Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

June 22, 2017 at 3:13pm

Wingman saves airman

Airman 1st Class Joshua Jourdan, 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron deployment specialist, poses for a photo, June 13, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez

It was a normal day for a group of airmen enjoying a meal together until things went from fun to dangerous. Airman 1st Class Chelsea Lowery, 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron customer service technician, became unable to breath after she started choking on a piece of food June 5.

Luckily, Lowery was not alone and received assistance from Airman 1st Class Joshua Jourdan, 627th LRS deployment specialist, who quickly performed the Heimlich maneuver, clearing her airway.

"One of us made a joke and she was in the middle of eating when she inhaled the food," said Jourdan. "At first she just started coughing and then the coughing ceased. That's when I knew I had to act."

A scary situation for everyone, the signs of choking and the need for help were clearly present to him, said Jourdan.

"I used to be a life guard in the YMCA a couple years ago and they teach you CPR, first aid, and how to clear an airway," said Jourdan. "I'm thankful it didn't get to a point where I'd have to perform CPR."

The whole incident happened in less than a minute, said Lowery.   

"It was scary that I couldn't catch my breath," said Lowery. "I'm thankful that he was there and able to help me. I think the mindset is that you think this will never happen to you, until it happens."

Having been certified by the Red Cross in CPR, Jourdan said he felt calm and confident in the situation.

"My certification might be expired, but I still remember what to do and when the time comes to use it I remember the steps," said Jourdan. "I performed the Heimlich maneuver and gave her two to three pumps right above the belly button, and she coughed up the food."

In events like this, not everyone responds the same, and keeping calm is important, said Jourdan.

"It's either fight, flight or freeze," said Jourdan. "In those moments, I was just fighting. I acted as soon as the opportunity presented itself."

Not an everyday occurrence, this was not the first time Jourdan performed life-saving care to someone. In 2015, Jourdan was inner-tubing with friends when he came across an individual experiencing heat exhaustion. He immediately began to treat for shock and cared for him until paramedics could arrive.

"I was talking to him the whole time trying to keep him conscious," said Jourdan. "I put him in the shade and had him squeeze my finger so I would know when he was passing in and out of consciousness."

The individual Jourdan treated had been drinking the night before, hadn't had much sleep nor eaten, was dehydrated, and was drinking at the time of the incident.  

"It was a hundred degrees out and he had been throwing up prior to passing out," said Jourdan. "He could have experienced a heat stroke if not treated."

His training and natural instincts kicked-in for both situations, said Jourdan.

"The whole time I was a life guard, I never had to save anybody," said Jourdan. "Any situation can go from normal to horrible in seconds, and it's important to be prepared to react when you notice the indicators of potentially life-threatening factors."

June 15, 2017 at 2:23pm

D-Day touches Rainier Wing

B-24 Liberators assigned to the 446th Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force during a bombing raid over Germany in 1945. Photo credit: DoD

In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, thousands of Allied troops crowded into ships and crossed the tumultuous waters of the English Channel to invade German-occupied France. Arriving on the shores of Normandy, troops fought a grueling battle for a tiny piece of beach in mainland Europe.

That day was D-Day.

The Allied force at the start of Operation Overlord included 1,200 planes, 5,000 ships and vessels, and nearly 160,000 troops. The invasion was arguably the largest armada the world had ever seen.

But it wasn't just the sea and ground forces that participated during D-Day.

The 446th Bombardment Group paved the way for those troops storming the beaches. The 446th was selected to lead the 8th Air Force in bombing German strongholds along the Normandy coast. This bombardment prepared the Allies in gaining a strategic position in mainland Europe and perhaps the single greatest event of World War II.

"Some folks have this belief that the 446th Airlift Wing has always been just about airlift," said Staff Sgt. Nathan Martinez, a wing historian assigned to the 446th AW. "We were a bombing unit during World War II and it's amazing to know that we played an integral part during D-Day. A lot of people can take pride in knowing that our unit took part in the invasion."

During WWII, the 446th BG flew B-24 Liberators.

From December 1943 to April 1945, the 446th BG took part in 273 combat missions, dropping a total of 33.6 million pounds of bombs on strategic targets across Northern Europe helping to bring WWII to an end.

Whether a glimpse into the future or merely by chance, two 446th BG missions stand out among the rest.

