Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

July 22, 2016 at 2:37pm

KC-46 completes flight tests

A KC-46 Pegasus refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt II with 1,500 pounds of fuel July 15, 2016. The mission was the last of all flight tests required for the tanker’s Milestone C production decision. Boeing photo/John D. Parker

The KC-46 Pegasus program completed all flight tests required for the Milestone C production decision July 15 by offloading 1,500 pounds of fuel to an A-10 Thunderbolt II.

The successful A-10 mission was the last of six in-flight refueling demonstrations required before the tanker program can request approval from Frank Kendall, the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, to award production Lots 1 and 2, totaling 19 KC-46A aircraft.

"It is great to see the KC-46 boom back in action and the program moving forward to a production decision" said Col. John Newberry, the KC-46 system program manager.

The other five required air refueling demonstrations were with the C-17 Globemaster III and F-16 Fighting Falcon using the air refueling boom, the Navy's F-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II using the centerline and wing drogue systems, and the KC-46 as a receiver aircraft.

"Today's flight marks the final step we needed to see on the boom fix in order to request production go-ahead," said Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, the Air Force program executive officer for tankers. "Our joint team's tireless efforts are paying off, preparing us for the next step of this critical need to our warfighter."

This test would not have been possible without contributions from the 412th Test Wing, 23rd Fighter Wing, 355th FW, 124th FW, 896th Test Support Squadron and 40th Flight Test Squadron, which all provided aircraft, manpower and equipment.

The Milestone C decision to begin low-rate initial production is expected in August.

July 15, 2016 at 10:17am

McChord honors WASP on 100th birthday

WASPs Alta (Teta) Thomas of Sequim, Dorothy Olsen of University Place, Betty Dybbro of Lacey, and Mary Jean Sturdevant of Spanaway, get together for a photo in front of Olsen’s favorite airplane, the P-51. Photo credit: Joan Brown

As a little girl growing up on a farm in Woodburn, Oregon, Dorothy Kocher Olsen read a book about the Red Baron, the famous German World War I ace, and instantly decided she, too, wanted to fly.  Several years later, a teacher asked the class what they each wanted to do when they grew up. As Olsen quickly replied, "I want to fly," he smirked and her classmates laughed. "I'll show you," she thought to herself.

"I knew what I wanted and I went after it." That's how this WWII Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) describes how she accomplished what women in her day were never expected to achieve.

Olsen worked hard to earn the money necessary to enable her to take flying lessons and eventually get her private license. The only woman in the Woodburn Aero Club, along with five men who flew the club's 40-HP Taylor Craft as crop dusters or for pleasure, Olsen decided one day to take a friend along and follow I-5 north. She ended up landing on a taxi strip but got into no trouble over it, she said, "because I was a woman." Sometimes that gave her an advantage.

On Sunday, July 10, Olsen celebrated her 100th birthday at McChord, surrounded by family, friends, former WASPs and their "heirs," active-duty female AF pilots. The event began with static tours of the C-141 and C-17 aircraft, followed by a birthday party at the Heritage Hill Pavilion. As a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010, Olsen says she feels very fortunate to be recognized. "I did well because I loved it. I don't think you can be good at what you don't like."

Joining in the birthday celebration were former WASP Alta (Teta) Thomas of Sequim, a bay mate of Olsen's as they went through training in the class of 43-W-4; Betty Dybbro of Lacey; and Mary Jean Sturdevant of Spanaway, three of the many who paved the way for today's female military pilots. They were joined by Lt. Col. Liz Scott, commander of the 4th Airlift Squadron; her daughter Allison; Maj. Kate Benson, also a 4th Airlift Squadron pilot; and retired C-17 pilot Lt. Col. Kimberly Scott, who now flies Boeing 737s for Alaska Airlines. To cap the celebration, Carter Teeters of Heritage Flight flew in Olsen's favorite airplane, the P-51 Mustang, and landed it next to the C-17 at McChord. He also saluted Olsen with several fly-bys before returning to Paine Field.

