James throws out first pitch at Nats game

Air Force Sec. Deborah Lee James throws out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals doubleheader Sept. 25, 2014. (From James' official Facebook page)

Air Force Sec. Deborah Lee James throws out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals doubleheader Sept. 25, 2014. (From James’ official Facebook page)

Air Force Sec. Deborah Lee James last night threw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals’ doubleheader against the New York Mets.

The Nationals hosted James, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, and several airmen as part of their Air Force Appreciation Night. Judging by this photo of the catch, James seemed pretty on-target — perhaps a bit low and outside, but she served up a much better pitch than 50 Cent’s infamously bad throw earlier this year.

James warms up before her first pitch at the Nationals game. (Facebook)

James also posted this photo of her warming up beforehand. And Gen. Welsh’s wife Betty tweeted some photos of the Welshes at the game, including a great one of them with Screech, the Nationals’ bald eagle mascot.

The Air Force’s official chorus, the Singing Sergeants, also sang the National Anthem before the game, and Tech Sgt. Aaron Paige sang “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch.

The Nationals split the doubleheader, first falling to the Mets 7-4 before shutting them out 3-0.

‘Day in the life’ chronicles life at the 86th Airlift Wing and beyond

day in the lifeBrig. Gen. Patrick Mordente never knows quite how to answer when he’s asked what happens on a typical day at the 86th Airlift Wing he commands at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Which is why he was on board when public affairs  approached him about a project that would chronicle 24 hours of operations across six groups, 27 squadrons and three countries — Moron Air Base in Spain and Chievres Air Base in Belgium as well as Germany, Mordente wrote in the introduction to a 190-page digital photo book called “Day in the Life.”

Public affairs professionals shot more than 7,000 photos and 12 hours of video starting at midnight on June 18, said Maj. Tony Wickman, chief of public affairs at the 86th. All the work was done in-house, meaning there was no outside cost, he said. The project required months of pre-planning, coordination and post-production.

The result was the digital book — which may be printed on a limited scale — and two videos.

“Day in the Life” begins on the flightline minutes after midnight and includes the air traffic control center, the fitness center and  mission briefings before sunrise. There are security forces members patrolling the base on bikes at dawn and airmen cleaning dishes in the dining facility. There’s an airdrop from a C-130, a mother with her newborn baby at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a firefighter demonstration for local students. Hydraulics technicians make repairs, an airman swears his oath of re-enlistment, a propulsion tech performs an engine check. Airmen sort mail and inventory supplies, complete the physical training test and take on dozens of other daily tasks.

“If you look beyond the uniforms and tasks performed, you will see what I see: determination, pride, selfless service that comes with the demands and honor of serving our country,” Mordente wrote. “This book serves as a window into the world of our wing and all that it does to support America and its Allies.”

What generals wish they’d known as O-1s


Commanders take questions at the Air and Space Conference at National Harbor, Maryland, this month. Among them: If there was one thing you could tell yourself as a young officer, what would it be? (Rob Curtis/Air Force Times)

Ever wonder what the Air Force’s top commanders wish they’d known when they were young lieutenants just starting out? Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh asked six general officers just that at this month’s Air and Space Conference at National Harbor, Maryland.

Their advice was at times poignant, candid, anecdotal and to the point. Here’s what they had to say.

Lt. Gen. Stephen “Seve” Wilson, commander, Air Force Global Strike Command, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana:

“I wish I would have known when I was a lieutenant the importance of relationships and how with them you can do anything and without them you can’t do anything.”

Lt. Gen. Stanley Clarke III, director, Air National Guard, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C.:

“The one thing I would tell myself would be encourage others always. And I think about some of the airmen that, unfortunately, I knew that committed suicide. … When they were patting other people on the back, I didn’t take the opportunity to pat them on the back for what they were doing. And I missed that opportunity, never [to] get it back. So just kind of looking at that: encourage others around you. Be a little bit more positive.”

Lt. Gen. James “JJ” Jackson, chief of Air Force Reserve, Washington, D.C., and commander, Air Force Reserve Command, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia:

“Get out of your comfort zone at every opportunity. I still remember very, very vividly the day that I was a lieutenant flying F-4s and my ops officer said, ‘Get in the back seat and … you’re going to do great. And of course, I didn’t believe him, but I did. And that opportunity just set the pace for my whole career when it comes to looking for opportunities to get out of my comfort zone and do the things that other folks have told me I can do because I will achieve success.”

Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, commander, Pacific Air Forces; Air Component commander for U.S. Pacific Command:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. So I would emphasize learning how to go together at things. And secondly, I would tell them the single most important ingredient to success is learning how to get along with one another.”

Gen. John Hyten, commander, Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado:GetContentCAAI6X4M

“I wish I could find the right words … to tell myself as a lieutenant that the enlisted forces, they power the Air Force. Because I tell you it took me about 15 years to figure it out. I was a squadron commander [when] I really figured it out. I went through the first year… at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and it was an amazing squadron and we were doing amazing things. .. I was trying to be the leader for every squadron. I tried to get to know their name, I tried to do everything and I was frustrated. And they kept doing things that were just stupid and I could not get through to them.

“And finally, three master sergeants came up to me … one day and said, ‘Sir, why are you so frustrated?’ And I said, ‘Gosh, I’m doing everything, I just can’t get through to the airmen. And they looked at me and said, ‘Why didn’t you just ask us? That’s our job.’ And it hit me and that has been the most important lesson I’ve learned my entire life is that if you trust the airmen and you trust your senior NCOs in particular, they will lead their airmen and they will lead the unit.”

Gen. Darren McDew, commander, Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois:

“Lead. Sometimes we’re in positions where we don’t think we can make an impact. I say lead. Sometimes … we don’t think that our job is to do whatever it is we think it is. Lead. You have a job description. Own it. And I wish I’d have taken advantage of that sooner. There was some wasted time where I was empowered and didn’t feel I was empowered. Just lead.”

Happy 67th birthday, Air Force!

More than 650 Air Force captains from Air University's Squadron Officer School Class 14E at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, form-up to make an image of the Air Force Symbol in honor of the 67th Air Force Birthday. (Photo illustration by Donna Burnett)

More than 650 Air Force captains from Air University’s Squadron Officer School Class 14E at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, form-up to make an image of the Air Force Symbol in honor of the 67th Air Force Birthday. (Photo illustration by Donna Burnett)

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National POW/MIA Recognition Day

Every year the nation pauses on the third Friday of September to remember the sacrifices and service of prisoners of war, members still missing in action and their families. This year, National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day falls on Sept. 19.

Nearly 1,500 airmen are still missing and unaccounted for from various conflicts. There are more than 83,000 Americans still unaccounted for across the Defense Department, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.

The remains of one missing airmen — Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William Bernier, missing since his B-24D Liberator was shot down over the Madang Province, New Guinea on April 10, 1944 — have now been identified. He will be buried Sept. 19 in his hometown of Augusta, Montana. Jenn Rowell of Great Falls Tribune, a sister publication, tells his story.

Breedlove may get the ‘force structure pause’ he’s been asking for all along

Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and Commander of U.S. European Command, speaks Monday during the Air Force Association's Air & Space Conference. Breedlove spoke at the Pentagon Tuesday and said leaders are reconsidering downsizing forces in Europe. (Staff photo).

Gen. Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and Commander of U.S. European Command, speaks Monday during the Air Force Association’s Air & Space Conference. Breedlove spoke at the Pentagon Tuesday and said leaders are reconsidering downsizing forces in Europe. (Staff photo).

Pentagon leaders may not go through with downsizing U.S. military forces in Europe given the continuous problem of Russia’s behavior in the east, Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander, U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander, told reporters during a Pentagon news conference Sept. 16.

“I have talked to leadership here about a function to re-address those decisions,” Breedlove said days after NATO leaders met in Wales to discuss the alliance’s response to the crisis in Ukraine. “Because those sequester decisions were clearly made before Russia-Crimea, I see this building now moving towards a review of those decisions.”

