Seven airmen participating in Operation Enduring Freedom lost their lives in actions in Afghanistan. Officials said attacks on coalition forces increased following the start of the war in Iraq.
On March 23, six airmen on an Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk were killed when the helicopter crashed about 12 miles north of Ghazni, Afghanistan. Officials said the cause of the crash is under investigation, but they said it was not shot down by enemy fire.
The airmen were Lt. Col. John Stein, aircraft commander; 1st Lt. Tamara Archuleta, copilot; MSgt. Michael Maltz and SrA. Jason Plite, both pararescuemen; and SSgt. Jason Hicks and SSgt. John Teal, both flight engineer. They were from the 347th Rescue Wing, Moody AFB, Ga., and were on their way to evacuate two Afghan children for medical treatment at US facilities in Bagram.
On March 29, SSgt. Jacob L. Frazier, a 24-year-old Air National Guardsman from St. Charles, Ill., was killed when the five-vehicle convoy in which he was riding near Geresk, Afghanistan, ran into an ambush. Frazier was from the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, Ill., and was with an Army mounted reconnaissance unit at the time of the attack.
Officials said the ambushers were in prepared positions and fired small arms, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades at the convoy.
As the war in Iraq got under way, coalition officials ended the aerial patrols over the northern and southern no-fly zones in Iraq. US and coalition forces had patrolled the zones to enforce UN sanctions against Iraq since Gulf War I ended in 1991.
The last Operation Northern Watch mission was flown March 17.
The last Operation Southern Watch mission was flown March 19.
AFRC announced March 24 that Maj. Pete Jahns, a Reserve instructor pilot, died March 19 after crash-landing in a T-38 trainer at Randolph AFB, Tex. A second Reserve IP, Lt. Col. Frank Gebert, survived the crash.
Both were with the 100th Flying Training Squadron at Randolph. Officials said they were conducting continuation training at the time of the accident, which is under investigation.
The emergency supplemental bill signed by President Bush April 16 includes an increase of $75 for imminent danger pay. The new level is $225 per month and is retroactive to Oct. 1, 2002.
Additionally, DOD announced on April 11 that more troops will receive combat zone tax relief and imminent danger pay. The new area includes troops stationed in Israel and Turkey. It also includes those deployed to the Mediterranean waters east of 30 degrees east longitude.
This change is retroactive to Jan. 1 for Israel and Turkey and April 11 for those in the Med.
Personnel serving in other Operation Iraqi Freedom combat zones were included in an earlier executive order.
Air Combat Command and Air Force Reserve Command leaders signed an agreement that launched the Fighter Associate Program on April 2. The effort will pool resources of each command to ease the fighter pilot training problem.
The Air Force lost too many experienced pilots during the drawdown of the early 1990s to sustain training for the number of new fighter pilots it needs each year.
“ The active force requires 330 to 380 pilots a year, but it only has the resources available to train 302,” said Col. Bob Nunnally, Reserve advisor to the ACC commander and leader of the team that developed the new program.
The FAP is based upon two earlier, but more limited, programs, he said. One was the Fighter Reserve Associate Program and the other, the Total Force Absorption Program.
Under the new program, a detachment of four Reserve pilots will serve with an active duty associate unit primarily as instructor pilots. Some active units will also gain six enlisted aircraft maintenance Reservists.
Initial Reserve detachments will join active duty units at Eglin AFB, Fla., Hill AFB, Utah, Langley AFB, Va., Nellis AFB, Nev., and Shaw AFB, S.C. (Shaw will have two detachments.)
In turn, ACC will place three active duty pilots in an AFRC squadron. One will be experienced, the other two will be recent basic pilot training graduates.
Active associate detachments will join AFRC units at Hill, Homestead ARB, Fla., NAS JRB Fort Worth, Tex., NAS JRB New Orleans, La., and Whiteman AFB, Mo.
