Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: June, 2016 (15) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 15

June 2, 2016 at 11:10am

U.S. may no longer own the skies

Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb

The Air Force released a flight plan directing development activity as a result of a yearlong study focused on developing capability options to ensure joint force air superiority in 2030 and beyond.

According to the unclassified version of the Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan, released May 26, the gap between the U.S. military's air superiority capabilities and potential adversaries' means, as it currently stands, the Air Force's projected force structure in 2030 may not be capable of fighting and winning against those adversary capabilities.

In order to counter emerging threats, air superiority must be viewed as a condition the Air Force sets to enable joint forces to accomplish mission objectives, and not as an end in and of itself. Providing the capabilities to do this will require multi-domain solutions developed through a more agile acquisition process.

"After twenty-five years of being the only great power out there, we're returning to a world of great power competition," said Lt. Gen. Mike Holmes, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements. "We need to develop coordinated solutions that bring air, space, cyber, the electronic environment and surface capabilities together to solve our problems."

The flight plan, put together by an enterprise capability collaboration team composed of Air Force operators, acquirers and analysts, says that to achieve air superiority in 2030 and beyond, the Air Force needs to develop a family of capabilities that operate in and across the air, space and cyberspace domains, including both stand-off and stand-in forces.

The speed of capability development and fielding will be crucial to retaining the U.S. advantage. The service can no longer afford to develop weapon systems on acquisition and development timelines using traditional approaches. According to the ECCT, air superiority capability development requires adaptable, affordable and agile processes with increasing collaboration between science and technology, acquisition, requirements and industry professionals.

"There's no silver bullet," said Col. Alexus Grynkewich, the Air Superiority 2030 ECCT lead. "We have to match tech cycles - some of them are really long. Engines take a long time to make, but information age-tech cycles are fast. Software updates are constantly moving. So how do you move from pacing yourself off industrial age mindsets to information age mindsets?"

The answer, Grynkewich said, is parallel development of maturing technologies for sensors, missions systems, lethality and non-kinetic effects, on appropriate time cycles, of an integrated and networked family of capabilities. The next step is to pull technologies out of each of those parallel efforts when they are ready and developing prototypes, experimenting and gaining more knowledge to determine if the developments are what's needed in the field.

"What the flight plan lays out is a series of capability development needs, as well as initiatives to prototype and experiment with a number of concepts," Grynkewich said. "You can start building and then move forward if experimental capabilities are determined to make enough of a difference in highly contested environments of the future."

In order to achieve air superiority in 2030 and beyond, bringing agility to multi-domain acquisition is crucial.

"We've talked about acquisition agility a number of times in terms of, ‘How do we save money' and not wasting taxpayer dollars is absolutely important," Grynkewich said. "But there's an operational imperative that says we have to do this faster, and if we don't, we're at a risk of failing as an Air Force and a joint force."

Air Superiority 2030 is the first enterprise capability collaboration team to release its flight plan. The ECCTs examine, comprehend and quantify operational needs, including current and emerging capability gaps that span the Air Force enterprise. Future topics will likely cover other core Air Force mission areas. 

June 2, 2016 at 11:13am

McChord JA participates in Law Day

Judge Advocates from Joint Base Lewis-McChord gave legal advice to an unusual audience on May 25.

Members of the 62nd Airlift Wing Legal office visited with students of Carter Lake Elementary School on McChord Field, during the nation-wide Law Day.

Law Day is a program sponsored by the American Bar Association, a professional organization which oversees the legal profession, designed to teach children about the legal system and how it can affect their everyday life.

The theme for this year's day was "Miranda: More than Words."

"Law Day is a day where we (attorneys) get to talk about our legal profession and what we do," said Capt. Laura Quaco, 62nd AW chief of legal assistance and preventative law. "I put together this volunteer opportunity to give students a little insight on what we do as judge advocates for the United States Air Force."

The students started with a short class version of the book, The Three Little Pigs, before they were split into groups and learned some judicial system terminology.

"The kids were real eager to learn the lingo," said Senior Airman Tracy Kuenher, 62nd AW paralegal.

After the students went over some of the terminology, the prepared themselves for the mock trial of the "Big Bad Wolf".

"I think we made the mock trial a lot of fun for the kids," said Quaco. "We spruced up the script and selected students to act as the jury panel and give them a chance to deliberate."

Once the jury was done deliberating, they were allowed to give their verdict.

Two out of the three classes thought the "Wolf" was innocent.

