Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: February, 2011 (25) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 25

February 1, 2011 at 10:23am

Tops in Blue to perform at Super Bowl

SAN ANTONIO (AFNS) -- Tops In Blue, the Air Force's expeditionary entertainment unit, is scheduled to perform "America the Beautiful" during festivities leading up to Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas, Feb. 6. 

The group will perform alongside actress Lea Michele during pre-game activities. Tops In Blue performed as the halftime show during Super Bowl XIX in 1985, and Air Force Services Agency officials are pleased to have the group invited back.

"This year's Tops In Blue team is extremely excited about this opportunity, and every member looks forward to representing the Air Force both live and on television throughout the world," said Tom Edwards, the director of Tops In Blue.

Tops In Blue is a group of Airmen composed of 35 vocalists, dancers, musicians and technicians who perform for deployed service members and coalition forces, helping to provide a sense of pause and escape for them, so they feel inspired to continue their missions. 

For the past 57 years, Tops In Blue has traveled to more than 20 countries to perform more than 120 times each year for Airmen and families around the world. 

Super Bowl XLV will be televised on FOX Feb. 6, with kickoff scheduled for 6:25 p.m. ET. Tops In Blue will perform shortly after 6 p.m.    

Filed under: U.S. Air Force,

February 2, 2011 at 6:00am

AFA's Winter Newsletter

Look to the right and download the most recent addition from McChord Field's Air Force Association chapter.

February 2, 2011 at 4:08pm

Pilots who stay in can collect bonuses

This from Air Force Times: Hundreds of pilots, including those who fly unmanned aircraft, are eligible for big bucks if they promise to stay in the Air Force at least three more years.

About $3.9 million in bonuses is available through the fiscal 2011 Aviation Continuation Pay program, released Jan. 26 by the Air Force.

Lt. Col. Gerard Ryan, chief of the rated force policy branch in the Air Force personnel directorate, outlined the three options available to aviators:

  • $25,000 a year for pilots who have completed their initial commitment, which is 10 years after earning their wings, and who sign up for five more years. About 200 officers, most of them majors or major selects, qualify.
  • $15,000 a year for pilots who did not participate in the ACP program when they became eligible and who sign up for three, four or five more years.

Pilots must decide to participate in the program before they serve 13 years, and their commitment must take them only up to 16 years, Ryan said. For example, an officer who has served almost 13 years can commit to only three years.

"If they wait too long, they can't do the five-year option," Ryan said.

  • $15,000 a year for combat systems officers who currently fly remotely piloted aircraft and who commit to three, four or five more years. Eligible for the bonus are about 40 combat systems officers who have completed their initial six-year commitment after earning their wings.

Read more here.

Filed under: U.S. Air Force, Honors,

February 3, 2011 at 10:24am

Reservist helps spouse battle cancer while serving in Iraq

MCCHORD FIELD, Wash.- When Air Force Reservists prepare for deployments, common items they double-check might be, updating wills and powers of attorney, making sure their finances are in order, medical clearances, making sure they have the proper equipment and supplies, and ensuring the well being of their families before the Reservist departs.

But one Air Force Reserve family was thrown for a loop when a special cargo handler with the 446th Airlift Wing from Wilsonville, Ore., found out his wife of 11 years was diagnosed with breast cancer the week before he deployed to Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq, in August 2010.

"It scared me and I cried for hours," said Candice Currier, mother of four. "But I knew how strong I was and the support I had from my family and best friend gave me all the strength I needed to get through. Plus, I knew that being able to communicate with my husband through e-mail and Skype would help me feel like he wasn't as far away."

In order for her husband, Tech. Sgt. Chris Currier, 86th Aerial Port Squadron, to proceed with the deployment, he, his family and his squadron leadership had many conversations.

"We knew that their sister-in-law and family friend would give her the support she needed like watching their children while he was gone," said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Dietz, 86th APS air transportation manager.

Over the course of Candice's seven chemotherapy treatments, Chris felt her pain during the harder moments, but also her relief when she was doing well.

"Hearing her on her down week was the hardest part," said the Intel contractor. "Knowing how defenseless she was was hard. But when I found out she was pulling through, it was a great relief. Knowing that the people I deployed with were there for support was also a relief."

