Thursday, February 26, 2015

TOP STORY >> Miles to go before we sleep

By Senior Airman Cliffton Dolezal
19th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a two-part series that highlights the experiences of American Airmen who grew up in different areas of the country, and how joining the Air Force gave these Airmen an alternative perspective on embracing diversity. The opinions expressed below are of the author and do not reflect the views of the Air Force or Little Rock Air Force Base.

I grew up in North Judson, Indiana. With a total population of approximately 1,700, it has that very “small town America” feel.  In this small rural community surrounded by cornfields, controversial topics were often buried with the crops.

In my hometown I grew up with almost zero diversity, which made it hard to identify with people of different ethnicities. To put it in perspective, according to the 2013 census, 91 percent of the population was white and 6 percent Hispanic. Only 3 percent were a mix of Asian American, American Indians and African Americans, which is only about 20 people. 

An even more accurate description of my town rests on the cold, desolate streets of North Judson lined with bars, liquor stores and gas stations. The residents are born there, have their children there, and stay in North Judson. I felt like the only opinions shared amongst friends and neighbors were those taught at home, often spreading close-minded thoughts regarding diversity. However, this isn’t too surprising when you dig up the rich top soil and unearth the history of North Judson. 

I didn’t grow up hearing many “Once upon a time” stories. Instead I grew up hearing accounts, some hard to hear, of our town’s history with racial issues and rights – stories of KKK rallies, houses being burned, farmers finding bodies in the cornfields and in 1924 the two local churches that were bombed.

When I sit and reflect about where I came from, I’m thankful to have found a different road. 

My father, grandfather and his father all served in the military and fought alongside men and women of all different races and religious preferences. They all came from the same town as I did, experienced the same things that I did, but made the conscious decision to be different. I am proud to follow in their footsteps. I have seen and experienced more diversity in my three short years of military experience than I had in my previous 19 years of life, and for that I am forever thankful.

I was excited to move to Little Rock after tech school and learn more about its rich history. It’s no secret that Arkansas played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement in 1957 with the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock. The Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s was groundbreaking, and it led to the widespread extension of liberties to black men and women across the country. But sadly, I have learned very quickly that prejudice still exists today. 

I know this because I have heard the stories of Airman 1st Class Jalen Ellingberg, a 19th Comptroller Squadron financial management specialist, who grew up in a very similar town as mine.

Paris, Arkansas, was founded in 1820 by pioneers who had discovered a large reserve of coal in the area, and as I walked through the streets of Jalen’s hometown, I was reminded of North Judson. Main Street lined with mom-and-pop shops, fast-food establishments and gas stations. The local high schoolers driving thoughtlessly up and down the narrow, downtown streets.

As we walked through the streets Jalen told me the stories of his birthplace. 

Every day for the past two years I have walked by the finance office, where Jalen works, not knowing the stories that I was told as a child were actually someone else’s reality. But Jalen lived it. He saw it first hand and dealt with it to the best of his abilities.  

Jalen and his older brother were patiently waiting for the bus one fall morning when a group of boys started verbally harassing them because of the color of their skin.

 “I was too young to really understand what was going on,” said Jalen. “But my older brother was clearly upset, so upset he wanted to fight them.”

And that’s exactly what happened. 

“Stuff like that would happen a lot, especially when I was younger,” said Jalen. “You get used to it.” 

As Jalen started explaining some of the people and different experiences he grew up battling, I was reminded of the ignorance of the people I grew up around. Even though I was never personally attacked, I felt his pain. 

Jalen said he struggled to make it through even a single day without hearing a derogatory comment. He found solace in sports, participating in football and basketball during his tenancy at Paris High. 

He rarely experienced racism while on the court or the field. He loved it, all of it. The rush of taking the field, the pressure of playing in front of screaming fans, the goose bumps and nervousness that overcomes your body before kickoff, the experience.

But one Friday night everything changed. 

While warming up on the field before an away game in a slightly smaller, even less diverse community, Jalen saw an officer approaching his mother.

“As my mom was coming through the gate, the local deputy confronted her,” said Jalen.  “He asked her what her kind was doing in his town.”

When Jalen found out, he was furious. 

The cop, who allegedly on several different occasions was accused of making racial remarks and threats towards visitors, was released from the department after Jalen’s mom reported her incident. 

“I hate when bad things happen to people you care about, especially when it’s your mom,” said Jalen.

Jalen went on to tell me about a memory of the Ku Klux Klan marching through his town when he was younger but also of memories closer to home for him, including missing out on the experience of prom in high school. 

