Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

March 23, 2017 at 5:35pm

USO Shali Center continues support for troops

Kate Jones, United Service Organizations Northwest Shali Center volunteer, serves lunch to Staff Sgt. Evan Cooper, 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medical technician March 21 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Divine Cox

Since 1941, the United Service Organizations (USO) has kept military men and women connected to their families, homes and country no matter where they are, or under what conditions they serve.

The USO Northwest has been servicing the surrounding area since 1966 and continues to serve the men and women of Joint Base Lewis-McChord today.

The USO Northwest Shali Center, located near the McChord Field flightline, was remodeled and renamed in 2012 after the late Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Clinton and USO supporter.

Andrew Oczkewicz, director of operations for USO Northwest at JBLM, said the Shali Center and its volunteers do everything they can to support the servicemembers of JBLM.

"Our staff and volunteers provide programs and services developed to meet the unique needs of today's military and their families," said Oczkewicz. "We have about 120 volunteers on our staff and they are all here to help serve our servicemembers, families and veterans."

Oczkewicz said that most USOs provide the same services - a troop lounge, computer with Internet access, games and meals - but the Shali Center is designed to support one specific mission.

"The Shali Center was designed to move massive deployments," said Oczkewicz. "We have made the commitment to serve military and their families and give back one hundred percent to benefit units. Our record is 4,659 troops served in a 72-hour period. We are a troop-first USO."

The Shali Center and its staff of volunteers stay busy throughout the year serving more than 48,000 troops annually.

"I think everybody should give back in some way," said Wayne Jackson, USO Northwest Shali Center volunteer and retired Army staff sergeant. "The USO really benefits the troops here because they can get a free lunch and have a short break from work to socialize and eat."

Oczkewicz believes that having the Shali Center located on base is a huge bonus for the troops because the USO is very accessible and close to the servicemembers.

Senior Airman Ronald Shaw, 62nd Operation Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician, takes advantage of the services the USO provides and all it has to offer.

"Having the USO here on base is a blessing," said Shaw. "Not only are the meals free, but it is a place where I can go for lunch and relax in a good atmosphere. I am forever thankful for all that the USO does for us (servicemembers) and the support they give us for serving our country."

For more information on the USO Northwest Shali Center, call 253.982.1100.

For more information about the USO or how you can donate, go to

March 23, 2017 at 5:32pm

Flares and munitions - 62nd MXS ammo

Staff Sgt. Chad Warner unloads squibs or impulse cartridges, which provide a small propellant charge that ignite the flare stick, to build flares for the C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, March 14.

In a warehouse located on the 62nd Maintenance Squadron ammunitions grounds on McChord Field is the conventional maintenance production flight, which is responsible for maintaining all of the flares and ammo for Team McChord at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Staff Sgt. Chad Warner, 62nd Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance production superintendent, helps maintain the flare systems for the C-17s as well as oversees the production and tear down of the flare systems.

These aircraft-dispensed flares are used as infrared countermeasures designed to defeat heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles.

"We process all the flares for the jets on the flight line," said Warner. "We host quarterly builds to keep the built-up flare levels at a sufficient amount to support all the missions here and overseas. We build flares for training missions and real-world missions for overseas deployment and the Antarctica missions."

The flight tracks the lifespan on all flare systems to anticipate which ones require replacement.

"First, we do a little research on the upcoming months for the flare sets that will be expiring," said Warner. "Every four months we will have a set of flares that will be expiring; we use this number to determine how many flares we want to build."

They use two different types of squib or impulse cartridges for the four different types of flares the C-17 here at McChord uses.

The squibs provide a small propellant charge that ignites the flare stick.  

"We do the build and then we'll start pulling the flares from the flight line and swapping them," said Warner. "The flare sticks themselves get put inside bulk quantity cans."

After the build is complete, they track where all the flare sets are in the world for the 48 C-17s assigned to McChord. They do this in case a set is coming up on expiration and is away from home station.

"It's imperative that we configure everything correctly and follow our books step by step," said Tech. Sgt. Bejan Saatchi, 62nd MXS conventional maintenance NCOIC. "It's definitely important for the jets that the flare systems are loaded in the mods correctly so that way the countermeasure systems function the way they're intended to.

