Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

April 21, 2017 at 10:25am

Local business executive speaks at McChord's Lunch and Learn

Devin Craig, Jimmy John’s director of operations and 4th Airlift Squadron honorary commander, talks about leadership traits admired by others during McChord Lunch and Learn April 7 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez

This month, McChord's Lunch and Learn session featured a local business leader as the guest speaker. Devin Craig, Jimmy John's director of operations and 4th Airlift Squadron honorary commander, provided in-depth leadership advice from an experienced business viewpoint April 7 at the McChord Chapel Support Center.

The title of this month's event was called, "What Exactly is Leadership?" and focused on breaking down the different traits that make a good leader.

"There are a lot of different definitions of leadership," said Craig. "Basically, if you have followers you have to take care of others. Every definition of leadership relates to others and purpose."  

Because each airman has served under different leaders, Craig asked airmen to tell him leadership traits they liked or disliked in previous leaders.

"When we see good leadership we know it," said Craig. "When we see bad leadership we also know it. We know the power of leadership, but kind of like love, it's hard to define."

To help show the importance of leadership in different organizational positions, Craig explained the effects poor or good leadership could have on an organization and employees at every level.

"All of us that are put in a position of organizational authority, leadership is expected of us," said Craig. "What people don't realize is that when put in a position of managerial authority, the influence they have on others."

The number one reason why people are disengaged in their jobs is because of poor leadership from management, said Craig.  

"When I first got to my current position I noticed there was a lot of technical competence but a lack of morale," said Craig. "I attributed this to poor leadership and sought to make managers better leaders."

Most organizations focus on technical competence and not the most valuable leadership traits, said Craig.

Craig noted the Eight Most Important Qualities of Leadership identified by Google.

These qualities are as follows in line of importance:

1. Providing good coaching  

2. Empowerment of others without micromanaging

3. Having empathy for others

4. Being results-driven  

5. Being a good communicator

6. Developing people

7. Being a visionary and strategist

8. Having technical competence

"I want to encourage you, if you're in a position of organizational authority, you have the opportunity to lead people and these are the skills that will help you do that," said Craig. "Develop these skills and invest in yourself. You owe it to yourself and the people you lead to become the best leader possible."

For more information about future Lunch and Learn events, call the 62nd Airlift Wing commander's action group at 253.982.7832.

April 21, 2017 at 10:20am

Air Force women break another barrier

The Air Force women’s rugby sevens team huddles together after a practice in Las Vegas, March 1, 2017. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Siuta Ika

Since 1948, one year after the Air Force became a separate service, women have served in the Air Force. From 1976, when women were allowed in the Air Force as equal members to 2016, when all combat jobs were opened to women, Air Force women have been breaking historical barriers.

Recently, another barrier was broken when, for the first time in history, women in the Air Force were authorized to play Air Force rugby as an official sport.

The Air Force women's rugby sevens team, a team made up of 19 women from across the Air Force, made its first-ever debut in March at the Las Vegas Invitational, the largest rugby tournament in North America.

"Last year, Tech. Sgt. James Hubby, the U.S. Air Force rugby program manager, and I, started kicking around the idea of trying to field a women's team to compete in a trial venue," said Lt. Col. Andy McQuade, 627th Air Base Group deputy commander at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and U.S. Air Force Rugby director.  "Since we had planned for the men to be at the Las Vegas Invitational this year, we identified this tournament as the best to launch.

"We fielded, for the first time ever, one women's side with nineteen players arriving to camp. The women had the opportunity to play Quebec in Sam Boyd Stadium, an honor given to no other team in the amateur pool."

McQuade spoke to the importance of this first-ever event and what it meant.

"We spent much of that time in Las Vegas building a sense of family and that by creating the foundation of a women's team, we have completed what it is to be family. We have now provided an opportunity to women in the Air Force. Since rugby is in the Olympics, both men and women now have the opportunity to compete for the World Class Athlete Program."

Speaking to the fact that this was the first time U.S. Air Force women have been able to participate in the sport, McQuade had this to say.

"Rugby is a sport that is open to men and women. It is in the Olympics for both genders. It is played internationally in all the top tournaments by both genders. In the military, it is a sport that offers an opportunity to express the warrior ethos with fellow airmen. These types of experiences bring together airmen from many career fields and bases, much like we do during deployments. Playing AF Rugby creates that esprit de corps."

