Thursday, December 20, 2012

top story>>Little Rock remembers: Arkansas’ first Tuskegee Airman

By Airman 1st Class Regina Agoha
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Little Rock Air Force Base Airmen of all ethnicities and backgrounds fly together in the air, fight together on land and win together by completing the missions with integrity and professionalism. They know that race doesn’t determine resilience, skin color doesn’t determine skill level and cultural diversity doesn’t determine dedication. No matter how different their wingman is, each Airman knows they need each other to get the job done.

It wasn’t always this way. Less than 100 years ago, the military wasn’t completely integrated, and African Americans weren’t allowed to perform certain jobs that whites felt they weren’t good enough for, one job being flying as a pilot.

Before there was equal education for all races, before there was equal opportunity for all races, before there were black astronauts and presidents, before there was a Little Rock Air Force Base, there was Milton Pitts Crenchaw and the Tuskegee Airmen.

On April 3, 1939, the Public Law 18 was passed in order for the Army Air Corps to expand. The law also stated that black colleges should create training programs for certain areas in the Air Corps support services. This law helped to prepare the blacks to be skilled at more than just the mediocre jobs.

At that time, Crenchaw, a native of Little Rock, Ark., was attending the Tuskegee Institute, founded in Tuskegee, Ala., by Booker T. Washington in 1881, where he was in the process of attaining his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. After the training program surfaced, he put his degree on hold to train and become a pilot.

There were 11 white officers assigned to train 429 enlisted men and 47 officers at the institute, including Crenchaw, who would later be called the Tuskegee Airmen. Because the military was still segregated, some of the white service members didn’t agree with the training, they made it known. The Tuskegee Airmen had to endure hardships of the training, as well as ridicule from racist military officials, but they kept going and succeeded.

Crenchaw became one of the original Tuskegee Airmen of 1939 and the first African American from Arkansas to be trained by the federal government as a civilian-licensed pilot. He was one of 12 Arkansas natives documented who performed different roles at the Institute. Some of those roles included flight instructor, pilot, flight officer, engineer, bombardier, navigator, radio technician, air traffic controller, parachute rigger, weather observer, medical professional, and electronic communications specialist.

From 1941 to 1946 more than 2,000 African Americans completed training at the Tuskegee Institute; more than 900 qualified as pilots. Out of that 900, approximately half went overseas and fought during the war, and four of those Airman were from Arkansas. In 1948, President Truman ordered the desegregation of the United States Military.

Throughout Crenchaw’s career he donned many hats. He received his civilian pilot license and commercial pilot certificate and became a primary civilian flight instructor. He was a pilot training officer and one of the two original supervising squadron commanders at Tuskegee until 1946. Crenchaw taught aviation at Philander Smith College in Little Rock from 1947 to 1953. He was also employed by the Central Flying Service and worked as a crop-duster in the central Arkansas and Delta regions, just to name a few of his many careers.

In 1998, Crenchaw was inducted into the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame. He was honored by Gov. Mike Beebe on March 27, 2007, for his efforts as a Tuskegee flight instructor and service to his country. Crenchaw, along with the other members of the Tuskegee Airmen, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush on March 29, 2007, in Washington, D.C. -The Tuskegee Airmen are the largest group to ever receive this medal. Crenchaw was also inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame on October 27, 2007.

Because of Crenchaw and the Tuskegee Airmen, all service members have a right to any job their skills qualify them for. Because of them, blacks, whites and other races can serve this country uniformed and unbiased. Because of this history, Little Rock can stand tall and say, “because of one man, we were there when history was forever changed.”

top story>>New commander takes charge at The Rock

By Staff Sgt. Jacob Barreiro
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Col. Brian Robinson, 19th Airlift Wing commander, accepted the guidon Jan. 31 and officially assumed command of the 19th AW from Col. Mike Minihan, the outgoing commander.

Lt. Gen. Mark Ramsay, 18th Air Force commander, served as ceremony officiator and spoke enthusiastically about the future of the base.

“This is a great day for the Air Force,” he said during his speech. “It’s a great day for Team Little Rock and the community.” Ramsay would go on to say Little Rock is the busiest base in the Air Force, and will be for the foreseeable future, but he had confidence in the new commander to rise to the standard.

“We replaced the best with the best,” said Ramsay.

In his farewell address Minihan thanked his family, civilian Airmen, Airmen and tenant units on base.

“To have fought with the Black Knights, to call this command my home, has been the honor and privilege of my life, thank you,” he said in his speech.

Robinson said he was excited to join TLR and embraced the opportunity to lead and serve what he says are America’s finest Airmen. He ended his speech by reaffirming the mission of TLR. “Somewhere, someone in the world expects us to deliver for them to prevail, and Team Little Rock will deliver,” he said.

top story>>Little Rock Remembers: Little Rock Nine

By Airman 1st Class Regina Agoha
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

In 1957, nine African American students made a world-wide statement as they walked into Little Rock’s history books by courageously deciding to leave the comfort and safety of their black-only schools and integrate into an all white school that was not quite ready for change. Almost 55 years later, the actions of those nine students who have come to be known as the “Little Rock Nine,” are still a reminder to how far not only Little Rock but also Arkansas has come.

In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decided to outlaw segregation in the public education system. Virgil Blossom, the Little Rock School District Superintendent at that time, came up with a plan to begin to slowly integrate Little Rock’s schools one step at a time, starting with Central High School.

The school board began to ask for volunteering African American students from the local black schools such as Dunbar Junior High and Horace Mann High School; they also forewarned them that participating in extracurricular activities was out of the question. Because of that and the fact that many parents were threatened that their jobs would be taken away, the majority of black students opted to stay where they were… except nine.

For Minnijean Brown Trickey, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed Wair, Melba Pattillo Beals, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Gloria Ray Karlmark, changing schools would be a frightening change, but also a new beginning because Central High had much more courses and opportunities to offer.

“When my tenth-grade teacher in our Negro school said there was a possibility of integration, I signed up. We all felt good. We knew that Central High School had so many more courses, and dramatics and speech and tennis courts and a big, beautiful stadium,” said Trickey to Look Magazine, June 24, 1958.

On Sept. 4, 1957, the “Little Rock Nine” arrived at Central High and were met by a mob of angry bystanders. Some of the students were spit on and threatened. Little did the nine know that they wouldn‘t be attending classes that day. Because the mob outside and students in the hallways were so verbally viscous, the nine were turned away by the Arkansas National Guard.

“I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the mob-someone who maybe would help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me.” (This quote of Eckford was taken from, “A life is more than a moment: The desegregation of Little Rock Central High.”)

Media began to pick up on the story and the “Little Rock Nine” became a household name. Almost two weeks had passed from the attempt of equal education, and during that time the governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, and the U.S president came together to resolve the issue at hand.

On Sept. 23, with the command of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the units of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, (the Screaming Eagles), the first official African American students of Little Rock Central High were successfully escorted into the school for their first full day.

As time passed, the mobs got smaller and quieter and acceptance of integration slowly grew. For one of the nine, Trickey, acceptance wasn’t growing fast enough. She decided fight back and retaliate to some students’ mean gestures. In December, Trickey was suspended for dropping chili on some boys who wouldn’t let her get to her seat in the cafeteria. Ultimately, Trickey was expelled from the school February 1958, when she called a white girl, “white trash” for hitting her with a purse. The other eight continued on and stayed strong for the rest of the year.

Even though he was three weeks behind in all classes because of starting late, on May 25, 1958, Ernest Green, the only LR Nine who was a senior, was the first African American to graduate from Central High.

“It’s been an interesting year. I’ve had a course in human relations first hand,” Green told Life Magazine, June 1958.

The following year brought change for the high schools in the city of Little Rock. They were closed in order to bring those for and against segregation to one final agreement. When the schools were reopened, two of the nine, Walls and Thomas, returned to Central and graduated in 1960. Mothershed took correspondence courses and received her diploma from the school as well. The others, including Trickey, all graduated from other high schools.

Throughout the years, the Little Rock Nine have come from receiving threats and hateful looks from crowds and classmates to being honored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and former President Bill Clinton, a native of Arkansas. They have received the NAACP Spingarn Medal as well as the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Though the beginning of this story for the history of Little Rock is gloomy and grey, it shows how innocent ignorance, once changed, can lead to a world of opportunity and great accomplishment. Little Rock has grown into a widely diverse area with the community mixed with not only whites and blacks, but many more ethnicities. This community is a stirring pot of different cultures and the aroma of equality gets sweeter and sweeter as the memory of the Little Rock Nine live on.

TOP STORY>>First Lady samples food transformation initiative

By Staff Sgt. Jacob Barreiro
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

First Lady Michelle Obama visited the Hercules Dining Facility here Feb. 9 to survey the pilot food transformation initiative program on base.

The visit was part of a three-day tour by the First Lady commemorating the second anniversary of her “Let’s Move!” program designed to combat childhood obesity.

In addition to hearing about the specific healthy eating efforts on base, the First Lady also made an announcement about the military’s drive to provide a variety of nutritious foods to all service members and their families.

“I am truly proud to be here today as the Department of Defense is making a groundbreaking commitment to the health of our troops and their families,” the First Lady said.

“And this is a big day,” she continued. “That’s why we brought all these people. It’s huge. As Dr. Woodson explained, for the first time in 20 years, the DOD is updating their nutritional standards to include more fresh fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products with every single meal. So that means more DOD installations will offer the kind of fresh, healthy food that the Air Force’s Food Transformation Initiative helped bring here to Little Rock.”

Obama said the announcement meant that more DoD facilities will be able to provide service members the same variety of nutritious food available because of the FTI program on base.