"It's imperative we don't send a jet downrange with expired flares on it; those systems are lifesaving and it's what they would use to stop a threat."

They are fired off regularly for training missions and are sometimes used in deployed locations, according to Saatchi.

"They come back with expenditures - we're not informed of the circumstances but we do know that they work," said Saatchi. "It's definitely good knowing that we're helping protect the aircrew and aircraft."

Each flare set is worth approximately $50,000.

"We do a lot more than just manage the flares for the aircraft," said Saatchi. "We're responsible for all the munitions on McChord, which includes thirty-eight custody accounts."

Any organization that uses any type of explosives to include pepper spray and ammo depend on the 62nd MXS ammo flight to inspect it, issue it to them and track it all.

March 23, 2017 at 5:28pm

100 sorties a day

A group of seven Mobility Guardian planners stand in front of a C-17 Globemaster III in a McChord Field hangar at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, March 15. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley

A group of seven Mobility Guardian planners have been working tirelessly to coordinate the 100 sorties a day that will be flying out of McChord Field at Joint Base Lewis-McChord during this summer's projected Air Mobility Command Mobility Guardian exercise.

Maj. Sean McConville, 62nd Airlift Wing Mobility Guardian air planner and McChord C-17 weapons officer, has been the point of contact for the exercise at McChord, and thoroughly involved in all things airspace related.

"As we go through the airspace control plan, I want to bring everyone's focus back to our statement going in, ‘We want to build an exercise where we train the way we fight,'" said McConville. "We're essentially coming up with the airspace plan."

Members of the planning team came from Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington; Altus AFB, Oklahoma; Dyess AFB, Texas; and Charleston AFB, South Carolina, to collaborate and create a final product for the exercise.

"Experts from the different mobility air forces weapons schools came together to figure out how we're going to utilize the air space to meet our training objectives and also ensure that everything is safely de-conflicted," said McConville. "So when we go down range we have plans that articulate how the air space is coordinated between the different coalition assets in the different areas of operation."

The challenges facing the planners are plenty, but the group remains heavily optimistic in their ability to overcome them.

"There a whole lot of moving parts," said McConville.  

Those moving parts are the dozens of multi-national aircraft that will be flying during the exercise and numerous air traffic control towers that regulate the varying air space.  

Fortunately, McConville said Mr. Lee Alvarez, 62nd Operations Support Squadron air space management chief, has gone above and beyond to help in this process.

"Mr. Lee Alvarez has been incredibly helpful in ensuring the various air traffic control towers are on board," said McConville.

McConville said that he is also extremely grateful for the support we've been given, particularly by Seattle Center.

The magnitude of this exercise is unprecedented for Air Mobility Command, according to McConville.

"We're looking at about one hundred sorties a day out of McChord," said McConville. "It will be the largest continuous exercise that we've ever launched out of here and it will also be the first time we've worked with the combat air forces. As we see our mission set evolving down range, we're trying to capture that in the exercise; it's utterly essential."

McConville said there is always room to improve training.

"We're bringing crews from across the mobility air forces to get exposure and we are re-focusing some of the training programs to update the way we do business," said McConville. "I'm grateful to the different wings for allocating these people who are all in high demand from across the mobility air forces to help us deliver on our promise to AMC and give them a worthwhile exercise."

The goal is to have an exercise that reflects the mobility air forces evolving mission set, so that crews can go safely, execute and garner worthwhile lessons-learned.

One of the planners helping contribute to this plan is Capt. Mark Wilson, 39th Airlift Squadron chief of tactics at Dyess AFB and lead C-130 planner for Mobility Guardian.

His focus area is C-130-specific training objectives.

"This is the largest exercise I've been a part of," said Wilson.  "So far I think it's a big challenge for us to face, but one that needs to be done."

Thousands of participants from all over the world and Air Force will be coming together for two weeks to validate this exercise.

"We're going to be able to do it and it's going to be very beneficial," said Wilson. "In the Mobility Air Forces and the rest of the Air Force, we are very operationally focused on the present and this exercise will continue to refine those skills, but also focus on future potential adversaries that we don't get to focus on at home station.

"What we definitely don't get to do often is train with our international partners, and in the event that we are called upon to do this in the real world, we're going to do this alongside them, so getting to train with them in this controlled environment where we can develop and grow as a community is extremely beneficial."

