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FYI: Blended Retirement System

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https://youtu.be/m5McpSKp9gI

The new Blended Retirement System is on its way, and with that comes some changes. In this episode of FYI, Tech. Sgt. Holly Roberts-Davis gives us some general comparisons to help us make an informed decision.

Around the Air Force: Nov. 8

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On this look around the Air Force enlisted pilots take their first solo flight and a World War II bomber pilot is awarded the Silver Star.

Tech Report: Biofuels

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https://youtu.be/aY-XpzYdS5E

In this episode of Tech Report, we learn the important role biofuels play in reducing dependence on crude oil.

Around the Air Force: Nov. 1

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On this look around the Air Force a reduction in ancillary training is announced, cyberattacks are the leading strategic threat and a preview of the latest episode of BLUE features Air Force tankers.

AF takes initial steps to reduce training unrelated to primary missions

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The Air Force plans to reduce training not related to Airmen’s primary jobs in order to address concerns that excessive and non-mission related demands are impacting Airmen’s ability to focus on and accomplish their core duties, officials announced Oct. 31.

As part of ongoing efforts to take care of Airmen and revitalize squadrons, Air Force leadership recently directed the “Airmen’s Time” task force to review 42 ancillary training courses (i.e., training outside of an Airman’s core job). Functional training requirements were not part of this review.

According to the official memorandum, of those 42 courses, the Air Force will eliminate 15 stand-alone training courses and streamline 16 courses reducing associated training time.

In a recent survey, Airmen identified 10 courses as the most burdensome. The service will eliminate or significantly reduce nine of them as part of this initiative.

Air Force leaders emphasized that while this is another positive step following the recent announcement eliminating some additional duties, more work remains.

“We’ve taken some modest steps to ensure we use our Airmen’s time in the smartest way, but this is a journey,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “We’ll continue to be deliberate about what we cut or streamline, but more is required as we continue to focus our efforts on the business of warfighting, respecting our Airmen’s time, and still meeting the necessary requirements to take care of our mission and our force.”

The courses reviewed include total force awareness training, which is required of all Airmen on an annual basis; selected force training, which is targeted to specific groups, including commanders, civilians and supervisors; event-driven training, which is triggered by some event, such as moving to a new assignment or duty station; and basic Airman readiness training, which is expeditionary-focused training required of all Airmen every three years.

While each of these training modules provide important information, the review found that many of the requirements duplicated information already provided in other trainings. These reductions will, in many cases, eliminate redundant requirements across the service.

“This initiative represents the next step in giving time back to our Airmen,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. “All these training requirements were created to provide valuable information to our Airmen. The intent was right, but as the lists of requirements increased, our Airmen spent more time away from their core duties.”

Reducing ancillary training, according to Air Force leadership, is not intended to reduce emphasis on the need to have well-trained and educated Airmen. Instead, the effort is specifically designed to give the Air Force greater flexibility in how it meets and implements these requirements.

“Our Airmen are certainly busy, and that dynamic will likely not decrease in the foreseeable future. We understand that dynamic, and we’re willing to accept some risk where we can to better balance our Airmen’s time,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody. “Computer-based training impacts our Airmen’s time, so we’re looking at what we can eliminate, consolidate or substantially relax to cut the demand.”

The Air Force believes the initiative will benefit the total force by not only allowing active-duty Airmen more time to focus on their core mission but also giving Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Airmen more time to focus on honing their core skill sets during drill, unit training assembly and annual tour periods. The initiative builds upon a similar effort from the Guard in 2015.

“Our Airmen have repeatedly stepped up to increased deployment tempos and manpower shortages,” Goldfein said. “Reducing the number of hours our Airmen spend on non-critical training requirements goes directly to the heart of secretary James’s priority of taking care of Airmen and our efforts to revitalize the squadron and is another small step in the right direction. Squadrons are the engines of innovation and esprit de corps and the warfighting core of our Air Force, and today, we are giving back time so our Airmen can better focus on their core mission.”

Changes will be implemented between January and April 2017; however, Airmen are no longer required to complete the courses set for elimination. To ensure the revisions are implemented in a timely manner, all applicable Air Force instructions will be updated to reflect these changes no later than Jan. 1, 2017, and the Advanced Distributed Learning Service will be updated no later than April 1, 2017.

