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Retired Marine Corps Gen. Charles C. Krulak, who’d served as the 31st commandant of the Marine Corps from 1995-1999 and is now president of Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama, proudly displays mementos of his service as a Marine Corps officer in his office. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jon Holmes  BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – As a young man, Charles C. Krulak, now age 72, respected his father’s values: selflessness, moral courage and integrity.

PHOTO: Retired Marine Corps Gen. Charles C. Krulak, who’d served as the 31st commandant of the Marine Corps from 1995-1999 and is now president of Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama, proudly displays mementos of his service as a Marine Corps officer in his office. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jon Holmes 
 
Krulak’s father, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Victor H. Krulak, who passed away in 2008, imparted in his son the same values introduced to him as a Marine.

Following in his father’s footsteps and making the transformation to become a United States Marine, the younger Krulak, who went on to become a four-star general and the Marine Corps’ 31st commandant, embodied those values. They are still a part of who he is today.

“My father instilled in his three boys a solid foundation of trying to be men of character -- being selfless, having great moral courage and having integrity. [And] at the same time, taking those values and seeking to do the most good for the most people,” Krulak said.

After retiring from the Marine Corps in 1999 after 35 years of military service, Krulak worked in the business world. In March 2011, he was selected to become president of Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama -- a position he says is one of the most challenging of his life.

Mismanagement and a growing debt foreshadowed the college’s future. Budget cuts cost students their educational programs and professors their jobs. Dropping enrollment, a demoralized faculty and a community that lost confidence in the school posed additional problems making Birmingham-Southern College’s future uncertain.

One of Krulak’s first decisions as the college’s new president was to refuse a salary.

“They were pretty surprised when I did that,” he said.

He also turned down the university vehicle and even lived in a dorm instead of the Birmingham-Southern College President’s house.

“Why turn down the salary?” Krulak asked. “Because of the sacrifice everyone else had gone through. If all of the sudden I came in and had this salary and drove around in a college car and lived in the house of the president, I wouldn’t be doing what all Marines do -- setting the example.”

Krulak continued that example by visiting every classroom on campus and meeting with the faculty, staff and students. He spent time in the cafeteria serving food to the students -- something he did for his Marines as an officer.

Former students who have returned to serve as staff to the college notice Krulak’s actions.

“I was most impressed with his relationship with his students,” said Katie Glenn, the executive assistant to Krulak and a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College. “He knows them all and genuinely cares. He even delivered cookies to the students, just as he did for his Marines. He really cared about his Marines, and here, he cares about his employees and students.”

For Krulak, his actions are not unusual. They are the actions of a man of character. They are from the values of his father and the Marines’ past, present and future that are bound together by their core values and ethos.

“You hear time and time again the Marine Corps made you the individual you are,” Krulak explained. “That transformation is forever. That ethos is in all of us for life.”
 
Written May 9, 2014 By:
Marine Corps Sgt. Jon Holmes
6th Marine Corps District

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Army 1st Lt. Jamie Mueller at work at Forward Operating Base Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, April 30, 2014. U.S. Army photo FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPIN BOLDAK – A U.S. Army medical officer saved an Albanian soldier’s life last month thanks to a medical exchange program here.

PHOTO: Army 1st Lt. Jamie Mueller at work at Forward Operating Base Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, April 30, 2014. U.S. Army photo 
 
During a routine procedure, 1st Lt. Jamie Mueller, a physician assistant with 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, noticed a troubling growth on her patient’s back.

Mueller consulted with Army Maj. (Dr.) Michael Rossi here and with other physicians throughout Afghanistan and Germany, and they determined the soldier had cancer and needed immediate surgery.

Rossi credited Mueller’s professionalism and competence as the catalyst for getting the soldier the care he needed.

“She was able to gain their confidence,” he said. “As a result, they were able to find the cancer.”

That confidence Rossi added, was gained through Mueller’s hard work. When Mueller arrived here in February, a 12-foot wall separated the coalition forces. Though a physician assistant typically works directly with a supervising doctor, Mueller found herself as the only medical professional at the clinic. Shortly after she arrived, Mueller and her team were functioning at a high level and had begun to conduct medical exchanges with their NATO partners.

“I’m just an old medic that went to [medical] school,” Rossi said. She’s the one that makes things happen. Before she got here the Albanians were on one [base], and we were on another.”

Within weeks of beginning the medical exchanges, the U.S. and Albanian forces were regularly eating meals together in the American dining facility. Rossi said the crowd at meal time is getting bigger and bigger as the partnership grows.

