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155th-CES-CBRN.aspx2/7/2018Nebraska Airmen train for today's warfight
CBRNE Training
AirStaff Sgt. Jason Wilson

​More than 20 members of Nebraska Air National Guard’s 155th Air Refueling Wing completed their chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, refresher training course Feb. 4, 2018, at the Nebraska National Guard air base in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Air Force recently mandated all Airmen be trained on CBRNE every 18 months instead of every three years. The training begins with online training followed by hands-on training.
Getting all Airmen up to speed will be challenging but useful in this era of defense.

“We have until March 31, to get 900 plus members trained," said Staff Sgt. Ryne S. Packett, an emergency management journeyman with the 155th Civil Engineering Squadron. “The reason why the training went from three years to 18 months is due to recent events in the world. With the confirmed chemical attacks and the increase in deployment cycles, we want to make sure that our Airmen know what they are doing and how to use the gear.”

To adhere to the new guidance, multiple training events will be offered to get as many people current as possible.

“The process isn’t set in stone, but the goal is to get as many Airmen as we can through the class so we can knock the numbers down,” Packett said. “We are holding two classes today and will potentially have classes during the upcoming weeks for full-time guard members. We also have a class of 100 plus members scheduled for April and a bigger one in June.”

The two-hour course builds upon the online CBRNE computer-based training and provides Airmen hands-on practice so they can walk away with knowledge of the chemical detection process and their personal protective equipment.

“Students will learn how to read liquid detection points with the M-9 paper to detect any chemicals in the air and how to use the auto injector atropines," Packett said. “However, the main focus is on Airmen learning how to correctly put on and seal their mask and suit so that they can survive a chemical attack.”

shooting-for-perfection.aspx2/4/2018Shooting for perfection
AirAirman 1st Class Jamie Titus

Nineteen members of the Nebraska Air National Guard’s 155th Maintenance Group took part in annual weapons qualification training Feb. 3, 2018 at the Nebraska Army National Guard’s Greenlief Training Center, near Hastings, Nebraska.

Airmen with the 155th Air Refueling Wing in Lincoln, Nebraska, must qualify on the M4 carbine every year in order to stay proficient and be prepared for any situation they might encounter at home or abroad.


“Being part of the maintenance squadron, we travel with aircraft, since wherever the aircraft needs to go, is where the people go,” said Master Sgt. Lyle Stara, first sergeant for the 155th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “All the mechanics, all the hydraulics, all the (electrical and environmental) people have to be able to support the mission wherever the airplane and wherever the aircrew is and that can take us into any area, any hostile area. It could take us any place in the world where the airplane needs to go.”

The training began with a class on the basics of a the rifle. In that class they learned about safety features of the M4, what ammunition is compatible with it, how to take the rifle apart and put it back together, and how to clean it. They also learned about marksmanship fundamentals, and how to clear the weapon before and after using it.

Following classroom training, the Airmen moved to the range to apply what they had learned earlier. Eight members of the 155th Security Forces Squadron monitored the training, giving instruction on what they needed to adjust or fix in order to qualify with their weapon.

The value of the training was not lost on those being trained.

“I think it puts us at a position where there’s one less thing for us to worry about because we can be confident that if the case were to come to a point where we needed to defend (the aircraft)… we have the ability to do so and just protect that mission as a whole,” said Senior Airman Timothy Aulner, an aircraft electrical and environmental systems technician with the 155th MXG. “That can apply to anywhere in the U.S. or overseas as well.”

Training like this annually allows these Airmen to build muscle memory that they can fall back on if necessary.

“You can only do so much training,” said Potter. “But when a situation arises, you’re going to go back to your instincts and having this training basically built into you, constantly doing it year after year, it makes you a lot more confident that you’re going to be able to do your job effectively.”

Once trained, these Airmen can help security forces maintain a safety and security.

