Honoring the fallen and healing the family

KADENA AIR BASE, OKINAWA, JAPAN 05.01.2018 Story by Senior Airman Jessica Smith  18th Wing Public Affairs   On February 17th, 2002, an Army MH-47 helicopter crashed into the Sulu Sea while conducting counterterrorist operations in the Philippines, killing 10 people, one of which was Master Sgt. William L. McDaniel II, a pararescueman with the 320th Special Tactics Squadron.  Two years later a professional development center on Kadena Air Base was dedicated in his memory and is now known as the McDaniel Center. Nearly two decades later, his family was invited for an opportunity to see firsthand the dedication to their loved one and meet those who were involved. While it may seem a little late, the timing was just right for his mother and niece to find closure and healing for their loss. “I think it was just time,” said Sheila McDaniel, mother of the fallen. “My granddaughter kind of pushed me a little bit to get this going so we could come and see this … Maybe put a little bit of closure for me, for my son … About him.” McDaniel was the first born son, and the only child to follow in the footsteps of his father by joining the military. Upon finding out he was joining the military, Sheila had mixed emotions for her son, thinking back to a skinny little 13 year old boy. “He decided to go in the Air Force and yah, I was happy for him – nervous but happy,” she said. At a young age, McDaniel began to change his physical appearance – his dedication to fitness was a key factor in the confidence that could be seen in his work and a major contributor to his future successes. After years of dedication as a crew chief he decided to cross-train to become a pararescueman – a challenge for anyone but possibly even more so for him. “When he went into pararescue, he was the old man compared to the guys that were going through the pipeline at that time,” Sheila said. “He was 31, 32, and those guys were 18, 19, 20 years old, and he was doing just what they were and then some.” For everyone who knew McDaniel, it was clear he loved what he did, his mother explained, but was never boastful. “He wouldn’t have liked all this hoopla,” she laughed, “He was not into that … He became Pararescueman of the Year in 2001, and we never knew until he was killed – he never told.” As much as this trip was about the legacy of McDaniel, it was also about the healing of his family – many years later, the heartache is still there. Sheila still remembers the moment she found out about her son’s passing. “When they first came to tell me, I felt like somebody had stuck me in the gut and just ripped half of me away,” Sheila recalled. “As far as how I feel today … I miss him very much – his smile, his sweetness, his kindness and beautiful face.” Being able to come to Okinawa, brought a sense of peace to his mother as well as the rest of the family. Ashley McDaniel was 18 when her uncle, “Bub,” died and is one of the key people behind getting her grandmother Sheila, here. “I pushed for it, I pushed for her to be here because I felt like it would help her in a lot of ways,” Ashley said. “To see how happy she is to be here, makes me happy – words don’t describe it.” For Ashley, the visit has made dealing with her grief a little easier. “To see what everybody has done to keep his memory alive is awesome,” she said. “[It] makes it a little easier to deal with knowing that he’s never been found but he’s never been forgotten … “ During their trip, Sheila and Ashley were able to sense just how much people cared – and still do – for McDaniel. “I just get it from everybody, and that makes me feel wonderful to know he was loved that much,” Shelia said. The atmosphere of family and comradery made the trip better than expected for Ashley. “It’s been above and beyond – they’re a part of our family – nothing will ever change that,” she said. “They have absolutely made us feel like family and we’ll forever hang on to that.” Both Sheila and Ashley believe their loved one is looking down happily on their experience at Kadena. However, their emotions implore them to highlight the importance of valuing loved ones while they’re still here. “Tell them every day how much you love them,” Sheila said through tears, “Because you’re not promised the next day – ever.” Although the trip was a long time[…]

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Joint Effort for Mass Casualty Exercise

