Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

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April 22, 2011 at 11:18am

446th AW Reservists on KING-5 TV

SEATTLE -- Lt. Col. Garin Tentschert, chief pilot with the 97th Airlift Squadron, and Maj. Kristi Forbes, a flight nurse with the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, both out of McChord Field, Wash., discuss balancing their Reserve and civilian careers with their family roles on King TV Seattle's New Day Northwest hosted by Margaret Larson, April 20, 2011.

New Day Northwest is an hour long show with the goal of informing and entertaining the public with current events. Reservists of the 446th Operations Group particitpated as part of the audience.

For photos and a link to the interview, click here.     

April 5, 2011 at 10:50am

McChord Main Gate construction update

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.  -- The next phase in gate upgrades is coming soon to the McChord Field Main Gate on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and drivers should prepare for more traffic pattern changes beginning the evening of April 13. 

Contractors will begin Phase 2 of the construction project on that date with completion scheduled by May 2. 

The new phase brings new traffic detours and diversions for access to the gate, said McChord Field's Installation Security and Plans Chief David Lenart. Currently, traffic is reduced to one inbound and outbound lane in what was the original lane leading out of McChord prior to construction's start. Phase 2 will shift traffic to the original inbound lanes, allowing contractors to cut across the roadway and lay new electrical wiring. 

Access to the visitor center will change as well. Motorists should pay close attention to signage directing them to entry and exit points. 

The current physical upgrades will improve the power infrastructure at and near the gates, said JBLM Chief of Security and Access Control Mel Austin. That includes improved physical protection features for security personnel, improved information systems connectivity and installing backup power generators and lights. 

One major vehicle restriction is being placed on incoming and outgoing traffic through the McChord Main Gate - no oversized vehicles, Lenart said. Because the road entering McChord Field is narrower than the outbound lane and has a sharp turn around the visitor center, security officials are asking that people driving tractor-trailers, RVs and military vehicles use either the Commercial Gate or Barnes Gate, both located on Perimeter Road. 

No vehicle or vehicle and trailer combination longer than 27 feet should attempt to enter or exit through the Main Gate. 

The Commercial Gate will be open 24 hours daily throughout this phase of construction.

Traffic safety officials are asking everyone in the JBLM community who use the McChord Field Main Gate to continue the level of understanding they have already shown this past month during Phase 1. 

Construction update information will be communicated through the Northwest Guardian, website updates and on readerboards and poster boards located throughout McChord. 

"McChord customers have been very accommodating for the construction," Lenart said.

"Construction is going well and people are following directions well."    

Filed under: News To Us, U.S. Air Force,

April 1, 2011 at 9:53am

Operation Deep freeze sets records

MCCHORD FIELD, Wash. -- For the third year in a row, the McChord Field contingent to Operation Deep Freeze set records for most missions, flying hours and cargo hauled in Antarctica.

Up to thirteen Reservists per rotation from the 446th Airlift Wing here, along with Airmen from the 62nd Airlift Wing, rotated in and out of Christchurch, New Zealand from August 2010 to February 2011, providing airlift of cargo and personnel into and out of McMurdo Station. Antarctica. 

Operation Deep Freeze, which the 446th Airlift Wing supports flying the C-17, is the U.S. military's support of science and research activities conducted by the U.S. Antarctic Program at McMurdo Station Antarctica.

At the beginning of the season, known as WINFLY, McChord crews moved more than 490 passengers and 442 thousand pounds of cargo. 

This season also marked the first time C-17 crews planned and flew four missions using night vision goggles, extending their capability to deliver supplies anytime in the season.

The Airmen from McChord, operating as the 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, airdropped cargo at the South Pole Station in December, providing proficiency training on such missions for both the air and ground crews.

"Year after year, the men and women of the Joint Task Force execute their mission in this challenging environment, whether by land, sea, or air. Their work supports important scientific research by the NSF and the USAP." said Col. Paul Sheppard, deputy commander, Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica (JTF-SFA). "Antarctica is no place for complacency. The impressive safety records of the LC-130, C-17, and heavy sealift assets are evidence that our military support forces do their jobs smartly."

"The pace and complexity (of this season) was very similar to past seasons; until the earthquake," said Chief Master Sgt. Jim Masura, 446th Operations Group. 