“The DOD is also going to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of every single (American) military base to make sure they’re serving healthy food not just to those in uniform, but to their families,” the First Lady said. “They’ll be looking to improve the food served in dining facilities, school cafeterias, vending machines, snack bars and any other places where military families purchase food.”

“So this isn’t just a drop in the bucket,” Obama continued. “I mean, this is really a big splash. This will affect more than 1,000 dining facilities and nearly 1.5 million troops. Simply put, this is an example of America’s entire military once again stepping forward to lead by example.”

The First Lady said the service members of Little Rock have provided a model of what will be seen throughout the entire armed forces. She credited the base’s leadership with having the foresight to jump ahead, and the service members for doing their best to jump on board with the new program.

“So I want to make sure that you tell your families thank you, from me,” the First lady said at the end of her speech. “Tell them that we are proud of them all. We are working hard for them as well, because you all know that as you sacrifice, they are sacrificing right alongside you. So these benefits have to affect them as well.”

Dr. Jonathan Woodson, the assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and director of Tricare Management, also delivered a speech at the Hercules DFAC to an assembly of base leaders, 19th Force Support Squadron Airmen cooks, and assorted Airmen from around the base.

“Obesity is a national challenge that can only be solved by a national effort,” the doctor said during his speech. “Although our service members and their families are healthier on average than the general population, the military is not isolated from the influence of poor nutritious choices, that are affecting the larger society.”

Woodson said the health problems related to obesity are more than enough reason for the DOD to turn its attention to a progressive nutritional awareness campaign.

The First Lady visited nearly 16 months after Little Rock Air Force Base adopted the FTI program, a pilot program designed to enhance food service quality, variety and availability to customers by overhauling the previous food service system. Previously the base food production model was a traditional cafeteria model. When surveys projected a low satisfaction rate among customers, the Air Force responded by introducing a new food model, the FTI.

Initial response to the FTI included an increase in customer satisfaction. According to a customer satisfaction survey, based on the American customer Satisfaction Index, overall satisfaction with dining facilities under the FTI increased from an aggregate score of 67 under the old model to a score of 75.

The nutritional value of food provided to service members and their families is an important issue for the White House, which maintains childhood obesity has become a national security issue, with more than one-quarter of the nation’s 17-24 year-olds too overweight to serve in the U.S. military. The Department of Defense also spends an estimated $1.4 billion per year on medical care associated with excess weight and obesity.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

COMMENTARY>>2012 review and happy holidays

By Col. Brian Robinson
19th Airlift Wing commander

Black Knights and Team Little Rock!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

You and your families are amazing, and this year has been incredibly successful for Team Little Rock. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. Thank you for your continuous accomplishments in executing the mission and defending our great land; you are truly inspiring. I would like to offer a special thanks to those who will work through the holidays, both at home and deployed. Those in harm’s way and their loved ones at home are especially in our thoughts this time of year.

2012 has been a significant year in the lives of Team Little Rock Airmen, their families and our community. Maureen and I thank you and your loved ones for your service and recognize the sacrifices each of you have made to ensure the safety and effectiveness of Team Little Rock.

I would like to highlight a few events from the past year. These events were only successful due to the teamwork and dedication of our Airmen, their families and our community partners. The First Lady’s visit recognized our base’s leadership and development to the DoD Food Transformation Initiative. You executed multiple changes of command, including Col. Brewer’s and my own; we could not have received a warmer welcome. You planned and implemented a world class air show with zero mishaps, record attendance and featured our international, DoD, Air Force and TLR mission. Furthermore, the base was awarded the Dick Schram Memorial Community Relations Award, which is presented each year to the military base that in planning and implementing its air show, not only exhibits traditional community relations as it considers the needs of its civilian neighbors, but sets new standards of excellence in this area by including its community in the planning and execution of the event. We furthered our already strong relationship with the community through a joint effort to display one of our very own C-130s at the Jacksonville-Little Rock Air Force Base University Center. Currently the 314th AW and the 189th AW are undergoing a Consolidated Unit Inspection, during which they are showcasing their plans, programs, procedures and most of all their Airmen. Thank you for the team approach in making sure our partners were enabled for success.

Combat Airlifters will continue to make a global impact in the weeks, months and year ahead. At any given time this year TLR has approximately 500-600 Airmen deployed. The deployments show no sign of stopping; more than 200 Airmen are scheduled to deploy in the upcoming months. The 314th Airlift Wing’s Center of Excellence trained approximately 1,500 C-130 crew members this year to support DoD and international tactical airlift requirements.

Our successes and challenges this year have brought out and showcased the best wingmen, leaders and supportive friends and family the Air Force has to offer. I remind each and everyone one of you to adhere to our core values and the highest standards of professionalism. This is not optional. All Airmen are encouraged to courageously lead by example, by taking care of themselves and those around them. The term Wingman stems from a time-honored tradition that essentially says a “lead” pilot will never lose his/her Wingman, and the formation’s success depends a great deal on the Wingman. It’s a promise, a pledge, a commitment between Airmen.

May this holiday season be a time of happiness, health and amity for you and your families. It’s an honor to serve alongside the Airmen and families of Little Rock Air Force Base at home and abroad. In 2013, we look forward to every effort we know we’ll see to win the fight, strengthen the team and shape the future!

TOP STORY>>Staying fit through the holidays

By Staff Sgt. Nestor Cruz
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Tis the season for family get-togethers, office holiday parties and cookie drives. What do these events have in common? Food…lots of food. As people load their plates with cakes and pies, getting a good workout drops on the priority list.

Why do people fall into this annual holiday trap?

“People are so busy that they don’t take time to stay with their fitness program,” said Jeffery Vaughn, 19th Aerospace Medicine Squadron exercise physiologist. “The other thing is all the wrong foods are readily available. People stop watching portion control and get away from their regular diet.”

Vaughn said people can cut calories by making wiser choices before heading out to the next holiday party.

“Even though there is going to be plenty of food and choices, you can still make better choices,” he said. “You’ve got to have a plan. If you don’t have a plan, you fall into a trap and just eat whatever’s out there.”

Indiscriminate binge eating and lack of physical activity make up the perfect recipe for adding on holiday pounds.

“Most people don’t realize one can put on 10-15 pounds in a week,” Vaughn said. “How much is 10 pounds? Well, try grabbing a 10 pound medicine ball and running with it.”

Jill Hinsley, 19th AMDS registered dietician, recommends limiting splurges and choosing healthier foods.

“Fill up on fruit and veggies at your next holiday party,” said Hinsley. “You get the fullness and satisfaction without taking in too many calories and carbs.”

Health and Wellness Center staff members say a little indulgence is acceptable but advise people to have a fitness plan to avoid adding extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight.

“On the fitness side, a lot of people think that if they don’t spend an hour or more in the gym, then it’s not beneficial,” said Vaughn. “If you have 15-20 minutes and can be consistent, you’ll burn calories and maintain cardiovascular fitness. The bottom line is you can break up your workout however you want to and still have time to spend with the family.”

Some Airmen, like Staff Sgt. Jaclyn Cole, 373rd Training Squadron Detachment 4 hydraulic instructor, know how difficult it is to get back in shape.

“Some people just sit around and get fat and unhealthy while they’re pregnant, which I kind of did with my first pregnancy,” Cole said. “I learned my lesson when I had to recover afterward. I had to work my tail off to get back to where I could score above a 90. I exercised every day to get back in shape.”

Cole said she likes food and sweets as much as anybody but knows she needs to work out that much harder.

“It’s hard, especially during the holidays, because food is more abundant,” she said. “It’s OK to give in a little bit, but that is an even more reason to work out.

“I believe it’s important to stay in shape,” Cole adds. “It’s your body. You have to keep physically fit so you can live longer and healthier.”

TOP STORY>>Breaking barriers

By Staff Sgt. Russ Scalf
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

On a cool morning in central Arkansas, a group of students are up before the sunrise, ready to meet a new set of challenges. The lessons being learned here will break through cultural and language barriers. They are international military students, training alongside Air Force C-130 Airmen at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.

Each year, service members and civilians from all over the world arrive in Little Rock to train with the 314th Airlift Wing, the nation’s tactical airlift Center of Excellence. Their origins and backgrounds are as diverse as the capabilities of the aircraft they are here to study.

On any given day, the student population may feature a maintenance student from Canada or a loadmaster from Nigeria. For most of the approximately 250 international students training here this year, the experience begins at the 714th Training Squadron.

“The thing that’s really important to us is making sure this is a positive experience,” said Col. Scott Brewer, the 314th Airlift Wing commander. “It’s is about coming to America and spending time with Americans, especially the folks in Central Arkansas.”

Maj. Jason Oatley and Master Sgt. Tim Geiger, both 714th TRS international military student office managers, are the first to welcome the new students into training.

The 714th TS trains students from 44 allied nations on C-130 operations and maintenance procedures.

“We all work as one big team here,” Geiger said. “We have a short time to get the students into training, and it’s not really even enough time to properly introduce them to the base. We give them an introduction to what our expectations are and local laws and customs. The No. 1 goal is to ensure they complete training safely and successfully.”

Each year, more than 1,800 students pass through the Center of Excellence to meet the training needs of C-130 aircrews from the Department of Defense, Coast Guard and more than 40 allied nations.

For many of those students, Little Rock is their first exposure to American culture outside of TV and movies.

“We saw the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and all this stuff,” said Polish Tech. Sgt. Wojciech Bober, a loadmaster student. “You’ve got more interesting things because you’ve got everything here. You’ve got ocean, you’ve got sea, lakes, mountains and all this interesting stuff.”

To help international students better adapt to their surroundings, 714th TRS instructors participate in the Field Studies Program, which provides a balanced understanding of the U.S. government, society and institutions. It covers a set of pre-established objectives through events and activities and helps the students better understand American human rights, political processes, free market system, education, media, and health and human services.

