Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

September 8, 2017 at 11:26am

Enlisted special duty assignment pay effective Nov. 1

The Air Force semiannual review resulted in 13 additions to the pay table including a number of jobs with special experience identifiers such as flight engineer, special missions aviator and loadmaster. Photo credit: Osakabe Yasuo

The Air Force will update enlisted special duty assignment pay for several career fields, locations or special assignment duties effective Nov. 1, following the most recent Air Force semiannual review.

SDAP is a monetary allowance that compensates enlisted airmen serving in extremely demanding positions with unusually challenging responsibilities that differ from the normal demands of their jobs. Airmen receive a minimum of $75 per month up to the maximum of $450 per month.

The review resulted in 13 additions to the pay table including a number of jobs with special experience identifiers such as flight engineer, special missions aviator, loadmaster and remotely piloted aircraft sensor operator. Other duties added to the pay table include airfield manager, digital network analyst, cyberspace mission forces, RPA cyber technician, special operations surgical teams and Korean cryptologic language analyst.

Modifications, particularly clarification to eligibility criteria, were made to an additional 23 duties.

"The Air Force meticulously evaluates this program to ensure we are accurately compensating our airmen working in rigorous career fields with an unusual degree of complexity, difficulty or responsibility," said Senior Master Sgt. Joey Williams, the Airman Support branch superintendent at the Air Force's Personnel Center. "We hope to provide an incentive for airmen to volunteer for and perform duties in critical career fields in order to best support future Air Force missions."

The specialty and individual assignment should meet one or more of the following criteria in order for SDAP consideration:

  • Duties require extremely demanding personal effort to ensure successful mission accomplishment
  • Positions are extremely demanding and require an unusual degree of responsibility over and above what would reasonably be expected in a military assignment for members with the same grade and experience
  • The special duty assignment is different from the normal career progression and job description for the Air Force specialty code
  • Duties requiring special qualifications that are met through rigorous screening and/or special schooling above the normal qualifications of the skill or grade to maintain proficiency

To see the full special duty assignment pay list and a summary of the changes, visit the enlisted compensation landing page on myPers. Alternatively, select "Active Duty Enlisted" from the myPers dropdown menu and search "SDAP."

For more info about Air Force personnel programs, go to

September 7, 2017 at 11:37am

Mobility Exercise enhances community, international partnerships

Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II is commander of Air Mobility Command based at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Air Mobility Command recently completed a very successful Exercise Mobility Guardian. The exercise, involving 30-plus nations and more than 3,000 exercise participants, challenged U.S. and partner militaries to "Train like We Fight" with outstanding support from the Spokane, Yakima, Tacoma and Seattle communities who served as our hosts.

The exercise tested our total force airmen on the "Core 4" Air Mobility Command missions of aerial refueling, airlift, aeromedical evacuation and mobility support.

The Air Mobility Command mission is diverse, impacting national security while contributing to how various communities view mobility operations. Recognizing this, we added another dynamic to the exercise: robust interaction with news media and the community.

In today's defense environment, the media and community are intertwined in our operations and demand an understanding of what the military is charged to do. Engaging both is a national imperative that ensures we hold ourselves accountable to our airmen, the American people and international partners.

I think the necessity of engaging the press in these activities is well understood. However, incorporating civic leaders and the communities we serve, both domestically and internationally, is equally important. Engagement presents tangible benefits for our mission, airmen and their families, leading to stronger mission partnerships. The military and our families rely on these partnerships during the good times, and under challenging circumstances when natural disaster strikes or world situations require evacuation.

So why is it important for civic leaders and communities to become immersed in the Air Force and mobility air forces mission set?

A few benefits include an enhanced:

  • Understanding of the demands placed on mobility air forces (both aircraft and personnel)
  • Insight into the impact the mobility air forces is having on national defense and global operations
  • Pride in installation's impact to larger AMC and Air Force missions
  • Opportunities to strengthen civic-military ties, trust and public support to complete the mission
  • Ensuring insight into the respective vantage points of the Air Force as well as our community partners
  • Awareness of the opportunities available to those interested in serving in the Air Force. We need everyone's help developing an interest in service and a passion for aviation.

