Thursday, October 24, 2013

COMMENTARY>>Breast Cancer: More than a ribbon

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

I’m sure by now most people don’t need to be reminded that October is breast cancer awareness month. How could you have missed it? With all the ribbons, “save the ta-tas” T-shirts, bracelets, earrings, shoe laces and other pink doodads it’s fairly hard to forget.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a soapbox about the big business of breast cancer. Anything that brings attention to the importance of early detection and funds to research for innovative technologies and advanced treatments is a good thing, period.

What is often forgotten in the sea of pink are the individuals on the front lines who are actually fighting the disease. In the three months between the time football players stop wearing pink shoes and the Super Bowl, roughly 58,000 women and 500 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and they each have a story.

Three years ago I had the distinct and life changing privilege of telling the story of Air Force Capt. Candice Adams Ismirle. Ismirle, a press operations officer at the Pentagon, was a vibrant and outgoing 29-year-old public affairs officer, co-worker and friend. In October 2010 she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. Triple negative is a particularly aggressive and vile form of the disease, known for its ability to grow fast, avoid detection and spread to other parts of the body. When she and her husband, Maj. Ryan Ismirle an F-15E pilot, agreed to open their entire lives to the prying eyes of my digital camera, I’m not sure that any of us could have predicted the ways it would change our lives.

Over the course of the next 18 months I recorded their journey, as she combated her disease. On a typical day of documenting I would leave my house around 4 a.m. to make the hour long trip in to Washington, D.C. and accompany her to a seemingly endless regiment of appointments and treatments. After waiting out the effects of the day’s dose of chemical medicine I would pack up and head for home, usually getting to sleep around midnight.

That was the easy part. My role in this drama was utterly simple compared to Capt. Ismirle’s. While undergoing treatment, she wrote notes to the cancer that was attacking her body. The culmination of our efforts was a photo and video roadmap to fighting breast cancer titled “Pink Kisses; cancer MY way,” which can still be seen at I could describe to you about the heartbreak and hard times, of which there were plenty, but that’s just not Candice’s story. She choseto do something different, and purely remarkable. She was resilient in the situation she was dealt, and vowed to never allow herself to play the role of cancer’s victim. Whichever way her story ended, she made one modest promise; to celebrate the life she had.

In one of her notes she wrote, “You’re serious, nothing to take lightly, and I respect the gravity of you because you take life, but I choose to minimize you because you were never going to take mine… It’s important you know that I am not your victim. I choose to celebrate life, rather than simply survive it. Love, Candice.”

I have made a promise also, to genuinely care about every human captured in each frame I shoot and every line I write; usually my fellow Airmen. I never fully grasped the power of an image or responsibility that comes along with telling someone’s story before Pink Kisses.

That idea of caring for each other is a view shared by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody. During a recent visit to Osan Air Base, South Korea, Welsh said, “Caring for each other is one of the Air Force’s three keys to success, along with common sense and communication. I know that all of you care a lot — you care about each other, your professions, your families — but think about the job. We have to fight and win the nation’s wars,” Welsh said. “We’ll never be good enough at that job so we have to get better all the time. Think about the people you work with, that you’re sitting beside, think about your family and theirs. We’ll never care enough about them — we have to care more.”

The first step, Welsh continued, is to learn about each other.

“Every Airman has a story,” he said. “Their stories are incredible, unique, uplifting, sad, inspirational, just incredible, and everybody in here has one. If you don’t know the story you can’t lead someone as well as you could otherwise. It’s really that’s simple. It’s all about understanding each other, because the better we know each other, the better we’ll take care of each other, the prouder we’ll be, and the better our Air Force will be. That’s the Air Force I think we all want to be part of.”

TOP STORY>>Afghan pilots reach new heights with C-130

Team Little Rock Airmen, at home and downrange, are playing an integral role in standing up the Afghanistan Air Force’s C-130 capabilities.

Two Afghan pilots completed their nation’s first-ever C-130 training flight Sept. 3 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., and approximately a month later, on Oct. 9, the AAF received its first two C-130H aircraft from the United States.

Little Rock AFB is the home of C-130 Combat Airlift and host’s the premiere C-130 formal training unit, which trains students from 46 partner nations, most recently including Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Aimal Sayedi Pacha and Lt. Khial Shinwari were the first from the AAF and Afghanistan to accomplish training and flying a C-130 with the 314th Airlift Wing.

“We are the first from Afghanistan here, and the first from Afghanistan to fly a C-130,” said Pacha. “I feel very happy to be part of the training for C-130s and to be the first to come here and be one-step forward to building our air force and to helping our people.”

The five-month long training consisted of rigorous academics, simulators and culminated with their first flight followed by several other qualifying flights.

“[This training] will help a lot of us for the future of our air force and for our safety of Afghanistan,” said Pacha. “We can use the experience and the new things we learn here to support our troops and support our country.”

While the training for the Shinwari and Pacha was a new experience, it fully prepared them for their first flight.

“The training was almost perfect, because whatever we did in the simulator we did in the airplane with just some minor differences,” said Shinwari. “The first day I was thinking that when I took off I was still in the simulator because it was the same; everything I learned in the simulator I was doing [on the flight], and the flight was perfect.”

After completion of their first flight and the rest of their training, they graduated from the C-130 schoolhouse and returned to Afghanistan to assist their nation in building their C-130 mission.

“I feel so happy and amazed to be the first pilot,” said Shinwari. “Sometimes I think to myself, in 10-20 years from now, I can tell my family that I was one of the first guys to fly this airplane.”

Although the training for Shinwari and Pacha is complete here, there is still more to learn. NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan will be assisting the AAF until they can operate the aircraft completely on their own.

