an Airman’s journey to redemption > U.S. Air Force > Article Display


Standing there with a knife in hand and cold-hearted from the most devastating news of his life, Master Sgt. Brandan “Troy” Keel contemplated an irreversible decision. Looking into his wife’s eyes after learning she was pregnant with another man’s baby, he couldn’t fathom living anymore. Suicide, he thought, was imminent.

Six years later, Keel is not only alive, but is in as good of a space, mentally and spiritually, as he’s ever been, he said. Since that dark moment in July 2013, the Reserve Airman has a new outlook on life altogether, and he owes it all to running.

A month after learning of his wife’s betrayal and sunken into a deep depression, Keel, then 38, said he was going through one of his social media newsfeeds when he saw a post promoting a local running group. Needing something to help relieve his stress, he decided to give it a try.

Keel felt welcomed immediately. Group members showered him with belonging and encouragement; and from that instant, he was sold.

“August 21, 2013, is what I call my ‘runiversary,’” Keel said. “That’s the day I joined a local running group. You can say that’s the day I started my running journey.”

In no time at all, he began his routines. While running with a friend, he found out about another group that hosted a 5-kilometer training class. The class offered a 12-week program that incorporated running training with Bible study.

“It was important because I didn’t realize…how, basically, running and my spirituality go hand-in-hand,” he said. “And not only that, but also God has introduced me to people who I can turn to if I was struggling or anything like that.”

At first, Keel said he wasn’t sure what he got himself into.

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Ninth Air Force change of command highlights joint capabilities > U.S. Air Force > Article Display


Maj. Gen. Chad P. Franks took command of Ninth Air Force from Maj. Gen. Scott J. Zobrist during a change of command ceremony at Shaw Air Force Base, June 13.

Gen. Mike Holmes, Air Combat Command commander, presided over the ceremony.

“In the past year, Ninth Air Force reached initial operational capability as a Joint Task Force-capable headquarters, offering a new capability for joint leaders,” Holmes said. “They continue to support Air Combat Command, the Air Force at large and our joint partners and they’ll provide an operational warfighting component ready to deliver strategic combat airpower.

“Your efforts have enabled us to continue to exploit and control air, space and cyber and have helped us to get after the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s priority of developing joint leaders and teams,” Holmes continued.

Holmes emphasized Zobrist’s efforts as a leader, paving the way for Ninth Air Force to become what it is today.

“(General Zobrist), you’ve worked tirelessly for your people and your dedication is always noticed,” he explained. “Your leadership as a Ninth Air Force commander has been incredible, and your work for your Airmen has empowered and equipped a generation of Airmen to carry out their current missions and ensure dominance in future joint fights.”

Additionally, Holmes expressed how Franks’ leadership and joint experiences will complement Ninth Air Force as it continues toward full operational capability as a JTF-capable headquarters.

“General Franks is at the pinnacle of experience in the HH-60 and (combat search and rescue) world … he’s been a leader at every level,” Holmes stressed. “All of that, combined with his recent assignment, has set him up for success here as the Ninth Air Force commander.

“Your foresight, leadership and intricate understanding of the joint environment has

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Honoring the Fallen on the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Saipan > U.S. Indo-Pacific Command > 2015

SAIPAN, NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS — The bombardment of Saipan began on June 13, 1944. 165,000 shells were fired, from 15 battleships, in an attempt to neutralize Japanese forces along the shore, allowing U.S. Marines to assault the beaches.

The battle began on June 15, 1944, when the Marines launched an attack on the island of Saipan to gain a strategic position in the Pacific front, with the goal of gaining the Japanese air base located on the island. At 7 a.m. on June 15, 1944, more than 300 amphibious assault vehicles landed 8,000 Marines on the west coast of Saipan by 9 a.m.9 a.m. The invasion on the beach was covered by the supporting fire of 11 battleships.