“We take our students out into the local community and help them learn more about the culture and try to help dispel any misconceptions about Americans and our ways of life,” said Geiger. “We may take them to the state capital, the Clinton Presidential Library and occasionally we do overnight trips to places like Memphis.”

That familiarity of local customs frequently plays a crucial role for international students. For some students, the time spent here may be as short as a week, while others often stay for up to seven months. They face many challenges along the way, in addition to learning the innumerable intricacies of flight.

“The courses are extremely challenging for the United States students, who speak English as their primary language,” said Lt. Col. Jon Steckbeck, the 714th TRS commander. “To bring the international students up to the level to meet the prerequisites set in place for English-speaking, high-school graduated and college-level Americans, puts a tremendous amount of pressure on them. Their training pipeline helps them with that. By going through the Defense Language Institute, they are prepared for the courses they are going to go through. We take a lot of effort to ensure the students get what they need in order to make it through the course.”

Regardless of the course, once training begins, the level of care and attention to student needs continue to be a point of emphasis within the 314th AW. The instructors often stay after class, working one on one with international students to make sure they have a comprehensive understanding of the material being covered in the classroom, flight simulators or on the aircraft.

Lt. Mike Gohier and Maj. Greg Castagner, Canadian C-130 pilot initial qualification course students, take off inside a C-130 simulator. The simulator features the most advanced technology in C-130 flight simulation.

“It’s a little bit of a slower pace because of the language barrier,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Thomas, a loadmaster instructor with the 62nd Airlift Squadron. “But my hope is that they are going to be successful loadmasters and use the knowledge that we’ve given them and go out and make a difference.”

Many students said the instructor expertise is the highlight of their experience, while others said it’s the opportunity to train in one of the more than 20 flight training devices and simulators.

The simulators, which look like massive pod-like space vehicles, are housed in three-story-tall hangers, while the devices employ the latest technology in C-130 flight simulation. They are the key feature of the state of the art $850 million C-130 aircrew and maintenance and training system contracts managed by the 714th TRS.

“I think back home they would maybe be surprised about how much I know about systems right now,” said Singaporean flight engineer Sgt. Junrong Wu. “I think I’ve got an advantage because I’ve got more time in the ‘sims,’ learning how to deal with malfunctions.”

Once students have completed the classroom portions of their training, it’s on to flight operations at the 48th and 62nd Airlift Squadrons. These sister squadrons are responsible for flying more than 15,000 hours annually, utilizing the world’s largest training fleet of C-130J and C-130H model aircraft to accomplish the wing’s mission.

“I actually was thinking that flying as a crew was really hard,” said Nigerian Airman Peter Alafuka, a loadmaster student, “But I found out that if you have good crew resource management, that you can fly with any crew. My first flight I had a really good crew, and it went really well.”

To accomplish its mission, the 314th AW employs approximately 1,200 military and civilian personnel that make up the 714th TRS, and the 48th and 62nd Airlift Squadrons. These squadrons are tasked with training all five C-130 crew positions: pilot, co-pilot, navigator, flight engineer, and loadmaster.

Additionally, the 314th AW works closely with the 373rd Training Squadron Detachment 4, part of the 82nd Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, training C-130 maintainers from 15 nations.

“Just the fact that you’re flying with a known entity, and you know what training they’ve been through builds a certain level of confidence in a formation, exercise or whatever it may be,” said Lt. Col. Todd Lindell, the 714th TRS director of operations. “If you’re flying against an unknown and you don’t know what kind of training they’ve had, it requires a higher level of awareness because you don’t know what to expect out of that crew. It adds a certain level of stress to the mission.”

The proud tradition of international diplomacy at the 314th AW shows no signs of slowing. Current projections forecast a 20-percent increase in international students in 2013.

“This is a great mission with international importance,” said Col. Scott Brewer, the 314th AW commander. “We’ve been growing our international training as we’ve been reorganizing the active duty and Air Reserve component mix, which has brought some of the international training back to us. These partnerships matter. We are part of the grander engagement strategy in the United States. As countries buy and operate C-130s, that starts international agreements that bond our countries diplomatically.”

Thursday, December 6, 2012

COMMENTARY>>Air Force launches holiday safety campaign

It official…the 2012 Holiday Season is upon us. Traditionally, many of us decorate our homes, cook turkeys in a number of new and different ways and hit the roads to get home for the holidays.

Statistically speaking, the holidays can be a very dangerous time of year as well. While we as an Air Force were fortunate to have had no fatalities during fiscal years 10 and 11 between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, last year there were six. Four were between Thanksgiving and Christmas and two between Christmas and New Year’s.

The Air Force recently launched the 2012 Holiday/Winter Safety Campaign entitled “Safe-n-Sound, All Year Round” focusing on seven modules with three optional modules. The campaign began Nov. 16 and runs through Jan. 2, 2013. It was developed to ensure information and seasonal safety tips are made available to the Air Force community.

Team Little Rock has not had a holiday season mishap since 1999. We’d definitely like to continue that trend. In order to help manage the risks out there, the safety team here at The Rock has made all of the Air Force Safety material available to leadership and safety professionals on the 19th Airlift Wing Safety Community of Practice at

The holidays are a time for extra vigilance on the roads, extra attention to trip planning and preparation, and attention to detail when hanging those holiday lights in high places. Armed with the information provided in this campaign plan, supervisors have more resources at their fingertips as we continue to move forward in a quest for zero mishaps.

Happy Holidays from the Team Little Rock Safety Team.

COMMENTARY>>Our flag, our symbol

By Col. Lee A. Flint
314th Operations Group commander

It’s one of those things that hits you after you’ve been away from a military base for a while. My family and I moved to Little Rock from the Pentagon last summer. After two years of off-base living, the playing of “Retreat” followed by the National Anthem at the end of the duty day gives a sense of pride and patriotism that is often taken for granted. Sometimes, if you aren’t aware of your surroundings you won’t realize it’s happening. You see cars coming to a stop, and you look in your rear view mirror for the fire truck. Then you look at the clock, turn down the radio, and sit quietly while the Anthem plays. If you’re lucky you’ll spot the flag as a small team of Airman lower Old Glory with reverence.

Do you remember a little about the history of our flag? You probably haven’t thought about it for awhile. According to historian Duane Streufert, our flag was likely designed by Congressman Francis Hopkinson from New Jersey. The “First Flag Act” was passed by Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. The text read, “Resolved. That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” By the time the act was ratified, the patriots had been at war with the British for more than two years, and the outcome was not yet assured. The flag was then, and remains to this day, a rallying point for all those who serve.

It should not come as a surprise, then, that military members and their families are more likely to fly the flag often, and take offense when proper courtesies are not rendered to the flag. You know facts such as:

During hoisting and lowering, all personnel face the flag, stand at attention. If in uniform render salute, civilians and military members not in uniform place right hand over their heart, or headgear at left shoulder w/ hand over heart.

The flag is displayed to the flag’s own right (observer’s left). It should always be to the right of all other flags.

The flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during hours of darkness.

It should not be displayed on days when weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is used.

When displayed against a wall the union should be uppermost to the flag’s right.

The flag is never used as apparel, bedding, or drapery.

For Air Mobility crews, reverence for the flag has taken another form, one that was very personal to me as a C-130 squadron commander. Many of us have been called upon to transport a fallen service member from forward deployed bases on his or her way home to the United States. The first view of the flag draped transfer case always brings a wave of sadness, but as it is brought aboard the aircraft, the sadness is replaced with a sense of pride and resolve.

So today, when “Retreat” plays, stop, face the music, and salute at the first note of the National Anthem. Remember those who risked everything to make it stand for something important, and those who fight to defend and protect it today.

TOP STORY>>Physical therapy: Pain and gain

By Airman 1st Class Rusty Frank
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

When someone walks in to the 19th Medical Operations Squadron physical therapy clinic and signs in at the front desk, they might hear the sounds of machines, people having their injured muscles stretched or a needle puncturing their skin. Though it may seem weird to new customers, working with these conditions is an everyday experience for the members of the clinic, who keep the Airmen on base fit to fight by providing top class physical therapy.

The members of the clinic support the mission at Little Rock Air Force Base by providing physical therapy to help people recover and prevent further injury.

“Our primary contribution is to keep the guys who fly the planes, the guys who take care of the planes, and the guys who take care of them, healthy so the mission can continue,” said Maj. Brian Langford, 19th MDOS physical therapy flight commander.

There are many treatments the clinic provides including joint and muscle manipulations. They also use foam rollers and lacrosse balls to keep muscles pliable and mobile, said Capt. Alexander Ford, a 19th MDOS physical therapist.

A new treatment provided at the clinic is trigger point dry needling. Langford said trigger point dry needling is where the physicaltherapist uses a small needle to puncture the skin to release or resolve muscular trigger points that are overly tightened or inflamed fibers within a muscle, said Langford.

Having a physical therapy clinic on base is important and financially beneficial to the Air Force, compared to sending people to expensive off-base clinics, said Ford.

“It (the physical therapy clinic) gives easy access to the people on base; it’s also a lot more cost effective for the Air Force to have us on base facilitating their physical therapy needs,” said Capt. Alexander Ford, a 19th MDOS physical therapist.

Another benefit to having a military physical therapy clinic on base is having physical therapists that know the physical requirements of the military physical fitness program.

“Since we know what they are expected to get back too, we have a pretty good idea of what their jobs entail and what there PT test and their mandatory PT programs are, we can tailor their recovery and prevention to the specific needs of the Air Force,” said Langford.

The physical therapy clinic is here to help prevent injuries, take care of already injured Airman, and help keep the mission at Little Rock Air Force Base successful.

