130. Operational Psych Research

Doc Bryan is a prior AF Psychologist. He currently is the Executive Director of National Center for Veteran's Studies at the Univ of Utah. He partnered with the AF Psychology Service to perform long term research on our Operators during OEF. The articles are posted on pjmed.com In this episode he discusses findings that have… Read more

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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Northern Strike

From DVIDS: A convoy of military vehicles rolled over gravel roads and splashed dust into the cool air. Polish 18th Airborne Battalion infantrymen exited their vehicles and began preparing their equipment. Nearby, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Sam Salcedo, 146th Air Support Operations Squadron tactical air control party specialist, was also prepping his equipment. He was mentoring U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Jonathan Moran, 146 ASOS tactical air control party specialist, who recently graduated one of the first stages of TACP technical training. Moran was double checking his lists and following instruction from Salcedo when the 18th Airborne Battalion ground commander emerged from the cloud of settling dust. Salcedo reached towards the ground commander and they shook hands. “I’ll be your main JTAC [joint terminal attack controller],” Salcedo said to the ground commander. “Okay, we’re going live tonight,” he replied with a smile. Although there was a slight communication barrier, both buzzed with excitement for the scenario. The 146 ASOS TACPs fell into one of the two foot patrols, and another night mission at Northern Strike 17 began. Northern Strike is a massive, one-of-a-kind joint terminal air attack controller-centric exercise that spans more than 100 miles across the northern portion of Michigan. Since its creation in 2011, the exercise has grown from 500 participants to attracting more than 5,500 in 2017. The intention of the exercise is to prepare military personnel for a deployed environment, which means working alongside joint and integrated forces. So far, it’s proved successful. In 2017, Northern Strike became one of 43 programs worldwide to receive Joint National Training Capability accreditation. JNTC is a program of the Department of Defense working to better prepare military personnel in realistic joint environments with other services. Receiving the accreditation validates not only the importance of Northern Strike, but also the quality of training for the participants. At the heart of the exercise, Master Sgt. Ben Lake, 146 ASOS standards and evaluations evaluator, and Maj. Karl Hurdle, 146 ASOS air liaison officer, worked tirelessly months before and during NS17 coordinating schedules. Lake had to fill more than 540 flying hours of close air support for the exercise. With more than 70 TACPs to choose from, he hand picked them based on skill level and experience to best fulfill the needs of the mission set. “I was very happy to know that my guys got the training I provided for them,” Lake said. “This type of training has further prepared them to save someone else’s life, save their own life and be combat ready when they deploy.” There were 22 TACPs with the 146 ASOS at NS17. They made up the largest TACP contingent of the exercise, and all of them experienced live-fire scenarios, many with multi-national partners. Each qualified TACP specialist was able to communicate with the involved ground commanders and pilots before each scenario began. The real-world experience of serving as a liaison between the aircraft and the ground commanders benefitted both seasoned TACP specialists and newcomers. “The exercise encompasses everything you would find downrange, minus getting shot at,” said Staff Sgt. Zach Scheffler, 146 ASOS TACP instructor. “You know, it’s overwhelming at first. But, seeing stuff like this at Northern Strike is only going to make our guys more prepared for a deployment.” The training scenarios had virtually endless possibilities. On some ranges, JTACs were able to integrate with large U.S. Army National Guard maneuver elements during live-fire scenarios. On others, they integrated with U.S. Marines Forces Reserve and controlled airspace from amphibious assault vehicles. These mission sets also created multiple opportunities for experienced TACPs to work with younger Airmen on facing challenges that may arise when deployed. “This was crucial for our younger Airman to be here at Northern Strike,” said Salcedo. “It’s easy to train in a classroom environment when there is air conditioning and we’re sitting down. But it’s so much harder to do things when we are actually in the field, like following a combat maneuver team with live CAS [close air support] flying and live bullets flying around. It’s crucial for these young guys to get thrown into environments like this.” Northern Strike 17 benefited the 146 ASOS on many levels. The exercise provided incredibly rare training experiences, the opportunity to integrate with joint forces and a vessel for mentorship. After the night mission with the Polish 18th Airborne Infantry Battalion, Salcedo and Moran sat under a starry Michigan sky for a few minutes to talk about improving on their next mission set. Both of them are at different skill levels, and both of them are ready for the next challenge. For one, that means the next phase of training and for the other a probable deployment. Whatever comes next, whatever the call may be, Northern Strike 17 has only made them[…]