The Japanese forces strategically placed barbed wire, artillery, machine gun emplacements, and trenches to maximize the American casualties. However, by nightfall, the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions has secured a six mile wide and one mile deep section of the beach front. The Japanese attempted to counterattack during the night, but found themselves sustaining heavy losses.

The invasion had surprised the Japanese, as they were expecting an invasion further south. The Imperial Japanese Navy launched an attack on the American battleships surrounding the island, and were met with heavy losses again, leaving the island impenetrable to resupply or reinforcements for the Japanese forces.

Even though the Japanese had no means of reinforcements or resupply, they were fearless and determined, committed to fighting until the last man fell. The Japanese used the volcanic landscape to their advantage, hiding and waiting in caves and tunnels to delay the American attack. Gradually, the American forces developed methods to counterattack these cave systems, using flamethrowers, artillery and machine guns.

By July 7, the Japanese had nowhere left to retreat, and made plans for their final, suicidal

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MQ-9s Join RED FLAG-Alaska for First Time > U.S. Indo-Pacific Command > 2015

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska — Each year RED FLAG-Alaska brings hundreds of Airmen and aircraft from around the globe to participate in cutting-edge, realistic combat training in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, and with each iteration something new is always tested.

RF-A 19-2 marks the first time MQ-9 Reapers flew out of Eielson AFB, but the twist is their pilots are more than 4,000 miles away at their home station, Hancock Air Force Base, New York.

“We conducted several test flights where we flew the MQ-9 locally before handing control off to the pilots back in New York,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Brown, 108th Attack Squadron director of operations. “We have had success and they will control the aircraft during the aerial operations throughout the exercise.”

Flying in RF-A 19-2 didn’t come easy though. Due to airspace restrictions, the 174th Attack Wing had to coordinate with the Federal Aviation Administration for nearly a year to receive authorization.

Brown said the MQ-9 has very strict FAA guidelines in the airspace, but it doesn’t infringe on their ability to participate in the exercise and to help build future air combat tactics.

“In the past, the MQ-9 hasn’t been heavily utilized in traditional air combat operations,” said Brown. “During RED FLAG, we’re trying to build interoperability between the platforms and showcase the MQ-9’s capabilities and how they can be integrated into the fight.”

During the exercise, the MQ-9 is improving capabilities by providing detailed information on simulated targets so traditional aircraft pilots can acquire a well-rounded view of the battle field and build more effective plans.

“The MQ-9 also adds a lot of longevity because it can fly for nearly 24 hours non-stop and intel it provides allows fighter pilots to use their fuel more efficiently,” said Brown.

In addition to

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USS Preble Returns Home from Indo-Pacific Deployment > U.S. Indo-Pacific Command > 2015

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — The guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88), along with the “Easyriders” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 37, Det. 1, returned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, June 13, following a deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

Since departing Pearl Harbor in January, Preble participated in multiple exercises with international allies throughout the Indo-Pacific region, strengthening global relations and partnerships while maintaining combat readiness.

“I am incredibly proud of the Preble crew and all they’ve accomplished over the last few months,” said Rear Adm. Daniel Dwyer, commander of Carrier Strike Group 9. “They safely and professionally operated in a variety of complex environments throughout the Indo-Pacific, including the South China Sea.”

Along with the USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), Preble participated in the Langkawi International Maritime Exposition on the island of Langkawi, Malaysia, where the ship’s crew hosted tours and a static helicopter display at the air show.

Preble also participated in a cooperative deployment with the Royal Australian Navy and Republic of Korea forces, as well as a training exercise with the Philippine Navy.

Returning to Malaysia, Preble hosted the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia along with Malaysian dignitaries for a traditional breaking of the fast meal in celebration of the holy month of Ramadan. “We were so happy to host the breaking of the fast on our flight deck,” said Cmdr. Leonardo Giovannelli, Preble’s commanding officer. “We are the first U.S. naval vessel to do so, and it was an honor to serve as ambassadors to our friends in Malaysia. It was a truly unique experience for everybody.”