DJIBOUTI 04.24.2018 Story by Master Sgt. Sarah Mattison  Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa   DJIBOUTI, Africa – Service members assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and Camp Lemonnier participated in a joint mass-casualty exercise, April 24. This exercise enabled multiple units to work together to tackle complex issues, while securing, treating, extricating and evacuating simulated casualties.  The exercise, which started with a simulated improvised explosive device (IED) blast on a convoy, included twenty-five volunteers that had been moulaged with various simulated injuries requiring triage and treatment. Guardsmen from the Texas Army National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry Regiment arrived on scene as the quick-reaction force and secured the area. At the same time, pararescuemen (PJs) from the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron (82nd ERSQ) circled above in a C-130J Super Hercules operated by the 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, preparing to jump to the site below. “The overall goal is to demonstrate a capability to interoperate with all of these different partners as part of a mass-casualty exercise,” said 1st Lt. Jake, with the 82nd ERSQ. “We can jump the PJs in, establish site security with the site security team and then the PJs can treat and determine who needs the most critical care.” The PJs also jumped with a couple of tandem passengers, including the tactical air control party (TACP) and a doctor. After hitting the ground, the doctor took over the casualty collection point and began triaging and treating patients, while the TACP maintained airspace deconfliction and surveyed helicopter landing zones to expedite evacuation of the simulated casualties. Simultaneously, the PJs began extricating individuals that were trapped inside of the crushed vehicles. Staff Sgt. Matthew, who works in material management support for the 82nd ERSQ, volunteered to be one of the simulated casualties. “I volunteered because I wanted to support an exercise that could potentially be a real world medevac response,” Matthew said. “I think this [training] is important because being in a deployed environment, this could potentially become a real world situation.” While planning for the exercise was lengthy, it was training that was well worth the time and effort that it took to put together “Doing this exercise, not only does it demonstrate that we have these capabilities, but it also means that we are training with these capabilities as we go along,” said Jake. “So if this were to happen real word, then we’ve already done training with these guys and agencies before, so it would be easy to put together different pieces of what we’ve already done today.” //ENDS// This story extracted from DVIDS. For more Battlefield Airmen stories such as this, click HERE

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Airmen splash into survival training

LOWESTOFT, SFK, UNITED KINGDOM 05.11.2018 Story by Staff Sgt. Alex Echols  48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs   Non-aircrew personnel assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing conquered the survival, evasion, resistance and escape Water Survival Course at East Coast College, May 4, 2018. Through tumultuous wind and rain on a simulated sea, 18 Airmen pulled together to survive a realistic aircraft crash training scenario. The training, typically reserved for aircrew, provided the Airmen a glimpse into scenarios flight personnel must be able to navigate to ensure survival. “We all play our part to support the warfighter,” said Tech. Sgt. Derek Owens, 48th Operations Support Squadron SERE NCO in-charge. “Today Airmen across the wing had an opportunity to experience a portion on how 48th Operations Group provides some of that support by receiving the same water survival training that SERE provides our aircrew.” During the height of the course, the trainees faced the “perfect storm” scenario where their life rafts faced simulated 30-knot roaring winds, overwhelming rain, and four- to six-foot waves in pitch-black conditions. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it was awesome,” said Staff Sgt. Gaebriel Diaz, 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance technician. “I recommend everyone experience it at least once. It can even help you in day-to-day situations like if your commercial plane goes down. This training could help you survive.” The participants also learned how to escape being trapped under a canopy, release their harness while being dragged by the wind, mount their one- and 20-man life rafts, and use several different types of survival gear. “We are just trying to teach them different tactics, techniques and procedures that we teach to our aircrew to plan for the worst case scenario,” said Staff Sgt. Derreck Day, 48th OSS SERE specialist. “If for some reason aircrew have to punch out and are exposed to this type of environment, then they need to be able to survive if not thrive and return with honor.” To maintain their certification, aircrew must pass Water Survival Training every three years. The SERE technicians host the course 12 times a year and are hoping to hold classes for non-aircrew members two or three times a year, according to Day.  //ENDS// Article extracted from DVIDS. For more battlefield airmen stories such as this, click HERE.

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Reserve Citizen Airmen earn Rescue Mission of the Year award

  PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Thirty-three 920th Rescue Wing Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing out of Cocoa Beach (Brevard County) were recently honored with the 2017 Jolly Green Association Rescue Mission of the Year award for their actions July 7, 2017 in saving two German sailors stranded in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 500 miles off the coast of Florida. The unique and intricate mission, which involved more than 30 hours of collective flying between the unit’s HH-60 Pave Hawks and HC-130N Kings, eight air refuelings transferring 16,600 pounds of fuel, a precisely executed open-ocean rescue insertion, and a highly technical nighttime shipboard patient exfil resulting in two lives saved, led to it being deemed the most significant rescue mission of the year. “Please extend my congratulations to the crews of Air Force Rescue 05/06/235/237 and the associated Guardian Angel teams,” wrote Lt. Gen. Mark Nowland, deputy chief of staff for operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, in a congratulatory letter. “My heartfelt thanks goes out to the warriors who live by the motto, ‘These things we do, that others may live.’ I am especially proud of the teamwork displayed by multiple aircrews and Guardian Angel teams in performing the most outstanding U.S. Air Force rescue mission in 2017.” A Guardian Angel team is comprised of combat rescue officers; pararescuemen; survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) specialists and uniquely trained support personnel dedicated to the Air Force core function of personnel recovery. The specific capability of the 920th Rescue Wing’s Guardian Angel Airmen, combined with its air refueling and extended-range airpower make it uniquely able to accomplish the mission where few others in the world can. It is the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s sole combat-search-and-rescue wing. This is why the U.S. Coast Guard’s Seventh District in Miami immediately directed the call for help to Col. Kurt Matthews, 920th RQW commander, via the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, on July 7, 2017. “This was an extremely complex and unusual mission,” said Matthews. “The lengths our Reserve Citizen Airmen went through to save these men is incredible and I am extremely proud of them.” Matthews noted the unit was not facing the most ideal circumstances when they received the call for help that morning. The two HC-130s required to transport the Guardian Angel team and refuel the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were broken and the helicopter crews were on crew rest. However, the team pulled together and within two hours the maintenance crews fixed and launched the first HC-130 carrying the Guardian Angel team and their equipment. Two hours later, the helicopters headed to the scene, while the maintenance crews worked on the second HC-130. Around this same time, the Guardian Angel team parachuted into the ocean out of the back of the HC-130, followed by their zodiac inflatable boat and medical equipment. After reaching the survivors, they provided urgent medical care and transported them to a nearby freighter whose crew volunteered to help. Under the cover of darkness, the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter teams arrived and their crews hoisted the men into the aircraft bound for the Orlando Regional Medical Center. The survivors spent roughly two weeks in the hospital before returning to Germany. The survivors reunited with some their rescuers Jan. 26, 2018, when the Airmen traveled to Hamburg, Germany, to receive the German Medal of Honor on Ribbon for Rescue Missions at Sea in Gold on behalf of the wing. It was the first time in 20 years that the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service had bestowed the honor upon an organization. The son, who had sustained second and third-degree burns to much of his lower body thanked his rescuers publically at the ceremony. “I would like to express my heartfelt thank you to my Guardian Angels for rescuing me,” said Karl Meer Jr. “With my injuries and without water, I don’t think I would have lived another day.” Chief Master Sgt. Randy Wells, 301st Rescue Squadron chief enlisted manager, who assembled the wing’s nomination for the Jolly Green award, was one of the aviators assisting in the rescue that day on an HH-60 Pave Hawk and who traveled to Germany to receive the Medal of Honor and meet the Meers. “I was lucky to be crew rested that day and glad to participate along with 32 other professionals who took to the air in a very memorable rescue that bridged German-American relations and solidified our noble mission,” he said. “This award recognizes the hard work, dedication and compassion all rescue professionals have for their craft.” The Reserve Citizen Airmen who flew on the July 7, 2017 mission include: Lt. Col. Steven Lawhun, 39th Rescue Squadron Lt. Col. John Lowe, 39th RQS Lt. Col. Wilfred Rodriguez, 39th RQS Lt. Col.[…]

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Preparing Airmen to Return With Honor

BRANDON, SFK, UNITED KINGDOM 04.06.2018 Story by Airman 1st Class Elijah Chevalier  48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs  ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England – The last thing a pilot or aircrew member needs to be thinking about in the air is how they are going to survive on the ground if the worst was to happen. Survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists ensure aircrew members have the peace of mind of knowing they are fully capable of enduring harsh conditions on their own while utilizing survival techniques to increase their probability of a safe and successful recovery in any environment. “Our moto in SERE is to ‘Return With Honor,’” said a SERE specialist from the 57th Rescue Squadron. “Aircrew survival school was first introduced in 1940s and from that, [prisoners of war] were able to look at themselves in the mirror and know that they survived with honor.” While most Airmen are trained to perform a tasks related to their career field, SERE specialists are trained to not only perform, but teach SERE related concepts. This includes water survival training, parachute training, severe environment training and anything else deemed necessary. “We are the subject matter experts when it comes to an aircrews’ training,” said the 57th RQS SERE specialist. “We understand the physical psychological stressors that aircrews go through when they find themselves in a survival situation, the task saturation, and what the environment is doing to their faculties, both physically and mentally.” This intimate knowledge of what it’s like being alone and pursued allows SERE specialists to provide unique insight on the state of mind of individuals in need of rescue. This information is used by rescue teams comprised of pararescuemen and combat rescue officers to facilitate a smooth recovery. “I take a lot of pride in my job,” said a SERE specialist assigned to the 48th Operations Support Squadron. “I love doing SERE. We have to try and knock the training out of the park each time, so we give them the skills they need to survive.” In the past 15 years, SERE specialists have provided lifesaving training to over 200,000 personnel from across all branches of the military, so operators and aircrew have the knowledge and confidence to stay focused on the mission while in the air, in the water or anywhere else they may find themselves around the globe.   For more stories like this on Specialtactics.com, click HERE