“When I was 16, I had a crush on this girl; she was white,” said Jalen. “Her parents knew we were friends. They would come and support me at games, and we would hangout, but prom was coming up and I wanted to ask her. When her parents found out they said, ‘you’re not going to date a [N-word].”

When Jalen discovered why he wasn’t able to take his friend to prom, he was crushed. He didn’t even attend his junior or senior prom because the parents of the girls he wanted to take wouldn’t allow it.

But Jalen kept his head high. With the love and support of his mother and grandmother, he was able to make it to graduation. 

After years of discrimination, Jalen raised his right hand and took an oath to protect the constitution of the United States. 

When Jalen arrived at, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Feb. 5, 2013, he was astonished by the amount of diversity.

 “No one cared what color my skin was. No one cared what religion I was,” said Jalen. “It was such a relief and a shock coming from where I came from.”

Jalen says he loves the military. It is finally a community in which he feels accepted, however, a painful thought still rests in the back of Jalen’s mind.

“Whenever I go out and I’m in uniform back home, people say, ‘thank you for your service,’ and they’re being extra nice—sometimes I wonder if they’re only saying that because I’m wearing the uniform.”

Can you blame him?

Although Jalen and I are on opposite ends of similar stories, we are both traveling toward a common goal.

We’re in the driver seat and hopefully through an open and honest dialogue our generation can shorten the distance and the miles to go.

TOP STORY >> Off-duty motor head

By Airman 1st Class Scott Poe
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The sound of an air compressor kicks on as an impact wrench breaks loose rusted bolts that haven’t moved or been touched in decades. Greasy hands grip tools to resurrect a once magnificent car back to its former glory. In a small garage, surrounded by tool boxes, sockets, ratchets, wrenches, hammers and other automotive instruments scattered around, is where Sterling Dixon finds his peace.

Airman 1st Class Sterling Dixon, a 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron engine troop, spends most of his days working on C-130H engines. During his off-duty time, however, he prefers to work on cars instead of aircraft. 

Dixon was raised in Edgewood, Texas, where his dad taught him how to turn a wrench. He vaguely recalls his first experience working on cars, a ‘69 Chevy Camaro.

“My dad told me that when I was 5, I watched his friend struggle to get the radio out of his ‘69 Camaro,” said Dixon. “They got frustrated with it and left, so I picked up the screwdriver and got it out myself. I guess I went a little overboard, since I dismantled the entire radio after I got it out. It took my dad’s friend forever to get it back together.” 

Dixon has been professionally working on cars since he was 15 years old. He worked at a local shop, and by Dixon’s 16th birthday, he was managing 30 mechanics.    

Now, Dixon works on his own projects after work in his two-car garage. 

“Ninety percent of my time working on projects is actually working on other peoples’ projects,” said Dixon. “A lot of them either want to learn or are skeptical or uncomfortable with working on certain aspects of their projects.”

Dixon said fixing and building cars is a passion and helping fellow Airmen and friends gives him the fulfillment that nothing else can. 

“When I work on other people’s projects, it gets me my fix,” said Dixon. “Plus, it helps them out by learning, and it also saves them money by not having to take it somewhere that’s going to charge them.” 

Dixon said that he finds solace in his garage. It’s where he can clear his mind and relieve any of his stressors and frustrations. 

Dixon said, in his mind he has never fully completed a car, because he knows he can always do more.

“To this day I don’t think I have ever finished a project,” said Dixon. “Even though it’s done in most people’s eyes, I tend to want to do more things to it to make it better and faster.”

Dixon doesn’t simply work on cars to help his friends or to clear his mind. He does it for the feeling he gets when a car that has not been running is resurrected and saved from the junkyard.

The self-proclaimed motor head is currently looking for his next project, which he said will most likely be an older Ford Bronco for his girlfriend.

Not only does Dixon live integrity first, excellence in all we do and service before self at work and with hobbies, but also with his education.

He starts classes in the summer that will go toward his Community College of the Air Force degree as well as a Bachelor of Science degree. His goal is to eventually earn his commission as an officer and lead Airmen. 

Named as the 2014 Base Honor Guard member of the year, Sterling Dixon not only bleeds Air Force blue, but 5W-30 too.      

TOP STORY >> Military Spouse of the Year

By Senior Airman Stephanie Serrano
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Behind the many men and women in the military who protect our great nation are the family members and spouses who stay home and guard the homefront. 

Jennifer Carroll, a military spouse, won the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Award Jan. 23, 2015, for Little Rock Air Force Base.