“We get people back to flying, more importantly flyers have to be able to run a certain distance in order to fly, so in that respect, we get them back in the air because we get them running off of their profile,” said Staff Sgt. David Pienta, a 19th MDOS physical medicine technician.

TOP STORY>>Team Little Rock action board shaping more resilient Airmen

By Lt. Amanda Porter
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Resiliency. Readiness. These terms have become a culture and way of life for today’s Airmen and their families.

The Community Action Information Board is a key player in the process and implementation of resiliency and readiness programs Air Force wide. The board supports the entire installation including Airmen, families, Air Force civilians, contractors and retirees. The Team Little Rock CAIB is a total force team made up of active duty, National Guard and Reserve members.

“The overall goal of the CAIB is to take a strategic, cross-functional look at quality of life, personal readiness, and community issues to formulate long-term solutions,” said Stephanie Wynn, community support coordinator and executive director for the CAIB.

“Our purpose is to provide what Airmen and families need, and if we don’t have it, find out how to get it,” said Frank Cope, alternate executive director for the CAIB. “Sometimes the law or AFI prevents a certain resolution, but at least you’ve answered the question.”

The CAIB works diligently to address each issue, which requires collaboration across helping agencies on the installation. This is where the Integrated Delivery System comes into play. The IDS is a team of all of the helping agencies on base, functioning as the action arm of the CAIB.

“The IDS implements the vision and direction of the CAIB, and then briefs the CAIB on a quarterly basis on trends, programs and community issues,” said Wynn.

“People want to be listened to, valued and get an honest answer,” said Cope. “The IDS can’t do everything; then we go to our CAIB and say, ‘You’re the decision-makers and control the funding. How can we do this?’”

The IDS also develops a comprehensive, coordinated plan for integrating and implementing community outreach and prevention programs (e.g., financial management; violence awareness; sexual assault prevention; suicide prevention; health promotion, etc.). At the heart of theseprograms are the four Comprehensive Airmen Fitness pillars (mental, physical, emotional and spiritual). The key to IDS success is collaborative partnerships and coordinated activities of the human service programs.

“In the last four years, I have seen tremendous improvement in the IDS and CAIB commitment and added value,” said Cope. “We at Little Rock Air Force Base are finally making it what it was intended to be—making agencies work together to improve the quality of our services and ensure people know other services are available.”

CAIB membership is determined by AFI, while the IDS is open to those working with helping agencies and those invited to provide input from the units. However, there are ways to make your voice heard.

“The Community Forum is a great place to participate, as well as participating in Caring for People forums,” said Wynn.

“We’ve seen some changes,” added Cope. “Caring for People and CAF all came back to IDS work. Now we’re seeing money come down as a response and giving us some answers.”

There are a couple projects on the horizon for the IDS at Little Rock AFB, one of the largest will be Leadership Pathways—a base-level incentivized education program. The goal is to build resiliency through attending classes that will be offered on base. Moreover, it will incentivize Airmen and family members to attend by recognition.

The program will offer a variety of classes in the four CAF pillars. Airmen and family members may attend the classes they feel they need the most help in.

“Leadership Pathways is not the eight-hour resilience training,” said Wynn. “But it can be follow-on training for that training, Wingman Days or any of the resilience surveys.”

“We’re trying to provide [our people] a comprehensive, accessible training venue for self-improvement,” said Cope. “In the past when people have come forward and said, ‘I need this in my personal, professional or academic life,’ we’ve sent them to the subject matter expert. This is a one-stop shop.”

Leadership Pathways is scheduled to start at Little Rock AFB in January 2013. It will be the focus the base’s next Wingman Day. Classes will be available to all active duty, Reservists, National Guard, spouses and civilians. A course catalog will be published and available with a listing of all classes in the near future.

“Leadership Pathways is a great way to expand your knowledge in areas that you may be weak in or areas that are needed at a particular time,” said Wynn. “It gives you, the individual, choices in what you learn and when you learn it.”

Those interested in getting involved with the CAIB or IDS or that have any questions about Leadership Pathways, contact Mrs. Wynn at

Thursday, November 29, 2012

COMMENTARY>>Holiday readiness

By Col. Trae Watkins
19th Mission Support Group commander

Deployment Air Force members, we are always ready to deploy, but I’d like to take a moment and talk about Holiday Readiness…something some of us military members forget to prepare for (yes, I am guilty of neglecting this one until the last minute as well.) We have just passed Thanksgiving and the holiday season is here…are you ready? I am not talking about your holiday shopping (although it wouldn’t hurt me to get a jump on that). I am talking about things that are even more basic and important! Here are a few things to help you with your Holiday Readiness.





Sounds easy right? I wish! Sorry if you were looking for something prophetic, this isn’t; however, it is critical to holiday readiness and success. These are things we all know, but in the holiday rush we oftentimes forget. I’ll admit I have fallen victim to a lack of Holiday Readiness…writing this article has made me start working on it.

These four steps are not distinct and have a tendency to run together so I’ll talk about them in a few general terms.

BE SMART. We all tend to lean forward in these instances — don’t we? Take the necessary time and do not take unnecessary risks. For example, if the weather is bad don’t push the limits. If you’re going to a holiday gathering, plan accordingly. You are way too valuable to us, your family and the United States Air Force. Give yourself ample time and maneuverability to make the right choice…whether it’s going to mom’s back home for the holidays or to the grocery store. A big part of being smart is being prepared.

BE PREPARED. A large part of any type of readiness is preparation. We all go through the deployment prep getting ready to go down range. Holiday Readiness is no different. Preparation will make the deployment or the holidays go smoothly. The obvious thing for the Holiday Readiness to-do list is prepping your car for the Nov/Dec weather change (we are starting to feel that here at The Rock as the temp’s are dropping). Everything from an oil change to the tread on your tires is essential to local and distance travel plans. But don’t forget about the internal aspects of Holiday Readiness as well as other external aspects of preparation. Both are extremely important.

BE AWARE. I’ve been accused of not being the most perceptive person around so I have to really work on this one. Being aware of your surrounding is the obvious part here. If you are going to the beach this season in an unfamiliar locale, stay alert of your environment and cognizant of potential issues. This is ingrained in us as AF members, but the tougher portion of being aware is the internal piece. We’ve all heard the holiday season is tough for some folks. Some of us will have to work and will be away from our loved ones. It is not easy. BE AWARE of what is going on with you—sounds easy, but it isn’t. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself… be it physically, emotionally, socially, or spiritually. We all cope differently and need different things. You know what works for you ensure you use it. The great thing about our AF family is just that--we are a family. When you raised your hand to become a part of the AF institution you took on a larger role. Part of every single one of our responsibilities is to BE A WINGMAN to all AF Airmen (big A — civilians, service members, and families).

BE A WINGMAN. This one might be the easiest, or not. I am a firm believer that this is one of the things that make us the greatest and most feared AF in the world. It is because we are about each other. It is easy to care when we are at a gathering or visiting someone who obviously is ill. When it is tough and when we show our mettle is when we know it would be “easy” to walk away and no one would know. There are numerous examples of when our brother or sister Airmen make that questionable choice that “looks cool”, but could put him/her in danger. It is not the easy call, everyone makes those, it is the tough call. During the holidays there will be numerous opportunities for us to BE A WINGMAN. The easy part is that Holiday Readiness is just an extension of our everyday AF Readiness. Being a Wingman is second nature to Airmen.

Holiday Readiness is applying many of the same principles we use day-to-day as Airmen and much like Deployment Readiness. It never fails that you will be there scrambling to get those last-second things done at some point in the coming month or so. Therefore, remember the key to success in all readiness can be summed up in those Bs: Be Smart, Be Prepare, Be Aware, and Be a Wingman!

Thanks for what you do every day…enjoy the season!

TOP STORY>>Honoring RF-101C veterans

By Senior Airman Ian Caple
189th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Over 20 retired airmen who flew and maintained the RF-101 Voodoo aircraft attended a dedication ceremony on Oct. 31, 2012 at Little Rock Air Force Base’s Heritage Park. The Air National Guard aircraft display was recently moved from the 189th Airlift Wing campus to the LRAFB Heritage Park in August.

A dedication ceremony was the perfect way to honor some of the 189th’s veterans and hear their stories.

“I want to thank you for being part of the rich heritage of the Arkansas Air National Guard,” said Col. Steve Eggensperger, 189th Airlift Wing commander. “I speak for the current members when I say that we are very proud ofour heritage. I know that it is your service and sacrifice in the earlier days that have laid the foundation for the 189th becoming what it is.”

Col. Steve Eggensperger, 189th Airlift Wing commander, Chief Master Sgt. retired and fourth Command Chief Master Sergeant to the Director of the Air National Guard Richard Green and Brig. Gen. retired and former Commander of the Arkansas Air National Guard and the 189th Airlift Wing Gaylen Bryant unveiled a new plaque following the ceremony and were guest speakers for the event.

“Today we dedicate this aircraft in memory of all veterans, but in particular those Arkansas Air National Guardsmen who stood ready to ‘Guard America and Defend Freedom’,” said narrator, Master Sgt. Steve Wilson. “For their service and sacrifice, we are eternally grateful.”

Those attending took a moment of silence for Lt. Col. Bobby Hall, Maj. Hank Ebbing and 2nd Lt. Don Clark, three Arkansas Air National Guardsmen who made the ultimate sacrifice while operating the RF-101.

The RF-101 was delivered to the United States Air Force on July 10, 1958 and was assigned to Tactical Reconnaissance wings and groups in France, England, and South Carolina before being assigned to the 188th Tactical Reconnaissance Group, Arkansas Air National Guard, Fort Smith Municipal Airport, in October 1970.

In October 1972 the aircraft was assigned to the 189th Tactical Reconnaissance Group, Arkansas Air National Guard, Little Rock Air Force Base. The 189th used the aircraft to maintain a mission ready force. A typical sortie included aerial refueling, low level and photographing simulated enemy targets.