“The main importance of why we have to train everyone else is if we don’t have enough manning, we call on other squadrons to come on as augmentees and if they’re posted with a security forces member they will be armed up in that case,” said Staff Sgt. Brent Potter, a Combat Arms Training Maintenance (CATM) firearms instructor with the 155th SFS. “If the situation arises, they have to be qualified to use the M4. Say someone tries to take over an aircraft and the security forces member or someone of security can’t get there fast enough, there’s a trained and qualified individual that is with that asset to protect it and make sure it doesn’t get taken or damaged.”

Airmen must remain ready to deploy by consistently training in every area required in not only their own career field but in the skills every Airmen should have as a warrior Airmen.

“I think it’s pretty important that we are all trained, we’re ready, we’re willing to do whatever it takes to support the mission,” said Stara. “To support whatever we need to, to make sure that we’re ready and willing and able not knowing what could possibly be thrown in our direction.”​

Nebraska-National-Guard-air-base-personnel-brave-holiday-snow-.aspx1/16/2018Nebraska National Guard; Nebraska; Lincoln; Lincoln air base; Nebraska National Guard air base; security; cold; layers; mask; police; Nebraska National Guard air base personnel brave holiday snow, cold
JointSpc. Lisa Crawford

As the calendar turned from 2017 to 2018, most full-time Soldiers, Airmen and Nebraska Military Department civilian employees were off work enjoying the holidays in the warmth and comfort of their homes. But with temperatures in the state falling below even those in Antarctica, warmth wasn’t the case for everyone.

“It hurts,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Raymond Sturgeon, a security specialist with the 155th Security Forces Squadron. “It hurts when you breathe. It shouldn’t hurt when you breathe.”
Several full-time Soldiers, Airmen and civilian employees alike were left working around the clock to keep the Nebraska National Guard air base in Lincoln running over the holidays as cold temperatures plummeted to near record lows.
Sturgeon, considered one of just a few essential personnel, said the cold began to take a toll after he worked in the brutal temperatures for three days straight conducting vehicle inspections, checking IDs and securing buildings without much help over the New Year holiday.
“My sinuses were so inflamed from breathing the cold air that I was getting a migraine,” he said. 

“It was just painfully cold.” Army Sgt. Dylan Hergenrader, a full-time UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter mechanic, agreed, finding the cold temperatures to be miserable, especially for his first winter home following a year-long deployment last summer to Afghanistan.
“I prefer the cold to the heat, but at least when it’s hot out I can feel my fingers when I’m turning a wrench,” Hergenrader said.
Fortunately, most of Hergenrader’s job can be completed inside the heated hangar of the Nebraska National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility No. 1 on the air base in Lincoln.
“We can’t leave the aircraft outside very long in the cold like this because the (equipment) will contract and start leaking,” Hergenrader said.

