25th Air Force: A Year in Review

NASA astronauts underwent full-pressure suit training at the 9th Physiological Support Squadron, Beale Air Force Base, July 7. The astronauts conducted training in a hypobaric chamber at simulated altitudes of more than 70,000 ft. Throughout the SFRT training, astronauts pilot T-38 Talon’s. But, pilots are also required to operate NASA’s WB-57, an aircraft designed to fly at altitudes greater than 60,000 ft.

NASA astronauts underwent full-pressure suit training at the 9th Physiological Support Squadron, Beale Air Force Base, July 7. The astronauts conducted training in a hypobaric chamber at simulated altitudes of more than 70,000 ft. Throughout the SFRT training, astronauts pilot T-38 Talon’s. But, pilots are also required to operate NASA’s WB-57, an aircraft designed to fly at altitudes greater than 60,000 ft.

A large circular antenna array, the AN/FLR-9, or Flare-9, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson was built in 1966 during the height of the Cold War. The facility is commonly referred to as the "Elephant Cage" due to it's large 40-acre footprint. JBER's Flare-9 antenna will be officially shut down for the first time in 50 years on 25 May, 2016. (Courtesy photo)

A large circular antenna array, the AN/FLR-9, or Flare-9, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson was built in 1966 during the height of the Cold War. The facility is commonly referred to as the "Elephant Cage" due to it's large 40-acre footprint. JBER's Flare-9 antenna will be officially shut down for the first time in 50 years on 25 May, 2016. (Courtesy photo)

Colonel Thomas Hensley, 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing commander passes the group guidon to Col. David James, as he assumes command of the 691st ISR Group May 5, 2016, at Fort George G. Meade, Md. Officially in-activated September 2014 at Royal Air Force Menwith Hill Station, United Kingdom, the 691st ISRG returns and is now activated under the 70th ISR Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Colonel Thomas Hensley, 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing commander passes the group guidon to Col. David James, as he assumes command of the 691st ISR Group May 5, 2016, at Fort George G. Meade, Md. Officially in-activated September 2014 at Royal Air Force Menwith Hill Station, United Kingdom, the 691st ISRG returns and is now activated under the 70th ISR Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Maj. Gen Bradford “BJ” Shwedo, Commander of the 25th Air Force, JBSA-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas, briefs members of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce on the world wide mission of the unit in the headquarters auditorium Friday.

Maj. Gen Bradford “BJ” Shwedo, Commander of the 25th Air Force, JBSA-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas, briefs members of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce on the world wide mission of the unit in the headquarters auditorium Friday.

Col. Thomas Hensley, 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing commander, passes the guidon to Col. Aaron Drake, 659th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group commander, during the 659th ISRG change of command ceremony June 29, 2016, at Fort George G. Meade, Md. The 659th ISRG conducts global integrated cyber ISR operations with Air Force, Joint, and Intelligence Community partners to detect, characterize, and mitigate cyber threats, exploit computer networks and enable full-spectrum cyberspace operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Col. Thomas Hensley, 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing commander, passes the guidon to Col. Aaron Drake, 659th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group commander, during the 659th ISRG change of command ceremony June 29, 2016, at Fort George G. Meade, Md. The 659th ISRG conducts global integrated cyber ISR operations with Air Force, Joint, and Intelligence Community partners to detect, characterize, and mitigate cyber threats, exploit computer networks and enable full-spectrum cyberspace operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

An ISR Airman receives a Larson Award medal from Lee Anthony, executive council representative, Freedom Through Viligance Association, Nov. 2 at 25th Air Force Headquarters, as Command Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman observes. (U.S. Air Force photo/William B. Belcher)

An ISR Airman receives a Larson Award medal from Lee Anthony, executive council representative, Freedom Through Viligance Association, Nov. 2 at 25th Air Force Headquarters, as Command Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman observes. (U.S. Air Force photo/William B. Belcher)

Gorski takes command of Nuclear Treaty Monitoring Center

Gorski takes command of Nuclear Treaty Monitoring Center

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – LACKLAND, Texas --

Twenty-sixteen was a year of planning for the future at 25th Air Force. As we move into 2017, we take a look at the ups and downs of the year, assess where we have been and look forward to continuing the fight in 2017, ‘faster, nastier and better,’ under the command of Maj. Gen. B.J. Shwedo.

Among the notable events of 2016, in November there were recognitions of excellence when the annual Larson awards honored the best of the best in ISR, and September brought an unexpected loss at Beale Air Force Base. It was a year of visits and departures, events and achievements, all of which contributed to the history of 25th Air Force.

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein visited the two Numbered Air Forces in March for a first-hand look at the advances they’ve accomplished together in building multi-domain synergy between Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and cyber forces. He told members of the 25th and 24th Air Force the future of the service is “domain on demand.”

“What you’re doing here is exactly what we need,” Goldfein said. “Multi-domain is the coin of the realm and will be key to the future development of combined arms.”

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody visited the men and women of the 70th ISRW, March 15 at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. The purpose of Cody’s visit was to meet with 70th ISR Wing Airmen and thank them. “What you do here at the 70th ISR Wing – saves people’s lives,” Cody said.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander, Air Combat Command, addressed plans to improve the health of the Air Force Remotely Piloted Aircraft enterprise Mar. 16 during a hearing of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the hearing was to receive testimony on Air Force Remote Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and Army Unmanned Aerial Vehicles as part of the committee’s review of the 2017 defense budget.

The Air Force Nuclear Enterprise Functional Authority authorized personnel from the Air Force Technical Applications Center the award of the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal effective April 13, 2016. The medal is awarded to Airmen who have directly impacted the nuclear enterprise and directly support nuclear deterrence operations.