Hubby, an Air Force Security Forces Center financial action officer at Joint Base San Antiono-Lackland, Texas, and U.S. Air Force Rugby program director, commented on the responses he has had since this ground-breaking event.

"I average one-to-two emails a day from Air Force members or those outside the Air Force who run rugby programs at all levels, e.g., adult rugby clubs, collegiate and high school programs," said Hubby. "These emails include active-duty, reservists or National Guard members interested in more information, collegiate players curious about the program and seeking more information on Air Force opportunities, or even high school ROTC students who just started playing rugby.

"There is a vested interest in making Air Force rugby an inclusive program that we as an Air Force family can all share. As an openly gay member of our military, it's been a proud few years for me as an accepted member of this program. Now I'm applying that positive experience to another area - making women's rugby a reality."

Making this a reality was something that Hubby experienced first-hand with the women's rugby head coach, Lisa Rosen, announced her tournament roster.

"You could see it in the tears of those selected during camp," said Hubby. "You could see how proud these women were to receive the first official women's Air Force rugby jersey and be given an opportunity so many before them were not afforded."

For the future of U.S. Air Force women playing in the sport, McQuade said the future looks bright.

"Armed Forces Sports wants to build service-level teams and Armed Forces select teams to compete in various tournaments.  However, we want to build on what we see as service-level success and continue to draw in more women to play rugby," said McQuade. "We are very focused on ‘crossover' athletes that have experience in any sport, we will teach them rugby."

Leanne Hardin, is one crossover athlete on the team and is a staff sergeant stationed at Pápa Air Base, Hungary. Although she never watched rugby, she was approached by a coworker who thought she'd be a good fit for the team based on her physique and background in athletics.

"I played football, basketball, baseball with the boys when I was young," Hardin said. "I was told I couldn't play high school football so I played volleyball; they told me I couldn't play baseball anymore so I played softball. I got into boxing later, so I've always been in sports.

"To play for and represent the Air Force at a level that we are is amazing."

"Additionally, we are working hard to elevate our contact methods beyond word of mouth so anyone that wants to give the sport a try knows how to try it and who to get in contact with," said McQuade.

For more information, visit the U.S. Air Force Rugby website at usafrugby.com, their Facebook page at usaf7s or by emailing them at usaf7srugby@gmail.com.

April 20, 2017 at 1:07pm

Tower team averts incident

The 62nd Operations Support Squadron air traffic controllers look on at the McChord Field flight line from the tower, April 11, on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley

The 62nd Operations Support Squadron air traffic control tower at McChord Field responded quickly to prevent an aircraft incident April 11 on the McChord runway, when a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion seemingly lost all radio communications with them.

The P-3 was on the active runway preparing to depart when they were cleared to take off and did not respond.

"We lined the aircraft up to wait, preparing him for an imminent departure," said Senior Airman Christopher Bennett, 62nd Operations Support Squadron, air traffic controller. "When we lined him up to wait, he lost communications with the tower. We tried to clear him for takeoff, he didn't respond; we conducted radio checks, he didn't respond; we told him to exit the runway and he didn't respond."

If the tower loses communications with an aircraft pilot, they have a light gun they use to communicate with the aircraft, by flashing different colors with different meanings at them.

"I don't think he saw it," said Bennett. "We eventually got ahold of him and told him to exit the runway, but because we had an inbound it was pretty significant."  

If there's an aircraft anywhere on the runway no other aircraft can be on it, meaning the inbound aircraft could not land.

"The aircraft trying to land was seven miles out, which is two or three minutes away," said Bennett. "It usually wouldn't be a big deal, because the aircraft would be on takeoff roll, but because we couldn't get a hold of the guy, and therefore did not know what he was going to do, because he was cleared for takeoff, it was a big deal."

The controller sent the other aircraft around so as not to endanger either crews.

"It's what we train for," said Bennett. "Our job is to separate aircraft in the air and on the ground. We make sure to keep everyone safe, all while getting the aircraft in and out as fast as possible."

The 62nd OSS tower here controls traffic in the air and on the ground and yesterday they were doing what they are trained to, communicate with the aircraft and when said communication fails, they do everything they can to keep the crews safe.  

