Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: November, 2017 (10) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 10

November 2, 2017 at 2:37pm

An indefinite enlistment?

The Air Force’s top enlisted airman says a number of programs to improve Air Force work is in consideration. Photo credit: Senior Airman Chris Willis

The Air Force's top enlisted airman provided updates on the status of issues affecting the enlisted force Oct. 27, at the 2017 Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright addressed hundreds of mobility airmen, current and former Air Force leaders, joint and combined forces partners and industry representatives, as part of the three day professional development event focused on the rapid global mobility enterprise and the airmen who execute the mission.

Wright's remarks highlighted initiatives nearing completion and fielding, such as adjustments to awards program timing and process requirements. He also brought news of options, like a possible indefinite enlistment timeline, which are earlier in the consideration process.

He began by addressing the culture of Air Force units and how leadership and the establishment of positive culture impacts retention. Retention of enlisted aircraft maintainers and other airmen with skills key to operational success remains a significant challenge and focus in the Air Force and in Air Mobility Command specifically.

"My question to you is, ‘how do we keep them?'" Wright said. "Not just how do we retain them, but how do we keep them motivated, how do we keep them encouraged, how do we keep them inspired? Because that's how they come to us. They come to us motivated, encouraged, inspired, agile, innovative, ready to roll. They come to us feeling a sense of connection. They come to us feeling a sense of purpose."

"But, somewhere along the way, something happens," he said. "Some of it has to do with the nature of our business; some of it has to do with our extremely high ops tempo, which I don't perceive decreasing any time soon. Some of it has to do with what we as an Air Force have to get after: some of the additional duties, computer-based training, and moving things out of the way. We are doing a lot of work in that arena. But most of it has to do with the level of leadership and encouragement you provide ... the environment you create as leaders in our Air Force. That's how we get airmen to stay, how we keep them motivated and inspired. That's how we keep them resilient; how we utilize them and keep them thinking and being innovative."

Wright then provided updates on the ongoing changes intended to reduce administrative burden, increase mission focus, give airmen time back and enhance quality of life. Noting that upon return to the Pentagon, one of the first things he has to do is arrange to reenlist, Wright received a round of applause from the gathered airmen.

"Don't clap," he said with a smile. "I've been in the Air Force 28 years, almost 29. And every four years, I've got to go through the ‘Yeah, I'm still here.' Now, it's a time-honored tradition; I love it, but I think we'd like to get to once you hit your 15-year mark, then you're an indefinite enlistment -- you're good until your high year of tenure. If you have a selective reenlistment bonus or something, we'll make sure you have the right active-duty service commitment. Because I believe at 15 years of service, most of us are plugged in, dedicated and ready to roll. We're still doing the research. We like to go slow to go fast to make sure we understand all of the benefits."

A topic closer to fruition is reduction of the time needed to produce an awards nomination, as well as adjusting the weight of mission focus and job performance on the forms.

"We're really close on our goal of reducing the number of lines on our (awards packages) for the annual awards program," Wright said, noting the current number of 27 bulleted accomplishments required for a nomination. "So we'll get that down to about 16. I like 12 and four. So 12 in job performance and then four in the ‘Whole airman' concept. That gets us to the point where 80 percent of what you're evaluated on is your job and primary mission, and 20 percent is the other things that we ask you to do as airmen."

Once that change is official, Wright said he hopes major commands and other earlier levels of competition will follow suit and mirror the requirements at the Air Force level.

As Wright expressed his commitment to looking for ways, along with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, to recruit, train, motivate and retain the airmen critical to conducting operations and delivering hope around the globe, he challenged the A/TA audience members as well.

"Here's one thing I would ask you to focus on: be committed. Be committed to our airmen, be committed to our Air Force, be committed to being great leaders. Be committed to being great wingmen. Reach deep down inside and recommit yourself to this Air Force and to these airmen," Wright said. "They need you and they deserve you. Because they want to be committed to you. And so of all the things that I can ask you to do, and there's a lot -- the one thing I would ask you is to decide. You can't be on the fence. Because airmen know it and they see it. At the end of the day, attitude truly reflects leadership."