Mueller said she enjoys working with people from other countries and learning about their cultures. Being deployed gives her that chance. “[On a previous deployment], I worked with locals in the Philippines. I love seeing where they come from and what they are like,” she said.

A Forest Lake, Minn., native, Mueller already had a master’s degree in exercise science when she began her Army career. In her first assignment at 1st Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, she served as an intelligence analyst. After her initial service commitment, she decided she wanted to return to the medical field. “I joined the Army to do something different. I liked [intelligence], but wanted to do something with medicine,” she said.

She completed the Interservice Physician Assistant Program in October 2013 and deployed here four months later.

“Whether it’s treating us or the Albanians or an Afghan, … she does a great job down here,” said Army Lt. Col. Neil Doherty, Mueller’s battalion commander.
 
Written May 6, 2014 By:
Army Capt. Russell Vernado
Regional Command South

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Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Sherrill, right, stands with Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after catching Pujols' 500th career major league home run, April 22, 2014, at Nationals Park in Washington. Sherrill, a long-time Angels fan, moved into the left-center-field bleachers of shortly before Pujols' milestone homer. Courtesy photo  WASHINGTON – Even before he took his seat at Nationals Park here April 22, Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Sherrill said, he fantasized about what he would do if he somehow caught the milestone home run ball off the bat of slugger Albert Pujols.

PHOTO: Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Sherrill, right, stands with Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after catching Pujols' 500th career major league home run, April 22, 2014, at Nationals Park in Washington. Sherrill, a long-time Angels fan, moved into the left-center-field bleachers of shortly before Pujols' milestone homer. Courtesy photo 
 
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim first baseman began the game against the Washington Nationals two home runs shy of 500 in his Major League Baseball career. He struck for home run 499 in the top of the first inning. Anticipating Pujols’ next time at bat and seated in foul territory, Sherrill said, he and a friend spotted an opportunity to sit on the fair side of the foul pole, creating an outside chance of being in the area where the potential home run might land.

With Pujols down in the count with one ball and two strikes, Sherrill said, he started to feel that it just wasn’t in the cards that night. The next pitch was a sinker that Pujols took deep to left-center field.

“I could tell where it was going,” Sherrill said. “It was well above me, so I just jumped out of my chair and started running up the stairs.”

Sherrill said he looked up to see another man running down the steps – the race was on.

“I knew it was going to him. … I gave up on the ball at that point,” he said. “But it bounced off him, and I was able to grab it off the hop.”

He said he looked down at the ball in his hands, and all at once he realized he had just caught Pujols’ 500th home run. At this point, the decision literally was in his hands: Give the ball back to Pujols, or keep the high-value souvenir for himself.

“Even before that day, … I had already decided if I somehow caught it, I would give it back,” Sherrill said. “It just seemed like the right thing to do. When I actually had the ball in my hand, nothing changed. I still felt the same way.

“It’s his milestone. It’s his ball,” he continued. “Who am I to try to sell it back to him?”

As Chris Gordon, the man who missed his chance at catching the home run, shook Sherrill’s hand and congratulated him, Sherrill said, he felt compelled to offer a consolation prize, and arranged for Gordon and his children to accompany him to meet Pujols.

“I felt really bad for him,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it just slipped through his fingers.”

As security escorted him through the stadium and beyond the restricted areas, Sherrill said, fans made it known what they thought he should do with the baseball.

“People were screaming at me as I was walking away, telling me to sell it [and] how much [Pujols] makes a year. … People made sure I knew that it was valuable,” he said.

But through it all, he said, the decision he made while entertaining his fantasy of catching the ball was never in jeopardy. Minutes after catching the ball and already under scrutiny, his integrity was unwavering.

The entire experience was unforgettable, he said, adding that he feels a sense of satisfaction in giving the ball back to its rightful owner. Pujols himself has said Sherrill was “very honest to give it back,” and that he appreciates it.
 
Written May 1, 2014 By:
Air Force Senior Airman Zachary Vucic
Air Force News Service

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Friday, 31 October 2014 11:27

Marine Runs Marathon on Treadmill at Sea

Marine Corps 1st Lt. Thomas Heemer, the logistics officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, poses with his Marine Corps Marathon bib on “Broadway,” a passageway aboard the USS New York, Oct. 26, 2014. Due to pre-deployment training with the 24th MEU, Heemer ran the Marine Corps Marathon on a treadmill aboard the New York, finishing under the four-hour mark. The 24th MEU is conducting its final pre-deployment training exercise before a deployment at the end of the year. Courtesy photo ABOARD USS NEW YORK AT SEA – He was perhaps the very first finisher of the 39th Marine Corps Marathon, but he didn’t finish anywhere near Arlington, Virginia. Instead, he finished at sea aboard the USS New York -- on a treadmill.