After winners were announced, Jennifer competed to be part of the Top 18 contestants. Although Jennifer did not win at the next level, she is still an inspiration to her husband, Master Sgt. John Carroll, the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight chief.  

Military spouses often juggle taking care of the children, working, supporting their spouses on deployments, and even volunteering to help around the local community.

Out of all the countless reasons why Carroll nominated his wife, he said the fact that she performed so many selfless acts to help people, and how she is constantly focused on everyone else but herself are two of the main reasons. 

“I decided to do something for her since she was doing everything for everyone else,” he said.

Jennifer did not believe she had any chance of winning.

“I didn’t have my hopes up for winning, because I don’t see what I do as anything that’s out of the ordinary,” she said. “I think every military spouse should find something in the community to do. Volunteering with schools and church is what I’ve always done. I have been volunteering for 17 years. I do anything and everything. I don’t see it as me going out of my way to help others.” 

Jennifer initially found out from her 17-year-old daughter that she won the award at base level. Her daughter had seen the post on Facebook and texted her mother. She then called her husband and told him the news. 

Jennifer was extremely shocked.

“I’m still kind of overwhelmed. It’s a huge honor. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it,” Jennifer said laughing. 

Of all the volunteer events Jennifer has helped with, one of her favorites is the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Ball. She is an honorary member of the Master Blasters, which is a community of active and retired Air Force EOD technicians. 

Every first weekend of May, the Master Blasters hold their annual EOD memorial where any technicians, active or retired, go to Eglin AFB, Florida. They honor members who have fallen and add new names of those that have lost their lives the previous year. 

“I had the honor of being the spouse liaison between the Master Blasters and the wounded warrior wives that would come,” said Jennifer as tears began to form. “I was pretty much their fairy godmother.”

She would drive the women to the spa where they would get pampered from head to toe.

“I would get to know the women one-on-one, but I never took part in the pampering,” she said. “If they needed a gown for the ball, I would take them to find a gown. Any accessories they needed, shoes, makeup, jewelry, whatever they needed to feel like a princess, that’s what I did.” 

Seeing the women happy was all the reward Jennifer needed. 

 “It was just,” she took a deep breath with tear-filled eyes then said, “It was great to be able to make them feel special for all they do for their loved ones who are injured.”

The feeling of joy that Jennifer brings to someone else’s life is why she continues to do what she does. 

Although she has won the award, she isn’t stopping there. A future goal for Jennifer is to raise awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I have personally been a caretaker of someone with PTSD,” she said. “One thing that I noticed and I wanted to raise awareness to, is how a service member with PTSD can function easier with a service dog.” 

Service dogs are trained to be alert and respond to what their owner is feeling while providing comfort, helping the owner to feel more relaxed. 

Jennifer is always looking to help people in any way she can, especially when it’s something she is very passionate about such as PTSD.

“I always want to do more,” said Jennifer laughing. “My husband tells me I have to slow down, but I always want to do more.”

Military Spouse Magazine founded the award in 2008 to honor military spouses of all ranks and branches. The award recognizes military spouses’ contributions and commitments to the military community and our country. Jennifer was one of 1,600 nominees for the award. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

TOP STORY >> Taking is to the woods

By Senior Airman Kaylee Clark
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The tip of an arrow must be like a razor to pierce the heart of its prey. The hunter spends countless hours sharpening the many skills required to become a bridge from this life to the next. 

As he stands describing the qualities of a fine arrow you could not distinguish whether Capt. Matthew Spencer is filming an episode of a hunting show or delivering the word of God. 

It may seem strange to some that a man who has devoted his life to saving others relishes the opportunity to take one. For Spencer it’s not about seeing one of God’s creations die, but rather the journey a hunt represents. 

Spencer’s Air Force journey began 11 years ago. He spent his first six years as an enlisted security forces Airman. It was then that he realized the importance of seeking a chaplain during times of trouble. Spencer, a member of the Air Force Reserve, stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, is filling the Protestant chaplain position at Little Rock Air Force Base, while the active-duty chaplain is deployed. 

 “It’s a great job for me because I want to see people prosper,” said Spencer. “I used to be a young Airman too, and I know the difficulties that come along with that. I just want to see people get where they need to be in their career and more importantly, their life.” 

It’s easy to envision Spencer in the woods rehearsing his sermon, as he quotes Genesis 27:3, “Now take your hunting equipment, your quiver and bow, and go out into the wild country and hunt some wild game for me.” This scripture directly reflects him as a person. He lives it.

“I really enjoy the outdoors. I love to hunt; that’s my outlet,” said Spencer. “To just get away and get in the woods and just be who I grew up being. For me it’s connecting with God while I am out there, that is where I feel the most connected to him.”