Of the 1,100 WASPs who flew every plane the Army had, the five-foot-tall Olsen was one of the few trained to fly pursuit in the P-51 Mustang, as well as the twin-engine P-38, both fast, small planes she much prefers to larger aircraft. She also earned the instrument rating necessary to allow her to take off at night.

But there was very little room in the cockpit of the P-51 - just enough to tuck a little shoe bag with dancing shoes underneath her seat. "So every night," her daughter Julie Stranburg explained, "she'd have a date with a different guy and go dancing." Perhaps she was only keeping up proficiency in her dancing ability because teaching ballet and tap had helped her early on to earn enough money to get herself into the sky in the first place.

Asked if she was ever afraid when she got into dangerous situations, Olsen said "Never - because I was so confident in my own ability and in the airplanes themselves." Even when the engine on one plane that she was flying developed a cracked block and began splashing oil all over the windshield, totally obscuring vision, she landed by looking out to the side. Did she have any trouble bringing it down? "No, I was a very good pilot."

After the WASPs were disbanded in December 1944, Olsen took on one more flying job, ferrying war-weary BT-13 airplanes, along with two other pilots, to a new owner in Troutdale, Oregon. Along the way, they became lost in a snowstorm in Kemmerer, Wyoming, and ran low on gas. The other two pilots wanted to turn back, but Olsen refused. Instead, they were guided in by the townspeople shining their car headlights on the airport that sat obscured by the storm on a raised plateau.

In June 1945, several months after the WASPs were unceremoniously disbanded, she and Harold Olsen, a Washington State Patrolman, were married and moved to Adams Street in Tacoma. Asked if she found it difficult to give up flying, she said, "I had enough catching up to do about being a housewife. I was married to a man I loved dearly - and then I had children." In addition to Julie, Olsen's family includes her son Kim, grandson Robert George, his wife Chanly and great grandson Cody.

By the time Olsen's children were in grade school and the family had built a 2,000-square-foot home in University Place with little or nothing with which to furnish it, Olsen "took off" again, this time with both feet on the ground. She started going to garage sales to find furniture which she'd clean up and restore.

Eventually, as pieces began to accumulate beyond the family's own needs, Olsen had to start having her own garage sales. Finally, with only the first month's rent and limited knowledge, Olsen decided to open Olsen's Antiques, which for 40 years occupied the entire corner of Steilacoom Blvd. and Bridgeport Way in what is now Lakewood.

When she developed an abscessed tooth, the massive doses of streptomycin the dentist prescribed killed the nerve and made her extremely ill. In one week she became totally deaf for the next 37 years. But she swiftly learned to read lips and at 80, she was finally able to have a cochlear implant, making her probably the oldest implantee at the University of Washington at the time. At the same age, Olsen also got her first speeding ticket, as she was leaving Long Beach, Washington, driving a Mustang, but a Ford this time instead of a P-51.

At age 100, Olsen neither looks nor acts her age. She remains small, fast and still flying high.

As fellow WASP Betty Dybbro laughingly chastised her, "You don't look a hundred. You don't act a hundred. When are you going to grow up?"

July 8, 2016 at 11:06am

Overcoming challenges

Robert Snyder, McChord Field Air Force Recovery Care Coordinator, speaks to an airman inside the 62nd medical clinic June 20, 2016 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley

"I'm not a deeply religious person, but I believe there is something or someone out there and whatever he or she is doing is guiding me, because it's going to help me see what I need to."

These words from Robert Snyder, McChord Field Air Force Recovery Care Coordinator, ring true throughout his life, especially now.

It's Snyder's job to help our Wounded Warriors in their recovery process.

According to, the Recovery Care Coordinators work closely with each servicemember, their families and recovery teams to develop a Comprehensive Recovery Plan.

Snyder, a retired master sergeant, has spent the last three years doing just that, and he has assisted more than 140 airmen throughout Washington and Oregon.

