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 café 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.

TOP STORY>>Transforming our services

Whether it is a Saturday evening at Strike Zone Bowling Center, a rental at Outdoor Rec, or a round of golf at Deer Run Golf Course, many have taken advantage of the services offered exclusively on Little Rock Air Force Base as part of the military family. However, are these services being used enough?

Certain services provide a core function for the mission which is necessary to maintain mission ready, resilient Airmen. While they are not direct, mission critical functions, they are indirectly important to the physical and mental health of Airmen. In September 2011, the Services Transformation Project was launched Air Force wide in an effort to determine how Airmen and their families use installation support services. Through this initiative, each base was asked for input regarding how each support service could be improved, modified or even eliminated. It is the suggestion of the Air Force to close those functions that may provide added value, but cater to a small, niche population and may require too large a share of scarce financial or personnel resources.

In reality, what works for one base may not be practical for another base. LRAFB is less than 20 miles from the heart of Little Rock, which has many cultural, entertainment and recreational opportunities. On the flip side, Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota is over 100 miles from Bismarck, the state’s capital. Therefore, while Little Rock has many opportunities off-base, those at Minot rely more heavily on the offerings on-base.

The Rockin’ Services Survey

This past July and August, the 19th Force Support Squadron developed and distributed the Rockin’ Services Survey to understand which base services are being utilized and to obtain feedback to improve customer service. The survey focused on the following six services: library, bowling, golf course, skills center (including arts & crafts and auto hobby), outdoor recreation and Hangar 1080. Approximately 1,500 people participated in the survey and provided valuable feedback and information.

The average respondent was a married, active duty individual who lives approximately 10 to 30 minutes off-base with children. Forty-six percent of the surveys were completed by individuals ages 18 to 34. Seventy-five percent of surveys were completed by individuals living off-base.

The majority of respondents visit the base several times per week. The primary reasons for visiting the base (other than work) were to visit the Commissary/BX or for recreation and services. Over 85 percent of survey participants reported using at least one on-base service. The primary reasons for not using base services was due to lack of time, better and/or more convenient services off base or no need for services. There were many suggestions made in the surveys, which will be taken into consideration.

What does this all mean?

While it appears that base services are being utilized, if use of them does not maintain or increase of they could go away. Certain initiatives have already been implemented or are in the process of being implemented. This past summer, the Teen Center was relocated to the Youth Center to consolidate the staff and provide more oversight while decreasing expenses. The Information, Tickets and Travel office will be located to the Exchange. This will result in greater accessibility to families and customers.

Short-term initiatives include 1) moving the Thomas Community Activities Center staff to Hangar 1080 and using the TCAC as the Conference Center Annex, 2) focusing on league play at the Bowling Center and 3) exploring public play membership passes for Deer Run to increase our customer base. Long-term initiatives include modifying the Old BX to create a WCommonsC concept to house the library, a café, community center with ballroom, and Airmen & Family Readiness Center.

Last thoughts

If resources were not constrained and if funding was not an issue, would LRAFB still need to transform services? As it has been said, some of the programs and facilities are hold-overs from a different era and require modification. The mission and service identity is not tied to functions, facilities or programs.

For more information regarding Force Support Services and activities, go to, “Like” us on Facebook at or download the myMC2 app to your phone.

(Courtesy of 19th Force Support Squadron)

TOP STORY>>MWD finds home with Little Rock Airman

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

She tosses the ball high and far and watches as Mishka bounds across the terrain, striving to capture the red sphere in his mouth before it hits the ground. Mishka misses the ball this time, but picks it up, takes it back, lies on his back with his limbs extended and accepts a tummy rub as a consolation prize. Mishka then leaps back to his paws, eager for another chance at the ball.

“He has a lot of energy; I have to go home and let him out at lunch every day,” said Maj. Maria Moss, 19th Component Maintenance Squadron commander.

Moss is talking about her newly adopted dog of course, and while she’s been a canine lover for some time, Mishka is even more special to her because of his background as a military working dog.

Mishka was adopted by Moss through the Military Working Dog Adoption program at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The program aims to provide the best possible home to MWDs who were either retired from service or couldn’t make it through the extensive training regimen.

Moss’s interest in adopting a MWD stems from January 2011, when she read an article about the program in Airman Magazine while deployed in Iraq. Moss said being able to watch MWDs in action on deployments gave her a great appreciation for the work they do, and she was pleased to see there was a program for adopting them.

“When I was deployed as a squadron commander in Iraq, I saw the therapy dogs attached to the medical clinic in Balad, and it was great to see that we had this kind of program,” said Moss. “I don’t think there’s been a deployment where I haven’t seen a dog in some capacity.”

On her most recent deployment there was an instance where she saw a MWD detect an explosive on a sanitation truck. The explosive was safely disarmed, and no damage was caused, all because of the dog’s hard work. Seeing these dogs in action made her want to adopt one even more.

“We were all so glad that dog was there,” she said. “It was kind of funny, because after that everybody started writing home asking for people to send them dog treats and toys. God knows we were all grateful for that dog.”

She intends to take Mishka as a volunteer at the office of Veteran Affairs and other places once or twice a month to spend time with veterans and retirees. Moss said she thinks interaction with dogs can be therapeutic for people.

“A couple of years ago I read an article about service members who had service dogs, and those dog’s jobs were to keep them calm, those dog were a great comfort to them,” she said.

Spending time with a MWD can give service members comfort and companionship, said Moss.

“Just being able to play or lie down on the floor and pet him can give someone comfort,” she said. “It’s a very basic and very human thing.”

The process to acquire Mishka was more involved than a typical adoption from the pound, said Moss. Adoption through the MWD adoption program can take anywhere from 12-18 months because applicants are screened for a variety of issues ranging from whether or not they have children to if they have other animals. Moss said she had several friends who asked her why she didn’t just go to the pound and adopt, but she said there is something special about a MWD.

“It was worth it, easily,” she said about the extensive application process. “I think this is a great program and couldn’t be happier with this guy.”

Moss picked up Mishka from Lackland Oct. 17. She said he’s adapted well to the new environment. One of the foremost concerns for MWDs no longer working is how they find meaningful interaction. The dogs are trained to work and need a sense of purpose, and so far Mishka has done great. Moss said she’s having a great time taking care of him, even if it takes a lot of effort.

“He’s unbelievably loyal; it’s taken him a few days to get used to the new environment, but he’s adapted very well to me,” she said. “He’s got a lot of energy and a desire to work. Those are his greatest characteristics.”

Taking Mishka back to her office after playing with the ball outside, Moss pours water into his bowl and watches as he drinks. After drinking a lot of water, the dog paces around the room looking for the red ball. Gnawing on the red ball, he finally lies down by Moss. She pets the dog as he rolls onto his back once again, waiting for a tummy rub.

“That’s a good boy,” she said.