Mobility Guardian is scheduled for Aug. 1-17. For more information, call the McChord Mobility Guardian office at 253.982.6027.

March 16, 2017 at 11:50am

AFAS celebrates 75 years

Tech. Sgt. Nalopa Hansen, 627th Force Support Squadron, smiles while speaking to a fellow airman during the AFAS 75th Anniversary Celebration, March 10, at the Military Personnel Section on McChord Field. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz

According to the Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) website, the charitable organization dates back to the beginning of American involvement in World War II when Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold, commanding general of the Army Air Forces, and his wife, Bee, turned the ideal of "airmen helping airmen" into a reality.

"The purpose of AFAS is to help alleviate stress due to financial emergencies so our airmen can be in a better place mentally to focus on their Air Force mission," said Diana Burr, 627th Force Support Squadron AFAS officer. "The society was created by General Hap Arnold back in 1942 when he realized the toll World War II was having on our airmen and their families."

As their website proudly proclaims, for every dollar donated, AFAS pledges to provide three dollars to airmen in need.

"Everyone should know the AFAS is here to help in emergency situations," Burr said. "The basic philosophy of the AFAS is to meet immediate financial needs in an emergency situation as a step toward a permanent solution to a problem."

Different from other Air Force programs such as the Combined Federal Campaign, the AFAS gets its funding through donations and investments, Burr explained.

"The AFAS is one of four charities which benefit from the Air Force Assistance Fund campaign each year," she said. "As a matter of fact, McChord's annual AFAF campaign is in April and May, giving each airman the opportunity to donate to one of the four charities, including AFAS."

Arnold's vision of airmen helping airmen not only alleviated the stresses of those affected by WWII, it has enabled airmen to help one another through almost every type of hardship over the past 75 years.

"The (Air Force Aid) Society prides itself on trying to anticipate and recognize the changing needs of our airmen," Burr said. "Ever since its inception, leaders involved have been very passionate about taking care of airmen and their families. The anniversary is an occasion to celebrate just that; 75 years of taking care of airmen!"

For more information about the AFAS or to learn how you can get involved, contact Burr at 253.982.2695.

March 16, 2017 at 11:46am

USAF uses first drone for C-17 post flight inspection

The 412th Test Wing’s Emerging Technologies Combined Test Force conducted a test with a quadcopter to see how well it can conduct a maintenance inspection of the exterior of a C-17 Globemaster III March 6. Photo credit: Kenji Thuloweit

The 412th Test Wing's Emerging Technologies Combined Test Force used a quadcopter to conduct a maintenance inspection of the exterior of a C-17 Globemaster III on loan from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, March 6.

It was the first time the ET CTF flew an sUAS on the flightline and the second time the CTF has used a small unmanned aerial system in a new application that shows promise.

The winds remained manageable and allowed the test team to conduct three sorties with the quadcopter, which was fitted with a video camera. Live video was assessed by the team, including maintainers, to determine if the quality was adequate for routine inspections. The video recorded from the quadcopter's camera will be analyzed to see if it is clear enough to see smaller details of the cargo plane's exterior such as structural abnormalities, rivets and cracks.

Maj. Dan Riley, ET CTF director said, the test was so successful that the maintainers used the data to sign off their preflight external inspection, a first for the Air Force.

"This could save (maintainers) a lot of time," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Jaburek, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, at JBLM. "When we go on top of the airplane, we can only walk on certain parts, and then we have to hook and unhook our (safety harness) every few feet."

Inspections that would normally take 45 minutes to an hour could be done just in a few minutes with a quadcopter if it's successful. Maintainers also would not need a lift to inspect a C-17's tail, Jaburek said.

Capt. Justin Merrick, ET CTF lead engineer said, the CTF got the idea from seeing a video online showing a commercial airline company using an sUAS to inspect a plane.

"(Leadership) encourages us to go out and conduct tests, so after we saw some videos online, we contacted some maintainers here and they were very enthusiastic to help out," said Merrick.

Riley added that this first test on the flightline could pave the way for future sUAS tests and test procedures.