"Some of the students were eager to dish out harsh punishment to the "Wolf"," said Keunher. "But I think they learned a valuable lesson regardless if they handed out heavy or lenient sentences."

Quaco said she believed that the kids enjoyed the Law Day activity that was planned for them.

"I asked them how they liked it and they all screamed and yelled," said Quaco. "A lot of them were really interested in the whole courtroom scene and that makes me happy because educating our youth early can ultimately help lead to less crime through heightened awareness of potential victims."

June 3, 2016 at 10:37am

Avionics shop works for the Air Force of tomorrow

Staff Sgt. Curtis Rosga, 62nd Maintenance Squadron avionics technician, troubleshoots C-17 automated test equipment May 24, 2016, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez

Behind the scenes of the McChord flightline, Team McChord airmen work around the clock to sustain the Air Force's C-17 Globemaster III fleet.

One example of that work here at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is the 62nd Maintenance Squadron avionics flight who has successfully worked with mission partners to provide better C-17 aircraft parts to keep the aircraft flying longer.

Currently, the Air Force is working with Boeing to replace old models of the C-17s' multi-function display units used by pilots as part of their flight controls.

Although the displays are regularly being changed out, the demand for the new unit is expected to exceed the rate at which units are being produced. Due to this high demand, the avionics flight here has found a way to prevent this from happening. They have recently started taking old C-17 multi-function display units refurbishing them and putting them back into supply.

"This results in greater mission effectiveness and cost savings," said Tech. Sgt. Jesse Thorn, 62nd MXS avionics flight section chief. "We are taking condemned assets and reverting them to operational status."

Valued at $192,000, each C-17 multi-function display unit that's refurbished results in savings for the Air Force and provides a surplus of replacement assets for the Air Force's C-17 fleet.

Since taking on the task of refurbishing the units in February, the flight has refurbished 10, resulting in a total of $1.9 million in savings for the Air Force.  

"We have a really good working relationship with Boeing because of the knowledge base we have," said Thorn. "We are continually working on control and verification of technical data and maintaining obsolete equipment."

In addition to taking on the task of refurbishing obsolete equipment, in May of 2015, the avionics flight also undertook the task of maintaining and improving an inventory of surplus replacement testing equipment for the entire Air Force.

The flight now maintains the Air Force's surplus supply of light-source assemblies, which are used to measure luminance of C-17 multi-function display units.

The flight identified the supply of spare light-source assemblies were not being tracked efficiently and were often not meeting calibration standards.

When in storage and not regularly calibrated, avionics shops trying to use the replacement equipment would often have to wait an additional 30 days for a device to be calibrated resulting in halting of work and productivity.

"We ran into this problem before and nothing was done; we didn't want to see this continue to be a recurring issue," said Carla De Ruysscher, 62nd MXS avionics technician. "We don't want other bases to have to worry when they get these parts - whether or not they're going to work."

Team McChord's avionics flight has taken on the responsibility to maintain all of the Air Force's spare units to prevent these delays. They are responsible for maintaining the devices and ensuring they are calibrated annually.  

The result of this venture is 30 days of potential time-savings for each device maintained. Since taking on this task, the flight has filled six orders, saving the Air Force approximately 180 days that could have been delayed due to calibration.

"When we are contacted for a light-source assembly, we send the best one to them. They don't have to worry if it's working properly or that it has been calibrated because we've already got them covered," said Master Sgt. Andrew Wasson, 62nd MXS avionics flight chief. "The time-savings alone makes a giant impact to the Air Force and the C-17 Fleet."

Because "good enough" is not acceptable for the avionics flight, they have also worked to improve the longevity of the light-source assemblies by replacing the batteries from alkaline to lithium batteries.

"They will last longer and have minimal corrosion; they will basically last forever," said Thorn. "This is a testament to the caliber of individuals in this flight. They go the extra mile to get things done and better everyday processes."

Looking to better each task they take on, the flight also strives to support avionics airmen across the Air Force.

"We are all one team and support the same mission," said Staff Sgt. Eric Scott, 62nd MXS avionics technician. "This allows everyone else to have the capability to turn out parts faster."

The flight is always looking to improve whatever it can, said Scott.

"Keeping an open mind and looking to better processes is an important part of what we do," said Scott. "It betters mission-efficiency and effectiveness which reduces station downtime around the Air Force as a whole."

While working to make things better in the avionics arena, the flight's primary objective is the mission, De Ruysscher said.

"Every day we run into problems like this and we try to go the extra step to better things," De Ruysscher said. "Saving the Air Force money is a big priority, but keeping planes in the air is our main goal."