“The 101 was a great airplane to fly,” said Gen. retired Bobby Britain. “Our flights were usually short and consisted of taking photos on film of different locations. We had a hard time fitting into the traffic pattern sometimes because the C-130s were going a lot slower.”

The aircraft was also used to provide weather reconnaissance. In January 1976 the aircraft was dropped from the United States Air Force’s inventory and transferred to museum status as a static display on the 189th campus. Airmen from the 189th Operations Group and the 189th Maintenance Group refurbished the aircraft with the current paint scheme in 2007. In August 2012 Airmen from Team Little Rock moved the aircraft to its current location in Heritage Park.

The majority of those who worked with the plane felt that their lives slowed down as the aircraft did. The KC-135 followed the RF-101 at Little Rock Air Force Base. This large aerial refueling aircraft had four of the same engines that the RF-101 did, was much louder and moved half as fast. Most moved onto the C-130, losing half of their airspeed and sound for the last time.

“Every time I converted airplanes, my wife said that I slowed down half my airspeed and I guess that’s true,” said Brig. Gen. retired Bobby Britain. “My last plane was an HH60, which was a helicopter so I learned to hover in my last assignment.”

The camaraderie that the RF-101 aircrew shares is priceless. Pilots and maintainers both were laughing and sharing memories throughout the day. They all still keep in touch and most live in Arkansas.

“I feel really blessed to be a member of the Air National Guard and to fly this airplane. It was a wonderful aircraft to fly,” Brig. Gen. Bryant said. “Sometimes you don’t realize how much these people mean to you until you get older and start looking back.”

TOP STORY>>Civilian workers must schedule leave today or lose more time off

By Debbie Gildea
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- The 2012 civilian employee leave year ends Jan. 12, 2013, and Air Force Personnel Center officials remind civilians that those who have more than the maximum carryover hours of annual leave on that date risk losing their leave.

The maximum carryover ceiling is 240 hours for stateside employees, 360 hours for overseas employees, and 720 hours for senior executive service, senior level positions, and scientific or professional positions.

With less than two months to go in this leave year, supervisors should establish or confirm their employees’ leave plans, said Cynthia Dale, AFPC workforce effectiveness branch.

“We want to make sure all employees have reasonable opportunity to use any annual leave they would otherwise have to forfeit at the end of the leave year,” said Dale. “More importantly, if work related issues come up that prevent them from taking leave, we want to make sure that the scheduled, documented request exists so lost leave can be restored.”

According to Dale, all use or lose leave must be scheduled and approved in writing before Dec. 1.

“Scheduling leave is so important that it is a prerequisite for restoration of annual leave,” she said. “If you have approved scheduled leave and an exigency arises that requires cancellation of such leave and makes forfeiture unavoidable and there is not sufficient time in the leave year to reschedule, your supervisor can request restoration.”

Employees with more than 240 hours of leave accumulated who don’t plan to use it, can opt to donate any excess leave to any federal employee participating in the voluntary leave transfer program, Dale said.

“If you aren’t going to be able to use it and want someone to benefit from it, there are many employees who could use some help,” she said. “Your local civilian personnel section employee relations specialist can explain how the leave donation program works.”

For more information about civilian benefits and other personnel issues, go to the myPers website at

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

TOP STORY>>Landscape, architecture sets Crystal Bridges apart

By Jill M. Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

There is no doubt that the small-town feel of Bentonville and its non-coastal location belies the traditional ideals regarding where fine arts museums are found. But visitors to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a premier art institution which opened here on 11-11-11, are finding that contradiction the appeal.

Crystal Bridges’ ( permanent collection features American masterworks dating from the Colonial era to contemporary times. It also displays a changing array of special exhibitions featuring art from museums and collections throughout the region, nation and abroad. In addition to exploring the unfolding story of America with outstanding works that illuminate this nation’s heritage and artistic possibilities, the museum also seeks to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of landscape.

“I think my first impression of the place is just the building itself. It’s the most beautiful structure,” said Norm Simon of Tulsa, who was visiting with his wife as well as his son and his family from Toronto. “The overall setting is striking. In big cities you are surrounded by big buildings. This park-like setting is phenomenal.”

Founded in 2005 by the Walton Family Foundation, the museum takes its name from a nearby natural spring and the bridge construction incorporated in the building design by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. A series of pavilions nestled around two creek-fed ponds house galleries, meeting and classroom spaces, and a large, glass-enclosed gathering hall. Amenities include a cafĂ© on a glass-enclosed bridge overlooking the ponds and a Marlon Blackwell-designed museum store. Sculpture and walking trails link the museum’s 120-acre park and gardens to picturesque downtown Bentonville.

Rob Simon has lived in large cities such as San Francisco, Boston, and currently Toronto. “It’s a rare privilege to get to access this quality of art. You don’t expect this in northwest Arkansas, right?” He added that he was also struck by seeing others’ reactions to seeing this caliber of art for the first time.

Museum acquisitions include: “Kindred Spirits,” Asher B. Durand; “George Washington,” Charles Willson Peale; “Rosie the Riveter,” Norman Rockwell; “Group of Bears,” bronze sculpture by Paul Manship at Compton Gardens trailhead leading to Crystal Bridges; and “The Way of Color,” skyspace by James Turrell on the Art Trail – just to name a very few.

Rob’s son Rami, 7, said his favorite pieces were the holograms. “If you looked from the corner you could see it straight in 3-D.” His brother Elan, 11, liked “the circle thing,” also known as “Big Red Lens”, 1985, Frederick Eversley. “You could see through it. It’s cool how you can look through the art and see what’s behind it and you can see it as an aspect of a piece of art.”

Crystal Bridges had more than 125,000 visitors in its first two months, said Laura Jacobs, director of communications. In order to track attendance, the museum asks guests to take a three-question survey: How did you hear about the museum; how many people are in your party, and what is your zip code. The museum is prepared for 250,000 –plus visitors annually.

If You Go

Jacobs recommends visitors wear comfortable shoes. Additionally, she said, “Plan to have lunch here and spend some time on the grounds.”

The grounds include more than three miles of trails rolling with the landscape through the native Ozark forest. They are meant to be as much a part of the experience of Crystal Bridges as the art inside. “That art and nature are both vital to the human spirit and should be accessible to all,” is part of the museum’s mission. The grounds and trails change with each season, and are open year-round.

Inside, Crystal Bridges offers public tours, self-guided tours and audio tours. Jacobs suggests people download the free Crystal Bridges app from the museum’s website or the iTunes store prior to their visit. Guest Services also checks out pre-loaded iPods with the tours. A photo ID is required. Headphones are encouraged in galleries and are available for purchase at Guest Services.

The museum also contains a museum store with a wide selection of books, gifts, jewelry, prints of works from the museum collection, and original works by regional artists. The library offers a large collection of art reference materials.

A limited number of wheelchairs are available for use on a first-come, first-served basis at no cost. Large items, including backpacks, tripods, and umbrellas are not allowed in the galleries and can be left in the checkroom. Complimentary wireless internet access is available.

Crystal Bridges has a lobby coffee bar; its restaurant, Eleven, offers lunch service daily and dinner on Wednesdays and Fridays. Reservations for dinner are recommended. Admission to the museum is free. Plan a trip by visiting or by calling 479-418-5700 for more information.

In the area

Bentonville may be considered a small community, but it is also the world headquarters for a major corporation, Walmart. Neighboring cities are anchored by Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt and the University of Arkansas flagship campus. The area, sometimes referred to as the I-540 corridor, is well equipped for travelers with XNA airport, and numerous hotels, more of which are on the way.

Travelers can also visit the Walmart Visitor Center, located in Sam Walton’s original Bentonville variety store. Newly expanded and renovated, it contains exhibits tracing the origin and growth of Walmart stores and a coffee shop.

Visitors can enjoy national touring acts and performances at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville. Located in the city’s entertainment district, it anchors popular Dickson Street lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and live music venues.

Springdale is home to the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, a minor league baseball team based at the new Arvest Ballpark. The team is a member of the Texas League and serves as the Double-A affiliate for the Kansas City Royals.

Rogers is known for its historic downtown Main Street, the Daisy Airgun Museum, restaurants, and upscale shopping malls.

Outdoor opportunities in the region include significant hiking and biking trails, and fishing and water sports on lakes and rivers.

TOP STORY>>Explore the sights of the season with the Trail of Holiday Lights

By Kat Robinson,
communications manager

Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Want to find out where communities are celebrating the holidays in light and sound? You’ll find everything you need to know at your fingertips on our special Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights page.

The new interactive page on the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism website promotes the annual statewide event that begins the week of Thanksgiving and runs through the first week of the New Year. Cities and towns across The Natural State offer lighting ceremonies, parades, festivals and outdoor activities to celebrate the Yuletide season.

The Trail of Holiday Lights page includes a comprehensive map of light displays around the state, with driving directions and a search feature that allow the user to build their own seasonal swing through participating communities.

The Holiday Lights page provides much more than just information. An e-card creator allows visitors to use photographs from around Arkansas or to include their own Facebook or Instagram photos in a holiday e-card. They can include special messages and share those creations with friends on Facebook or through email.

Another feature is an Instagram feed of user-submitted photography. Pictures taken in the popular photo-sharing app Instagram and given the hashtag #arklights will appear on the page. Take a picture of your favorite light display in Arkansas and share it with fellow light lovers!

Additionally, there’s a Facebook page where photographs from visitors and from Instagram will be displayed, along with the latest information about light displays and news concerning event changes.

