Blended-Learning Airmen march toward holiday accomplishment

LOUISVILLE, Tenn. — Senior Airmen in the Airman leadership school blended learning class 18-1 were having fun outdoors, Dec. 1, 2017, during their two weeks of hands-on learning in East Tennessee.

Marching a flight may not have been easy, but there was plenty of camaraderie and encouragement. The Airmen arrived on campus after five weeks of facilitated learning at their home units.

The Chief Master Sergeant Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center is where Air National Guard Airmen go for the combined distance learning and resident course. Their small class of less than two dozen students is the only EPME on campus this month, so they are also the last students scheduled to graduate this year.

About 2,000 Airmen from the regular Air Force, the Air National Guard, and the  Air Force Reserve Command, as well as the Coast Guard and foreign militaries, attend NCO academy and ALS each year at the center. It is the Air Force’s largest and longest running EPME, founded in 1968.

Ex-POW shares story before Veterans Day

LOUISVILLE, Tenn. – Retired Air Force Capt. William A. Robinson told his service story as an ex-POW to Airman leadership school today as he did many times before.

The Vietnam veteran stood solo, with merely a three-ring binder of notes, in front of about 100 students and staff, Nov. 6, at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center, just short of Veterans Day. His audience was silent and captivated.

Captain Robinson spoke about his more than seven years imprisonment as a junior enlisted Airman at the infamous Hoa Lo, Hanoi prison after a helicopter crash in enemy territory.

He is considered the nation’s longest surviving enlisted POW. The book, “The Longest Rescue: The life and legacy of Vietnam POW William A. Robinson,” tells the story.

He spoke for more than 90 minutes. “It’s an honor to be here this afternoon,” Captain Robinson said to the Airmen assembled. “Thank you for what you do every day, for every American.”

Vietnam released Captain Robinson in 1973. He earned his commission and served 23 years before retiring in 1984.

Former TEC commandant and ex-POW in World War II, Chief Master Sgt. Paul H. Lankford met Robinson at the Smoky Mountain ex-POW Chapter meeting in 2005. Robinson said he was asked to consider sharing his story with the students.

Chief Lankford helped establish the enlisted professional military education center in 1968, which is now in his name. He was a Death March of Bataan survivor who also shared his service experiences with students.

Captain Robinson spoke in Chief Lankford’s absence and after his death in 2008. Thousands of service members heard their perspectives during EPME.

Old Glory raised, then lowered

If you visited the Air National Guard’s training center here in East Tennessee this week coming from any other U.S. active duty, National Guard or Reserve military installation, there would be one thing that you would notice the same – the American flag at half-staff.

The President and the governors can order the flag flown half-staff through the U.S. Flag Code in memorialization. This time, flags were raised to their peak, then lowered to halfway in honor of those victims of murder and assault in Las Vegas.

“Our Nation is heartbroken,” proclaimed President Donald Trump, in his notice for the American flag to fly half-staff, Oct. 2 to Oct. 6. Meaning, a week of reflection before the Columbus Day weekend. “As we grieve, we pray that God may provide comfort and relief to all those suffering.”

These past years, I’d instead not recall how often I’ve walked across the base in the morning to see “Old Glory” flying below its peak to honor Americans under tragic events. It’s too often.
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Air Guard remains top community advocate

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. – It would not be out of the ordinary for someone in the East Tennessee Smoky Mountains region to know of a U.S. Air Force Airman.

That’s partly due to the community volunteerism generated here during last fiscal year through students at the Air National Guard’s I.G. Brown Training and Education Center.

“The student’s daily schedule is packed full of academic requirements, so their dedication to service truly shows in their support to the local community while balancing the rigors of coursework,” said Chief Master Sgt. Winfield Hinkley, the commandant.

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Cargo flight to Saint Croix – enlisted leader, spouse find new assignment

Sassy, a Yorkshire Terrier, awaits a flight out of Savannah Air National Guard Base to St. Croix, Sept. 24, 2017, along with three other pets. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith) 

SAVANNAH AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ga. – The National Guard hit the ground running this week to bring disaster response to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but getting off to a quick start is an understatement for Batina “Blue” Wesson and her husband, Army Sgt. Maj. Derwin Wesson.

Sergeant Major Wesson is the incoming U.S. Virgin Islands National Guard Command Sergeant Major. Hurricane Maria hit before he could arrive to take the position as the senior noncommissioned officer for all enlisted Soldiers.

“We’re going in with boots on the ground and get in,” said Blue.

She sat outside the door of an Air National Guard airlift hub and contingency processing center Sept. 24 at Savannah Air National Guard Base in Georgia. The sergeant major checked on their flight to Saint Croix. Accompanying her were their pets, Zoo, a Bengal cat, as well as three dogs – Sassy and Pinky Winky – both Yorkshire Terriers – and Mr. Biggie – a Miniature Pinscher.

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Air Guard airlift

Air National Guard Airmen with the 165th Air Terminal Operations Center at Savannah Air National Guard Base prepare 38,000 pounds of meals-ready-to-eat, Sept. 26, 2017, to send as air cargo to disaster areas from Hurricanes Maria and Irma at Savannah Air National Guard Base in Georgia. The group of more than 16 Airmen is working around the clock on 12-hour shifts for handling air cargo. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith)

165th Airlift Wing keeps disaster relief moving

Air National Guard Airmen with the 165th Air Terminal Operations Center at Savannah Air National Guard Base prepare 38,000 pounds of meals-ready-to-eat, Sept. 26, 2017, to send as air cargo to disaster areas from Hurricanes Maria and Irma at Savannah Air National Guard Base in Georgia. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith)

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Air National Guard Airmen with the 165th Air Terminal Operations Center at Savannah Air National Guard Base were operating around the clock this week to send disaster relief to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The group of more than 16 Airmen began 12-hour shifts for handling air cargo out of Savannah shortly after the islands’ devastation from Hurricanes Irma and Maria became known.

By the looks of things here, the busy operations seemed a good sign that the military did not forget those in dire need.

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