"We take care of folks from beginning to end," said Snyder. "It's a whole team effort from initial identification through recovery and rehabilitation to the fitness evaluation, otherwise known as the Medical Evaluation Board and re-integration or separation. I am with them through it all."

The program, which the Air Force began in 2005, provides services to not only combat Wounded Warriors, but also to any airman with a severe illness or injury.

"It's a great program and we try to catch everybody," he said. "But we have had some Wounded Warriors that refused the help. I don't hound those people, I just let them know what services are available."

Snyder said the job is about connecting with people.

"It's an advantage that I love to talk, because when I talk to Wounded Warriors, regardless of what kind of injury they have, I need to know what's going on," said Snyder. "I can't help them If I don't know what's wrong."

The first year on the job he was working with an Explosive Ordnance Disposal airman who was missing both of his legs and his right arm.

Four months ago, Snyder found himself facing the possibility of becoming an amputee himself. Having been a diabetic for many years, he has always been cautioned to care for his feet and so he has. But last year he suffered from a foot infection and had to have two of his toes removed.

Unfortunately, earlier this year he had to be seen again.

"This year my foot swelled double its normal size due to a bone infection," he said.

The diagnosis was more severe than he originally thought. He was forced to make the decision to have his foot and part of his leg amputated.

Despite the initial shock, he was in a hurry to recover and get back to doing what he could to help others.

"It drives me nuts not being able to do anything, and I hate that ‘woe is me crap,'" he said. "The doctors were laughing at me in the hospital, because I was on the phone with my warriors after my surgery. I simply said let's move forward, let's go. "

It's not that he hasn't struggled, because he has, it's that he says he doesn't want to ever hear "I can't."

He has taken tumbles, quite literally.

Recently, Snyder and his wife were going to a local fair and he fell in the rocky parking lot on his way in.

"I hit a large rock and I flipped over and my wife was really upset by it," he said. "But I tucked and rolled and laughed at myself for falling."

A man helped Snyder up off the ground and he was okay.

"There are times where I ask myself ‘really,' said Snyder. "I keep hoping one day it'll grow back. A lot of people I work with go through this. Luckily, I have a great support system in my family and at work."

He said a common misconception about amputees is regarding their abilities.

"A lot of people think I can't do things because of my leg," he said. "And you may be thinking, how are they going to be able to do that if they're in a wheelchair or they're missing limbs. (However), you will be amazed at what these folks (amputees) can do. Even I used to think the same thing."

Snyder said at times caregivers are overlooked when it comes to the care of Wounded Warriors, but they are instrumental.

To offer support to the warriors and their caregivers, Joint Base Lewis-McChord is hosting the Warrior Care event here, Aug. 1-4.

It includes adaptive elective sports, an employment fair and seminars for the caregivers including stress management and financial management information.

One hundred sixty combined Air Force and Army members are expected to participate in the event and that's not including caregivers.

"There's a lot of things those caregivers are going through that they didn't expect to have to deal with," said Snyder.

And there are an abundance of resources out there for the caregivers that they may not know about.

"Everyone is different and we all handle challenges differently, but if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger," said Snyder.

For more information about Wounded Warrior recovery care, contact 253.982.8580.

July 8, 2016 at 11:00am

Mini C-17's first trip abroad

ROYAL NAVAL AIR STATION YEOVILTON, ENGLAND - The 315th Airlift Wing's mini C-17 made its first trip across the pond June 30 and was a huge hit at Yeovilton Air Day 2016.

This is the 315th AWs second time visiting ROYAL Naval Air Station Yeovilton, England, and the mighty presence of the mini C-17 helped seal the deal for another "Best Static Display" award.

The miniature C-17 has been used all across the United States to promote the Air Force Reserve and bolster recruiting efforts at air shows, parades and other community events.

Taking the mini C-17 to RNAS Yeovilton was a bonus for the people visiting the air show, and the reservists on this trip wanted to give the children and people of all ages a sight that is nothing less than amazing.

