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Russian missiles ‘complicate’ Syria airstrikes

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Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

U.S. and coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State group will continue despite Russia’s decision to send advanced S-400 surface-to-air missiles to Syria, said the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

“Yes, it does complicate things a little bit, and we’ll put some thought to it, but we still have a job to do here, and we’re going to continue to do that job – to defeat Daesh [the Islamic State group],” Lt. Gen. Charles Brown Jr. told Air Force Times on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian SU-24 that allegedly violated Turkish airspace. One of the SU-24’s pilots and a Russian marine who was part of the search-and-rescue mission were reportedly killed. Russian and Syrian special operations forces reportedly rescued the second Russian SU-24 pilot on Wednesday.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Wednesday that Russia would send S-400 missiles to its air base in Latakia, Syria, according to RT – official Russian media.

“Khmeimim airbase in Latakia, Syria, accommodates Russian Air Force squadrons of Su-27SM and Su-30 fighter jets, Su-34 and Su-24 tactical bombers, which are all taking part in airstrikes on Islamic State positions,” RT reported on Wednesday.  “The airbase is protected by state-of-the-art air defense systems and radars. Khmeimim also has a fully operational unit for maintaining fixed- and rotor-wing aircraft and providing logistical assistance to pilots.”

Brown said that the U.S.-led coalition and Russia have a memorandum of understanding that spells out how aircraft from both sides should interact.

“We have pretty good connectivity with the Russians,” Brown said. “With our MOU, there are things that are in there that talk about … how we’re not going to show hostile acts or hostile intent from the coalition toward the Russians or from the Russians toward the coalition.”

While the U.S.-led coalition and Russia are both operating in Syrian airspace, they are not coordinating or cooperating, Brown said.

“Our mission is to defeat Daesh,” Brown said. “The Russians have said they’re going to go after Daesh, but that’s not what we’re actually seeing as far as their strikes. The majority of their strikes are not against Daesh. Their [airstrikes] are more anti-regime-type. Our communication with the Russians is more for safety of flight.”

Syrian rebels reportedly downed a Russian Mi-8 helicopter that was taking part in search-and-rescue efforts for the two downed SU-24 pilots. Video posted on YouTube purportedly shows the rebels using a U.S.-made TOW missile to destroy the helicopter on the ground.

The U.S. has deployed about 300 Airmen in Diyarbakir Air Base, Turkey, to rescue any U.S. or coalition pilots who have to eject over Iraq or Syria. Those airmen include the Guardian Angel Weapons System, which includes pararescue Airmen, combat rescue officers and survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists, who are experts at retrieving pilots or other isolated troops.

“Any time we’re doing combat search and rescue in a combat zone, there is risk involved,” Brown said. “We don’t take that lightly. We are very well trained … and our coordination between our personnel-recovery assets and some of our strike assets that would be in support — we work through those in some level of detail. I can’t speak to the quality of the training of the Russians when they do search and rescue.”

California Air National Guard Wingmen share thankful thoughts at annual Thanksgiving Meal

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U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Julie Avey

As the smell of turkey and pumpkin pie fills the air, and fall tablescapes are created, we often reflect on what we have in our lives for which we give thanks. During this year’s annual Thanksgiving feast at the 163rd Attack Wing, March Air Reserve Base, California, several Airmen took part in sharing a meal and telling what they are most grateful for as the holiday approaches.

“This month is Thanksgiving, and what I am really thankful for is God being in my life, for providing me with a beautiful family, a roof on top of my head, and the Lord providing me the essentials in life,” said Tech. Sgt. Jay Fontelera, vehicle operator and dispatcher, 163rd Logistics Readiness Squadron.  “I am also thankful for being in this wing and for its contributions.”

Every year during the November Unit Training Assembly, the 163rd Force Support Squadron (FSS) hosts a Thanksgiving luncheon for wing members to celebrate the holiday together. The 163rd Sustainment Services Flight (SSF) has been serving Thanksgiving meals during the November drill since 2003. 