In conclusion, Wright channeled the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius with a slight adjustment of the emperor's famous quote.

"Don't waste your time arguing about what a good airman should be. Be one!"

November 2, 2017 at 2:41pm

WADS able to scramble jets faster

BG Jeremy Horn, commander, Western Air Defense Sector (left), told local lawmakers WADS can now scramble jets faster to protect our nation. Photo credit: Wash. National Guard

When an unidentified aircraft comes up on the screens at the Western Air Defense Sector, it took 18 distinct steps and a whole host of people to decide whether to scramble jets and determine if the aircraft posed a threat.

Today, after a vigorous process improvement effort, it now takes three distinct steps, an accomplishment Brig. Gen. Jeremy Horn was proud to announce during a panel at the Washington State Government Lean Transformation Conference, Oct. 17.

With a conference theme of "Growing a culture of problem solvers," Horn explained why it was important to empower employees to look for and solve problems -- and why managers and even military officers need to sometimes get out of the way and allow risks for efficiencies to become obvious.

The prime example of letting employees take risks lies with the Western Air Defense Sector, where employees were used to a process that hadn't changed in a long time, Horn said. But by letting employees take a hard look at the existing processes -- and getting buy-in for change, lives are safer.

"One of our organizations that you probably don't even know about but you sleep better at night because it exists is the Western Air Defense Sector," Horn told the mostly civilian audience. "We call them WADS, responsible for 24-7 monitoring of the air space between the Mississippi River up to Alaska, the entire western part of our United States, 70 percent of our land mass. They are keeping constant vigilance making sure the bad guys aren't coming into the air space unannounced."

Horn explained that a junior person seeing a blip on the screen would get the first indication that something may be wrong. Then, a sergeant would be notified. Then, another sergeant. Then, a watch officer. "And then they would have to go to a commander for a final decision on what to do," Horn added. "So, they looked at this and all the steps on this and figured we could tighten it up, make it more accurate and be in a shorter duration. They realized they could do it better."

Horn said they used value stream mapping to figure out how the system currently worked and what the ideal process would be.

"What they were able to do is eliminate the steps that added no value and also do steps that allowed things to happen at the same time, in a parallel function," Horn said. "They were able to take it down from 18 steps to three distinct steps and one of the tools they used was collaborative information sharing, where that young sensor operator could post something to a collaborative communications tool one time, and hopefully people can see that and have the information they need to begin their work to get the information they need to get it all to the commander.

"By taking 18 steps down to three, it reduced the engagement cycle significantly and it increased the accuracy because the process was more transparent," Horn said.

Hollie Jensen, the enterprise lean leader for Gov. Jay Inslee's Results Washington initiative, noted that the lean process worked the way it was supposed to, identifying a gap from the beginning "and instead of saying this thing doesn't work, we better fix it, you said, ‘What is the real gap and where are we headed?'"

"How did you create a safe space to make it work?" she asked.

"What we found out is if it's our Continuous Process Improvement Office going around and telling people, ‘you need to fix this,'" Horn said. "That's not a way to succeed. If it's a senior leader saying, we have a problem, help us figure out a way to fix it and here's the tools to do it, it's a much better way. Better it comes from a grassroots perspective, to have our employees be empowered to fix problems in order to try to innovate."

Horn offered another bit of wisdom, especially coming from a military organization. He says he recently had his team come together to craft a mission statement and wanted the ideas to come from everyone, not necessarily him.

"The more senior I become in the organization, the more I realize that my ideas become "Go Dos" -- and so I need to be very cautious of that," he said. "It could be very easy to have things be a top driven team."

Horn shared the stage for about an hour with State Auditor Pat McCarthy, who emphasized the value of performance audits; Department of Revenue Deputy Director Marcus Glasper, who talked about being cognizant of public input and not creating policies in a vacuum; and Michael Meotti, executive director of the Washington Student Achievement Council, who noted that facilitating is connecting interested parties, working with them and learning to walk away.