"We are really good at making people smile when we visit and participate in an air show," said Lt. Col. Craig Bartosh, a 701st Airlift Squadron pilot at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. "The air show was so successful for us last year; we knew we needed to up our game this year, and the mini C-17 was the perfect solution. Our mini C-17 is an amazing replica of the C-17, and it speaks volumes to the hard work and dedication of the men and women who represent the 315th Airlift Wing."

Once on the ground in Yeoviltion it didn't take long for the entire crew to join forces and get the mini C-17 assembled. Unloading the custom truck and trailer took patience, skill and knowledge, and after that was achieved it was all hands on deck.

Positioned slightly off the left nose of the C-17, the min C-17 started getting walk-by traffic immediately from other vendors and crew members who were setting up for the next day's air show.

And, yes... just like in air shows past, there were many who asked if the mini C-17 could take to the skies and fly.

According to Master Sgt. Chris Fabel, a 315th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief, the idea of building a mini C-17 was birthed in 1999. It wasn't until 2002 when the 23-month construction phase began to bring the idea to life.

Fabel has been with the mini C-17 from its inception, and he continues to volunteer his time as a member of the mini C-17 team. Each mini C-17 event requires an assembly team of three to four members and is based on the specific needs at each event.

The 315th AW also won best in show for their static display at the airshow.

July 1, 2016 at 11:48am

62nd crew chiefs abroad

Senior Airman Chris Goins, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, fuels a C-17 Globemaster III prior to takeoff June 24, 2016, at Libreville, Gabon Africa. Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Tim Chacon

LIBERVILLE, Gabon Africa - When a C-17 Globemaster III aircrew takes off for a mission and plans on being in a location without proper maintenance support, they bring along a 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief to ensure the aircraft is taken care of.

FCCs are a one-person maintenance crew whose sole purpose is to ensure the air crews have a flyable aircraft despite the austere locations with limited support of the area they often land at. A special duty within the maintenance career field, FCCs can be asked a lot of.

"FCCs take care of the jet wherever the jet goes," said Senior Airman Chris Goins, 62nd AMXS flying crew chief. "FCCs are picked by the managers and are the best of the best. The (airmen) that will go out are expected to represent (maintenance) well and get the job done."

When a C-17 lands at McChord Field, typically several airmen meet it at its parking ready to help get the work done. When a C-17 lands in a place like Libreville in Gabon, Africa, the C-17 and crew are met by hot, humid air and not much else.

"Things are harder on the road," said Goins. "There is noone to turn to for help if something is wrong. It's just you and your laptop. Back home you can just call someone from that specialty."

With the exception of possibly some longtime engineers at Boeing, it would be impractical for someone to know everything about the C-17. FCCs may not know how to fix everything but, what they can do is figure out exactly what is wrong and what the aircraft needs to fly again. Knowing what parts and what people need to be sent can save days' worth of time the aircraft is grounded.

"We can't be qualified on every system, but we are familiar with them," said Staff Sgt. Matt Phillips, 62nd AMXS C-17 flying crew chief. "If it's something we can't fix or can't fly without, we can at least call back so the maintenance teams aren't coming in blind."

Some systems have backups and some issues are not cause for grounding an aircraft. It is up to the FCC to determine which is which and advise the mission commander on if the aircraft can go on.

Being the sole mechanic on a mission has a great deal of responsibility. The aircraft has to get fixed and it's up to the FCC to figure out how to get it done.

"We are held to a high standard because we are responsible for the mission," said Phillips. "Even if the aircrew leaves, we still have to stay with the aircraft and get it fixed."

Aircrew have rules in place that can limit their duty and time spent working. This is not the case for FCC.

"We still have to fix the aircraft," said Phillips. "Even if you have a twenty-hour-day of flying, it still has to get done."

Despite the difficulties of working on their own, in conditions that often work more against them than for them, FCC has its perks.

"You get to travel the world and see different things," said Goins. "At home station you just see the aircraft take off and that's it, but as an FCC you get to see the mission impact."

Phillips echoed Goins' thoughts on the benefits and has definitely experienced them in his two-and-a-half years as a FCC.