“Members of the Afghanistan Air Force are going to be training with us for a while,” said Maj. Eric McEwen, 714th Training Squadron international military student officer. “The C-130 is a pretty complex plane; it takes a long time to get a C-130 program built up, so NATO is sending teams of trainers there to assist them until they are able to do it on their own.”

The training not only helps the AAF, but also, helps build relations with other nations.

“The reason we train with other countries is so we have that interoperability with them, and it’s great that we are able to assist them, especially in the case of the Afghans with the defense of their nation,” said McEwen. “It is great to be a part of that and just contribute to their national goals and making friendships and partnerships around the world.”

The AAF has relied heavily on helicopters for cargo air support over the past year. The capabilities of the new aircraft will help enable the Afghan forces with the same capabilities NATO forces have successfully used to supply military outposts throughout the country of Afghanistan.

TOP STORY>>Wounded warrior makes final jump

By Capt. Victoria Porto
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) – One by one, Airmen from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron lined up at the back of a C-130 Hercules, paused, then stepped off the aircraft Oct. 16, completing their free fall training jump into the picturesque water of Florida’s Emerald Coast.

For Staff Sgt. Johnnie Yellock Jr., this jump was two years and 28 surgeries in the making.

In 2011, Yellock, a 23rd STS combat controller, was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While on a mission checking Afghan local police outposts, his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device.

“When I opened my eyes, I was on top of the truck with my legs hanging down onto the bed,” Yellock said. “I had open fractures on both of my feet through my boots.”

Despite his injuries, he continued to pass information to his team, including the details for a helicopter landing zone for his own medical evacuation.

“I’d been in the career field for years and I was trained for this type of situation, trained on medical trauma care,” he said. “I took pride in the knowledge I had, and I was confident I’d be able to help a teammate if needed. I didn’t expect it to be myself.”

For two and a half months his parents and sister stayed by his side while he was recovering in the hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

Once released, he began his outpatient rehabilitation and the long road to recovery. The first year, he stayed mostly in a wheelchair before he was finally able to walk, first with crutches, then unassisted.

TOP STORY>>Energy Action Month aims to save money

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

The month of October is often associated with changes. Youths, abandoned by the wistful days of summer and far removed from the barbecue and pool-filled joys of Labor Day weekend, are firmly trenched in the school year. October also marks the fiscal New Year, where companies and businesses begin anew. The weather also begins to turn, as the humid and balmy days of summer relent to the chilled winds of fall. Even the foliage and shrubbery turns color, and pumpkin-flavored goods and Halloween trinkets flood store aisles and markets, soon to give way to flashy holiday colors.

October also marks an important month for the Air Force: Energy Action Month. The goal of Energy Action Month is to highlight the importance of the Air Force’s energy conservation program as well as the goals of reducing output and sustaining existing energy sources. Not just in October, but all year round the Air Force wants to save taxpayer dollars, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to national security through making wise decisions with energy conservation. Energy Action Month is about promoting awareness of ways to conserve energy, highlighting positive practices and changing bad habits that lead to waste.

Little Rock Air Force Base is contributing to this cause with a strong energy management control system as well as conserving water on base.

“We’ve come a long way on this base,” said Reuben Thonerfelt, 19th Civil Engineer Squadron energy manager. “We’re required to reduce our energy footprint three percent per year as well as our overall output two percent per year. We’re already saving millions of dollars a year on energy and in the last five years we’ve cut the base’s water consumption in half.”

A pivotal part of the base’s energy conservation initiative is implementing building control units in more than 100 buildings on base. Thonerfelt said the BCUs automatically set and regulate a building’s temperature in the summer and winter time, controlling how heated or cooled the building is. Additionally there are alarms built into the system, which alerts monitors if a building is outside of the appropriate temperature range, in effect making the buildings “smart.”

Another champion in the base’s fight to conserve energy is the recently erected water tank next to the base exchange.

The tank was built a little over two years ago as part of a major water saving initiative. Thonerfelt said the insulation in the tank fights off waterheating in the summertime, seriously reducing the costs on cooling down water. Thanks in part to the tank, the base uses 50 million gallons less of water than it did five years ago.

In addition to big initiatives on base to conserve energy, there are small tips to help everyone contribute and work together for a more energy conscious future, such as logging off of the computer at the end of the duty day. A lot of practices at the office can also help Airmen, civilians or contractors conserve energy and save money at home as well, like regulating thermostats or reducing the use of appliances that aren’t being used.

Energy Action Month is observed every October, but Air Force leadership stresses that it shouldn’t just be regulated to a once a year reminder, energy action should be lived by Airmen, civilians and contractors all the time.

As the weather turns even colder and trick or treating gives way to celebrating with the family during the holidays, the Air Force wants all of their personnel to be conscious of energy consumption, doing which would be a boon for the Air Force as well as its personnel. Energy conservation isn’t a one and done observance, it’s a way of life.

For more information about the benefits the water tank provides to the base go to

To view a video about Air Force Energy and the Energy Action Month campaign go to the Air Force’s Civil Engineer YouTube page at

Thursday, October 17, 2013

TOP STORY>>Civilian retiree identification card to be replaced

By Debbie Gildea
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) – Retired Air Force civilians who use the Air Force Form 354, Civilian Identification Card, to access Air Force installations have until early 2014 — when the AF354 will be rescinded — to get a Department of Defense Civilian Retiree ID Card or other access credentials, Air Force Personnel Center officials said.

