F-16 Pilot Awarded DFCMaj. Troy L. Gilbert, who died while strafing an enemy vehicle in Iraq last Nov. 27, posthumously received the Distinguished Flying Cross with valor device, the Air Force said in April.
The Air Force attributed the crash of Gilbert’s F-16 to his “motivation to succeed” in pursuing a fleeing enemy weapons truck at very low altitude, adding that his actions saved the lives of ground troops and the crew of a downed Army helicopter.
The announcement was made in conjunction with release of a USAF investigation into the circumstances of Gilbert’s death.
Brig. Gen. David L. Goldfein, who led the probe, said Gilbert and a wingman were on an intelligence-gathering mission when they got a call from coalition forces battling insurgents near the site of a downed helicopter. Ground forces, facing heavy machine guns, mortars, and rocket propelled grenades, were on the verge of being overrun when Gilbert and his wingman arrived.
Using the F-16’s 20 mm gun, Gilbert made two strafing passes. On the second, while attempting to maintain visual contact with a fleeing truck, Gilbert cut short a turn, winding up too low. Onboard sensors indicated he made a sharp pull-up, but the F-16’s tail struck the ground, causing the fighter to crash.
Goldfein said Gilbert had been well trained in strafing and flew many such missions in the two months the pilot had been deployed in Iraq. He had deployed from Luke AFB, Ariz.
Readiness Falling, Keys ReportsThe Air Force’s combat readiness has slid 17 percent since 2001, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Ronald E. Keys reported in March.
Speaking with reporters at Bolling AFB, D.C., Keys said that he’s been obliged to find “major workarounds” to address readiness shortfalls in combat un
its.The Air Force applies a rating of C1 (highest) to C4 (lowest) to assess unit war readiness, and Keys said the number of units reporting C1 or C2—considered prepared to “go and accomplish the mission”—has been “in a steady decline” over the last six years, while those counted as C3 or C4 have been rising.
Keys and nine other USAF generals spoke with reporters at a combat and mobility air forces conference.
The drop has various causes, from cutbacks in flying hours to shortages of personnel, equipment, and supplies, said Keys. The group of generals also agreed that “wear and tear” on equipment and people represents one of the biggest factors in the drop in readiness. Another, Keys added, was the need to keep fixing old aircraft that “find new ways to break.”
He expressed concern that some personnel—those associated with low-density, high-demand missions—are experiencing “one-to-one dwell” deployments, meaning they are deployed to combat half a year and at home base half a year.
ICBM Cut Starts This YearUSAF’s planned reduction of its Minuteman III ICBM force is to start late this year, a top officer reported in April.
Maj. Gen. Thomas F. Deppe, 20th Air Force commander, affirmed that the service will decommission 50 missiles—10 percent of the current 500-missile fleet. Deppe told a Capitol Hill seminar that the drawdown will result in the deactivation of 564th Missile Squadron at Malmstrom AFB, Mont.
The drawdown will be completed by the end of 2008, he said.
The three Minuteman wings—at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., Minot AFB, N.D., and Malmstrom—each will have 150 of the ICBMs. The Minuteman fleet is undergoing an upgrade encompassing most systems, from propulsion and guidance to re-entry vehicles and command and control links. The result will be, “basically ... a brand-new system,” Deppe asserted.
The retired missiles also will get upgrades so that, when tested, they are representative of the operational systems.
Deppe reported that the Air Force has dropped plans to make all Minutemen into single-warhead missiles. He said that some will carry either two or three warheads.
The empty silos will be mothballed and not demolished, Deppe said, in case they are needed again.
Heritage Jacket Is ComingThe Air Force has selected a new service dress uniform—dubbed the “Heritage Jacket”—for field-testing this summer. It incorporates elements of uniforms worn in the days of Air Force legends Henry H. “Hap” Arnold and William “Billy” Mitchell.
The service has worked on the new uniform for nearly a year, developing several prototypes and finally narrowing it down to one style that “pulls the strongest mix of detail preferences into one jacket,” said Brig. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, USAF’s airman development and sustainment director.
Uniform developers “talked extensively to airmen” during the process, which included sampling variations on the Arnold and Mitchell uniforms using “different lapel styles and sizes, with and without buttons, belted and unbelted,” and various pocket arrangements, explained Allardice.