During Operation Market-Garden and Operation Varsity, the 446th BG traded in their bombs for supplies. Flying at tree-top level, some even bringing back branches and leaves, the 446th BG flew into enemy territory to airdrop critical supplies to Allied troops as they marched toward Berlin to bring an end to WWII.

After WWII, the 446th BG went through several transitions and moves until it settled here at McChord Field.

"Our lineage back to the 446th Bombardment Group is certainly a proud part of our history," said Col. Scott L. McLaughlin, 446th AW commander. "Historical anniversaries like this allow us to highlight that lineage and honor those who came before us."

Now designated as an airlift wing, the Rainier Wing carries on the same proud tradition as leaders in the Air Force Reserve. While the Rainier Wing doesn't drop bombs anymore, members of the 446th AW operate the C-17 Globemaster III to provide combat support and humanitarian assistance in some of the most austere places in the world, including the Antarctic. 

June 15, 2017 at 2:20pm

Team McChord gives back

Team McChord leadership and first sergeants prepare plates for airmen and their families at the Hearts Apart dinner, June 6, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez

Airmen and their families enjoyed a free dinner and an evening filled with a variety of activities at the Hearts Apart dinner, June 6, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The semi-annual event was hosted by the McChord Chapel, commanders, senior enlisted and first sergeants to support families of recently, presently, and soon-to-be deployed airmen.

"I think it's important to provide a support network to the spouses and the children of airmen deploying," said 2nd Lt. David Wallace, 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron assistant operations officer and event coordinator. "We are one big community and it's our responsibility to support our servicemembers and their families on and off duty."

The night was Hawaiian-themed and more than 30 airmen and their families were provided a free, catered meal served by leadership.    

"The individual role of servicemembers is essential to achieve the mission, and every family member that enables us to do the mission is just as important," said Col. William Percival, 627th Air Base Group commander. "We value you and thank you for all you do for us."

The informal dinner allowed airmen to attend in civilian attire with their spouses and children. Over dinner, the movie Moana was played on the chapel's big screens to provide entertainment.

"I like that the chaplains come together and put this on for everyone because we don't always hear about stuff going on," said Madison Stebbins, military spouse. "It's nice to know they thought of us and that we can participate in this as a family."

Families taking part in the raffle were given the opportunity to win a variety of prizes, to include board games, camping gear, floatation devices and kitchenware.

"This is the second one I've been to; this was fun, said Stebbins. "The food was good and the kids really enjoyed it."

Volunteers from the 627th LRS added to the fun by manning the dunk tank, face painting and making snow cones.

"I think this was an absolute success," said Wallace. "Whether one person or two hundred show up, as long as we have an opportunity to give back to our deployed families, it's a win."

For more information on McChord Field Chapel sponsored events, contact the chapel at 253.982.5556.

June 13, 2017 at 7:03pm

Airmen set sights on excellence in competition

Staff Bryan Wilson, 116th Weather Flight weather forecaster, fires an M-4 Carbine rifle from a kneeling position during the Elementary Level Rifle Excellence Competition May 31 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez

Team McChord airmen from Joint Base Lewis-McChord put their marksmen skills to the test May 29-30 during the Elementary Level Rifle Excellence Competition at JBLM.

The competition was hosted by the 627th Security Forces Squadron combat arms section to provide an opportunity for airmen to compete for the U.S. Air Force Excellence in Competition Rifleman Badge.  

"Airmen do not have to have any prior experience," said Staff Sgt. Philip Basalyga, 627th SFS combat arms instructor. "This way career fields that don't shoot all the time get an opportunity to come out and be exposed to shooting."  

Competitors were provided instruction, a rifle, ammunition and targets to fire at. The competition was among 103 competitors, of which only the top 10 percent would receive medals. This is the second competition of its kind held for airmen at JBLM.

Prior to shooting, competitors were given instruction on safety and arms handling at Combat Arms Training and Maintenance on McChord. They were then transported to the firing range located by Solo Point, Steilacoom.  

"This provides weapons familiarization to airmen," said Basalyga. "In my opinion familiarization training is one of the most important things to have in the event an airman needs to use, one of these weapon systems in a hostile environment."

Arriving at the range, airmen received 50 rounds of M-4 Carbine ammunition, safety gear and an M-4 rifle ready for use. Unlike Air Force qualification shooting, the competition was hosted in the same manner as a marksmen competition and instructors were not allowed to assist shooters in the use of the M-4 or provide tips for shooting.