Details about the conference, as well as meeting material and presentations will be posted at https://www.results.wa.gov/what-we-do/learn-about-lean/lean-conference.

November 9, 2017 at 11:24am

McChord AFSA Chapter marks 50th anniversary

Senior Master Sgt. Carol Patten, Cary Hatzinger and Master Sgt. Kenneth Markline stand with the Chief Master Sgt. Thomas N. Barnes AFSA Chapter 1461 original hand-scribed charter, Oct. 31, at McChord Field. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Whitney Taylor

The McChord Chapter of the Air Force Sergeants Association marked its 50th anniversary by presenting the chapter's original charter to the Julius A. Kolb Airman Leadership School, Oct. 31, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Cary Hatzinger, former 62nd Airlift Wing command chief and current senior advisor of the Chief Master Sgt. Thomas N. Barnes AFSA Chapter, gifted the decades old document to Master Sgt. Kenneth Markline, ALS commandant, who accepted on behalf of the organization and its students.

"Mr. Hatzinger is very familiar with our collection of enlisted heritage items," Markline said. "We both felt that the charter, and what it represented, would be an excellent addition to our heritage collection. The Julius A. Kolb Airman Leadership School staff and I are honored that we've been entrusted with another piece of history to proudly display and preserve."

The chapter as well as the charter has undoubtedly claimed a place in history.

"Chapter 1461 has been active on McChord since it was first chartered as Chapter 691 in October of 1967," Hatzinger said. "(Since) that time, we have grown from one of the smallest to the largest of the 132 chapters with over 2,300 members."

The exceptional growth of the McChord AFSA Chapter is a testament to the faith airmen put in the organization's ability to affect change, and champion causes on behalf of service men and women.

"AFSA is the voice of the enlisted corps," Hatzinger said. "It advocates for improved quality of life and economic fairness that will support the well-being of the Total Air Force, (Air Force active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve) enlisted personnel and their families."

Acting as the voice of the enlisted corps requires the association to use its 132 chapters, located both nationally and internationally, to keep a finger on the political pulse and monitor legislation that may impact airmen and their loved ones.

"AFSA is organized in seven divisions across the U.S. and overseas; the heart of AFSA is its chapters," Hatzinger explained. "It is headquartered in Maryland and works closely with senior congressional and military members on issues affecting all Air Force members -- active, Reserve, Guard and retired. As a federally-chartered Veteran Service Organization, AFSA is able to lobby on Capitol Hill on behalf of its members."

Though AFSA has movers and shakers plugged into happenings on the Hill, its many chapters enable AFSA to be locally engaged as well. At McChord, the Thomas N. Barnes AFSA Chapter maintains active relationships with organizations both on and off base to ensure the continued strength of the NCO Corps, and safeguard its heritage.

"The (McChord) Chapter is currently supporting activities at the Orting Soldier Home, Airmen Leadership School and Noncommissioned Officer Professional Education, and hosting all the activities that take place on base for POW/MIA Recognition Week," Hatzinger said.

Created by four NCOs in 1961, the corps of the noncommissioned officer is revered among AFSA members to this day.

"We presented this to the Airmen Leadership School to keep in their heritage room because the ALS is the bridge from airman to NCO," Hatzinger said. "The Air Force Sergeants Association was created by NCOs and originally you had to be an NCO to belong. AFSA no longer requires you to be an NCO to belong, but based on its beginnings and recognizing that as airmen become NCOs, they have a duty to take care of other airmen, it seemed the most fitting place to keep this important piece of the chapter's history."

Markline echoed Hatzinger's sentiments.

"We teach new and upcoming NCOs to lead equitably, and to serve not only their Air Force and unit, but their subordinates, supervisors and co-workers as well," Markline said. "AFSA does the same by serving the enlisted corps and our families, both past and present." 

