F-16s Collide Midair
Two Air Combat Command F-16Cs assigned to the District of Columbia Air National Guard’s 113th Wing collided in midair during an Aug. 1 routine training mission off the coast of Chincoteague, Va., about 70 miles southeast of Washington, D.C.
The Coast Guard recovered one pilot who ejected from his aircraft following the collision, according to a unit release. The second aircraft was able to return home to JB Andrews, Md. Medical personnel evaluated both pilots at Andrews; they released one and transferred the second to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for further treatment of minor injuries.
The cause of the mishap remains under investigation.
A T-38 with two aircrew on board landed with its landing gear retracted at JBSA-Randolph, Tex., announced base officials late July. The incident happened on Randolph’s east runway, according to the base’s news report. Neither pilot was injured and the incident was still under investigation as of early August. The aircraft was assigned to the 12th Flying Training Wing.
This mishap came less than two weeks after a student pilot and his instructor safely ejected from a T-38 that crashed south of Sheppard AFB, Tex., according to a release from the base’s 80th Flying Training Wing. Military and civilian first responders rushed to the scene.
The student pilot, German air force 1st Lt. Julius Dressbach, suffered “minor, non-life threatening injuries” and was treated at a local hospital, stated the release, which identified the instructor pilot as Maj. Christopher Thompson. Both Thompson and Dressbach are assigned to the wing. The cause of that accident was still under investigation in early August.
Under newly adopted policies the Air Force will discharge any airman found to have committed a sexual assault, and senior commanders must review actions taken on such cases, announced service officials. These requirements took effect on July 2 and June 27, respectively, aiming to help eliminate sexual assault from within the service’s ranks, stated an Air Force news release.
Under the changes, once a commander has information alleging a sexual assault, the commander must promptly refer the case to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. If an airman is found to have committed a sexual assault, the commander—after the airman completes any disciplinary action—must initiate administrative discharge processing for that airman.
Further, any commander who makes a disciplinary decision regarding an airman for a sexual assault must report that decision to his servicing general court-martial convening authority who has attained the rank of brigadier general or higher. The general court-martial convening authority will then review the intended disposition and take any further action deemed appropriate.
The Air Force does not plan to build any more bases in the Pacific, but will maintain a significant presence in the region. During the Cold War era “almost every CONUS unit” would operate from Europe, rotating in and out every 18 months to two years, said Gen. Hebert J. Carlisle, commander of Pacific Air Forces. “The Air Force is turning to that in the Pacific,” he told reporters in Washington, D.C., in late July.
Carlisle said the United States already is beefing up its Pacific presence with 12 rotating F-22s at Kadena AB, Japan, and 24 F-16s in South Korea “on top” of what was there before.
The first overseas F-35 squadron also will be based in the Pacific, likely in Alaska, Japan, or South Korea, he said. In addition, the Air Force will “maintain [its] capability in northeast Asia” while “increasingly [moving] south and west with the rotational presence” in places such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, he said.
Back to Flying
While the Air Force has put money back into its flying hour accounts for the remainder of the fiscal year, time will be the critical factor in getting the units that stopped flying in April combat-capable once again, said Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“What I can tell you [is] that if you take one of these squadrons that hasn’t been flying at all, it’s gonna take anywhere from one to three months for them to bring their proficiency back up just in basic airmanship skills,” Winnefeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 18 in response to questioning from Ranking Member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).
It will take another three months beyond that for the units to get their combat skills up to standard, said Winnefeld. He said he would provide Inhofe with the monetary costs associated with the retraining of these units, for the record.
Soldier Earns Medal of Honor
President Obama will award Army SSgt. Ty M. Carter of Antioch, Calif., the Medal of Honor for his conspicuous gallantry during combat operations in Afghanistan, announced the White House. The President was expected to present Carter with the MOH at the White House on Aug. 26, making him the fifth living MOH recipient for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the White House’s July 26 release.
Carter was a cavalry scout with the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team serving at Combat Outpost Keating in Nuristan province on Oct. 3, 2009, when a force of more than 400 insurgents attempted to overrun the outpost. During the intense six-hour-plus battle, Carter resupplied ammunition to fighting positions, provided first aid to a battle colleague, killed enemy troops, and “valiantly risked his own life to save a fellow soldier,” stated the Army’s narrative of his action.