"I always wanted to travel the world and I heard all the cool stories from FCCs so I figured I'd see it for myself," said Phillips. "I still want to see all seven continents, but even if I stopped now I'd be happy with it."

Being an FCC is a unique opportunity for maintenance airmen and something Phillips encourages airmen who want to do it, should go for it.

"It's hard being away from family, but being an FCC is something to experience. You learn a lot from it. If it's something an airman wants they should work for it. Learn everything you can and ask all the questions you can; it might just help you if you get stuck somewhere."  

June 30, 2016 at 10:37am

62nd Airlift Wing in Africa

The 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers prepare to conduct a static-line jump out of a 62nd Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft June 20, 2016, in Libreville, Gabon Africa, during exercise Central Accord 2016. Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Tim Chacon

LIBREVILLE, Gabon (Africa) - Delivering a Global Response Force is something the airmen of the 62nd Airlift Wing practice regularly, but up until now that response force has never been brought to the African continent like it was for exercise Central Accord 2016.

From June 10-24 in and around Libreville, Gabon, on the Western coast of Africa, nearly 1,000 participants from 14 countries participated in a command post and field exercise that replicated a peacekeeping scenario in the Central African Republic.

The exercise focused on combined arms maneuvering during peacetime operations and aimed to increase medical logistical capacity through aeromedical evacuation and field medical support.

The 62nd AW's role was to deliver U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, French, and Gabonese paratroopers to the exercise drop zones. The 82nd AD soldiers were picked up from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, and flown across the Atlantic, stopping in Senegal, Africa, to refuel and swap out aircrews that were pre-positioned to ensure continuous movements of the aircraft.

"Our participation in Central Accord really showed our joint capability with the 82nd Airborne Division and our ability to deploy forces from the states to support any kind of operations," said Lt. Col. Brian Smith, 62nd AW Central Accord mission commander. "We demonstrated our ability to rapidly deploy a GRF anywhere in the world. We departed Pope and 17 hours later we were able to deliver the 82nd to their objective, on time."

In total, the 62nd AW air-dropped 294 paratroopers, 134 82nd AD, 109 Gabonese and 51 French paratroopers. Along with participating in the air drops with jumpers, the 82nd also acted in an advisory and instructor role for the French and Gabonese jumpers, providing jump masters and safeties on each flight and pass.

"During three days of air drops our McChord C-17s were able to precisely drop all troops on target, on time and with zero injuries," said Smith. "This allows the ground forces' commanders to have exactly what they need to meet their follow-on objectives."

June 30, 2016 at 10:31am

Guardsmen are best of the best

Tech. Sgt. Ryc Cyr, left, Command and Control (C2) Enlisted Warrior of the Year; Capt. Tyler Royster, center, C2 Officer Warrior of the Year; and Maj. Antony Braun, right, Field Grade Officer of the Year. Photo credit: Kimberly D. Burke

The Western Air Defense Sector has been recognized by Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region - First Air Force (CONR-1AF) as the Command and Control Unit of the Year. In addition, three Washington Air National Guardsmen assigned to the WADS have been recognized as outstanding performers.

"These winners competed against nominees from across the entire enterprise, so the competition was extremely tough," said Lt. Gen. William H. Etter, AFNORTH commander.  "These members are the best of the best."

Major Antony Braun won the Field Grade Officer of the Year, Capt. Tyler Royster won Command and Control (C2) Officer Warrior of the Year, and Tech. Sgt. Ryc Cyr won Command and Control (C2) Enlisted Warrior of the Year.  

"Winning three individual awards and the unit award is a testimony to the caliber of our Washington Air National Guard members and their ability to effectively execute the unit's federal air defense mission," said Col. Gregor J. Leist, WADS commander.

The 225th Air Defense Group commander, Col. William A. Krueger, emphasized how important Braun's execution as senior air battle manager is to the unit's mission.  "Braun executed over 230 alert hours with seventeen active air defense operations resulting in 388 air tasking order missions during high visibility VIP movements and national events in 2015."