The AF354 was a card-stock product that allowed civilian retirees and their eligible dependents to enter an Air Force installation, with installation commander approval, but only for access to limited Morale, Welfare, and Recreation facilities (access which also applies to current Air Force employees and their dependents).

The card was not issued from the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System/Real-time Automated Personnel Identification System, and is not recognized by the Department of Defense under the Personnel Identity Protection Program for DEERS or by other services for installation access, said Ed Yoder, Air Force DEERS/RAPIDS project office.

“The card doesn’t meet the stringent security requirements established by the Department of Homeland Security,” Yoder said. “Installation access requires a secure card with identity vetting and online capabilities, such as bar code scanning.”

Although retired civilians can get a DOD identification card, there isn’t an equivalent for eligible dependents.

“On installations where the commander has approved civilian retiree and dependent access, they can contact the civilian personnel office as a starting point for determining eligibility and for getting a secure access card for their family members,” Yoder said.

Many bases use Defense Biometric Identification System cards for all installation access. With a commander approval letter from the force support squadron and a DBIDS card, retired Air Force civilian employees and their dependents will be able to access an installation.

“Like the 354, the DBIDS card and letter will only be good for the one installation,” Yoder said. “You won’t be able to use it to get on other Air Force or DOD installations.”

Once the AF354 is officially rescinded, which is tentatively slated for January, installation security will confiscate AF354 cards presented for access, so civilians should not wait to replace their access cards, he said.

For more information about access credentials and other personnel issues, visit myPers and enter “AF 354” in the search window.

TOP STORY>>Retirees are thanked at Appreciation Day

By Cynde Maddox
Little Rock AFB Public Affairs

The base Retiree Activities Office hosted the 35th annual Team Little Rock Retiree Appreciation Day on Oct. 12 honoring Arkansas’ military retirees at the Little Rock Air Force Base's Thomas Community Activities Center.

The event provided information booths, door prizes and many exchanges of thankfulness as Team Little Rock turned out to thank the 508 attending retirees and exhibitors.

Col. William Otter, 19th Airlift Wing vice commander, welcomed the retirees and thanked them not only for their great service to our nation, but also for their continued service both on and off base.

“I am very honored to be part of this event with the many men and women who have served in our nation’s military,” said Otter. “Because you continue to serve today, your service is greatly appreciated by Little Rock Air Force Base, especially you retirees who volunteer here on base. We couldn’t do it without you. Thank you, thank all of you!”

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher also thanked the retirees for attending the event.

“Thank you for your service for this nation in the past. But most importantly, thank you for choosing to be here today — you continue to serve,” said Fletcher. “You are always welcome to visit Jacksonville, home of Little Rock AFB.”

Throughout the event, retirees had the opportunity to learn about travel, health care, banking options, becoming and remaining healthy, educational opportunities and more as they visited more than 55 information booths manned by community business leaders, health professionals, base personnel and numerous members of military and retiree organizations.

At each booth, retirees were provided one-on-one briefings about their benefits and how they could take advantage of numerous other available services.

The retirees were offered a free breakfast, including pastries, cookies, and coffee donated by the retirees, followed by a free lunch, including hot dogs, chips and beverages furnished by Hunt Communities Housing. The retirees were also offered two celebration cakes, one furnished by Arkansas Federal Credit Union and one furnished by the Little Rock AFB Retiree Activities Office.

The Retiree Activities Office, located in the Consolidated Support Facility, building 1255, is open 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and offers services to more than 57,000 military retirees residing in Arkansas. For more information, call John Heffernan, director of Little Rock AFB Retiree Activities Office, at 987- 6095.

TOP STORY>>Congress passes bill reopening federal government's operations

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (AFPS) – President Barack Obama signed legislation late yesterday night bringing federal employees back to work after Congress finally resolved the budget logjam which led to a 16-day shutdown.

Senate leaders championed bipartisan legislation to reopen the government and remove the threat of government default on its debts. All federal government employees – including some 4,000 Defense Department employees – will report to work tomorrow.

The legislation is a continuing resolution that will provide federal government spending at fiscal year 2013 levels. This keeps the sequester-level budget in effect.

The act will keep the government open through Jan. 15 and raises the debt limit through Feb. 7. The act contains a provision for a joint Senate-House committee to work on a budget recommendation for fiscal year 2014.

Those recommendations are due Dec. 13. The legislation includes the provision to pay all furloughed employees for the period of the lapse in appropriations. The act calls for those employees to be paid "as soon as practicable."

Even before the House of Representatives voted, President Obama signaled his intent to sign the bill.

"We'll begin reopening our government immediately," he said in a White House appearance. "And we can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty and unease from our businesses and from the American people."

Obama asked that all political officials take the lesson of the gridlock to heart and work together to solve the nation's problems.

"My hope and expectation is," Obama said, "everybody has learned that there is no reason why we can't work on the issues at hand, why we can't disagree between the parties while still being agreeable, and make sure that we're not inflicting harm on the American people when we do have disagreements."

"So hopefully that's a lesson that will be internalized, and not just by me, but also by Democrats and Republicans, not only the leaders, but also the rank-and-file," he said.

As he was leaving the Brady Press Room at the White House, a reporter asked the president if the shutdown might not be duplicated in January. "No," the president said and left.

Sylvia Matthews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a release federal employees "should expect to return to work in the morning."

