The Afghan Air Force Is On The Move - DoD Roundtable

This morning’s Department of Defense Bloggers Roundtable with Brigadier General David Allvin was interesting for this retired pilot who spent many years involved in training pilots and other crewmembers. Some of that training included flying with numerous international students from Saudi Arabia, Panama and Italy. As a trained test pilot Gen Allvin brings a unique perspective in his new role as the commanding general, NATO Air Training Command, NTM-A/CSTC-A. He outlined the focus of his command as:

1) Expand Operational Capability
2) Professionalization of the Air Force through Education and Training
3) Improving Command and Control of Afghan Air Force resources

The Afghan Air Force (the organizational name was recently confirmed by President Karzai) is part of the Afghan National Army (ANA) with its own structure and training. It is currently manned by 4,000 airmen and expected to grow to 8,000 during the current build up. They have 46 aircraft right now and expect to reach 150 in the future. They have MI-17 and MI-35 helicopters and C-27 and AN-32 aircraft. They are retiring the AN-32 which are exceeding their service life hours and adding additional C-27 aircraft and MI-17s. The purchase of the MI-17s from Russia with US dollars has created some controversy in the States but when queried about it the General responded that he knew a protest had been filed. If the current plan is implemented the Afghans will eventually have a fleet of 150 aircraft including a light attack fixed wing aircraft to provide close air support for Army forces. The aircraft for this role has not been selected yet but will augment the capabilities of the MI-35 and MI-17s (some of which have been upgraded with rocket pods).

The recent floods in Pakistan allowed the Afghan Air Force to show its operational capabilities as they delivered 188 tons of relief supplies, evacuated 1,900 personnel from the flood areas and saved the lives of 120 people! This international effort to assist the Pakistanis during this difficult time will certainly lead the way to future cooperation.

I asked the general about training challenges due to literacy issues with the Afghan population. He said they were similar to the Army and National Police which had been discussed in previous Roundtables but they were attacking the issue with expanded literacy training and technical training. For aviators another challenge is speaking English which is the language of international aviation. He said they are imbedding trainers with the Afghans during technical and English training. All discussions are in English and any violations result in push-ups and pull-ups! They currently have officers in the US attending pilot training and will be sending 22 to the UAE for training too.

The training program has been primarily a US effort with US Air Force pilots conducting flying training and other specialties as well. The mission is now expanding to NATO which brings some new capabilities for the trainers. For example, the Croatian instructor pilots now arriving have MI-17s in their inventory and are very familiar with this helicopter which the Americans are not. Other countries involved or soon to be involved include: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Canada, Jordan, Portugal, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and possibly Greece.

During the recent national elections the Air Force was used to expedite collection of ballots and other administrative efforts. They flew 225 hours in this effort and the general said it highlighted some of the weakness in their command and control. The coordination and taskings were not always centralized and resulted in some ineffective sortie efforts, etc. The end result for the elections was great according to the general but developing a “robust and see through” command and control structure is a must for improving their performance.

This was an interesting Roundtable for aviation enthusiasts, those interested in international relations and of course, those following our efforts in Afghanistan! If you would like to listen to or read the General’s comments please go to DoDLive for an audio or written transcript. For other interesting blogs on Afghanistan please go MilitaryAvenue’s Our Letters to You or to our Reading Room for interesting articles concerning Afghanistan and the military community. A big thank you to General Allvin and his staff for making him available for this Roundtable and to the moderator, Petty Officer Selby.

Credit: U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. David Allvin, NATO Air Training Command. Photo courtesy of NTM-A/CSTC-A

Making Your Vote Count

I hate watching the evening-news this time of year.

I love keeping up with current events, so at 10 o'clock every night the TV is switched on. However, it is the commercials that get me hot-and-bothered from late September through early November. Politician upon politician telling me not WHY I should vote for them but WHY I should NOT vote for their opponent.

The Mud Slinging. The Slander. The Poor Sportsmanship.

It is not in my nature! I don't like to talk bad about people. I don't like to hear others talking badly about another. I would rather hear what they are about then what they are /not/.

Since I want to make an informed decision on election day I googled 'elections' along with the name of my county which helped me find a non-partisan web site that lists all the folks that are running in my county and state. I will take the time to inform myself. I will make an educated decision. It may seem early but I'd rather know now what folks stand for so that I can officially tune-out the political mumbo-jumbo on TV during the dreaded news hour.