In a late April visit to Goodfellow AFB, Tex., Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley told airmen the deliberate process in this latest selection of a new service dress was to ensure “what gets out to all of you is what you really want.”
Since its introduction as a separate service in 1947, the Air Force’s service dress has gone through various changes, primarily affecting the wear of badges, ribbons, rank insignia. (See “Whatever Happened to the Plain Blue Suit,” July 2006, p. 84.)
However, in the 1990s, then Chief of Staff Gen. Merrill A. McPeak introduced a new blue shade, nearly pocket-less version that sported Navy-style sleeve rank for officers. It proved a bomb. His successor, Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, changed it back to the one worn today.
A summer field test for the Heritage Jacket is dependent on whether USAF can afford it. Air Force spokesman Capt. Tom Wenz told Air Force Magazine May 15: “The uniform is still in the development process; the final decision has not been made. The plan is to have a wear test this summer (if the funding comes through), and then a final decision will be made.”
USAF Accepts Tanker BidsNorthrop Grumman, leading a team that includes European Aeronautic Defense and Space (EADS), on April 10 submitted its KC-30 proposal for the Air Force’s KC-X aerial tanker program. Boeing followed the next day with its offer of the KC-767.
Both contractors beat the Air Force’s April 12 deadline.
At stake is a contract, valued at about $40 billion, for 179 aircraft, to replace the Air Force’s 1950s-vintage KC-135E fleet. Later, the Air Force will also seek replacements for its more recently updated KC-135R.
The winner would also be well-placed to provide replacement platforms for the E-3 AWACS, E-8 Joint STARS, and RC-135 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft, all of them based on the 707 airframe, which is similar to the KC-135. (See “Washington Watch: KC-X Descendants,” May, p. 15.)
A winner of the contract is expected to be announced in September. However, in April, a top Air Force official told reporters he expects that whatever company is selected, the loser will immediately protest the decision.
The official said the stakes in any major new acquisition program are incredibly high, due to the dwindling numbers of new projects, and the companies competing for them will likely exhaust any and all avenues toward getting a share of the work.
Ground Action Medal OK’dThe Air Force has announced it will award a new medal to airmen who risk their lives in ground combat where they are in direct contact with the enemy.
The Air Force Combat Action Medal was approved by Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley on March 15. It will be awarded retroactively for any qualifying action subsequent to Sept. 11, 2001.
Service leaders wanted an Air Force award comparable to the Army’s Combat Infantryman Badge, which recognizes soldiers who have served in direct combat situations. More and more airmen serving in ground force taskings are becoming eligible for such recognition.
To be eligible, airmen must have come under direct fire while performing duties in a combat zone, in the air or on the ground, away from a secured, established installation. The Air Force Personnel Center said those airmen augmenting a defensive fighting position could also be eligible.
There are restrictions on the medal. Only one award can be made during the qualifying period, and for now, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom count as one eligible time frame.
Chief Orders Growth StudiesHow many more battlefield airmen and airlifters will USAF need to match up with a larger US ground force?
That, said Gen. T. Michael Moseley, is the subject of a major new Air Force analysis. The USAF Chief of Staff told reporters in April that USAF will need more airmen to embed with larger Army and Marine Corps forces and more airlifters to haul them around.
Moseley said he has directed Gen. Ronald E. Keys, head of Air Combat Command, to study the question. The Army and Marine Corps are expected to increase by a combined total of 90,000 troops over the next few years. The ground services have yet to figure out how many new troops will be in infantry formations.
Moseley asked Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, head of Air Mobility Command, to study how many additional airlifters it will take to carry around the greater numbers of ground forces and their gear. Moseley wants McNabb to update last year’s Mobility Capabilities Study with the new numbers. (See “Rising Risk in Air Mobility,” March 2006, p. 28.)
Both reports are due to Moseley this month. He needs the data to make informed decisions about troop and aircraft requests in the Fiscal 2009 budget, which will be deliberated this fall.
A service official said that the ground force expansion could create a need for at least 50 more strategic airlifters. The C-17 is the only strategic airlifter in production.