For more information, go to the OPM web page at

Friday, October 11, 2013

TOP STORY >> 47 graduate from ALS

Forty-seven Airmen graduated from the Airman Leadership School on base Sept. 25. The
graduates are:

Senior Airman Jonathon D. Carter, 19th AMXS

Senior Airman Bradley D. Clark, 189th LRS

Senior Airman Colin E. Clause, 314th AMXS

Senior Airman Natalia Currier, 19th MSS

Senior Airman Kyle B. Dibble, 314th AMXS

Senior Airman Michelle S. DelloIacono, 19th LRS

Senior Airman Adam J. Dempsey, 314th AMXS

Senior Airman Justin M. Denno, 19th CES

Senior Airman Joseph P. Dryer, 19th EMS

Senior Airman Kristen M. Findley, 19th EMS

Senior Airman Ross A. Flood, 19th MXG

Senior Airman Kyle L. Gerner, 19th SFS

Senior Airman Jeremy B. Goddard, 19th AMXS

Senior Airman Ryan J. Hall, 19th MOS

Senior Airman Erick I. Hernandez, 19th SFS

Senior Airman Tyler B. Hopper, 19th CMS

Senior Airman Adam R. King, 19th AMXS

Senior Airman Jacob P. Laethem, 19th SFS

Senior Airman Holly R. Larson, 19th EMS

Senior Airman Emmanuel J. Lewis, 19th LRS

Senior Airman Stephen J. Livingston, 19th OSS

Senior Airman Brandon A. Lopez, 19th SFS

Senior Airman Nicholas R. Maron, 19th LRS

Senior Airman Jaye D. Marshall, 19th CS

Senior Airman Leslie A. Medina, 19th SFS

Senior Airman Benjamin J. Mele, 314th AMXS

Senior Airman Amber M. Metts, 19th AMDS

Senior Airman Brittani N. Newhouse, 19th MSS

Senior Airman Jonathan D. Norris, 19th EMS

Senior Airman Christopher D. Norwood, 19th CES

Senior Airman Megan K. Olds, 19th LRS

Senior Airman Joshua J. Pawloski, 53rd AS

Senior Airman Nicolas C. Peters, 19th LRS

Senior Airman Kyle W. Poh, 314th AMXS

Senior Airman Tiffany N. Prasifka, 19th MOS

Senior Airman Ryan A. Robertson, 314th AMXS

Senior Airman Fatez Q. Radford, 314th AMXS

Senior Airman Brandon J. Ragsdale, 314th AMXS

Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Riddle, 19th FSS

Senior Airman Robert M. Romero, 19th AMXS

Senior Airman Corey M. Rose, 19th EMS

Senior Airman Nina T. Stone, 19th MOS

Senior Airman Lauren E. Thompson, 50th AS

Senior Airman Brittany M. Varney, 19th LRS

Senior Airman Michael E. Welch, 19th CES

Senior Airman Monique D. Wright, 19th AMDS

Senior Airman Corey A. Woodruff, 19th CES 

The award winners from the class are:

John L. Levitow Award
Senior Airman Joshua J. Pawloski, 53rd AS

Leadership Award
Senior Airman Michael E. Welch, 19th CES

Academic Achievement/Distinguished Graduate Award
Senior Airman Stephen J. Livingston, 19th OSS

Distinguished Graduate Award
Senior Airman Ryan J. Hall, 19th MOS   

Distinguished Graduate Award
Senior Airman Ross A. Flood, 19th MDG   

Distinguished Graduate Award
Senior Airman Ryan A. Robertson, 314th AMXS

Thursday, October 10, 2013

TOP STORY>>Combined Federal Campaign underway

By Airman 1st Class Cliffton Dolezal
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The Combined Federal Campaign kicked off Oct. 1 at Little Rock Air Force Base.

The mission of the CFC is to promote and support philanthropy through a program that is employee-focused, cost-efficient and effective in providing all federal employees the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all.

“I think the CFC is great,” said Maj. Aron Peña, the Little Rock AFB organizer and point of contact for the CFC. “It makes it easier to focus all of our giving efforts once a year.”

The CFC is the world’s largest and most successful annual workplace charity. Almost 200 CFC campaigns throughout the country and overseas work together, raising millions of dollars each year. Pledges are made by federal employees (federal citizens, postal and military) during the campaign which lasts from Sept. 1-Dec. 15. The donations support eligible non-profit organizations that provide health and human service benefits throughout the world.

In 2012 the CFC raised more than $250 million to donate to charities nationally, internationally and locally as well as right here at Little Rock AFB. A portion of that $250 million, nearly $228,000, came from donors at Little Rock AFB.

The base surpassed their goal of $200,000, said Peña.

Peña’s goal for the base this year is to reach 100 percent of Team Little Rock with 30 percent participation.

“The goal is to raise $205,000, which is $5,000 more than last year,” said Peña.

Charities wishing to participate in CFC must complete an annual application process. Organizations may apply to be listed as local, national or international charities depending on their area of service. Members of the Office of Personnel Management, which oversee the program, maintain strict eligibility and public accountability criteria that all participating CFC charities must meet.

For more information please visit

TOP STORY>>Most AF civilians returned to work

By Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Kilmer
Air Force News Service

WASHINGTON (AFNS) – In accordance with a memo Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released Oct. 5, the Air Force will recall most of the nearly 104,000 Air Force civilian Airmen placed on emergency furlough due to government shutdown. However, a significant number will not yet be able to return.

In his memo, Hagel stated that immediately after President Barack Obama signed the Pay Our Military Act into law, he directed DOD’s Acting General Counsel to determine whether he could reduce the number of civilian personnel furloughed due to the shutdown.

After consulting with attorneys from the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense, the secretary said the Pay our Military Act does not permit a blanket recall of all civilians.

However, he said, DOD and DOJ attorneys concluded that the law does allow the DOD to eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.