"Another reason we've conducted this test is to open the aperture on flying an sUAS near the airfield, which has been frowned upon in the past," said Riley.  "As we execute these missions it establishes a baseline for how operations can be conducted safely, not only here at Edwards, but at other bases as well. We couldn't have accomplished what we have so far without the support of the 412th Operations Group and test wing commander in breaking down some of the barriers to these types of operations."

Riley said the CTF is looking at a variety of other missions in the near future such as roof inspections, airfield inspections and environmental-concern area inspections.

In February, the newly formed ET CTF began testing a quadcopter to determine if it was possible to use the sUAS to calibrate the 412th Range Squadron's telemetry antennas on base. Those tests also yielded positive results.

The Emerging Technologies CTF was officially activated last July and its mission is to provide agile, innovative flight test capabilities for emerging technologies and to explore the Air Force warfighting capabilities of tomorrow. Current focuses are on the use of small unmanned aerial systems for testing and operational use, and on autonomous systems' development and use.

March 10, 2017 at 10:05am

JBLM Cubs make small cars for big race in Derby Garage

Joseph Ingle, a Scouting parent, helps Jake Johnson, a Wolf Cub Scout, cut his Pinewood Derby car at the first of two Derby Garage’s hosted by Pack 462, Feb. 11, 2016. Photo credit: Sgt. David Beckstrom

Editor's note: This story is the first in a two-part series about Cub Scout Pack 462's Pinewood Derby.

The smell of sawdust wafts through the air and the whine of power tools assaults the ears upon entering the Boy Scouts of America's Scout Hut on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It's mid-February and the boys of Cub Scout Pack 462 are preparing for the annual Pinewood Derby in late March.

The derby is an event that many Cub Scouts look forward to each year. The inaugural race happened in California in 1952 after Cubmaster Don Murphy's son wanted to participate in the popular soapbox derbies, but he was too small.

During the Pinewood Derby, boys, and in some packs, their families, race against each other in a gravity-powered drag race with vehicles they have created from kits which include a pinewood block, four plastic wheels and four small nails to be used as axels.

These vehicles start as plain blocks of wood that need carving and shaping, generally by the boys with the help of an adult. However, some adults don't have the proper tools to facilitate this transformation from plain wood into a highly-stylized, aerodynamic racing machine.

This is why Pack 462 held the first of two Pinewood Derby Garages. It was a chance for Cub Scouts and their families to go to the BSA Scout Hut and create their vehicles.

"These garages help build bonds between the scouts and their families," said Pack 462's assistant Cubmaster, Sean Fitzgibbon. "As the scouts work with their parents to come up with designs and mold cars, we see their faces light up."

The leaders of Pack 462 have donated their time, tools and equipment allowing the boys and their families an opportunity they otherwise might not have. This makes the Pinewood Derby more exciting and fun for the children as their vehicles will have a better chance of crossing the finish line faster, said Pack 462's committee chair Cassandra Nordin.

"I am not mechanically inclined so his derby cars may have suffered from my ineptitude in the past," said Fitzgibbon. "But I was able to learn new tips and tricks to create the car better this year,"

While some families need to use these garages because they don't have access to the tools, others choose to cut their cars at these events for the camaraderie.

"Even though my dad has the tools I needed to build my car, I wanted to come to the garage and build my car with my friends," said Cub Scout Richard Souza. "I traced the design I wanted and had help cutting it out so I could sand and paint it."

The Boy Scouts of America program allows Cub Scout-aged boys to use hand tools and as they get older the program grows with them. As the child gets older, the program becomes more self-motivated and reliant upon the child's drive, according to the BSA Rules and Regulations.

The Scouting program has more for boys and their families than just building and racing cars. The program is geared to building future leaders through fun and interesting age-appropriate activities, according to the BSA mission statement.

"Scouting really helps the boys mature. They start with parent participation and gradually move on to fully independent, hands-on work," said Fitzgibbon. "Scouting in general assists boys along the path to adulthood by gradually adding responsibility and more advanced skills."

"I have gone camping with my family and worked on science projects with my dad because of Cub Scouts," added Souza. "Every time we do a Scouting event, my dad and I have a lot of fun together."

Cub Scouts is a child-and-parent program aimed at creating young men who are ready to rise to the challenges of life while learning the importance of family and community, according to the BSA mission statement.