November 16, 2017 at 1:51pm

Military readiness at JBLM

Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan holds a Javelin anti-tank weapon during a visit to Joint Base Lewis-McChord to speak with military personnel about unit readiness, Nov. 14. Photo credit: Lisa Ferdinando

Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan engaged leaders and troops on readiness, observed demonstrations of personnel and assets and heard about the successes and challenges in maintaining a ready force during a daylong visit here Tuesday.

Shanahan, whose events included briefings from Army Special Operations Command, as well as the 62nd Airlift Wing and the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, noted that readiness is one of the Defense Department's highest priorities.

The deputy secretary rode in a Stryker command vehicle in a convoy with the 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team; visited a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and its crew; observed Expert Infantry Badge training and testing; discussed maintenance operations with the 1st Cavalry Regiment's 8th Squadron; and saw how airmen are seeking to use 3-D printing for shop or equipment issues to save money and man-hours.

Challenges to Readiness

The joint base's Army and Air Force personnel also detailed the challenges to readiness. They talked about the long government processes that they said can slow innovation, delay repairs and obstruct readiness. Shanahan told them he would like to see changes in the processes to best meet readiness and the demands of the force.   

The visit here and his upcoming trip to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island are Shanahan's first troop engagements outside the national capital area since he took office in July.

Following his visit, Shanahan traveled on to Vancouver, British Columbia, to attend a U.N. peacekeeping conference, marking his first international trip as deputy defense secretary.

November 16, 2017 at 2:11pm

JBLM garrison commander receives Immersion tour

Army Col. Nicole Lucas, Joint Base Lewis-McChord garrison commander, listens to a brief about home station check Nov. 6 on the McChord Field flightline. Photo credit: Airman Sara Hoerichs

Army Col. Nicole Lucas, Joint Base Lewis-McChord garrison commander, visited McChord Field, Nov. 6, to gain a better understanding of the way Team McChord contributes to JBLM's overall mission.

Lucas took part in an immersion tour that included parts of nearly every aspect of McChord Field's mission including a prime nuclear airlift forces brief, a visit to a C-17 undergoing a home station check, a 62nd Airlift Wing mission brief and a static display of a C-17 on the flight line.

Lucas spoke with airmen from multiple squadrons during the tour and received briefings about McChord Field capabilities including Operation Deep Freeze, aeromedical evacuation, special operations and Raven teams.

"I was able to get a better understanding of the Team McChord mission by talking with, and getting a firsthand account from the airmen who make the mission possible day in and day out," Lucas said.

Col. Rebecca Sonkiss, 62nd AW commander, said the tour was an opportunity to showcase Team McChord's capabilities.

"We wanted to demonstrate to Col. Lucas the range of missions that team McChord airmen carry out every day," said Sonkiss. "Airmen from Team McChord continue to play a key role in countless operations at home and abroad. Any opportunity to showcase that is time well spent."

The briefings gave Lucas a more detailed understanding of McChord Field's part in the larger mission.

"The missions that you accomplish on a daily basis and the role that we play in maintaining joint force readiness is critical to our nation's ability to project power, fight and win," said Lucas.

November 22, 2017 at 11:56am

62nd airman top citizen

Master Sgt. Monique DuBose speaks to members of the Tacoma Rotary Club, fellow servicemembers, veterans, friends and family after being named John H. Anderson Military Citizen of the Year, Nov. 9. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Whitney Taylor

An airman assigned to the 62nd Airlift Wing was named the 39th recipient of the John H. Anderson Military Citizen of the Year Award by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon, Nov. 9 in downtown Tacoma.

Master Sgt. Monique DuBose, 62nd AW Office of the Inspector General superintendent, was honored for outstanding civic contributions during the Rotary Club of Tacoma #8 Veterans Day program.

Prior to presenting DuBose with her award, Jason Lopez, America's Credit Union business development officer, described DuBose as the embodiment of excellence and service before self.