The holidays were a busy time around the chapel. Spencer, a husband and a father, spent the season separated from his family serving the men and women of the base. 

Christmas day Spencer started before the sun came up, preparing a bounty that he harvested during his stay here. Back home he films a hunting show, Final Fate T.V., which is aired on Dish Network’s Hunting Channel. On this day, instead of filming another episode, he chose to wake at 3 a.m. to cook for Airmen who had to work.

“I was elated that someone would care about us and put in all that work to bring us food while we were out here doing our job,” said Airman 1st Class Charles Bryant, a member of the 19th Security Forces Squadron. “It made me feel great.” 

After spending several hours with the Airmen, it was time to take it to the woods. 

Warm coffee in hand and the backseat of his pickup filled with equipment and camouflage, Spencer headed to his sanctuary. As soon as his feet hit the ground, he slowly and softly closed his door, so as not to wake his trophy, and the hunt began. 

The hunter carefully applied paint to his face and began to bleed into the nature that surrounded him. He amassed layer upon layer of Mossy Oak gear and inspected his bow and razor-sharp arrows. With a grin on his face, he hoped that today would be the day. 

“It’s not just about the trophy or the size of the antlers, to me it’s about the journey and how it all comes together, and at the end of the day how did you share that with your friends,” said Spencer. “Fellowship is really what I live for, it’s what I really desire.”

Spencer’s personal life directly mirrors his spiritual one. No two days are ever the same.

“You can relate the two as far as the ups and downs,” said Spencer. “Some days you will come in with the uniform on as a chaplain, and it’s a really good day,  a lot of positive things are happening. But some days you have to deal with some really hard things that just weigh on your heart. The same can be in the woods. There’s times we go days or weeks at a time and sit in a tree freezing and not see anything.” 

Ups and downs aside, chaplains are needed 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Whether it be delivering an inspirational message on Sunday or waking up at an undesirable time to console a grieving family, a chaplain’s work is never done.

“The one thing that we chaplains have is 100 percent confidentiality. No matter what somebody walks into our office with, we don’t take it outside those doors,” said Spencer. “A lot of the time it weighs on our heart. Even though we are here to help, we are humans as well.”

Even chaplains need to renew their spirituality. When Spencer needs a chaplain, or a place of serenity to lay down his burdens and the cares of the world, he takes it to the woods. His pulpit is a tree, and his congregation encompasses the inhabitants of the forest. He receives his amens from the sounds of nature, and he feels the presence of God every time the wind blows, momentarily returning him to the hunts of his youth. 

“When I dig deep into why I love being a chaplain and love hunting, it boils down to understanding that I will never perfect either, but the journey trying is addicting,” said Spencer. 

The woods are his sanctuary, and hunting his way of life. 

TOP STORY >> LRAFB Library first to open at new location

By Senior Airman Regina Edwards
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Final preparations are underway for the reopening of the Little Rock Air Force Base Library at its new location, the Walters Community Support Center. 

The library opening announcement will be shared via its Facebook page, Opening information will also be shared via the base Facebook page, The library staff anticipates the facility opening in the next week.

The Library is the first section of the new center to open and has twice the space and opportunities available for Airmen and their families.

Named after deceased Col. Kenneth Walters, former 19th Mission Support Group deputy commander, the center will consolidate the Airmen and Family Readiness Center, the Thomas Community and Activities Center, a coffee lounge and the library.

“We are excited to reopen,” said Bethry Becker, the library’s manager. “We, along with the 19th Contracting Squadron, the 19th Force Support Squadron and other supporters, have been working really hard, and I am very happy with how it came together.” 

The library is not only new but improved. The space has doubled, which is convenient since there are three study rooms, a children’s and a young adults’ room, all equipped with doors and soundproof windows.

The young adults’ room comes with a TV and gaming system, as well as a sitting booth where friends can go to hang out.

Along with the hundreds of books available, the library offers electronic books, games, movies and TV series to rent for free.

“The library team wants Airmen and their families to be able to come here and enjoy their experience,” said Becker. “I am expecting at least a 25 percent visibility increase with the library since we’ve moved here. This building will be a one-stop shop, and I am glad we all came together.”

Once the library is open, its hours of operation will be Monday – Thursday from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Even when the library is closed, there will be free Wi-Fi and comfortable sitting stations in the building.

The library will lead the way, reopening months ahead of the other facilities. There will be a large dedication in April, where Team Little Rock members will walk through and view the services offered in the new building.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Walters Community Support Center is slated for April 3, and the Walters’ family will be present.