Visit the Trail of Holiday Lights page and the Arkansas Trail of Lights Facebook page to learn more about this dazzling statewide event.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

COMMENTARY>>Freedom is free

By Tech. Sgt. Mike Andriacco
U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Both of my grandfathers and my uncle were veterans. And until the day he died, my dad’s father had a yellow ribbon magnet of the back of his car that read “Freedom isn’t Free.” After he passed away and I bought the car from my father and uncle, I kept the magnet there, firmly believing in the message.

I’m not so sure I do anymore. A few months ago I was participating in a professional forum with some peers when I came to a realization. For the vast majority of people who enjoy its benefits, freedom is free; it’s supported by donations and, in return, the primary donors earn the title “Veteran.”

The more I thought about this idea, the more I began to realize it just felt right and I became more excited about putting it into words.

Our nation’s veterans have donated their time, many for 20 years or more, their sweat, their skills, some of their rights, and, for those who made the ultimate sacrifice, their futures.

But the donations aren’t limited to those who wear the uniform. Their families make donations too. Children donate their first steps, their first home run or dance recital, high school graduation, even their births so their parents may serve the ideals of something greater than themselves.

Husbands and wives donate restful nights, a two-parent household, the ability to call their loved one just to say hello. Parents donate their ability to keep their child safe when he or she gets on a plane bound for a war zone. The list of donations is endless and, just like other worthy causes, every little bit helps.

Veterans Day is a time to stop and reflect on the donations that allow us to enjoy our freedoms today. For the majority of Americans, freedom is free for one reason: someone else made the donation, freely and willingly. The veterans’ cemeteries are full of donors who have earned my gratitude for their part in securing the freedom my family and I enjoy.

A donation is something freely given with nothing asked in return. That’s what makes the donations of our nation’s veterans so special. And there is something we can do in return to thank them, though they haven’t asked. We can exercise that freedom. Without that, the sacrifices of our veterans are meaningless.

I am proud to see people using their freedoms -- freedom of speech, their right to assemble, and their freedom to elect their leaders. It doesn’t matter who they vote for, if they gather in support of a cause I believe in (or not), or say something I don’t agree with. It’s enough to know they value the donation of others enough to avoid letting it go to waste.

Today I’m going to reflect on the many donations my grandfathers and uncle made, and I’m going to be grateful. I’m going to think about the donation I first made 15 years ago to support my family’s freedoms. And I’m going to seek out a young Airman at the start of his career and make sure I thank him for his donation, because he’s going to make sure that some day, when my children face the decision to donate or not, they have the freedom to choose. Happy Veterans Day.

COMMENTARY>>Be thankful

By Lt. Col. Dana Dane
19th Medical Group Deputy Commander

It has been another busy year for Team Little Rock, and the holiday season is fast approaching. As we prepare to take advantage of some much deserved down time, let’s all count our blessings and “be thankful.”

Be thankful we live in a country with a democratic process that allows us to vote and choose our national, state and local leaders. Our recent elections showcased this freedom to the entire world. It’s just one of many things that make our country one of the greatest in the world.

Be thankful for our veterans past, present and future. I know we just finished honoring and remembering our comrades in arms with formal ceremonies all across our nation, but let’s be mindful of these patriots throughout the year. Please take the time to personally thank our veterans and their family members every chance you get.

Be thankful for our families, friends and co-workers. Their love and support is so essential to us. It truly is what gives us the strength we need to serve. Even though they have probably all heard that message many times already, let’s all be sure we tell them (and show them) again and again. I know I will. I couldn’t serve without them right there with me.

Finally, be thankful for the opportunities the USAF has given each of us. Sixteen years ago I received my direct commission as an officer. Back then I was a veterinarian working in a private practice. I had never served in any branch of our military, but patriotism and a desire to be a part of something bigger than myself, drove me to wrap up my first career and start a second. So, on Veterans Day Nov. 11, 1996, I flew off to Commissioned Officer Training and started my military career at 38 years of age. The years since have flown by and many good things have come my way courtesy of the USAF. The one I’m most thankful for is the opportunity I was given to serve my country as an “Airman.”

Have a safe, healthy and happy holiday season!

TOP STORY>>Experience elephants

Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary, located near Greenbrier, is a non-profit home for any elephant that needs one regardless of species, gender or disposition. Established by Scott and Heidi Riddle, it is the only internationally recognized sanctuary and it currently houses Asian and African elephants.

Elephant care and management are taught at this haven in the peaceful Arkansas countryside. Programs include Elephant Experience Weekends and an annual International School for Elephant Management.

Visitors Day, held the first Saturday of each month, provides an opportunity for the public to visit the elephants between 11a.m. and 3 p.m. Donations help support the care of the elephants at the sanctuary.

Major goals of the sanctuary include the care of the resident elephant herd, but also elephant conservation in general, helping ensure the long-term survival of these endangered species. Ark. 25 off U.S. 65 North. 501-589-3291;

(Courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism)

TOP STORY>>Stay safe this hunting season

By Staff Sgt. Jessica Condit
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Hunting is a major sport in the state of Arkansas. Throughout the year, different hunting seasons are open and animals are game to hunters who may wait countless hours for the perfect opportunity to strike. While hunting, there are many things a hunter must constantly be aware of when spending long hours in the woods, waiting for an animal to come along and fall prey to the hunter’s gun; scent, sound and camouflage are just a few of these concerns. Of all the things to keep in mind, safety is the key to happy and successful hunting.

Safety while hunting is no light concern. Before planning a hunting trip, make sure that the rules and regulations of hunting safety are clearly understood and be readily prepared for the excursion.

With several different types of equipment to choose from and the different specifications to hunting on base versus off base, it is important to know what is and is not permitted.

“You are allowed to use shotguns with slugs, muzzleloaders, and archery equipment” said James Popham, 19th Civil Engineer Squadron natural resources manager. “We don’t allow rifle hunting and handgun hunting because security forces don’t think the hunting areas are big enough to support these types of hunting.”

There is a hunting season for every animal. The deer season is from October to February and is very important for Little Rock Air Force Base. It helps control the deer population, keeping the airfield clear and preventing the deer from starving.

Hunting stands are mandatory for hunters who are using any type of gun to hunt. The use of hunting stands requires just as much safety practice as careful shooting and being aware of your surroundings.

“Don’t fall asleep in your stand,” says Popham. “Some people will get hurt falling out of their stands because they aren’t seeing any deer, and they fall asleep.”

Hunting stands are constructed with the hunters’ safety in mind. Stands must be set up at least 200 yards away from the next stand. Additionally, hunters are not allowed to be in stands next to each other at the same time. The stands are elevated to prevent shooting incidents between the hunters occupying the structures.

Although there is no formal training for hunting on base, people participating in the sport must read through the hunting rules available through the Outdoor Recreation Hunting and Fishing webpage, as well as the Little Rock Air Force Base website. If you are on the base hunting list, an e-mail is sent to you with the hunting rules, map of base hunting areas and hunting safety slides. For more information about base hunting rules, call 987-3681.

TOP STORY>>Riding for Raegan

By Airman 1st Class Regina Agoha
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

On Aug. 9, 2011, Raegan Whaley, daughter of Shelby and Staff Sgt. Patrick Whaley, 19th Security Forces Squadron command support staff administrator, fell backward off a swing, landing on her head. Immediately after, she became fussy, sleepy and refused to walk home.

Concerned about their daughter, the Whaleys took her to the emergency room. There, Shelby and Patrick’s deepest fear came true. Raegan had a brain tumor that needed to be removed immediately. After five hours of surgery, a 5cm-by- 9cm tumor was successfully removed.

Raegan began to recover, and a week after the fall, she was released to go home. The Whaleys’ rejoicing, however, was short lived. They received the news that their daughter had stage 4 supratentorial primitive neuroecto-dermal tumor. They headed to St. Jude in hopes of saving their daughter’s life. Unfortunately, seven months later, on March 18, 2012, Raegan passed away from brain cancer.

In honor of her name and in memory of her struggle, the Little Rock Air Force Base Green Knights Military Motorcycle Club, along with the First Sergeants Council, created the first Raegan Whaley Memorial Diaper Run, which took place Nov. 10.

Terry Thomas, 19th Mission Support Group resource adviser and Green Knights member, said he and his partners wanted to do something to help Airmen on the base. When they heard about Raegan’s death, they knew that the diaper run was what they wanted to do.

“Though the story was sad,” said Thomas, “we thought we could make something good happen because of it. We talked to the parents first, got in touch with the first shirts and used Raegan’s name to title the run.”

More than 50 Green Knights, along with other bikers from surrounding areas, began the run at the M&M Stop and Shop and ended at the Little Rock Air Force Base Education Center, where more than $2,700 worth of donations, such as diapers, toys, money, gift cards, clothes and even a car seat were dropped off.

Master Sgt. Rodney Kizzia, 19th Comptroller Squadron first sergeant, said “We want to make this an annual thing, so we can give back to families in Little Rock and Airmen in need. Eventually, we would like to open this run up to Camp Robinson, the guard unit and the 189th Airlift Wing.”

Kizzia said the first sergeants will take the donations. They will keep it in storage for whenever an Airman in their squadron is in need. All the money raised at the event will be sent to St. Jude’s Children Hospital in Raegan’s name for cancer research.

Both Shelby and Patrick were amazed at the event’s turnout and how the community got together to support the run and their family.

“We didn’t expect so many people to show up and so many things to be collected,” said Shelby. “This whole experience has been humbling. We weren’t here very long when all this happened, and no one here knew Raegan. This base and the community have really made us a part of their family.”

Shelby’s parents, Margaret and Jeff Johnson, attended, as well as participated in the run. They both said they were honored to be a part of something that their granddaughter’s life had such an impact on. Jeff, who served in the Army for 25 years, said all the efforts the Air Force and the community of Little Rock made for this event was unbelievable.