Predatory Loans TargetedThe Defense Department has proposed a new set of federal rules governing lenders that prey on military families and create “debt traps” that few can escape, according to a news report by Reuters, April 9.
Often called “payday loans,” and including car title loans, tax refund anticipation loans, and other “services” that barely skirt loan-sharking laws, the practices have contributed to a huge upswing in the number of service members who can’t get security clearances because of debt issues.
Under the 2006 defense authorization bill, the Pentagon is required to work with other federal agencies to put new rules regarding predatory lending practices in place by October. The new rules would cap interest rates and fees at 36 percent. However, lines of credit, car loans, credit cards, home loans, and other financial instruments would not be affected. A 60-day public comment period was expected to begin in late April.
F-35 Gets Green LightThe F-35 fighter program took a big step forward in April, when Pentagon acquisition chief Kenneth J. Krieg gave approval for production of the first two lots of Lightning II aircraft. The move releases funds to begin low-rate initial production.
Krieg, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, gave the green light to build the first two production-representative aircraft and start production of parts for the next 12. The move followed an April review of the program by the Defense Acquisition Board, which Krieg chairs.
There are already 14 F-35 airframes in production, and one flying, but those are test versions, funded previously, that will not have the full-up combat suites the production aircraft will have.
The first lot Krieg approved includes two Air Force models, which are conventional takeoff and landing variants. The second lot includes six each of the Air Force version and the Marine Corps’ short takeoff and vertical landing model. The Navy’s larger-winged carrier-based models will be funded later.
PACAF Wants PredatorsSouth Korea and either Hawaii or Guam would be good places to deploy squadrons of MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles, if any can be spared from the Iraq and Afghanistan fights, Pacific Air Forces chief Gen. Paul V. Hester told headquarters USAF recently.
Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley sent a questionnaire out to his regional bosses, asking how they would use Predator if some could be freed up.
According to a senior USAF official, Hester’s response was that the aircraft would prove “enormously useful” in the Pacific Theater, especially because PACAF has been the scene of a number of natural disasters in the last few years. Hester would like to have some Predators in order to have a persistent overwatch on humanitarian operations.
However, there won’t be any Predator squadrons permanently based outside the US for a while. Air Combat Command has only a few with which to conduct training; all the others are very much in demand by regional commanders in Southwest Asia.
Little Rock Gains SquadronThe 41st Airlift Squadron joined the 463rd Airlift Group at Little Rock AFB, Ark., on April 6.
The unit moved to Little Rock from Pope AFB, N.C., as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure process that unfolded in 2005.
The 41st is the first active duty squadron to fly the new C-130J Hercules.
The 41st AS brought 155 airmen to Little Rock, where the squadron eventually will operate 16 C-130Js. The base received the unit’s first new Hercules in March.
Base Newspapers DisappearingBase newspapers, a longtime staple of Air Force life, may be going extinct, to be replaced by Web sites and direct e-mails as a way to keep USAF people informed about the goings-on at their installations.
Pacific Air Forces, for example, will be out of the base newspaper business this month, when the last Fuji Flyer, the Yokota AB, Japan, paper, is published. Misawa AB, Japan, and Eielson AFB, Alaska, stopped printing their newspapers last year; Osan and Kunsan Air Bases in South Korea stopped this spring.
An Air Force spokesman at Yokota told Stars and Stripes that the base papers—stacked for free distribution at various heavily trafficked locations around the base—often go unread and are costly to produce and dispose of. Moreover, cutbacks in public affairs shops mean there are often not enough people to write, edit, and publish the papers.
Instead, Internet versions of various base papers are being made available; their content can be maintained or changed rapidly, providing airmen with more timely information, the spokesman reported.
As part of Air Force Smart Operations 21—a servicewide effort to find efficiencies as the Air Force shrinks by 40,000 full-time equivalents over the next few years—more such shifts are expected, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon reported.
No Support Against IranShortly after helping host a large US exercise, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar announced they would not allow the US to use their bases or facilities to launch attacks on Iran, the Associated Press reported.