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PJ training

Pararescue students put through final paces in joint exercises with Army

FROM DVIDS: The cadre at the USAF Pararescue School here employed a dynamic exercise regimen and the 3-501st Air Assault Brigade, an Army unit from Fort Bliss, Texas, to create the fog of war for students Jan. 4-13. The 10-day final evaluation phase was designed to test students comprehensively before they earn the right to where the maroon beret at the end of this month, according to 351st Battlefield Airman Training Squadron (PJ School) commander, Lt. Col. Joe Lopez. “This is a sequence of missions that we provide these students full mission profiles and we drop several missions per day on them through the course of 10 days,” Lopez said. A mass casualty scenario the morning of Jan. 6 demonstrated the rigor and complexity of a full mission profile, he explained. Incorporating more than 100 Airmen and Soldiers, the scenario included downed helicopters and a convoying response force that came under attack while trying to help. At that point, the PJ and CRO students were inserted via UH-60 Blackhawks from the 3-501st. “Students have been given the mission, have planned for the mission and are preparing to arrive on station to render aide to the folks that need it,” Lopez said, as small arms fire rang out and Blackhawk rotors began slashing through the sky above the training area. The students were inserted on a hilltop while taking fire, and managed to triage, treat and transport all wounded over the course of the exercise. As the Blackhawks returned to the FOB, Blackhawk pilot and Albuquerque native Army Capt. Chloe Flores said the exercise was a great opportunity for the Army contingent. “Things went really well today. This (joint training) provides a good opportunity for us to train with actual Pararescuemen, the dynamic mission set that they face really gives us an opportunity to practice how to react to that mission set and support them,” said Flores, commander of the 3-501st’s Charlie Company. “It was very hasty, we had to move really fast, and aircraft had to split up to support forces (under attack) on the ground. We were sequencing aircraft out of a (hot landing zone) and were able to pick up the patients and bring them back to the medical facility here.” Flores graduated from Eldorado High School before going on to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. She said it was nice to be stationed close to home and even better to exercise at Kirtland. “It’s really cool to be back home and training in my own back yard here,” she said. Another homecoming of sorts took place during the exercise, as the 351st’s Director of Training Master Sgt. Aaron Love linked up with his brother and 3-501st Blackhawk Pilot Army CW2 Brian Love. Originally from Akron, Ohio, they had previously served in Iraq at the same time, but this was the first time they had trained together in integrated units. Love said that while they kid each other about the inter-service rivalry, they share a serious mutual respect and everybody else better do the same. “We mess with each other all the time, but outside of us it’s all about praise and respect,” Love said. “Everybody around here knows all about the Love brothers. We’re real proud of us.” Both have taken on high risk missions in the interest of their nation’s defense. In fact, this sentiment is exemplified in the PJ and CRO motto, “We do these things that others may live.” Students so near to putting on their berets have overcome many obstacles and years of elite military training to get to this point, Lopez explained. “These gentlemen have been in their course of training for approximately two to three years,” Lopez said. “The end of this training is approximately six months long—the apprentice course—they are now two to three weeks away from becoming brand new Pararescuemen and Combat Rescue Officers.” Training prior to the apprentice course here at Kirtland includes Army airborne, military free fall, survival school, combat dive and emergency medical technician training and certification. The washout rate for people entering the program is between 85 and 90 percent, Lopez said. “We are looking for someone that is extremely physically capable, but also mentally resilient and able to bring all that together on the battlefield,” Lopez said   NM, UNITED STATES 01.10.2018 Story by James Fisher  377th Air Base Wing/Public Affairs 