“We usually do maintenance outside when it’s warmer, so now every time we even need to do something little we have to bring the birds in from the cold to work on them.” Army Spc. Tate Hanzlicek, a full-time petroleum supply specialist at AASF No. 1, isn’t as lucky.
“Refueling has to be done outside, and it takes at least 15 minutes to do that,” Hanzlicek said.
With temperatures near negative 20 degrees before the wind chills, Hanzlicek said he’s been spending even more time exposed readying fuel trucks and ensuring they start properly.
“The other day I had a problem with them starting because it was so cold, which always just makes the thing worse,” he said.
The AASF No. 1 crew is responsible for all rotary assets at the air base in Lincoln, including snow and ice removal from the flight line attached to the Army hangar. When the cold temperatures of winter hit, the crews take immediate action to tailor both preventative and reactive maintenance plans to the weather’s effects on equipment. And even as the weather warms, they will continue to monitor for possible issues.
“Any extreme one way or another is not good for them,” Hergenrader said.
“I compare it to being just like your body,” Hanzlicek said. “If you’re outside for long periods of time, you’re more prone to getting sick.”
While the Soldiers manage the Army hangar, the majority of the air base is maintained by the 155th Civil Engineer Squadron. The 155th CES is responsible for providing winter salt and shovels to individual buildings, and snow removal from sidewalks, main roads and the 155th Air Refueling Wing’s entire flight line, which supports multiple KC-135R Stratotanker refueling planes.
“It’s a collective effort,” said Janelle Priest, the base facilities maintenance manager. “I’m very fortunate for the people we have in the CES. They go out of their way to help out every craft. Even if they aren’t in roads and grounds, they will assist us with snow removal. Everybody helps everybody out.”
Priest said the first snow of the season, which came right before the Christmas holiday, was a great example of how the team comes together when there is a need.
“There’s just a lot sense of pride and ownership in what we do for the entire base,” Priest said about the team of Airmen and civilian employees who came in right before the holiday to clear the snow. “You might sacrifice a little now, but that’s okay when you take pride in your job.”
Keeping warm is the main concern Priest has for her staff, and everyone else working outdoors on the base in the extreme cold. She said she briefs her staff regularly on wearing proper cold-weather attire and personal protective equipment at all times, as well as limiting exposure by ensuring snow crews take needed breaks and rotate shifts.
“This type of cold isn’t very enjoyable,” Priest said. “So, unless you absolutely have to be outside, don’t.”
Sturgeon said the security personnel manning the front gate try to keep a good exposure cycle, but that isn’t always possible.
“The main thing that can help us is for people visiting the base to make sure they are ready with their ID when they pull up to the gate,” Sturgeon said. “Not being ready just means more time we’re all exposed to the elements, so having the appropriate paperwork ready to go helps lessen everybody’s exposure.”
Sturgeon also encourages everyone coming onto base to be dressed in weather-appropriate attire at all times, as the security forces mission never stops.
“We’re here 24/7, 365 days a year, and we still have all out anti-terrorism efforts to meet,” Sturgeon said. “Dress for the weather, not your destination, so you don’t find yourself randomly selected for a vehicle inspection while you’re wearing shorts and flip flops in subzero temperatures.”
“Still,” Sturgeon added, “fingers crossed this is the coldest weather we’ll see this winter.”

Nebraska-prepares-for-improved-Best-Warrior-contest.aspx12/22/2017National Guard; Nebraska National Guard; Nebraska Army National Guard; Citizen Soldier; Nebraska; Best Warrior Competition; Greenlief Training Site; HastingsNebraska prepares for improved Best Warrior contest
ArmySpc. Lisa Crawford

The Nebraska Army National Guard’s Best Warrior Competition is an annual opportunity for Nebraska Soldiers to showcase their individual skills and talents while competing to qualify for regional and national contests, which, in turn, can possibly elevate a Soldier’s career.

Ever evolving, Nebraska’s Best Warrior Competition is never quite the same from year to year. A state planning committee annually adjusts the competition to ultimately find the state’s one Soldier and noncommissioned officer who can best shoot, move and communicate.

So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that next year’s Best Warrior Competition will be different than the 2017 version, which was overhauled from 2016. Probably the biggest change for the upcoming competition is the date, which moved from early March to April 12-15, to position the state-level competition closer to the regional competition in May.

According to the state’s senior Army National Guard noncommissioned officer, the changes are all designed to improve the overall competition and the ability of selected Soldiers to compete with their peers.

“I think we have a pretty good product built, especially the support package piece,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Marty Baker, state command sergeant major.

For example, the competition used to include more than 80 different support personnel manning each event, but the restructure has cut that number in half and increased continuity within the planning committee.

“We’re having a small task force support the entire time, to take a little stress off the battalions especially right before the start of (annual training) planning season,” said Master Sgt. Chris Roemig, this year’s noncomissioned officer-in-charge.

Planning for the 2018 event kicked off in October. Early on, the decision was made to retain most of the structure from the previous year, while adjusting for minor things based on previous after-action response comments. Roemig said he believes the planning is going well, and he’s looking forward to this year’s competition.