Of the 54 Keating defenders that day, eight were killed and more than 25 were injured, according to the Army.
[To read more about the battle, go to www.airforcemag.com and search “Keating.”]
SSgt. Zachary Kline, a pararescueman with Air Force Reserve Command’s 306th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., received the Silver Star during a July 14 ceremony for his role in a daring mountainside rescue of the crew of a downed Army helicopter in Afghanistan in 2011. On April 23, 2011, Kline deployed from Bagram Airfield aboard one of two HH-60 rescue helicopters tasked with retrieving the two-member crew of an Army OH-58D helicopter that crashed in a hostile area of an Afghan valley.
Kline endured approximately six hours on the ground under intense enemy fire, defending the crash site and coordinating aerial counterattacks, according to Air Force accounts. His actions helped enable the rescue force to save the injured pilot, recover the body of the second pilot, and also retrieve a wounded soldier.
Combat Controllers Awarded Silver Stars
TSgt. Ismael Villegas and SSgt. Dale Young each received a Silver Star during a July 22 ceremony at JBSA-Lackland, Tex., for gallantry in combat on separate occasions near Helmand province, Afghanistan. Villegas, the Air Force’s only two-time Silver Star recipient currently on Active Duty, was recognized for his heroics “during nonstop enemy engagements” from Feb. 6 to 24, 2011, according to Air Force accounts. He controlled numerous strike aircraft that took out eight enemy fighting positions and killed more than 20 insurgents.
Young was honored for his actions from May 19 to 23, 2009. Despite being under continuous enemy fire for 94 hours, he controlled coalition aircraft and ensured effective fires on enemy positions, resulting in the destruction of “more than $1 billion in black tar opium,” stated the news release.
US, Vietnam Partnership
The United States and Vietnam announced the formation of a “comprehensive partnership” to deepen bilateral ties in a host of areas from defense and security to trade, science, and technology.
News of the partnership came in a joint statement following a July meeting of President Obama and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang in the White House. The agreement is meant to “contribute to peace, stability, cooperation, and prosperity in each country, in the region, and in the world,” read the statement. With regard to defense and security, the two leaders “agreed to expand mutually beneficial cooperation to enhance capabilities such as search and rescue and disaster response.”
WWII Airman’s Remains Identified
Defense Department forensic scientists identified the remains of Sgt. Jerome E. Kiger, 22, of Mannington, W.Va., an airman missing in action since World War II. Kiger’s remains were laid to rest with full military honors on July 21 at the Mannington Memorial Park in Mannington.
Kiger was one of nine crew members of a B-24 Liberator that enemy fire brought down southwest of Munich on July 21, 1944, while on a bombing raid to Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, according to a Pentagon news release.
The forensic scientists used circumstantial evidence, dental comparisons, and mitochondrial DNA to help identify Kiger’s remains.
DOD had announced, this June, identification of the remains of another crew member on Kiger’s bomber, Sgt. Charles R. Marshall.
[Check out www.airforcemag.com regularly, where you will find daily news updates, feature stories, and more.]
|A Truly Historic Mission
Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan—Andrew Billman is one of three Air Force historians in Afghanistan tasked with documenting the service’s role in the United States’ longest war for future generations to study.
From his office in Kandahar, Billman collects between 5,000 and 10,000 documents a month on all the missions conducted by Kandahar’s 451st Air Expeditionary Wing. For particularly significant missions, he also interviews the wing commander, vice commander, and mission participants. Transcripts from those interviews are included with the rest of the documents he collects and then attaches to a roughly 75-page monthly classified report that is passed on to 9th Air Force and the Air Force Historical Research Agency, Billman told Air Force Magazine during a July 13 interview in his office.
The Air Force will eventually declassify the reports and then use them to write the official book on the service’s role in Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Thirty years from now, we’ll have information detailing exactly how we retrograded out of Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan,” said Billman.
The other two Air Force historians are working from Kabul and Bagram Airfield.
[Read the full story in www.airforcemag.com’s “In More Depth” section.]
|Dempsey Details Airpower Options in Syria
The US military is prepared to conduct either “limited standoff strikes” or establish a no-fly zone over Syria, said Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. They are among the military options for dealing with Syria available to the White House and Congress, wrote Dempsey in a letter dated July 19 to Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), Senate Armed Services Committee chairman. Levin asked Dempsey to provide an unclassified assessment of the options.