For more information on the library, call (501) 987-6817 or visit their Facebook page: Little Rock Air Force Base Library.

TOP STORY >> New Airman and Family Readiness Center grant for spouses

By Airman 1st Class Mercedes Muro 
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs 

The Airman and Family Readiness Center is now accepting applications until April 17 for the 2015 Air Force Aid Society Spouse Employment Training Grant. 

The A&FRC received the grant to give spouses the opportunity to receive their certified nurse’s assistant license through a three-week program. 

The A&FRC is looking to fill 10 slots with spouses of active-duty Airmen within the ages of 18-25 with at least a high school diploma or GED certificate for the program. 

Spouses are required to have their own transportation and child care to apply for the grant. 

Selected applicants are required to attend the course beginning May 11-May 27, Monday-Friday, from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Arkansas Nursing Assistant Academy in North Little Rock. 

Graduates will have a CNA certificate that will allow them practice anywhere within the state of Arkansas. If they move, graduates won’t be able to use their Arkansas CNA license. Instead, they are required to take their new resident state’s certification.

“It’s such a great opportunity for the spouses here at Little Rock,” said Sharon Thompson, the A&FRC chief. “Employment is a huge issue all across branches of service. We wanted to be able to provide something is portable, so we chose health care because that is such a broad career field. Although the license isn’t transferable, the training still is. No matter where they go, they can still use their training.”

Not only will the grant give spouses the opportunity to become CNAs, it also allows the A&FRC an opportunity to request more grants. 

“We’ve been asked by the AFAS to follow up with the grant,” said Mike Rudisill, an A&FRC community readiness specialist. “We’re going to track this first group through the course, their hiring process and then six months after they’ve been hired. We want to find out how successful the process was in order to receive more grants and give more people career opportunities.”

The A&FRC has high expectations for the grant to impact the student’s career. 

“We’re hoping that the course will provide them an introduction to health care,” said Rudisill. “If nursing is what they want to get into, then the program will provide them an avenue to that career.” 

To apply for the grant and start your health care career, call the A&FRC at (501) 987-6801.

Friday, February 13, 2015



THE COMBAT AIRLIFTER CLASSIFIED DEPARTMENT will take ads by phone from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday 982-9421, or you may mail your ad to 404 Graham Rd., Jacksonville, Ark. 72078. You may also e-mail them to Deadline to advertise in Friday's issue is 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Did you have a HOMEOWNER'S PROPERTY DAMAGE CLAIM - While insured by the following Insurance Co's in the last 5 years, YOU MAY BE ENTITLED TO COMPENSATION - American Family • Liberty Mutual Federal Insurance (Chubb), Nationwide • State Farm, Farmers Fire Ins. Exchange, Farmers Insurance Company, Inc., Allstate , Safeco. Contact: CASEY CASTLEBERRY, Murphy, Thompson, Arnold, Skinner & Castleberry for a FREE CONSULTATION, 1-888-902-5580, Batesville, Arkansas.**

WANTED 10 HOMES needing siding, windows or roofs. We are opening a branch office and will be using these homes for advertising. Save hundreds of dollars. 100% financing. 866-668-8681.**

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DO YOU LOVE ANIMALS? TRAIN TO BE  a Veterinary Technician,  800.383-4959, Heritage College, 1309 Old Forge Dr. LR,  Heritage has applied for accreditation by the AVMA-Committee on Veterinary Tech Education and Activities. For important program info: please visit**


KEEP IT clean housekeeping. Dependable, trustworthy. Call today for a free in-home estimate & ask about our military discount. 501) 422-8080.

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For Your Legal Needs - Estate and Probate matters, Trust preparations, Wills, Living Wills, Power-Of-Attorneys, Contact Harvey Harris, Attorney at Law.  501-604-4517**

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REDUCE YOUR CABLE BILL! Get a whole-home Satellite system installed at NO COST and programming starting at $19.99/mo. FREE HD/DVR Upgrade to new callers. CALL NOW 1-800-474-0423.**


DRIVERS: $3,000 orientation completion bonus! $3,000 driver referral bonus! Great pay (new hires minimum $800/wk. guarantee)! CDL-A OTR experience required. 1-888-335-1785.

$350 - $725 week, no experience, air quality testing, 10-15 openings. Must be 18 and have reliable transportation. Paid weekly. Call for interview, Mon.-Fri. 9 am-5 pm, (501) 605-1303.