Today’s high operations tempo is taking a huge toll on the Air Force’s ability to conduct training—and that affects readiness, the service’s vice chief of staff told lawmakers in mid–March.
“ We have some roadblocks ahead of us,” said Gen. Robert H. Foglesong. “We have a reconstitution issue facing us.”
In fact, he told the legislators that if the current pace continues, it is possible the Air Force will see a “decline as training currencies and continuation training are harder to achieve.”
Pentagon officials said April 4 they will review more closely the medical history of military members before giving them the smallpox vaccination. The change was prompted by investigations into recent cardiac deaths of a number of individuals—one a 55-year-old Air National Guardsman—who recently had been vaccinated.
DOD began vaccinating military personnel last December. The department planned to vaccinate about 500,000 military personnel beginning with emergency response personnel and those deployed to the Central Command area of operations.
Following a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is investigating whether a series of cardiac deaths was related to the vaccine, DOD decided to exempt military personnel with three or more conditions that are considered heart-trouble risk factors. The military will review factors such as tobacco use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and family history of heart disease before administering the vaccine, according to Col. John Grabenstein, the Army’s deputy director for military vaccines.
Evidence so far does not link the deaths to the vaccine. However, “the investigation is not finished, and to be on the safe side, this extra precaution is being taken,” said Grabenstein.
by Tamar A. Mehuron, Associate Editor
- DOD announced March 31 that Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Edward C. Aldridge Jr. will retire May 23. He has held that position since May 2001. Michael W. Wynne, principal deputy undersecretary, will serve as acting USD.
- The terrorist group al Qaeda may have already produced some rudimentary biological/chemical weapons, reported the Washington Post March 23. Analysis of documents and information from captured al Qaeda operational planner Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was known as “the Brain,” points to a program much more advanced than previously thought.
- Air Force officials announced April 2 they had discovered errors in service dates for 35 airmen who returned to active duty after a break in service. That incorrect information, entered by USAF and not the airmen, enabled those 35 to test for promotion last year. Because it was a service mistake, USAF will let those who were selected for promotion keep their new ranks. The service also gave promotions and retroactive pay to 23 airman who fell below the promotion cutoff level because of the ineligible airmen in the pool.
- Pilot error led to the collision of two F-16s Dec. 18, 2002, during a four-ship training mission out of Hill AFB, Utah, USAF announced April 3. Investigators found that one pilot focused his attention on a failed gauge instead of his position in the formation. The pilots returned to the base, but officials estimated damage to the two aircraft at almost $1.8 million.
- DOD announced March 26 that it has teamed with USA Freedom Corps to launch “On the Home Front,” a new resource for people seeking to support military personnel and their families. A number of community volunteer organizations exist to help match volunteers with local military families. Contacts are available by calling 1-877-USA-CORPS or online at http://www.usafreedomcorps.gov.
- On March 31, Air Force Space Command successfully launched the ninth Global Positioning System IIR satellite via a Delta II booster from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla.
- Pilot error caused the crash of a USAF RQ-1 Predator UAV Oct. 25, 2002, according to an Air Combat Command investigative report released March 14. The UAV crashed nine miles west of Indian Springs AFAF, Nev. Inattention to the aircraft’s altitude by the ground crew was the immediate cause of the accident. The UAV was being flown over mountainous terrain, which obstructed the data link and caused the operators to lose electronic contact with the aircraft. Attempts to restore the link failed, as did emergency procedures designed to safeguard the aircraft, and the UAV crashed 16 seconds later.
- The F/A-22 achieved 3,000 hours of safe flight tests Feb. 26 at Edwards AFB, Calif. Raptor 4005 and Raptor 4006 were airborne at the same time when they reached the milestone.