Kizzia and Thomas said this run goes far beyond Nov. 10. They want to make sure Airmen with young children that are struggling know that they have help and that people care.

“I’m prior enlisted,” said Thomas. “I remember what it’s like to have two kids and a small income. If we can make it better by providing the basic necessities for some Airmen then it’s worth it.”

“I was in the Security Forces Squadron when Whaley first got here,” said Kizzia. “I along with others from the squadron took a collection and made a basket filled with things like coloring books, blocks, clothes and baby dolls to make her comfortable. We took it to her and her family’s home two weeks before she passed. I think it was kind of a bad day for her because at first she was kind of shy, but she slowly opened up and began to play with the stuff. Knowing that we made her feel good in her final days is why this is important to me. If there are families out there struggling or going through bad times, if we can make them smile at least for a day, it’s worth it.”

Donations can be accepted by any first sergeant on base. For more information about where to drop off donations, Kizzia said to contact any first sergeant on base.

Anything that a 10-year old child or younger can use is accepted, said Thomas.

“Food, money, toys and even gift cards are accepted,” he said. “Don’t be ashamed to ask for help if you need it. That’s what this is here for.”

Margaret said she is sure that Raegan would have been happy to see all the toys and items being donated in her name because she was a loving and giving child. Patrick said he is proud that his daughter’s name will live on through this run.

“I want the run to continue as long as possible,” he said. “I’m glad that Raegan’s death is honored by helping others out.”

Thursday, November 8, 2012



The 19th Security Forces Squadron’s Pass and Registration office will relocate to Building 481, Suite 100 after normal duty hours today. The office will open for normal business at 7:30 a.m. Monday. Parking is available at Building 480.


AAFES will be closing the Main exchange complex and the lake side Express at 5 p.m. Dec. 9, one hour earlier than their regular operating hours so that employees will be able to enjoy their holiday function. Class 6/Express will remain open during regular hours.


Volunteers are needed for Operation Cookie Drop for LRAFB Dorm Residents and 24-hour Ops work areas. Drop cookies off on a disposable plate between noon and 4 p.m. Dec. 17 at Thomas Community and Activities Center. Volunteers are needed to bag cookies from 7:30 p.m. to midnight Dec. 18 at TCAC.For More Information and to volunteer, contact Staff Sgt. Amanda Chelchowski at 987-3539.


Beginning Dec. 2, until further notice, all Sunday Protestant and Catholic Services/Mass will be moved to the Base Theater (Bldg 980) due to repairs and renovation to the A/C and heating system. All Religious Education, CaRE, Children’s Church services, PWOC, PYOC, PMOC, CWOC, CYOC, Sewing Group, Choir rehearsals, and fellowship activities will be held at the Chapel Annex and Religious Education Bldg during repairs to the Base Chapel Sanctuary. Daily Mass (11:30) (Tuesday - Friday) will be held at Base Chapel. For more information contact Chaplain Lt Col Francis Lowe or Major Randall Jamieson at 987-6014.


Make a copy of your passport’s information page. Making a copy and keeping it separate from your passport is a well-known best practice for international travelers. However, you should also leave a copy with your Security Manager, Spouse or relatives who can fax it to you if necessary. Alternately, scan a copy into your computer and then upload it to a secure, password protected online storage system. That way, the information on your passport is accessible to you as long as you have an Internet connection.


The Little Rock Air Force Base Tax Center will open its doors Feb. 4, 2013, for the 2012 tax season. During the 2011 tax season, the Little Rock AFB Tax Center completed 1,167 tax returns for Team Little Rock, resulting in refunds totaling $1.7 million. All of these savings were made possible by volunteers who kept the Tax Center functioning. Tax Center volunteers are trained through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, receiving valuable education on completion of federal and state tax returns. At the conclusion of the VITA training, volunteers qualify as certified tax preparers, a crucial skill for managing their own financial affairs. Whether answering phones or completing returns, volunteers are instrumental in meeting the tax filing needs for hundreds of active duty, reservists, dependents, and retirees from the surrounding area. Training is tentatively scheduled for mid December 2012 and is a requirement for first time volunteers; optional for returning volunteers. The Tax Center is currently accepting volunteers for the upcoming 2012 tax season. If you are interested in becoming a Tax Center volunteer or have any questions about the VITA program, please call Capt. Nicholas Peone or Senior Airman Linae Totten at the Legal Office at (501) 987-7886.


The Little Rock Air Force Base theater will permanently close its doors after the last show Dec. 15. If you have any questions, contact Al Fuentes at the Base Exchange at 501-988-1180.


The base Christmas tree lighting will be held at 5 p.m. today in front of the TCAC. Refreshments and visit with Santa in the Chapel Annex following the ceremony. For further details, contact Base Chapel, 987-6014.


There will be a retirement ceremony for Chief Master Sgt. Gregg Kollbaum, 314th Airlift Wing command chief, today from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Hangar 1080.


As of Oct. 1, the Razorback Inn lodging rate increased. The rate increase was necessary to ensure Air Force lodging rates cover current operations and capital improvement costs. As an example, the previous $39 nightly room rate for a visiting quarters room increased to $53.25 and temporary lodging facilities increased from $43 to $55 per night. Even with the rate increase, Air Force rates are lower than comparable commercial rates off-base. “Coupled with quality service, clean facilities and reasonably priced room rates, Air Force lodging facilities are still a great choice for Airmen,” said Major General A.J. Stewart, AFPC Commander.


The base chapel offers Sunday School classes for children, teens, college/career and adults. Come out for Traditional Service at 8 a.m. or Contemporary Service at 11 a.m. Religious Education classes are held at 9:30 a.m. There’s something for everyone. For details, call Jo Ann Silvi at 987-7890.


The 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron offers training on the following subjects: Block I: General Supply Indoctrination, Block IIA: Bench Stock Management, Block IIB: Repair Cycle Management and Block III: Equipment Management and Deployed Equipment Management. For additional information or to be scheduled for training please contact customer service at 501-987-3034 or 501-987-6201.


The Exchange Main Store has new hours.

The main store hours for Monday will be 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The following hours have changed in the Food Court area:

Anthony’s Pizza: Monday through Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Charley’s: Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Taco Bell: Monday through Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Starbuck’s: Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Subway is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 pm. Sundays.

For more information contact Sandy Crowley at Visit their online store at


For any questions regarding the Airman’s Attic call Gennifer Terry at 501-952-4649.

COMMENTARY>>Air Force leaders issue Veterans Day message

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy send the following Veterans Day message to the Airmen of the U.S. Air Force:

“Our Air Force’s success is founded in the sacrifice of generations who served before. This Veterans Day, we honor and thank more than 22 million American veterans, including four million veterans of the United States Air Force.

“Every veteran, past and present, has a story. Some served in wartime, others during moments of peace; many were volunteers, others were called; some served a matter of days, while others gave their life’s work to the profession of arms. All deserve our deepest gratitude.

“The men and women of our Armed Forces fought for and some gave their lives to secure the freedoms we enjoy today. For their sacrifice in service to America, our Nation owes a debt of appreciation that can never be repaid. Our veterans’ families also deserve our collective thanks – their support makes the service of their loved ones possible, and their presence strengthens every man and woman in uniform.

“Standing on the shoulders of veterans past, today’s Airmen – YOU – continue to reach beyond what was once thought possible to discover and employ innovative airpower solutions for America. Every day you answer the Nation’s call, whether in the skies or combat theaters abroad, in space or cyberspace, on the ground delivering relief and hope to families in need, or here at home protecting America’s airspace. Your continued commitment to defend and preserve the cause of freedom will ensure that future generations continue to enjoy the liberties we cherish today.

“For all you have given to America and to its great Air Force, and for your service yet to come, you have earned our Nation’s thanks. On this Veterans Day, take time to thank those in your families, communities and workplaces who have served America and defended her ideals.”

COMMENTARY>>Veterans Day remembered

By Chief Master Sergeant Gregg Kollbaum
314th Airlift Wing Interim Command Chief

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” — Elmer Davis

In 1918, after years of conflict in Europe, World War I came to an end on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. At that time on that special day, Great Britain honored allied veterans and laid to rest an unknown soldier. This historic event honored the sacrifices of all those who served and the eleventh of November was subsequently designated as Armistice Day by France, Great Britain, and the United States. The United States laid to rest an unknown soldier in 1921, as did other countries that fought in the Great War. Later, in 1954, President Eisenhower designated Nov. 11 as Veterans Day to honor the men and women who have defended the United States and the cause of freedom.

I can remember celebrating Veterans Day as a child. There was a parade with a color guard and men riding around in big trucks making lots of noise and smoke. There were flags for miles as both the people in the parade and the crowd proudly waved Old Glory to show their respect for our heroes. The celebration continued all day with great food and patriotic music playing at the park. The Veterans Day activities were always fun but as a child I couldn’t grasp the impact of the accomplishments of the people on the trucks.

As I have grown older, Veterans Day serves as a day of reflection. I can only imagine the challenges faced by our country’s oldest veterans, the men and women of the Revolutionary War. They had the responsibility to secure our freedom from the British and defend our newly drafted Constitution that established the way of life we cherish today. Since the birth of our nation, every generation has fought to defend our constitutional freedoms by taking part in regional and global conflicts that have tested the resolve of our country and our veterans.

Today our military continues to have a legacy of brave men and women that answer the call. They have taken an oath during a time of war to defend those same principles that the revolutionary soldiers took on over 200 years ago. Our military today has awesome responsibilities. Our youngest members operate and maintain millions of dollars in equipment. They protect and support thousands of people. They provide hope to many nations of the world by eliminating terrorists, building nations, delivering humanitarian aid, and many other activities to strengthen democracy in a turbulent world. Few Americans answer the call to serve and carry the great responsibility to defend our nation. Veterans Day is a day to honor the brave that keep our land free.