PHOTO: Marine Corps 1st Lt. Thomas Heemer, the logistics officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, poses with his Marine Corps Marathon bib on “Broadway,” a passageway aboard the USS New York, Oct. 26, 2014. Due to pre-deployment training with the 24th MEU, Heemer ran the Marine Corps Marathon on a treadmill aboard the New York, finishing under the four-hour mark. The 24th MEU is conducting its final pre-deployment training exercise before a deployment at the end of the year. Courtesy photo 
 
Marine Corps 1st Lt. Thomas Heemer, the logistics officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, finished the 2014 edition of the Marine Corps Marathon at 12:30 a.m. Oct. 26, hours ahead of the official beginning of the annual run. Instead of running alongside tens of thousands of fellow Marines, service members and competitors on a cool Virginia morning, he ran mostly alone, on a treadmill crammed into an out-of-the-way corner just off one of the New York’s passageways, cleverly named and affectionately known as “Broadway.”

Although this was Heemer’s first marathon on a ship or on a treadmill, it wasn’t his first Marine Corps Marathon. His first was in 2009, and the 25-year-old Penn State graduate has run the annual event every year since.

“I knew I might be embarked on ship this year, but I signed up anyway just in case,” he said. “I thought it would be silly to let the Marine Corps break my Marine Corps Marathon streak, so I decided I would run it aboard the ship.”

Support From Others Aboard the Ship

He said the hardest part was running without the camaraderie of other participants and without the spectators, who have always been there to cheer him on during the last five years. Still, he wasn’t without his share of support.

“I had some friends there with me. A lot of the other lieutenants took turns helping me out, running alongside me, and my logistics chief, Gunnery Sergeant Pangelinan, was there to push me through also,” he said.

Timing the Run to Accommodate Duty

Heemer started the marathon before midnight so he could finish on the actual day of the marathon and still perform his duties the following morning. Aside from being Marine Corps Marathon day, it also was the day of a large-scale amphibious assault, the culminating event of the 24th MEU’s pre-deployment training program.

As if that wasn’t enough for the Philadelphia native, his battalion also was in the final planning stages of a massive debarkation from the ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where CLB 24 was scheduled to spend a week conducting an additional training exercise in the field.

The 24th MEU has been in a near-constant training cycle since the end of May, so the schedule has not been conducive for marathon training.

“Not one second,” Heemer answered without hesitation when asked how often he trained for this year’s marathon. “But that didn’t matter. Last year, I met a guy who had patches from over 25 consecutive years of running the marathon, and I decided I wanted to do the same.”

A Special Reason for Dedication

There is one other reason for his dedication to the Marine Corps Marathon. Three years ago, Heemer decided to run the marathon as a part of Team Travis and Brendan, named after two Naval Academy roommates who were killed in separate events while supporting combat operations overseas. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Travis Manion was killed by sniper fire in Iraq’s Anbar province in 2007, and Navy Lt. Brendan Looney, a SEAL, was killed in 2010 when his helicopter crashed in Afghanistan.

The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, where every Marine officer spends six months learning how to lead infantry Marines in combat, has a barracks named after Manion.

“Manion Hall was being built while I was at TBS, and I remember reading the plaque in front of the building,” Heemer said. “I did some research and really liked what the foundation stood for, so I decided to join the effort.”

Considering the USS New York was built with 7 and a half tons of steel from the World Trade Center, perhaps it’s fitting that at least one Marine ran all 26.2 miles of the Marine Corps Marathon within the ship’s hull, representing a Marine and a sailor who died fighting the nation’s enemies. And even though it was on a treadmill crammed into a corner off “Broadway,” Heemer still managed to finish under the four-hour mark.

Heemer and the rest of the 24th MEU will take a couple weeks of well-deserved time off during November before their deployment at the end of the year. The 24th MEU is scheduled to support operations in the U.S. Africa and Central Command areas of responsibility.
 
Written Oct. 31, 2014 By:
Marine Corps 1st Lt. Joshua Larson
24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

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Marine Corps Cpl. Christopher Eves was formerly an officer in the Australian army. Eves served for six years before coming to the United States to join the Marine Corps and is now serving in his native land with Marine Rotational Force Darwin. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James Gulliver ROBERTSON BARRACKS, Australia – Marine Corps Cpl. Christopher Eves, born in Queensland, Australia, is back in his native land, serving as a section leader with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Marine Rotational Force Darwin.

