Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: March, 2011 (31) Currently Viewing: 11 - 20 of 31

March 14, 2011 at 6:58am

The Day in the Life of a Deployed McChord C-17 Pilot

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Last summer I deployed as a C-17A Aircraft Commander. While deployed, I felt a deep responsibility to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines that depend on airlift for their survival. I was impressed by the complexity of the war's logistics, by the professionalism and dedication of the Airmen who move the "beans and bullets" into Afghanistan on a daily basis. I wanted to capture this feeling on paper so I could share it with my wife. What's written is from an email I sent to her while I was deployed. It's my attempt to explain to her what I do and how I am privileged to serve this great country of ours.
The cargo we move every day is usually too big or heavy to be airlifted by a different kind of airplane. I have carried everything from heavy construction equipment to giant armored vehicles to blood to pallets of high explosive artillery shells. Each cargo load presents its own challenges; I have seen fuel trucks backed onto the airplane--inch by inch--with barely a half an inch between them.

To maximize the usefulness of the airplane, you take off as heavy as possible. If you leave cargo in the cargo yard, you just have to pick it up tomorrow. To do this, you do a balancing act. The temperature and runway length and air pressure all change your maximum takeoff weight--you have to be able to climb out above any obstacles if you lose an engine precisely when the airplane rotates to become airborne. So, you don't want to be too heavy to take off and you don't want to waste cargo capacity. 
After you decide how much fuel you need to make it through the day, you calculate a maximum cargo weight. You have to be able to stop the weight of the airplane and all your cargo and fuel within the length of the runway and without overheating your brakes.

And then there is time. Cargo capacity and fuel limit you every day, but time is what drives you. Airlift lives and breathes on time. Every takeoff and landing is tracked to the minute. You have a slot time into and out of Afghanistan. You cannot be early or late for your slot time because the slot before you and the slot after you are for the airplane in front of you and the airplane behind you.
Then there is Maximum Aircraft on the Ground. When you are utilizing airplanes as big as C-17s, you run out of parking spots quickly. You don't take off until your parking spot down range is coordinated and your entry time into country is set. The logistics of war are exceedingly complex; every piece of cargo has a priority number, every parking spot has a reservation, and the airways are de-conflicted by tightly adhered-to time and altitude constraints.

In order to make it through the day, you are always thinking ahead. Every free moment you are building a game plan for your next stop.
When everything is humming along, the system works beautifully: the flight crew is alerted on time; the aircraft that the crew is to fly is arriving back from its previous mission; it is unloaded, fueled, and uploaded with new cargo. Late takeoffs, maintenance delays and cargo uploading problems all threaten to make the logistics machine break down. One airplane's late takeoff might affect 10 other missions throughout the day. When this happens, cargo is shuffled, slot times are re-coordinated, parking spots shifted and the missions are moved.

After the airplane blocks in and the engines are shut down, the massive cargo door and ramp at the aft of the aircraft is opened, and the climate-controlled environment gives in to the hot and dusty desert.

Ground stops feel like a NASCAR pit stop--the airplane is swarmed by people with different specialties. One person will come up to you and ask you how much fuel you need for the next leg. Another person will ask about any maintenance issues and will take his team to go fix them. A team will start removing the chains that restrain the cargo while a forklift and a special machine called a K-loader will pull up behind the airplane to start receiving the cargo for download. Someone will hand you a manila envelope with specific information about the cargo you will carry back, weights calculated to the pound, and every piece fit in like a puzzle piece in the diagram. A passenger services representative will ask you what time you will be ready to receive your passengers. Radio and phone calls are made, slot times are updated, fuel and cargo are unloaded, flight plans filed, passengers briefed.

And then you take off again.

March 14, 2011 at 5:23pm


SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Two Air Mobility Command C-17 Globemaster IIIs departed the United States on March 12 and delivered search and rescue, or SAR, equipment and personnel to Japan in support of humanitarian relief efforts after an earthquake and tsunami struck the island nation Friday. 