For limited strikes, requirements would dictate “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines, and other enablers” to strike Syrian air defenses, missile sites, and other targets, wrote Dempsey. Depending on the time frame, the costs would be in the “billions” of dollars, and there is the possibility of collateral damage, the Syrian regime’s dispersal of assets, and retaliatory attacks on US forces, he stated.
To establish an NFZ, the United States would need hundreds of aircraft ranging from strike to electronic warfare assets to carry out air superiority operations, wrote Dempsey. He estimated the costs of the NFZ as $500 million “initially” and as much as $1 billion per month over the course of a year. Risks would entail the possible loss of US aircraft, requiring personnel recovery missions.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who voted against approving Dempsey’s nomination for a second term, released a statement in early August calling Dempsey’s proposal both “disingenuous” and “exaggerated.” According to the statement, McCain supports the option of limited standoff strikes to degrade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s airpower and ballistic missile capability, an approach that McCain said was deemed “eminently feasible” by a report from the Institute for the Study of War.
“Without sound professional military judgment guiding our top decision-makers, Syria will become a failed state in the heart of the Middle East and a safe haven for al Qaeda and its allies and degrade into a regional conflict that threatens the national security interests of the United States and its allies,” McCain said.
|The Readiness Avalanche
Thus far, budget sequestration has not affected the day-to-day readiness of the units operating the nation’s nuclear triad or executing other critical US Strategic Command activities in space and cyberspace, said STRATCOM Commander Gen. C. Robert Kehler in July. That’s because the services have given “preferential treatment” to supporting those missions.
However, the services will not be able to sustain this practice if sequester lingers long-term, leaving the specter of a readiness crisis on the horizon, he said.
“I am worried about readiness. It is like watching an avalanche where you see it start small and if you continue to ignore readiness accounts, the momentum builds and eventually you have a big readiness avalanche,” he said. The human dimension of this, such as the furlough of Defense Department civilian personnel due to the sequester, “has gotten lost” in the budget debates, he added.
“I am very worried that those [civilians] who are near retirement age will not hang on with us because they will not be confident in us,” he said. Similarly, some civilian new hires already have come to their supervisors and said: “I don’t think I am going to stay because I don’t see the future here,” said Kehler.
—Michael C. Sirak
|George “Bud” Day: 1925-2013
George E. “Bud” Day, who served in three wars, created the famed “Misty FAC” unit in Vietnam, and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism during five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war, died in July at age 88.
Day, who rose to the rank of colonel in the Air Force, also was an attorney who, after retiring from the service, was instrumental in getting the US government to make the Tricare program available to veterans of World War II and Korea. He also joined the two presidential campaigns of his one-time cellmate in North Vietnam, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He was one of the most decorated US military men since Douglas MacArthur, with some 70 medals.
In August 1967, Day’s F-100 was hit by an anti-aircraft missile over North Vietnam, and he ejected. Captured, badly injured—his right arm was broken in three places—and strung upside down by his captors, the shoeless and bleeding Day managed to escape and evade recapture for 10 days, surviving an artillery barrage as he moved toward US lines. Within sight of a Marine encampment, he was shot in the hand and leg and recaptured by the Viet Cong. Despite open wounds and relentless torture—which left him permanently impaired in the use of his arms—Day offered “maximum resistance” to interrogation, refusing to give up any useful information. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry and intrepidity during that time.
He received the Air Force Cross for his continued gallantry as a POW in 1969, surviving continued torture, starvation, and threats of execution; serving as the inspirational leader of other POWs; and refusing to provide information on how the POWs communicated with each other or about USAF escape and evasion tactics. After McCain was shot down in 1967, Day helped nurse the naval aviator back from near-death, in spite of being close to death himself.
In Faith of My Fathers, McCain’s autobiography, he wrote that Day had “an indomitable will to survive with his reputation intact” and was “a fierce resister, whose example was an inspiration to every man who served with him.” McCain eulogized Day on the floor of the Senate in July, saying Day saved his life and was “a hard man to kill” who expected the same resiliency from the men under his command.