Warehouse: Jacksonville company has multiple long-term temp assignments for packaging, forklift, shipping & receiving. Call 501-801-8061.**

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25 DRIVER TRAINEES NEEDED NOW! Become a driver for TMC Transportation! Earn $700 per week! No CDL? No Problem! Training is available! 1-888-248-1948.**

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ARMED & UNARMED SECURITY OFFICERS  (EXPERIENCED)- LR  Must be: 18 yrs unarmed/21 w/Guard License to be armed., U.S. citizen or authorized to work in US, pass background ck, (criminal, employment & education verifications,  DMV/credit checks if applicable., and obtain State Security Guard Lic. Apply at 1501 N. University Ave., St. 35,  Mon-Fri, 8am - 4pm or Call 501-663-6161   SOI Security. EOE M/F/D/V/Drug/Alcohol free.**


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1994 CADILLAC Fleetwood, 1 owner, excellent condition, see at car lot on base, $6,700. (501) 412-5861.

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HOUSE FOR rent - Cabot: 3 bedroom, 2 bath, quiet 1 acre lot, very nice, military discount available, $995 month. Call (501) 259-8828.

BRIEFS >> 031515

Protestant Parish Coordinator
Little Rock AFB Chapel is seeking a Protestant Parish coordinator.  The individual is required to coordinate Protestant parish programs, ministry volunteers and leaders, volunteer training, budget inputs, and scheduled events. Interested bidders should have formal training that is relevant to this position or at least two years experience (work or as a volunteer) in a similar or related field. An associate’s degree is required, higher education preferred. Background checks will be required as directed by DoDI 1402. The award of this contract will be based upon the “best value” to the government. Bid documents including the Statement of Work (SOW), criteria of selection and general provisions can be obtained from the Chapel Bldg 950, Monday thru Friday, 7:30 a.m.- noon and 1-4:30 p.m. All sealed bids must be received by the Chapel no later than 9 a.m. March 26. Further information associated with duties and bid submission for this contract position can be obtained by contacting Master Sgt. David George or Tech. Sgt. Juan Santoy at the Base Chapel at 987-6014.

TOP STORY >> Miles to go before we sleep

By Senior Airman Regina Edwards 
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Editor’s note: This is the first article in a two-part series that highlights the experiences of American Airmen who grew up in different areas, and how joining the Air Force gave these Airmen an alternative perspective on embracing diversity. The opinions expressed below are of the author and do not reflect the views of the Air Force or Little Rock Air Force Base. 

I grew up in Green Pond, South Carolina.  Based off the name alone, it’s a safe assumption that it’s the type of town with one caution light, one gas station and a 20-minute drive to the nearest Walmart. I grew up very sheltered and was raised in the church.

I went to a high school that was pretty much 51 percent white and 49 percent black. They were some of the best years of my life. The historically black college I attended taught me a lot about my heritage, but by the end of four years, I was dying for more diversity.

Surprisingly, living very close to Charleston, which is known for its historical moments in African American culture, I’d never experienced any type of racial discrimination in my life. 

It wasn’t until I left home to join the military that my na├»ve eyes were opened.

I’ve been labeled, stereotyped and judged, all because of the color of my skin. It amazes me at times that this is still a problem in the world. It’s disheartening when one of the first things you’re told when arriving to a new area is where you and your family shouldn’t go in daylight but especially after dark. 

So what do I do? Do I try my hardest to blend in? Do I avoid certain activities and places out of fear? Or do I simply be myself: Fearless. Proud. Strong.

I befriended a girl who helped me with the answer.

She’s different, and is not bothered by it. She moves to the beat of her own drum, and if you don’t like the tune, she keeps dancing anyway. 

Senior Airman Nikeasa Ward, a 314th Maintenance Group maintenance management analyst, personifies bubbly and outgoing. She’s the type who never meets a stranger. You know when she’s in the room; her magnetic personality attracts attention.

Nikeasa radiantly smiles and is animated in her conversations. She’s also not afraid to laugh at her own jokes. 

Growing up in North Pole, Alaska, she enjoyed fishing, hunting and snowboarding, and they are still some of her favorite things to do. As a metal head, the heavy sounds of Chimaira, In This Moment and August Burns Red, hype her up before a rugby match. And though she speaks with perfect grammar, she often gets subtle stares when she talks.

Nikeasa is a black woman, but has been labeled at times as “the girl who talks and acts white.”

But how does a “white girl” talk? What hobbies are “black hobbies,” and what interests are race specific?

I knew Nikeasa wouldn’t mind telling her story, and when I asked to interview her, she was excited to share.

