Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: June, 2016 (15) Currently Viewing: 11 - 15 of 15

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."

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 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 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 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."

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