When communities have a sense of pride and awareness of the impact of military operations, it results in stronger, supportive military-friendly environments. Supportive military communities make airmen and their families feel valued, welcomed and create a desire for them to stay in the Air Force.

Informing civic leaders about national defense roles, responsibilities, and impacts can also lead to enhanced national defense dialogue on the demands the military faces. Exposure to these topics leads to informed national and local decision-making ensuring we remain accountable to those we serve.

Transparency and a culture of engagement in Air Mobility Command is critically important to me. Our airmen deserve it and so do our community partners. Investment in educating community partners results in established trust and access. This trust is critically important when the Air Force navigates concerns about noise from our aircraft or environmental challenges.

It is important America understands the value we place on integrity, service and excellence -- the effects of what our airmen deliver for the nation deserves nothing less. I expect my commanders to be actively engaged in the community and to help build a strong team to ensure mission success and strong support networks.

At Mobility Guardian, the military-community partnership was on full display. The value of this exercise exceeded traditional military objectives, it factored in the total force team required to win our nation's wars -- our military, international and community partners. The Spokane, Yakima, Tacoma and Seattle communities aced the challenge and understand the role they serve in enabling a power projection platform for America.

September 7, 2017 at 11:32am

Air Force to lessen pilot shortage, added incentives to keep troops flying

Air Force pilots can cash in on new incentives if they are willing to stay in the cockpit. Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Air Force officials announced three additional initiatives designed to enhance mission readiness by keeping pilots in the service and bringing retired pilots back to fill critical-rated positions.

The first is an increase in the aviation incentive pay, commonly called flight pay, for both officer and enlisted aviators for the first time since 1999, effective Oct. 1. The second is an expansion of the fiscal year 2017 Aviation Bonus Program to include non-contracted and contract-expired pilots that began Aug. 4. The third is the rated return to active-duty program which brings retired pilots back into the service to fill critical-rated staff positions that began Aug. 11.

"We need to retain our experienced pilots and these are some examples of how we're working to do that," said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. "We can't afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers."

Retaining experience, enhancing readiness

The Air Force was 1,555 pilots short at the end of fiscal 2016, which includes 1,211 total force fighter pilots -- with the deficit expected to grow.

To address this, the first initiative is directed at all aviators and provides higher amounts of incentive pay, or flight pay. Aviators will see a reduced number of steps in the Air Force Aviation Incentive Pay table, an increase to a maximum of $1,000 per month and increased pay rates across all steps for officers beginning Oct. 1.

Simultaneously, enlisted aircrew members will also see their incentive pay increase. The Critical Skills Incentive Pay, previously referred to as Career Enlisted Flyer Incentive Pay, will increase to a maximum of $600 per month.

Air Force incentive pay for aviators with less than six years of aviation service hasn't been increased since 1980. The most recent changes to incentive pay were made in 1999.

In addition to the incentive pay increases, the Air Force expanded the fiscal 2017 Aviation Bonus Program.

"The Air Force's fiscal year 2017 Aviation Bonus take rates have been lower than what the Air Force needs," explained Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. "The bonus is now being offered to a larger pool of pilots that includes those beyond their initial service commitments who have previously declined to sign long-term bonus contracts and those whose contracts have expired.

"This is one of many initiatives we are taking to retain experienced pilots," Grosso stated.

The final initiative is the Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD, program that is open to all pilot Air Force Specialty Codes (11X). The service is accepting up to 25 retired 11Xs volunteering to return to active-duty for up to 12 months to primarily fill critical-rated staff positions, thereby allowing current and qualified pilots to remain in operational units where they are needed to meet mission requirements.

A number of non-flying staff positions require a pilot's expertise. The Air Force has reviewed these positions to determine if each is necessary and if it requires a pilot to fulfill its duties. Volunteers for VRRAD will help fill these positions.