The controllers in that tower spend 13 months in training before they are expected to complete the job on their own, without having direct oversight by a more senior trainer.

"When we are in the simulators, our trainers will intentionally make planes go towards each other and put us in scenarios to make us uncomfortable," said Bennett.

Bennett said that as a result of their training the controllers always must have constant situational awareness and must use correct phraseology when speaking to the various aircraft pilots.

"What you say to a pilot is exactly how they should interpret it," said Bennett. "Before they move into our airspace, taxi or move at all, they have to talk to us, up until then, we're basically just waiting for them to call us."

The tower has a radar that indicates what type of aircraft, their call sign and altitude within 64 miles of the tower.

Overall, the controllers agree that communication amongst themselves and the aircraft crews is more than key.

Senior Airman Austin Corcoran, 62nd OSS air traffic controller, said the controllers heavily rely on their radio communications to speak to the aircraft.

"Communication is key," said Corcoran. "We use different radio frequencies for ground control and in the air. That's why the Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems has a very important job, too."

The ATCALS airmen are the ones in charge of making sure the radios the tower use work.

"There's a big push to make our equipment electronically controlled," said Corcoran. "Some of the navigation aids our pilots use are electronic."

However, the downside to the shift towards more electronically controlled communication systems are if something actually happens to the equipment, the controllers would not have anyone to fix it.

"We can't do our job without communication," said Corcoran. "And people entrust us to do our jobs."

April 20, 2017 at 1:03pm

Airlift contributes to science

Captain Andrew Rast and Lt. Col. J.W. Smith, 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, prepare to land a C-17 using night-vision goggles on Pegasus Ice Runway near McMurdo Station, Antarctica, July 15, 2016. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Madelyn Mccullough

Over the past 60 years, winter flying missions have provided a significant contribution to how the National Science Foundation conducts scientific research in Antarctica.

The C-17 Globemaster III 2016-2017 season recently wrapped-up, and the night-vision goggle capability paired with mid-Austral winter flying continued to be a game changing airlift support for the National Science Foundation during Operation Deep Freeze.

Citizen airmen assigned to the 446th Airlift "Rainier" Wing and active-duty Air Force members assigned to the 62nd Airlift Wing, formed blended aircrews to deploy as part of the 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron who provide airlift to the Antarctic in support of the NSF managed U.S. Antarctic Program.

"The 446th Operations Group performed at a high level of expertise this season," said Senior Master Sgt. Derek Bryant, 446th Operations Group loadmaster. "Every aircrew member should know that they laid a foundation that the NSF is now building upon and the mid-winter missions coupled with our NVG capability have launched us into a new era for ODF."

Despite the difficulty of operating in an austere environment, the 166 total force personnel deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, airlifted 1.8 million pounds of cargo and transported 2,992 passengers into the Antarctic, logging a total of 393 flight hours.

"The new McMurdo-Phoenix Airfield was validated and approved for C-17 and wheeled aircraft operations," said Lt. Col. Robert Schmidt, 304th EAS mission commander and 62nd Operations Group deputy commander. "The new field replaces Pegasus field, which has experienced several seasons of melting, and is expected to remain in use beyond 2030."

Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, is the staging point for deployments to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, a key research and operations facility for the USAP. Deployment support at McMurdo is provided by Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica and led by Pacific Air Forces at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Community outreach was a highlight for this season as well. The mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, presented the 304th EAS with a civic award for supporting local charities. Aircrews supported New Zealand's yearly IceFest - a unique festival, with over 4,500 attendees, highlighting New Zealand's leadership in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean - with a C-17 static display.

Through six decades of continuous support, ODF has evolved to meet today's logistics requirements of the USAP. Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica, headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, executes inter- and intra-theater airlift, tactical LC-130 deep field support, aeromedical evacuation support, search and rescue, sealift, seaport access, bulk fuel supply, port cargo handling and transportation requirements at NSF's request in order to support the USAP.

Planning for the next season will include continued refinement of the mid-Austral schedule as well as supporting NSF future requirements.