Chief Dietz showed his support by taking a trip to Oregon to check on the family and make sure Candice was doing okay.

"I went down there on Candice's birthday, Oct. 25, to drop off some truffles and check on her," said the Olympia, Wash. resident. "The commander (Lt. Col. Tim May) and the first sergeant (Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Mack) also called her a few times. We were relieved to find out she was going to be okay, not only for her sake, but for her family." 

Throughout the entire process, the couple never doubted her strength in getting through her illness. In fact, it made their relationship grow stronger.

"I knew from the start she was going to pull through," said Sergeant Currier, the veteran who's been through four deployments, to include Operation Desert Storm. "She will not take ‘no' for an answer. Without a doubt, this has made me a better husband, a better (noncommissioned officer), and has made us stronger."

Candice sums up their relationship through the troubled time.

"Most certainly it has made our relationship stronger," she said. "I had to let Chris see the raw side of me by letting my guard down and trusting that his love would still stand. He showed me his true feelings every time we talked and no matter what my insecurities about my looks or feelings were, he didn't waiver his love and desire for me as his wife."

Although a biopsy confirmed the absence of cancer, Candice will begin radiation treatment at the end of February.

February 4, 2011 at 12:17pm

Alternate routes available for McChord Field commuters

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Construction at the McChord Field Main Gate begins Feb. 10. Traffic revisions at the gate, accessible from Interstate 5, Exit 125, will impact all travelers entering or leaving the installation at Bridgeport Way until the work is completed.  During the period of construction the traffic lanes in the area of the McChord Field Main Gate and the Visitor Center will be constricted to one lane inbound and one lane outbound.  

To mitigate traffic impact and minimize delays, additional routes will be available for McChord Field commuters and residents:

  • Woodbrook Housing Gate, recently closed for construction, will re-open Feb. 10. Extended hours of operation, from 5 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday - Friday (except federal holidays) will remain in effect until the McChord Main Gate construction is completed. The gate is accessible from Interstate 5, Exit 124.
  • North Gate, recently opened to offset the impact of the Woodbrook Housing gate closure, will remain open during McChord Main Gate construction. Hours of operation will be 5 a.m.-7 p.m., except federal holidays. The gate is located at the north end of McChord Field, and is accessible from Interstate 5, Exit 127 via Highway 512 (at Steele St., proceed southbound to 112 St. S., then turn right - the gate will be ¾ mile ahead, to the left), or via the South Tacoma Way/Interstate 5 overpass (from exit, proceed southbound on South Tacoma Way/Pacific Highway, and turn left to continue east on South Tacoma Way. The gate on east side of the Interstate 5 overpass).

The McChord Main Gate will remain open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, during construction- but traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction. Commuters are especially encouraged to use alternate routes, when possible.

Starting Feb. 4, the public can obtain additional information about the construction project at: http://www.lewis-mcchord.army.mil/des/le_home.htm.Construction is scheduled for completion in May.

February 10, 2011 at 6:09am

Three here win Communicator awards




Two Airmen and one civilian have helped put the 627th Communications Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on the Air Mobility Command map.

Senior Airman Jason Marshall, Tech. Sgt. Jean-Pierre Howard and Charles "Wes" Hawthorne were named winners of the Air Mobility Command 2010 Information Dominance and Gen. John P. Jumper Excellence in Warfighting Integration Awards last month. 

The awards recognize the 627th staff members for their technical competency and ability to maintain McChord Field's myriad communications systems. 

"These high-caliber cyber warriors and organizations can be justly proud of their accomplishments," said Col. Mitchel H. Butikofer, AMC's director of communications and chief information officer. 

In total, 37 awards were distributed among AMC's squadrons.

Hawthorne was named the Outstanding Civilian Manager award winner, Howard received the Outstanding Cyber Surety NCO award and Marshall took home the Outstanding Cyber Systems Operations Airman achievement. Howard is Marshall's NCO, and both work for Hawthorne, who is 627th's deputy director and chief of Plans and Resources. 

"A lot of work goes beyond an eight-hour day, and to tell you the honest truth, dedication has got to be the key for getting this award," said Hawthorne.