“It has become a family tradition here at the 163td wing because we are all family,” said Capt. Jennifer Covington, 163 ATKW SSF officer-in-charge. “We serve as brothers- and sisters-in-arms (and) this allows us time to share special, life moments together. We do not always see each other throughout the year, unless we are deployed together or on orders serving in the state, due to being traditional Guardsmen.”

The SSF personnel are required to train and be prepared to cook in civil support emergencies as well as overseas deployments. The FSS members not only serve a Thanksgiving “morale” meal to the Airmen, but they also are then able to train feeding multiple troops at one time.

Months before this year’s morale meal was served, the 163 FSS Airmen had to do some repairs to the building.

“This past July we found ourselves in our own mini-flood due to heavy rain in the area, and we were able to clean up the damages,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jonathan Gaygay, 163 FSS. “The building required clean-up, more than we anticipated. This year we were thankful the meal could be catered to continue the tradition.”

“I am thankful for every day I wake up. I think we should take advantage of life whenever we have the opportunity,” said Senior Airman Blas Garcia, 163rd Security Forces Squadron (SFS). “I would like to say Happy Thanksgiving to all my brothers-in-arms and everyone overseas.”

“It’s Thanksgiving this month so I would like to give thanks to my wife and my two beautiful little girls for supporting me in the military,” said Senior Airman Joseph Trujillo, 163rd Services Squadron. “I’m also very thankful for joining the honor guard, and for being awarded (their) Airman-of-the-Year.”

“I am thankful for being able to be with my family, most importantly my older brother, younger brother, sister, parents and other immediate family,” said Airman First Class Kyle Staple, 163rd Communications Squadron (CS). “It is a rare time these days for families to all be together so I am thankful, and hopefully they will bring me lots of turkey.”

“I am thankful for my family, my job and my health,” said Senior Airman Joshua Johns, 163 SFS. “Thankful for everyone deployed protecting us right now.”

“I’m very thankful for being able to spend Thanksgiving with my family who is normally traveling all over the states,” said Staff Sgt. Zakia Webster, 163 FSS. “I am grateful for being able to be in the honor guard to work in the community and serve those who are less fortunate. I am very grateful to be a part of that.”

“This is my first year without my parents at Thanksgiving as they have decided to retire and move, but I am thankful I will be spending the holidays with my little girls and husband at my sister’s house, said Tech. Sgt. Melissa Crow, 163 CS. “ I would like to shout out to my parents (for whom) I am thankful.”

USAF Military Training Instructor opportunities

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U.S. Air Force photo/Linda Welz

Military Training Instructors (MTIs) from the 433rd Training Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, visited March Air Reserve Base November 22, to share potential MTI opportunities with March Reservists.

Master Sgt. Jose Rodriquez, training supervisor, 433 TRS, and Tech. Sgt. Kenneth McGuane, MTI, 433 TRS, handed out informational pamphlets and discussed job qualifications, career benefits and how to join the 433 TRS team.

“We are looking for more Reserve MTI’s, specifically traditional,” said Rodriquez. “We do have Active Guard Reserve (AGR) positions and Air Reserve Technician (ART) positions available.”

They shared that the MTI profession is challenging but has many great rewards, such as enhancing leadership and supervisory skills while molding future Airmen.

For those who are not sure if an MTI position is right for them, there is a shadow program available that allows them to participate in the Basic Military Training (BMT) process. Airmen who sign up for the program, shadow MTI’s for a certain amount of days during BMT, and decide whether or not they like the program or if it is something they’d like to pursue.

“I think the shadow program is really valuable,” said McGuane. “Most people in the Air Force have never seen BMT from this side of things, so your perception about the career field is based on what you experienced as a trainee, which was probably really unpleasant.”

The shadow program can really be an eye-opening experience into a new career field.

“MTI’s are pushing a professional environment,” said Rodriquez. “It’s definitely worth your time to develop yourselves as NCO’s and showcase your talents when you return to your career field.”