Related Articles:
On another related-note, I would encourage you to visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program website if you are registered to vote absentee. They have a whole section devoted to the US Military and their families. You can request an absentee ballot (not sure but it might be a little late to do that for this election in November), get your ballot, and even track your ballot. Just click on the link for the US Military. This is great reassurance that your vote counts! (They are on Facebook too if you want to stay informed:

We have some wonderful freedoms as Americans. Freedoms that *our* soldier, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guard defend every day! Educate yourself and when the time comes get out there and vote! Ensure that their hard work counts!

- Leanne from

Comfort of Cheese Ravioli with Pesto

I love basil. Our garden if still full of the plants. It will take a hard frost to finally have the curtain call shut them down. I dry the leaves, even pick long branches with dark purple flowers for a vase full in the guest bathroom. I use pesto when ever and give it away as a hostess gift in cute jelly jars. Basil and I are friends to the end.

Here is another use of pesto that wakes up a cheese ravioli and packs it with a nutty punch. Pasta is a comfort food, and with the awakening of autumn, the coming of the major busy holidays, pasta is welcome here.

Sweet Potato Nut Muffins or Bread

Sweet potatoes are in the markets now. They are the fall colors coming to your table, ready to eat and full of vitamins. We have company and I somehow feel obligated to make enough food for local Michigan, Illinois and Indiana... needless to say, I have leftovers often. AND I love to be a touch creative in the use of this bounty... and pass it on to others in a more palpable form than cold potatoes in a bowl.
Smell the muffins! Pass the bread! This recipe comes from memories of church suppers, when the ladies brought in the best of their mixings and musings. Everything was served with pride and every recipe was requested to be written and preserved. This one is a favorite. A thick slice of this bread with butter and cream cheese will fill you for a week! But the aroma will entice you back into the kitchen before the knife is rewashed!

Sweet Potato Nut Muffins or Bread
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 c shortening
2 2/3 c sugar
4 eggs
2 c cold mashed sweet potatoes
3 1/2 c flour
1 t salt
1 t Cinnamon
1 t Nutmeg
2 t baking soda
1 c chopped nuts of choice (hazelnut, walnut or pecan)
2/3 c cold strong black coffee

Cream together butter, shortening and sugar. Add eggs to this mixture, and then add the sweet potatoes.
In a separate bowl sift flour, salt, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and baking soda. Add this alternately with the cold coffee to the butter mixture. Add nuts, do not over beat.
Grease 2 9x5x3" loaf pans and a muffin pan that has 4 large muffin cups. Fill pans and cups. Bake the muffins for 25 to 28 minutes, remove from oven quickly. Let bread bake for a total of 1 hour. Test with a tooth pick for to see if done.
Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans.

Points of View

I love art. I love the reasons for art... could be world history, could be sensory perception, could be hormones! I'm open. I hear about a subject and I can somehow see a thread of art history gleaming in and being woven into the fabric of the story. Life's lesson is coming in through the ear, and yet my eye goes into a Rapunzel's spinning wheel working overtime... coming up with the golden thread and is very pleasing to me at least!
Yet my good friend Pam,sitting right next to me, gets lost... glassy eyed when I start recounting with joy what I think... I can tell the posture slumps, the head nods and the eyes are gone. She's out! Or at least she is in her head thinking of tonight's supper, or a new color for her nails. And yes, we are such good friends: able to laugh at each other and come back for more. It's just a different view on a point's purpose.
We are in the study of the book of Esther. Now to me... this is so rich in history. So much here right in the beginning that I have to be shoved along to get to the next chapter. King Xerxes is ruler of the land from India to Cush... my goodness. That is a stretch of acreage. The diverse cultures: diverse thoughts on what is pleasing to the eye... art pieces in palaces, provinces, nobles quarters all available to Xerxes at his whim. The mixing of tastes, the opportunity for university study! Techniques, textiles, and the like... all coming together for others to experience. Hello! This is rich!
Others caught on to the people, their portion in life, their predicament and reactions. And I am certain that is the meat of the matter... and they can open that for me. How great it is to get together with friends, share insights and grow.
I was not a history student in any of my schooling... just take a view of my transcripts... but that was then. That which I considered to be oh so important, gave me direction: now new things charm and excite the brain waves.
Have a point of view... have a view... take a look. Grab a book, a few friends and get together. You just might be amazed at the things you find interesting. Communication with others is a true basic need that we have. Books are great avenues.
By the way... does anyone know where Cush is?

My 5 Minutes of Fame

I have to admit it ... I'm feeling a little special ;)

Here I am, the mom of 4 rough and tumble boys, the wife of an everyday soldier, blogger, military-family advocate and ... well... "Household 6" through and through.