TOP STORY>>Little Rock Airman places in AMC Icon

By Airman 1st Class Regina Agoha
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Tiry Crane, a 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hydraulics specialist here at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., earned second place out of 10 finalists in the Air Mobility Command Icon contest Oct. 25, 2012, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

The AMC Icon program is based on the hit TV program, American Idol. All AMC installations conducted base level talent shows during July and August with the top active duty member advancing to the finals to compete for the title of AMC Icon as well as a $2,000 cash prize.

Crane, who sang, “You,” by Chris Young at the competition, said he’s been singing since the eighth grade.

“My dad and my stepmom have a band,” said Crane. “They’ve had the band since I was eight years old. That’s what got me into music, but I didn’t know I could sing until my eighth-grade year. I got randomly put in a concert choir. My choir teacher told me that he couldn’t guarantee that I would be a good singer after the school year, but I would be a better singer. And I was. I’ve been singing ever since.”

Crane said singing is natural to him, and there’s not a day that goes by without him doing it. He sang with his parents for a while in their band, before joining the military. And though it’s not his main goal, when he’s inspired, he writes songs.

“Everything reminds me of singing,” he said. “It keeps me happy.”

Crane uses his talents not only in his personal life, but in his military life as well. Hesaid he has been singing the National Anthem here at Little Rock ever since he was an airman 1st class. And though he’s been singing for a while, he still gets nervous.

“I’m more comfortable singing than I used to be,” he said “but I’m always a little nervous. I figured if I’m never nervous, that’s when I’ve stopped caring as much.”

Crane received $600, two trophies, and a coin from General Raymond Johns, AMC commander, for earning second place. He said he was honored to receive second place and felt like everyone who competed was a worthy opponent.

Crane said he truly enjoys singing and knows that it and music will always be in his life.

“I cannot remember a time in my life when my dad wasn’t playing music and singing. I’ve been involved in it my entire life. Singing and music will forever be a part of my life.”

TOP STORY>>Rock Airmen shine during 18th AF commander’s visit

By 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Lt. Gen. Darren McDew, the 18th Air Force commander, recently visited with Airmen and leaders here to express his thanks and admiration.

“The 19th Airlift Wing has a culture of getting things done. You do more than is expected of you every day and you do it well.” said McDew.

McDew, along with his wife, Evelyn, attended numerous briefs, facility tours and ceremonies during their visit. The two saw Team Little Rock’s mission firsthand and applauded the hard work of the team’s Airmen, civilians, and families who contribute to keep the mission of the world’s largest C-130 base soaring.

“Little Rock has exceptional leaders,” said McDew. “I was impressed with all of the commanders, the chiefs, and first sergeants that I had a chance to engage with, but that was just the beginning. I was blown away by the everyday Airman and when the commanders put me in front of them – they left me speechless.”

During an all call with 19th AW Airmen, McDew talked about the future of mobility forces. “The only thing I can tell you for certain is, the next five years will be different than the last five years,” he said, adding that the one constant in coming years would be the exceptionalism of America’s Airmen.

“Airmen are bold innovators,” he said. “They’re risk takers, our founding fathers were too. Airmen bring a different mindset to the fight, one that’s invaluable to the joint team.”

McDew also noted the importance of resiliency for today’s Airmen.

“Find some way in your life to stay connected to your personal morals and values. Believe thattomorrow is always going to be better than yesterday. Don’t be afraid to get to know your wingman, and don’t be afraid to be a bit interested in their lives. Sometimes, just asking the question, ‘hey, how are you doing?’ and waiting to hear the response is important,” he said.

McDew also explained that one of the great strengths of Team Little Rock was its relationship with the surrounding community. The base’s history is rooted in a strong bond with local citizens, who purchased the land for the base from the government in the 1950s.

“This community sets the standard for how well they treat service members.” he said. “They care about you; they respect you greatly. I think they do an exceptional job of thinking about ways they could help you before you even ask.”

McDew said his visit to Little Rock was important because it gave him the opportunity to say “thank you” to his 19th AW Airmen, and he summed up his and his wife’s visit with one word: “phenomenal.”

Thursday, November 1, 2012

COMMENTARY>>Through Airmen’s Eyes: Airman battles breast cancer

By Airman 1st Class Chacarra Walker
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. (AFNS) – (This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

“I was 21 years old and didn’t think I was strong enough to beat two cancers – I thought my life was over,” said Senior Airman Latisha Chong.

Chong, a flight kitchen specialist from the 628th Force Support Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer Jan. 19. Two weeks later, the same doctor who discovered her breast cancer told her that she also had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I was all jacked up,” Chong said.

Chong had just returned from a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia, when she noticed two lumps in her breasts and immediately knew something was wrong. Her doctors diagnosed the lumps as cancerous tumors.

“I immediately called my mom.” Chong said. “Even though it was her birthday, she needed to know the bad news.”

Chong’s mom, Darlene Vincent, was living in Brooklyn, N.Y., when she learned the earth-shattering news.

“It was heartbreaking,” Vincent said. “I knew Latisha needed my support, so I packed up and moved to Charleston.”

The next person Chong called was her supervisor, Tech. Sgt. Christian Farin, the 628th FSS Flight Kitchen NCO in charge. Chong said she felt Farin was someone who was always available to listen and help with her problems.

“This was the first time I’ve ever experienced an Airman coming to me with this type of news,” Farin said. “I didn’t know what to say, I really couldn’t believe it.”

Farin tried to put Chong’s mind at ease by letting her know she not only had his support, but the support of the entire squadron.

Chong was facing five months of chemotherapy followed by radiation to stop the growth of the tumors in her breasts. Hodgkin’s disease is a type of lymphoma, a cancer that starts in cells called lymphocytes that are part of the body’s immune system.

On top of it all, Chong would still have to take care of her two-year-old son, Malachi.

“Since my immune system was weak, anytime Malachi showed even the slightest signs of a cold or any other illness I would have to stay away from him,” Chong said. “The thing that kept me grounded the most was praying. You have to believe in something; that’s how I stayed positive.”

Fortunately, Chong had the support of the 628th FSS team members, who ensured Malachi was enrolled in the base child development center. This gave Chong a bit of time for herself and time to focus on defeating the two cancers that were still spreading throughout her body.

“Raising a child alone is hard, but raising a child while battling two cancers is overwhelming,” Chong said.

When Malachi wasn’t at the CDC, Chong’s mother would help out while Chong was going through chemotherapy and radiation.

The treatments had begun to take their tolls on Chong. The chemotherapy made her feel like she constantly had the flu and the radiation caused fatigue and night sweats.

“Going through chemotherapy made me feel extremely cold,” Chong said.

“When I went out in public, even though it was summer, I had on sweats, boots, a jacket, a scarf, and on top of everything else, I wore a mask,” she said. “People looked at me as if I wasn’t human.”

Wanting to understand what Chong was going through, Farin decided to spend a day with her to get a better understanding of how he could help.

“It didn’t really hit me until I saw her without hair,” he said. “I took leave for a day and watched Chong go through an entire session of chemotherapy. I don’t know what I would have done if I was in her shoes.”

Chong wore a wig while going through chemotherapy to mask her hair loss.

“After a while I couldn’t take it anymore,” she said. “Once the physical changes started to become noticeable, I wanted to stand out less in public. A wig helped.”

Besides losing her hair, Chong dealt with fluctuating weight.

“The different stages of treatment caused me to either lose or gain extreme amounts of weight,” she said. “I was going through a lot at such a young age.”

After five grueling months of chemotherapy, Chong had made it over the mountain and was ready for radiation followed by surgery.

“When I graduated from chemotherapy so many people from my squadron showed up, even the hospital staff was shocked,” said Chong. “They had to make room for everybody and the other patients. That’s when I realized what true Wingmen are.”

It was now September and Chong was finished with radiation and prepped for surgery. Nervous and excited to be having the cancerous tumors in her breasts removed, Chong slipped into unconsciousness as the anesthesia overtook her.

“When it was time for surgery I prayed,” said Chong. “I prayed that everything would go as planned and that I would make it out safely.”

On June 19, Latisha’s doctors told her she was cancer free.

Chong said she was happy about the prognosis and since her mother was already by her side, Farin was the first person she called to tell the good news.

“Every time she called me, she told me bad news,” Farin said. “But this time I could tell in her voice it was good.”

Even though Chong was cancer free, she would still need to go through another 33 rounds of chemotherapy to ensure the cancer did not return.

Once she was diagnosed as cancer free, Chong wanted to know when she could go back to work.

“I was ready to get back to services where I help people because that’s what we do,” Chong said. “The best part about my job is the people.”

Chong is scheduled to return to work at the end of this year. Even though she is cancer free, she still has one more hurdle to overcome. She is currently going through a series of reconstructive surgeries to prepare her for her new breasts. Chong has had a total of five surgeries and is scheduled to have two more.

“When they told me they were going to remove my breast I wasn’t sad; I was excited because now I was going to get bigger and better ones,” Chong joked.

Chong’s battle with cancer didn’t go unnoticed by the rest of her command. While she was going through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, Tech. Sgt. Antonia Williams, 628th FSS, put together a team to run in the Charleston, S.C., Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in honor of Chong.

“Talking to Latisha was so inspirational ... she was so positive,” Williams said. “I had only known her for a few weeks, but I knew I wanted to make a difference in her life and do something special for her.”

Williams put together a team of more than 50 runners and set a goal of $1,000 in donations. The team not only met the $1,000 goal, they exceeded it by more than $700.

“I’m very happy about the run, it shows people care,” Chong said.

The team ran the race Oct. 20, and best of all, Chong walked the race with her fellow Wingmen.