US Navy exercises featuring 15 ships—including the carrier John C. Stennis—125 aircraft, and 13,000 sailors took place a few dozen miles off Iran’s coast in late March, according to Navy officials, who said the maneuvers were meant to show the commitment of the US to stability and security in Gulf.
However, Pentagon officials said the show of force was meant to send a message to Iran, which at the time was holding more than a dozen British sailors who had been seized in international waters.
Qatar—which hosts the US Central Command Air Forces air operations center at Al Udeid Air Base—and the UAE, which hosts US military facilities, both said in March they would not allow the US to launch any attacks on Iran from their soil.
The Gulf Cooperation Council, an association between Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE—had earlier urged all its members not to support a US military action against Iran. The US uses military facilities in all the GCC countries.
Officials from the UAE elaborated that they would also not play host to any espionage activities against Iran. The UAE is home to al-Dhafra Air Base, where the Pentagon has deployed both U-2s and Global Hawks.
C-130 AMP Breaks Cost CapsThe C-130 Avionics Modernization Program, designed to provide modern navigation and display systems for C-130H models, has experienced a 21 percent cost increase, the Pentagon reported in April.
The announcement was included in the April 9 Selected Acquisition Reports. The SARs describe the status of programs at the end of the previous quarter—in this case, the last quarter of calendar 2006.
The C-130 AMP increases were due primarily to increased labor rates and installation hours, as well as mission support equipment expenses, simulators and trainers, depot costs, and data support and interim contractor support, the report said. The Air Force reported that it anticipated the increases.
The Air Force has decided to defray the cost of the upgrade by foregoing the upgrade for 166 of the Hercules tactical transports. Last year, the service decided not to pay to upgrade its oldest E models since it has had to ground or restrict 53 of them due to massive structural problems, which were age-related.
B-1 Fleet Hits 500,000 HoursThe Air Force’s fleet of B-1B Lancer bombers has surpassed 500,000 flight hours as of a March 1 flight, Boeing said.
The B-1B has been lauded for its performance in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, flying a high operations tempo and performing many critical air strikes in support of coalition forces in contact with the enemy. Since 2003, B-1s have flown over 2,600 sorties.
USAF by the NumbersIn its most recent demographics report, the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph AFB, Tex., offered a snapshot view of the service’s active duty and civilian force.
In the active duty force, there were 337,780 airmen as of March 31—consisting of 68,675 officers and 269,105 enlisted. The Air Force had 13,545 pilots, 4,371 navigators, 1,363 air battle managers, and 33,188 nonrated line officers in the grade of lieutenant colonel or below.
The average age of an officer was 35, while the average age of an enlisted member was 29. Some 45 percent of enlisted airmen and 13 percent of officers were under the age of 26.Women comprised 20 percent of the force—18 percent of officers and 20 percent of the enlisted force.
Sixty-one percent of the force is married—73 percent of officers and 58 percent of enlisted airmen. The Air Force now has 19,597 couples in which both spouses are in the military. Of these, 1,358 couples featured spouses serving in different armed service branches.
The total number of civilians in the Air Force was 142,447, of which 76 percent are white-collar workers and 24 percent are blue collar.
Of the pilots, four percent are women. Women first began pilot training in 1976 and were approved to serve as fighter pilots in 1993. Women represent five percent of navigators and 12 percent of air battle managers.
Of the enlisted force, 99.95 percent have a high school education; 74 percent have at least some college; five percent have a bachelor’s degree, and .08 percent have a master’s degree.
The Air Force Academy provided 19 percent of serving officers. The ROTC program provided 43 percent, and 21 percent received their commissions through Officer Training School. The remaining 17 percent received direct appointments or commissions through other sources.
Jail Term for Deadly PrankAn Air Force airman was sentenced to 10 years in prison for accidentally killing a roommate in Iraq, USAF reported in April. At a court-martial, SrA. Kyle J. Dalton pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and drawing his weapon without cause in the death of SrA. Carl J. Ware Jr. in July 2006.
Dalton was pointing what he thought was an unloaded sidearm at Ware and jokingly tapping the trigger when the weapon fired. Dalton got immediate medical help, but Ware died shortly after being shot.
Dalton and Ware were deployed from Hickam AFB, Hawaii, to Camp Bucca, Iraq, where they were assigned as guards for detainees.