June 13, 2016 at 4:02pm

A day to remember

Daniel Duffy (left) and Nicholas Duffy (right) sit in the cock pit of a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, May 26. Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley

The 4th Airlift Squadron welcomed the two newest Team McChord ‘honorary' "Pilots for a Day," Nicholas and Daniel Duffy on May 26 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

McChord's Pilot for a Day program invites children of all ages, military or civilian, to be a guest of the 62nd Airlift Wing and one of McChord's squadrons for an entire day. The program strives to give each child a special day and a break from whatever challenges they may face.

The brothers, who have overcome their own personal challenges, were accompanied by their parents Angela and Sgt. Stephen Cid, 66th Theater Aviation Command, Washington National Guard.

The brothers started the day at the McChord Field Fire Station where they were able to put on fire fighter gear and explore the fire station, as well as put out a simulated aircraft fire.

After the fire station stop they were given a military working dog demonstration, visited the McChord air traffic control tower and the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron.

Following a catered lunch, the brothers were able to experience a simulated parachute freefall with a Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape specialist.

From there they toured a C-17 Globemaster III and had a chance to sit in the cock pit. They then transitioned from the C-17 to the flight simulator where they had a chance to participate in a C-17 simulation fight.

Staff Sgt. Brooke Breeden, 4th AS C-17 loadmaster, started coordinating the day's events nearly two months before it occurred.

"In the past I've been part of small portions of the Pilot for a Day program," said Breeden. "I wanted to experience the whole thing and see the children's faces. I wanted to give them something good to remember forever."

The boys' father Sgt. Stephen Cid, said the day's events were nothing short of perfection.

"It was seamless," said Cid. "Everyone was waiting and prepared for us."

Cid said he knows just how much time and effort it takes to get this type of facetime with military members who have important jobs to do.

"Today it wasn't about everyone's mission, it was about this mission right here, today was about the boys," Cid said. "There could've been many reasons for them to say ‘no' or they couldn't support it, but they did. They (the boys) went where most people don't get the opportunity to."

Angela Cid, the boys' mom, said the biggest event to happen all day was the boys were the center of everyone's attention.

"Today was all about them," said Angela Cid. "They were glowing all day."

She said watching them interact with people who have her respect was humbling.

"The boys respect people in uniform," said Angela Cid. "To watch these individuals who are in charge of so many important things was incredible. There is no amount of thank you's that I can say to express my gratitude."

Stephen Cid said he's been in the military for 18 years and until this day he had never seen the inside of an air traffic control tower or the cock pit of any aircraft.

"I can't thank everyone who has played a part in this enough," said Cid. "We will be talking about this for a long time to come."

In the parent's words, busy airmen slowed everything down for two little boys who usually the world speeds up and passes by.

Nick's favorite part of the day was food and his brother Daniel's was the flight simulator.

Daniel said the simulator gave him the feeling of actually flying a plane, nerves and all.

"I was stoked," said Daniel. "It was amazing. All I'm going to say is ‘God bless the 4th AS'."

Nick said that aside from the incredible food and snacks the best part of the day was being treated with respect.

"I felt like I was older than I actually am," said Nick. "It felt good."

The day concluded with pizza and ice cream and some farewell words from the unit.

"We are all happy to have you here," said Lt. Col. Elizabeth Scott, 4th AS commander. I know you've both faced some challenges in life but you've embodied our motto (Fly, Fight, and Live Proud) by overcoming the struggles. We're proud to have you here as part of the fighting fourth."

June 16, 2016 at 9:13am

A swift response

Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division load their equipment into a 62nd Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III on Pope Army Air Field, N.C., June 6, 2016. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley

Three McChord air crews demonstrated their air mobility capabilities by delivering more than 250 82nd Airborne Division soldiers, Polish and British Forces and their equipment to Poland during Exercise Swift Response 2016, June 7.

Exercise Swift Response 2016 is a significant month-long military crisis response annual training event for multinational forces in the world that includes more than 5,000 participants from 10 North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations including the United States.

C-17 air crews with the 4th, 7th and 8th Airlift Squadrons at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, flew in formation with several other C-17 crews from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to work with other units to provide tactical airlift support to the Army and our allies in Europe.

The flight from Pope Army Air Field to the drop zone in Poland took more than nine hours and required some serious preparation.

One C-17 in particular flown by Lt. Col. Jaron Roux, 62nd Operation Support Squadron commander, carried more than 72 paratroopers, a rigging platform, a British Howitzer and an Army Humvee.