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silver star

Finding the way: Special Tactics chief awarded Silver Star

HURLBURT FIELD, FL, UNITED STATES 12.15.2017 Story by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy  24th Special Operations Wing Chief Master Sgt. Michael West, a Special Tactics operator with the 720th Operations Support Squadron, utilized 58 coalition aircraft delivering 24,000 pounds of munitions, turning the tide of battle, and now he’s receiving the Silver Star Medal. During a ceremony Dec. 15, here, the commander of the Air Force Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, presented the nation’s third highest medal for gallantry against an armed enemy of the U.S. in combat to West. West’s actions occurred 11 years earlier, when he was deployed with U.S. Army Special Forces teams in support of Operation MEDUSA. “This ceremony is about the Air Commando culture epitomized in Special Tactics and Special Tactics being epitomized in that chief right there,” said Webb. “It’s a culture of willingly facing seemingly insurmountable problems; it’s about courage, endurance, wisdom. It’s figuring out to solve problems and getting ‘er done. It’s about finding the way.” West was originally awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his actions in May 2007, but due to a recent DOD-wide review, his package was resubmitted for an upgrade. “I am honored and humbled for the recognition, and I wish the [Special Forces] team guys were here to share this,” said West. “It was a great opportunity to work with a bunch of professionals, and I know that I have friends for life.” As a Special Tactics combat controller, West is a part of a highly-trained special operations force who integrates air power into the special operations’ ground scheme of maneuver. “Special Tactics is the connective tissue between the ground and air and you can ask our Army and Navy counterparts who will not leave home with Special Tactics,” said Webb. “Special Tactics exemplifies what it means in that ‘find the way’ Air Commando culture, and West epitomizes Special Tactics.” Webb said we are living in a “Golden Age” of Special Tactics, citing the 10 Air Force Crosses and this ceremony marking the 42nd Silver Star Medal awarded to a Special Tactics operator since 9/11. Operation MEDUSA On Sept. 5, 2006, then-Master Sgt. West was assigned to three different Special Forces teams alongside three platoons of Afghan National Army forces during a deployment to Panjwai Village, Afghanistan. Operation MEDUSA was a Canadian-led effort to clear a village, believed to be a Taliban safe haven of 700-1000 enemy forces. A Canadian ground force would clear the village from west to east and the Special Forces teams, alongside West, would set up a blockade position south of the village. As the Canadian-led ground force began their movement, they were met with fierce resistance, resulting in a crippling amount of casualties that forced them to disengage. In an attempt to salvage the operation, the Task Force directed the special operations teams to seize and hold elevated terrain to observe and attack enemy positions. “The first day we approached this hill, we met heavy resistance … the enemy saw us coming from the south, and we started to get shot at from tree lines on either side of us,” said West. At this time, West coordinated airpower from a B-1 Lancer bomber aircraft to drop eight bombs on the enemy and their resupply compound. This was the first time West would utilize airpower to eliminate the enemy, but it would not be his last. The next day, the teams decided to advance up the hill further to investigate and clear an old enemy compound. Due to the high probability of enemy engagement, West coordinated two A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft to watch over them. They cleared the buildings and as they began to climb higher, an ANA soldier stepped on an anti-personnel mine. “We were all blown back trying to figure out what happened and once the dust settled, we heard the screaming,” said West. “The soldier was lying there with half of his leg gone, and he was really banged up.” West and his team leader quickly assessed the man for injuries and applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding and decided he needed to be evacuated. As the team struggled to carry the injured ANA solider off the hill, a vehicle in the team’s convoy hit an improvised explosive device, which triggered a full-on assault from enemy forces. “As soon as the it blew, the tree lines on either side of us fully erupted with gunfire … like they were waiting for that IED to explode,” said West. “We started receiving [rocket-propelled grenade] fire and small arms fire and my team was completely exposed.” The joint special operations team began to fire back, but West did what multiple Special Tactics Airmen before and after him have done countless times, he called for airpower. “I immediately put those A-10s into action and[…]

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38th RQS tests rescue capabilities

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, GA, UNITED STATES 12.15.2017 Story by Airman Eugene Oliver  Moody Air Force Base Pararescuemen from the 38th Rescue Squadron conducted a full mission profile exercise, Dec. 12, 14-15, here. During the training, the 38th RQS recovered victims while under enemy fire to prepare for future search and rescue missions and to assess their unit’s ability to work cohesively to accomplish the mission. “It’s ultimately up to us to make sure that everyone gets out safe and quickly,” said Senior Airman Ryan, 38th RQS Pararescueman. “It’s key that we get as much practice as possible and work out any mistakes we have now, so when we get called for a real emergency we’re ready to execute. “When we enter a situation we know everyone’s counting on one another and we need to work as a team and trust each other to ensure the mission’s a success.” While focusing on sharpness and building confidence, the pararescuemen were gauged on their ability to adapt to new roles. “Our main point of focus during these exercises is to make sure everyone knows their role and worries about completing their part of the mission and not someone else’s,” said Tech Sgt. Seth , 38th RQS Weapons and Tactics NCO in charge. “Usually when a guy’s always a team leader and now we’ve got him assigned to a lesser role, when they notice something wrong they want to step up and take control and that causes a great deal of chaos. “We need all of our troops to be on the same page and to trust each other in order for us to get the job done.” While focusing on good communication and teamwork, staying alert and keeping safety in mind is imperative to a successful mission. “Speed and safety are key during our operations and we want to make sure everyone is safe and our unit works as a team proficiently,” said Barta. “This was an opportunity for them to work together to overcome some of the problems that will be thrown at them while deployed.” Conducting rescue missions are the core of their mission, and ensuring practice missions are completed with minimal mistakes helps reassure confidence. Overall, the pararescuemen were responsible for locating and communicating with injured victims, assigning responsibilities, deciding the best extraction plan and defending the victims against enemy attack. “Our job has a lot responsibilities and we need to make sure each are completed quickly and adequately,” said Ryan. “We need to get to the injured victim, asses and communicate their overall health to the rest of our team so we can decide how were going to get them to safety” To help make the scenario as realistic as possible, the 38th RQS not only utilized mannequins, but Airmen volunteers used as rescue subjects. “I wanted to be a volunteer so I could see a different aspect of the job beside my own,” said Staff Sgt Lyndsay Gebhart, 23d Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler. “I thought it was very beneficial to see the capabilities of the 38th RQS and what they offer to the military. “I didn’t know they were so highly trained in the medical portion and that they needed to be in such physical shape to move an individual by themselves.” While working together to move people out of danger there are times that the 38th RQS must use unconventional methods to get injured victims to safety. “I wanted to be a volunteer because the 38th RQS saves lives but I never knew how creative they could get when it comes to saving someone,” said Airman Jesse Lowe, 23d SFS fire team member. “I never knew that they could propel someone out of a building. “It felt enlightening when they wrapped me up and placed me out of the window to be propelled down to safety, I never knew that they could do that.”