Dalton received not only prison time but also a reduction in rank from senior airman to airman basic, forfeiture of pay and allowances, and a dishonorable discharge, the Air Force said.The Air Force dropped murder charges against Dalton—which carried a life imprisonment maximum penalty—in exchange for the manslaughter plea.
10 Missing Airmen IdentifiedThe Pentagon’s prisoner of war/missing personnel office announced April 9 that it had identified the remains of 10 US Army Air Forces servicemen who have been missing in action since World War II. The remains have been returned to their families for burial with full honors.
The 10 airmen were members of a B-24 Liberator lost near New Guinea on April 16, 1944. In 2001, the US Embassy in Papua New Guinea informed the Pentagon about wreckage of a bomber that had been found in the Morobe Province area of the country. In 2002, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command team began surveying the site and uncovered wreckage and remains.
Recovered and returned were the remains of 2nd Lt. George E. Archer of Cushing, Okla.; 2nd Lt. Raymond A. Cooley of Leary, Tex.; 2nd Lt. Donald F. Grady of Harrisburg, Pa.; 2nd Lt. Dudley R. Ives of Ingleside, Tex.; TSgt. Richard R. Sargent of North Girard, Pa.; TSgt. Steve Zayac of Cleveland; SSgt. Joseph M. King of Detroit; SSgt. Thomas G. Knight of Brookfield, Ill.; SSgt. Norman L. Nell of Tarkio, Mo.; and SSgt. Blair W. Smith of Nu Mine, Pa.
For the Venerable U-2, a Long Goodbye
The U-2 is still a useful aircraft, but it will be replaced as soon as field commanders say they are comfortable with its replacement, the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force said.
Gen. T. Michael Moseley told reporters in April that the Air Force asked to retire the U-2 last year, and with good reason: It is old and it is suffering from electrical arcs inside the fuselage. “Not a good picture,” Moseley said.
However, Moseley said the U-2 possesses a unique signals intelligence function that the Global Hawk is still not able to perform. The UAV will eventually be equipped with a form of this capability, and other sensors will fill in some, as well.
Moseley said he has asked Pacific Air Forces officials and commanders on the Korean Peninsula identify the signals intelligence functions the Global Hawk can’t perform, “and at what point are they comfortable with the shift” from the U-2, “so we can get rid of it.” He expects it could be 2010 or 2011, but didn’t want to presuppose their answers.
“What I don’t want to do is walk away from the capability until we have the opportunity to put it on Global Hawk,” Moseley said. The Air Force will “hang onto the airplanes that have the Sigint capability last, and we will begin to work our way through the rest of the airplanes to get to that last pocket of capability.”
Moseley noted that the U-2, limited by the endurance of the man in the cockpit, can only remain aloft about 10 or 11 hours, while the Global Hawk can remain up and focused on an area of interest for “up to 30 hours” at a time. Beale AFB, Calif., has both aircraft, and “the operations of the Global Hawk and the U-2 now have merged,” he said.
—John A. Tirpak
Michael Dunn Named New AFA President
The Air Force Association’s Board of Directors has approved Michael M. Dunn to become the next AFA President and Chief Executive Officer, effective July 1. Dunn succeeds Donald L. Peterson, who will step down after completing five years in the job.
“We are very fortunate to have someone of Mike Dunn’s caliber as the next President of our association,” said Chairman of the Board Robert E. Largent. “Mike comes to AFA with an extensive military and academic background. He is committed to helping AFA further its mission: to educate the public about the critical role of aerospace power in the defense of our nation; to advocate aerospace power and a strong national defense; and to support the United States Air Force and the Air Force Family.”
As AFA’s top executive, Dunn will direct the association’s professional staff in all functional areas and be responsible for the management and operations of the association. He will also hold the position of publisher of Air Force Magazine, the official journal of the more than 125,000-member association.
A retired lieutenant general, Dunn previously served as president of the National Defense University, Ft. Lesley J. McNair, D.C. NDU’s mission is to provide world-class professional military education in joint, multinational, and interagency operations.