And in the dark of the night, Roux, his crew and the other air crews loaded their aircraft and departed on their 4,000-mile journey over international waters with one common goal; to provide safe and reliable rapid global airlift.

All three of the McChord tails received fuel from the KC-10 or KC-135 air refueling tankers midflight to enable their mission, since the aircraft necessitated additional fuel to prevent having to land for it.

The flawless 15-minute-long execution performed by the KC-10's crew for Roux and his jet allowed for 80,000 pounds of fuel to be transferred to the jet while maintaining their route.

Just a few hours later, the crew was put to the test, yet again.

When the back door of the C-17 opened for the equipment air drop in Poland, the nearly 100 Army soldiers inside the jet looked on in awe.

With the swift pull of a parachute out of the back of the aircraft, a few seconds later, the equipment was gone.

Next up was the paratroopers.

One by one, with the assistance from the jump masters and two C-17 loadmasters, the paratroopers began to jump from the side doors of the C-17.

All paratroopers and their equipment made it safely on the ground to perform their tactical training.

Army Capt. Justin Schumaker, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade 82nd Airborne Division, was on the aircraft to support the paratroopers and assist in their jump.

"Everybody did really well," said Schumaker. "These guys jump at least once every three months, but it's not every day they get to jump into Poland. They were definitely excited."

Roux said overall, the McChord air drops were very successful.

"We executed the plan," said Roux. "The crews were always where they needed to be and when, to provide safe and reliable global airlift.

The exercise provided an opportunity for all partners to train like they fight.

"Whenever we go to a fight, we are never alone," said Roux. "It will always be a joint effort with our coalition partners."

June 16, 2016 at 9:17am

McChord's first shooting competition hits the mark

Capt. Douglas Arnett, 62nd Airlift Wing assistant staff judge advocate, fires an M9 pistol during the Excellence-in-Competition event June 2, 2016, on the range at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Tim Chacon

For the first time ever at McChord Field an M9 pistol Excellence-In-Competition event was sponsored by the 627th Security Forces Squadron June 2, 2016.

The marksmanship competition open to all airmen, had 109 competitors and awarded badges to the top 10% of shooters.

Although the EIC is a competition, that is not the sole purpose for the event.

"The EIC is not just about the competition portion," said Staff Sgt. James Kirk, 627th SFS combat arms instructor. "It's also to get the base more involved in shooting and improve their familiarization with the weapons."

The EIC allowed any airmen interested the opportunity to get some hands on time with weapons.

"The majority of the base populace doesn't fire (weapons) on a regular basis," said Kirk. "Some fire more than others, but this allows airmen to come out and get practice while engaging in a friendly competition."

The competition portion consisted of 30 total rounds, with an additional 10 rounds for warm up and familiarization firing. Airmen fired single handed-single action, double handed-single action and double handed-double action.

Airmen shot from a distance of 25 meters and were scored based of proximity to the center of the target. The center ring being worth 10 points and descending in points the further out from center the shot hit.  A perfect score for the course-of-fire was 300 points

Even though the event had been talked about for nearly two years and planned for months there was still some uncertainty about how the day's events would unfold.

"We didn't know how it was going to go because it was the first time it's been held here, but it went well," said Kirk. "People showed up ready to compete and with a lot of energy. You could tell they enjoyed it."

The low score for the top 10% cut off was 265 and the high score was a two way tie of 281.

Maj. William Booth, 62nd Operations Group Standards and Evaluation deputy chief, was one of the two shooters to score 281. As a former competitive shooter with the U.S Air Force Academy shooting team Booth had experience in this situation.

"Things like the timing, breathing and pacing I use is not what most people use when shooting, so I think that helped," said Booth. "CATM did an outstanding job putting this together. Whether you are a first time shooter or an expert it's fun to put some rounds down range."   

Do in part to the success and positive response from this year's competition a plan to conduct the rifle EIC next year is already in the works. More information will be released when a timetable is set. 

June 16, 2016 at 9:20am

Maintainer mentors cadets

Senior Airman Jason Washington, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aerospace maintenance journeyman, flies a Cessna plane June 4, 2016, at Pierce County Airport. Courtesy photo

For one airman, it didn't take him long to realize that mentoring Civil Air Patrol cadets was something he was greatly interested in.

Senior Airman Jason Washington, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aerospace maintenance journeyman, saw mentoring CAP members as an opportunity to give back to the community and get some flight hours.

The Civil Air Patrol is a federally supported nonprofit corporation that serves as the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. CAP has provided 75 years of support to emergency services, aerospace education and cadet programs.