“Like any military operation, what you don’t see is the important part,” Roemig said. “There’s a lot of planning and effort that goes into it ahead of time, so when it goes off well, that shows good credit to the support staff. The competitors shouldn’t have a poor competition because we forgot to plan.”

Some of the events from last year which are being retained include hosting a full awards banquet utilizing Nebraska’s Army culinary specialists and adjusting the schedule for Soldiers to decompress with a social event Saturday evening before returning home Sunday morning.

Baker said he also hopes to keep scores secret throughout the competition to keep participants motivated instead of discouraged based upon scoring results following each category.

The competition, said one past winner, is definitely a chance for Nebraska Soldiers to begin making names for themselves.

“The competition allows you to show your unit and your state what you are capable of,” said Hunter Smith, a senior gunner with Troop B, 1-134th Cavalry Squadron, and last year’s Soldier of the Year winner. “And most importantly it shows you what you can do for yourself.”

Smith competed in the state competition last March with less than a week’s notice to prepare. He said he wasn’t sure what to expect, but he gave each event his very best, which ultimately allowed him to win the Soldier category.

Smith went on to represent Nebraska in the Region V competition in May at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana. Battling both a knee injury and severe cold, Smith powered through each obstacle and challenge, ultimately finishing runner-up.

“My favorite opportunity from the regional competition was the ability to actually talk to the state (command sergeant major) in a comfortable environment, as a person and not as your boss,” Smith said. “The amount of knowledge you can get from a senior NCO like that…you don’t usually get when you’re lower enlisted.”

Smith said that’s the first thing the Best Warrior Competition offers competitors: the opportunity to learn from and work with peers, sponsors and senior leaders, including Baker.

Since winning the state’s competition, Smith has had a lot of new experiences, most recently graduating from Fort Benning’s Air Assault School on Dec. 7. While Smith said he had hoped to attend Air Assault at some point in his career, he credits his Best Warrior title for helping to expedite the process.

“The competition is a good way for any Soldier who thinks they might be overlooked to show what they are made of,” he said. “It brings good attention to the Soldier, and to the unit for raising and training the Soldier efficiently. You can’t just claim to be a competitor or to hold a winning title, you have to earn it.”

Baker said he’s watched many Soldiers benefit from the Best Warrior Competition, including alums like Sgt. Calvin Koziol who won the state, regional and national competition in 2016, and Staff Sgt. Luke Katz who won the state competition in 2013 who then went on to graduate from the U.S. Army’s Ranger School and then compete twice in the annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition.

“It just opens a lot of doors,” Baker said. “When you have your order of merit lists, you take and you reward your Soldiers. Smith went to Air Assault school. By winning the national competition, Koziol was priority for Air Assault and invited to D.C. for a recognition event. And Katz’s name is now known nationally among the Best Ranger community.”

Baker said the competition also helps with retention by making competitors “Soldiers for Life.”

 “Every competitor that has won the Soldier or NCO of the Year that I know of are still in,” Baker said. “I’ve said it before that, competition breeds excellence. When you compete because you want to, you are not just going to go through the motions. You’re going to strive to be the absolute best.”

Roemig said unit-level competitions are in progress now, selecting competitors for the upcoming state contest at the Greenlief Training Site near Hastings, Nebraska. Soldiers wanting to compete should share their interest with their chain of command.

“This year’s competition will be both physically demanding and intellectually challenging,” Roemig said. “The goal of the competition is to find a well-rounded Soldier who can do it all.”

Roemig, who has been involved with the competition for nearly a decade, said he’s watched first-hand the impact it has on Soldiers and their careers.

 “All the competitors I’ve seen at the end of it have been motivated, grateful and pleased with the opportunity to compete,” Roemig said. “Even the ones who didn’t win come out of it with a positive experience. There is always plenty of camaraderie that’s built between the competitors, even across the NCOs and the enlisted.”

Roemig said some of those interactions last for years, and the time and interaction winners have with the state senior enlisted leaders is invaluable for networking and potential future opportunities.