Born in Sioux City, Iowa, Day dropped out of high school to join the Marine Corps in 1942, serving in the Pacific during the war. After the war, he graduated college and law school, but joined the Iowa Army Reserve in 1950. He soon transferred to the Air National Guard and earned his wings. During the Korean War, Day flew F-84s intercepting Soviet aircraft off the Korean coast.
He stuck with the service and became Regular Air Force, or a full-time, career airman, but wanted to stay in past an anticipated 1968 retirement, so he volunteered for Vietnam duty in 1967. As a major, he was given the job of creating a unit of fast forward air control (Fast FAC) aircraft, to help coordinate bombing attacks and strikes on enemy air defenses. Though Detachment 1 of the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron was officially named “Commando Sabre,” he nicknamed the unit and the mission “Misty” for his favorite song. There were 16 pilots and four F-100F two-seaters in the unit. Day’s call sign was “Misty 01.” He was shot down on his 65th mission over North Vietnam. In 2011, the Air Force Association honored the Misty FACs with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.
After being repatriated, Day, promoted to colonel in captivity, remained in the Air Force. After heavy rehabilitation and multiple waivers, he was allowed to resume flying duties as vice commander of the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing, flying F-4s. In 1976, he served on the Defense Department’s Code of Conduct review board, which set new guidelines for those US service members taken prisoner. He retired in 1976, having amassed nearly 8,000 flying hours.
Day re-entered the public spotlight in 1996, filing a petition on behalf of military retirees who lost their Defense-provided health care at age 65. Arguing that these veterans had been promised lifetime health care for their service, he won the case in the US district court in 2001, but it was overturned by the US Court of Appeals in 2002. Attention to the case, however, spurred Congress to establish the Tricare for Life program, which restored medical benefits not paid by Medicare to vets over 65.
Day wrote his autobiography, Return With Honor, in 1989 and updated it with the title Duty, Honor, Country in 2002. The Survival School building at Fairchild AFB, Wash., is named for him, as is the Sioux City airport.
|Navy Offers Airplane-Building Advice
An Air Force proposal to lift restrictions on F-35 flight traffic from Eglin AFB, Fla., over the adjoining city of Valparaiso has sparked criticism from the city’s mayor and rekindled a debate that began some five years ago when the Air Force first considered bringing F-35s to the northwest Florida installation.
The proposal comes as the Air Force is preparing to ramp up F-35 operations at Eglin, which has hosted the Defense Department’s joint F-35 schoolhouse since 2009.
The document, released in May, outlines several alternative proposals for how the schoolhouse could accommodate more students and aircraft. The preferred alternative would lift the flight restrictions over Valparaiso.
While the Air Force is not expected to make a decision until early 2014, Bruce Arnold, Valparaiso’s mayor, is already criticizing the preferred proposal, saying noise levels from the aircraft would harm the city and its residents.
“The city’s not encroaching on Eglin,” he told Air Force Magazine in a July telephone interview. “Eglin is encroaching on the city.”
Arnold is concerned that lifting the restrictions would result in lower property values and in a significant portion of the town’s population leaving.
Local resistance to the F-35 presence at Eglin is not new. In 2008, some Valparaiso residents expressed concern over projected F-35 noise levels over the city as the Air Force was making a decision whether to bring the schoolhouse to Eglin.
In 2009, the Air Force announced it would go forward with plans for the schoolhouse, but would temporarily restrict flight operations over Valparaiso and would limit the number of F-35s that it would beddown at the base pending completion of a supplemental environmental impact statement.
Shortly thereafter, Valparaiso city officials filed a lawsuit against the Air Force. At the time, Arnold claimed noise levels from the F-35s would affect more than 90 percent of the city’s residents. The case ended in a settlement in 2010.
F-35 flight operations formally commenced at Eglin in 2012, with temporary restrictions placed on air traffic over the city.
Now, USAF is considering lifting the restrictions, and Arnold is once again speaking out. He said he’s frustrated with the Air Force’s apparent unwillingness to sit down and discuss its plans with city leaders.
Conversely, Mike Spaits, Eglin’s environmental spokesman, said the Air Force has always been open with city officials. “We’ve never stopped talking to Mayor Arnold, from our top leadership down,” he said.
