The Air Force is reminding airmen to think before they act, lest it end up online for posterity.
“You may know a few of our fellow Airmen (and Soldiers) recently made news headlines for all the wrong reasons,” Christa D’Andrea, an Air Force Recruiting Service spokeswoman wrote this week. “Within the last few weeks photos that were taken several years ago popped up on a number of official Air Force Facebook pages, including ours. These photos show Airmen acting in a way that is utterly disrespectful and is not consistent with the Air Force’s core values.”
D’Andrea was referring to, among others, an image of Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., Staff Sgt. Cherish Byers tongue-kissing the Prisoner of War-Missing in Action symbol that went viral last month.
In another photo that surfaced about the same time, a group of soldiers from the Wisconsin National Guard are pictured goofing off in front of a presumably empty flag-draped coffin. An accompanying caption read, “We put the FUN in funeral your fearless honor guard from various states.”
The photo of the Fairchild staff sergeant launched a command-directed investigation that was still ongoing this week. The Guard announced it had suspended a soldier in the coffin photo from a funeral honors detail.
Those images, and others, incited outrage among veterans and service members.
“One photo of one Airman can taint the American public’s view on the Air Force and the type of people we employ, as a whole,” D’Andrea wrote.
Indeed, one Marine Corps veteran told Air Force Times the POW/MIA photo was indicative of a cultural problem within the service.
It’s normal to mess up, D’Andrea wrote. “However, in today’s society some of these behaviors never go away, even if you tried to delete them. They are documented in Facebook status updates, Instagram photos, Vine videos and on a number of other social media sites. And it only takes a second for your documented actions to go viral.”
When that happens, “their images as airmen are forever corrupted,” she warned. “Don’t become the subject of the next viral photo or video. Hold on to your personal self-worth and live by the Air Force’s core values daily.”
When it comes to boosting morale, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh goes all out.
This is a man who donned a Captain America mask last year as part of his “Captain Airpower” persona.
Some smirked, but Welsh didn’t care. He loves airmen and he is passionate about airpower. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.
Most recently, Welsh has declared that this Mustache March will be one for the ages. The Major Commands are competing for the honors of top mustache.
Welsh is in the game too. His wife Betty recently posted pictures on Facebook showing her husband sporting stubble under the nose. He still has a long way to go before looking like Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, the legendary badass whose handlebar mustache makes Kaiser Wilhelm look like Moby.
If you have a picture of your awesome mustache, feel free to post it in the comment section. Be warned: pictures must be clean and in good taste.
Tags: Austin May
Voting is underway in a Military Health System competition that challenged service members to make an anti-smoking video.
Two of the five “Fight the Enemy” video finalists were created by airmen.
“A Drag on Life,” by airmen at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., is told from the perspective a man-sized cigarette who first becomes friends with “John” during a stressful moment.
The cigarette trails after John as he goes about his daily life — exercising, hanging out with friends and trying to buy a car. The video ends with the cigarette looking for a new friend after John ends up in a coffin.
“Deploy the Drones,” from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., starts with an airman lighting up in front of a Tobacco-free zone sign on base. That signals an alarm. A drone — which is actually a remote-controlled helicopter — finds the smoking airman and dumps water over him and his cigarette.
A panel of judges will whittle down the final five to three, according to health.mil. There will also be a Voter’s Pick. The top video will be broadcast across Department of Defense channels. The top three videos and the Voter’s Pick will appear on health.mil.
You can vote here through March 14.
“We invite everyone in the Air Force community: airmen, civilians, contractors, family members, retirees, friends, to visit the site and vote for your favorite videos,” Col. (Dr.) John Oh, the Air Force Medical Support Agency chief of health promotion said in a news release. “We’ve got some creative talent in DOD and these videos humorously and poignantly reinforce an important message that tobacco use is our military’s enemy.”
The last Stratotanker has left the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, ending 12.5 years of refueling operations at the base.
The transit center’s last refueling mission landed Feb. 24, according to the Air Force. The KC-135, deployed from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., flew for six hours, refueling A-10s and F-16s over Afghanistan.
“It’s pretty special to be able to say that we were able to fly on the last sortie out of Manas,” said Col. Mike Seiler, the commander of the 376th Expeditionary Operations Group, according to a release. “When [I] think about it, we flew our last sortie just like we did our first one: fighter support, troops in contact. … I got chills rolling down the runway for the last time.”
Over the past 12.5 years, KC-135s flew 33,500 sorties, refueling more than 135,000 aircraft with more than 12.2 billion gallons of fuel, according to the Air Force.
The mission now transfers to a new hub at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania. Once the KC-135 left Manas, the only aircraft that remained was an iced-over C-17, according to the Air Force.
An online fundraiser for the family of a special tactics airman who died in a parachuting accident Friday exceeded its first goal of $25,000 within 12 hours. A day and a half later, the donations had doubled.
Early this afternoon, the fundraiser, organized by the Tactical Air Control Party Association, neared $65,000 in donations – signifying the impact of the life and tragic death of Master Sgt. Josh Gavulic, association president Charlie Keebaugh said.
Gavulic, a TACP member assigned to the 17th Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Benning, Ga., was killed during free-fall proficiency training in Eloy, Ariz.