While in 7th Fleet, Preble also supported the John C. Stennis Strike Group.

“I am so proud of our crew and everything they have accomplished over this deployment,” said Cmdr. Giovannelli. “We were able to

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374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen Accomplish Maintenance Feat > U.S. Indo-Pacific Command > 2015

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Members of the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron accomplished a rare maintenance achievement, June 7, 2019, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

The C-130J Super Hercules, assigned to the 374th AMXS, received a black-letter status after receiving zero discrepancies.

This is a feat that is rarely accomplished and many crew chiefs go their entire career without achieving this milestone.

“To anyone’s knowledge in the squadron, this hasn’t happened for at least the past ten years,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua G. Aleshire, 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief.

The term black-letter flight originates from the form used to inspect C-130s before and after each flight. The form is used as a checklist by crew chiefs. A discrepancy is highlighted with an x, a dash or a forward slash in red pen.

When there are zero discrepancies, the individual checking the aircraft will sign the form with their initials in black ink.

“It means a lot,” said Aleshire. “It’s a lot of hard work from everybody in the squadron. It’s nice to see it take off and keep the black-letter.”

“Black-letter flights are extremely rare,” said Lt. Col James D. Reaves, the 374th Maintenance Group deputy commander. “Discrepancies can be anything from a failed lightbulb to something more serious.”

In the civilian sector as well, nearly every flight will have some kind of issue that needs to be addressed, but wouldn’t ground the aircraft, Reaves said.

“To have the opportunity to sign a black letter form is a testament to the training and professional expertise of our Airmen,” reaves said.

Aleshire and his team’s black-letter C-130J not only took off as a black-letter, but received no discrepancies in-flight and so landed as a black-letter.

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Oceania Representatives Build Public Health Emergency Response Capability > U.S. Indo-Pacific Command > 2015

CAIRNS, Australia — Humanitarian public health and disaster response professionals located throughout the Oceania region gathered at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, for the Health and Humanitarian Action in Emergencies (HHAE) course, June 3-14.

HHAE is a two-week course developed by the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and James Cook University’s College of Health of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences to improve the management of public health emergencies during a humanitarian crises.

“The Pacific region is known to be one of the most disaster prone regions of the world,” said Professor Maxine Whittaker, Dean of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences at JCU. “Building capacity and resilience in these countries’ response teams and communities is a critical tool to mitigate the consequences brought by diseases. The frequency and variety of natural disasters in this region leave our Pacific neighbors vulnerable to poor health outcomes, especially when combined with remoteness, climate change and often times weak health systems.”

One of the guest speakers, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Louis Tripoli, command surgeon for the United States Indo-Pacific Command, asked each participant to voice their biggest challenge facing their communities.

“The concerns that were mentioned today drove home to me the importance of maintaining and strengthening our military medical partnerships in the region,” said Tripoli. “This course is just another example of how we continue to remain synced with our partners and that our strong relationships with our military medical counterparts are the foundation for training in global health, military medicine, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”

Each day the students were given lectures from experts representing the following partners: CFE-DM, JCU, RedR Australia, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Pacific Regional Office, International Federation of the Red

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3rd Transportation Support Battalion Marines Train with the Joint Precision Air Drop System > U.S. Indo-Pacific Command > 2015

IE SHIMA, Okinawa, Japan — As the wind swept through the tall green grass in an open field on the Ie Shima coast line, a group of Marines stood in anticipation as they watched a bundle soar across the bright sky. Guided by the Joint Precision Air Drop System, the package piloted itself onto the drop zone.

U.S. Marines with Air Delivery Platoon, Landing Support Company, 3rd Transportation Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, conducted air delivery operations with JPADS on Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan June 6, 2019.

“Today we are conducting air delivery training using the Joint Precision Air Drop System,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Mulvey, the battalion commander of 3rd TSB. “What’s unique about our training today is that we coupled with the MV-22 Osprey. We are using the speed and distance of the Osprey with the precision air drop capability of the JPADS to really offer the warfighter sustainment.”