For more information contact the 433 TRS MTI Recruiting Team at 433trs.recruiting@us.af.mil.

Obama signs annual defense authorization bill

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After an extra month wait, the annual defense authorization bill is finally law.

President Obama signed the budget and policy bill on Wednesday, marking the 54th consecutive year the measure has survived Washington political fights to become law.

The most significant result for troops is the renewal of dozens of specialty pay and bonus authorities, and a massive overhaul of the military retirement system.

Starting in 2018, newly enlisted troops will no longer have the traditional 20-year, all-or-nothing retirement plan. Under the changes, it will be replaced with a blended pension and investment system, featuring automatic contributions to troops’ Thrift Savings Plans and an opportunity for government matches to personal contributions.

The new system is expected to give roughly four in five service members some sort of retirement benefit when they leave the military, as opposed to the current system which benefits only one in five.

The $607 billion authorization bill also includes comprehensive defense acquisition reform and language designed to stop Obama from closing the detention facilities at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

White House officials had objected to that language and hinted at a possible veto. But similar language in the measure each of the last six years didn’t stop the president from signing past authorization measures into law.

Obama did veto an earlier draft of this fiscal 2016 authorization bill, but over broader fiscal fights that were resolved last month when lawmakers approved a new two-year spending plan that goes around mandatory budget caps for both defense and nondefense programs.

The legislation is only half the annual budget process for Congress. Lawmakers still need to pass a defense appropriations bill for fiscal 2016 to start new programs and acquisition plans. Congressional leaders are hopeful that can be done before Dec. 11, when a short-term budget extension expires.

But finalizing the annual defense authorization bill is a significant step forward in that larger process, and gives Pentagon planners a host of other policy updates as well:

  • Allowing personal firearms on stateside bases — Lawmakers are requiring Defense Secretary Ash Carter to develop a plan by the end of this year that would allow stateside base commanders to decide whether to allow their service members to carry personal firearms on duty, or in areas where that is currently restricted by the military. Any such plan would not supersede local laws.
  • A pay freeze for general and flag officers — Troops will see a 1.3 percent pay increase in January, lower than the rate of expected private-sector wage growth but more than their senior officers will get. General and flag officer pay will stay at fiscal 2015 levels.
  • Another ban on a new BRAC round — Like in past years, the measure includes a prohibition on defense officials starting another base closing round. But lawmakers did include language allowing military officials to conduct studies on how much excess capacity exists in their stateside footprint, which could ease the path to such a move in the future.
  • A ban on “paid patriotism” with sports leagues — The bill includes language that would prohibit the department from entering into contracts “making payments for honoring members of the Armed Forces at sporting events,” in response to congressional reports that several professional sports teams were given tens of thousands of dollars to conduct on-field military appreciation events.
  • Easier rules for military animal adoption — The measure changes the rules on adopting military dogs and other animals to make it easier for former handlers and families of injured handlers to adopt them following their military service.
  • Developing “gender-neutral” standards for military jobs — In response to a push to open more military specialties to female troops, lawmakers want Pentagon leaders to craft “gender-neutral occupational standards” that would allow “decisions on assignments (to) be based on objective analysis.”

RPA officer incentive-pay to increase to $35K

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Congress has ordered the Air Force to increase aviation incentive pay for officers flying Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) from $25,000 to $35,000.

The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which Congress passed Nov. 10 after President Barack Obama vetoed the first version, also includes an amendment ordering the Air Force to send it a report on RPA manning and on plans to fix any under-manning problems.

Obama signed the revised 2016 NDAA on Wednesday.

These moves come as the RPA community is under strain to fly surveillance and combat missions all over the world.

“In an effort to support the NDAA, the 163 ATKW (163rd Attack Wing, California Air National Guard, March Air Reserve Base) is surging its Formal Training Unit by 30 percent to meet the demand for Remotely Piloted Aircraft crews,” Col. Dana Hessheimer, 163 ATKW commander wrote in an email. “Manning continues to be an issue, and hopefully the bonuses will help us retain our highly experienced Airmen.”