In July, Spaits said Air Force officials have invited Arnold to various events at Eglin, including community leader breakfasts. He also said for several years, Eglin held a noise committee, in which residents from surrounding communities, including Valparaiso, could voice their concerns. Ultimately, said Spaits, Eglin officials decided to discontinue the committee meetings, because both base leadership and community residents agreed that there weren’t enough serious issues being discussed.
“We are well aware of concerns from several leaders from Valparaiso and we are including all of their comments and concerns as we move forward,” said Andy Bourland, spokesman for Eglin’s 96th Test Wing. Despite Arnold’s criticisms, the communities around Eglin have generally been “very supportive” of the F-35’s presence, said Bourland.
|The War on Terrorism
Operation Enduring Freedom
As of Aug. 19, 2013, a total of 2,258 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 2,255 troops and three Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,775 were killed in action, while 483 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 19,141 troops wounded in OEF.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told reporters in Kabul he would not recommend the “zero option” of pulling out all US troops from Afghanistan after the completion of NATO’s combat mission there at the end of 2014.
Dempsey, who was in Afghanistan for meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and senior officials, said he had a “significant level of confidence” in the Afghan security forces, but the Afghans’ progress is “not irreversible,” should US and NATO advising and training support stop.
“An interruption in that progress could be a setback for the country,” he added. A follow-on US-Afghan security agreement is critical to continuing the development of the country’s security forces. The signing of that agreement might be possible by October, putting in place the framework for the post-2014 training, assisting, and advising mission, he said.
Behind the Curtain
The demands on the Air Force will not let up even after the US military’s drawdown in Afghanistan, said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III.
“We are not going to get less busy,” he said during a July talk at the annual Aspen Institute’s Security Forum in Aspen, Colo. “Our Air Force does an awful lot of stuff behind the curtain that people don’t really see.”
There still will be the need for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions all over the world, and the Air Force will continue performing an airlift mission every 90 seconds, every hour of every day, said Welsh. Plus, many thousands of airmen will operate satellites, protect cyber networks, and maintain the readiness of the nation’s ICBMs and nuclear-capable bombers, he said.
In fact, about 220,000 airmen in all—about 43 percent of the uniformed force—are committed to supporting combatant command activities every day from their home station, said Welsh. “It’s a different mode than the other services have, and as a result, most people don’t really understand it,” he said.
No Ragtag Ops
Maj. Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach, commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan, said he was surprised to learn the Afghan Air Force was not a “ragtag operation.”
In the three months since he assumed his role as the top Air Force general in Afghanistan, Wilsbach discovered the AAF actually is “a small and capable force [that is] improving all the time,” he told Air Force Magazine.
In the second quarter of 2013, Wilsbach said the AAF conducted 795 missions—an improvement of 35 percent over the first quarter. That included 460 medical evacuation missions—an increase of 139 percent over the first quarter. In addition, Afghan-run and -organized cargo runs were up 52 percent and troop transport missions were up 51 percent.
Aircrews assigned to the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, flew 133,415 sorties between the unit’s standup on Jan. 26, 2009, and the end of May, according to officials. Those sorties resulted in 877,007 hours in the air over that span. To match that operational tempo, an aircraft would need to take off once every 15 minutes for four consecutive years or fly nonstop for 100 years, 41 days, and 23 hours, a wing spokesman told Air Force Magazine in July.
During that same period ending in May, the base’s 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron passenger terminal processed 884,925 passengers, and the aerial port moved 690,834 tons of cargo in support of operations in Afghanistan. Using C-130s and, at one time, C-27Js, the wing also dropped 24,992 tons of cargo to ground forces.
The final rotation of C-27Js left Afghanistan in May 2012, and the Air Force is now divesting the mini-airlifters as it looks to shave costs from its tightening budget.
Senior Staff Changes
Lt. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, Lt. Gen. Larry D. James, Maj. Gen. Timothy A. Byers, Maj. Gen. Joseph Reynes Jr., Brig. Gen. Robert P. Givens, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Kendall.
To be General: Robin Rand. To be Lieutenant General: Stephen W. Wilson. To be Air National Guard Brigadier General: Roger L. Nye.
To Lieutenant General: Douglas J. Robb.