I logged onto USAA yesterday (our family's bank of choice) to check account balances and such and there is /my/ name. Now I realize everyone's name appears on their account... but I'm talking over in the right hand column, amongst their features and boxes. Over there is a quote *by me*!

I'm having my 5 minutes of fame! (if you want to call it that, I suppose) Read some great stories from USAA customers at their 'Member Stories' area. This is my story: Part of the USAA Family. If you are a military family, with USAA, be sure to leave your own story! It is truly wonderful to be with a bank that cares. (... and gives me a smile in the small process of something as mundane as checking my account balances.)

- Leanne from

Pan Seared Steak with Horseradish Mashed Spuds

I was never sure about horseradish. It is oh so strong. I like hot peppers, but there really is nothing similar other than a strong taste. I love zippy salad dressings... again the strong taste. Then we were in Nashville and I had an order of fried green tomatoes with a horseradish dip. Whoa! Oh so good! So, I began to experiment with this new taste sensation. Mashed potatoes was the perfect playground. And with potatoes comes steak... my man is a fan!
This menu is for two... a beautiful night if you can manage adds so much to the event. :)
3 large potatoes (I prefer Yukon gold, but any large ones will do: one per person, and one for the pot!)
1 lb sirloin steak, cut into 2" cubes
salt and pepper to taste
2 or 3 T olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1/3 c chicken broth, or 1 bouillon cube dissolved in 1/2 c water, use only 1/3 cup of this.
1/4 c red wine
1/2 t rosemary
1/2 c half and half cream
2 T horseradish, drained
4 T butter

Boil spuds 15 minutes.
Heat a frying pan to medium high heat with 2 T olive oil, allow to start smoking... pan must be HOT to sear the meat. Season sirloin with salt and pepper and add to pan be careful as it will splatter and sizzle. Brown all over 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.
Add 1 T butter and onion to pan, cook 1 minute. Add chicken broth, rosemary and wine, simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat, pour in accumulated steak juice from bowl, stir and add meat. Keep warm.
Mash potatoes, add cream, horseradish, butter and 1/2 t. salt.


I have to admit it.

This past couple of weeks since school started I have been completely overwhelmed!

Homework. Family Dinner. Evening Activities. OH MY!

My boys are back to school and thriving. I love to watch them get on the bus each morning with a quick hug, kiss and a wish for a great day. Then I can pour myself another cup of coffee, get a little work done and bond with 6-week old baby-boy, *L*. The 7 hours of school-time seems to fly.

At about 3:30 pm every school night I make sure the kitchen island is cleaned off. I get the boys' homework caddies out (filled with pencils, crayons, scissors, math flash cards, all kinds of homework necessities) *E*, 2nd grade gets home first and after a bit of stalling dives into homework. He has about an hour of work each night. *C*, kindergarten, gets home about 30 minutes later. Kindergarten homework is a little 'lighter' but there is still an overlap of time. We work through homework together around the kitchen island. But don't picture a peaceful library-esque scene. It's a bit harried helping two with homework and an infant who wants in on the action.

Oh and dinner... yep, usually I'm trying to make dinner too in all of this craziness. Tuesday nights are the worst because we need to be eating by 4:45pm to get to 5:30 practice. This week I was smart enough to pull out the crock-pot. I started homemade soup earlier in the day with left over steak, a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables, a few red-potatoes and three fresh from the garden tomatoes and about 2 cups of water. It was quite yummy! So I'm officially declaring Tuesday nights as crock-pot night. (Now I just need to find some more good recipes.)

We are also in the midst of soccer season and two nights a week we are in the fields from 5:30 till 7:30. The boys love soccer. I love to see them out there playing hard, running hard, stretching and socializing. It's not that soccer practice is bad in my mind, it's just another piece of the evening puzzle. Sometimes I have hub's support in getting out the door for practice. Sometimes it is just me when he is still at work. There are other activities other nights of the week too, such as Small Group on Wednesdays which is 'required' adult-time for me. We also have to factor in the high-schoolers schedule, *J*, which is much less reliant on Dad and step-Mom as well.

At the same time, we have limited ourselves. Although *E* wanted to do Cub Scouts again we realized how time consuming that was and had to cut it out this year. We recognize our own limits and have to put the family over the individual at times. The boys don't really get to watch TV at all and evening free-time outside has been cut-down big time since the summer. It has been quite an adjustment.