Headquarters Air Force will also establish a screening process to review new policies in order to identify areas that create additional duties or training requirements for Airmen in units. The goal is to prevent unchecked growth of these functions in the future

SECAF reiterates focus on modernization, efficiency

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Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Melissa Estevez

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James discusses modernization and how mobility Airmen enable the fight during the 48th Annual Airlift Tanker Association Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 28, 2015. The symposium served as a key professional development forum for Mobility Air Forces Airmen by enabling direct access to senior mobility leaders and fostering an environment encouraging open dialogue and honest discussions.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James took the stage Oct. 28, at the Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium to address the Air Force’s priority to maintain mission readiness and promote modernization in the coming years.

With increasing global threats, James reiterated her emphasis on the Air Force maintaining its global readiness. Air Mobility Command, assigned with enabling rapid aerial transportation missions, has been in the forefront of mobility efforts to support the current fight in Mosul, Iraq.

AMC professionals and capabilities enabled delivery of critical supplies, equipment, and ensured repairs of an airfield called Q-West, near Mosul. Additionally, they also supplied ground forces in northern Iraq via a robust airdrop capability. 

“Da’esh tried to make sure that we could never go back to Q-West, detonating explosives and digging trenches in the runway to make it unusable for our aircraft,” said James. “The logistics team had to move 1.9 million pounds of supplies and equipment to repair the field. What Da’esh spent two years destroying, our Airmen were able to rebuild in three weeks.”

Supporting combat and humanitarian missions abroad remains a primary focus, not only for AMC, but for the Air Force as a whole. These efforts can only be continued through modernizing our fleet to make sure we maintain air dominance.

“We need to invest in our modernization programs without sacrificing our readiness to operate effectively today.” said James. “We have to continue to repeat it to our Congress. This is not an either/or proposition. We need both readiness today, and we need to modernize for our future.”

With the introduction of the KC-46A Pegasus aerial tanker due to be delivered to McConnell and Altus Air Force Bases in 2017, modernization efforts have already begun for the Air Force.

“The KC-46 is one of what we call the ‘Big 3’ modernization programs,” said the secretary. “This is just a piece of the whole modernization picture. We are doing this across the entire enterprise. We have the future fighter, the F-35, and the future bomber, the B-21, which round out our ‘Big 3.’”

Ensuring modernization, while maintaining readiness, has been an essential priority for James as she continues to work toward a more effective Air Force.

“Across the Total Force, with our allies and partners around the world, and with our industry partners, when we all come together, this mobility community creates unique capabilities that transform the fight.” said James. “These bonds we have built have been the foundation of success the Air Force, and the Joint Force, have relied on for generations. It is essential today, and will be even more critical in the years to come.”

Yesterday’s Air Force: Tankers

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The KC-46A Pegasus is the newest member of the aerial refueling team. This episode of Yesterday’s Air Force takes a look back at where it all started — from wing walkers to the most recent KC-135 Stratotanker.

Women can prolong their lives by taking these steps

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womens-health
Everyone — children and adults and men and women — should take charge of their own health to ensure they’re able to live a long and healthy life.

One of the most important things women can do to maintain good health is schedule an annual Well Woman visit with their healthcare provider. 

Well Woman exams help assess individual risks for women and can provide services for immunizations, contraceptives, screening for disease and counselling for sexually transmitted infections.

“This is probably the most important thing women can do for their health,” said Maj. Joshua Duncan, the chief resident for General Preventive Medicine Residency with the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. “An annual Well Woman visit is an opportunity to detect and prevent disease.”

He said it’s also used as one of the ways to screen for domestic violence. “Unfortunately, abusive relationships often go unrecognized. This is also an opportunity for us to help people who may be in domestically violent relationships.”

When it comes to immunizations, Duncan said the vaccine for the Human Papillomavirus is a huge success for women. It’s a form of primary prevention, which means the vaccine prevents the disease from ever happening in the first place.

HPV is “the virus that causes genital warts and cervical cancer,” Duncan said. “We don’t get many cures for cancer, and this is a way to prevent one type of cancer, which I think is pretty awesome.”

To achieve the best results, the vaccine usually starts at a young age, and women entering their child-bearing years should start getting Papanicolaou tests, or Pap smears. This test checks for changes caused by HPV, and it’s something women in their 20s should get every three years.