Dunn commanded the 1st Operations Group at Langley AFB, Va., a group composed of nine squadrons and one flight, with C-21, F-15, HC-130, HH-3, and UH-1 aircraft. He was also a senior military fellow and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has served in four joint tours including Headquarters, US European Command, Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Headquarters, United Nations Command and US Forces Korea, and the Joint Staff. In Korea, he was the lead negotiator with the North Korean Army at Panmunjom.
He began his career as an F-106 pilot and later flew the F-15 in the Far East. He has also flown the HC-130, HH-3, T-33, T-37, T-38, T-41, and UH-1 aircraft. He is a command pilot with more than 2,500 flying hours. Among his military decorations are the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, and Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters.
Dunn graduated fourth in his class from the US Air Force Academy, class of 1972, with a bachelor of science degree in astrodynamics, and completed Squadron Officer School in 1976. He holds a master of science degree in systems management from the University of Southern California, which he received in 1981. He is also a graduate of Air Command and Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
15 Academy Cadets Expelled, 13 Put on Probation
Thirty-one Air Force Academy freshman cadets were punished in April for their involvement in cheating on a January test. The academy expelled 15 of the cadets; three more resigned and the remaining 13 were placed on probation.
In answering a weekly multiple-choice test of Air Force knowledge, the cadets shared answers through Internet chat rooms. The knowledge tests don’t count toward grade point average, but must be passed to advance to the sophomore year.
Cadets take an oath that they will not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate such behavior from their peers. Cadets undertook the investigation.
In 2004, the academy interviewed 265 cadets in another episode of cheating. In that case, seven cadets resigned and seven were found guilty by an honor board, while a further 12 admitted cheating.
Ploesti Airmen Honored 63 Years After Raid
Sixty-three years after their heroic World War II action in attacking Nazi-controlled oil refineries around Ploesti, Romania, nine Army Air Forces airmen were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross at a Capitol Hill ceremony April 24. The medals were presented by Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff.
The airmen were members of a B-24 crew during the July 15, 1944 raid. Six of the DFCs were awarded posthumously, although eight of the honorees had survived the war.
Present were 1st Lt. Edward L. McNally, TSgt. Jay T. Fish, and SSgt. Robert D. Speed. Represented by family members were 1st Lt. James E. Jatho, 2nd Lt. Theodore D. Bell, 2nd Lt. George N. Croft, TSgt. William A. Magill, SSgt. Frank G. Celuck, and SSgt. Daniel P. Toomey. A 10th crew member, SSgt. WIlliam F. Maxson, had already received a Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission.
Moseley noted that 605 AAF bombers and 334 fighters attacked the refineries that day, which at the time were supplying the Nazi war machine with 60 percent of its imported oil and aviation fuel. The target was heavily defended with smoke screens, anti-aircraft artillery, and enemy fighters. The B-24 had an engine shot out before successfully pressing its attack.
Separated from their squadron and flying at low altitude to avoid detection, the crew had to cross the bulk of enemy-held Romania and Yugoslavia to return to their Pantanella, Italy, base. McNally, the bombardier, noted in a 2004 letter that “lone bombers, deep in enemy territory, seldom make it back.”
They made it, however, and nine flew again the very next day against a target in Austria—using another Liberator, because their own had been too badly damaged.The crew formed a tight bond in their six weeks of flying together, McNally said, but were “severely tested” on those two last flights. The Austria raid was their last, as the B-24 crew was shot down near Vienna. Maxon had fallen ill and did not participate in this raid. Radio operator Magill was found dead on the ground. The rest of the crew was taken prisoner and remained in Nazi custody until the end of the war, when they were freed by Soviet troops.
The awards ceremony capped a 15-year effort by the surviving crew members and their families to receive the DFCs they had earned on the Ploesti mission. McNally praised the efforts of Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), who McNally said was a longtime champion of their cause.
—Adam J. Hebert
Medical Airmen Are AFA Team of the Year
Seven airmen have been chosen to represent expeditionary medics as the 2007 Team of the Year by the Air Force and the Air Force Association.
AFA selects a different career field to honor every year. This year it chose medical airmen who have provided first aid under fire, emergency surgery, medical transport, medical training, expeditionary dental services, and public health services in host nation countries.