The Air Force is also considering

the possibility of allowing enlisted Airmen to fly RPAs and is expected to announce its decision early next year.

The Air Force has 60 days after the NDAA’s enactment to submit the RPA manning report, including:

An account of how many RPA Airmen the Air Force has now and how many it needs, in addition to projections on future staffing and requirements.

A comparison of RPA units’ personnel policies, manpower-authorization levels and projected personnel inventory with that of manned combat aircraft systems and units.

A description, with a timeline, of what it would take to get RPA career field authorizations and manning levels to at least the normal manning and readiness levels of all other combat-aircraft career fields.

A list of what the Air Force is doing to increase RPA unit manning levels — such as offering recruitment and retention bonuses, incentive pay, allowing enlisted Airmen to fly RPAs and increasing the weighting of RPA personnel on promotion boards — plus an assessment of those strategies’ effectiveness.

An assessment of the Air Force’s capability to train new RPA personnel to meet demands.

An analysis of the requirements that determine how RPA pilots and sensor operators are selected, such as what prerequisite training or experience is necessary.

MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper pilots became eligible for retention bonuses worth up to $135,000 beginning this fiscal year, the Air Force said in July. And to help beef up the ranks of the RPA pilots, the Air Force in August started steering 80 undergraduate pilot-training graduates directly into RPA squadrons, instead of manned aircraft.

The Air Force also reduced the number of daily RPA combat air patrols from 65 to 60 as part of an effort to lessen the strain on pilots.

(Linda Welz, 452 AMW/PA contributed to this story)

The Biggest Luzer

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December is Global Health Month. Why not make it the month to do your part to get healthier? If you are planning on gaining a few pounds during the holidays and want a way to get rid of them, you’re in luck! The March Fitness Center is hosting the Biggest Luzer competition, starting Jan. 4, 2016, for all Defense Department ID card holders, including military retirees, dependents 18 years and older (and out of high school), and eligible contractors.

The objective of the three-month-long, Biggest Luzer competition is to encourage authorized fitness center patrons to gain healthy wellness habits, and lose weight as they participate in the competition.

Participants may be individuals or part of a team (up to four members per team). Registrations forms are available at the Fitness Center and must be completed and returned in person. Participants can join anytime during the first three weeks (Jan. 4 through Jan 22).

The initial weigh-in is scheduled for Jan. 4, and subsequent weigh-ins will be every Wednesday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. at the Fitness Center. The competition ends with a final weigh-in on Mar. 31. A Fitness Center staff member will be required to complete your weigh-in. Weight loss is calculated on the percentage of weight lost (initial weight-new weight/initial weight). Measurements are optional at the initial weigh-in.

Progress will be tracked and maintained by Fitness Center staff, and all information is completely confidential. Participants are responsible for logging workouts, which is a requirement of the competition. Workouts can be done at the Fitness Center (individual, group exercise class or WELLBEATS reservation), or at an outside facility.  Particpants may also choose to receive weekly emails with motivational information, fitness guides and resources, Fitness Center events and classes, and general nutritional recommendations and referrals from an exercise physiologist.

Incentive prizes will be given to each participant who completes six WELLBEATS classes by the end of week three; 12 WELLBEATS classes by the end of week six; or 15 WELLBEATS classes by the end of week nine.

At the end of the competition, the top two individual members and teams will receive Biggest Luzer T-shirts, bragging rights and a new and improved version of themselves! There is also an optional raffle to win more prizes upon completion of the program.

Team March loses long-time family member

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Benjamin T. Parrott

March 3, 1944 – November 24, 2015

Team March’s Satellite Services Inc. has lost a family member. Ben Parrott, seen here pulling chocks from NASA’s Supper Guppy aircraft, was born on March 3, 1944, in Murphysboro, Illinois. He succumbed to cancer at Riverside Community Hospital on November 24, at the age of 71. Employed at March Field with Transient Alert since his 1983 U.S. Air Force retirement, Parrott’s work as an aircraft technician has been instrumental in the outstanding record that Transient Alert has held since becoming civilian contractors. The majority of Parrott’s Air Force career was spent here, except for short tours at Norton and Edwards Air Force Bases, and a tour in Thailand. Survived by his wife Bonnie, son Brian, grandson Corey, and granddaughters Regi and Kaity, he will be greatly missed by all of his many friends and family.