April 14, 2017 at 9:58am

Reuniting WWII members

Mr. Brad Boland, president, O-Neill Transfer and Storage Co., hands off a bottle of 1945 Calvados brandy to Master Sgt. Todd Wivell, 62nd AW chief of public affairs, March 5, at the O-Neill business office in Beaverton, Oregon. U.S. Air Force photo

It is approximately 2,800 miles from Fredericksburg, Virginia, to Seattle, and can take more than four days of driving to make this trip. That is exactly what took place when two bottles of 1945 Calvados brandy were transported from Fredericksburg the week of March 22, and as one bottle arrived to Seattle the week of April 7,  the other bottle arrived to Lompoc, California, the week before.

These two bottles were transported as an initiative started back during World War II when servicemembers of the 510th Fighter Squadron made a pact to remain in contact and hold reunions throughout the years to come.

At one of the last reunions, the men of that squadron realized they would not be able to continue the traditional reunion and decided to purchase these two bottles of brandy, with a promise that the last two surviving members would get those bottles, pour a drink, and raise a toast to their departed brethren.

Those bottles were kept at the home of Walter Donovan, a fighter pilot of the 510th FS, and before passing, he asked his nephew Dick Dunnivan, a Fredericksburg native, to ensure that promise would stay fulfilled.

Dunnivan followed the remaining servicemembers of that unit until the last two were left, Col. (ret.) Ralph Jenkins of Seattle and Maj. (ret.) M.E. Johns of Lompoc, and thus started the recent journey of these two bottles.

Working his connections, Dunnivan was able to hand off the bottles to Jeff Barber of J. Barber Moving and Storage in Federicksburg, who transported them to Chicago where they were then handed off to two separate members, Mr. Bradly Boland, O-Neill Transfer and Storage Co., and Ms. Kelly Kirkman, Affordable Quality Moving and Storage, who live in Oregon and California, respectively, and who made the final deliveries to airmen from the Air Force bases closest to these surviving members.

"I feel very honored to be a small part of this chain to get the bottle of brandy to Colonel Jenkins," said Boland, as he handed over the bottle to an airman from McChord Field. "I was humbled to serve a deserving veteran who gave his all for his country."

Speaking to his own family history, Boland commented on how this had a special tie to him and all of his family.

"My father was a veteran of World War II, he served in the 75th Division and was seriously injured during the Battle of the Bulge.  My wife's father served in the Navy during World War II.  My wife's grandfather served in France during World War I.  Three of my cousins served in Vietnam.  One close family friend lost both legs during the Vietnam conflict and two of my brother-in-laws served in Vietnam.

"My dad had some close friends serve in World War II and I can still remember during events how they would tell their stories of serving overseas and sharing their battle stories.  None of them were bragging, they were just telling it like it was."

Boland has his father's ribbons and marksmanship badge hanging up in his office as a constant reminder of the sacrifices the servicemembers endured during all of those battles.

"I am a World War II student and I have read a lot of books on the subject," said Boland.  "Because of the stories I heard over the years, it gave me more interest to read and study about this awful conflict.

"Now the people stories have become more interesting to me, and knowing that I could help reunite the last two remaining members of this World War II squadron meant a lot to me."

On Friday, April 7, at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, through the means of technology and with the help of airmen from JBLM and airmen from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, Jenkins in Seattle and Johns in Lompoc connected with each other and offer that toast to their fallen comrades.

"We could not have done this without the help and generosity of Mr. Dunnivan, Mr. Barber, Ms. Kirkman and Mr. Boland, and all of those that made this possible," said Col. Leonard Kosinski, 62nd Airlift Wing commander. "We are extremely grateful and express our sincerest appreciation for them in allowing us to make this happen."

April 13, 2017 at 10:03am

TACP airmen hold annual memorial run

More than 200 members, military and civilians of the 1st Air Support Operations Group, 194th ASOG, 62nd Airlift Wing, on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, run and walk on the McChord Field outdoor track, March 30. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley

Master Sgt. Shawn Leonard, 5th Air Support Operations Squadron operations superintendent, said in total they raised approximately $6,000 at this year's event.

"Each year the TACP community holds an annual 24-hour run to honor their fallen brothers and sisters in arms and to help raise money for their nonprofit organization run by active and retired TACPs through the TACP Association," said Leonard.

The fundamental goal of the TACP-A is to provide support to those members and families in their moment of need and to better the communities they reside in.

To date, the TACP-A has given more than $200K back to the community and their families.