According to DOD guidance for implementation of the Pay our Military Act, in addition to already excepted civilians, civilian Airmen who contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities, and readiness of service members should also be removed from furlough status. Previously furloughed employees that fall in this category will return to work beginning Monday. Upon return to work, they may only perform “excepted” duties which encompass those duties necessary for the protection of life and property, so there will continue to be ongoing impacts due to the government shutdown.

“You’ve heard that we are bringing back many of our civilian teammates, but a significant number of them will not return. That is not what we or OSD wanted; however, the DOJ/OMB/DOD negotiated position on the interpretation of the law does not eliminate furloughs all together and leaves many of our civilian Airmen left behind,” said Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning. “Everyone’s work supports our Airmen, but the mechanics of the legislation is the driving force of who comes back, not the value of the work. This is unfair and simply a disruptive situation for you and your families. From day one, our primary focus has been to rapidly get as many people back to work as soon as possible; and we will continue those efforts. We are a team, a family — always have been. We will not be a fully-functioning organization until the last member returns.”

Today supervisors began notifying Air Force civilian employees who will return to work next week. The Air Force is utilizing all possible means of communication including supervisor contact, social media, Air Force Personnel Center and For current government shutdown information, visit’s Government Shutdown page, the Air Force Portal and/or contact the Air Force Personnel Center Total Service Center at 800-525-0102.

TOP STORY>>Government Shutdown: Frequently Asked Questions

WASHINGTON (AFNS) – Below are frequently asked questions about the current government shutdown.

Q. Will the military be paid? Will civilians receive back pay?

A. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) released the following statement: “We are aware the President has signed the Pay Our Military Act. We are awaiting further guidance from the Department of Defense to ensure we accurately implement all elements of the Act. We will update you with additional information as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.” (http://www.dfas.mil

Q. Are commissaries open?

A. Stateside commissaries that closed due to the government shutdown will resume normal operations effective Monday, Oct. 7. Stores normally closed on Mondays will reopen for business on their next scheduled operating day. Commissaries are back to their normal operating schedules today, but it may take three to five business days to get the shelves fully stocked depending on store size. For specific information about your base commissary and its operating hours, visit the store’s website, which you can locate by searching for it by name at

Q. Are child development centers (day care centers) open?

A. Contact your local CDC/installation for details/guidance.

Q. Are Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) schools open?

A. Yes.

Q. What is the difference between an administrative furlough and shutdown furlough?

A. There are two types of furloughs - an administrative furlough is a planned event by an agency which is designed to absorb reductions necessitated by downsizing, reduced funding, lack of work, or any budget situation other than a lapse in appropriations. Furloughs that would potentially result from sequestration would generally be considered administrative furloughs. A shutdown furlough (also called an emergency furlough) occurs when there is a lapse in appropriations, and can occur at the beginning of a fiscal year, if no funds have been appropriated for that year, or upon expiration of a continuing resolution, if a new continuing resolution or appropriations law is not passed. In a shutdown furlough, an affected agency would have to shut down any activities funded by annual appropriations that are not excepted by law. Typically, an agency will have very little to no lead time to plan and implement a shutdown furlough. More info about furloughs is available at

Q. What about Public Affairs offices?

A. Since we don’t have an FY-14 appropriation, existing guidance remains in effect; both military and civilian PAs should only support and perform excepted activities, and current restrictions on community engagement still apply. PAs will provide trusted counsel to leaders, communicate to Airmen through all news and information channels, and enhance morale, readiness and operations through a steady flow of information and imagery – making PA an “all hands” operation over the coming days and, possibly, weeks.

Q. Will Air Force public websites be updated?

A. Yes, but only with shutdown-related information. Once the furlough/shutdown is over, public websites will resume posting of other Air Force information.

Q. Will the shutdown affect the Military OneSource website?

A. The Military OneSource website and call center will remain fully operational. Military OneSource is a Defense-wide program that promotes the quality of life of service members and their families by delivering information, referrals, confidential counseling and other services in-person, online and by telephone. The service is available worldwide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at no cost to the user and regardless of the service member’s activation status. Visit their website at or call (800) 342-9647.

Q. What about the Military and Family Life Counselor (MFLC) program?

A. This program will continue uninterrupted. The MFLCs will perform routine functions. If an MFLC is unable to access the installation during a shutdown, they will work offsite until they are able to access the installation.

Q. Will military Exchanges be open?

A. Yes.

Q. Will Airman and Family Readiness or Family Support Centers be open?

A. Staffing will be determined by installation commanders.

Q. Will Family Advocacy Program offices be open?

A. Each service will determine staffing at each installation.

Q. How does the shutdown affect Morale, Welfare and Recreation Programs/nonappropriated fund activities?

A. Operations necessary to support “excepted activities” (i.e., activities/programs that will not affected by furlough/shutdown) will continue. Examples of these excepted activitiesinclude operation of dining facilities, physical training and child care activities required to support readiness.

Q. Will Education Centers be open?

A. Education Centers will be closed during the shutdown. This includes counseling services, testing centers, learning centers and computer labs. Tuition assistance will not be authorized or granted for new classes.

Q. What happens with “My Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA)”?

A. No financial assistance requests will be approved until further notice. However, all spouses with an already approved financial assistance request prior to Oct. 1, 2013 will have their approved requests honored so they can attend class. Spouse Education and Career Opportunities counselors will continue to be available to provide comprehensive education and career counseling services. Please call the SECO Career Center at (800) 342-9647 or visit the SECO website at and continue to monitor the MyCAA portal for updates regarding when financial assistance will once again be available for approval.