"Scouting allows me and other parents to watch our sons tackle multiple challenges and gain a wide range of experiences," said Fitzgibbon. "I really enjoy watching parent and Cub Scout teams working to achieve the Cub Scout's vision."

The next Pinewood Derby Garage is scheduled March 12 from noon-2 p.m. The Pinewood Derby is scheduled for March 25.

For more information about the Boy Scouts of America program, go to or

March 10, 2017 at 10:01am

Maintaining a safe and operational airfield

To avoid a runway incursion, Mr. Urouse Williams, 62nd Airlift Wing airfield driving program manager, demonstrates the proper way of contacting the air traffic control tower for clearance to drive on the airfield. Photo credit: Senior Airman Divine Cox

A runway incursion is considered as any unauthorized presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person on the safety protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take-off of aircraft, according to Airfield Management.

Here at McChord Field, the 62nd Operations Support Squadron airfield management section is the go-to office in the case of an airfield incursion incident at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"Airfield Management's primary mission and purpose is to maintain a safe, operating airfield environment and provide flight service support to base and transient aircrew," said Ms. Eileen Rodriguez, 62nd Airlift Wing airfield manager.

According to Rodriguez, runway operations are an integral part of aviation, so it is imperative that everyone be very familiar with the layout and verbiage of their airfield. Successful prevention of runway incursions requires the cooperation of all users including air traffic controllers, pilots, vehicle drivers and pedestrians operating on the airfield.

Pilots, controllers, drivers and pedestrians can all be involved in runway incursions. A contributing factor can be a breakdown in communications on the airfield and often involves some of the following infractions: use of non-standardized phraseology; failure to provide correct read back of an instruction; misunderstanding the controllers instructions; accepting clearance meant for another aircraft or vehicle or blocked transmissions.

According to the airfield management office, it is vital that before you accept the responsibility of driving on an airfield that you know clear and concise communications are the number one thing in preventing runway incursions.

"All runways allowing use of large transport aircraft require federally mandated safety areas called clear zones, surface areas and the controlled movement area," said Mr. Urouse Williams, 62nd Airlift Wing airfield driving program manager. "These areas are established to provide a safe environment for aircraft operations as well as for the protection of people on the ground."

The airfield on McChord is considered a controlled area and entering the airfield requires permission from the installation commander (coordinated through Airfield Management Operations).

"Willful or inadvertent entry violates the airfield security controlled area," said Williams. "However, the most important of the areas mentioned is the controlled movement area. Entering this area, willfully or inadvertently, without specific permission from the air traffic control tower, will lead to a safety incident called a runway incursion."

Williams said that although there are not many safety area violation incidents, they do occur.

One area in particular that draws a lot of attention from airfield management is Perimeter Road.

"Outer Drive (part of Perimeter Road) and the adjoining jogging path around the flightline and through the required safety clear zones established is an area of concern," said Williams. "The fact that the area is not physically divided makes it possible for inadvertent entry. Personnel must not leave the road or jogging path towards the runway. This area is an established security and safety controlled area and any person entering it must have a specific purpose supporting aircraft operation activities, as well as permission."

Another area of concern for airfield management that puts McChord at risk for an airfield incursion is flightline drivers.

"Anyone driving on the airfield must be trained and certified on proper procedures," said Williams. "The Airfield Driving Program is assigned to this office and ensures all base airfield drivers are trained to operate and drive in vicinity of aircraft and within aircraft authorized areas."

Awareness and posted controlled area signs serve as a way to help prevent unintentional entry to established security and safety controlled areas.

"Even one incident has the potential to lead to a catastrophic accident resulting in the loss of many lives as well as the loss of millions of dollars in equipment," said Williams. "Airfield incursions do happen here on McChord and we just want all personnel to be educated about it and just be very aware of their surroundings."

For more information about airfield incursions or should you observe unauthorized personnel or wildlife in controlled areas, contact Airfield Management at 253.982.5611.

March 9, 2017 at 10:14am

"Pursuit of the 12th Man"

Senior Airman Tyler Sutherland, 62nd Maintenance Squadron aerospace maintenance apprentice, inspects a tool kit at the 62nd MXS support section on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Feb. 23. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley

In a time where the Air Force maintainer shortage is at 4,000 fewer airmen than needed, any opportunity to save money and or manpower is more than welcomed, and the 62nd Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is doing just that.