PHOTO: Marine Corps Cpl. Christopher Eves was formerly an officer in the Australian army. Eves served for six years before coming to the United States to join the Marine Corps and is now serving in his native land with Marine Rotational Force Darwin. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James Gulliver 
 
Eves was raised just outside of Brisbane, Australia, though as the son of an Australian soldier, he said, he constantly was moving from place to place.

“I could never really call one place home,” he said. “We were always moving around, but the army lifestyle appealed to me.”

In 2004, Eves signed up to be an officer in the Australian army.

“A lot of my family had been in the army,” he said. “There was a lot of action going on at the time, so I wanted to get out and see the world.”

Eves worked with multiple U.S. military services, he said, but he first encountered U.S. Marines while participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“They just had a similar attitude to the Australian soldiers,” he said. “They always got more done with less support. That’s what I loved about them.”

The Marines trained harder than everyone, they worked harder and they were the most professional, Eves added.

After six years in the Australian army, Eves said, he decided it was time to make his dream of being a Marine a reality. He and his wife moved to Virginia, where he enlisted into the Marine Corps. His leadership experience made the trials of boot camp much easier than they might have been for others, he said.

“He’s just one of those guys who is a born a leader,” said Marine Corps Cpl. Cameron Flavel, a squad leader with Weapons Company. “I remember one time in boot camp they had him teaching a land navigation class, because he knew more than the instructors.”

Eves said he was used to the trials of a military lifestyle, making the adjustment that most new Marines have to go through much easier. “Everything just came natural to me,” he added. “I already had a lot of experience, so I loved sharing it and helping out the other Marines.”

During his initial deployment to Okinawa, Eves was able to teach his Marines everything from jungle warfare to patrolling.

“I was only a lance corporal at the time, teaching classes that a staff sergeant should be teaching, just because of my prior experience,” he said. “I was really given a lot of opportunities that most junior Marines did not have.”

Eves has a laid-back leadership style, but he still commands respect from Marines in his section.

“He’s not the kind of guy who will scream at you if you mess up,” said Flavel, a native of San Angelo, Texas. “But all his Marines respect him, and are too scared to let him down.”

After spending three years in the Marine Corps, Eves received news that his unit would be returning to Australia on a deployment. “I was pretty excited to be coming back home,” he said. “I miss a lot about this country, especially the sports.”

Eves said he plans to continue his career in the Marine Corps and is thankful for all the opportunities and challenges it has offered him.

“What I love most about the Marines is that no matter where you come from or what your accent is, you’ll always be accepted as a brother,” he said. “I share all my experiences with my Marines, and they embrace it. Being able to see and learn from other people is what makes this organization so great.”

Written June 13, 2014 By:
Marine Corps Cpl. James Gulliver
Marine Rotational Force Darwin

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Wednesday, 11 June 2014 09:47

Airman Teaches English to Afghans

Air Force Staff Sgt. Linette Nosim teaches English to Afghan students at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 21, 2014. Nosim volunteers at the Korean Vocational Training Center to help the students improve their language skills. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Seventeen years ago, a Kenyan girl and her family embarked on a 7,000-mile journey to America, where they hoped for a better life, a better future and the opportunity to succeed.

PHOTO: Air Force Staff Sgt. Linette Nosim teaches English to Afghan students at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 21, 2014. Nosim volunteers at the Korean Vocational Training Center to help the students improve their language skills. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez 
 
She did not speak English and had no idea what to expect from the country she later would call home. Despite the struggle to overcome the cultural and language barriers, the little girl persevered.

Now deployed here, Air Force Staff Sgt. Linette Nosim helps others learn the language that once challenged her.

"Everything was new to me. I grew up in a town with no running water," said Nosim, the 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron’s traffic management office receiving supervisor. "I cried myself to sleep sometimes, because it was a lot to take in, but even at a young age I knew I had to learn in order to succeed."

Nosim moved to America at the age of 9, and she quickly learned how to speak English by reading, participating in summer school and watching television to help her hide her accent so other children wouldn't make fun of her.

"The teachers were not patient with me," she said. "I didn't want to hold the class up, so I stopped asking questions. I wanted to learn as much as I could. I knew I had to overcome the challenge somehow."

Within a year, Nosim said, she adjusted and made progress at school. She moved through the education system, made new friends, and excelled in middle school and high school.

