Maj. Kenneth Brandon, 374th Communications Squadron director of operations, and a formation of airmen stand at attention and prepare to render a salute as the American flag is lowered at a retreat ceremony at Yokota AB, Japan, on Oct. 18, 2019. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe.
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Faces of the Force

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Photo: Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory/staff

After earthquakes began rattling Puerto Rico in December, continuing with a 6.4-magnitude tremor Jan. 7 and a subsequent series of smaller temblors, Civil Air Patrol cadets from the U.S. Air Force auxiliary’s Muñiz Air National Guard Base Cadet Squadron sprang into action to help document damage to the territory. In addition to photographing more than 50 damaged homes for Federal Emergency Management Agency analysis, the cadets helped at least one family to safety after another tremor struck while they were on the ground, according to Cadet Lt. Col. Carlos Muñoz and Cadet 2nd Lt. Gabriel Fidalgo. Fidalgo told Air Force Magazine “going to the place that was really affected while it was still active” was different than for Hurricane Maria. “It’s like you’re preparing during the danger,” Muñoz said. Cadet Capt. Angelymar Sanchez said the earthquakes have unified the people of Puerto Rico and that they will “stand up stronger than before.”

Photo: Tech. Sgt. Armando A. Schwier-Morales

USAF 2nd Lt. Saleha Jabeen will become DOD’s first female Muslim chaplain. The former Army Medical Corpsman received her Ecclesiastical Endorsement from the Islamic Society of North America, commissioned into the Air Force as a chaplain candidate on Dec. 18, 2019, and will get a duty station assignment once she finishes training. Jabeen said she wants to inspire people who hear her story to chase their destinies. “I want them to know that God has a plan for you,” she said.

Photo: Cynthia Griggs/USAF

Thirteen-year-old Air Force family member Brianna Heim, who suffers from the genetic disorder glutaric acidemia type 1, teamed up with the Red Fred Foundation to publish a children’s book entitled “Brave Betty & Her Besties.” Brianna—whose dad, Master Sgt. Scott Heim, is assigned to the 388th Maintenance Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah—decided to use her story to inspire people to be resilient in the face of bullying and to know that “it’s okay for people to do things in different ways.”

Photo: Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez

Airmen from Tyndall Air Force Base’s 326th Comptroller Squadron received the Gen. Larry O. Spencer Special Acts and Services Award for assisting more than 1,000 people from the 325th Fighter Wing with finances as Hurricane Michael approached Florida, when it hit the base, and during the resulting process of recovery. The award, named for the former Air Force Vice Chief of Staff and Air Force Association president, honors troops and civilians who demonstrate “a selfless spirit of service to others,” USAF said.

Photo from video: Antiques Roadshow/PBS

A former EOD Airman identified only as “David” fell over on “Antiques Roadshow” after an appraiser said the Rolex Oyster Cosmograph watch he ordered from a base exchange in Thailand in 1974 for $345.97 is worth far more now. He initially bought it to wear for scuba diving, but deemed it too fine a timepiece to risk saltwater damage, so he hid it in a safety-deposit box for decades. The watch and its paperwork can allegedly fetch up to $700,000 at auction. “You’ve gotta be s***ing me,” he said.

Photo: Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron

Civil Air Patrol Cadet Col. Zane Fockler of the Mildenhall Cadet Squadron was granted an F-15 familiarization flight with the 493rd Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, U.K., on Jan. 10 as a reward for his achievements with CAP. The aspiring fighter pilot recently received CAP’s Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award—the foremost honor bestowed upon qualifying cadets. “This has been my home my entire life, and it was an honor to fly in my home base F-15,” he said.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Steven Tucker/ANG

Airmen from the Connecticut ANG’s 103rd Security Forces Squadron are using jiu-jitsu to combat stress and foster rapport within their unit. Master Sgt. Ian McMahon, the squadron’s flight chief and combatives instructor, informally teaches classes in the martial art a few times per month. “I always … say it’s pretty primal—just a bunch of people getting together and roughhousing, but with strategy,” McMahon said. “The stress relief of getting on the mat and fighting with your friends is a blast.”

Photo: Senior Airman Giovanni Sims

Last December marked the first time in years that 378th ELRS vehicle maintainer Senior Airman Jared Bell and his brother, 378th ESFS defender Airman 1st Class Joel Bell, were able to spend Christmas together. They surprisingly ended up at the same base—Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia—for their first-ever deployments. The two had gotten used to having a long-distance brotherly bond, being stationed around the world and chiefly keeping in touch via FaceTime.

Photo: USAF

Becoming full-time foster parents wasn’t possible for Air Force Band of the West pianist Airman 1st Class Ed Knoeckel and his wife, so instead, they got certified to provide home respite care to foster children. They take in kids on a short-term basis to give caregivers time to breathe. He also hangs out with hospitalized foster children. “A lot of these kids come out of abusive homes … and they just need someone to be there to hold them and sing to them,” he said.