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The Ultimate 7 Must-Haves for Water Con Training

While some suitable substitutes are, well…suitable, sometimes it is absolutely essential to duplicate the exact gear used at selection.  In this write-up, I have done the research and found the 7 critical pieces of equipment that you need to train with to be successful inside the pool while at PJ Indoc, CCT assessment, Phase 2 assessments & Dive School.  All of the pieces have equal value: you must be well-rounded to be successful at selection.  You could be a stud at underwaters, buddy breathing, mask/snorkel recovery, one man comp, etc etc, but if you can’t handle a weight belt on your hips, you will fail just as easily as someone who struggles in any other event. I have scoured the internet to find the best prices for you and have provided affiliate links below (all on amazon). 1) The dive mask used for Air Force selection courses is massive.  It is important to train on this:  Single Lens Dive Mask to get used to the amount of air it takes to clear this behemoth.  There are small nuances to this mask that you must get used to such as how to properly trace the head strap & feeling where the nose cup is underwater so you don’t put the mask on upside down (this happens ALL the time to the untrained). 2) Grabbing the right snorkel is critical for buddy breathing.  Ensure you get either the:  Snorkel – J-Tube  or J Tube Snorkel Clear Mouth as getting intimately familiar with this snorkel will help you succeed when you are under full harassment.  This snorkel takes a bit more air to clear than other snorkels due to its larger than normal lower mouth piece section.  You may have an adjustment period with the bite blocks and upper mouth piece as well I’ve seen guys struggle to establish a seal quickly while in the pool. 3) Finning with stiff Rocket style fins is an experience that cannot be duplicated with substitution.  Your legs and feet will need to experience the suck of fin swimming with these:  IST Rocket Fins for Military Special Ops, L prior to going to selection.  The force that is put on your legs is critical to experience  as well as learning the skills of ditch and don with these type of straps will help you be ready for when its time to perform.  Expect calf, foot and hamstring cramps when ramping up training with these fins. 4) At selection, booties aren’t just used for finning.  An easy way to make underwaters (or any pool event) more challenging is by slapping on these:  Black Zippered Dive Bootie and watch yourself struggle.  These booties are a perfect fit for the IST Fins mentioned above. 5) There have been many of candidates who could fin great, but once that: Weight Belt, Black went on for the first time, their eyes would get big and they’d mercilessly sink to the bottom.  Don’t be that guy that struggles with a weight belt when it comes time to put in on when it counts.  This belt also has a clasp that can be difficult to manage while performing ditch & dons. WARNING: Do not perform weight belt swims in the deep end without a buddy!  Always ensure you have the belt setup so it will release with your right hand 6) A weight belt is useless without weights.  Grab 4 of these: Uncoated Lace Thru Style Hard Weights, 4Pounds to get 16 lbs total.  When starting, I recommend going with 8 lbs and working up to 16.  There is a particular way to place these on the belt that unless you’ve been to selection before, you won’t know the nuances– if you are unsure, ask in the specialtactics.com forums here. 7) Underwater knot tying is a skill that takes finesse and repetitiveness to master.  Use this:  7mm Accessory Cord to learn the square knot, inside bowline, girth hitch w/ an extra turn and the single fisherman’s knot.  TIP: Grab the 20′ or 30′ length and cut out two equal pieces of 36″ each.  Use the rest of the rope as your line that you will tie your knot around. Happy Swimming, SW

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