Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: December, 2011 (25) Currently Viewing: 21 - 25 of 25

December 26, 2011 at 6:31am

Reservist works hard to overcome battlefield injury

As Tech. Sgt. Keith Sekora coasted across the finish line of the 2011 Iraq/Afghanistan Run for Remembrance on his recumbent bicycle, a great sense of accomplishment washed over him.
The 446th Civil Engineering Squadron Reservist successfully completed the 5K race, part of the Seattle Marathon, over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. It was one of the first major milestones on the 41-year-old Airman’s road to recovery from a devastating battlefield injury he sustained last year during a deployment to Afghanistan.
“I’ve lost a lot of my (physical) freedoms,” said Sekora, a 6-foot-6 rock of a man who played lacrosse at the University of Maryland in his younger days. “My entire life has changed.”
While working as part of an explosives ordinance disposal unit during a Nov. 2010 deployment, an explosion sent a piece of debris flying that struck Sekora in the neck, just above his shoulder blade. The impact tore his left vestibular artery.
“From getting knocked down to being here today is a blur,” said Sekora, who spent 10 years on active duty in the Army working as a bomb dog handler before coming to the 446th Airlift Wing in 2005.
While Skekora was conscious on the ride back to his forward operating base, about seven hours later he suffered the first of four strokes.
“After four strokes, they told me I shouldn’t have made it,” said Sekora, who also works as a deputy for the King County Sheriffs Department.
After months of extensive therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sekora is now living back at his home in Issaquah. But the effects of the accident remain with him. The Reservist suffers from memory loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, vertigo and numbness in various parts of the left side of his body. One of the worst incidents included a bout of hiccups that lasted for 18 days, as his injury prevented his body from getting over them.
“It was horrible,” he said. “It got to the point where I was laying in my bed counting them as they came on in four-second bouts.”
Doctors had to give him a dose of medicine to stop the hiccups.
While one of his fellow deputies moved in with him to help with care, things haven’t been easy. Sekora has had to learn how to walk, chew and use his arm again. He’s in the process of being medically retired from both the Air Force and his job as a deputy.
“Now I get to figure out what I can do with the next part of my life,” he said.
Despite all the setbacks, Sekora continues to fight to get back the physical piece of his life he misses so much. The Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord lent him the recumbent bike to compete in the 5K, and thanks to a grant from Operation Ward 57, Sekora is in the process of getting his own custom-made bike from a shop in Lakewood.
“We want to do as much as we can to help wounded Servicemembers get out and live a normal, active life,” said Brittney Hamilton, Operation Ward 57’s executive director.
Hamilton participated in the 5K run with Sekora and another Airman, Tech. Sgt. Chris Wolff, who completed the race in a wheelchair.
“It was pretty awesome to see them out there,” Hamilton said. “It was my first 5K, and seeing those guys participate is what got me through it.”
While the recovery process is slow, Sekora is making great strides. He participated in an adaptive sports clinic in Port Hueneme, Calif., earlier this year, and can’t wait to get out on his new bike and tackling as many events for wounded warriors as he can.
“I’m looking forward to doing more physical activity,” he said.

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December 26, 2011 at 6:34am

Tackling C-17 maintenance delays head-on

(446th AW PA) - If anyone can come up with a design which could help keep C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in the air, it shouldn't be a surprise when that idea comes from the 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
Reserve maintainers are applying their expertise and a new innovative model to help keep McChord's C-17 fleet in maximum shape, to sustain global strategic airlift missions.
Although a fairly new idea, the targeted maintenance concept has been successful in providing Reservists a sense of value while helping reduce delayed discrepancies in the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings.
"The concept is nothing more than an organized team of maintainers from several AFSCs, led by an air reserve technician, who work with the single focus of reducing an aircraft's delayed discrepancies," said Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Meyer, 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent. "Delayed discrepancies are non-grounding findings that need repaired or replaced, but not urgent enough to be done immediately."
According to Meyer, delayed discrepancies are one of many measuring sticks that reflect a wing's maintenance management, which is monitored by Air Mobility Command. Examples of delayed discrepancies are replacing noncritical aircraft parts such as equipment locker storage nets or resealing an angle of attack.
"In the 446th AMXS, we started a trial test of the TMT concept last year with three teams," said Meyer. "The results were impressive, each team removed approximately 50 DDs from McChord's fleet. The active duty were very receptive to this added source of expert manpower to their equation, so we increased it to 12 TMTs this year."
Tech. Sgt. James Castle, 446th AMXS crew chief here, said he lead a team of 17 Reservists in September, who spent their annual training tour working on about 59 delayed discrepancies on 12 C-17s.
"This training provided the Reservists the opportunity to work systems they haven't seen in awhile and gain experience, while reducing the DD rate," said Castle.
Keeping McChord's fleet in top shape with the benefit of Reservists gaining additional maintenance experience is a win-win for all.
"The targeted maintenance team is a great opportunity for a traditional Reservist to spend their annual tour," said Senior Airman Alex Barley, 446th AMXS crew chief here. "It gives airmen a chance to gain experience working on the aircraft that we normally wouldn't have the time for on a UTA weekend. I believe it works well because we can accomplish tasks and learn how the flightline works in depth."

