agents, broke up an Army and Air Force Exchange Service theft ring.
Recovered were complete military uniforms, firearms including an AK-47, and “about $7,000 worth of stolen merchandise,” said Maj. Robert Baird, in an Air Force news release. Baird is a force protection officer for the 506th Air Expeditionary Group. Also recovered were large quantities of clothing, electronics, CDs, and DVDs.
“We were able to take guns off the streets, 13 AAFES employees were fired, and we got the message across that we are very serious about force protection on this base,” Baird said.
He said the inspections turned into a “good preventive random antiterrorism measure.”
By Tamar A. Mehuron, Associate Editor
- Beginning in January 2006, airmen serving in Guam will be assigned there for longer tours, according to a Jan. 14 USAF news release. Accompanied tours will run 36 months, instead of 24 months. Unaccompanied tours will increase to 24 months from 15 months. Tours of Air Force personnel are being extended because a DOD directive now mandates the 36/24 lengths for all US military personnel assigned to Guam. The Navy has employed 36/24 tours to Guam for several years. USAF will change credit for Guam assignments from short tours to long tours on Dec. 31, 2005.
- USAF has selected 35 officers for test pilot training. Most will undergo training at the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, Calif., but two are bound for Navy Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River, Md., and one will go to British Test Pilot School at Bascombe Down, England. Three others will attend the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, to obtain master’s degrees in aeronautical or electrical engineering before heading to test pilot school.
- As part of its force development initiative, USAF has assigned its civilians to specific career fields, much like it does for military personnel. Each civilian position, regardless of series, grade, or pay plan, has been placed within a career field. For those positions that do not follow the standard matrix, said officials in a Jan. 5 news release, Air Force Personnel Center will make a career field determination.
- Members of small teams that win awards such as missile crew of the year, or score top honors in competitions such as Air Combat Command’s William Tell or Air Mobility Command’s Rodeo, can now wear the Air Force Recognition Ribbon. Previously, the Air Force stipulated that the ribbon could be worn only by “named individuals who received Air Force-level special trophies and awards,” stated a Dec. 30 news release. Gen. T. Michael Moseley, vice chief of staff, said, “These warfighters have shown superior skills and abilities … and deserve this recognition, which says they and their team are the ‘best in the Air Force.’ ”
- The June 18, 2004, crash of an F-15 north of Nellis AFB, Nev., resulted from a fuel shutoff that led to the flameout of its two engines, concluded an Air Force investigation report released Dec. 29, 2004. The pilot, from the 57th Wing at Nellis, suffered minor injuries after ejecting from the aircraft, which was destroyed on impact. The accident investigation board president found that the loss of fuel probably occurred because the pilot accidentally pressed the left and right fire warning buttons, which cut off the fuel flow and also prevented any reignition of the engines. Gen. Hal M. Hornburg, then ACC commander, approved the report since it met investigation requirements but noted that he was not convinced tripping the pushbuttons caused the fuel loss.
- A USAF accident investigation report released Dec. 29 concluded that fire aboard an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle caused it to crash while it was supporting operations near Balad AB, Iraq, on Aug. 17. The report said leaking oil from a misrouted oil line spilled onto the engine bay and sparked a fire, which spread throughout the aircraft, making it uncontrollable. The Predator belonged to the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev.
- USAF officials have instituted a standard core curriculum for enlisted professional development programs to be implemented at every base. The move was made to maximize professional and on-the-job training for the service’s enlisted force.
- The military W-2 tax forms will now report pay earned while serving in a combat zone tax exclusion area to indicate eligibility for the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit. The combat pay will be listed in a separate section below the taxable wage information in Block 1 of the 2004 tax forms. For more information, go to the Armed Forces’ Tax Guide at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p3.pdf.
- USAF has named four airmen as the 2004 recipients of the Lance P. Sijan Air Force Leadership Award. They are: Lt. Col. Mark Moore, Ramstein AB, Germany; Maj. Joseph Michalek, Hurlburt Field, Fla.; MSgt. John Spillane, Little Rock AFB, Ark.; and TSgt. Matthew Fader, Hurlburt. The award is named for the first Air Force Academy graduate to receive the Medal of Honor.
- Some 1,000 airmen joined 4,600 other military service personnel in a week-long series of inaugural festivities with the theme “Celebrating Freedom and Honoring Service,” to mark the beginning of President Bush’s second term. SrA. Anthony Plyler, a broadcaster with the American Forces Network, served as a narrator for the Jan. 20 inaugural parade, which also featured the USAF Honor Guard and the Air Force Band.