After graduation, she joined the Air Force, and she experienced different countries and their cultures during deployments. Always an active volunteer, she said, she never had the opportunity to teach English until now. The Korean Vocational Training Center here allows her a chance to dedicate her time to the Afghan community.

Afghan students learn the basics of the English language because of Nosim and other volunteers. She is one of about 40 volunteers who dedicate three hours once a week to help Afghan students become proficient in the language and to learn electrician, construction and welding trade skills.

"To be able to help someone with one of the biggest struggles I had to face is very rewarding," Nosim said. "Not only do I get to help them learn English, but we also get to build a relationship with members from the Afghan community."

Although Nosim works 12-hour days, six days a week, she manages to dedicate her time, knowledge and efforts at work and volunteering.

"Staff Sergeant Nosim seems very dedicated in everything she does," said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Felica Young, the 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Delta Flight superintendent. "She always has the attitude to bring others along. She is on board in teaching others at work, and you can also see that in her volunteering efforts.

"Our philosophy is not just to come here and do our job, but make this place better and Nosim has that desire to help," Young continued. "She is helping the Afghans do better for themselves and their families."

Noting that education can be the first step to improving quality of life, Nosim said her efforts and those of the other volunteers will benefit the Afghans and their families in the long run. The Afghan students are able to find jobs on base and interact with the people who are helping them live in a better country, she added.

"Here, we get to see a direct impact," Nosim said. "I am able to work one on one with them and experience the appreciation they have for us. The Afghan students have an open mind when we teach, and they want to learn all they can from us."

The volunteers review textbook lectures and converse with the Afghan students about culture. Toward the end of the lectures, Nosim said, she speaks to the students about their goals and about how she, too, struggled to learn English.

"Communication is important in all relationships," she said. "The first step for these young students is to be able to communicate with us and understand we are here to help them. It is important for us to help break that language barrier and partner with our Afghan community."

With the help of Nosim and the other volunteers, the Afghan students will have the opportunity to learn, build relationships and overcome challenges of learning English.

Young said Nosim’s resilience is impressive. "What more can you ask from her?” she asked. “She did not allow the roadblocks to stop her from helping someone else."

Written June 11, 2014 By:
Air Force Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez
455th Air Expeditionary Wing

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Air Force Tech. Sgt. Geoffrey Jensen places a cap on a fuel booster pump of a B-29 Superfortress he is restoring with other volunteers inside a Boeing hangar in Wichita, Kan., July 22, 2014. The volunteers are restoring one of the last two B-29s to flying condition. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John LinzmeierMCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – As a child, he spent countless hours drawing aircraft from his World War II book collection, daydreaming about what it would like to be fly in one of them.

PHOTO: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Geoffrey Jensen places a cap on a fuel booster pump of a B-29 Superfortress he is restoring with other volunteers inside a Boeing hangar in Wichita, Kan., July 22, 2014. The volunteers are restoring one of the last two B-29s to flying condition. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Linzmeier 
 
Now, as an adult with 19 years of Air Force service, his aircraft dreams are still alive and are even more vivid as he spends much of his free time restoring one of the last flyable B-29 Superfortress bombers.

Tech. Sgt. Geoffrey Jensen, 22nd Maintenance Group logistic resource management program noncommissioned officer in charge, became a volunteer for the “Friends of Doc” restoration project in March and has been hooked on helping ever since.

Doc, a B-29 named after a character from the fairy tale "Snow White," was built in Wichita, Kansas, during World War II. It has been parked inside a Boeing hangar next to McConnell Air Force Base, close enough for Jensen to do a little work during his lunch break, something he does frequently.

“It’s like bringing history to life,” Jensen said. “There are a lot of people who have never even heard of this airplane. It’s the same model that dropped the atomic bomb and ended World War II, and it’s so cool that I get to be a part of that.”

Working on an aircraft is nothing new to Jensen. He was a flightline crew chief for 18 years and has brought all of his experience with him to aid the restoration project. But he’s not the only one involved in the project who has military experience.

“We’ve got a large number of veterans helping out here, including a 95-year-old,” said TJ Norman, volunteer manager. “It’s so nice having these Air Force guys over here, because all I have to do is show them what project we are working on, and they know exactly what to do.”

The aircraft is being pieced together to resemble its original image with a few modifications for increased safety. Jensen said he has helped to implement modern avionics technologies while trying to maintain the aircraft’s originality.