- The Global Vigilance Combined Test Force, Edwards AFB, Calif., is training ACC airmen to become Global Hawk pilots. The goal is to have 17 trainees qualified by mid-summer 2003. The developmental Global Hawk aircraft and ground systems are currently being controlled by personnel from Air Force Materiel Command’s test and evaluation community. ACC plans to activate the first operational Global Hawk squadron—the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron—at Beale AFB, Calif.
- Richard Perle resigned March 27 as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, as a result of criticism alleging conflict of interest concerning his work with the telecommunications company Global Crossing. In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Perle said, “I know that this [controversy] will inevitably distract from the urgent challenge in which you are now engaged. … You have my assurance that I have respected and abided by the rules that apply to the Defense Policy Board.” Perle remains a member of the board.
- The Navy announced March 20 that it had accelerated and deployed a software upgrade program enabling F-14D Tomcats to carry Joint Direct Attack Munitions. In just 17 days, a team modified all forward deployed F-14Ds and trained more than 90 aircrew and maintainers. The Tomcat can carry four JDAMs, each weighing 2,000 pounds.
- Pilot error caused the Dec. 20, 2002, midair collision between two T-37 trainer aircraft from Sheppard AFB, Tex., USAF announced March 25. One of the pilots did not ensure enough separation space between the two aircraft while practicing formation maneuvers. The student pilots involved were flying their third formation sorties. There were no injuries, but one T-37 crashed after the pilots ejected. The other was flyable and returned to Sheppard.
- Air Force Reserve Command announced March 25 selection of 776 out of 1,797 captains for promotion to major.
- Facing a shortage of depot maintenance technicians, the Air Force began training 19 civilians to serve as instructors at its air logistics centers. Previously Air Force Materiel Command had only been able to schedule training for about 1,000 technicians per year. With dedicated civilian instructors in place, AFMC officials said they hope to boost that number to 4,000 per year to help meet the demand caused by the turnover of an aging workforce.
- The 95th Security Forces Squadron and the Marine Aircraft Group 46, Det. Bravo, teamed up to increase security at Edwards AFB, Calif., by conducting random aerial surveillance of the base. The joint effort is the best way to deter potential threats to the 470-square-mile base, according to the 95th SFS commander, Lt. Col. Charles Beck. He said the aerial surveillance will be done routinely but not on a regular time schedule.
- Northrop Grumman delivered the 15th E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft to the 116th Air Control Wing at Robins AFB, Ga., Feb. 25. This was the first aircraft delivered to the new “blended” wing of active duty and Air National Guard members. The delivery was five weeks ahead of schedule.
- A new palletized seating system will increase the number of troops a USAF C-17 airlifter can carry from 102 to 189. A similar system was used with the C-141. Each seat pallet can be set up for either 10 or 15 seats. Officials also said the new seats are more comfortable than current ones.
- USAF awarded Northrop Grumman a contract valued at $19.7 million to upgrade ANG F-16 Litening targeting and navigation systems to the new advanced targeting system configuration. The Litening AT version provides enhanced image processing, multitarget cueing, precision target coordinate generation, and improved air-to-air capabilities.
- Two F-15C aircraft on March 17 collided in midair over the Nevada desert about 65 miles northeast of Nellis AFB, Nev. One fighter crashed in the desert after its pilot, Capt. Matthew Zamiska, ejected safely, while Maj. Steve Early was able to return his aircraft to the base. Both pilots are with the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis and were on an air-to-air training mission. A board of Air Force officers is investigating the cause of the accident.
- F-16s from Eielsen AFB, Alaska, arrived at Andersen AFB, Guam, March 24 to boost the base’s homeland security measures. With the outset of operations in Iraq, Pacific Command decided to strengthen its defensive posture in the Pacific region.
- The Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, Calif., has developed a new aeronautical telemetry capability that enables “aeronautical test vehicles to occupy half the spectrum size of test vehicles using traditional telemetry systems,” said officials. The increased complexity of today’s test vehicles requires higher telemetry data rates at a time when DOD has had to make a large reduction in the electromagnetic spectrum it could allocate to flight test. The new telemetry transmitter will speed up systems acquisition flight testing and help reduce testing costs.