Q. I need financial and legal services. Where do I go?

A. Financial and legal services are available to federal employees through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Services’ Employee Assistance Program. Please call (888) 222-0364 or visit

Q. What happens to my Thrift Savings Plan account?

A. TSP information is available at The TSP will continue its normal daily operations during the Federal Government shutdown. A government shutdown fact sheet is available at The fact sheet covers impacts and emphasizes that your agency should not send a Form TSP-41, Notification to TSP of Nonpay Status, to the TSP during a Federal Government shutdown. A shutdown is a rare occurrence and is typically of short duration. The Form TSP-41 is intended for participants who are being placed on extended leave without pay, e.g., due to illness, military furlough, maternity leave, etc.

Q. Why is the Air Force recalling most of the nearly 104,000 civilian Airmen placed on emergency furlough?

A. In accordance with a memo Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released Oct. 5, the Air Force will recall most of the nearly 104,000 Air Force civilian Airmen placed on emergency furlough due to government shutdown. However, a significant number will not yet be able to return. his memo, Hagel stated that immediately after President Barack Obama signed the Pay Our Military Act into law, he directed DoD’s Acting General Counsel to determine whether he could reduce the number of civilian personnel furloughed due to the shutdown. consulting with attorneys from the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense, the secretary said the Pay our Military Act does not permit a blanket recall of all civilians. However, he said, DOD and DOJ attorneys concluded that the law does allow the DOD to eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members. Read the entire memo at or view the entire news release at

Q. Why are there no television broadcasts for Airmen overseas?

A. American Forces Network returned to service Oct. 6, but it will take a couple days to get the full channel lineup on the air. AFN will broadcast each additional channel as it becomes available. (

Q. Can people still join the Air Force?

A. Yes, we are still processing qualified applicants.

Q. How does this shut down affect PCS assignments?

A. Currently, only those who have PCS orders in hand, prior to 1 October, will be allowed to proceed with their PCS, since their move has been funded by the FY-12 budget. For all others, they should continue with the PCS process, but must wait for funding to be authenticated before they are able to complete their move. PCS orders coded “A” for accession and “S” for separation are authorized to continue.

Q. How is the Civil Air Patrol affected by the shutdown?

A. Members of the Civil Air Patrol, the U.S. Air Force auxiliary, will continue to perform emergency and disaster response missions authorized by Air Force officials during the federal government shutdown.

Q. Will the active duty Air Guardsmen come back to work too?

A. Active duty Air Guardsmen were still working throughout the shutdown.

Q. Are civilians coming back to work without pay? Will civilians be paid retroactively?

A. Once a bill is signed by the president, civilians will be paid for the days they were furloughed at the beginning of FY-14. This Friday, civilians will be paid for the first six days of the pay period before the furlough started.

For current government shutdown information, visit’s Government Shutdown page, the Air Force Portal and/or contact the Air Force Personnel Center Total Service Center at (800) 525-0102.

Friday, October 4, 2013

TOP STORY >> Air Force focused on ways to keep its spending down

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

The United States Air Force consistently tries to find new and innovative ways to cut costs on unnecessary projects and spending. The emphasis on saving money and thinking outside the box has become the benchmark of effective Airmen.

In order to obtain the most productive results and include every Airman, whether enlisted, officer or civilian, Air Education and Training Command has adopted the Cost Conscious Culture Program. The program, created to increase the awareness of spending and saving throughout AETC, has saved the Air Force millions of dollars over the past two years. The program has enhanced the quality and productivity of the Air Force while enticing Airmen to think outside the box and slash budget costs.

One of Team Little Rock’s own members has contributed to the C3 program, saving the 48th Airlift Squadron more than $6,500 in renovation costs and equipment for the squadron.
Deborah McDaniel, the 48th AS unit program coordinator, was in charge of re-inventing the squadron’s Mission Planning Cell. After careful analysis of the MPC requirements, McDaniel was able to identify several reusable resources to include doors and communication devices. She also pointed to several unnecessary renovations such as the proposed carpet in the storage room.

“At the time I didn’t think that what I was doing had anything to do with the C3 program,” said McDaniel. “I was simply using common sense by reusing versus throwing out and having contractors purchase new items. I wanted to effectively use the project funds and get the most bang for my buck.”

McDaniel was recognized by General Edward Rice, AETC commander, as the 314th Airlift Wing “C3 Ace,” for her innovative ideas and contributions to the Air Force’s cost-saving initiatives.

If anyone has a cost-saving idea that could benefit AETC, Team Little Rock or the Air Force as a whole, you can share it at
Capt. James Sinclair, the 314th AW C3 representative, can also be reached at or 501-987-5783.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

TOP STORY>>Affordable Care Act will impact federal civilian employees

By Gloria Kwizera
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) – Starting in January, all individuals must maintain minimum health care coverage for themselves and all dependents claimed on their federal tax return, or must qualify for an exemption. Those who do not will be charged a penalty beginning with their 2014 federal tax return.

Under, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148 and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, Public Law 111-152, the federal government, state governments, insurers, employers, and individuals are responsible for reforming and improving health insurance coverage availability, quality and affordability.

Airmen covered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (including temporary continuation of coverage), Medicare, TRICARE and Children’s Health Insurance Program meet the federal requirement, said Kathryn Iapichino, Air Force Personnel Center.

“Some civilian employees may not be covered because when they were hired, they had the option to not select a health benefits plan,” she said. “There may not be many in that situation, but those who are need to be aware of the federal requirement.”

Those Airmen particularly should review their options in preparation for the 2013 Federal Benefits Open Season, Nov. 11-Dec. 9, Iapichino advised.

“Civilian employees who need to meet Affordable Care Act requirements can select their health insurance during open season and they will meet the requirements established by the IRS,” she said.

