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.

AF Academy grads can earn big bucks in civilian sector, study finds


Cadet Wing leadership leads the Founder’s Day Parade April 5, 2014, on the the Academy terrazzo in Colorado Springs. (Liz Copan/U.S. Air Force photo)

Making more than $65K right out of college isn’t a bad deal, mainly because it means you don’t have to resort to your parents’ couch.

According to a new report from PayScale, some of the top universities where grads in the civilian workforce can get the most for their bachelor’s is at a military university. And the Air Force Academy makes the top 10.

If you’re an Academy grad, chances are, you’ve landed a job that pays on average $66,700 as a starting salary, the study said. But pump the brakes: after ten or more years, you probably won’t be doubling your original salary as quickly because the salary growth slows down.

The remaining academies fare a little better: the Naval Academy’s bachelor’s degrees top the chart, producing grads who earn $80,700 as a starting salary. Naval Academy alumni — who could have moved on to earning additional degrees —  in civilian careers are also the highest-earning graduates in the first five years of their career, the study said.

West Point comes in third for starting salaries with $75,100 earned from a bachelor’s. It drops to eighth place for mid-career salaries.

Forty-eight percent of earned USAFA bachelor’s degrees and above are STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, degrees; The Naval Academy churns out more STEM grads, but West Point only produces 39 percent.

PayScale collected salary data from nearly 1.5 million employees with degrees from over 1,000 different colleges.

Check out how the military schools place among liberal art schools, research universities, and some of those party schools, too, by clicking here.

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Air Force unveils new ad campaign: New Frontiers

The Air Force yesterday posted it’s new ad campaign, called “New Frontiers.” Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh narrates the commercial, which highlights Air Force history along with new missions and equipment, including the F-35 and CV-22 Osprey.

The video was first posted on YouTube yesterday morning, and aired during ESPN’s Monday Night Football and on other networks.

Recruiters cheating: What do you think?

The cover story from our Sept. 8 issue, “Crushing demands of job lead some Air Force recruiters to falsify reports,” is proving quite controversial. The command chief master sergeant of the Air Force Recruiting Service, Chief Master Sgt. Charles Lamer, fired back in this week’s issue with an op-ed calling the story “a gross misrepresentation” of the recruiting service.

Air Force Times would like to hear from more recruiters out there. Is cheating widespread, condoned and — in some cases — encouraged by supervisors? Or do you think the anecdotes and opinions reported in our story are outliers, and that cheating happens infrequently and is swiftly punished when it does occur?

Sound off in our comments section below, or email me at slosey@airforcetimes.com. If you’d prefer to speak anonymously, that’s fine.

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Security forces honored for repelling Taliban attack

Members of the 439th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron security forces pose for a photo just after receiving Air Force Combat Action Medals during a ceremony Sept. 2, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Oqab, Kabul, Afghanistan. The Airmen were recognized for actions defending FOB Oqab, Afghan air force’s Kabul Air Wing and a NATO base, all located on Kabul International Airport, from a complex attack July 17, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Mike Hammond)

The Air Force on Sept. 2 honored 39 security forces airmen with the Air Force Combat Action Medal for helping fight off a pre-dawn Taliban attack on three bases.

According to an Air Force release, the five-hour-plus battle began when Taliban-linked insurgents opened fire on the Afghan air force’s Kabul Air Wing, the U.S.-run Forward Operating Base Oqab, and a NATO base within the grounds of Kabul International Airport at about 4:15 a.m. on July 17.

The attackers began by firing more than a dozen rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles from a multistoried building about 350 meters from the bases’ perimeter.

The security forces who were already on duty and standing guard began identifying the attackers’ positions and fighting back from guard towers, the Air Force said. Others were woken by the explosions and gunshots, put protective gear on over their sleeping clothes, and joined the fight.

The airmen formed two quick reaction forces, and the Afghans made up a third, to push closer to the insurgents. In the end, the Afghan QRF cleared the building of attackers while the airmen provided suppressive fire. The Air Force said coalition and Afghan forces sustained no serious injuries, and the base facilities and grounds were moderately damaged.

Airmen fired more than 3,000 rounds during the siege with M4 carbines, M203 grenade launchers, and M240B medium machine guns.

Maj. Gen. John McMullen, the commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force for Afghanistan, commander of NATO Air Command-Afghanistan, and deputy commander of Air-U.S. forces in Afghanistan, presented the medals to the airmen at a ceremony at the FOB.

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F-16 rotation and personnel head to Poland, Czech Republic


An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off March 13 from Aviano Air Base, Italy, to augment the Poland Aviation Detachment at Lask Air Base. (Airman 1st Class Deana Heitzman/ / Air Force)

Six F-16 fighter jets and 120 personnel from the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, will begin a joint training operation Thursday at Lask Air Base, Poland, through Oct. 8, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren announced Sept. 3.

In addition to Air Force units headed to the Baltics, members from the 31st FW will also participate in Ample Strike, a NATO-led exercise with 11 other nations in the Czech Republic.

Farther east, Rapid Trident — the first exercise to include 200 U.S. ground troops since the Kiev government began fighting pro-Russian separatists — will  take place Sept. 15 to Sept. 26 in Yavoriv, Ukraine.

The rotations are scheduled under Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing effort to demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO allies and European partners in the midst of Russia’s repeated aggression toward Ukraine.

Fighters from the 31st FW —  the only U.S. fighter wing south of the Alps — deployed to Poland in March when tensions between Russia and Ukraine came to a turning point following Russia’s annexation of Crimea earlier that month.

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Candy bombers over Iraq


C-130 Hercules Humanitarian Airdrop over Iraq

(Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

The mission: Air-drop critical supplies of food and water to Iraqi citizens displaced from their homes by Islamic State militants.

Aircrews from the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron fulfilled that mission — and then some, according to a report from Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel, Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs.

Master Sgt. Stephen Brown, for one, taped a package of Skittles to a bundle of Halal Meals Ready to Eat, which was delivered in an August airdrop to displaced Iraqis in the vicinity of Sinjar Mountain.

“Although my favorite candy that doesn’t melt in this desert heat is Starburst, I took what I had in my bag and just taped it to the side of the box,” he said. “After that everyone started making the drops a little personal with more candy, and I even think I saw a teddy bear.”

Overall, two C-17 Globemaster IIIs and two C-130 Hercules dropped 10,545 gallons of water and 7,056 Halal Meals Ready to Eat in 109 bundles, and almost every one dropped with a little extra.

Reminiscent of retired Col. Gail Halvorsen, the original Candy Bomber of World War II?

“We’ve been really impressed with the turn out and dedication of our wingmen,” said Master Sgt. Emily Edmunds, the 816th EAS loadmaster superintendent. “We are definitely not at the level of the Candy Bomber, but I’d give us an ‘almost’ for our modern version of it.”

For the drops, airmen contributed items they had received in care packages or bought themselves or had been given specifically for the Iraqis. By the end of August, crews had graduated from dropping single packs of candy to garbage bags full of donated sweets.

“I can just imagine being in the shoes of these parents down there. Not being able to provide much during a time of war would be heartbreaking,” Brown said. “This could be something that will make a dire situation a little brighter even if it’s just for a few moments.”