President Barack Obama pledged U.S. support, emphasizing that "the friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy."

The first C-17 mission, operated by a 62nd Airlift Wing crew from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., is transporting California-based SAR equipment and personnel from Los Angeles to Misawa Air Base, in northern Japan, TACC facts show. The second mission, operated by a 436th Airlift Wing crew from Dover Air Force Base, Del., is transporting Virginia-based SAR equipment and personnel from Fairfax County to the same destination.

In addition to the C-17s, two KC-10 Extenders from the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis AFB, Calif., are supporting the operation by providing in-air refueling to the C-17s over the Pacific Ocean. 

Without the KC-10s, the C-17s would need to land and refuel on the ground adding two to three hours on to each mission, according to officials.

In addition to the C-17 and KC-10 forces, AMC also has additional aircraft and crews prepared to respond if further assistance is requested.

Mission planning and command-and-control for the AMC portion of the humanitarian effort is conducted by AMC's Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott AFB, Ill. 

As AMC's hub for global operations, the TACC plans, schedules and directs a fleet of nearly 1,300 mobility aircraft in support of strategic airlift, air refueling, and aeromedical evacuation operations around the world. 

In addition to supporting U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, AMC's global mission includes humanitarian airlift in response to global events, such as the case with supporting relief operations in Japan.

March 15, 2011 at 5:50am

446th Reserve pilot gets mission equipped after defeating cancer

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Joe Nauman, an assistant operations officer and pilot with the 97th Airlift Squadron out of McChord Field, Wash, lets the moment sink in while preparing for his check ride on a C-17 Globemaster III, March 10, 2011. Check rides are

MCCHORD FIELD, Wash. -- Ten years after airdropping emergency medical supplies at the South Pole for a physician who was diagnosed with cancer, the 97th Airlift Squadron scrambled to help one of its own deal with cancer.

While deployed in support of Operation Deep Freeze in February 2009, Lt. Col. Joe Nauman, an assistant operations officer and C-17 Globemaster III pilot with the 97th AS, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which took him off of flying status. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is cancer of the lymphoid tissue, which includes the lymph nodes, spleen, and other organs of the immune system.

After three rounds of chemotherapy, 25 radiation treatments, and medical clearance from the flight surgeon, Colonel Nauman has been back in the pilot seat since January. However, his check ride evaluation, which tests pilot mission readiness was March 10. 

"My first flight since getting back on flying status was, for the most part, surreal," said the 10-year Air Force Reservist. "It was great being in a plane again. This flight starts the process to get me back to mission ready and being able to support the Reserve mission."

The Puyallup, Wash. resident was unsure if he'd end up back on the flight deck, much less be mission ready, but he continued to keep up to speed with his training and qualifications.

"I kept up with my certifications and training like (flight) simulator time," he said. "I wanted to be ready if the time came."

People from his squadron helped him get through the processes mentally of cancer and being grounded.

"I've known (Colonel Nauman) since he was first assigned to the squadron," said Maj. Gene Ballou, 97th AS examiner pilot and close friend of Colonel Nauman. "I helped by being there to listen to his concerns, offer encouragement and advice when he asked it."

Colonel Nauman says he's fortunate to have his extended families, the Air Force and his church, along with his children to support him.

"My squadron supported me from the beginning," he said. "They were a great group of people to work with even before my illness. I'm also in a church, whose members have spoken with me. Of course my son and daughter are great kids who make me smile every day."

With one more flight under Colonel Nauman's belt, Lt. Col. Garin Tentschert, 97th AS chief pilot explains his value as a pilot to the squadron.

"It's important for any squadron to possess its own unique culture and Joe definitely adds a great level of that," said the Maple Valley, Wash resident. "He's the kind of guy who never gives up, and it's served him well through his long road to recovery. We're glad to have him back doing what he does best."

The never-give-up attitude paid off. Colonel Nauman passed his check ride. 