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PJs team up with Army Chinooks

Members of the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron explain the importance of the U.S. Army CH-47F Chinook to the mission at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan during March, 2018. Airmen flying missions every day or coalition forces going outside the wire on patrols, can fight a little harder and rest a little easier knowing there is a group of highly trained and motivated pararescuemen willing to put their lives on the line to save them. For the first time in Afghanistan, these pararescuemen of the 83rd ERQS do this working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Army CH-47 Chinooks.   For more vids like these on Specialtactics.com, visit HERE.

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AFRL enhances survival tools for isolated Airmen

(EDITORS NOTE: Stop for a second, look & read the picture w/ caption.  That is HILARIOUS.) WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, OH, UNITED STATES 04.13.2018 Story by Donna Lindner  Air Force Research Laboratory – Survival — it’s the first thing an ejected pilot contemplates once safely on the ground. A survival situation could span days and the Air Force is taking advantage of advancements in technology to allow ejected pilots to survive for longer periods of time. Researchers from the Junior Force Warfighters Operations in the Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, are increasing a pilot’s capability to survive, escape and evade through near-term, short-turnaround projects. “We are developing materials that will last longer in operational environments so that isolated personnel have the equipment readily available,” said Capt. Jason Goins, JFWORX team member. A subteam of JFWORX, the Ejection Seat Survival Kit Enhancement, Modernization and Optimization team, are working to improve the current ejection seat survival kit for the Air Force. The kit contains over 50 items, broken down into subprojects, with the first project being the survival knife for improved survive, escape, resist, and evade operations. JFWORX is evaluating different types of steels, varying edge grinds and blade shapes for the new knife. The team performed field tests with various commercially available knives. The blades are tested to see how quickly they dull with an edge retention test. A knife made of harder steel will hold an edge well, but is difficult to sharpen and is likewise brittle. Based on the initial JFWORX technical evaluation, the team selected 60 knives for end user testing by the 22nd Training Squadron and 336th Training Group at Fairchild AFB, Washington. A concurrence on the best knife will be determined and then recommended to the Air Force for inclusion in the survival kit. The 336th Training Group is the Air Force’s sole unit responsible for SERE specialists and train more than 6,000 students from Fairchild AFB, alone. “SERE specialists are trained to survive anywhere in the world and are the best trained personnel recovery subject matters experts,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Torres of the 22TRS and 336TRG. “The foundation of everything we do is the ability to relate information that is known or discovered to provide the best possible life-preserving equipment to the future isolated person should they require it.” According to Torres, the JFWORX team is invaluable to improving this SERE equipment. “Getting the opportunity to try out new knives gave me more insight on what would be more practical and useful for a downed pilot. I am excited to see an improvement on kits that have not changed through the ages,” said Senior Airman Kyle Alvarez of the 22TRS and 336TRG. A modernized survival kit enables the warfighter to survive with updated tools. Sharp knives for food, water for drinking and medical bags for first-aid are just three of the improvements currently being worked for the kit. “The overall goal of JFWORX is to provide personnel with the opportunity to rapidly identify and develop solutions to time-critical operational needs,” said Capt. Goins. “Emphasis is placed on increasing our customer-centric focus and forming partnerships with other operational units.” JFWORX projects are managed entirely by its members, who are military and civilian employees of the lab. Their projects are designed with the warfighter in mind. J.D. Bales, a mechanical engineer in the AFRL, is one of the newer members on the team. “I was excited to work on a team where my ideas and insights were heard,” said Bales. “Brainstorming on projects with many viewpoints is always good.” Supplying Airmen with advanced state-of-the-art survival kits is just one of the many projects the team works continuously.   For more stories like these, click HERE

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