Leonard said the most miles any one member ran totaled more than two marathons, to be exact it was 56 miles in a 24-hour period.

Additionally, 62nd Airlift Wing leadership and other McChord units participated in the run along with family and friends and teams from sponsored businesses.

"Participating in this run allows us to reflect on those who have given the ultimate sacrifice," said Chief Master Sgt. Tico Mazid, 62nd AW command chief and run participant. "It was awesome to see how many people turned out to run or walk in honor of our fallen comrades."

Leonard said the run is really just about the people.

"It's about giving back to the families - no questions asked," said Leonard. 

April 13, 2017 at 9:55am

A C-17 first for McChord

Airmen and civilians from the 62nd Maintenance Squadron move a replacement C-17 Globemaster III flap with a crane, April 6, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Tim Chacon

Team McChord airmen recently performed an uncommon maintenance action to a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft flight control as maintainers from the 62nd Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord changed out a faulty C-17 flap April 6. 

The 2,200-pound flap replaced a faulty flap and is the first flap change to ever be completed by maintainers at McChord Field.

"We got the best of the best of our shop here working on it," said Master Sgt. Andrew Mujica, 62nd MXS maintenance flight repair and reclamation section chief. "This expands the capabilities of the technicians and shows what they are truly capable of."

The new flap arrived at the base March 22 and took more than a week to be prepped for the installation.

"It's a big job," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Hughes, 62nd MXS maintenance flight repair and reclamation lead technician. "With a primary flight control system, this is a good experience for our people to get to do something we don't get to do every day."

Because of the magnitude of the job, the flap change is considered a depot-level maintenance action, said Hughes. As a result, this prevents the aircraft from having to be decommissioned for maintenance by Boeing and saves the Air Force time and money by completing it in-house.  

"The training received and the money saved by doing this in-house is very beneficial," said Hughes. "Essentially, this is just another flight control. It's just bigger than any of the other ones.

Because this is a rare opportunity for maintainers, the changing of the flap provides airmen a valuable training opportunity.

Although a difficult and time consuming task, Team McChord maintainers are up to the challenge, said Hughes.

"Gaining this experience with this system makes us more knowledgeable as a shop," said Hughes. "It is depot-level maintenance and to say that we did it, is awesome."

April 6, 2017 at 12:28pm

A warrior scholar

Capt. Brad Fisher, 62nd Operations Group commander’s inspection program chief, reviews guidance in his office March 24 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz

Capt. Brad Fisher, 62nd Operations Group commander's inspection program chief, was notified March 22 of his selection to the Olmsted Scholarship Program, a leadership program offered to only a small number of Air Force officers each year.

The Olmsted Foundation was established by General George H. Olmsted in 1959. His vision was for military officers to be broadly educated, culturally aware, and uniquely experienced. Olmsted was a successful entrepreneur and West Point graduate who served throughout World War II.

The Olmsted Foundation selects active-duty officers from all branches to spend up to three years learning a language, immersing themselves in another culture, and pursuing a graduate degree taught in the native language.

This program aims to produce the next generation of warrior-scholars.

Fisher is one of those "warrior-scholars" who first learned about this program 10 years ago as a junior at Norwich University.

"I was encouraged by faculty members to apply for a summer immersion program sponsored by the Olmsted Foundation," said Fisher. "I and four other cadets spent two weeks in Kazakhstan traveling the country and participating in CENTCOM's Exercise Regional Cooperation 2007, a scenario built to simulate a mass-casualty disaster with the goal of building partnerships throughout the region.

"This experience was life-changing and the Olmsted Scholarship has been a goal ever since."

Fisher hails from Lakeville, Massachusetts, and is a C-17A Globemaster III airdrop evaluator pilot. He commissioned from the Norwich University Corps of Cadets in 2008 and attended the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.

From there he trained in the C-17 and was off to the 15th Airlift Squadron "Global Eagles" at Joint Base Charleston from 2010 until 2014.  His next adventure was to the 8th Airlift Squadron "Workhorses" here at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

In August 2016, Fisher submitted his application to the Air Force Personnel Center.

Applicants must have a strong operational, professional, and academic record in addition to minimum scores on the Graduate Record Examination and the Defense Language Aptitude Battery test. Fluency in another language is not required.