The 627th ABG has a large mission of overseeing all communication systems and traffic that occurs on McChord Field. This includes supporting McChord's network systems, aircraft control and landing systems that help get planes off the ground, land-based radio communications, base weather systems; even communications for when the president comes to town. 

"We have more fiber (optics) on this base; we could probably light up Tacoma," said Hawthorne. 

Howard's job is to protect all unclassified electronic information that comes in and goes out of McChord Field. His unit is responsible for the network's security by testing its vulnerability levels and detecting or stopping electronic terrorism threats or attacks. 

"Threats can come from anyone and anywhere. From a 13-year-old across the street to China, and everything in between," said Howard. 

He believes he received his award mostly for helping create a new cyber-threat remediation program and receiving grades of "Outstanding" on the most recent unclassified and classified command cyber-readiness inspections. 

"Everything we are doing is producing something positive, and the network we created with that new program allowed us to do as well as we did in the inspection, and it didn't go unnoticed by AMC," said Howard.

Communications construction projects on McChord Field run through Hawthorne's office. Last year, he acquired more than $7 million to upgrade McChord Field's communications infrastructure. He is most proud of the new state-of-the-art manhole induction system, and looking forward to getting started renovating McChord Field's chaplain's support facility. 

"I'm a project manager by nature, and I think I go the extra step by wanting to see things happen from inception to completion," said Hawthorne. "I don't want to have a job completed to satisfy a current requirement, but I like to think about future expansion to save tax dollars."

While both have been recognized by their supervisors as being the "best of the best" in Air Force communications, they feel they were just doing their job. 

"We've developed a lot of new things, found ways to think outside the box, make difficult tasks easier, and started thinking of different tools that will allow us to accomplish the same goals more efficiently and with less people," said Howard. "You never think about winning being in your own bubble, and you never think how you will rack and stack with the rest of the people in the command and the Air Force." 

He will be taking his new award with him when he deploys to Afghanistan in May for the seventh time in his career. Marshall received the award while deployed. 

Hawthorne said that even though the award is presented annually, being recognized as the best civilian and military personnel among 13 other AMC bases is something to remember. "This shows we are quality personnel satisfying the needs of others and we know exactly what we want and make it happen, no matter what," he said.

The three award winners will now compete in their respective categories for the best in the Air Force.

February 10, 2011 at 6:14am

Family battles adversity on two fronts during deployment

From left to right, Candice, Christopher, Cheyenne, Savannah, and Tech. Sgt. Chris Currier, 86th Aerial Port Squadron, McChord Field, Wash., were reunited as a family in January 2011. Candice battled breast cancer while her husband was deployed to Iraq fr




On the same day his deployment orders started, his wife's own mission was defined. His mission was to support Operation New Dawn as NCOIC of air freight at Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq and her mission was to survive breast cancer in Oregon.

Tech. Sgt. Chris Currier, 86th Aerial Port Squadron, and his wife Candice learned of her breast cancer diagnosis Aug. 27, 2010. He departed for Iraq seven days later.

"I knew in my gut it was breast cancer," said the 22-year Air Force Reserve veteran. "I found the lump a few days before when my hand brushed by her breast as we cuddled in bed that morning. It was the size of a pea, but as my hand brushed by it, I knew what it was."  

That was Aug. 14. 2010.

Within 13 days of discovering the lump, Candice received the news from her doctor.

"It scared me and I cried for hours," said Candice Currier, a mother of four. "But I knew how strong I was and the support I had from my family and best friend gave me all the strength I needed to get through."

Together, the two decided that Chris would go on the 120-day deployment. Before making the decision, conversations were held with his family and his squadron leadership.

"We knew that their sister-in-law and family friend would give her the support she needed, like watching their children while he was gone," said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Dietz, 86th APS air transportation manager. 

Other factors going into the decision were the less emotional, practical aspects of deploying.

"We knew the tax-free income, along with the TRICARE benefits, would be needed to get through this," said Sergeant Currier.

Knowing they would be able to stay closely in touch also helped.

"I knew that being able to communicate with my husband through e-mail and Skype would help me feel like he wasn't as far away," said Candice.

