Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: January, 2018 (3) Currently Viewing: 1 - 3 of 3

January 4, 2018 at 3:27pm

Award recognizes wellness in action

Col. Sonkiss, 62nd Airlift Wing commander, left, presents Master Sgt. Benjamin Harrison, 4th Airlift Squadron first sergeant, with the Healthy Squadron Award trophy Dec. 13, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Master Sgt. Shanda L. De Anda

The 4th Airlift Squadron earned the Healthy Squadron Award during the trophy's inaugural presentation at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Dec. 13. Col. Rebecca Sonkiss presented the trophy to Master Sgt. Benjamin Harrison, 4th AS first sergeant, on behalf of his unit, in recognition of wellness accomplishments throughout 2017.

The Healthy Squadron Award supports the Commander's Wellness Program (CWP) pilot, which is an environmental and policy approach to influencing the health of airmen. The objective of CWP is to provide an evidence-based approach to influencing behavior change, which, in turn, has a positive effect on productivity, presentism and absenteeism. This also has potential impacts to readiness, which makes it a priority.

"The commander authorizes us to take 90 minutes (for physical training), three days a week and with flying schedules and ops tempo, we do (independent) PT," said Harrison. "Everyone just makes sure they get done what they need to get done."

This philosophy is one that the CWP pilot hopes to further encourage. Dr. Danielle Knutson, 62nd Medical Squadron health promotion coordinator, took the CWP objective and, using the evidence-based County Health Rankings Framework as a model, ranked each squadron's CWP health findings.

"Since counties are available in all sizes and shapes and the research review shows they can rank their health promotion data, it makes sense to rank squadrons' health promotion data since they, too, come in all sizes and shapes," Knutson summarized.

She compared the Team McChord findings with overall Air Force averages. This ranking included scores for body mass indexes, tobacco use, physical training and deployment rates.

"The major goal of rankings is to raise awareness about the many factors that influence health, and to provide squadron commanders with solid data to better target intervention and resources to areas where they like to improve, said Knutson. "Also, adding a nice annual traveling trophy is fun, too, and hopefully encourages healthy competition and collaboration."

That spirit of healthy competition seems well on its way as Harrison added, "We're going to stay the course; (and, as Richard Morgan Fliehr, better known as Ric Flair of 1980s and 1990s wrestling notoriety, would say,) ‘to be the man, you have to beat the man.'"

For the next unit to earn the annual roving CWP trophy, they will have to excel in additional areas not ranked this year, but will contribute to 2018 CWP rankings. Those areas include sleep, nutrition and physical activity measures using annual physical health assessment data analysis.

For more information on wellness programs for yourself and your unit, contact Knutson at or 253.982.6947.

January 11, 2018 at 11:53am


The National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, as seen from the summit of Observation Hill, Antarctica. Courtesy photo

In conjunction with the 446th Airlift Wing, the 62nd Operations Group kicked off the 2017-2018 season of Operation DEEP FREEZE (ODF), a mission offering unparalleled Department of Defense support to the National Science Foundation (NSF)-managed U.S. Antarctic Program, with operations that began in late September.

According to the NSF website, Americans have studied the Antarctic and its interactions with the rest of the planet since 1956. The aim of the Antarctic program is to carry forward the nation's goals of meeting obligations under the Antarctic Treaty, fostering cooperative research with other nations, and protecting the Antarctic environment.

"Since September, we have flown 17 (ODF) missions, transported nearly 950,000 pounds of cargo and more than 1,300 passengers, including the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand," said Maj. Lucas Berreckman, 62nd Operations Group executive officer and instructor pilot.

Ensuring the success of the U.S. Antarctic Program is no small feat. The program's success is accomplished through a network of intricately connected parts known as Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica (JTF-SFA).

JTF-SFA is managed by Pacific Air Forces at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, but relies on support from active-duty and National Guard and Reserve personnel working together as part of JTF-SFA to execute the ODF mission.

"The Air Force provides strategic inter-theater airlift, tactical intra-theater airlift and airdrop, aeromedical evacuation support, and search and rescue response capabilities," said Lt. Col. Trace Dotson, C-17 Antarctic Mission commander. "Operation DEEP FREEZE, the military's support for the Antarctic Program, is supported by the triad of active-duty, Air National Guard, and Air Reserve component personnel. Our airmen provide a reliable airlift capability to one of the more challenging U.S. military peacetime missions due to the harsh environment in which we operate.  Those airmen get to put their skills to test in the coldest, windiest, most inhospitable continent on the globe which truly tests AMC's (Air Mobility Command's) global mobility capability."

Having travelled to the continent twice, once as a student pilot and again as an instructor, Berreckman said he recalls his impression of Antarctica as dreamlike.

"It was surreal," the major explained. "Not knowing what the continent would actually be like beforehand, I found it surprisingly mountainous, truly beautiful, and colder than you would imagine, despite our arriving during the Antarctic summer."