“I was never treated differently because I was black in Alaska,” she said. “There are two huge military installations there, so even though Alaska is predominantly white, I had a pretty mixed group of friends. Our differences brought us together rather than separate us.”

It wasn’t until Nikeasa left Alaska in 2005, to begin her military career as a Reservist in Louisiana, that she realized, not how different she was, but how differently people responded to her personality and mannerisms. 

Nikeasa recalls being approached at a mall in Louisiana by another black woman telling her that she had a weird accent. When she asked the woman to explain what she meant, she was told the weird accent was her proper English. And that day, Ward learned she was talking like a “white girl.”

This was one of her first experiences with prejudice, and it came from someone of the same race.

“This was a shock to me,” she said. “I went from believing all my life that I spoke normally, to not sounding like I’m black? How does a black person talk? Was there a rule or guidebook I didn’t know about?”

As those types of comments began to increase, Nikeasa said she started to struggle with understanding what people wanted from her and withdrew herself from groups that thought she wasn’t white enough or black enough.

She didn’t withdraw because she was ashamed of who she was. She did it because she preferred to enjoy the company of those who accepted her as herself, rather than pretend for acceptance from a crowd. 

Nikeasa transitioned into the active duty world in 2012 and said though it’s not perfect, the military has progressed tremendously with celebrating and embracing diversity.

Little Rock Air Force Base will be participating in its third annual Diversity Day event later this year. Diversity Day honors all Department of Defense observances as well as encourages Team Little Rock members to venture out and learn something new about a culture they didn’t know before.

Nikeasa was an active member in both the 2013 and 2014 Diversity Day events. She was the co-chair of the Martin Luther King booth one year and the chair of the LGBT Pride booth the other. 

Doing something new, meeting different people and broadening her horizons, is a challenge she said she will always accept with excitement. Doing such things always brings an opportunity to learn and progress.

Nikeasa is now a member of The Little Rock Women Stormers’ Rugby team. She’s advancing in a game she had no clue existed a year ago, and she said she loves it.

“It’s all about knowledge,” she said. “I believe it’s our job in the military to embrace and educate ourselves about people’s different backgrounds and upbringings. We shouldn’t be afraid of or judge what we don’t know.”

Nikeasa said she still receives stares and is addressed with comments that make her eyes twitch, but now instead of withdrawing, she uses those moments as an opportunity to teach and enlighten.

“In a perfect world, everyone would be able to love what they love and not be judged by it, but this is not a perfect world,” she said. “I know I will continue to be asked, ‘where are you from?’ and when I say Alaska, I’m sure I’ll hear, ‘oh, that’s why you sound like that.’”

I often think about this phrase when I get tired of the stereotypes and labels, “It’s not what people call you that matters; it’s what you answer to.”

I answer to a lot of things: Regina, Senior Airman Edwards, and my favorite, Mommy. 

I agree with Nikeasa. We will never be perfect. Judgment of those who differ, whether it’s by race, religion, sexual preference, or geographic origin, may never end. But the influence comes from how we as a people respond because we are just one race, the human race.

As we travel this road together, I am encouraged that reversing course is not an option. We cannot fall asleep at the wheel. And though we are a long way from the starting point, there are still miles to go. 

TOP STORY >> Show a little love to your heart by staying healthy

By Airman 1st Class Scott Poe
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The heart is often used as symbol of love. In order to love, you must live, and in order to live your heart must stay healthy.

There are many things you can do to show a little love to your heart. Exercise and diet are major contributors to heart health.

“If you exercise like a slug, you will become a slug,” said Jeff Vaughn, the 19th Aerospace Medicine Squadron health and wellness flight chief/health educator. “If you exercise like a race horse, you will become a race horse; it’s your choice. The key to a strong heart is a strong healthy person, which also includes a healthy diet.”

Becoming more conscience of what you eat and having a weekly fitness routine is vital to one’s health.

Vaughn said that a fitness program should target the whole body and should address strength, aerobic performance and flexibility.  

“As we age, strength and flexibility become more important than aerobic performance,” said Vaughn. “A well-designed strength circuit program will provide three times the aerobic benefits of walking around the block plus improving strength and flexibility.”

Although grabbing an energy drink and a microwavable meal is quick and easy, it is not what your body needs. Vaughn has an easy solution to eating healthy, natural foods.

“The rule of thumb for food should be: can I kill it, gather it or grow it? It should take no more than one or two steps from the food source to the stomach,” said Vaughn. 

Capt. Tiffany Walker, a 19th Medical Group primary care physician, recommends a diet that is low in saturated fats, cholesterol, simple sugars and sodium along with adding some fruits, vegetables, lean protein, complex carbohydrates and plenty of water. 