During the awards presentation, Leist expressed how proud he was of Royster's air battle manager performance.  Royster deployed for six months in support of Operation Inherent Resolve where he controlled over 540 combat hours and oversaw 35 strike packages with a hundred percent aircraft accountability.  Operation Inherent Resolve's purpose is to conduct targeted air strikes of Iraq and Syria as part of the comprehensive strategy to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

"A key factor in Cyr's selection as the C2 Enlisted Warrior of the Year was that he developed and delivered, as the mission planning cell lead, over forty tactical level guidance documents that supported the execution of over fifteen hundred friendly sorties during Exercise Vigilant Shield 2015," said Major Eric Corder, 225th ADG director of staff.  Vigilant Shield is a bi-national exercise which emphasizes an integrated American and Canadian exercise program to support respective national strategy for North America's defense.  

The Western Air Defense Sector is headquartered on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  Staffed by active-duty Washington Air National Guardsmen and a Canadian Forces detachment, the unit supports the North American Aerospace Defense Command's (NORAD) integrated warning and attack assessment missions and the U.S. Northern Command's (USNORTHCOM) homeland defense mission.  The WADS is responsible for air sovereignty and counter-air operations over the western United States and directs a variety of assets to defend 2.2 million square miles of land and sea.

June 24, 2016 at 4:59pm

Precision down to the millionth

Staff Sgt. Jeff Burns, 62nd Maintenance Squadron precision measurement equipment laboratory technician, calibrates a piece of equipment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez

Team McChord airmen provide global airlift on a daily basis, and airmen from the 62nd Maintenance Squadron Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory contribute some uncommonly known services to make that happen.

The PMEL shop, part of the 62nd MXS test measurement diagnostic equipment flight here, is responsible for calibrating equipment that is used in virtually every phase of maintenance on McChord Field and throughout numerous government organizations in the Pacific Northwest.

The airmen from the PMEL shop use exacting attention to detail to take measurements in increments as small as millionths to ensure equipment is properly calibrated from torque wrenches for C-17 maintainers to jet engine test cells in Oregon.

"Many people think we just do pressure gauges and torque wrenches," said Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Stevens, 62nd MXS test measurement diagnostic equipment flight chief. "We have a very large scope of responsibilities and a wide variety of equipment we calibrate."

The PMEL shop provides services for customers, such as the U.S. Coast Guard District 13, the Oregon Air National Guard, and the Western Air Defense Sector.    

"We are a customer-focused organization," said Master Sgt. Daniel Thomas, 62nd MXS PMEL section chief. "The four things we ensure for every piece of equipment is safety, accuracy, reliability and traceability. This is our goal and mission."

With this approach and Department of Defense-wide force reduction, the PMEL shop had to make dramatic changes to perform more efficiently with less airmen. Over the last two years, the shop's manning has been reduced from 33 airmen and civilians to a team of 22 people.     

"When we started losing people, we changed our operating mindset," said Thomas. "We looked at how we could streamline processes and improve turnaround time with less manning."

With this mindset, the PMEL shop identified that their quality assurance program could be improved. The shop's quality assurance process used to require regular inspections of a large number of items being serviced. This created an increase in the amount of time it took to perform simple processes and delayed the turnaround time for jobs. Identifying this as ineffective, the PMEL shop decided to implement a more efficient process that focused on only inspecting and evaluating jobs more prone to errors.

"We started to focus on risk areas to identify jobs more prevalent to have issues," said Thomas. "This helped us reduce man-hours and our customers with turnaround time."

In addition to this change, the PMEL shop also helped reduce man-hours needed for servicing customer equipment by taking a greater initiative to evaluate customer inventories and assist in recommending better equipment.

"We are constantly looking to find alternative solutions for customers' equipment that are more reliable and have longer calibration cycles," said Thomas. "We want our customers to have more efficiency when buying new equipment."

One example of this initiative recently, was PMEL advising the 62nd MXS aerospace ground equipment flight in purchasing new type of gauges that would be more reliable and have longer calibration cycles, said Stevens. The purchase resulted in more than 1,000 PMEL man-hours saved yearly.     

