Seven Airmen Die in Afghan OpsSeven 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.
No-Fly Zone Patrols End in Iraq 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.
T-38 Pilot Dies in Crash 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.
Danger Pay Expands 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.
ACC, AFRC Agree To Share 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.
Readiness Remains a Concern 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.”
DOD Changes Smallpox Shot Plan 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.
Tarnak Farms Investigator Says No Court-Martial
On March 20, the hearing officer investigating two Air National Guard pilots charged in the friendly fire incident at Tarnak Farms in Afghanistan recommended against court-martial. However, his recommendation is not binding.
The Air Force began an Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding, in January against two Illinois Guardsmen, Majs. Harry Schmidt and William Umbach. They were charged in the April 17, 2002, bombing incident that left four Canadian soldiers dead and eight others wounded. (See “Aerospace World: The Case of the ANG Pilots: Blame, Support, and Conflicting Testimony,” February, p. 20.)
After hearing testimony and reviewing documentation in the case, the hearing officer, Col. Patrick Rosenow, concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge the pilots and try them by court-martial. In his report, Rosenow recommended administrative rather than judicial action.
Rosenow’s report went to Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, who is 8th Air Force commander and the general court-martial convening authority in the case. He does not have to abide by Rosenow’s recommendation.
Carlson’s options include referral of some or all of the charges to a court-martial, nonjudicial punishment, administrative sanctions, or dismissal of some or all of the charges, with no further action.
Independent Panel To Review Situation at Academy
Congress included a provision to establish an independent panel to review allegations of sexual assault and cover-ups at the USAF Academy in legislation that will provide supplemental funds for the war on terror. President Bush signed the legislation into law April 16.
Legislators have criticized the Air Force for its handling of the situation since the allegations surfaced late last year. (See “Aerospace World: USAF Leaders Vow To Make Changes at Academy,” April, p. 18.)
Air Force Secretary James G. Roche and Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper said they would welcome an independent review.
The review panel will have seven people appointed by the Secretary of Defense. According to Congress, these individuals are to have expertise in matters relating to sexual assault, rape, and the military academies.
The panel will determine “responsibility and accountability for the establishment or maintenance of an atmosphere at the US Air Force Academy that was conducive to sexual misconduct,” states the legislation.
The Air Force investigation, led by USAF General Counsel Mary L. Walker, in February began looking into 56 cases of alleged rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. Briefing lawmakers on March 31, Roche said, “We are appalled and embarrassed by what we have found.”
He said the investigation initially determined there is a misplaced sense of loyalty among the cadets. “Many cadets are loyal to each other, rather than loyal to the values of our Air Force,” said Roche.
Roche and Jumper maintain that the academy’s problems did not start with the current leadership. However, in late March, they announced plans to replace the two top officials, Lt. Gen. John R. Dallager, superintendent, and Brig. Gen. Silvanus T. Gilbert III, commandant of cadets, before the next class arrives.
For the top spot at the academy, USAF nominated Maj. Gen. John W. Rosa Jr., deputy director of current operations for the joint staff. The service named Brig. Gen. John A. Weida, a 1978 academy graduate, to be the new commandant of cadets, as well as acting superintendent until Rosa’s confirmation.
The service is also replacing the vice commandant of cadets, Col. Robert D. Eskridge, and commander of cadet training, Col. Laurie S. Slavec.
Col. Debra A. Gray, now serving on the joint staff at the Pentagon and a graduate of the first USAFA class to admit women, will be the new vice commandant. Col. Clada A. Monteith, who is currently deputy director of security forces at US Air Forces in Europe, will be in charge of cadet training.
News Notesby Tamar A. Mehuron, Associate Editor
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