March 17, 2011 at 6:21am

446th AW Reservist displays passion for humanitarian efforts through volunteering

Nicaragua residents enjoy their new clean drinking water that they have because of relief efforts provided by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like El Provenir and Agua Para Vida. U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jon Polka, a Reserve loadmaster from the 728

MCCHORD FIELD, Wash.  -- Many Americans take water resources for granted. They don't realize its value until it's unavailable. However, there are a number of communities around the world without regular access, if any, to drinkable water. 

This reality sank in deep for a Reserve C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster from the 728th Airlift Squadron, who volunteered to highlight and help the global water relief efforts currently taking place in Nicaragua. 

"It's always rewarding to pursue something you're passionate about," said Staff Sgt. Jon Polka. "This is especially good if it benefits other people somehow and broadens your horizons. Carrying our spirit of service and volunteerism beyond our military commitments can be very rewarding to all parties involved."

Sergeant Polka's passion for capturing life in snapshots developed a deeper understanding of those in need and an appreciation of the 446th Airlift Wing's worldwide humanitarian efforts. 

He spent three weeks in August last year as a volunteer photographer for Blue Planet Network, a San Francisco-based organization that raises funds for non-governmental organizations dealing with the world water crisis. The Seattle University student's photographs made it possible for organizations, donors, and interested third parties around the world to view project details and access interviews with beneficiaries. 

"I worked with Para La Vida and El Porvenir, two non-governmental organizations that deliver clean drinking water to communities that lack access," Sergeant Polka said. "The people were very gracious, showing me their projects which often took long off-road drives with hiking and/or horseback riding to get there. The Agua Para La Vida folks took care of all my logistical needs and even threw me a party before I left." 

Sergeant Polka, a photography major, said he wanted to gain experience working with non-governmental organizations overseas and contribute toward the relief effort. Through volunteering, he was able to satisfy his love for travelling and meeting people from communities that were not typical tourist hot spots. Brushing up on his Spanish through the Nicaraguan culture was a bonus. 

"I take notice when people take a step outside the comfortable boundaries we often set for ourselves," said Senior Master Sgt. Rich Lutz, 728th AS loadmaster resource manager, who is also Sergeant Polka's supervisor. "I am especially impressed when stepping outside those boundaries leads to a better understanding of other people and cultures. It is more than commendable that Jon took his time to help our neighbors in Nicaragua."

Sergeant Polka said volunteering reinforced his ability to adapt to different situations, a skill he said he will be applying toward future assignments that fall outside basic aircrew operations. He recommends pursuing opportunities that broaden horizons because they influence what activities a person will participate in.

"As a Reservist, when you are operating in a military capacity, you know the mission comes first and you must do certain things to make sure that happens," Sergeant Polka. "Similarly, volunteering forced me to go beyond myself and try to do justice to what I was seeing and experiencing."

March 17, 2011 at 2:20pm

Washington HS AF JROTC cadets excel at nationals

The Washington High School Air Force JROTC team traveled to Phoenix last weekend to compete in the Air Force Junior ROTC west coast nationals against top teams from western states including Texas, California, Hawaii and Arizona.

Under the leadership of cadet Joshua Stage, the team  competed in unarmed exhibition, regulation and inspection, and all team members competed in the unarmed drill down. In their best performance of the year, the team managed a second place finish in exhibition and also garnered a fourth in inspection. To top off the competition, cadet Brenda Munguia finished first out of over 250 participants in the unarmed drill down. While this was the team's first trip to Arizona, it was the third time in the past six years they earned a first or second place at the national level.

"The competition at nationals was fierce but our team's dedication and hard work paid off in the end," Stage said.

Other team members included Jesse Tuivaiave, Kushaiah Pritchard, Cody Hoefs (Franklin Pierce), Nick Patrick, Byron Crisostomo, Jasmine Kim, Mi Kyeong Jung, Francesca Pratt (FP), Alexandra Svendsen, Brenda Munguia, Collin Schaaff (FP), Nina Williams, Amanda Jimmie,Cody Barnett, Kennett Ashford-White and Meagan Dunmire.