On May 5, Col. David James assumed command of the 691st ISRG during a re-activation ceremony at Fort Meade. Officially inactivated in September 2014 at Royal Air Force Menwith Hill Station, United Kingdom, the 691st ISRG has now stood up to link Air and Space operations with the Global Cryptologic Enterprise. The group was chosen to be re-activated to increase mission effectiveness aiding intelligence community partners and the Air Force.

On May 25, the half-century-old "Elephant Cage" ended its reign of casting a shadow over the Alaska landscape, silently collecting and finding the direction of communications signals, guarding against adversary threats and intentions. The intelligence collected there informed the nation's and allies’ decision makers, from presidents to warfighters. In its later years, it fulfilled a crucial role, aiding in navigation and direction-finding for civilian and military search and rescue missions.

In 2016, the 55th Wing marked 25 years of being continuously deployed to Southwest Asia; 50 years of being stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and 75 years as a wing. With 55th Wing Airmen serving at Offutt; Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona; Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England; Souda Bay Naval Support Activity, Crete; Kadena Air Base, Japan, and at numerous deployed locations around the world, the old saying is true, “The Sun Never Sets on the Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth.”

NASA astronauts underwent full-pressure suit training at the 9th Physiological Support Squadron, Beale Air Force Base, July 7. The astronauts conducted training in a hypobaric chamber at simulated altitudes of more than 70,000 ft. Throughout the SFRT training, astronauts pilot T-38 Talon’s. But, pilots are also required to operate NASA’s WB-57, an aircraft designed to fly at altitudes greater than 60,000 ft.

The 693rd ISRG participated in the Red Flag 16-3 exercise at the Nevada Test and Training Range of Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 11-29. The 693rd ISRG (Distributed Ground Station-4) trained while supporting various groups during the exercise.

Airmen at the Air Force Technical Applications Center welcomed a new commander, Col. Steven M. Gorski July 25. The nuclear treaty monitoring center held an assumption of command ceremony in front of the center’s headquarters building, as Gorski accepted the unit’s guidon from the 25th Air Force Commander.

Maj. Gen. Bradford “BJ” Shwedo, commander, 25th Air Force, hosted civic and business leaders from the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce July 29, opening the door for them to experience the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance world. The meeting was a continuation of the long-term partnership and collaboration between the 25th and the Chamber team.

The Defenders of Freedom Open House and Air Show returned to Offutt Air Force Base in July, after a one year hiatus. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds headlined the two-day show and more than 140,000 people attended the event to see American airpower at its finest.

A signing ceremony was held at the Florida Institute of Technology’s campus in Melbourne, Florida, Aug. 3, where the Air Force Technical Applications Center entered into a cooperative agreement with the university to explore high performance cloud computing, modeling and simulation.

The U-2 Dragon Lady reached a milestone in its 61 years of service Aug. 31, at Beale Air Force Base, qualifying Maj. J.J., 1st Reconnaissance Squadron student pilot, as the 1,000th pilot to operate the aircraft. J.J. completed his first solo flight to become a part of the select few who have tamed the Dragon Lady.

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing held a memorial service to honor the late Lt. Col. Steve “Shooter” Eadie Sept. 29. Eadie was a U-2 Dragon Lady pilot assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron. He passed away after a U-2 incident which occurred near the Sutter Buttes Sept. 20, while on a routine training mission. Eadie was a 20-year veteran who initially commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy. He was a naval aviator for 13 years flying various aircraft before applying to become a U-2 pilot in the Air Force.

In October, as Hurricane Matthew churned into a Category 4 storm off Florida’s southeast coast, members of AFTAC set evacuation plans into motion to ensure the center’s critical mission continued uninterrupted. AFTAC, the Department of Defense’s sole organization dedicated to nuclear treaty monitoring and nuclear event detection, marshaled its contingency operations team Oct. 4 to deploy to its alternate operating facility in Texas.

Alumni of the 1st Radio Squadron Mobile were recognized Sep. 24 at the 25th Air Force anniversary banquet.  Silent service was a common thread shared by the alumni, who began meeting annually in 1999 to share experiences and rekindle friendships formed decades earlier.

The 363 ISRW was awarded the Meritorious Unit Award in 2016 for its global contributions to combat operations in targeting, analysis, and special operations ISR missions. The wing also reached a milestone in its standup when its wing staff billets became a reality in October. Until then, each wing staff office was, at most, one deep and many offices were covered by personnel dual hatting. The wing's targeting mission was in constant demand throughout the year, culminating in a key effort in November that formed the core of Pacific Air Force's (PACAF) response to a Presidential tasker. The high-level nature of the work resulted in a visit by the PACAF Commander to the 363 ISRG.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Otto, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, visited the 480th ISR Wing and 497th ISR Group for the last time Oct. 5 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. General Otto retired from active duty just after the visit.

This year, the Air Force Association recognized an Offutt-based Rivet Joint flying crew, and the entirety of Team Offutt in-turn, as the best reconnaissance crew in the U.S. Air Force by awarding them the 2016 General Jerome F. O'Malley Award for their actions in the skies above Iraq.

The 37th Annual Maj. Gen. Doyle E. Larson Awards ceremony were held Nov. 2 at 25th Air Force Headquarters. The award recognizes the top technicians in 20 career fields vital to the accomplishment of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission. There were 36 exceptional Airmen recognized.

To finish out the year, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein met with Airmen and leaders at 25th Air Force Headquarters Dec. 19.

“My mission this week is to get out and say thanks to all of those who are standing watch, not only on behalf of the Joint Chiefs, but also on behalf of a very grateful nation,” Goldfein told the Airmen of the 625th Operations Center.

“Nothing that you do is easy. Nothing that you have shown me walking around here is simple, but the way you knit it together … the way you work the relationships that matter so much in this business, are very often what keeps our nation safe and allows us to sleep at night,” Goldfein said.