“I think it is potentially a large boost to your career,” he said. “Maybe not always directly, but it does give you confidence in what you’re doing, plus now you’ve interacted with senior NCOs and got some of their mentorship and guidance as well.”

Smith said he believes all Soldiers should consider trying to compete in the Best Warrior Competition for the experience, knowledge and camaraderie that stems from the event.

 “This is the best opportunity the state has for Soldiers to put their name out there,” Smith said. “It’s a gut check for individual Soldiers to see who they really are, and it’s a really cool experience most never get to do in their career.”

Baker said the state’s contest also allows Soldiers to showcase their skills and network on an international level, by competing alongside Czech Republic service members invited to Nebraska as part of the Nebraska National Guard’s State Partnership Program with the country.

“It’s a great opportunity for our Czech partners to interact with their American counterparts in a friendly, yet competitive environment,” Baker said.

Checked Out To: McNeese-Polivka, Treyton C AFC MIL NG NEARNGLife-saving-efforts-net-Nebraska-Air-Guard-sergeant-Airman.aspx
Checked Out To: McNeese-Polivka, Treyton C AFC MIL NG NEARNG12/20/2017National Guard; Nebraska National Guard; Nebraska Air National Guard; Citizen Airmen; Nebraska; Airman's Medal; Waterloo; State CapitolLife-saving efforts net Nebraska Air Guard sergeant Airman's medal
AirAirman 1st Class Jamie Titus

Tech. Sgt. Philip J. Francis, a power production specialist with the Nebraska Air National Guard’s 155th Civil Engineering Squadron, was awarded the Airman’s Medal for risking his life to rescue an injured motorist from a burning car during an award ceremony conducted Dec. 20 in the Nebraska State Capitol Rotunda. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, Nebraska adjutant general, officiated the ceremony which took place as part of the annual National Guard birthday celebration.

The Airman’s Medal of Heroism is granted to service members in the U.S. Air Force who distinguish themselves by heroic actions, mostly at the voluntary risk of live, but not involving actual combat.

Francis’ award goes back to a serious accident that occurred May 1, 2013, outside of Waterloo, Nebraska. Traveling to Omaha with his wife, Anna, Francis said the weather was unseasonably cold when it suddenly began to hail.

After pausing underneath an overpass to allow the storm to pass, Francis said that they were just getting underway again when they came upon a car crash near a curve. He added that he quickly realized the head-on collision was bad and had obviously just occurred.

Quickly pulling over, Francis sprinted to the first victim and, using skills he had learned through numerous training exercises in the Nebraska Air National Guard, began performing self aid buddy care to treat a woman who was ejected from the vehicle. He then helped rescue another woman who was trapped in her vehicle before ultimately saving a man who was trapped inside another vehicle that had caught on fire.

Francis then continued to assist by loading victims onto stretchers and into ambulances, and assisted the medical team in splinting one of the victim’s broken leg.

According to Ricketts and Bohac, Francis exemplifies what it means to be a Nebraska National Guard Airman.

“(Tech. Sgt. Francis’ actions) just shows why Nebraska is the best place in the world to live,” said Ricketts, prior to pinning the new medal on Francis’ uniform while members of his family and friends sat nearby. “When we have people like [Tech.] Sgt. Francis, who are willing to step up and put themselves at risk to save another, and it exemplifies the spirit of the Nebraska National Guard.”

Later, Francis said he felt humbled by the honor.

“I feel like I was in the right place at the right time,” Francis said. “If anyone who’s in my unit or in the Guard here in Nebraska or Active Duty, if they had come upon that situation, I feel like they would have done the same thing, but it means a lot to be honored for something like this.”

“I would hope that if you were put into a situation where you have to do something like that for someone, your life is just as important as theirs, and if you have the will and the means to help them out, you do that,” he added. 