Filed under: Honors, Tacoma, Education,

March 17, 2011 at 3:55pm

McChord Main Gate, Phase 2, to redirect mid-April traffic

McChord Field Main Gate will start Phase 2 construction on April 13. Traffic will be rerouted to continue infrastructure improvements.

The next phase in gate upgrades is coming soon to the McChord Field Main Gate on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and drivers should prepare for more traffic pattern changes beginning the evening of April 13.

Contractors will begin Phase 2 of the construction project on that date with completion scheduled by May 2.

The new phase brings new traffic detours and diversions for access to the gate, said McChord Field's Installation Security and Plans Chief David Lenart. Currently, traffic is reduced to one inbound and outbound lane in what was the original lane leading out of McChord prior to construction's start. Phase 2 will shift traffic to the original inbound lanes, allowing contractors to cut across the roadway and lay new electrical wiring.

Access to the visitor center will change as well. Motorists should pay close attention to signage directing them to entry and exit points.

The current physical upgrades will improve the power infrastructure at and near the gates, said JBLM Chief of Security and Access Control Mel Austin. That includes improved physical protection features for security personnel, improved information systems connectivity and installing backup power generators and lights.

One major vehicle restriction is being placed on incoming and outgoing traffic through the McChord Main Gate - no oversized vehicles, Lenart said. Because the road entering McChord Field is narrower than the outbound lane and has a sharp turn around the visitor center, security officials are asking that people driving tractor-trailers, RVs and military vehicles use either the Commercial Gate or Barnes Gate, both located on Perimeter Road.

No vehicle or vehicle and trailer combination longer than 27 feet should attempt to enter or exit through the Main Gate.

The Commercial Gate will be open 24 hours daily throughout this phase of construction.

Traffic safety officials are asking everyone in the JBLM community who use the McChord Field Main Gate to continue the level of understanding they have already shown this past month during Phase 1.

Construction update information will be communicated through the Northwest Guardian, website updates and on readerboards and poster boards located throughout McChord.

"McChord customers have been very accommodating for the construction," Lenart said.

"Construction is going well and people are following directions well."

March 19, 2011 at 7:41am

McChord still supporting Japan relief operations

Maj. Todd Risk, 4th Airlift Squadron, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., inputs his flight plan into a 62nd Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III on March 12, 2011, at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., in preparation for a flight to Japan to help with earthquake

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.  -- An augmented crew from the 62nd Airlift Wing's 4th Airlift Squadron departed the United States on March 12 and delivered search and rescue, or SAR, equipment and personnel to Japan in support of humanitarian relief efforts after an earthquake and tsunami struck the island nation March 11. 

The first airlift team to arrive in Japan, the C-17 Globemaster III transported 31.5 tons of California-based SAR equipment from Los Angeles to Misawa Air Base. 

The 4th AS crew then delivered 54 power generators to Misawa AFB, which was mostly without electricity since the earthquake. The generators aided the rescue and recovery mission to continue, and allowed victims to cook, contact loved ones and heat their homes. 

The crew also moved more than 25 military family members who volunteered to travel back to United States on a space-available basis. The total mission included more than 36 flight hours.

To support the C-17, a KC-10 Extender from the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., provided in-air refueling over the Pacific Ocean. Without these tankers, the C-17s would need to land and refuel on the ground adding two to three hours to each mission, according to officials.

Taskings for missions come down from Air Mobility Command's Tanker Airlift Control Center. The TACC plans, schedules and directs a fleet of nearly 1,300 mobility aircraft in support of strategic airlift, air refueling, and aeromedical evacuation operations around the world.

In addition to the C-17 and KC-10 forces, AMC also has additional aircraft and crews prepared to respond if further assistance is requested.

Living up to the 62nd AW's vision of "Airlift Excellence... Right here... Right Now!" means not just supporting military personnel in the war zone, but also responding to global humanitarian efforts. 

(Capt. Justin Brockhoff, Tanker Airlift Control Center Public Affairs, contributed to this report.)