Over the course of Candice's seven chemotherapy treatments, Chris felt her pain during the harder moments, but also her relief when she was doing well. 

Candice even infused the situation with some light-hearted fun.

"She had a hair-pulling party with the kids," said Sergeant Currier, referencing the hair loss that often comes as a result of chemotherapy. "Then she went and had her head shaved."

Candice made note of her intention to shave her head in one of her many e-mails to Chris, but seeing her on Skype after the deed was done still came as a surprise.

"Hearing her on her down week was the hardest part," said the Intel contractor. "Knowing how defenseless she was, was hard. But when I found out she was pulling through, it was a great relief. Knowing that the people I deployed with were there for support was also a relief."

Chief Dietz showed his support by taking a trip to Oregon to check on the family and making sure Candice was doing okay.

"I went down there on Candice's birthday, Oct. 25, to drop off some truffles and check on her," said the Olympia, Wash. resident. "The commander (Lt. Col. Tim May) and the first sergeant (Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Mack) also called her a few times. We were relieved to find out she was going to be okay, not only for her sake, but for her family." 

According to Candice, all the support was a huge factor in getting through her treatments.

"Tech. Sgt. Tracy Sheridan (86th APS) called four times a month to talk for hours," said Candice. "And Chief Dietz would call regulalry to check up on me."

Sergeant Currier's supervisor from his civilian job, stopped by at Christmas to check on the family and drop off gifts. 

"That was a nice surprise. People say they'll stay in touch (during tough times), but often times they don't as their own lives interfere," said Sergeant Currier.

Throughout the entire process, the couple never doubted her strength in getting through her illness. In fact, it made their relationship grow stronger.

"I knew from the start she was going to pull through," said Sergeant Currier, the veteran who's been through four deployments, including Operation Desert Storm. "She will not take 'no' for an answer. Without a doubt, this has made me a better husband, a better (noncommissioned officer), and has made us stronger."

Candice sums up their relationship through the troubled time.

"Most certainly it has made our relationship stronger," she said. "I had to let Chris see the raw side of me by letting my guard down and trusting that his love would still stand. He showed me his true feelings every time we talked and no matter what my insecurities about my looks or feelings were, he didn't waver in his love and desire for me as his wife."

Although a biopsy confirmed Candice is cancer free, she'll begin radiation treatment at the end of February. Sergeant Currier returned from Iraq Jan. 21 and he plans on sticking with the deal he made with his family - no more volunteer deployments.

For both, the missions they embarked on last fall come to a close in 2011 - mission accomplished.

Filed under: 446th Airlift Wing,

February 10, 2011 at 7:49pm

McChord Field hosts 'Pilot for a Day'


A little boy with pediatric cancer will have
the chance of a lifetime 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Feb. 15 to be a McChord Field
"Pilot for a Day."

Pilot for a Day is an Air Force program that enables challenged youth a chance
to visit an Air Force base, becoming part of the team in the process. The
participants are usually selected through a partnership with a community
hospital or foster program.

Members of the 4th Airlift Squadron here will be hosting the day's activities.
Owain Weinert, the "Pilot for a Day", will get to tour a C-17 Globemaster III,
see military working dogs, experience an explosive ordnance disposal demo,
"fly" in an aircraft simulator, and much more.

"It is an honor for us to host events like this," said Capt. Stephen Vetek,
4th Airlift Squadron pilot and "Pilot for a Day" coordinator. "We hope to make
this a special day for Owain and his family, and look forward to showing him
'Airlift Excellence' up close and personal."

February 11, 2011 at 7:07am

Air Force announces enlisted supplemental promotions




More than 200 Airmen have been selected for promotion to the next higher rank as part of the February enlisted supplemental promotion process. 

The enlisted supplemental promotion release announces those Airmen selected for promotion who tested outside of their required cycle due to an extended temporary duty or deployment in support of a contingency around the world.

The promotion list can be found here. Airmen can also access their score notices at the same time on the Virtual Military Personnel Flight and Air Force Portal.

Airmen selected for promotion achieved an overall score above the cutoff mark in their respective Air Force specialty. The score is a composite of other factors under the Weighted Airman's Promotion System, which includes time in grade, time in service, enlisted performance reports, decorations, promotion fitness examination and specialty knowledge test scores.