“A lot of women are reluctant to come in because of Pap smears. It’s probably not the most comfortable experience for many patients” Duncan said, “but for women age 30 and over we’re now spacing it to every five years as long as they’re getting the blood test (that looks for HPV), too.”

Another thing women in this age group should consider is folic acid supplementation. Folic acid can help prevent birth defects in case of pregnancy, and Duncan said most women’s multivitamins include it.

Women going into their 50s or older should expect to start getting mammography, which is a screening tool that checks for breast cancer, and should be aware of their bone health.

“Women over 65 are at an increased risk for osteoporosis,” Duncan said. Osteoporosis is a disease where bones lose the strength they once had and can result in broken bones and increased injury after falls, but there are medications women can take to help strengthen their bones. He also said women younger than 65 may be at increased risk for osteoporosis, and their risk factors will be reviewed during an annual Well Woman visit.

The three most important things women can do to stay healthy is commit to an annual Well Woman checkup every year, take charge of their own healthcare, and speak up.

“What patients do at home is far more important than anything we can do in an office visit,” Duncan said. “We are there to provide education and provide some services, but healthcare is a partnership and our patients are the ones responsible for doing all the heavy lifting.”

He added some of the things women can do on their own is maintain a healthy diet and constant exercise, practice safe sex, and even learn more about themselves through their family’s history.

“Women who have a family history of cervical cancer or ovarian cancer may be at increased risk for developing breast cancer. There’s a genetic mutation that puts them at increased risk. So if this is something that runs in your family, it’s important to let your provider know during your annual visit.”

Duncan said women who are more prepared for their healthcare visits will see positive impacts in their health.

“By staying on top of these preventive services, you can prevent diseases,” he said. “You can catch them early enough that we can intervene and provide treatments that prolong your quality of life and let you do the things you want to do for a longer period of time.”

Two resources Duncan recommended include WomensHealth.gov and AHRQ.gov, which has a section to help patients come up with questions they should be asking with every visit to the doctor.

Absentee voter tips for military members

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DOD photograph

Members of the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team pass on the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s message for U.S. military and overseas citizens to submit their absentee ballots in time for the upcoming general election.

With less than two months until the general election on Nov. 8, absentee voters are beginning to receive their state ballots.
During Absentee Voting Week — Sept. 26 through Oct. 3 — the Federal Voting Assistance Program reminds military and overseas citizens to submit their ballot as soon as possible and to follow up to ensure that that their ballot is received by their election office. Here are FVAP’s top reminders for ensuring Americans vote successfully — wherever they are:

Know that your absentee ballot counts the same as ballots cast at the poll site
All ballots submitted according to state laws are counted in every election. The media often will report the projected outcome of an election before all of the ballots are counted. In a close election, the media may report the preliminary results or say that the outcome cannot be announced until after the absentee ballots are counted. However, all ballots, including absentee ballots, are counted in the official totals for every election — and every vote (absentee or in-person) counts the same.

Check your state deadlines, instructions, and options
Each state sets its own deadlines for registering to vote and its options for how absentee ballots are sent to voters. States can also differ in their requirements and deadlines regarding how to complete and submit absentee ballots. Some states require ballots to be postmarked by Election Day while others must receive ballots by Election Day. FVAP.gov has your state’s deadlines and requirements.

Postmark and send your ballot on time
Every election, states receive some absentee ballots past the deadline for acceptance — but this is easily preventable. Follow your state’s specific deadlines and recommended mailing dates for returning your voted ballot. If you’re a registered military or overseas voter and don’t receive your requested state ballot early enough to submit it on time, you can go to the FVAP website and use the backup ballot called the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot. Voters who end up receiving a state ballot after submitting a FWAB should still complete and return it, as well. States only count your backup ballot if your voted state ballot is not received by the deadline.

Fill out your ballot and election materials correctly
Many states have specific requirements for signing the envelope or an affidavit enclosed with your ballot. Be sure to follow the instructions sent with your ballot to ensure it gets counted.
Check that your voted ballot reaches its destination.
If you’re wondering if your vote made it home, check the status of your ballot by selecting your state at the FVAP website and contacting your election office directly.
Military and overseas voters who need to register or request a ballot can do so by filling out a Federal Post Card Application  at the FVAP website — by hand or using the online assistant — and sending it to their election office.
For additional information on this election or any upcoming federal election visit the FVAP website, email Vote@FVAP.gov or call 1-800-438-VOTE (8683).