"CAP was something I was always interested in, even before the Air Force," said Washington. "I always was interested in the Air Force and CAP, but CAP wasn't really built up where I was from."

Washington said when he got to McChord Field in 2013, he did some research on the CAP program.

"Once I got out here and started going to the meetings, it seemed like a really cool volunteer opportunity to help these cadets out," said Washington.

Washington is a testing and leadership officer for the cadets. He administers the tests needed for the cadets to get promoted to the next rank.

"Their rank structure is very similar to ours (Air Force)," said Washington. "These kids range from the ages twelve to eighteen and are competing for rank. So I am administering the test, whether it's a physical training test, drill, or whatever test they need to complete for promotion."

Washington has volunteered more than 100 hours of his personal time developing and mentoring cadets, but stresses that although that is important, he is focused on CAP's biggest mission, which is search and rescue.

"My main focus in CAP is the search and rescue mission," said Washington. "I am a fully qualified scanner, which means when we go out on search and rescue missions, I am the person sitting in the back of the aircraft actively looking for whatever it is we are looking for."

Washington has volunteered more than 50 hours to help the CAP and Washington Department of Transportation with search and rescue missions, but is working his way up to become a mission pilot.

"I'm slowly working my way to become a mission pilot," said Washington. "Right now, I am in mission observer school. I will be done with mission observer school the end of May, then I will work on becoming a mission pilot since I am a private pilot in the civilian world."

The Brooklyn, New York, native, did pilot training in high school. He had a job at a movie theater and that helped him pay for his flight hours.

Washington said he sees this volunteer opportunity as a gateway to his main goal in life, and that is to be a pilot in the Air Force.

"My main goal is to be an Air Force pilot," said Washington. "I am going to Embry Riddle University pursuing my Bachelor's in Aeronautics right now."

Washington said that once he finishes up his degree within the next two years, he will apply to officer training school and see if he can get a pilot slot.

"I've loved every minute of this opportunity to mentor these cadets," said Washington. "Not only do I get to impact their lives, but I also get to continue to do something that I love, and that is to fly planes as well."

June 16, 2016 at 9:24am

Canadian partners

Royal Canadian Air Force Sgt. Wes Ramsay, 8th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, speaks to Army SPC. Dakota Truscott, 82nd Airborne Division, on a 62nd Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III at Pope Army Air Field, N.C. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley

For the last few years, Team McChord has participated in a joint partnership with the Royal Canadian Air Force exchange program, geared toward loadmasters and pilots.

For two of those years, RCAF Sgt. Wes Ramsay, 8th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, has been part of Team McChord and has participated in various C-17 missions including the recent Exercise Swift Response 2016 in Europe.

The exercise was a large-scale multi-national exercise, which included thousands of participants from 10 NATO nations.

Ramsay is a full qualified loadmaster and performs the same duties on the jet as any other "load."

The only significant difference between him and the other loadmasters at McChord, aside from his accent, are the patches on his flight suit, otherwise he's just another part of the crew.

Lt. Col. Jaron Roux, 62nd Operation Support Squadron commander, said Ramsay's presence on the aircraft and exercise is a direct (local) example of reinforcing our NATO partnership at McChord.

"Ramsay is an asset to the team," said Roux. "He is an exceptional loadmaster; he brings a Canadian perspective to the team and by working with him we are truly embracing the coalition we train for in exercises like Swift Response. We are strengthening that bond."

Ramsay said the challenges in the integration stem mostly from language differences.

"It was a whole new language and a whole new culture," said Ramsay. "It's the same aircraft, same job, and it's pretty much the exact same rules, but it's a different understanding."

Ramsay said that out of all the missions he's flown in his career, the mission to Poland for Exercise Swift Response 2016 sticks out because it's a realistic training scenario.

"This mission is probably the best memorable one I've done," said Ramsay. "We're planning a real scenario; we're loading the aircraft to the maximum extent possible and we're conducting air drops. We're training like we should fight."

Ramsay said working with aircrew, including at McChord, creates a tight-knit bond.

"It's a family with integrity," Ramsay said. "We hold each other accountable and each member has to hold themselves individually accountable, because we're flying thirty thousand feet in the air and essentially everyone has to back each other up, because every day you'll need each other."

The best part of the day for Ramsay and his crew is when the mission is complete.

"It's a good feeling when we find out that nobody got injured and everything landed where it was supposed to land, and overall, everything was a success." 