I enjoyed an article from Military OneSource this morning that made me realize I am not alone in this craziness. "Overscheduled and Overwhelmed — Tips for Parents" The three main points are:

Review your priorities
Remember that each of you needs time alone and with others
Decide as a family on how you want to relax together

We have things we need to work on but I'm glad to know we are on the right path.

This morning my very own *C* let out a bit yawn and said "I miss my naps". I'm with you, tuts. But as a family we are learning to manage our time and fall into the pace of the school year.

- Leanne from

Learning Life Lessons from an Almost Two Year Old

I am with my almost two year old sweetheart today.

Life's lessons, which make perfect sense when first approached by that young age... I am certain you have experienced a few of these!

American Cheese
is just like play dough. It is malleable, yellow and after much playtime ends up in the mouth with a request for more.

Tasty Tuesday: Simply Scrumptous Squash

Yes, Scrumptious and Squash go together so easily. Coupling chorizo sausage that has been fried and most of the grease removed makes this a filling, nutritious meal that is so simple!

I love sweet and salty together. The two complete a taste bud triumph... a gold medal event. I see the flags flying, crowds cheering when sweet and salt come to the plate. Yes, I do have an imagination. Had to while moving into base housing... mismatched floor tiles in the middle of the each room... and trying to tell the family, "This will be our best home ever!". Quite often they bought that too! It is that imaginative ability to grab a theme and try to enlarge.

Squash in our garden are enlarging and hallelujah, the last 3 years they have all but faded from existence. Not this year. Therefore, the oven has been baking a few extras at a time. I peel the extras and save them for a "Simply Scrumptious Squash" night.

Simply Scrumptious Squash
1 acorn squash: split and seeds removed
1/2 lb chorizo sausage (not links)
1 T Splenda brown sugar
2 T butter, divided

Place split acorn squash on a small rimmed baking sheet. Add water to cover just the edge of the squash itself, so that the inside will steam as it cooks. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.
Meanwhile in fry pan saute chorizo until lightly browned, and most of the fat is rendered. Drain fat.
Squash can be peeled at this point and put in refrigerator for another day, or while it is still hot, turn over on the baking sheet. Place 1 T of butter in each half, then fill with half of the sausage. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the Splenda brown sugar on top. Return to oven and bake at 350 for 15 more minutes.

Are we beginning to forget already?

It is amazing to me that I have now given birth to three beautiful sons. Three sons with a wonderful life ahead of them. Three sons who were but a twinkle in my eye on 9.11.2001.

You can ask me where I was on Sept 11th, 2001 and I am instantly brought back to my apartment. (I worked from home); sitting at my desk; nursing a migraine headache. I can remember calling my husband; IMing my co-worker, Dan; learning that my dad, a colonel in the Air Force, was on high alert with a very long day (month ... year...) ahead of him. Tears would stream down my face periodically throughout the day. For me life had changed.

But what about my children? They weren't alive. Ask the generations that are in high school and younger and they really might not remember where they were. My own step-son (a junior in high school now) has vague memories as a 3rd grader on 9.11.01, he does remember watching TV in the library but the impact is not quite as profound. He remembers more the reactions of the adults around him, then the own emotions stirred within him.

So here we are ... 9 years later. I sense a growing complacency about the entire incident and I find that to be very heart-wrenching. I think that as Americans we are allowed our freedoms! But we also need to be vigilant. We need to be knowledgeable. We need to support the troops that are protecting the very freedoms that we hold so dearly!

Someday if one of my sons joins the military, to defend our great nation, I will be the proudest mom on the block! But in the mean time I will try to show them how important events like 9.11.01 are in shaping who we are, where we live, what we hold dear.

Which also leads me to one more question: What events occurred before YOU were born that shaped our nation? If you don't know take the time to learn! Checkout a book from the library about D-Day. Talk to a Vietnam Veteran. Talk to your parents or grandparents about an event in their life that shaped the nation. I think it would be a great history lesson!

- Leanne from

Coming Back After Being on the Bench for a Bit

Today is a big day for me and the rest of the team for MilitaryAvenue! I am able to return from a short time away due to medical issues.  I seriously missed my communication with you our friends on MilitaryAvenue, whether on the site, Facebook or twitter! After being in top health for so many years of flying I never considered the possibility and impact of multiple surgeries, long hospital stays and pain medications. Although, the pain meds have created some great moments of humor for the family, friends and me! Always trying to find a bright spot from a bad thing can be a challenge and I use humor best to help me.  This time I think the "crowd" laughed at me as hard as I laughed at myself while sitting on the bench. The fact that they thought I should avoid writing on the scoreboard said a lot! :) Click on the image of a chat we had one morning to see why I was banned from writing "live" on the site for a while!