News Briefs 11/25/2015

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OPERATION WARM HEART 11/27 – 12/3

The 452nd Security Forces Squadron and the Air Force Security Forces Association will have their annual Christmas Toy Drive (Operation Warm Heart) at March Air Reserve Base from Nov. 27 through Dec. 15, after which all donations will be delivered to the March Field Fire and Emergency Services building. A band of volunteers will place the toys into food baskets to be given out to Team March members who are in need of a little help during the Christmas holidays.

Collection boxes will be located at the Main (Cactus) Gate and at the Law Enforcement Desk (building next to wing headquarters). The SFS and AFSFA teams agree that March members are like one big family, and families take care of their own. Thank you and have a very happy holiday season. 452nd SFS & AFSFA

COMBINED FEDERAL CAMPAIGN

The Combined Federal Campaign is currently underway and officially ends Dec. 15. To donate, visit cfcofgreatersocal.org. The online CFC site provides you the ability to look up both SoCal local charities as well as universal charities. Additionally, it allows you to place your pledge online through automatic pay deductions making the entire campaign paperless. If you have any questions regarding CFC, please go through your unit/group level CFC reps. Let’s all work together to show the community how much the 452 AMW cares!                                

EDUCATION & TRAINING OFFICE TO PROVIDE MASS BRIEFINGS

Beginning in December, during the Unit Training Assemblies, the March Education and Training office will conduct ongoing, mass briefings for any Tuition Assistance, GI Bill and Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) inquiries. Their schedule is as follows:

CCAF  briefing:

UTA Sundays from 10 to 10:30 a.m. in Bldg. 441, Rm. 12

Tuition Assistance briefing:

UTA Sundays from 1 to 1:45 p.m. in Bldg. 441, Rm. 12

GI Bill briefing:

UTA Sundays from 2 to 22:45 p.m. in Bldg. 441, Rm. 12

In-processing (technical school):

Monday – Friday from 2 – 3 p.m. in Bldg. 441, main office

For more information, contact Master Sgt. Brown at 951-655-4442.

BENEFEDS OPEN SEASON BEGAN NOVEMBER 9

The 2015 Federal Benefits Open Season (for the 2016 plan year) runs from Monday, Nov. 9, through Monday, Dec. 14. If you are enrolled in the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) plan, it will automatically continue into the 2016 plan year, even if you retire. You must take action if you wish to make changes or cancel. Visit BENEFEDS.com to check the 2016 premium amounts, research plan coverage and/or make changes. For general questions, visit the Education & Support section at BENEFEDS.com.

SARC HOSTS FREE MIND BODY RESILIENCY CLASSES

Are you interested in learning more about the Mind and Body connection and how this can promote better overall health? Then come join the interactive and informational series of one-hour classes based on the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine’s Resilient Warrior. Classes are scheduled on the A and B Unit Training Assemblies through September 2016. Topics for the six-part series include

– Stress Reactions and Relaxation Response

– Getting Good Sleep

– Mindfulness and a Positive State of Mind

– Yin and Yang of Resiliency

– Yoga & Journaling

– Social Connections & Communication

Time and Location:

UTA Sundays, 11 a.m. – noon

Bldg. 470, room 205   

Contact frank.pavone@us.af.mil or 655-4551 for more information. No reservation required.

REGISTER FOR YELLOW RIBBON EVENTS

Upcoming dates for Yellow Ribbon events are Nov. 20-22; Dec. 18-20; Jan. 29-31; Feb 19-21; and Mar 18-20. The December Yellow Ribbon is now open for registration for eligible members. For more formation, contact 1st Lt. Shelley Lawrence, your 452nd Air Mobility Wing Yellow Ribbon representative, for details at 951-655-4615.

