Military News

Swooping down from an open Alaska sky, two 90th Fighter Squadron F-22 Raptor fighters - tail numbers 4090 and 4190 - flew above the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson flight line in formation and at speed.

Piloting Tail Number 4190, Lt. Col. Joseph Kunkel, 90th FS commander, glanced over at his wingman before dramatically breaking formation in a swift starboard turn.

Finally, Kunkel touched the Air Force’s newest jet down on the tarmac and taxied the jet to the 90th FS hangar apron where Airmen of his command awaited the arrival of their new top F-22.

KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan — A joint airdrop operation between Task Force Spartan, the U.S. Air Force, the Afghan Border Patrol and local militia Arbici was conducted to resupply paratroopers of Task Force Blue Geronimo at Combat Outpost Chergotah, a first for the area, Feb. 28.

Paratroopers from Task Force Blue Geronimo conducted a drop zone survey two weeks prior in an effort to find a safer alternative method to re-supply Combat Outpost Chergotah.

PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Signs of progress for the Afghan National Security Forces was made in the icy city of Gardez on Feb. 18 when an improvised explosive device was discovered by Afghan Uniformed Police and destroyed by an Afghan National Army explosive ordnance disposal unit on a muddy street near the wood market.

Improvised explosive devices being found and disposed of by EOD units is not a rare occurrence in this volatile region of the country. What was special about this particular operation was that no coalition forces played a hand in it.

Col. Gary Agron ended his three-decade military career in the same place he grew up — Alaska.

A 1977 East High graduate, Agron retired Feb. 10 as U.S. Army Alaska chief of staff on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

“That was a great position,” Agron said Feb. 21.

As a boy, Agron’s father, Alfredo, brought him to watch mock battles at Fort Richardson. Agron said he was honored to end his career in his hometown.

“It was a gratifying way to leave the Army,” he said.

PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Afghan Border Police and Afghan Uniformed Police from all areas of Regional Command-East have been coming to Forward Operating Base Gardez to learn how to work on vehicles and, more importantly, with each other, at a class taught by the U.S. soldiers of the Maintenance Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Spartan.

The course is just one more example of how U.S. forces are helping the different Afghan National Security Forces to work with each other.

KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Soldiers have different ways of marking away their deployment times. The paratroopers of 3rd Platoon, Troop A, 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Spartan, who are stationed at Camp Clark, tick it off by one perilous mission at a time. Here, in the rocky eastern interior of the country not far from the Pakistan border, days outside the wire are more common than days safely inside.

There are only approximately 400 Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists in the Air Force, and two of them reside at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Greg Avey and Tech. Sgt. Reid Beveridge are SERE specialists and belong to JBER’s 3rd Operations Support Squadron’s Weapons and Tactics Flight.

They are responsible for ensuring all pilots and aircrew receive their required training for combat survival, water survival, emergency parachuting and conduct after capture.

As it turns out, the rugged terrain surrounding Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is actually a pretty good double for Afghanistan.

“We were out in the winter months repeatedly doing driver training to get ready for this,” said Lt. Col Brad Hinson of the 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Centurions) during a recent conference call from Afghanistan.

Children may be amazed or terrified of wild animals that live in the wilderness of the Alaskan outdoors, but a little education can leave their parents a little more at ease.

“My fondest memories as a young child in the backwoods of Pennsylvania were not watching cartoons and playing video games, but exploring all plants and animals I could find in the woods,” said Sarah Jones, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson wildlife education center coordinator.