In an interview with Air Force Times Sept. 2, Breedlove said he has continuously asked defense leaders to “take a knee” and determine what cuts are appropriate given the current climate in Eastern Europe:

“I have asked that we not…based on what we see now with Russia demonstrating that it is not a partner and the actions it has unilaterally taken in Crimea and now unilaterally taken in Eastern Ukraine, I believe that we need to pause,” Breedlove said.  ”I’m not saying stop the cuts. I think we just need to have a function that allows us to stop and look at these cuts and see if they’re appropriate, that they were laid in and made before we saw Russia cross the border and forcefully annex Crimea and saw Russia cross the border and begin to impose its will in Eastern Ukraine.”

The number of U.S. troops based in Europe has dropped from several hundred thousand to around 64,000 today, according to a Defense Department news release, with the majority of those remaining based in Germany.

During his visit to the Pentagon, Breedlove also said that “the forces that are forward in Europe now are working at full speed as part of their normal rotations into Afghan and other requirements.”

Under Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing effort to demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO allies and European partners, for example, dozens of exercises have taken place this year, with more on the way. Breedlove said the exercise rotations will go on as scheduled until permanent adaptations approved at the NATO summit are implemented.

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50 service members PT on eve of 9/11 to honor victims

Many observed President Obama pay homage at the Pentagon yesterday to the nearly 3,000 victims who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. But by nightfall, another commemoration ceremony was gathering — 50 service members joined together to give each rep, each lunge, each workout move in honor of the victims who died 13 years ago. 

Air Force Staff Sgt. Ma Antonette Cabantog participates in an intense physical training workout at the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2014, held to commemorate the 13th anniversary of 9/11. (U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez).

Air Force Staff Sgt. Ma Antonette Cabantog participates in an intense physical training workout at the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2014, held to commemorate the 13th anniversary of 9/11. (U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez). 

Army Staff Sgt. River Mitchell,  a chef in the secretary of defense mess at the Pentagon, planned the workout of the day — or  “9/11 Tribute WOD” —  so that his fellow comrades could test their strength on behalf of the fallen in a unique way, according to a report from C. Todd Lopez, Army News Service.

“Every year since I have been at the Pentagon, we do the same memorials,” Mitchell said in the news release. “I think that things that are different, and things that are fun, can raise awareness in a more positive way. I think this is an event that can bring new sight on the memory of the attacks and what happened.”

The 50 participants — both civilian and military — were paired off into 25 teams for CrossFit-like exercises. Among them:

    175 thrusters, representing United Airlines flight 175, which crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center; 110 deadlifts and 110 lunges to symbolize the 110 floors in each of the World Trade Center towers; 2,001 meters of rowing to symbolize the year; 93 box jumps to symbolize United Airlines flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; 77 kettle bell swings to symbolize American Airlines flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon; and 125 burpees to symbolize the 125 personnel killed at the Pentagon.

While the workout was more difficult than most expected, Mitchell said the purpose was to go beyond a personal challenge. He said he wants Americans to remember that the nation is still at war.

“Soldiers are still fighting, airmen are still fighting, sailors are still fighting, and Marines are still fighting,” Mitchell said. “I think the most important thing is never forget that there are still troops in battle fighting for our freedom. I think it’s my duty to get back over there. It’s everyone’s duty to serve their time there, and protect our nation. That’s really what we signed up for, to defend and protect our nation.”

Mitchell said he also wants the PT exercise to go mainstream — at least for the Army.

To read more accounts from service members who participated in “9/11 Tribute WOD,” click here.

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Welsh films video messages for kids with help from Elmo


This photo from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s Facebook page shows the chief and his wife filming videos for kids with the beloved Sesame Street puppets Elmo and Rosita.

Elmo has been making the rounds lately. Last night, he hobnobbed with Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show.”  And on Monday, he met with the Air Force’s top general.

The furry red monster appeared this week alongside Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and wife, Betty, on photos posted to social media. The chief had this to say about the Sept. 8 meeting: “We had some special visitors to the Pentagon today…thanks to Elmo and Rosita as well as the incredibly talented folks from Sesame Street for stopping by and helping us share a message with a very important audience – Air Force kids.”

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said Elmo and his pal Rosita were kind enough to help the general and his wife film a couple of video messages aimed at Air Force kids. The first was thanking them for supporting their Air Force parents. The second was directed to children of wounded airmen describing “how important their support is to these heroes,” Herritage said in an email.

The videos aren’t up just yet, but will be used for family events and on social media. So stay tuned.