Team members for 2007 include individuals who: acted as an embedded public health trainer for the Afghanistan National Army; manually ventilated a critical burn victim during aeromedical evacuation; and saved victims of mortar and bomb attacks.
The team paid a five-day visit to Washington, D.C., where they visited with Lt. Gen. James G. Roudebush, Air Force surgeon general; Lt. Gen. Arthur J. Lichte, assistant vice chief of staff and director of the Air Staff; and CMSAF Rodney J. McKinley. They also toured the Pentagon, the White House, and the US Capitol.
Members of the 2007 Team of the Year are: Col. Jay Johannigman, Capt. Shaun S. Westphal, MSgt. Faith E. Elmore, MSgt. Kory O. Rivera, MSgt. Michelle L. Rootes, TSgt. Crystal A. Gomez, and SrA. Robert Zuniga II. (See “AFA in Action,” p. 82.)
The War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
CasualtiesBy May 16, a total of 3,395 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 3,388 troops and seven Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 2,773 were killed in action with the enemy, while 622 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 25,378 troops wounded in action during OIF. This number includes 14,013 who returned to duty within 72 hours and 11,365 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Closer to the BoneA squadron of B-1B bombers that formerly operated out of the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean has relocated to a base in the Persian Gulf region. The move has sharply cut the number of aerial refuelings needed to get the bombers to the action, and puts the aircraft within easy reach of targets in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Col. Jeff Fraser, vice commander of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, told Air Force Magazine the six B-1B bombers—operating from an undisclosed location—were in April averaging three sorties a day in support of coalition forces across the theater.
Transit time to Afghanistan from Diego Garcia is six hours; from their Persian Gulf base, the B-1Bs can make the trip in less than four. The reduced transit time translates to greater loiter time over ground troops.
The B-1Bs, of the 28th Bomb Wing, are deployed from Ellsworth AFB, S.D.
Fraser said the B-1B operations are among 13 new missions the 379th has added since June 2006.
The relocation of the B-1Bs followed a successful test with two airplanes, he said.
The bomber missions are still long, however. CMSgt. Jim Sanders, the NCO in charge, 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, noted that crews are now flying 10- to 12-hour missions. Lt. Col. Quinten Miklos, the squadron operations officer, said that since the move, the Bones have kept up a brisk sortie rate, having flown about 290 missions across the theater from February through April—flying missions ranging from preplanned strikes to close air support.
—Marc V. Schanz in the Persian Gulf region
CasualtiesBy May 16, a total of 386 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 385 troops and one Department of Defense civilian. Of these deaths, 205 were killed in action with the enemy, while 181 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 1,227 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 501 who returned to duty within 72 hours and 726 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
F-15Es on a CAS ShowThe 391st Fighter Squadron, which arrived at Bagram Air Base in January, was the first F-15E unit sent to Afghanistan expressly for the purpose of performing the close air support mission. The unit demonstrated that, even though the Strike Eagle was not originally designed for such a role, it can do it well.
The unit, deployed from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, played a critical role in supporting International Security Assistance Force troops in contact with Taliban elements along Afghanistan’s rugged frontier with Pakistan. Flying a punishing schedule of 10 missions a day, the “Bold Tigers” took over from A-10s that had dominated the CAS mission in Afghanistan since 2001.
Capt. Chris Troyer of the 391st said the deployment showed off the F-15E’s strengths—notably, its speed advantage. While A-10s could loiter over the target area for extended periods, the F-15Es can get off the ground and get to the target faster. Using external fuel tanks and air refueling support, the F-15Es greatly expanded the base’s operating radius and were used for a host of tasks ranging from nontraditional intelligence—providing moving video surveillance through their targeting pods—to attacking the enemy.
Through late April, the unit expended 2,500 rounds of 20 mm cannon fire in strafing runs and dropped 142 air-to-ground munitions. Capt. Joe Ryther, a weapon system officer with the 391st, said that aircrews had to adjust the way they used the cannon; it is aimed differently for a strafing run than for air-to-air engagements.
The unit is also among the first to employ the Small Diameter Bomb in Afghanistan.
—Marc V. Schanz at Bagram AB, Afghanistan
News NotesBy Tamar A. Mehuron, Associate Editor
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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