For more information about the comprehensive open season and Affordable Care Act, go to myPers at or the Internal Revenue Service website at

For information about other personnel issues, visit

TOP STORY>>AF movement team oversees retrograde operations

By Master Sgt. Benjamin Bloker
U.S Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan (AFNS) – Staff Sgt. Daniel Hall walked into the air cell room and proclaimed, “I got us a case of Pop-Tarts and they haven’t expired yet!” Finding such items on a base in the middle of retrograde is a big deal. Forward Operating Base Salerno’s dining facility is down to one hot meal a day and there are no stores.

Hall, a Smith Valley, Nev. native, is part of the 19th Movement Control Team, a small squadron of Air Force surface movement controllers and aerial porters tasked with overseeing the vast majority of retrograde operations at FOB Salerno.

The sobering responsibility of being the last team is foremost in everyone’s mind.

“There’s nobody else to make up for what we don’t do...we’re the last,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Gustafson, 19th MCT commander. “We have to account for every person, every bit of cargo.”

A steady flow of C-130 Hercules cargo planes passes through the small dirt landing strip near the Pakistan border to pick up 80,000 to 100,000 pounds of cargo a day. Gustafson, a Spokane, Wash. native, deployed from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., looks to hard work to achieve a strong transition.

“They’re very good at their jobs,” said Gustafson. “Seeing them take such a tough situation and overcome all the challenges everyday to the point where I get people calling down to say your folks are the best we’ve ever worked with, that’s the most rewarding.”

Gustafson also credits teaming with others for success.

“We reach out to other organizations throughout the FOB and Regional Command East for assistance,” Gustafson said. “Without that team we wouldn’t be able to overcome this challenge.”

The attitude of everyone in the office reflects determination to see FOB Salerno, nicknamed “Rocket City” from a history of rocket attacks, transitioned to the Afghan Nation Army.

“When we first got here we heard there was a team coming in behind us to finish this up and that devastated every single one of us,” said Hall, on his first deployment from Travis AFB, Calif. “We all wanted to be part of closing down a base. Getting to see it go from fully functional receding to nothing, is a pretty cool experience.”

TOP STORY>>19th AW breaks ground with new inspection plan

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

The 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base the first base in Air Mobility Command to be inspected under a new Unit Effectiveness Inspection Sept. 20 – 27, earned an overall rating of Effective for the wing.

The inspection was part of a new Air Force Inspection System, which redefined the wing portion of the Commander’s Inspection Program and included major changes from inspections of the past.

“This inspection contains some of the biggest, most significant changes for the Air Force in the last 50 years,” said Lt. Col. Jon Steckbeck, 19th AW inspector general.

Some of the changes under the new inspection, detailed in Air Force Instruction 90-201, include a focus on continuous mission readiness, as opposed to vamping up and down for massive inspections.

“Under this new guidance there won’t be anymore ‘deep dive inspections,’ by higher headquarters” said Steckbeck. “The focus is on being mission-ready all the time, honestly documenting discrepancies and effectively taking care of them.”

The new UEI runs on a two-year cycle, during which wing and unit commanders, as well as other personnel, are responsible for inspecting their own programs and noting discrepancies in the Management Internal Control Toolset. During the last 120-day period of the cycle, the Major Commands look closely at the self-inspections presented to them by each wing through MICT and decide what they’ll scrutinize during the last week of the inspections, known as the UEI capstone.

“With MICT, we show the MAJCOM we’re compliant all the time,” said Steckbeck, who works with the base Commander’s Inspection Program team to ensure units are correctly and honestly documenting their compliances/non-compliances in MICT. “When they come here during the UEI capstone, they’re asking us to prove it.”

Throughout the UEI capstone, Sept. 22 – Sept. 29, nearly 130 inspectors from AMC came to base to take a close look at the programs of the 19th AW, validating and verifying that they are effective and in compliance with Air Force standards.

Steckbeck said the most important part of correctly executing this inspection is being honest.

“It’s okay to have deficiencies, as long as you honestly identify them and lay out a corrective action plan, keep monitoring the deficiency and document the corrective actions,” said Steckbeck. “The whole point is to perform these self-inspections honestly, that way you’ll know what you need to do to improve.”

There are four major graded areas for the inspection: Managing Resources, Leading People, Improving the Unit and Executing the Mission. The wing was graded on a five-tier scale: Outstanding, Highly Effective, Effective, Marginally Effective and Ineffective.

The 19th AW, the first wing in the continental United States to be tested under the new system, earned an Effective in every major graded area, except for Executing the Mission, for which the wing earned a grade of Highly Effective.

In addition to the inspection, the AMC IG also conducted “Airmen to IG sessions,” during the week, in which they interview Airmen and civilians of specific peer groups to see if there are any trends concerning the quality of life and work on base.

The top three issues ascertained by the AMC IG from the Airmen to IG sessions were access to medical care, education and communicating force structure changes.

The AMC IG also recognized multiple top performers from the base, including giving out nine IG coins, four certificates of recognition and six team accolades. (Going to try and find out who/what won)

The recipients of the IG coins were: Majors Ryan Kiernan, 19th Operations Group, Rebekah Montgomery, 19th OG and Dennis Slowinski, 50th Airlift Squadron, 2nd Lt. Amanda Watts, 19th Force Support Squadron, Senior Master Sgt. Eric Lorow, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Master Sgt. Sherry Williams, 19th Component Maintenance Squadron, Tech. Sgt. Thomas Grover, 41st Airlift Squadron, Senior Airman David Nearbin, 19th FSS and Jacqueline Schneider, 19th Communications Squadron.