Maj. David Thompson, 62nd MXS commander, initiated a "Pursuit of the 12th Man" contest in his unit, where the 12 work centers within his unit compete to save man-hours by their own innovations.

The goal is to surpass 1,920 man-hours which equates to 40 hours a week for 52 weeks, the equivalent to having an extra mechanic. The reward is a well-deserved day off for whichever section saves the most man-hours.

The contest is still on-going, but it began in October 2016.

Senior Airman Brandon Mekan, 62nd MXS aerospace propulsion journeyman and the 62nd MXS support section, which provides tools for C-17 Globemaster III maintenance here at McChord, managed to save approximately 1,452 man-hours annually by analyzing ways they could save time with their equipment cleaning process.

"I was trying to find an easier way than cleaning our tools one by one," said Mekan. "I wanted to find a better way."

Mekan was referring to the more than 5,000 individual tools the support equipment flight manages that are required to be cleaned and maintained for their users.

The tool cleaning process originally took several shifts and up to several days, because there are thousands of pieces in a tool box.

"It's an extensive process," said 1st Lt. Erin Howell, 62nd MXS flight commander.

And the shop is still required to respond to their customers checking out tool kits and managing more than $13 million worth of equipment.

Overall, Mekan said the lengthy process was his motivation to find a more efficient way of doing the job.

He set out to find a solution that expedited the process and ended up at the desk of Tech. Sgt. George Alvarado, 62nd MXS support section NCOIC.

Alvarado suggested talking to a separate flight, which has several large equipment parts washers that clean their equipment.

"It was as simple as asking the hydraulics flight ‘Can we borrow your parts washer?,'" said Alvarado. "They didn't have to say ‘yes', because it does take time away from them, but they did."

The machine enables the airmen to place the tools in a cage type box, and the process takes 10-15 minutes as opposed to multiple shifts and days on end.

According to Alvarado, cleaning the tools takes a lot of time away from other tasks, and the less time they spend on cleaning the tools, the more time they can spend focused on their customers and other duties.

At any given shift there can be between 200-420 transactions processed in their shop.

"When I saw how much time we saved with one small box, I know we could save much more time on the larger toolboxes," said Alvarado. "The whole process ended up being much easier and saved us a lot of time."

Not to mention how streamlining the process can result in more predictability.

"We can create a schedule, look ahead and ask them (hydraulics flight) to use the machine," said Alvarado. "We are able to focus on our customers now."

Overall, Mekan said there is less room for error and the flight is able to get the tools out to the floor faster.

The unit is also in the process of trying to get one of their own cleaning machines, specifically made for their tools.

According to Alvarado, managing their resources is essential for mission success.

"I want to give praise to the hydro shop and Mekan for helping us out," said Alvarado. "We are truly one team."

Working together, these teams are working toward their commander's goal of completing the "Pursuit of the 12th Man challenge."

March 3, 2017 at 1:33pm

Veteran survives cancer with help from wingmen

Eileen Rodriguez, McChord Field airfield manager, smiles for a photo Feb. 21 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez

The airfield management team across the Air Force plays an integral part in ensuring aircraft operations run smoothly around the clock.

A critical part of that team is the airfield manager, and at McChord Field, part of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Eileen Rodriguez has been that critical member since 2004.

She first came to McChord as a master sergeant where she was assigned to the airfield management team. She retired in 2010 and soon after took her current position as airfield manager.

"I just changed my uniform," said Rodriguez. "How I do my job hasn't changed or my relationship with my colleagues."

Rodriguez, known to many on McChord as "ER", was born and raised in Hawaii and was the first in her family to serve in the U.S. military.

"Growing up on an island, you don't see beyond the horizon. I didn't realize how big the world is until I left," said Rodriguez. "The Air Force really opened my eyes to our country and what service really is."

Since coming to McChord, she has grown to love the base and the people she's served with, said Rodriguez.

"It's special to me that I was part of the big joint basing process and helping to perfect it," said Rodriguez. "I think what we have overcome is something to be proud of."

After being at McChord for more than 10 years, Rodriguez received some news that would forever change her life.