AFPC holds a board to determine finalists and then the Olmsted Foundation conducts interviews before making their final selections.

Five of the 13 Air Force finalists were selected for the scholarship this year.

Fisher applied to conduct his scholarship in Kyiv, Ukraine, and was selected for this as his first choice.

"Cierra (my wife) and I will be moving to our first-choice location; Kyiv, Ukraine," said Fisher. "Our motivation was to immerse ourselves in a country that is critical to international affairs. Ukrainians are incredibly resilient and have a rich culture that we are so excited to learn more about.

"We will PCS (permanent change of station) this summer to the Defense Language Institute for a year-long Ukrainian language program prior to heading overseas."

Fisher's wife was ecstatic about this life changing move.

"I am very excited for this adventure," said Cierra. "The Olmsted foundation stresses the importance of cultural immersion as a family and will pay for spouses to learn the language as well.

"As a professional counselor I've been fortunate enough to help children in need everywhere that the military has taken us. I'm excited to learn about Ukrainian culture and for the opportunity to continue my work by supporting children abroad."

According to the Fishers, they are appreciative of the mentors and friends who made this possible for them and are humbled by the tremendous opportunity they have been afforded.

"The Olmsted Scholarship is a tremendous crucible," said Fisher. "Cierra and I hope to face that challenge head on and to return armed with a new perspective on life."

April 6, 2017 at 12:23pm

A calm in the storm

Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Daniel Liddicoet

Next to the ancient city of Bagram and seven miles southeast of Charikar in the Parwan province of Afghanistan, Bagram Airfield has remained amongst the most dangerous air bases in the War on Terror. Enduring multiple deadly attacks and incidents since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, the volatile airfield has tested American deployers for more than a decade.

Colonel Cheryl Knight, commander of the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was deployed at Bagram during a particularly tragic span that oversaw the crash of a C-130 Hercules that took off from Bagram and killed 14 people at Jalalabad Airport in October 2015 and a suicide motorcycle bomber that killed six at Bagram in December of the same year.

Far from shying away, Knight and the citizen airmen that compose her squadron, meet these challenges head on.

"I'd go back in a heartbeat," reflects Knight, as she remembers back to when she first learned she would deploy to Bagram after a sudden change of plans rerouting her from a leadership assignment at Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

In August 2015, Knight soon found herself tapped to lead and command an AES squadron at Bagram Airfield that was responsible for 100 percent of the aeromedical evacuations in Afghanistan.

Major Maureen Hightower, 446th AES unit deployment manager, describes how she prepares AES members that are often tasked with sudden and unpredictable assignments across a wide range of threat levels.

"We get them ready for every scenario," explained Hightower, "every situation possible. You plan for the worst and then you're pleasantly surprised when it's not."

For Knight, the deployment was more than just unpredictable, however, it was a brand new.

"I had not been downrange before," said Knight, "I had not gone and lived out there for a long period of time. The security piece to it and being under attack a lot was an adjustment. For my part I can go out and be the leader because I know the medical piece, but the part about security and threats were very different."

Faced with seemingly overwhelming circumstances, Knight did her best to rise to the challenge and lead the 35 airmen assigned to her from across nine different home squadrons.

"As a leader I knew none of those people when I went out there," said Knight, "so you have to build those relationships very quickly because it's a short deployment. When we all pull together, we all do the same job, and we were able to come together and do the job just like all of us were from McChord."

Amongst the biggest tests of Knight's command came Oct. 2 when a C-130 from Bagram crashed at nearby Jalalabad Airport, killing 14.

"That could have been us, said Knight. "I could've lost a crew because we were out on another bird flying somewhere else at that same time."

The crew that flew the fateful mission was part of a squadron from Dyess Air Force Base that was regular partners with Knight's medical team.

"It was significant," said Knight. "We felt the impact because they were our transport. As a commander I had to make sure that I was right and that they were right so that they could get back up on the plane and fly again, because they're getting back on those same planes where there was a mishap. And you could feel it for the first couple weeks to a month."

The crash sent shockwaves throughout the Air Force community, as Capt. Benjamin Schultze, 446th AES flight nurse, recalled from his deployment to Ramstein Air Base at the same time.

"When we were in Germany and that plane crashed, we were affected by it just as much," said Schultze, "because all their bodies came through Ramstein and we were all very aware that it could have been any one of us on that plane."