March 21, 2011 at 6:23am

446th AW Reservists return after sending fallen troops home to families

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Loren Wells (front row, second from left) and U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Bishop (front row, right), both with the 446th Force Support Squadron Sustainment Services Flight out of McChord Field, Wash., help the carry team tr

MCCHORD FIELD, Wash. -- Dignity, honor, and respect are the words they carry out their mission by. They are the people who work behind the scenes in Overseas Contingency Operations with a very delicate and crucial mission - a mission most people don't like to talk about - preparing the remains of fallen U.S. servicemembers, so they can be returned to their families.

A five-person team of Air Force Reservists from the 446th Force Support Squadron Sustainment Services Flight here return, beginning March 21, after a six-month deployment supporting Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at The Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, Dover Air Force Base, Del. 

"When they come here (AFMAO) they give all of themselves," said Senior Master Sgt. Steve Harris, Sustainment Services Flight superintendent, who is the NCO in charge of the team and wrapping up his seventh deployment. "They are willing to give their all to make sure our nation's heroes get nothing but the best care."

The Reservists are coming back to their homes in Seattle, Bremerton and Puyallup. In all, the team prepared the remains of almost 300 of their comrades in arms and performed about 100 dignified transfers. They also ensured the housing of almost 100 family members since the Fisher House for Families of the Fallen opened there in December 2010. And it doesn't matter which service it is or if the remains came from a servicemember who died in combat or one that died from natural causes - each servicemember's remains are prepared in meticulous detail. 

The mortuary affairs mission is to fulfill our Nation's sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor, and respect to our fallen and care, service, and support to their families.

For more information on Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, visit their website at or contact AFMAO Public Affairs at (302) 677-2275 or by e-mail at     

March 21, 2011 at 2:17pm

Capt. Sarah W. Carlson from JBLM "best" young judge advocate

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - Air Mobility Command officials here announced winners of the command's 2010 AMC Judge Advocate General Corps Awards on March 21. 

In a message from the AMC Staff Judge Advocate, Brig. Gen. David C. Wesley, the winners were highlighted.

"The winners in each category will compete in an Air Force-level competition," Wesley said in the message. "Congratulations to all who competed. The competition was very keen as every package reflected outstanding performance."

Following are the 2010 AMC-level winners.

-- Outstanding Young Judge Advocate of the Year Award (Albert M. Kuhfeld Award) -- Capt. Sarah W. Carlson, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

-- Outstanding Air Reserve Component Judge Advocate of the Year Award (Reginald C. Harmon Award) -- Maj. Tara A. Mather, Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

-- Outstanding Civilian Attorney of the Year Award (James O. Wrightson, Jr. Award) -- Mark W. Hanson, Grand Forks AFB, N.D.

-- Outstanding Paralegal Senior NCO of the Year Award (Karen Yates-Popwell Award) --Master Sgt. James D. Conger, Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

-- Outstanding Young Paralegal of the Year Award (Steve Swigonski Award) -- Tech. Sgt. Bobbie Lynn M. Sherman, 18th Air Force, Scott AFB, Ill.

-- Outstanding Air Reserve Component Paralegal of the Year Award (David Westbrook Award) -- Senior Airman Tiffany K. Baines, Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

-- Outstanding Legal Service Civilian of the Year Award (Harold R. Vague Award) -- Renee M. Monday, 18th Air Force, Scott AFB, Ill.

"All should take pride in their contributions to AMC and the Air Force," Wesley said in the message. "Best wishes to each of these winners at the Air Force-level competition next month."

March 23, 2011 at 6:22am

Fairchild tankers refueling Libya mission

SPOKANE, Wash. - Nearby Fairchild Air Force Base is sending KC-135 refueling tankers to assist in aerial refueling for U.S. and allied fighter jets enforcing the Libya no-fly zone.

The 92nd Air Refueling Wing said five of the base's tankers left Saturday for North Africa, and another is due to leave Wednesday.

The tankers will be flown and maintained by Fairchild-based crews with the 92nd Air Refueling Wing and the 141st Air National Guard, according to The Spokesman-Review of Spokane.

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