Jensen’s enthusiasm for the restoration project has spread to other members of his family. His wife is helping to manage operational aspects of Project Doc, and even his father has joined him on a few occasions.

“When my dad helped me install the pilot seat, he said that it was one of the best days he’s ever had, because he was able to help restore it and we worked on it together,” Jensen said.

Doc’s restoration in Wichita began 14 years ago, and the airplane has been grounded for more than 50 years.

Thanks to sponsors and the support from Jensen and other volunteers, the project is on track, Norman said, with the first test flight planned for late October or early November.

While he has spent his entire Air Force career working on the maintenance side of flying operations, Jensen said, he is aiming to become a part of Doc’s aircrew after he retires in April. “We want to try to get him in as a flight engineer, which is the most important job on this airplane,” Norman said.

Out of the six crew members needed to fly a B-29, the flight engineer is the one who is responsible for controlling the throttles, monitoring engines and fuel and more.

The volunteers still have a lot of work to do for the B-29 to take flight again, Jensen said. Still, he added, he is honored to be a part of the effort of bringing history to life.

“I’m trying to do as much work as I can on it,” he said. “It’s a huge, prideful thing to do. This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Written July 25, 2014 By:
Air Force Airman 1st Class John Linzmeier
22nd Air Refueling Wing

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Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Burns II prepares Monterey chicken July 17, 2014, on Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Burns garnished his plate with sweet peas and mushroom sauce. He is a 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron fire inspector. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan CallaghanMOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – He can bust down a burning door and save lives from a flaming inferno, and if the kitchen survives, he might whip up some elegant blackened salmon, too.

PHOTO: Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Burns II prepares Monterey chicken July 17, 2014, on Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Burns garnished his plate with sweet peas and mushroom sauce. He is a 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron fire inspector. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Callaghan 
 
On duty, Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Burns II is a fire inspector with the 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron. On duty, he ensures fire code compliance across the base. Off duty, the 33-year-old staff sergeant does almost everything he can to fulfill his appetite for good cooking: teaching youth cooking classes, competing in cook-offs, cooking for friends, and even working as a chef at a local restaurant.

Burns has been cooking for "15 years strong, at five different bases and through six deployments," he said. "I cook on a regular basis, and I always try to challenge myself with whatever I'm cooking."

Burns' interest in cooking is fueled by a desire to improve, he said, sparked by a fellow airman's badgering.

"It was because one day I was told that I couldn't cook, and it went from there," he said. "I brought [leftovers] to work to eat. … I tried to warm lasagna up in a skillet. Everybody laughed and said, 'Burns, you don't know how to cook at all. This is horrible. You can't do this with a skillet.' From then on, we were always challenging each other to cook better."

Eric Mortensen, the 23rd CES assistant fire chief, said Burns simply enjoys taking on a new venture.

"He's very interested in expanding his horizons, and he's very adventurous," Mortensen said. "This is just one more thing. He's passionate about everything he does. Burns has jumped into cooking. He also did some gardening with no background in that, either. He grew some stuff, grew it very large, and entered it into a farmers market fair. Most people don't do that. He just picks a thing and goes."

Though he's taken his cooking seriously only for the past 15 years, Burns said, he has always been in the kitchen.

"One of my vivid memories when I was younger is my father and mother cooking regularly," he said. "We were a cooking family. We all got into the kitchen and cooked."

Burns' cooking has been largely self-taught, but he still looks to his family for guidance.

"I call my grandmother on a regular basis," he said. "Recently, I called her and asked how to make eggplant parmesan. … She broke it down and talked me through it. [Cooking] is a family affair."

Burns said he cooks at least four times a week for himself or for anyone who asks.

"My running motto is, 'If you buy, I'll cook,'" he said. "Twice a week I get the call: 'Hey I got this [food], can you make me something, because I really don't feel like cooking,' and I say, ‘No problem. I'll be over shortly.’"

His drive to improve his cooking abilities has led him to a second job as a culinary cook, where he is responsible for pasta dishes and bringing the main dish together.

"I figured I wanted to learn how to cook better," he said. "Why not go to a place that people really enjoy and learn their recipes and how to make their sauces? Then I can make it my own."

He somehow manages to balance two work schedules: his full-time calling to serve the Air Force and his part-time calling to serve up a tasty dish. "The great don't sleep,” he said.

Burns is a man with many goals. He's reached one recently by being selected for promotion to technical sergeant, and now he's moving forward with numerous food-related ambitions.

"I plan on going to culinary school after I go to [the Noncommissioned Officers Academy]," he said. "If I have to pay for it myself, I'll go. It's an opportunity to become better, and there are [always more] things I can learn."