"It's a positive promotion for fire arms and introduces airmen to the world of competitive shooting," said Basalyga. Competitors were given a practice target and nine rounds to zero their rifles at 25 meters to ensure their rifle's sights were accurate and aligned to their field of sight. Following this, competitive shooting began with shooters firing in an unsupported standing position.  

"As a paralegal we don't get to fire often," said Staff Sgt. Preston Nealy, 62nd Airlift Wing judge advocate NCO in charge of general law. "Coming off a four-day weekend, it's great to come out here and hit the range."

After shooting 10 rounds at a target in a standing position, shooters shot 10 rounds at a new target from an unsupported kneeling position. This was followed by shooters firing 10 rounds at a third target from an unsupported sitting position.

"I've never shot in the sitting position before," said Nealy. "Shooting like this for the first time really challenged me and gave me experience in becoming a better marksman."

The last position shooters shot in was the unsupported kneeling position, where they shot their final 20 rounds at their fourth target. The four targets provided shooters the opportunity to make a maximum of 500 points.  

Ten airmen placed in the top 10 percent and will be awarded the U.S. Air Force Excellence in Competition Rifleman Badge to be worn on their Air Force service dress.

The winners are:
Staff Sgt. Franco Pace, 627th SFS
Maj. Jordan Ward, 7th AS
Master Sgt. Christopher Brower, 5th Air Support Operations Squadron
Staff Sgt. Jacob Ley, 627th SFS
Senior Airman Christopher Lowe, 62nd Maintenance Squadron   
Staff Sgt. Curtis Hinkley, 5th ASOS
Staff Sgt. Luis Lira, 627th SFS
Tech. Sgt. Kevin Beers, 446th Security Forces Squadron
Staff Sgt. Bradley Primmer, 22nd Special Tactics Squadron
Tech. Sgt. Jesus Mendez, 627th SFS

June 13, 2017 at 6:54pm

37 years after crash at McChord

F-106A Delta Dart jet fighter is displayed at the McChord Field Heritage Hill Air Park May 5, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, The F-106 was flown at McChord under the 318th Fighter Interceptor Squadron from 1960-1983. Courtesy photo

Nearly 37 years after the crash of an aircraft approaching McChord Field, an aviation archeologist discovered remnants of the crashed jet. David Trojan, an aviation archeologist came across various pieces of Capt. Mark Van Stone's downed Convair F-106A Delta Dart jet fighter after examining the crash site May 3 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"Every aircraft accident has a story to tell; it is up to me to discover the facts and fill in the blanks about where they crashed," said Trojan. "The discoveries shed light on those who have sacrificed so much to give us the peace we enjoy today."

Stone flew with the 318th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and was killed June 24, 1980, when his aircraft hit a tree on approach to the McChord Field runway.  The jet made a rapid, sudden descent and crashed two miles from the south end of the runway, leaving a debris trail several hundred yards long. It was later determined that during the critical landing phase of the flight, the Central Air Data Computer aboard the aircraft failed and was a major cause of the accident, said Trojan. This was the last crash involving a 318th FIS crew or aircraft before the unit was disbanded at then McChord Air Force Base.

Because of its significance, Trojan said he wanted to determine the exact location of the crash site and any remains of the aircraft. Since the aircraft crashed before the use of GPS and modern accident investigation standards, the actual crash site wasn't well documented.

"Finding anything from an event so long ago is always difficult, especially in the heavily wooded terrain of the Northwest," said Trojan. "Educating the public about the history, the importance of these sites and the sacrifices of those who paid the ultimate price, is what aviation archaeology is all about."

Armed with copies of the official accident report and the latest Google Earth images, Trojan set out to find the exact location. The area of the crash site has changed over the last 37 years and is located on a training range on Fort Lewis.

Trojan discovered that most of the impact site is now buried under layers of dirt. By following the flight path through the woods, he discovered pieces of the aircraft in the surrounding area. It requires the trained eyes of aviation archaeologists to spot the small grey painted parts with rivets sticking up through the ground.

"It is always important to remember our predecessors whose achievements and sacrifices helped us to continue making progress today," said Dr. Robert Allen, 62nd Airlift Wing historian. "Capt. Van Stone's family continues to deserve our support."