"Master Sergeant DuBose loves people and volunteers hours of her personal time toward community service in Pierce County," Lopez said. "She is a 2014 recipient of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award and donated over 400 hours to others as a Sexual Assault Victim Advocate. She is a member of the Tacoma Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., President of the Tacoma Chapter of Jack & Jill of America, Inc., and the director of training and education for Redefining You Foundation and the founder of Beyond Beauty Women's Social Saving Club."

For these and many other reasons, DuBose was chosen to represent Tacoma-Pierce County as the 2017 Military Citizen of the Year.

Though her staggering list of community commitments leaves little room for doubt as to whether DuBose is deserving of the John H. Anderson Award, the master sergeant was surprised and humbled to learn that she rose above other nominees.

"I felt so uncomfortable being recognized," DuBose explained. "My mother encouraged me to embrace it, but even when I arrived at the luncheon I didn't realize I was the guest of honor until they showed me to my seat on stage. However, with the encouragement of my family, I started thinking -- why not me?"

To say DuBose has a busy schedule would be an understatement. In addition to holding prominent positions in a plethora of local philanthropic and social organizations, she is wife to retired U.S. Army staff sergeant, James DuBose; mother to Monee´ DuBose, 12; and a full-time, active-duty airman. When asked why she chooses to take on so much, DuBose offered a genuine explanation.

"It's my legacy," she explained. "I'm always trying to create a medium of contact for my daughter, for all children, that can stimulate growth and leadership development. Through constructive educational, cultural, civic, health, social and local philanthropic programs we can ensure our children become healthy human beings who also give back to society. I do it for them."

As every service man and woman knows, the mission does not get accomplished by one alone. Applying that lesson to all areas of her life, DuBose never takes on a project without backing from her squad.

"My only real gift is knowing people who are smart, who believe in my vision," DuBose said. "They're my stakeholders; the people who invest in me and believe in what I do. When I find a project I'd like to take on, I connect with my stakeholders -- sorority sisters, community partners -- and they create the avenue enabliing me to make it happen. It's a group effort."

Each year, DuBose devises a motto by which to live her life. Throughout 2017, that motto helped her focus on giving.

"This year it is important for us to help restore our community by finding countless ways to give," DuBose said. "As we continue to increase our activity and visibility in our community, we must seek opportunities to lead and educate our youth servant leaders on local philanthropy that will benefit the citizens of Tacoma. Giving of our time and talent is good for all in our community."

Set to retire from the Air Force in summer 2018, DuBose will undoubtedly continue to pursue her passions and invest in, and enrich the lives of those around her.

"I really believe investing in others is my purpose, my calling," DuBose said. "I am a separating servicemember; I am a mother; I am a woman; I can connect with so many and I truly feel that my purpose is to serve."

November 22, 2017 at 12:00pm

Application window open for 2018 nurse

The Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program helps airmen finish their degree while the Direct Enlisted Commissioning Program is open to enlisted airmen with a nursing degree and license. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Stefanie Torres

The Air Force's Personnel Center will accept applications from active-duty enlisted airmen for the Nurse Enlisted and Direct Enlisted Commissioning Programs through March 16, 2018, for the April selection boards.

NECP offers the opportunity to earn a baccalaureate degree in nursing at a college or university with an Air Force ROTC detachment or a college or university with a "cross-town agreement." Applicants are required to attend school year-round in a resident-based program for up to 24 consecutive calendar months, to include summer sessions. Airmen selected by the NECP board will start school in fall 2018.

The DECP allows airmen to commission into the Nurse Corps if they already possess a nursing degree and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination.

"Sustainable success comes from an enduring commitment to a diverse force and inclusive culture," said Maj. Rebecca Farmer, Nurse Education Fellow at AFPC. "Generations, technologies and labor markets change. It is our responsibility to ensure the Air Force continues to invest in our airmen and their families and retain our talented airmen while giving them opportunities to broaden their skill sets."