Deployed personnel were subject to the unknown force of Mother Nature. Several groups were exposed to earthquakes, including the 6.3 magnitude quake which destroyed most of the central business district and killed over 180 people. No McChord personnel or equipment were damaged.

"In the past, Christchurch was similar to what you find at home - stability. You knew you had a bed, hot water, food, and etcetera. After the earthquake, you were not sure what you were coming back to at the hotel. Did the group have food, safe shelter, and a hot shower before they flew. The staff had to factor all of this into the decision process."

Not only did the Reserve and active-duty Airmen support the U.S. National Science Foundation, they carried participants from the Italian, New Zealand, Australian, Russian, Norwegian and French Antarctic programs. 

The crews also participated in an Australian Rescue Coordination Center-directed search and recovery effort of a downed French helicopter near the French research station in October, 2010. Rescheduling passengers and adjusting fuel loads, the C-17 flew over the search area en route to McMurdo, but saw nothing due to bad weather. On its return to Christchurch, the aircrew again piloted the C-17 over the search area, where an accompanying Australian AP-3C Orion surveillance aircraft crew spotted the crash scene.

But the most difficult mission of the season, at least for Chief Masura, was the last one.

"The final mission is tough knowing that other than one more flight by the Australian A319, they (the scientists at McMurdo Station) would not have any more support or see any new people until late August. You just hope they have everything they needed," said the Chief.    

March 25, 2011 at 9:24am

Guard's 116th Air Support Operations Squadron set to deploy

CAMP MURRAY - The Washington National Guard will bid farewell to the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron in a ceremony on Saturday, March 26 at 6:00 p.m. in Building #92 on Camp Murray.

The unit will serve in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and will be
based in Afghanistan.  Approximately 20 Washington Air National Guard
members will comprise the deploying force of the 116th.

"We are extremely proud of the 116th.  They are well trained, experienced
and ready to accomplish any mission they are given," said Major General
Timothy J. Lowenberg, the Adjutant General and commander of the Washington
National Guard.

The 116th is headquartered at Camp Murray and is part of the Washington Air
National Guard's 194th Regional Support Wing.  The citizen-airmen of the
116th are Tactical Air Control Party members; often considered the furthest
extension of Air Force influence on the Army's battlefield.  TACP airmen
deploy into combat with Special Operations teams and serve as close air
support experts, advising ground commanders on the use of Air Force assets
in combat.  They serve as forward air controllers, winning battles by
guiding weapons onto target.

Pre-deployment training for the 116th began last fall and included events at
Fort Irwin, California and Fort Stewart, Georgia.  The deployment is
scheduled to last approximately four months.  Although individual members of
the unit have deployed previously, this is the first deployment in the
squadron's history of this size.     

February 3, 2011 at 10:24am

Reservist helps spouse battle cancer while serving in Iraq

MCCHORD FIELD, Wash.- When Air Force Reservists prepare for deployments, common items they double-check might be, updating wills and powers of attorney, making sure their finances are in order, medical clearances, making sure they have the proper equipment and supplies, and ensuring the well being of their families before the Reservist departs.

But one Air Force Reserve family was thrown for a loop when a special cargo handler with the 446th Airlift Wing from Wilsonville, Ore., found out his wife of 11 years was diagnosed with breast cancer the week before he deployed to Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq, in August 2010.

"It scared me and I cried for hours," said Candice Currier, mother of four. "But I knew how strong I was and the support I had from my family and best friend gave me all the strength I needed to get through. Plus, I knew that being able to communicate with my husband through e-mail and Skype would help me feel like he wasn't as far away."

In order for her husband, Tech. Sgt. Chris Currier, 86th Aerial Port Squadron, to proceed with the deployment, he, his family and his squadron leadership had many conversations.

"We knew that their sister-in-law and family friend would give her the support she needed like watching their children while he was gone," said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Dietz, 86th APS air transportation manager.

Over the course of Candice's seven chemotherapy treatments, Chris felt her pain during the harder moments, but also her relief when she was doing well.

"Hearing her on her down week was the hardest part," said the Intel contractor. "Knowing how defenseless she was was hard. But when I found out she was pulling through, it was a great relief. Knowing that the people I deployed with were there for support was also a relief."

Chief Dietz showed his support by taking a trip to Oregon to check on the family and make sure Candice was doing okay.