"One of my goals is to help customers to examine their inventories for ways to better their efficiency," said Thomas. "With a reduction in our manning, we have to think smarter."

With saving time on man-hours and bettering processes in mind, the PMEL shop has also been diligently working to identify jobs that can be automated and implementing automation processes to calibrate and distribute equipment faster.

"Turnaround time ties into equipment availability rates and shows us the total percentage of equipment that is being used to further the mission by the customers," said Thomas. "We want to get equipment out of here fast as we can so they can accomplish the mission."

Many of these processes are worked on and developed by airmen in the flight, and can take up to a few months to complete, but once approved have resulted in saving thousands of man-hours for the flight and the Air Force as a whole.

The end result is calibrations that would usually take a few days, being completed in a few hours, said Thomas.       

Since 2014, the McChord Field PMEL shop has reduced its turnaround time for calibrations from 12 days to less than seven.

"Since I've been here, we have always been focused on striking a good balance between efficiency and effectiveness with a leaner force," said Thomas. "If there is one thing we have internalized here, it is not doing more with less but rather doing the best job we can with what we have."

June 23, 2016 at 10:10am

Ultimate Champion

Air Force veteran Master Sgt. D. Reese Hines competes in archery for visually impaired people. Photo credit: EJ Hersom

From June 15 until today, about 250 wounded, ill and injured servicemembers and veterans representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command and United Kingdom armed forces competed in shooting, archery, cycling, track and field, swimming, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.

To earn the Ultimate Champion title, athletes competed in their respective disability classifications in five sporting events. Each service branch was allotted two slots, one for a man and one for a woman. Service branches also earned team points based on the designated competitors' results in their events. The Ultimate Champion was the athlete who earned the most points in the five events.

Surprised to Win

Master Sgt. D. Reese Hines, a first-time DoD Warrior Games competitor, said he was surprised to end up as this year's Ultimate Champion.

"It's pretty overwhelming," he said. "I knew they put me in for it, but I didn't know what kind of chance I had. I just had the mindset that I would go in and do my best and try hard. I had people throughout the week trying to tell me my rankings, but I tried to separate that from what I was doing. I just wanted to focus on the singular event."

Hines said he also enjoyed sharing the experience with his sons, Aiden, 2, and Gavin, 10. The boys "were at the archery event, and as soon as I shot my last arrow, they both came up and gave me hugs," he said. "I was pretty surprised they came up that quickly. Just watching them smile and be happy and then watching them walk around with my medals on, it's pretty special. This will definitely be one to remember for a long time."

Hines said he was inspired to try out for the Warrior Games by his girlfriend and teammate, medically retired Air Force Master Sgt. Kyle Burnett, who earned the Ultimate Champion title last year. He said there may be some teasing now that they both have won the award, but he acknowledged that she did motivate him to win it.

"It was definitely nice to have that goal to work toward - not just the individual events, but overall. It's special," he said. "I saw her award when we first started dating, and she told me about it. I didn't think much about it, but I saw how proud she was, so that's something I took away. It's nice to have that same feeling now."

June 23, 2016 at 10:07am

Airman pursues equestrian passion

Maj. Jennifer Jones, 627th Communications Squadron director of operations, removes her riding gear from her horse, Campari, June 4, 2016, at the Summervale Premier Dressage show in Roy, Wash. Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez

A small gathering of spectators watch silently as a horse and its rider slowly round a corner of the course and gracefully go into a new set of movements. The rider is formally dressed and commands the horse with ease as they transition from each movement.

An airman and competitor, Maj. Jennifer Jones, 627th Communications Squadron director of operations, competes regularly in equestrian sporting events like this called dressage competitions.

Jones said she always loved horses as a kid, but was encouraged to pursue sports by her parents. In her teen years, she played soccer and later rugby at the U.S. Air Force Academy, in Colorado. Upon graduation from the academy, she followed her passion and began taking riding lessons and bought her first horse named Monaco.