MANDATORY FLU VACCINATIONS

The 452 AMW Flu Vaccination Campaign has begun, and will continue through the December’s UTAs. The Flu vaccination is mandatory for all Airmen unless exempted by medical staff. Airmen not current with their Flu vaccination after the December UTAs will potentially be placed in a no-point, no-pay status.

Starting in December, all Flu vaccinations will be given at the base clinic.

All Airmen, Unit Health Monitors and leaders are asked to get their annual Flu vaccination at the earliest convenience, and to encourage others to do the same. Help make this year’s Flu Campaign a success. There is no vaccine available for civilians at this time. For questions or concerns, email Maj. David Haupt at david.haupt.7@us.af.mil. (NOTE: Run through December 2015 UTAs.)

MARCH EQUAL OPPORTUNITY SEEKS COUNSELORS

The March EO office is looking for ARTs/civilians interested in training to serve as Collateral Equal Opportunity counselors. This is an additional duty appointment. The Collateral EO counselors serve as a bridge between civilian employees and management for informal complaints concerning discrimination. Applicants should be at ease with oral and written communication to all pay grades, and have the ability to remain neutral while performing his or her duties. The additional duty will not exceed 20 percent of the counselor’s primary job duties. Applicants range from GS-05 to GS-12 or equivalent. Primary supervisor concurrence required. Training is required, date/time to be determined. If interested, contact Ms Paula Greenhaw, paula.greenhaw@us.af.mil, Maj. Nixomar Santiago, nixomar.santiago@us.af.mil.

MARCH TICKETS & TOURS

Amusement Park Specials

Castle Park: $16 per person includes unlimited rides, water park access, miniature golf and the new Sky Rider.

Disney 3-Day Park Hopper military special: $130 per person (adult/child)

SeaWorld “Waves of Honor” special: Extended through November 11, 2015. Program provides a one-time, limited, free admission to SeaWorld San Diego per veteran service member and up to three guests. Visit WavesofHonor.com to register for and obtain your free admissions. Additional tickets are available for purchase from the Tickets & Tours office.

Discount Movie Tickets

Available for only $10 each and valid for Regal Cinemas, United Artists Theatres and Edwards Cinemas.

Hotel Discounts

Receive 10% off any Best Western and 15% off any Choice Hotel

Visit the Tickets & Tours page at MarchFSS.com and download the Discount Ticket Price List for a full list of discounts tickets prices, hotel discounts and special promotions. Call Tickets & Tours at 951-655-4123 for more information.

LEARN TO FLY WITH THE AERO CLUB

The March Aero Club offers flight training (flying, private license, ground school, instrument training) at very reasonable rates including a pay-as-you-go plan with zero down. Visit Hangar 355 on base or call 951-655-3875 for more information.

OUTDOOR REC EQUIPMENT RENTALS

Outdoor Recreation has a variety of equipment for rent such as camping gear, water sports equipment, bicycles, and trailers to carry it all! Special orders for Callaway, Odyssey, Cleveland, Never Compromise, Nike, Bag Boy, Sun Mountain and Staff golf equipment are also available.  Download the full equipment rental price list at MarchFSS.com, call 951-655-2816 or come on by for more information.

FITNESS CENTER NEWS

The March Fitness Center has received the Wellbeats Virtual Group Fitness Kiosk. This kiosk allows members to participate in virtual fitness classes.