In total Trojan found seven small pieces of metal that he determined came from the F-106A. The artifacts that were discovered were left at the site with a small flag to honor Van Stone's sacrifice.

"His service to his country is not forgotten," said Trojan. "I know his story and sacrifice will live on." 

June 1, 2017 at 11:19am

Percival takes command of 627 ABG

Maj. Gen. Christopher Bence (left), USAF Expeditionary Center commander, presents the 627th ABG guidon to Col. William Percival, 627th ABG commander, during a change of command ceremony May 24 at JBLM. Photo credit: Senior Airman Divine Cox

Col. William Percival assumed command of the 627th Air Base Group, from the unit's outgoing commander, Col. Will Phillips, during a change of command ceremony conducted May 24 at Joint Base Lewis McChord.

Maj. Gen. Christopher Bence, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center commander, hosted the ceremony for the 627th ABG.

"What an honor it is to be back in my home state of Washington, to preside over today's ceremony," said Bence. "I am truly honored and humbled to be here to transfer this incredible responsibility of command from one outstanding leader to another."

During his remarks, Bence thanked everyone for coming out to witness the ceremony before commenting on both commanders.

Both the leaders sitting on stage today exemplify the ability to lead and inspire," said Bence. "They both have shown that they are committed to building an environment of trust and respect, and both have demonstrated the capability to be trusted to lead the Air Force's most valuable asset and that is our airmen and their family."

After Bence's remarks, Phillips was presented the Legion of Merit, then gave his final remarks to the men and women of the 627th ABG before relinquishing command.

Percival comes to the Pacific Northwest from the 612th Combined Air and Space Operations Center, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, where he served as the chief of Air Mobility Division overseeing a 24-member division where he directed U.S. Southern Command's intra-theater airlift and air refueling operations in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.

Taking command of the 627th ABG, Percival will be responsible for leading more than 4,500 military and civilian personnel that supports more than 350 units and an installation population of 44,209 military, 15,240 civilian and contract employees, and 54,465 family members.

Percival will also be responsible for managing an annual budget of $438 million and is responsible for installation management, facility maintenance and construction, environmental protection, housing, emergency management, communication systems, security and law enforcement, fire protection, dining, lodging, recreational services, human resources management, supply, and vehicle fleet management.

After Percival received the guidon from Bence, he assumed command, rendered his first salute and gave his remarks.

"Gen. Bence, thank you for this opportunity to lead the men and women of the 627th ABG," said Percival. "To the ABG team, I am honored to be your commander, I am excited to be here, and I am ready to get to work."

June 1, 2017 at 11:00am

McChord testing center develops airmen

Team McChord airmen wait to be tested at the McChord testing center in building 100, May 25, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez

From multiple choice promotion exams to simulated flight test, the McChord testing center administers all force development official tests to airmen on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. 

The testing center is responsible for ensuring continuity of official test material and to ensure airmen receive standardized testing for promotion, professional military education, upgrade training and job qualification tests.

"Basically, we do all the testing for courses 14 and 15, and weighted airmen performance system testing," said Oscar Knauss, McChord testing center test control officer. "All of these are very important for personnel because if they don't pass the requirements it affects their career."

Annually, the testing center administers more than 5,000 tests and can issue up to 250 tests weekly.

"For me it's all about helping our airmen," said Theresa Olson, testing center test control officer. "If they have a situation with meeting a deadline, we'll pull strings to get them tested on time."

Enlisted airmen who are promotion eligible take a skills knowledge test and a promotion fitness test annually to promote. These tests are administered by a test control officer and can range from one to three hours.

"It's the number one thing to get promoted and go up the chain," said Knauss. "We do our best to help them do well and get promoted."

Testing isn't always an enjoyable experience for airmen and the testing center works to promote a positive and professional environment for airmen testing, said Knauss.

"I can empathize with airmen because I once had to take the same test as an airman myself," said Knauss. "Testing is really competitive and airmen really have to study and prepare."

Air Force standardized test material provides a fair way for airmen to test for rank, said Knauss.

"Testing is a very fair way to promote because everybody has the ability to study and get promoted," said Knauss. "I think the Air Force's rules for promotion empower airmen by making them responsible for their careers and individual development."

The McChord testing center issues language tests and official certification tests for the civilian work force. These tests include foreign language proficiency, and Federal Aviation Administration. Many of these tests are open to military dependents and retirees.