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December 28, 2011 at 3:42pm

7th Airlift deployed today

An airlift squadron from McChord Field 
deployed Wednesday in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, New Dawn and
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

More than 100 Airmen from the 62nd Airlift Wing's 7th Airlift Squadron departed
for a 60-day deployment to the Middle East. The Airmen will take over operations
of the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.

The unit will operate out of two bases, managing and flying missions
concentrated in and around Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. They are
replacing the 4th Airlift Squadron, who is scheduled to return in January.

Their mission is to provide global strategic airlift, airdrop, aeromedical
evacuation and humanitarian relief, to create an air bridge for personnel,
equipment and supplies throughout the assigned areas of responsibility.

"It's a privilege to participate in this operation," said Lt. Col. Eric Carney,
817th EAS commander. "This is a true team effort and we're proud and excited to
execute our mission. It's going to be a really busy time for us but we're ready
to go do our job and do it well."

During their last deployment in May 2011, the C-17 squadron moved more than
33,984 passengers and delivered more than 81 million pounds of cargo to include
9,635 bundles with a combined weight of more than 15 million pounds on 280 drop
zones.

"We are honored to go forward and fill the 817th EAS mission," said Carney. "We
are a group of professionals from across multiple active and reserve units who
will work together to provide the responsive airlift the warfighter needs. We
will miss our friends and families, but we will execute the mission with pride
and professionalism and be back soon."

The 62nd AW's four active-duty flying squadrons share responsibility for the
deployed squadron and rotate operating the 817th EAS continuously. The
deployments allow Air Mobility Command to consistently position assets closer to
the action.


December 29, 2011 at 6:22am

The misadventures of Airman Snuffy McDufflebag

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- I usually have lunch with Master Sgt. Johnny Mentor every other week and he tells me the stories about the Airmen he supervises. He has five Airmen and according to him most of them are good, hard working people. Occasionally he says he has to "kick them in the pants." I toned it down since we have children and people in the general public who read our website.

Public websites, Facebook and Twitter at work ... really? By the way, our public website is www.62aw.af.mil, our Facebook site is 62nd Airlift Wing and our Twitter site is www.twitter.com/62airliftwing. Anyway, I digress.

Back to Sergeant Mentor, for the most part he says they work hard to try to learn and enforce Air Force standards. Unfortunately for Sergeant Mentor, he has an Airman who he calls, "a habitual line stepper," named Airman Snuffy McDufflebag.

Before the Christmas break, Col. Wyn Elder, 62nd AW commander, informed the base of the recent rash of car accidents which occurred across Air Mobility Command, including one involving an Airman who had just moved from here.

Sergeant Mentor held an informal office call with all his Airmen and told them that McChord Field had seven minor vehicle accidents in recent weeks. He also reiterated what the commander mentioned about driving safety on his weekly Roll Call, the one that comes out each Wednesday. Hopefully you are sharing them with your Airmen and Wingmen. Shameless plug, I know, but good information and topics.

Anyway, Sergeant Mentor also informed his troops that motor vehicle incidents continue to be the single greatest threat to our AMC and 62nd AW family. According to Sergeant Mentor, more than 65 percent of the mishaps in the command are caused by either excessive speed as it relates to the road conditions or by drivers not paying attention. He told them to watch their speed as they travel and that defensive driving and vigilance remain the primary countermeasures against accidents.

He told me he asked them all individually what they would be doing and told them all face-to-face to be safe and come back in one piece.

Well, everyone returned in one piece except one, Airman McDufflebag. While at a holiday party at a friend's house, Airman McDufflebag was asked if he could get some ice from the Shoppette. He thought since he had only drank seven Appletinis that he would be fine to drive to the Shoppette and back. Appletinis have fruit right. While at the Shoppette, a friend of his bet him he could beat Snuffy back to the holiday party by taking Barnes Avenue while he took Lincoln Boulevard and Outer Drive.

Snuffy thought back to what Sergeant Mentor told him and could only remember that he only had a 65 percent chance of winning unless he sped excessively while on-base. This seemed right to him so he accepted the challenge.

Airman McDufflebag jumped in his Kia Sportage, it's a Jeep or at least some sort of imitation of a Jeep, and started to race back to the party. He flew through the streets of McChord Field narrowly avoiding pedestrians and bike riders. Sergeant Mentor was out walking his dog when he noticed Snuffy's sky blue Kia turning the corner. Unfortunately, young Airman McDufflebag lost control of his vehicle and rolled it three times into a ditch.

Luckily for Airman McDufflebag, since he was at least smart enough to wear his safety belt, he walked away with minor bruises. He didn't have to go to the hospital because he already had ice in his car from going to the Shoppette earlier. But now his license is revoked, his vehicle is totaled and he has to figure out a way to pay to tow his car back to the dormitories.

Sergeant Mentor said Airman McDufflebag was also fortunate that he only injured himself and no one else. One unwise decision led to a very bad weekend, even with all the facts and being prepared to make a wise decision, Sergeant Mentor's Airman still chose to do the wrong thing.