June 23, 2016 at 9:58am

TACPs are best of both worlds

Air Force Staff David Peterson, a tactical air control party airman with 5th Air Support Operations Squadron, prepares to transmit information to a simulated aircraft during a TACP competition at JBLM, June 15. Photo credit: Sgt. Cody Quinn

Spend a moment on Joint Base Lewis-McChord and you will hear the siren wail of an Air Force jet pierce the sky. The steady roar from McChord Field has become part of the daily rhythm for area residents.

It would be easy to assume the Air Force's sole focus is putting their planes into operation.

"Soon as I joined the Air Force, people asked me what plane I fly," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Adam Long, a tactical air control party specialist with 5th Air Support Operations Squadron. "We're their direct ground troops. We're a little bit blue and a little bit green. We're teal."

TACP airmen are members of Air Force special operations and embed with ground units to direct airstrikes. The 5th ASOS personnel are frequently attached to deploying units, and competition helps maintain their readiness and keep their skills honed, according to Long.

Long was responsible for organizing JBLM's annual Tactical Air Control Party competition, June 14-16.

"We're keeping our TACPs competitive. It's a check on learning," Long, a native of Mercer, Pennsylvania, said. "The end-all be-all is bragging rights."

Two months of planning went into creating a competition that would simultaneously challenge the participants' minds and bodies.

"This establishes a baseline of where our learning is at," said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Staggs, a weapons instructor with 5th ASOS and Cincinnati native. "We want to take what our best have gotten right and wrong and apply those lessons to our training."

Participants were ranked on their completion of each leg of the competition, with equal emphasis given to physical ability and job knowledge.

"It's a different type of competition," Long said. "There will always be guys who crush two or three of the physical events, but not the others. Those people won't be the winner."

TACPs spend over six months training prior to entering the career field. With so much training under their belts, keeping their abilities sharp poses a challenge.

"They learn these skills during our technical school," said Tech. Sgt. Brian Jackson, a grader for the competition with 5th ASOS from Elkhart, Indiana. "Regular training like this helps improve their proficiency."

Competitors were challenged to create a makeshift antenna, pass multiple physical tests, and create tactical air missions while enduring 19-hour-long days and catching a rare nap while in the field.

Long won last year's competition, and with the victory, the responsibility to plan this year's iteration. He walked the different stations offering support and encouragement while his fellow TACPs tackled each challenge.

"You get invested in the competition," Long said. "You want to see them perform well. It's tough not being out there."

TACPs, while being Air Force personnel, are stationed on the Army side of JBLM. This gives them the unique distinction in the military world.

"We can reach out to our Air Force counterparts for support," Long said, after mentioning units from McChord had provided medical support for the competition. "We're better prepared because we have more resources, Air Force and Army, to reach out to."

TACP airmen are a melding of Army and Air Force, much like JBLM itself. This duality runs to the core of everything these grounded airmen do.

"You can't rely on being physically capable and not be competent in your technical skills," Long said. "You need a good balance."

June 23, 2016 at 10:02am

Retirement 101

Confused by changes to the retirement system? Go online for the answers. DoD photo

Online training designed to educate airmen about the new Blended Retirement System, the Defense Department system with changes on the current military retirement system, is now available via Joint Knowledge Online course number P-US1330. The course is also available to those without a Common Access Card - to include family members - via an alternate website.

The BRS was enacted into law in the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, and will go into effect Jan. 1, 2018. All currently serving members are grandfathered into the current military retirement system. However, those with fewer than 12 years of service as of Dec. 31, 2017, or Air Force Reserve component members with fewer than 4,320 retirement points, may choose to "opt in" to the BRS during the designated opt-in period from Jan. 1, 2018 through Dec. 31, 2018.

"The BRS is a major change for our airmen," said Brig. Gen. Brian Kelly, the Military Force Management Policy director. "Although the majority of airmen serving today will not fall under BRS, it is important for all airmen, either as leaders today or as leaders tomorrow, to understand the changes that will impact airmen in the future."

The BRS Leader Training is a 30-minute course designed to provide basic familiarity with the key components of the upcoming retirement system and the timeline for implementation. It is designed primarily for Air Force leaders at all levels, but is also open to all airmen and others who wish to learn more about BRS.

"Education is key in providing airmen the information they need in order to make informed decisions about the BRS," Kelly said. The Defense Department is on track to provide three additional courses with more detailed information within the next 18 months.

An "opt-in" course is targeted at those eligible to opt into the new system. To learn more about the Blended Retirement System, visit militarypay.defense.gov.

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