"Our combat-hardened aircrews are at the tip of the spear for applying airpower against our nation's enemies," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. "Secretary Wilson and I are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure we maintain that capability for the nation. We continue to swing away at this issue and we're looking at multiple options to improve both quality of life and quality of service for our pilots."

September 6, 2017 at 7:06am


Make some quick cash by selling gently used items, or come to buy unique treasures at the annual Joint Base Lewis-McChord Fall Flea Market Sept. 16 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Family and MWR’s Fest Tent next to Bowl Arena Lanes at 2200 Liggett Ave. on Lewis Main. Rent two 6-foot tables, spaces or combos for only $26. Three tables/space combos spanning 18 feet are $30. Rent an additional 6-foot table or space for $6 more. You must be an authorized military ID cardholder in order to sell your household or yard items. Email, or call 253-967-6772 for reservations.

September 6, 2017 at 7:04am

Get ready to boogie down at McChord Block Party

Athena Mabry The annual McChord Housing Block Party will take place Sept. 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Carter Lake Elementary School on McChord Field.

School may be starting, but there’s still time to party in the ’hood.

Enhanced family readiness, spiritual resiliency and community bonding are the goals for the McChord Field Housing Block Party scheduled at Carter Lake Elementary School, 3415 Lincoln Ave., on McChord Field, Sept. 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This the second year for the free event, which is sponsored by the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Religious Support Office and the McChord Field Chapel.

The event is open to all service members and families within McChord Field housing.

The first year, the event took place at Carter Lake Park, but this year it was moved to the elementary school campus for better support facilities and in the hope of accommodating a larger gathering, according to Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Gerald Snyder, a chaplain with the 627th Air Base Group.

“(The event is) an opportunity for fun for the whole family — an opportunity to meet your neighbors and learn about (the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Religious Support Office’s) fall programs,” Snyder said.

Last year, more than 200 McChord Field housing residents came out for the block party, Snyder said.

“The event features a multigenerational approach to community building,” Snyder said. “Numerous volunteers including retirees, active-duty and family members of all ages support the event.”

Music, carnival games, bouncy houses, free food and raffles will be part of the experience that’s aimed at de-stressing military family members at the start of the school year.

“Everyone is welcome,” Snyder said.

September 1, 2017 at 11:03am

Air Force introduces new, improved tool to manage civilian benefits

The GRB Platform recently replaced the Employee Benefits Information System and helps Air Force civilians more effectively manage their benefits and entitlement info. Photo credit: Richard Salomon

The Air Force is the first agency in the Department of Defense to roll out a new tool that helps government civilians more effectively manage their benefits and entitlement information.

The Government Retirement and Benefits Platform is a web-based application that allows employees to make changes and updates to their health insurance, life insurance, Thrift Savings Plan and other personal benefit information.

The GRB Platform replaces the Employee Benefits Information System, which replaced most paper-based processes in 1996.

"The GRB Platform includes all the functionality previously offered with EBIS, but in a much more intuitive and user-friendly environment," said Annette Castro, a human resource specialist at the Air Force Personnel Center. "It gives employees the ability to easily obtain and request various retirement estimates, complete their retirement packages and review their current benefits coverage."

The site also contains informational videos, facts sheets, electronic forms, calculators, retirement courses and links to external websites to help individuals make important decisions regarding their benefits.  

Employees can access the GRB Platform application through AFPC Secure by selecting the "GRB Platform" application link. Employees should see a brief video explaining the new system the first time they log in.

"This is another example of how we are providing smarter and more efficient personnel services to our customers worldwide," Castro said. "It's important that we continue to improve and enhance all of our business processes, so our customers can have what they need right at their fingertips."

For more information, visit the myPers website and search "GRB Platform." 

September 1, 2017 at 10:57am

McChord leadership honor loadmaster legend

Dan Watson, friend of the late Chief Master Sgt. William Cannon, unveil the newly named Chief Master Sgt. William M. Cannon Boulevard Aug. 19 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez

A rare honor was bestowed on a prior McChord airman and his family during a street renaming ceremony Aug. 19 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. 