155th-Air-Refueling-Wing-earns-13th-outstanding-unit-award.aspx12/15/2017National Guard; Nebraska National Guard; Nebraska Air National Guard; Citizen Airmen; Nebraska; Outstaning Unit Award155th Air Refueling Wing earns 13th outstanding unit award
AirStaff Sgt. Jason Wilson

Following a two-year period of intense deployments, record-setting flying, a massively successful air show and numerous other support missions, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts announced Dec. 15 that the Nebraska Air National Guard’s Lincoln-based 155th Air Refueling Wing has been awarded the U.S. Air Force’s prestigious Outstanding Unit Award.

This marks the 13th time receiving this award for the Nebraska Air National Guard’s largest unit in its 71-year history. More than 860 Airmen are assigned to the refueling unit in a variety of different occupational positions, all of whom contributed to the award.

“This unit has always performed at an outstanding level,” Ricketts said. “You have been able to support our allies, our coalition forces and fellow members of service around the world and in U.S Central Command operations.”

“You have demonstrated all the great values that we want to see, not only in our military, but as Nebraskans,” he added. “Hard work, team work, dedication, helping your neighbors and sacrificing so that we can continue to enjoy the freedoms we have in this country.”

The U.S. Air Force Outstanding unit is awarded by the Secretary of the Air Force to numbered units that have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious service or outstanding achievement that clearly sets the unit above and apart from similar units.

The current award covers the period of Sept. 1, 2014 to Aug. 31, 2016.

“As a former member of the 155th, I am incredibly proud of your accomplishment and continue to take great pride in what you do,” said Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, Nebraska adjutant general.

“The first award the wing received was in 1980.” Bohac said. “Twenty-six of 36 years, your excellence has been acknowledged by the Secretary of the Air Force. I think it is a testament to who we are as Nebraskans. We bring a certain kind of work ethic, attitude and value system to what we do each and every day.”

Former commander of the 155th ARW, Brig. Gen James “Bob” Stevenson said the people of the unit are what sets the unit apart from others.

“The people of this unit are what distinguishes this unit,” Stevenson said. “It is a championship team. They understand the obligation that comes along with it and they believe in what we are doing.”

Col. Robert Hargens, commander of the 155th ARW, agreed. “Often times the sacrifice and the efforts of the wing members is easy for it to go unnoticed and this is a time to celebrate and let people know all the fantastic things our airmen and soldiers are doing across the world,” Hargens said.

The statistics accumulated by the Airmen of the 155th ARW definitely reinforce those thoughts. For example, during the award time period, the organization:

• Flew 2,276 sorties for a record 10,964 hours while offloading almost 3 million gallons of fuel in support of U.S. and Coalition aircraft conducting both operational and training missions; • Continued its legacy of Class A/B mishap-free flying – 142,000-plus hours since 1977;

• Served as the lead/host U.S. Air force KC-135 Stratotanker unit during the nation-wide modernization and upgrade of the KC-135s’ avionics systems;

• Conducted 10 separate deployment rotations involving 512 of the 155th ARW’s Airmen to locations around the globe, including multiple rotations to the U.S. Central Command area of operations, where they conducted a wide variety of functions in support of ongoing U.S. operations;

• Partnered with local and state entities to successfully conduct a major open house and air show in 2016 that attracted more than 250,000 spectators;

• Supported numerous other community outreach events to include the annual Lincoln Marathon, Cornhusker State Games, Skills USA competitions, Lincoln Public School Science Fair and more than 30 events in local schools and colleges;

• Maintained an overall personnel strength of more than 100 percent through concentrated recruiting and retention efforts;

• Underwent frequent major inspections that resulted in numerous laudatory results;

• Members of the unit also earned numerous national-level awards to include the 2015 Air Reserve Component Air Transportation Activity of the year; the 2015 Daedalian Logistics Effectiveness Awards; the USAFCENT’s May 2016 Aircrew Safety Award of Distinction; the 2015 Region II Recruiting Office Supervisor of the Year; and the 2016 Armed Forces Insurance National Guard Spouse of the Year.

The members of the 155th Air Refueling Wing will be officially presented with its 13th U.S. Air Force Outstanding Unit Award at a future date.

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