The JPADS is an airdrop system that uses prepared geographic coordinates programmed into a computer system to guide the parachute to the ground within 100 meters of the drop zone.

“The JPADS use a GPS to basically do what a free fall parachutist would do,” said Mulvey, a Cherryville, North Carolina native. “It understands the altitude and wind speed and it drives the parachute like a free fall parachutist would, the only difference is that it’s delivering cargo to Marines on the deck.”

The JPADS allow 3rd TSB to drop cargo away from the enemy threats and guide it to the Marines on the ground not only making it more accurate, but also allowing Marines to recover the cargo faster.

Mulvey said the training was a big step forward for III Marine Expeditionary Force because it wasIE SHIMA, Okinawa, Japan — As the wind swept

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Hospital Ship USNS Comfort Departs Norfolk for Medical Mission

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) — The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) left from Naval Station Norfolk, June 14, to begin its deployment to South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

During its deployment, Comfort will provide medical assistance in support of regional partners and in response to the regional impacts of the Venezuela political and economic crisis.

“We are embarking on a five-month deployment to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility to embark on a humanitarian assistance mission,” said Capt. B.J. Diebold, Comfort’s mission commander. “Our mission will consist of multinational personnel from across our partner nations as well as allied personnel, non-governmental organizations, and U.S. Navy personnel.”

While deployed, Comfort’s mission will include stops in Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, Saint Lucia, and St. Kitts and Nevis.

U.S. military medical personnel aboard Comfort will work alongside a variety of governmental agencies to provide medical assistance to communities based on needs identified by host-nation health ministries, and to relieve pressure on host nation medical systems in countries hosting Venezuelans who have fled the country’s crisis.

“This deployment responds directly to the man-made crisis Maduro’s regime has created,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, which will oversee the deployment. “Comfort medical teams will be working alongside host nation medical professionals who are absorbing thousands of Venezuelan migrants and refugees. The Venezuelan people are desperately fleeing their homeland for hope of a better way of life. We are committed to finding ways to support the Venezuelan people and our regional partners who share the goal of seeing a legitimate, democratic government reinstated in Venezuela.”

This marks the hospital ship’s seventh deployment to the region since 2007, second deployment to the Western Hemisphere in the last six months, and reflects

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SERE specialists showcase training for recruiters > U.S. Air Force > Article Display


Special operations recruiters from the 330th Recruiting Squadron were welcomed by survival, evasion, resistance and escape cadre from Detachment 3, 66th Training Squadron, to learn more about SERE’s Evasion and Conduct After Capture, or ECAC, course at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, June 3.

ECAC was the first stop for recruiters from the 330th RCS who travelled from across the United States to attend this biannual squadron training intended to immerse recruiters into SERE training in order for them to be better able to recruit Air Force SERE candidates.

“Today you experienced a half day’s worth of what ECAC students are exposed to,” said Senior Master Sgt. Brian Kemmer, ECAC superintendent. “It is our job as SERE specialists to ensure the tactics, techniques and procedures we teach gives anyone who goes through our course the necessary skills and confidence needed to return with honor, regardless of the circumstances of their isolation.”

ECAC is a four-day course and is the Air Force’s level-B SERE training, provided to military members who will operate in high-risk locations or may find themselves in environments with increased risk of isolation or capture.

“The knowledge and insight we gained today and every time we partner with the SERE team here at Lackland, is absolutely vital for guiding our future warriors to their calling,” said Lt. Col. Heath Kerns, 330th RCS commander. “When our recruiters get this type of hands-on engagements they gain crucial experience to inspire the next generation. It helps us not only understand what SERE candidates will do but also the character and passion needed for them to succeed. The SERE community fully supports our specialized recruiting and makes us better every time we come together. Thank you for always having open doors for us; we greatly appreciate

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