"How do you get back on the horse again?" asked Knight. "And getting onto a horse is a lot smaller than getting onto one of those C-130s."

As Knight's squadron wrestled with the human toll of the incident, she had to find a way to remain steady in the face of fear and uncertainty.

"As a leader I had to provide that stability for my folks," said Knight. "Whether it's physically, emotionally, mentally or whatever it is. I had a few folks that struggled because it was their first time in that environment, and I hadn't been there either, but I had to figure it out quick, and use my resources to regroup."

A few short months later, tragedy would strike again when a suicide bomber drove onto the base three days before Christmas, killing six.

"One of them lived three doors down from me," said Knight. "It's a small world when you're out there, you're around each other all the time, so it's impactful. I had to show that I wasn't afraid or struggling."

Despite the fact that Knight's deployment only lasted five months, she was able to arm herself with a trove of valuable experiences learned from her adversity, and pass them on to her squadron back home at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"I wanted to come back and brief people heading out to let them know what it's like out there. "This is not Hawaii, it's Afghanistan," said Knight, "and even if it just helped one person, that's enough."

March 30, 2017 at 4:58pm

McChord youth wins MYOY

Pictured in the photo from left to right: Zebbie Castilleja (2016 Youth of the Year - Boys and Girls Club of Benton and Franklin counties), Nyah Hall, Brianna Mitchell, and Chief Ken Hohenberg. Courtesy photo

Nyah Hall, dependent of Tech. Sgt. Quincy Hall, 62nd Operations Support Squadron loadmaster and a sophomore at Clover Park High School, spoke to an audience of distinguished guests about the impact the Boys and Girls Club has had on her life, and her vision for the youth of America in addition to demonstrating poise under pressure during four interview sessions.

"In order to be considered for Military Youth of the Year I had to submit three essays," Nyah said. "The topics were my interests, my Boys and Girls Club experience and what I wanted for the youth of the nation. The speech I made during the competition was a combination of those three essays."

In the days leading to the main event, Nyah and fellow Youth of the Year contestants had the opportunity to practice their speeches in the Space Needle, and meet with local legislative officials including Governor Jay Inslee.

Despite the title at stake, there was no animosity amongst the competitors.

"The counselors who went to Seattle with us said in previous years ‘Youth of the Year' nominees had been more competitive toward each other," Nyah explained. "My group was so friendly; after knowing each other for only three days we became like a little family."

That feeling deepened as each nominee delivered their speeches and Nyah was able to learn more about her newfound friends.

"I was listening to the speeches and thinking about how amazing these people were for overcoming difficult times in their lives to end up here, braver and stronger than they were before," Nyah said.

Though impressed by each Youth of the Year contestant, Nyah was prepared when the time came to take center stage. A lifetime member of the Boys and Girls Club, Nyah and her mother had been taking steps to compete for the Military Youth of the Year title and scholarship for several years.

"I have been part of the Boys and Girls Club for my whole life," Nyah said. "My mom wanted me to gain experience from this competition and has been encouraging me to prepare since the sixth grade."

The thought of public speaking is enough to paralyze many adults with fear, but 15-year-old Nyah was calm, cool and collected as she addressed a ballroom full of guests, all hanging on her every word.

"When I'm speaking I look at people throughout the audience, focus on what I'm saying, and don't let anyone or anything get to me."

According to Nyah's father Quincy, watching their daughter in the throes of competition induced a range of emotions for him and Corinthia Hall, Nyah's mother.

"My wife was nervous the whole time, but I had an unexplainable peace come over me," Quincy said. "When they announced her name I wasn't surprised at all; I was very proud, but not surprised."

Quincy wasn't the only overjoyed member of the Hall family in the ballroom that night.

"I was excited," Nyah said, smiling. "I was really nervous standing on stage waiting for the announcement, but when they said my name I was just so excited."

Well on her way to a successful life, Nyah plans to utilize her scholastic talent to serve.

"I hope to attend the University of Washington and earn a Bachelor of Science," Nyah said. "I want to be a flight nurse in the Air Force."

Proud parents Quincy and Corinthia have sweet and simple advice for their trailblazer.

"Stick with it," Quincy said. "Know that we're here for you and continue to trust in God."

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