"I went down there on Candice's birthday, Oct. 25, to drop off some truffles and check on her," said the Olympia, Wash. resident. "The commander (Lt. Col. Tim May) and the first sergeant (Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Mack) also called her a few times. We were relieved to find out she was going to be okay, not only for her sake, but for her family." 

Throughout the entire process, the couple never doubted her strength in getting through her illness. In fact, it made their relationship grow stronger.

"I knew from the start she was going to pull through," said Sergeant Currier, the veteran who's been through four deployments, to include Operation Desert Storm. "She will not take ‘no' for an answer. Without a doubt, this has made me a better husband, a better (noncommissioned officer), and has made us stronger."

Candice sums up their relationship through the troubled time.

"Most certainly it has made our relationship stronger," she said. "I had to let Chris see the raw side of me by letting my guard down and trusting that his love would still stand. He showed me his true feelings every time we talked and no matter what my insecurities about my looks or feelings were, he didn't waiver his love and desire for me as his wife."

Although a biopsy confirmed the absence of cancer, Candice will begin radiation treatment at the end of February.

February 2, 2011 at 4:08pm

Pilots who stay in can collect bonuses

This from Air Force Times: Hundreds of pilots, including those who fly unmanned aircraft, are eligible for big bucks if they promise to stay in the Air Force at least three more years.

About $3.9 million in bonuses is available through the fiscal 2011 Aviation Continuation Pay program, released Jan. 26 by the Air Force.

Lt. Col. Gerard Ryan, chief of the rated force policy branch in the Air Force personnel directorate, outlined the three options available to aviators:

  • $25,000 a year for pilots who have completed their initial commitment, which is 10 years after earning their wings, and who sign up for five more years. About 200 officers, most of them majors or major selects, qualify.
  • $15,000 a year for pilots who did not participate in the ACP program when they became eligible and who sign up for three, four or five more years.

Pilots must decide to participate in the program before they serve 13 years, and their commitment must take them only up to 16 years, Ryan said. For example, an officer who has served almost 13 years can commit to only three years.

"If they wait too long, they can't do the five-year option," Ryan said.

  • $15,000 a year for combat systems officers who currently fly remotely piloted aircraft and who commit to three, four or five more years. Eligible for the bonus are about 40 combat systems officers who have completed their initial six-year commitment after earning their wings.

Read more here.

Filed under: U.S. Air Force, Honors,

February 1, 2011 at 10:23am

Tops in Blue to perform at Super Bowl

SAN ANTONIO (AFNS) -- Tops In Blue, the Air Force's expeditionary entertainment unit, is scheduled to perform "America the Beautiful" during festivities leading up to Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas, Feb. 6. 

The group will perform alongside actress Lea Michele during pre-game activities. Tops In Blue performed as the halftime show during Super Bowl XIX in 1985, and Air Force Services Agency officials are pleased to have the group invited back.

"This year's Tops In Blue team is extremely excited about this opportunity, and every member looks forward to representing the Air Force both live and on television throughout the world," said Tom Edwards, the director of Tops In Blue.

Tops In Blue is a group of Airmen composed of 35 vocalists, dancers, musicians and technicians who perform for deployed service members and coalition forces, helping to provide a sense of pause and escape for them, so they feel inspired to continue their missions. 

For the past 57 years, Tops In Blue has traveled to more than 20 countries to perform more than 120 times each year for Airmen and families around the world. 

Super Bowl XLV will be televised on FOX Feb. 6, with kickoff scheduled for 6:25 p.m. ET. Tops In Blue will perform shortly after 6 p.m.    

Filed under: U.S. Air Force,

January 31, 2011 at 11:54am

Local Reservists return home from various deployments

MCCHORD FIELD, Wash.- More than 30 Air Force Reservists from the 446th Airlift Wing, who deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn, returned home Jan. 24 after four-month mobilizations.

The Reservists, who served in locations from Europe to Southwest Asia, are returning to their families and civilian careers in Pacific Northwest towns from Wilsonville, Ore. to Everett.

These Reservists performed a wide spectrum of duties and services because one of the capacities of the 446th AW is providing ground support during overseas contingencies. This particular group of heroes came from the aeromedical evacuation, aircraft maintenance, cargo handling, and logistical career fields, making up diverse personnel who are experts in their respective crafts.  