Daily Wellbeats Fitness Schedule is:

Mondays: 11 a.m. — REV (spin); 12 p.m. — Pilates

Tuesdays: 11 a.m. — Fit for Duty; 11:30 a.m. –  Kinetics

Wednesdays: 11 a.m. — V.I.B.E./Strength Training; 12 p.m. — Core

Thursdays: 11 a.m. — REV (spin); 12 p.m. — Fit for Duty

Fridays: 10 a.m. — V.I.B.E./Zumba; 11:15 a.m. — Pilates

UTA Saturdays: (A UTA) 5 p.m. — Virtual Strength “Fit for Duty;” (B UTA) 5-7 p.m. — Pick-up Basketball

Additional opportunities for fitness:

Dec. 8: 2 x 2 Holiday Volleyball Tournament begins. Tourney runs Dec. 8-9 and 15-16 beginning at 11 a.m. (No Battle Ropes classes on these days)

Dec. 10: Holiday 5K Run/Walk, 11 a.m., across from base ops/control tower

Dec. 17: Intramural Volleyball meeting, 11:30 in the gym. Volleyball season begins in February.

Dec. 18: Holiday Zumbathon from 10 a.m. – noon

Jan. 4: Biggest Luzer Wellness competition begins.

Jan 14: Happy New Year 5K Run/Walk, 11 a.m., across from base ops/control tower

Mon/Wed/Fri at 11:30 a.m. – Battle ropes training (canceled on Dec. 8, 9, 15, 16)

UTA weekends at 7 a.m.: Wellbeats Fit for Duty

Coming in 2016: GORUCK event; Armed Forces 5K Run; annual golf tournament

Call the Fitness & Sports center at 951-655-2292 to sign up or for more information on these programs.

GRILL NIGHT AT SALLY’S ALLEY

Every Wednesday night starting at 4 p.m., Sally’s Alley is open for business with Grill Night. For more information, call them at 951-653-2121.

March becomes closed Point of Distribution for medications during statewide exercise

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U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Perry Covington

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. – Team March participated in a massive exercise Thursday, Nov. 19, by setting up a closed Point of Distribution (POD) for the first time on base. Working with the Riverside County Public Health Department, the March team simulated the distribution of “prophies” (profophylaxis, which is a measure designed to preserve the health of an individual or society and to prevent the spread of disease) in order to combat the effects of Anthrax.

“For nearly two years, we’ve been planning a statewide exercise that we would be testing our response abilities for a bio-terrorism attack,” said Jose Arballo, Jr., senior public information specialist, Riverside County Public Health. The scenario is a massive distribution of Anthrax from some airplanes over the Southern California coast, spreading inland into Riverside County.”

The drill began Monday, Nov. 16, with a simulated Bio-watch Actionable Result (BAR), said Kim Saruwatai, M.P.H., director, Riverside County Emergency Management Department. The BAR is used to detect proteins on air filters that are set up throughout Southern California, which are then sent to their lab for further testing. The goal is to isolate and confirm any agents that are detected.

“That’s enough for us to pull together our conference call to ask if we have intel (intelligence) enough to support that there is Anthrax, or another agent,” Saurwatai said.

The intelligence she refers to would come by way of law enforcement reports of a possible attack or sick people showing up at hospitals, which could support a reason as to why certain agents were detected. “This initial report tells us that there is something, but it doesn’t tell us if it is endemic to the area, or basically that it was an intentional release,” Saurwatai said.

After the conference call, the local incident response group, which includes multiple agencies, is activated. This is where March Field gets involved.

When Marvin Tucker, who has been director of the 452nd Emergency Management since 1997, began, he reached out to establish a relationship with Riverside County EMD. “We are part of the county since we don’t have a medical treatment facility. So we couldn’t do a lot of things without the relationship we have with all the hospitals and the Department of Health – they’re the belly button for all of that,” Tucker said. “We have to rely on them. We learned to play well together a long time ago.”

Thanks to that relationship, Tucker was able to arrange for Team March to participate by setting up a closed POD on base for the first time.

“We established, years ago, that our mission falls under that umbrella of first responders,” Tucker said. “So, whether we’re talking the AMOC or the 163rd or the 452nd, (or) our fire dept, law enforcement, (or) tower operators – they’re all considered first emergency responders, so we do a closed POD at the base as well.”