"I really enjoy seeing the professionalism in airmen testing and knowing that this is giving them the opportunity to advance in their career," said Knauss. "It's rewarding because there are results."

Different from enlisted promotion tests, the testing center also provides testing for enlisted airmen looking to change careers through commissioning or retraining. These tests include the Air Force officer qualification test, test for basic aviation skills and the Armed Forces classification test.    

"Testing plays a huge part in an airman's career every step of the way," said Olson. "We play a big piece in that, so it's important that we provide them the best testing atmosphere possible."

May 25, 2017 at 1:44pm

Prepping for Mobility Guardian 2017

A Stryker vehicle is nearly loaded onto a Royal Air Force A-400M aircraft by the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team soldiers on the McChord Field flightline May 18 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Tim Chacon

For the first time ever at McChord Field, an A-400M Royal Air Force Aircraft was parked on the McChord flightline for international operations. Soldiers from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team along with 62nd Airlift Wing members worked with members from the RAF to load a Stryker combat vehicle onto the aircraft.

The training was held to create technical orders for loading the aircraft in preparation for the upcoming Mobility Guardian exercise this summer.

"This allowed our soldiers to practice getting the Stryker's on and off the aircraft," said 2nd Lt. Cameron Nardini, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1st SBCT operations officer. "I think it was good to learn how the RAF does things and makes us better prepared for when we work with each other in Mobility Guardian."

Because the A-400M is an aircraft that soldiers here have not trained with before, there were numerous aspects of the aircraft they had to learn about.

"The main concern is that this is loaded correctly into the aircraft," said RAF Flight Sgt. Andrew Richardson, A-400M loadmaster. "There are many safety factors we want to cover."

The Stryker vehicle loaded weighed more than 26 tons and there was minimal room for error.   

"I can't speak for our whole unit, but personally I think this was a good learning experience going into Mobility Guardian," said Cameron. "It is going to be a really good logistical exercise to see how fast we can load onto the aircraft and deploy."

Besides technical challenges, soldiers and RAF members worked to become familiar with each other's procedures and jargon.

"This was good to foster our relationship and to get past the nuances of our culture," said Richardson. "We were able to learn what each other expected and what needs to be accomplished."

A rare sight to McChord, the loading of the Stryker onto the A-400M was observed by Team McChord leadership and distinguished visitors including Army Gen. (retired) Peter Chiarelli, former vice chief of staff of the Army.

"I will say this was a great experience to work with the British and work with our Air Force counterparts," said Nardini. "Being able to work with military members from another country and to learn how they operate as an Air Force was really beneficial."

May 25, 2017 at 1:41pm

62nd OSS officer selected for Mansfield Fellowship Program

Maj. Rodger Welding (far left), 62nd Operation Support Squadron C-17 pilot, and assistant director of operations, poses for a group photo with nine other fellows selected for the Mansfield Fellowship Program May 16. Courtesy photo

C-17 Globemaster III pilot with the 62nd Operation Support Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord will soon be on his way to Japan after being accepted for one of the world's most prestigious international fellowship programs.

Maj. Rodger Welding, 62nd OSS C-17 pilot and assistant director of operations, was recently selected to be part of the Mansfield Fellowship Program.

The Mansfield Fellowship Program, named after Mike Mansfield, former U.S. ambassador to Japan, U.S. Senate majority leader, and U.S. congressman from Montana, is a first-of-its-kind professional development and international exchange program for federal employees.

The one-year program gives Fellows unparalleled access to the Japanese government and allows them to experience the culture and language in order to become true experts on the country.  Through intensive language studies and professional placements within Japanese government ministries, participants in the program gain an insider's view of this close friend and ally of the United States.

"I felt incredibly lucky when I found out I was selected," said Welding. "The 62nd Airlift Wing (commander) has to approve me before I can apply and part of that approval process is the Air Force Personnel Center saying ‘yes' you can leave for a year."

Welding said that right now there is a pilot shortage, so he knew his chances of getting approved were slim.

"Once I got the approval from AFPC, I submitted my application," said Welding. "There are some very good people out there. I was competing against the best, and to be chosen for something like this to help fortify that US Japan relationship, is an honor."

The Mansfield Fellowship Program includes a seven-week homestay and intensive Japanese language program in Ishikawa Prefecture and ten months of professional placements in Tokyo.