He leaves behind his wife, Alyssa, and six children ages 16 months to 16 years, Keebaugh said. Alyssa is raising their children and working on a doctorate degree, he said.
“We know his family has so many things on their plate right now. The last thing we want them to worry about is anything financial. It was an easy way to help immediately,” Keebaugh said.
Gavulic had deployed 10 times to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Air Force said. He earned three Bronze Star medals and two Joint Service Commendation Medals with Valor, among others.
“The reaction from the community is appropriate for the kind of guy he was,” Keebaugh said. “Everybody has stepped up. A lot of the sister service organizations have all contacted us. We’ve had a pretty amazing response by not just the TACP community but the entire special operations community.”
Although the donations have already far surpassed the original goal, Keebaugh said he is not surprised.
“It’s hard to describe how one guy impacts the community, but this was a pretty special guy,” he said. “He was a great teammate, friend, and obviously a great American. What he has done for the country shouldn’t go untold.”
As long as the donations continue to pour in, the TACP Association will continue to increase the fundraising goal, which now stands at $75,000, Keebaugh said.
To contribute, visit fundly.com/the-gav-fund.
Tags: Austin May
ORLANDO — Mustache March is right around the corner. And this year, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh is issuing a challenge to the entire service.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had an all-in Mustache March, have we?” Welsh said during his Feb. 20 address to the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium. “I’m putting the smackdown on you guys. Air Force-wide Mustache March, MAJCOM competitions.”
Welsh prefaced his challenge by showing two humorously-doctored photos of himself — one with a regular mustache and another with an outrageously drooping ‘stache. But airmen shouldn’t even dream of using such Photoshop chicanery, he said.
“We’ll check the imagery, to make sure it hasn’t been doctored,” Welsh said.
Mustache March is an Air Force tradition in honor of three-time ace pilot Brig. Gen. Robin Olds. The legendary pilot sported an equally legendary mustache — extravagantly waxed, grown in flagrant defiance of military regulations, and said to be “bulletproof.” As the excellent site “Badass of the Week” noted, Olds’ trademark handlebar even has its own chapter on his Wikipedia page.
The details of this year’s contest appeared to be somewhat in flux. After Air Force leaders have chosen the winning soup strainer, Welsh said, “I’ll figure out a way to honor him.”
While a mustache competition is, by its nature, a guy’s contest, Welsh said that “the women in our Air Force have a critical role to play here.”
“Their job is to ridicule us nonstop about the idiotic look that these mustaches will have on most of us, as we try to look like Tom Selleck and end up looking like a three-haired mole,” he said. “Fight’s on.”
An Air Force firefighter at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., is being heralded a hero after he aided a young man in a horrific vehicle crash and helped the first responders who arrived a few minutes later.
Tech. Sgt. Jesse Roen, a 343rd Recruiting Squadron enlisted accessions recruiter, was making the 100-mile drive from Duluth, Minn., to Hurley, Wis., in wintry weather Feb. 4 when a pickup passed him, according to an Air Force news release.
“I remember telling myself that this guy is going to be in a ditch due to the road conditions,” the news release quoted Roen as saying. “Unfortunately, my thought came true when I passed the hill and saw the scene of the accident.”
The pickup had crashed head-on into a semi-truck. Roen wondered if there was any way the pickup driver could have survived. As Roen dialed 911, he saw the driver reach a bloody hand to the dashboard.
While waiting for emergency responders to arrive, Roan, an Air Force firefighter by trade, provided first aid and placed a sleeping bag on the victim to help keep his body warm in below-zero temperatures. When firefighters arrived, Roan cued their radios so they could say in communication, the news release said.
Roen even called the driver’s parents, at the crash victim’s request, to let them know their son had been in an accident.
His efforts helped save the young man’s life, the Air Force said.
“Jesse’s quick and decisive decision making could not have represented the Air Force better,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Phillips, 343rd RCS commander. “Given his previous experience and training, he was certainly the right man in the right place.”
Roen said he hopes the story helps serve as a warning for drivers to slow down and exercise caution — especially in bad weather.
RELATED READING: First responder-turned airman helps rescue crash victims – again
For at least the second time, an Air Force brochure that told victims of sexual assault “it may be advisable to submit than resist” has made it into a Hollywood story line.
Season 2 of “House of Cards” — Netflix’s blockbuster political drama released Feb. 14 — takes on the familiar topic of sexual assault in the military. There is a watershed moment when the issue makes national headlines followed by calls for reform to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Some want moderate changes and others call for a total overhaul — including an independent justice system.
Those in favor of an overhaul make their point with a brochure disseminated by the military advising victims to submit to a sexual assault rather than resist.
A November episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” also took on sexual assault in the military, including a scene where prosecutors reference a pamphlet giving the same advice.
Such a brochure actually existed in the Air Force.
Last May, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., sent a copy of it to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, saying its contents blamed the victim and sent an inappropriate message.
A month later, the Air Force withdrew the brochure.
Season 2 of “House of Cards” mirrors an ongoing argument in Congress over just how sweeping changes to the UCMJ should be — including whether sexual assault complaints and subsequent investigations and prosecutions should be handled by an independent judicial system made up of military lawyers.
I’ll keep the details of the episodes — including how the hoopla began — under wraps for now in case you haven’t watched.