The recipients of the certificates of recognition were: Tech. Sgts. Thomas Brown, 19th Operations Support Squadron and Shawn Olson, 41st AS, Staff Sgt. Danielle Drahman, 19th LRS and Senior Airman Eric Severic, 41st AS.

The teams recognized for their outstanding performance were: the Chapel Team, the Intelligence Flight Team, the Weapons and Tactics Team, the Wing Inspector General Inspections Team and the Wing Safety Team.

Successfully accomplishing the UEI was a team effort and put the wing on track to meet the Air Force standard of compliance with the new Air Force Inspection System, said Steckbeck. The entire Air Force is expected to utilize the new inspection system by Oct. 1, 2014.

“We came together as a team to be successful for this inspection,” said Steckbeck. “Our success is a reflection of the relentless efforts of the 19th AW IGI and the proactive efforts of the commanders and the men and women of the 19th AW.”

TOP STORY>>Hagel says national security assured during shutdown

By Karen Parrish American Forces Press Service

SEOUL, South Korea (AFNS) – The Defense Department and other government agencies responsible for national security will carry out their missions despite the government shutdown, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said here Oct. 1.

The secretary, traveling in the Asia-Pacific region this week for high-level meetings here and in Japan, sat down with reporters traveling with him to explain what is known, and what isn’t, as nonessential government services are temporarily mothballed.

The secretary said he left last night’s state dinner honoring the U.S.-South Korea alliance, at which he spoke, “a little early” for a teleconference with Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter, comptroller Bob Hale and acting general counsel Robert Taylor. During that conversation, he said, the four discussed possibilities for minimizing the shutdown’s effects on some 400,000 civilian employees who will be furloughed.

“Our uniformed military are taken care of” and will be paid, the secretary said, because President Barack Obama signed that exemption. Hagel said most Defense Department civilians who will be furloughed will receive official notification when they report to work today, and “will be asked to go home.” Those who are exempt from the shutdown will remain at work and will be paid, he added.

Government agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget, have issued guidance to the civilian workforce in recent weeks on how to implement a shutdown. Hagel said the department is working to identify whether some civilians may be called back from furlough based on the nature of their duties, but he cautioned the question might not be answerable immediately.

“Our lawyers are now looking through the law that the president signed … to see if there’s any margin here, or widening in the interpretation of the law of exempt versus nonexempt civilians,” he said. “But it’s a priority that we have, that we’re working on right now. It’s, in fact, the priority in our general counsel’s office.”

Hagel will again consult with other Pentagon leaders later this evening – Seoul is 13 hours ahead of Washington – to further manage the adjustments the shutdown forces on the department.

The secretary noted he has been asked repeatedly by South Korean officials here why the shutdown occurred. Hagel, this week, called the action irresponsible, and he said today it affects “our relationships around the world.”

He added, “It cuts straight to the obvious question: can you rely on the United States … to fulfill its commitments to its allies?”

The secretary continued, “Here this great republic and democracy, the United States of America, shuts down its government. The Pentagon, even though we are exempted – our military – has no budget. We are still living under this dark cloud of uncertainty, not knowing what’s going to happen.”

The shutdown affects missions around the world, the confidence of the nation’s allies and planning for pending budget cuts, he said, but core missions will be carried out.

“We’re going to be able to fulfill our mission of keeping this country … secure, we will fulfill our mission of maintaining the alliances we have and our troops in South Korea (and) Japan, and other treaty obligations,” Hagel stated.

He warned, however, that the shutdown casts a significant pall over America’s credibility with its allies.

“It is nonsensical … it is completely irresponsible,” the secretary said. “It’s needless. It didn’t have to happen. And I would hope that our Congress can find a new center of gravity of responsibility, and start to govern.”

Hagel said the shutdown “puts us all in a very difficult spot.” A strong military is essential to the nation’s security, he said, but civilian employees, not only in DOD, but across government, also play a vital role in that mission.

“To think of what this is doing to these civilian employees and their families … they’ve taken furloughs already this year – administrative furloughs,” the secretary said. “Now we have legal furloughs. This is going to impact the future of a lot of our employees.”

Hagel said a number of senior DOD civilians have spoken to him in recent months about their future.

“Their spouses are not happy; they have families – (they ask) how can we rely on a paycheck, how can we rely on a future … when this is the way we’re going to be treated?”

He added, “And I don’t blame them. That human dimension often gets lost in this great arena of debate in Washington – what we’re doing to our people … who make the government function.”

Without quality employees, he added, “you will have a dysfunctional system; a dysfunctional government. This is serious.”

Military and civilian leaders from himself and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – who is also in Seoul this week – on down have sent out messages this week to the military and civilian workforce and “are upset about” the shutdown, Hagel said.

“When you take that number of civilian employees out of the mix of everyday planning and working … you’re going to impact readiness,” he said. “There’s no point in kidding about that. But (Americans) should not be concerned that their security is now in jeopardy. It is not; it will not be.”

Hagel said he tries to reassure civilian employees, but he knows the events of the last year haven’t been “very reassuring to people who have begun to build very promising, important careers, and their families rely on that – their wives, their husbands, their children. To see this kind of uncertainty, now, become almost a regular dimension of their career is very unsettling, and I don’t try to convince them otherwise.”

Hagel said he does believe “we will find a new center of gravity of governing in the United States of America; I think we are seeing an evolving new coalition of governance start to appear.”

It may take an election cycle or two for that evolution to take hold, Hagel said.

“I do have confidence in our country,” he said. “I do have confidence in our people … (and) almost a uniquely American self-correction process. We can fix our own problems, and we always have.”