Though striking to behold, Antarctica's austere environment creates unique challenges for those who seek to land and operate there.

In addition to fast-changing weather, which makes approach difficult for pilots, cold and inhospitable surroundings present challenges unlike those loadmasters and maintainers operating outside the aircraft have typically encountered before, Berreckman said.

NSF notes that research is performed in Antarctica only when it cannot be performed at more convenient locations elsewhere on the globe and that research has three distinct goals: to understand the region and its ecosystems; to understand its effects on, and responses to global processes such as climate; and to use the region as a platform to study the upper atmosphere and space.

Likewise, there are distinct goals and benefits for McChord airmen operating in the remote and extreme Antarctic environment. In addition to the advancement of technical skillsets, the ODF mission has resulted in strengthened bonds between the United States and partner nations such as New Zealand.

"The value comes from getting to execute a subset of the C-17 (Globemaster III) mission that I hadn't done before," Berreckman said. "Learning more about the aircraft's capabilities, further developing pilots, loadmasters and maintainers who go on the missions, and also cultivating relationships with our international communities firsthand makes ODF priceless.

"At the beginning of this season, we arranged a (C-17) static display for local residents in New Zealand," Berreckman continued. "More than 3,000 civilians and five ambassadors came through that day, allowing us to communicate our mission and the capabilities of our platform, which is an invaluable opportunity."

There's a reason not every aircraft in the United States Air Force arsenal plays a role in ODF. The C-17 is uniquely suited to the task, and so are the airmen who crew it.

"The C-17 is the perfect size aircraft to provide intra-theater airlift between Christchurch, New Zealand, and Antarctica," Dotson said. "The C-17 can carry up to 100,000 pounds of cargo and people safely to Antarctica while still having enough fuel to return to New Zealand if the weather degrades suddenly. A larger aircraft may not be able to land on the ice runway at McMurdo Station, and smaller aircraft can't afford the large cargo payload that the USAP [U.S. Antarctic Program] requires."

With 13 missions still to accomplish, the current ODF season will conclude in February. The 2018-2019 season will resume in late September or early October 2018.

"It's been a successful season so far and we're looking forward to returning to Christchurch in February to complete our remaining missions," Dotson said.

Despite all these contributions, the 62nd AW remains heavily tasked supporting overseas contingency operations, presidential support missions, and various other high priority airlift and airdrop operations around the world. For more information, visit the McChord website at

January 11, 2018 at 11:58am

Rainier Wing changes command

Col. Sean Pierce, 446th Airlift Wing commander, is handed command of the 446th AW from Maj. Gen. Randall Ogden as Col. Scott McLaughlin is relieved of command during a change of command ceremony, Jan.6. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Daniel Liddicoet

Col. Sean P. Pierce will assume his role as the 446th Airlift Wing's newest commander following a change of command ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Jan. 6.

Pierce brings with him a breadth of experience specific to the 446th AW's mission having previously served as the 446th Operations Group commander for two years.

Relieving command is Col. Scott L. McLaughlin, who served honorably as the 446th AW's commander for more than three years and will be assuming a new role as the 4th Air Force chief of staff at March Air Reserve Base, California.

Maj. Gen. Randall A. Ogden, 4th Air Force commander, officiated the ceremony and is one of Pierce's earliest Air Force mentors dating back 15 years.

"When you have a leader like Col. Sean Pierce coming," said Ogden, "you can all be confident that you have a leader that is more concerned about his airmen than any accolades he might receive."

Pierce's speech at the ceremony echoed this ethos as he shared his vision for the 446th AW.

"One of the key things I've learned from mentors like General Ogden is that an effective leader is often a servant leader," said Pierce. "The concept of servant leadership inspires others to lead and strengthens an organization by building up the people around us. As leaders, we don't seek the power that our positions provide us, but rather we seek to empower those around us."

Pierce also brings a vast diversity of experience with him to his new role as wing commander.

"He's been a pilot in so many different weapon systems," Ogden said of Pierce, "from helicopters to tankers, to tactical airlift and hurricane hunters. He also has experience serving in the Pentagon on the air staff, which has given him a broad perspective, and makes him an even better leader with that understanding of strategic level decisions and resource allocation issues that we face."

As the 446th AW transitions, its airmen will also remember McLaughlin fondly as a leader who always demonstrated and emphasized the importance of mutual respect.

"Colonel McLaughlin has a reputation for being an extremely talented leader," said Ogden, "but also one that cares for people and has great respect for others no matter what their background may be. I think he does that because he thinks it's the right thing to do, but it also makes our Air Force stronger."

McLaughlin left the 446th AW with a great deal of gratitude for the hard work his airmen dedicated to the wing during his time as commander.

"When I assumed command in 2014," said McLaughlin, "I shared the thought that the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality, and the last is to say thank you. I'll leave you to judge how well I defined reality for 446th Airlift Wing, however, I will say that I enjoyed tremendous support from our airmen in taking a hard look on how we did our business during my time in command."

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