But more seriously, I want to say thank you to three groups of folks! I am blessed with a deep faith and despite facing a serious illness I knew I was in God's Hands and I had friends praying for me around the world! From familiar combat zones to South America to all four corners of the US they were there praying for me and wishing me the best. They also held up my bride of 38 years who had to watch through all of this and change bandages, dressings, keep me on schedule for meds, appointments, driving long distances to see specialists, answering the phone a million times, etc, etc. It is not easy to be a caregiver and she excelled (and continues to excel) and kept me smiling too!

The next group I want to say thank you to is the medical staffs that saw me and cared for me! They were there when I needed something and they explained a lot to this guy with a pilot mind set who always wanted to know the status of the "781" (aircraft maintenance records). They took the time to respond to our questions (we always had a list and my care giver kept a small notebook for that very purpose) and explained in terms we could understand the steps we were going to be going through. Yep, we met some folks along the way who might consider a career change but 99% were there for us! I think of specifics such as Dr Green, who announced to me and my bride, that she was a "brat" when we were in a small crisis and she leaned over the table to tell me everything was ok and that I was in good hands! I felt an angel's presence and just relaxed in a way that was not humanly possible.

Two nurses, Joanne and Nancee who worked on the floor where I stayed and made me smile with their kindness! My dietary needs were met but I was having some issues.  One night I asked for a yogurt or a pudding to help me feel better. They brought me one of each and every night after that I knew they had saved me one for a late snack when I needed them! Nurse Becky from one the surgeon's offices was always available to answer the phone and help schedule appointments. She knew we had a long drive and tried to facilitate multiple appointments, labs, xrays, etc. to make it as convenient as possible; knowing that a two plus hour car ride with a post op foot and leg were not easy. Then we met PA Donna who started the whole recovery period by removing staples, drains, etc and gave us an hour of her time to explain everything, in detail what Deb had to do when we got home. These folks are the exact reason why the University of Michigan hospital is ranked so high in the country! They show it every day with their care!

The last group is the team at MilitaryAvenue that kept up with my "duties" while I was on the bench! When you are a small military family company and one member of the team takes a break the rest really have to cover for you! They did and with not a complaint from anyone! In fact, they just pushed ahead harder knowing I was on the disabled list for a bit. One of the other team-members also took some time off to have a baby! Our timing was not exactly the best but what a beautiful grandson we have added during all of this too.

Thank you to our fans and friends! Hope you are having a great start of the fall season and many blessings to all of our service members and their families!

Emotions Run Amuck

Wow, my middle-child started kindergarten this week. Oh dear, sweet *C*. He went from the 'baby' of the family to the middle-child this month after his baby-brother, *L*, was born... and now he is a big kindergartner, getting on the bus and out of my view for 8 hours each day. My emotions have run amuck!

*C* lives in a dream world. I'm not sure if it is the age or the personality but the phrase "Stay on Task" echoes through our house when there are things to be done. It is easy to find him in another part of the house, doing something unrelated to what needs to be happening, after asking him to get his shoes one, help set the table, find soccer clothes... etc etc. Sometimes, if the TV is on, or Legos are being turned into other worlds he has to be spoken to a few times to turn his attention to the speaker. Until he makes eye-contact I really don't think he hears me.

I love him. I love how very different he is then his older brothers, *J* and *E*. I often wonder how this "dream world personality" will influence who he is over the years. Will he out grow it? Will it make him more of a dreamer then his brother *E*, who lives by the rules (classic-first child personality ... his older brother *J* is about 9 years older so in many ways *E* is a first child too). I worry about *C*'s ability to stay on task while in school now. I want him to WOW his teachers. I want them to love him for who he is. So we'll see how this year plays out. Maybe kindergarten will do wonders and with a class room full of 5- and 6-year olders he will take the next step to growing-up; listening, learning, loving the routine.

In the mean time *C*'s wings are spreading. I was so very ready for the school year to start... but as I put him on the bus on Monday, my heart-dropped. He was SO ready! So Very Excited to be getting on the bus and starting a new chapter in life. The bus driver had to call him back so that this momma could get a picture. I hope this enthusiasm remains for years and years to come.

I'm not necessarily ready for him to grow up. Kindergarten now, what's next? Middle School? College? I am watching time zoom by with his older brothers ... So I know what is in store. Maybe it is time for me to sit down, play with legos, and enter his imaginary world for a few moments, before it is gone.

- Leanne from

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