"I was bordering stage four cancer," said Rodriguez. "Cancer to me equaled death, so that was pretty scary."

The news of cancer shocked her, but because of her faith, she found peace, said Rodriguez.

"Not even an hour after soaking it in, I had an unexplainable peace," said Rodriguez. "I know it was my faith in God that helped me."

"I decided to not focus on the cancer but to go to work and focus on the fight," Rodriguez continued. "I didn't want to mess with my daily routine. I was thinking about my task at hand and I wasn't thinking about what I was going through."

With the help from her leadership and shop, Rodriguez was able to work through chemotherapy without taking time off. The days she wasn't able to work at the office she was allowed to telework from home.

"Support is the key to healing," said Rodriguez. "They really made me feel supported. When they hear someone is going through a difficult time, everyone rallies. We have a pretty special squadron."

After her second treatment of chemotherapy, her hair started to fall out. This is when things got tougher psychologically, said Rodriguez.

"When that first clump of hair fell out is when I realized this is real," said Rodriguez. "Having my head shaved was the roughest part."

To support Rodriguez losing her hair, airmen from the air field management flight gathered together to shave their heads.

"I wouldn't be able to get through it without the love and support of my family and all of Team McChord," said Rodriguez. "This solidifies my heartfelt feelings toward the military. We all have different mission sets, but we all support one another."

Rodriguez said the support she received wasn't just limited to her immediate work section but that she also received weekly visits from Col. David Kumashiro, previous 62nd Airlift Wing commander, and Col. Ethan Griffin, previous 62nd AW vice commander.

"I don't know how they always knew when I was here at work," said Rodriguez. "From the time they found out about my cancer until they left to other assignments, they checked on me."

Summer of 2016 is when she felt she had started to feel cured, said Rodriguez.

"I felt it was part of my healing process to continue living and continue life. I didn't want to have a pity party," said Rodriguez. "It is how we get there that matters, and I know it's caring for and supporting people."

Rodriguez attributes her successful recovery to being able to work during that time, and the support from the Air Force and her family.

March 3, 2017 at 1:29pm

We are the checks and balances

Staff Sgt. Kursten Harris, 62nd Maintenance Group, plans, scheduling and documentation office NCO in charge, reviews schedules Feb. 22 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez

Team McChord airmen operate on a global scale, performing worldwide airlift, but without the proper oversight these missions would not happen.

Two of the many offices responsible for ensuring McChord aircraft are meeting all maintenance standards and are in optimal condition to support these missions is the 62nd Maintenance Group's Scheduling and Analysis offices.     

"Preventative maintenance is key to the health of the fleet," said Airman 1st Class Danny Hampton, 62nd MXG maintenance plans and scheduling scheduler. "Preventative maintenance is like taking your car to the shop before it breaks down."  

The scheduling office schedules hundreds of maintenance actions yearly for aircraft and tracks past, current and future maintenance actions. These actions include C-17 home-station checks, fuel systems inspections, tire maintenance, the washing of aircraft and many other maintenance actions.

"We are the checks and balances," said Tech. Sgt. Edward Fox, 62nd MXG plans, scheduling and documentation NCOIC. "We make sure there is one hundred percent confidence in that the right aircraft get off the ground."  

Working across the hall from scheduling, airmen from the maintenance management analysis office make sure all maintenance actions are properly documented to ensure continuity.  

"We track all the metrics for all of the fleet. We help determine what aircraft can fly," said Senior Airman Aurial Thompson, 62nd MXG maintenance management analysis analyst. "Without the analysis office, leadership cannot have complete visibility of the health of aircraft."  

The analysis shop ensures that maintenance systems are updated and accurate to ensure continuity of operational air worthy aircraft.  

"We are a critical junction in the wing between maintenance and operations," said Cary Hatzinger, 62nd MXG scheduling and analysis chief. "We are charged with ensuring fleet health."  

Airmen from both offices were recently recognized by Col. James Clavenna, 62nd MXG commander, for having zero discrepancies in last year's unit effectiveness inspection and for winning Air Mobility Command Inspector General Team awards.  

"They won because of their can-do-attitude, innovative processes and zero discrepancies," said Hatzinger. "The great things they do every day stand out."

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