During the year in Japan, Fellows will develop an understanding of the Government of Japan and its policymaking process. Fellows also establish relationships with their counterparts in GOJ and the business, professional and academic communities.  

"I grew up in Japan, lived there for 20 years," said Welding. "So, to me, Japan is my second home."

Welding said he found out about the program from a friend.

"I was stationed at Yokota from 2009-2012, and one of my friends did it and suggested it to me," said Welding. "At that time, I had a choice to do the fellowship first or do pilot training first then the fellowship later. So I choose to do pilot training first followed by fellowship, so that I can have my wings and be a regional affairs strategist to carry me through the rest of my career."

Welding stated that the country of Japan has a special place in his heart.

"My mother is Japanese, so being raised there, the US-Japanese bilateral relationship is important to me," said Welding. "I was able to give back to the U.S. by wearing this uniform and unfortunately in 2011 when the tsunami hit Japan, I was given the opportunity to give back to Japan by flying humanitarian missions. This program gives me the opportunity to give back to both countries.

"I am really looking forward to the professional and personal relationships that will come from this program.

"I don't think there is a word in the English dictionary that can describe how excited I am," said Welding. "This fellowship opens up doors that you can't get elsewhere. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I'm just extremely fortunate I am afforded the chance to experience it."

May 19, 2017 at 4:27pm

Glimpse history with the "Greatest Generation"

A fully-restored B-17 Flying Fortress nicknamed Aluminum Overcast sits on the runway at the Olympic Flight Museum, May 10, in Tumwater. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz

As Aluminum Overcast, a 77-year-old B-17 Flying Fortress, roared to life on the tarmac at the Olympic Flight Museum, the cabin filled with smoke and the passengers, wearing smiles and snapping photos, filled with anticipation.

Anticipation was not a foreign feeling aboard Aluminum Overcast. Decades before in the upheaval of WWII, young men clad with weapons rather than smiles had likely been filled with fear-tinged anticipation for the flight ahead, the enemy who lay in wait, and the gravity of the mission at hand.

Members of the local media were given a larger-than-life history lesson when they flew aboard the fully restored B-17, May 10, in Tumwater, and spoke with WWII veterans who either worked aboard, or piloted the aircraft during its heyday.

Despite the harrowing circumstances, many of these veterans welcome the idea of embarking upon the Flying Fortress once again, as if being reunited with an old friend.

"In combat it was always a blurred line between being excited and being afraid," said 94-year-old Dick Nelms, 447th Bombing Squadron B-17 pilot. "It's just exciting to see this aircraft today, knowing I'm going to fly in it again."

According to the Liberty Foundation, B-17s dropped more than 640,000 tons of bombs on European targets and downed more enemy aircraft per thousand raids than any other aircraft in the United States' arsenal, making it the champion of the American aerial campaign during WWII.

Even so, the cost of victory was high. Of the 12,732 B-17s produced between 1935 and 1945, 4,735 were lost in combat.

"I flew to Berlin (Germany) three times," Nelms said. "I watched B-17s being shot down, many of them carrying my friends. We had to learn to control fear, and I did. That's why I'm able to sit here and talk to you seventy-four years later."

While millions of men like Nelms were serving a grateful nation in Europe, women on the home front were fighting the good fight as well.

"I bucked rivets in '44 while I was in college," said Betty Lausch, who laid eyes on a fully-operational B-17 for the first time May 10. "My husband worked on B-17s during the war, but I haven't seen a completed one until now. It's better than anything I could have imagined and I'm so grateful for the chance to fly in it."

For many, the B-17 is not just an aircraft, but a symbol of the generation who carried the United States through one of its most turbulent eras with unwavering resolve.

"I'm glad it was these guys who were there to answer the call," said Tom Ewing, present-day B-17 pilot. "The more you learn about what they were asked to do and what they did, the more you'll understand why they are called the ‘Greatest Generation'. These are true heroes and it is a very lucky thing that you see these men standing here today."

As the Flying Fortress burst through the cloud bank and the Puget Sound came into full view through the glass bubble traditionally occupied by the bombardier, passengers couldn't help but ask WWII veteran and B-17 crewmember, Fred Parker how one might ever get used to a view like that.

Parker didn't miss a beat.

"You never get used to the view," he said. "You stay scared."

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