He also wants to open a business called “Phillies Cheesecakes.”

"I want to sell cheesecakes," he explained. "I've already started making different recipes: fresh strawberries, fresh blueberries, lemon, regular New York style, … all kinds of different cheesecakes."

In addition to culinary school and a business, Burns said he has one more goal. He wants to best a famous chef.

"My ultimate goal is to get the opportunity to meet someone from the Food Network and challenge them,” he said. “Meet them, challenge them and maybe learn something from them."

Burns said the primary reason he enjoys cooking is because it brings people together.

"There have been plenty of times when different issues [occurred], and I was able to make those things better by sitting down and breaking bread with some people," he said. "You get to become personable with them, you get to talk and enjoy each other. That's why I enjoy doing it. It really brings people together."

Written July 24, 2014 By:
Air Force Airman 1st Class Ryan Callaghan
23rd Wing

Republished and redistributed by permission of DoD.
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Published in Face of Defense

Army Pfc. Paul Ieti poses with some of his “little fans” on Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., after his performance on the NBC program “America’s Got Talent.” He credits a strong family bond, faith and his friends with keeping him grounded as his singing career rises. Courtesy photo HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. – When 21-year-old Army Pfc. Paul Ieti was in Afghanistan, he and a friend made a video of him singing “Stay” by Rihanna. And like a million young dreamers before, they posted it on YouTube.

PHOTO: Army Pfc. Paul Ieti poses with some of his “little fans” on Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., after his performance on the NBC program “America’s Got Talent.” He credits a strong family bond, faith and his friends with keeping him grounded as his singing career rises. Courtesy photo 
 
The video went viral, and has since been viewed by more than a million people worldwide.

He never expected the video would have such an impact. He also never expected that the producers from “America’s Got Talent” would invite him to sing on the popular NBC television variety show. Ieti wowed the crowd and judges with a performance that has made him a very popular guy right now.

Ieti -- assigned to Company A, 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade -- is still in the competition, with a very real opportunity to win a million dollars.

The combination of fame and potential for fortune has a way of making normal people go a little crazy. The streets of celebrity are paved with young stars who couldn’t handle the pitfalls that money and success can bring. But what is apparent to most who meet Ieti is just how humble and grounded the young singer has remained.

The singing soldier remains true to his family, his faith, and his true friends, which he said helps to keep him grounded through this exciting period in his life.

Ieti said he’s never understood why people change after making it to celebrity status.

“I’m still going to be Paul Ieti, the normal-but-hyperactive guy I’ve been,” he said. “I know my talent is God-given, and I just want to share it with the world.”

Ieti also gives credit to his mother and father for giving him the right perspective about his newfound fame and that he wants to share his success with them.

“Both of my parents have told me that no matter how far I get or how famous I get, I need to remember where I’m from and to stay humble,” he said.

One member of Ieti’s inner circle of friends is Army Spc. Jason Timms, a Cypress, Florida, native with Company B, 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, said Ieti is taking his parents’ advice to stay grounded.

“I like to think that it’s a matter of humility and things that he’s learned throughout the years,” he said. “Basically, it comes down to his family, his faith and his friends.”

Ieti said that as much as he loves to sing, he loves it even more when his talent helps to comfort one of his friends and fellow soldiers.

Juliet Schwarz, another friend of Ieti who calls Dothan, Alabama, her home, recalled a time during a recent deployment to Afghanistan when she was having another “Groundhog Day.”

Soldiers use that term to describe the routine when every day seems just like the day before, referencing the film in which the lead character relives the same day numerous times. Schwarz said she was taking a break from her job when Ieti came and talked to her, and then asked her if he could sing for her. Reluctantly, she said, she agreed. She was surprised to find that listening to Ieti removed her from the war zone.

“I just didn’t feel like I was there any more,” she said through tears. “For that short time while he sang, I felt elevated to a different level. It made me happy.”

The reward of being able to share his gift with someone, Ieti said, is all the payment he needs. But if he wins the million dollars, he added, he plans to go a little crazy with the money. He wants to buy his mother and father a new car and a new home in Florida. After that, he said, he plans on saving what is left.

Ieti will sing on the program tonight in a “Judgment Week” episode.

Written July 23, 2014 By:
Army Sgt. William Begley
3rd Combat Aviation Brigade

Republished and redistributed by permission of DoD.