To be considered for the NECP or DECP boards, applicants must be U.S. citizens with rank of senior airman or higher and no more than 10 years total active federal service (12 years for DECP) as of April 30, 2018. In addition, airmen must meet time-on-station and retainability requirements, possess current security clearances, be worldwide qualified and commissioned by age 42.

"This year we have a new process for applications where we ask applicants to send us a two- to three-minute video through MilSuite with answers to specific questions we'll send out at the end of January, instead of the essay requirement from previous years," Farmer said. "The Air Force must support an innovative and agile work environment to maintain a competitive edge and be considered an employer of choice."

Upon successful completion of their degrees, airmen who pass the NCLEX and receive their nursing licenses will be commissioned. Both DECP and NECP candidates will then attend Commissioned Officer Training and the Nurse Transition Program, and move to a final assignment location.

For complete application instructions and requirements, visit myPers from a CAC-enabled computer. Select "Active Duty Enlisted" from the dropdown menu and search "NECP" or "DECP."

For more information about Air Force personnel programs, go to myPers. 

November 22, 2017 at 12:04pm

McChord airmen support Argentine submarine search effort

A U.S. C-5M Super Galaxy assigned to the 22nd Airlift Squadron takes off from Travis Air Force Base, Nov. 18, to deliver U.S. Navy undersea rescue capabilities to Argentina. Photo credit: Master Sgt. Joey Swafford

Mobility airmen are enabling international assistance through delivering equipment and personnel to aid the government of Argentina in its ongoing search for the A.R.A. San Juan, an Argentine navy submarine.

Air Mobility Command deployed six C-17 Globemaster IIIs and three C-5M Super Galaxies, said Oliver Winter, 618th Air Operations Center Operational Analysis Division project manager. Those aircraft flew 17 sorties, onloaded 76 sailors assigned to the Undersea Rescue Command, and 764,000 pounds of equipment.

The submarine went missing in the southern Atlantic Ocean Nov. 15 and AMC deployed its first aircraft in support of the effort Nov. 18.

Mobility airmen launched a C-17, assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, carrying a tow bar, a Tunner 60K Aircraft Cargo Loader and three members of the 437th Aerial Port Squadron, Nov. 18. While on the ground in Argentina, the team conducted runway assessments prior to other equipment arriving in the country.

One of the C-5s, assigned to the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis AFB, California, flew to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. From there, they transported the first rescue system, the Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC) and underwater intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina, Nov. 19.

The second rescue system, the Pressurized Rescue Module (PRM) and supporting equipment, was scheduled to arrive in Argentina, Nov. 20.

"Helping others is in Air Mobility Command's DNA," said Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, AMC commander. "Our airmen recognize the critical nature of the mission, and as requirements expanded, we moved to expedite delivery of increased capability to the U.S. Navy and our Argentine friends."

In addition to the aircraft listed above the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover AFB, Delaware, the 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the 176th Wing at Joint Base Elmedorf-Richardson, Alaska, deployed aircraft to support in the effort as well. Additional missions are planned to continue to provide needed equipment, to include Sonar.

The SRC is a McCann rescue chamber designed during World War II and still used today. SRC can rescue up to six people at a time and reach a bottomed submarine at depths of 850 feet. The PRM can submerge up to 2,000 feet for docking and mating with a submarine settled on the ocean floor up to a 45-degree angle in both pitch and roll. The PRM can rescue up to 16 personnel at a time.

November 22, 2017 at 12:07pm

TRICARE Reserve Select policy changes start Jan. 1

A significant change will be made to the Tricare Reserve Select policy regarding re-instatement, beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

Those TRS Reserve citizen airmen who lose their TRS coverage and are dis-enrolled for failure to pay monthly premiums due to financial reasons within their control, will no longer have the second option of seeking a new TRS enrollment.

For reinstatement requests received by the contractor beyond 90 days from last paid-through-date/dis-enrollment will be locked out from purchasing new TRS coverage for 12 months.