The ceremony unveiled McChord Field's  newly renamed street Chief Master Sgt. William M. Cannon Blvd., previously 5th St. NE on Heritage Hill.

The late Cannon was a retired McChord loadmaster who was a Distinguished Flying Cross recipient and made immense contributions to the loadmaster community and the development of the C-17 Globemaster III.          

"Chief Master Sgt. Bill Cannon was a seasoned aviator, gifted leader and the ‘father of the C-17 loadmaster,'" said Col. Reba Sonkiss, 62nd Airlift Wing commander. "This street, now to be called Chief Master Sgt. William M. Cannon Boulevard, recognizes the contributions of a man who dedicated his entire life and career in service to our great nation and our Air Force."

Serving more than 30 years in the Air Force, Cannon held more than 16,600 flying hours in the C-54, C-24, C-130 and C-141 aircraft, Sonkiss noted. He also served in Vietnam where he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross.

"When you think back to the incredible history of airlift here at McChord, it really puts into perspective the accomplishments and contributions of incredible airmen like Chief Cannon," said Sonkiss. "We can only hope to make him proud in the future as we set out on our own paths."

After retiring as the chief loadmaster at McChord, Cannon was the chief loadmaster of the C-17 flight test program. He also founded the Airlift Tanker Association and the Professional Loadmaster Association.

"Chief Cannon was a great leader, an inspiration to look up to and his dedication to service and others was beyond reproach," said Dan Watson, friend of Cannon. "He was an amazing man and the renaming of the street is befitting of his service to all loadmasters past, present and future."

Chief Master Sgt. William M. Cannon Blvd. joins those of the distinguished streets and buildings on McChord Field named after airmen who've made great contributions to the Air Force.     

"Chief Cannon left behind an undeniable legacy of service and excellence that paved the way for our current mobility Air Force," said Sonkiss. "This renaming honors the trail that he blazed for the C-17 community, the 62nd Airlift Wing, and the United States Air Force."

August 25, 2017 at 10:51am

Military treatment facilities help enhance medical readiness for airmen

Military treatment facilities serve as platforms to find new ways of caring for patients. Courtesy photo

Air Force Medicine has a non-stop global readiness mission. Medical airmen must be prepared to deploy on short notice to provide life-saving and performance-enhancing healthcare in diverse, austere, isolated locations, and all airmen must be medically ready to deploy. To achieve this readiness mission, the Air Force Medical Service operates 76 military treatment facilities around the world, which serve as the primary readiness and training vehicles.

The 12 hospitals and 64 clinics within the AFMS serve as dual readiness platforms, ensuring that all airmen meet medical readiness standards to deploy, and that all medical airmen have the training and skills necessary for deployment. The MTFs are the foundation of our expeditionary medical capabilities, providing a population of patients that drives the workload, case diversity and acuity necessary to maintain clinical currency that is essential for readiness.

Every Air Force MTF is aligned with an operational wing to enhance the medical readiness of warfighters and their families. Medical group commanders tailor the care and training offered at their MTF, ensuring the medical readiness of the operational wing they support. No two air bases have exactly the same mission portfolio, so each has unique medical support requirements.

An excellent example of how MTFs support the installation's operational mission is the 19th Medical Group at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. The 19th Aerospace Medicine Squadron High Altitude Airdrop Mission Support Center is housed at Little Rock, so medics from the 19 MDG are experts in the care of high-altitude operators. This includes unique oxygen monitoring and physiologic performance requirements for these airmen. This type of expertise, like others organic to Air Force Medicine, isn't required at every installation, nor would it be efficient to deploy it at all 76 AFMS facilities.

The knowledge, skills and abilities gained at these fixed facilities translate into outstanding care in a deployed environment. A valuable tool for the AFMS to extend this care downrange is our Expeditionary Medical Support Health Response Teams (EMEDS-HRT). EMEDS-HRT allows medical airmen to rapidly deploy a mobile tent hospital that can provide emergency care within an hour of arrival on the scene of a disaster or other casualty situation. This gives us the capability to deliver surgery and critical care within six hours, and full hospital capability within 12 hours of arrival.