- USAF’s 2002 Command Post Controllers of the Year are MSgt. Joseph A. Howell Jr., Yokota AB, Japan; SSgt. Rodney D. Force, Kadena AB, Japan; and SrA. Demetria Z. Perez, Vance AFB, Okla.
- Second Lt. Rickie Banister, a 319th Missile Squadron missileer, was crowned best bowler in the US armed forces at the DOD tournament March 20 at Lackland AFB, Tex. He overcame a final-day, 50-pin deficit to snare the title. Airmen earned all the gold medals, claiming their fifth consecutive interservice team title and 15th overall since 1976.
- Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Maj. Gen. John J. Batbie Jr., AFRC vice commander, received Gray Eagle awards March 21 in recognition of their status as the pilots with the longest continuous aviation service. Myers first claimed the active duty Gray Eagle trophy in 1999. This is the first one for Batbie, who began his aviation career as an Army helicopter pilot.
- USAF announced on March 24 winners of the 2002 Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez Maintenance Awards for aircraft maintenance: Maj. David M. Coley, Travis AFB, Calif.; Capt. Larry N. Hancock, Little Rock AFB, Ark.; SMSgt. Joel W. Coppolino, Dyess AFB, Tex.; TSgt. Jason M. Hanks, Charleston AFB, S.C.; SrA. Diogenes Baez Cruz, Tinker AFB, Okla.; and civilians Anthony E. Hannula and Sydney J. Welch, both of Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.
- The 2002 Marquez Maintenance Award winners for munitions and missile maintenance are Lt. Col. Marcus Novak, RAF Lakenheath, UK; 1st Lt. Randall R. Austill, Hill AFB, Utah; SMSgt. Daniel Brown, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; TSgt. Chuck M. Jenkins, Eielson AFB, Alaska; A1C Amanda K. Young and civilian Kathryn J. Steinbacher, both of Holloman AFB, N.M.; and civilian John M. Long, Eglin AFB, Fla.
- For communications–electronics maintenance, the 2002 Marquez Maintenance Award winners are Maj. Aaron M. Smith, Hurlburt Field, Fla.; Capt. Bradley L. Pyburn, Kadena AB, Japan; MSgt. Bobby E. Simmons, Kadena; SSgt. Shane R. Bohl, Elmendorf; SrA. Angel M. Ramos and civilian Herb M. Reid, Hurlburt; and civilian Douglas D. Schinn, Elmendorf.
- Civil Air Patrol’s Board of Governors on March 1 elected retired USAF Col. Robert C. Bess as its new chairman and retired USAF Lt. Gen. Nicholas B. Kehoe its new vice chairman. Bess also serves as CAP national director of homeland security. Kehoe formerly served as board chairman.
- DOD announced April 1 that Hurlburt Field, Fla., was one of five military installations presented with the 2003 Commander in Chief Annual Award for Installation Excellence.
- For the second time in three years, Paul Phillips, a member of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., has received one of NASA’s highest safety awards. He accepted NASA’s Quality and Safety Achievement Recognition Award March 7. Phillips is a member of the Access to Space Office at Edwards.
- On April 4, Civil Air Patrol accepted the National Aeronautics Association’s 2002 Frank G. Brewer Aerospace Education Trophy for the work CAP does to promote aerospace education. Of special note, NAA said, was CAP’s new textbook, Aerospace: The Journey of Flight, for CAP cadets, high schools, and colleges. CAP also produced a six-volume curriculum, titled “Aerospace Dimensions,” for middle schools.
- The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum rolled the first artifact into the new Steven F. Udvar–Hazy Center at Dulles Airport in northern Virginia March 17. It was a diminutive Piper J-3 Cub, which will be joined by some 200 other aircraft, including the World War II B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay. The center opens to the public Dec. 15.