The Youtube Video of Army Pfc. Paul Leti:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNNggeedsbU 

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Published in Face of Defense
Thursday, 28 August 2014 06:32

Army Amputee Keeps Innate Optimism

Army Staff Sgt. Michael Smith prepares to cycle in the Warrior Games Trials at West Point, N.Y., in June 2014. Smith qualified for cycling, but opted to compete in swimming and track and field at the Warrior Games in Colorado next month. Courtesy photo Army Staff Sgt. Michael Smith competes in a Tough Mudder in May 2014. Tough Mudders are 10 to 12-mile obstacle courses designed to test strength, stamina and teamwork skills. Courtesy photo JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – A hit-and-run driver robbed Staff Sgt. Michael Smith of his arm and nearly his life, but failed to impact his single-minded determination.

PHOTO: Army Staff Sgt. Michael Smith prepares to cycle in the Warrior Games Trials at West Point, N.Y., in June 2014. Smith qualified for cycling, but opted to compete in swimming and track and field at the Warrior Games in Colorado next month. Courtesy photo 
 
“My commitment was to staying in the Army for 20 [years],” Smith said. “There was no way I was going to be shortchanged due to someone else’s negligence.”

After two years of intense rehabilitation and training at Brooke Army Medical Center, Smith’s persistence paid off. An above-the-elbow amputee, Smith met every standard and was approved earlier this month to return to duty as a career soldier.

“I’m very excited about what the future holds,” the 15-year veteran said. “With or without my injury, I want my daughter to know what true commitment looks like.”

Commitment never wavered

In the years since his accident, Smith’s commitment has never wavered.

A recruiter in Nashville, Tennessee, at the time, Smith was riding his motorcycle when a texting driver slammed into him from behind. He flew over the guardrail and was then hit midair by a driver coming from the opposite direction.

“I was knocked unconscious on impact, and when I woke up I was lying on the highway,” Smith recalled. “My boots and helmet had come off, and my arm was hanging on by the skin inside my jacket sleeve.”

Smith tried to move off the road but was unable. The texting driver had driven off but the second driver, a Navy corpsman, rushed over and tended to his wounds until the ambulance arrived. In the coming months, Smith underwent six surgeries due to infection, which eventually claimed most of his right arm.

Miraculous turnaround and rehabilitation

Not long afterward, Smith had another brush with death when he suffered kidney failure. His father drove up from Amarillo, Texas, he said, and sat by his bedside praying for hours.

“The next couple of days, I made a miraculous turnaround,” Smith recalled.

Facing a long rehabilitation and based on a recommendation from his cousin, who works at Brooke Army Medical Center here, Smith requested to be assigned to BAMC’s Warrior Transition Battalion.

A week-and-a-half later, he arrived at the Center for the Intrepid, BAMC’s outpatient rehabilitation center. Smith’s goal was to return to active duty, but he knew he was facing an uphill battle.

“I spoke to the CFI staff and they pushed me to do everything,” he said. “I knew I had to prove I could do just as much if not more than anyone else.”

Focusing on sports

With this goal in mind, the former high school athlete dove into every sport possible. He mastered shooting firearms. He ran Spartan races, Tough Mudders, and half-marathons. Tough Mudders are 10- to 12-mile obstacle courses designed to test strength, stamina and teamwork skills.

Smith also went rock climbing, skiing and snowboarding. He swam, cycled and took part in track and field. He joined soccer, basketball and kickball leagues.

Earlier this month, Smith nervously appeared before the Physical Evaluation Board. Yet he felt confident they’d approve his request to remain in the Army. He was thrilled when they declared him fit for active duty.

“I’ve been committed to the Army my entire adult life,” he said. “I feel very blessed that I have the opportunity to continue to serve.”

Return to duty, promotion

Smith, who is slated to be promoted to sergeant first class this week, hopes to resume his prior career in field artillery.

“I just want to be a regular soldier, go to combat if needed,” he said. “I honestly feel like there’s nothing I can’t do now, thanks to the support from my family, friends and the staff at the CFI who were with me every step of the way.”

As he awaits orders, Smith is filling his time with his other passion: sports. He’s slated to represent the Army in track and field and swimming at the Warrior Games next month, and continues to cycle daily in hopes of making the 2016 Paralympic team.

Motivating others

Smith said he believes to this day that he lost his arm for a reason.

“I would like to inspire and motivate others struggling with mental or physical challenges,” he said. “No one should let their injury determine who they are or who they want to be.”

Written Aug. 28, 2014 By:
Elaine Sanchez
Brooke Army Medical Center
Republished and redistributed by permission of DoD.
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