Properly training medical airmen to deploy and operate EMEDS-HRT requires a specialized MTF readiness platform. Four Air Force MTFs are presently staffed to deploy and train EMEDS personnel, including the 633rd Medical Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, devoting time and resources to a critical deployment platform that other MTFs are not resourced to deliver.

At the 633rd, the Global Response Force coordinates with Air Combat Command to run annual training exercises on EMEDS-HRT. Medics from the 633rd practice rapid deployment and simulated casualty care with a wide assortment of patient scenarios. These well-trained airmen from the 633rd deploy in support of a variety of mission types around the world, from combat operations support to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Once fully operational, EMEDS-HRT can provide surgical and trauma care, prevention, acute intervention, primary care and dental service to a population of more than 3,000. Our expert teams continue to find innovative ways to decrease the size and weight, while increasing the speed of deploying these mobile hospitals. They can also be tailored to a specific mission, adding specialty care such as obstetrics/gynecology and pediatrics for humanitarian assistance, disaster relief or other missions involving populations with special healthcare needs.

Medics at most MTFs rotate through EMEDS training, but may not receive the in-depth training available to airmen at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. This tailored mission support is critical to building and sustaining an agile and flexible force, capable of completing a myriad of health-related missions around the globe at once.

MTFs also serve as platforms to evolve and implement new ways of caring for patients. Most patients interact most often with their health teams in primary care clinics, so these are a key area for readiness and innovation. Air Force MTFs utilize the Air Force Medical Home model, a team-based approach to care that embeds specialty providers into primary care clinics. This removes barriers to care and drives efficiency. Mental health providers, physical therapists, clinical pharmacists, social workers, and others augment or deliver primary care appointments in close coordination with the primary provider and other members of the team.

Our Behavioral Health Optimization Program, which embeds mental health providers in primary care clinics, has been particularly beneficial. Building a mentally resilient force is a key to readiness, but stigma can sometimes create a serious hurdle to seeking mental healthcare. BHOP is an effective way to initiate mental healthcare, starting informal conversations with mental health professionals. Brief meetings in the context of a primary care appointment can lead to earlier treatment of a mental health condition, preventing a more serious problem.

The AFMH model also incorporates the Base Operational Medicine Clinic, an occupational medicine, flight medicine and deployment health-focused clinic. BOMC is separate from primary and family care clinics at MTFs, focusing resources on the readiness mission. Previously, flight and occupational medicine clinics required patients to visit different departments to get their pre-placement exams and exposure assessments. BOMC, centralizes all exam components in one clinic, and use standardized procedures. This model is especially valuable at MTFs that host fighter wings, or other units that call for a high volume of aerospace medicine services.

In our continuous efforts to provide a medically ready and ready medical force of airmen for our nation's defense, the AFMS relies on the remarkable medical airmen who are its providers, nurses, technicians and patients. The people I serve with, men and women of amazing compassion, skill, training and creativity, continually inspire me. My job is to build a system that allows them to succeed to the maximum extent of their abilities, and to create space for them to successfully innovate. The strength of the AFMS is undoubtedly our mighty medical airmen.

In any organization, once change has begun, the biggest challenge is to sustain the change and build on that initial momentum. Our readiness focus is not only for today's requirements, but the new missions we may be called upon to execute tomorrow. As we support the increasingly in-demand, 24/7 mission of our globally engaged Air Force, some of these challenges will be small, while others will be immense. Our MTFs are the backbone of a flexible and resilient AFMS, helping us answer the call to meet any readiness mission we are called on to deliver in the future.

August 25, 2017 at 10:46am

Home delivery change for automatic prescription refills

The new process for automatic refills gives you more control over your medication. Photo credit: Express Scripts

Beginning Sept. 1, Express Scripts will need annual consent from patients who want to receive automatic refills of their maintenance medications enrolled in TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery. This means that just before one of your prescriptions runs out of refills, Express Scripts will reach out to you to know if you would like your doctor to be contacted to renew the prescription and if you'd like to continue in the Automatic Refill program. If not, Express Scripts will not refill your prescription.