AFPC officials said selections are tentative until the data verification process is complete, which is no later than 10 days after the promotion release date. Officials will notify Airmen through their servicing military personnel section if a discrepancy is identified.

For more information, visit the AFPC public website or contact the Total Force Service Center at (800) 525-0102.

Filed under: Pay,

February 11, 2011 at 7:22am

Life as a loadmaster

Technical Sgt. Ron Strayhorne, 10th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, describes the mission scheduling system for the 10th AS Feb. 9 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Airmen are scheduled for flying missions based on availability, current training and qualifi




While frequent missions and a high operations tempo can make life stressful, Tech. Sgt. Ron Strayhorne, says that he wouldn't trade his seven years as a loadmaster for anything in the world.

At the 62nd Airlift Wing, loadmasters are assigned to one of four flying squadrons, and constantly operate overseas contingency operations. 

"There is no other job in the world that would allow me to see and experience these types of things," said Sergeant Strayhorne, 10th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. 

The 62nd AW's mission, delivering global airlift for America, requires loadmasters assigned to the 10th AS to fly missions an average of ten days per month. 

"Most people don't realize how often we're gone," said Sergeant Strayhorne, a native of Phoenix, Ariz. "Those ten days a month don't include our normal four-month deployment rotation with the other flying squadrons."

The term 'mission' can mean several different things to an aircrew of two loadmasters and three pilots. 

"We deliver anything from helicopters and tanks to food and medical supplies," said Sergeant Strayhorne. "We are constantly providing personnel and equipment in support of the war effort. Our job is to make sure the cargo gets where it needs to go."

According to Sergeant Strayhorne, a typical mission departs McChord Field and picks up cargo at a location on the East coast. The crew usually then enters a stage, which requires them to operate out of a base closer to the area of responsibility.

"Some of the common places we stage out of are located in Southwest Asia," said Sergeant Strayhorne. "Staging just allows us to be closer to the fight and readily available when they need us."

Loadmasters can stage out of a variety of locations, and often get the opportunity to see the world while delivering global airlift.

"I've literally been all around the world," said Sergeant Strayhorne, who loves outdoor sports. "Antarctica is the only continent I haven't set foot on yet. Some of my favorite places are Argentina, Moscow and Spain."

Sergeant Strayhorne enjoys being heavily involved in the delivery of global airlift, and says it was one of the major reasons he chose to cross train into the career field.

"I used to be a hydraulics mechanic," said the technical sergeant. "When I worked as a helicopter maintainer, we flew with our crew and experienced some exciting things. I didn't want to go back to the normal mechanic culture. I wanted to be completely involved in the process of delivering cargo, so I chose to cross train into a career field that allows me to do that."

According to his official Air Force job description for the 1A2X1 career field, loadmasters like Sergeant Strayhorne accomplish loading and off-loading aircraft functions and perform pre-flight and post-flight of aircraft and aircraft systems. 

"Before the cargo is loaded onto the aircraft, we perform visual inspections and operational checks on the loading systems," said Sergeant Strayhorne. "We check the aircraft status to ensure any repairs entered are completed and the plane is ready to go. We also review the load manifest before we load the cargo, which tells us what cargo needs to be delivered to what location."

They also perform loadmaster aircrew functions, compute weight and balance and other mission specific qualification duties, and provide for safety and comfort of passengers and troops, and security of cargo, mail and baggage during flight. 

"After the cargo is loaded, we make sure it's under a certain weight so that the plane can fly as it's supposed to," said Sergeant Strayhorne. "That's the most important aspect of our job. Along with that, we also brief the passengers on the safety items aboard the aircraft and emergency evacuation instructions."

Sergeant Strayhorne enjoys the amount of responsibility and the satisfaction of delivering supplies all over the world. 

"I love the fact that my job helps people everywhere," said the loadmaster. 

On the weekend, he enjoys snowboarding and spending time outside. The 16-year Airman says he loves living in the Northwest and looks forward to retiring at McChord Field.

"I love the area," said Sergeant Strayhorne. "It's a nice place to come back to after a long mission."

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