TRS coverage re-instatements are handled directly by the regional contractor and approved based on the following obligations being met: the request being received by the contractor or postmarked no later than the referenced 90 days, payment of all premiums from the last paid-through-date through the current month, plus the amount for the following two months is included, and information is provided to establish recurring electronic premium payments or electronic funds transfer. Failure to meet any of these three requirements results in coverage not being re-instated for the Reserve citizen airman for 12 months.

When Reserve citizen airmen's premium payment is not made at the beginning of a month, contractors attempt to contact them before the end of the month that the premium payment is due; to inform them their payment was not received. These attempts are made by phone and notification by regular mail and email.  At the end of a month and still no premium payment is received by the contractor, that TRS coverage is dis-enrolled to the last date of the previous month of coverage. Upon a dis-enrollment, notification is sent to the Reserve citizen airman, informing them a change has been made to their TRS coverage and to take immediate action.

Reserve citizen airmen can update their contact information by: Logging into MilConnect at: milconnect.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect/, calling 1.800.538.9552 (TTY/TDD: 1.866.363.2883) or visiting any RAPIDS site at dmdc.osd.mil/rsl/appj/site.

November 30, 2017 at 2:16pm

From puppy to protector

Candy, a military working dog assigned to the 27th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, wears an Air Force Commendation medal during her retirement ceremony at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Nov. 9. Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Lane Plummer

Candy is a military working dog with six deployments under her collar, and on Nov. 9, she was finally able to rest her paws when she officially retired from duty during a ceremony here.

Her career, like hundreds of canines before her, serves as a reminder of how powerful a four-legged airman can be.

For most of these working dogs, it all starts across the Atlantic Ocean. The Military Working Dog Buying Program will travel to European kennels to purchase canines for the Defense Department. In some cases, however, MWD's are born and raised at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where training occurs for both canines and their aspiring handlers. The way to tell the difference between foreign and domestic canines is in their name. For example, if their title is "MWD Kkeaton" or "MWD Ttoby," the double consonant will signify they're a dog raised through Lackland's Puppy Program. Names without the double consonant are for all other adopted dogs.

After being adopted, the dogs live with foster families before the initial training regimen begins when they are 18-24 months old. Once they enter the training program, the dogs have 120 days to graduate.

Training Dogs, Handlers

During this training, they learn all the basics. Basic commands such as down, sit and stay are the starting point. Once they learn these commands, the canines begin learning more advanced techniques such as patrol work, detection and more. Successfully completing the four-month program means they'll graduate and be assigned their base.

Simultaneously, aspiring dog handlers are training nearby. It was an experience that, for Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Pethtel, a dog handler with the 27th Special Operations Security Forces, was fun and filled with challenges for both canine and handler.

"It felt hard at times because you didn't know how much work it takes to become (a handler)," Pethtel said. "I remember how nervous we'd be (when) pulling our first working dog."

Before they get to handle their first working dog, the handlers must also learn the basics and proper commands. Not only that, they also must learn how to groom the dogs and keep them fit to fight.

When the newly trained dogs arrive at their first assignments, they will be assigned a handler and begin learning more advanced techniques.

Teamwork

From there, it's all about strengthening the bond between handler and canine. Just like airmen in an office, team chemistry is a vital component for these working dog teams to accomplish the mission. Between base patrols and deployments, the bond only strengthens each time they put their bulletproof armor on.

"When we do convoys, canines lead," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Paul Little, a 27th SOSFS dog handler. "When we're downrange, dog teams lead the way. It's one of the most vital components to any mission they're involved in."

It's an honor that Candy, one of the most experienced and decorated military working dogs in the DoD, had one last time before she traded in those heavy vests for a simple collar and leash. After eight years of service, she received an Air Force Commendation Medal and retired to her new home in Colorado with Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Fehringer, one of her former handlers.

From puppy to airman, the career cycle of these canine servicemembers is long and arduous and requires as much sacrifice as the thousands of human airmen they serve and protect.

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