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them mow the lawn," Sergeant Mentor said. What?

Anyway, I thanked Sergeant Mentor for sharing his story with me. Being informed about driving safety and the consequences helped me to be a better sergeant and hopefully it will help you too. Unfortunately, I have a feeling Airman McDufflebag will probably be at it again, because as you know he is a "habitual line stepper."

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December 29, 2011 at 6:24am

Air Force officials release high year tenure details

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Air Force officials announced Dec. 19, high year of tenure limit changes for the grades of senior airman, staff sergeant and technical sergeant that go into effect in 2013.

The changes are a part of additional force management programs that are ongoing to continue to size and shape the force to current and future requirements.

Most Airmen affected by the HYT changes will have two opportunities to test for the next higher grade before the change becomes effective.

High year of tenure limits for senior airman will be reduced from 10 years to eight years; staff sergeant 20 years to 15 years; and technical sergeant 22 years to 20 years.

The new HYT policy will impact slightly more than one-half of one percent of the enlisted force, or approximately 1,700 Airmen.

"These HYT changes are necessary to help us meet our end-strength," Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy said. "We are a highly competitive force, and this will make us an even more competitive one."

This timeline provides Airmen time to prepare for promotion testing.

"Airmen control their careers. We are announcing it now so Airmen affected by the new HYT have ample time to study before their promotion tests," Roy said.

The Air Force last changed HYT in 2010 when the service went back to the pre-2003 HYT levels due to end-strength stabilization

"It is the supervisor's role to ensure Airmen are informed and a career path is laid-out - but it is incumbent on every Airman to strive to be the best and reach these milestones in a timely fashion," said Air Force Personnel Center Command Chief Ruben Gonzalez Jr.

Senior airmen and staff sergeants who separate because of HYT will receive involuntary separation pay. Technical sergeants may apply for full retirement if leaving active duty because of reaching their HYT just as they would under existing policy.

"We are committed to helping these Airmen and their families during their transition. Each will receive separation pay and many other benefits," Roy said.

Airmen separating will also receive 180 days of extended medical care for themselves and their family, a second opportunity to enroll in the Post-9/11 GI Bill, NAF hiring preference, permissive TDY for employment and relocation activities, two years of commissary and Exchange privileges among other benefits.

An Airman's total active federal military service date, or TAFMSD, will determine whether he or she is grandfathered under previous HYT limits or impacted by the new HYT limits.

As examples:

-- Senior airmen whose TAFMSD is Sept. 30, 2005, or earlier would separate under on their original HYT date, but no later than Sept. 29, 2013. If the senior airman's TAFMSD is after Sept. 30, 2013, then the Airman's HYT date would be adjusted to the new eight-year limit.

-- Staff Sergeants with a TAFMSD of Sept. 30, 1997 or earlier will retire no later than the 1st day of the month following their original HYT. Staff Sergeants with a TAFMSD of Oct. 1, 1997 through Sept. 30, 1998 must separate on Sept. 29, 2013. Staff Sergeants with a TAFMSD of Oct. 1, 1998 or later will have their HYT adjusted to the new 15-year HYT level.

-- Technical Sergeants who exceed the new HYT will be allowed to remain on active duty to their original HYT or Sept. 1, 2013, whichever is earlier. For example, technical sergeants with a TAFMSD of Aug. 31, 1993 or earlier will retire no later than the 1st day of the month following their original HYT, but no later than Sept. 1, 2013. Technical Sergeants with a TAFMSD of Sept. 1, 1993 or later will have their HYT established at the new 20-year HYT level.

Airmen can find their TAFMSD through the Air Force Personnel Services website at https://gum-crm.csd.disa.mil and receive additional counseling through their local Force Support Squadron or Military Personnel Section's Career Development section.

Airmen assigned overseas who do not have enough time to move to the continental United States will have their date eligible to return from overseas, or DEROS, involuntarily extended to match their new HYT and date of separation. Those whose DEROS exceeds the new HYT and DOS will have their DEROS curtailed to match the new HYT.

Airmen are also encouraged to verify their active duty service commitment for the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill transfer of benefits to family members' eligibility. Airmen who will have their HYT reduced and the reduction will not allow the Airman to complete the ADSC associated with the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of educational benefits option should contact their local education office. They may also visit the Air Force's Post-9/11 GI Bill web page at: http://www.afpc.af.mil/library/gibill/index.asp for additional information.

Extensions of HYT due to unusual or extraordinary circumstances are still applicable under existing guidelines. These include reasons such as extreme personal hardship or when an extension is clearly in the best interest of the Air Force.

"Air Force leadership is committed to taking the necessary steps to ensure the resiliency of our Airmen and families," Gonzalez said. "Our bases and local communities have resources available to alleviate financial and emotional stress."

Airmen can find more information about those programs through their unit first sergeant or at their local airman and family readiness centers, he said.

This change to policy will not affect Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard members.

For more information about high year of tenure limits or any other personnel related issue, visit the Air Force Personnel Services website at https://gum-crm.csd.disa.mil.

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