"This new process gives beneficiaries more control over their medications and keeps the convenience of automatic refills," said Amy Aldighere, the DoD Program Management Express Scripts senior director. "It also makes it easier to opt out of the Auto Refill program and helps to prevent beneficiaries from receiving medications that they no longer need or shouldn't receive."

What to Expect

When the last refill of a medication enrolled in the Automatic Refill program ships, Express Scripts will reach out to you by telephone and/or email (depending on the preference you indicated) and ask the following:

  • Would you like Express Scripts to reach out to your doctor for a new prescription?
  • Do you want to keep your medication enrolled in the Auto Refill program?

How to Respond

Express Scripts will not re-enroll your medication unless they hear from you. You have several ways to respond:

  • Via the automated phone call from Express Scripts
  • By calling an Express Scripts patient care advocate (PCA) at 1.877.363.1303

If Express Scripts does not receive your consent within 10 days of reaching out to you, they will remove your medication from the Auto Refill program. However, re-enrolling is simple. You can re-enroll your medication at any time online, or through a PCA.

For more information or if you have questions, go to the Express Scripts website. You can also call Express Scripts at 1.877.363.1303 to speak with a PCA.

August 24, 2017 at 4:31pm

Two simultaneously occurring projects impact McChord Field’s Perimeter Road, Barnes Gate beginning Monday

Beginning Monday and continuing through Sept. 22, JBLM's Directorate of Public Works will be conducting a repaving project on Perimeter Road which will prohibit traffic getting either to or from the Spanaway area through Barnes Gate, however, traffic getting to and from I-5 will continue to be able to use Barnes Gate (traveling west) through Sept. 4. Beginning Sept. 5, the city of Lakewood will be making extensive improvements to the sewer network in the American Lakes Garden neighborhood resulting in the closure of 150th Street from Woodbrook Drive to Perimeter Road.

The timeframe these two projects overlap will occur Sept. 5 through Sept. 22 and will require Perimeter Road being closed from Woodbrook Drive to Military Road. Barnes Gate and the McChord Field Commercial Vehicle Inspection Point will be inaccessible to any vehicular traffic.

JBLM's Directorate of Emergency Services will incorporate the following gate schedules during the road improvement project (Aug. 28 - Sept. 22).

McChord Main Gate:  Gate remains open 24-hrs a day, 7 days a week.

McChord Barnes Gate:

Aug. 28 - Sept. 4:   Normal operation (5 a.m. to 7 p.m. / 7 days)

Sept. 5-22:  Closed

Sept. 23: Resume normal hours of operation

McChord North Gate:

Aug. 28 - Sept.1:  5 a.m. - 7 p.m. daily

Sept. 5:  Resume normal hours of operation (5 - 9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m., M-F)

Woodbrook Housing Gate:

Sept. 5-22:  5 a.m.- 7 p.m., M-F

Sept. 25:  Resume normal weekday operations (5-9 a.m. and 3 - 6 p.m., M-F)

Weekend hours will remain unchanged throughout the construction (8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sat-Sun)

McChord East Gate:

Sept. 5-22: 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. / 7 Days

Sept. 23: Gate will close

McChord Field Commercial Vehicle Inspection Point:

Sept. 3-24: Any commercial vehicle or oversized vehicle requiring access to McChord Field will need to enter the Lewis Main portion of JBLM and cross over to McChord Field via Unity Bridge.  

Sept. 25: Gate resumes normal operations (5 a.m. to 1 p.m., Mon-Fri)

The JBLM Public Works road improvement project is scheduled to be completed Sept. 22 and the Lakewood sewer improvement project is scheduled to be completed Sept. 30. For more details concerning the Lakewood sewer improvement project, call or email Lakewood Public Works Department at (253) 589-2489, email:

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