Federal Voting Assistance Program
The Federal Voting Assistance Program is a Defense Department organization that works to ensure service members, their eligible family members, and overseas citizens are aware of their right to vote and have the tools and resources to successfully do so — from anywhere in the world.
FVAP assists voters through partnerships with the military services, Department of State, Department of Justice, and election officials from the 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. State and local governments administer U.S. elections, including those for federal offices. FVAP supports state and local election officials by providing absentee voting information, materials, training and guidance.
Voters can contact FVAP’s call center at 1-800- 438-VOTE (8683), DSN 425-1584 or at vote@fvap.gov. Toll-free phone numbers from 67 countries are listed at the FVAP website. Find FVAP on Facebook at facebook.com/DoDFVAP and follow @FVAP on Twitter.

State of the Air Force: Active-duty force on the rise, space will be more prominent

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Air Force photograph by Scott M. Ash

Nearly three years into her tenure as the Air Force’s top leader, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James reaffirmed that people continue to be her top priority during her State of the Air Force address at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference Sept. 19, in National Harbor, Md.

James also addressed key issues such as reversing downsizing efforts, modernization of aircraft and space domain efforts, and how a long-term continuing resolution would be detrimental to the Air Force.

Reflecting on her time as the Air Force’s leader, James said, “There have been no issues more important to me over the last 2 ½ years than people issues.”

Taking office in December 2013, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were dwindling, and personnel reductions continued, which “on paper,” James said made sense.

However, James said that as she traveled the world interacting with Airmen, it seemed that reductions were not the answer. Personnel shortages were putting a strain on Airmen. Global security issues began emerging, and Airmen were needed. Russia illegally invaded and annexed Crimea, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant continued to terrorize Syria and Iraq, more airpower was needed in the Pacific, and a presence was needed to protect the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

With the support of the president, Capitol Hill and defense leaders, by the end of the year the Air Force’s active-duty end strength is expected to reach 317,000.

Aside from increasing the active-duty strength, James said she is committed to preventing sexual assault, which continues to be a top priority. She also said areas of victim care and investigative assets will continue to be “ramped up.”

Modernization of aircraft, space
James said replacing and modernizing a fleet with an average aircraft age of 27 years old, is an absolute necessity to remain dominant in the airpower arena.

“Balancing this fleet with the current demand, reduced capacity of aircraft and personnel, and technological advances among our adversaries — you add all that up and it makes maintaining Air Force full-spectrum readiness very challenging,” James said.

However, perhaps even more important is to improve operability and advancements in space. During the past few years, billions of dollars have been invested into the space enterprise.

“Space is now contested and congested,” James said. “It’s extremely important to everything that we do in the military, including precision guidance; navigation; missile warning; weather; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and communications.”

During a strategic space review earlier this year, James said areas of focus included protecting satellite communication and missile warning missions, as well as, battle management, and command and control capabilities.

“Most importantly, we are changing the culture in our space enterprise,” James said. “We need to get our heads around for the future — what happens if a conflict on Earth extends to space? How will we defend our assets?”

James said this will affect how Airmen train, and will include building a space mission force ready for conflict that extends into the space domain. It will also mean the Air Force will operate differently, and the standing up of the Joint Interagency Space Operations Center at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., is proof of that.

Long-term continuing resolution would be detrimental
James said a short-term CR is all but certain and being able to manage in that state for three months or less is tolerable, however, anything longer would be harmful.

“A long-term CR would be very damaging for the Air Force,” James said. “For example it would reduce our funding overall for the Air Force by $1.3 billion.”

It would also limit training and readiness for all Airmen and have an impact on Guard and Reserve drill weekends as well as flying hours, according to James.

The ability to keep up with the air strikes on ISIL would also be at risk, as a long-term CR would reduce the ability to resupply stocks of precision munitions.

Some other areas a long-term CR would affect include capping the production of the KC-46A Pegasus, prevent progression of the B-21 Raider development, and delays to the construction of about 50 major construction projects, some of which would affect the F-35A Lightning II support facilities.