"He was a great horse and he taught me a lot about riding," said Jones. "He wasn't the bravest horse, but he helped me grow as a rider."

After buying Monaco, Jones began competing in equestrian competitions such as Western Pleasure, Hunt Seat, Show Hunter, Eventing and cross-country equestrian. While working an Air Force assignment in Florida, her horse Monaco suffered an injury tearing one of his ligaments in his left front leg which led to very long recovery period and ultimately ended in Jones having to retire him as a competition horse.  

"Though it seemed to be fully recovered, he kept tearing the ligament whenever we began training," said Jones. "He kept getting hurt so we decided to let him just be a horse."

The loss of her horse and a friend in a sense was hard on Jones. She lost touch with riding for more than three years.

After being assigned to JBLM, Jones decided to start taking riding lessons again and reignited her passion for riding.

"That's when I realized I really needed another horse," said Jones. "I couldn't learn as fast training on other horses as I could on my own."

Jones then began her search for another horse. This led her to travel to a number of states looking for the perfect fit. Six months into her search, she found the right one. She found Campari, also known as Cam.

"We just hit it off. The owner was surprised at how well he responded to me riding him," said Jones. "He was just a little bit temperamental."

Over the last two years, Jones and Cam have been training and competing in dressage events nationally.

"He's calmed down a lot with me," said Jones. "I want to get him out to Prix Saint George this year, which is the next level of competition."   

Jones and Cam completed their first dressage competition June 4-5 at the Summervale Premier Dressage show in Roy, Washington. Jones placed third in the show and will compete again July 22-24 at the DevonWood Equestrian Centre's dressage show in Sherwood, Oregon.

"We are off to a rough start this year," said Jones. "He can do better than me at this point, so it's frustrating. The only thing he does incorrect is that he wants to do things in his own time."

Jones trains three-to-five times a week with her coach and is part of a dressage team called SKM Dressage.

"Cam gives me a really good outlet to do something entirely my own," said Jones. "I work really hard at this and he will work as hard as I ask of him. He gives me as much fun as I can handle."

Dressage is one of the highest levels of equestrian training and requires riders and their horses to be proficient in a variety of technical movements and to perform according to high dressage standards, said Jones.

"Competition judges look at the form of the horse, how he walks, accepts commands, if they are fluid in their movements, and the overall harmony between the rider and the horse," said Jones. "They look at how well you carry out the dressage principles."

Jones plans to eventually compete at the international level and eventually in the Olympics.

Although her training has made her a better rider, Jones says that it has also affected how she handles challenging circumstances in her professional and personal life.  

"Doing this makes me a much more patient person; there is one thing I've learned from riding and that is things don't always have to happen right now; you can always ask again," said Jones. "I think that this makes me a much more balanced person."

Airmen under Jones are in agreement that she is enjoyable to work with.

"I think she is a great communicator and good at setting goals and guidelines for the squadron," said 1st Lt. Bradley Graves, 627th CS client services and networks officer in charge. "She is very clear about letting us know where we are at and how we are doing as a unit."  

Having progressed as a rider, Jones credits many of her accomplishments to the support she receives from her squadron.

"They always make it possible for me to take the time I need to be with Cam," said Jones. "If it wasn't for their support we wouldn't be this far along the road."  

Having reaped the benefits of pursuing her passion from riding, Jones said she encourages others to do the same.

"Get out there and find something that can create a light in yourself," said Jones. "The Air Force needs more people to be bright."

Those that work with Jones feel inspired by her training.

"She embraces the opportunity to risk failing by competing; it encourages airmen to go out and do the same," said Graves. "It is important for airmen to have something other than work."   

Having competed in equestrian events throughout the course of her career, Jones said she is thankful to the Air Force and the support of the airmen she's worked with.

"I've been supported every step of the way," said Jones. "When my horse was injured, they allowed me to take time to get him the care he needed."

"I've never been in a place that didn't support my interest and that didn't allow me to do the things I loved."

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