Diet and exercise are vital to heart health, but there are bad habits that are detrimental. 

“Tobacco significantly increases the risk of heart disease,” said Walker. “Cigarette smokers are two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers.”

If you are ready to quit, or know someone who is, call the 19th Medical Group at (501) 987-8811 to sign up for a smoking cessation class, or contact the State Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit 

The Health and Wellness Center is located in the fitness center and offers many heart healthy classes. 

To learn more about the classes call (501) 987-7398. For more nutritional and fitness tips, “like” the Little Rock AFB HAWC’s Facebook page, where they post workouts and healthy food choices that will keep your heart happy. 

Leadership Pathways also offer classes that can help you keep your heart healthy. 

The most up-to-date Leadership Pathways course catalog, frequently asked questions and registration instructions are located on the base website at For more information on heart health visit: or

TOP STORY >> Military Saves Week: You can’t afford not to save

By Senior Airman Kaylee Clark
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

“You have a choice, you can pile up debt or pile up wealth,” said Rick Tomaskovic, Airman and Family Readiness Center community readiness consultant. “The easiest way to begin is to come see us at the A&FRC to start.”

The goals for the 2015 Military Saves campaign are to provide financial education to every squadron, to contact 100 percent of Team Little Rock personnel with 90 percent taking the pledge, and to provide a financial education workshop to every squadron. In addition, the squadrons will compete in the 2015 Team Little Rock Financial Literacy Single Elimination Tournament.

Four-member teams will compete Feb. 23-26 to find out which squadron is the most financially savvy. 

Military Saves Week encourages saving a portion of each paycheck, developing a personal financial plan and establishing good credit. This helps improve financial fitness, which is a crucial component of both mission and family readiness.

To join in on the competition, access and take the financial literacy online survey, which must be complete before Feb. 18.  The scores from the survey will be used to determine the squadron’s financial IQ and establish the rankings in the play-offs. 

The competition bracket will be provided no later than Feb. 20. 

In addition to recognizing the winner of the 2015 TLR Financial Literacy Tournament, the squadron with the most contacts and most pledges will be recognized. 

 “We aren’t asking anyone to spend a penny,” said Tomaskovic. “We are just asking people to save money.”

The judges for the event will be from the First Arkansas Bank and Trust, Arkansas Federal Credit Union and the A&FRC. 

Tomaskovic encourages supporters from all of the participating squadrons to come out and cheer on their team.

For financial advice or more information, contact the A&FRC at (501) 987-6801.

Friday, February 6, 2015

TOP STORY >> Little Rock AFB gets ready for Winter Wingman Day

By 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Little Rock Air Force Base will be participating in Winter Wingman Day on Feb. 27. 

Winter Wingman Day is a no-fly, down day for active duty, Guard and Reserve members of Team Little Rock. The day is designed for base personnel to focus solely on resilience and strengthening their Comprehensive Airmen Fitness. Classes will be held throughout the day and catered toward the four CAF domains: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.

With the Wingman University concept, Team Little Rock members will choose the classes they would like to attend. Personnel are required to attend three classes plus their respective Commander’s Call. However, the Airman and Family Readiness Center will be teaching a finance class during all commanders’ calls to coincide with Military Saves Week. 

Personnel are encouraged to attend classes in areas they feel they need to strengthen. Most classes will run for 45 to 90 minutes, with two-hour classes available.

There are approximately 64 classes offered in 144 time slots, providing a variety of options for Airmen to choose from. Fourteen additional classes have been added to this year’s Wingman Day, and each class offered is available based on Airmen’s direct responses and feedback from 2014. 

Every class will have a sign in sheet on Wingman Day, but personnel must sign up in advance through the Leadership Pathways portal and Appointment Plus. To streamline class selections, register your account now at the Leadership Pathways portal: All personnel will receive an email notification when registration opens. Class registration will be closed at the end of Wednesday, Feb. 26, and changes may not be made after this date.

Winter Wingman Day is not the only time you can take CAF classes focused on your wellbeing and self-improvement. Throughout the year Leadership Pathways will list the schedule of classes offered. 

“A great amount of time, money and resources are spent on making this a good program,” said Stephanie Wynn, the community support coordinator. “Make the most of the down day, and get into the classes that will add tools to your respective toolbox.”

Wynn is interested in Airmen feedback to improve this program. 

“This is your opportunity to speak up,” she said. “Give feedback and let us know what classes we can add to make future Wingman days beneficial to you.” 

If you have questions about Winter Wingman Day, contact Wynn at