In a lot of these scenarios, if it’s an act of terrorism, the Force Protection Condition (FPCON) level increases. If that occurs, Tucker said commanders would have to decide if we are willing to open the gate back up to allow additional members onto the installation. “In the case of a state of emergency, we are the airport, for FEMA coming in, for the Red Cross, all these other agencies,” he said. “In such a case, our mission essential people may not be the pilots, but the aerial porters – to unload the aircraft. Our mission could shift accordingly, causing a possible shift in who the first responders might be.”

Since this is the first time that March has set up a closed POD on base, the county provided a draft plan to do a closed POD. Tucker worked with that plan and implemented it during this exercise.

The scenario this time is Anthrax because the county has grant money and they are required to exercise an Anthrax scenario within a specified timeline, every five years, Tucker said. “We’ve taken their plan and stripped that part out because this POD (at March) could be for N1H1 or whatever the flavor of the week is.”

Tucker recruited 100 volunteers to process through the stations set up at the POD. “We are trying to figure out how we can do this, what personnel we need, what security we need, etc.,” he said. “We’ve taken this huge exercise down, and we are trying to do a baby step.”

Tucker said his top three goals are to set up a closed POD, to be able to administer the mass prophies safely, which he picks up from the county’s distribution center, and to identify any shortfalls that they might have.

The distribution center for all of SoCal (excluding L.A. County) is warehoused at an undisclosed location for security reasons. Medications are sent to each of the county health departments, who in turn, distribute those medications to their individual POD locations for distribution to citizens. Some of the PODs will be open to the public and others, closed PODs, will be for large companies, hospitals, etc.

“There are approximately 2.3 million people in Riverside County – 22 million in SoCal, (and) this is the largest simulated distribution of medications in the history of the state – nationally it is the second or third largest ever,” Arballo said. “The idea is to get something to every individual (in Southern California) within 48 hours after activation.”

In this exercise, Riverside County’s top three goals were to test the air monitoring and how quickly they can mobilize teams and characterize the extent of the release; to test their ability to receive and distribute medications; and to test their communication and coordination with all of these different partner agencies that they’re working with, Saruwatari said.

Given the recent terror attacks throughout the world, Arballo said they really had to be exceptionally careful to let people know that this exercise has been in the works for a long time.

“It has nothing to do with any particular terrorism threat. There is no indication of any threat level that is significant right now,” he said. “That’s really critical, that whenever we are communicating with people, we really try to push that message.”

This is a very likely scenario, Tucker said. “We’ve stripped out the Anthrax part and no matter what the threat is, we are going to use the same plan.”

10 “Black Friday” shopping safety tips

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Getting ready to hit the stores on Black Friday? The day after Thanksgiving gives consumers a chance to get a head start on their holiday shopping with dramatic discounts that create some of the best prices of the year. Whether going to the store on Thanksgiving or on Black Friday, make sure to not become a crime victim. Before leaving home, remember that Black Friday is all about being smart with money, not just with how it’s spent, but how it’s protected. Check this list of essential tips for a safe and successful shopping trip.

10 Holiday Shopping Tips

1. Planning a shopping trip can save shoppers time and money.

2. Cell phone reception can be spotty in some stores, large malls, and retail outlets, so set a specific time and place to meet up after scouring stores for bargains.

3. Shopping with a single credit card is safer because it’s easier to cancel one card than several, if a wallet or purse gets lost or stolen.

4. When shopping online, use secure connections and only shop at websites you trust.

5. Confirm all purchases, online and in-store, and save all receipts. Receipts are needed to make exchanges, refunds, and to dispute an incorrect charge.

6. Know your rights when it comes to refunds, cancellations, returns, layaways, bait and switch, and rainchecks.

7. Report lost or stolen credit, debit, and ATM cards immediately. Acting fast limits liability for unauthorized charges.

8. Know California gift card rules – http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/legal_guides/s-11.shtml

9. Nothing gets a thief going like a car full of shopping bags that are clearly visible. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.

10. Make sure to bring a bottle of water and a few light snacks. Spending hours wading through shoppers and stores can leave people exhausted and dehydrated.