While Reservists like Senior Airman Vikash Prakash, 86th Aerial Port Squadron, were working a minimum of 12-hour shifts, six days a week, moving more than 8,000 passengers, 1,000 tons of cargo and supplies on more than 600 aircraft, including moving an Army brigade of 170 Soldiers, 97 tons of their cargo on seven C-17s and eight C-130s, at a high operations tempo at Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq, their families had to deal with their own stressors with little assistance.

"My wife was pregnant with our fourth child while I was gone," said the Camano Island, Wash. resident. "I check in with her every day and fortunately, she was able to handle it without me. I can help her out now that I'm back because the baby is due March 17."

Reservists not only have to deal with the stress of being away from their families, but also leaving their civilian employers behind.

Tech. Sgt. Brendan Caldwell, 86th APS, who also deployed to Kirkuk AB is fortunate to have an employer who supports the military and the Reserve mission.

"I'm an operations supervisor for Alaska Airlines, which is similar to my job with the aerial port" said the Seattle resident. "I'm able to apply skills that I get from deployments such as leadership skills day-to-day tasks like tracking incoming aircraft and making sure ground operations run smoothly. My military experience skills set is one of the reasons I got my job and they've always supported me with my military duty." 

January 31, 2011 at 8:30am

Cadet who lost leg keeps piloting dream alive

This from Air Force Times: SAN ANTONIO - Cadet Matt Pirrello would jump out of an airplane again in a heartbeat. And he hopes to get that chance someday.

Seven months after a parachute accident that severed his right leg and broke his left one, Pirrello is going forward with his life - learning to walk again here at the Center for the Intrepid and Brooke Army Medical Center, determined to get back to college and earn his Air Force commission.

"Becoming an officer is a goal I've had, and I don't see why this should stop me," said Pirrello, 20. "Plus, I'm pretty competitive. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed and doing what I have to do."

Last summer, after wrapping up his first year at Ohio University, Pirrello went to the Air Force Academy for the basic parachute training course.

On June 25, Pirrello had five jumps to make. The first one went well and Pirrello climbed back into the UV-18B Twin Otter with nine others for Jump No. 2.

As the plane flew over the drop zone, Pirrello stepped out and flew the parachute canopy within allowable limits until setting up for his final approach to the landing point, according to a report by Air Force investigators.

But Pirrello was so focused on where he was supposed to land that he forgot to monitor the windsocks, which would have shown crosswinds from the west. Not monitoring the windsocks, according to the report, led to "under-control of the canopy and failure to correct for winds to the west, which is a procedural error that was a major factor in the mishap."

To read the complete story, click here.

January 28, 2011 at 9:57am

Air Force, NASCAR renew partnership

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Air Force recruiting officials announced Jan. 21 that they are renewing the NASCAR partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports and the No. 43 car for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. 

"This is our tenth season in NASCAR and we look forward to competing and winning with the Richard Petty team," said Brig. Gen. Balan Ayyar, the commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service. "This is a high-performing atmosphere that aligns with the leadership, technology and competitive spirit of our Airmen and Air Force, and we're excited about NASCAR's efforts to reach a broader audience. We certainly intend to go beyond the race track to reach supporters and fans and emphasize the speed, power, precision and teamwork that is common to both NASCAR and the Air Force."

The Air Force is both a primary and associate sponsor of the No. 43 car, driven by A.J. Allmendinger, a 29-year-old driver with two Top 5 finishes and eight Top 10 finishes in the No. 43 car during the 2010 season. The car will feature the Air Force paint scheme in two of 36 NASCAR points races this season. 

Air Force recruiting officials plan on activating the sponsorship both on and off the track with Air Force flyovers, swear-ins of new enlistees, involvement in pre-race activities and school visits with the No. 43 show car. The show car will travel to recruiting events at local high schools, promoting mechanical and technical careers to the nation's highest performing young Americans who may be interested in serving in the United States Air Force. 

"The Air Force is proud of the partnership we have had with Richard Petty Motorsports," said Col. Michael J. Tillema, AFRS chief of strategic marketing and communications. "They are perhaps the most respected team in NASCAR and they have been strong supporters of the Air Force. We share a strong set of core values, hard work, discipline and the desire to win."    

Filed under: News To Us, U.S. Air Force,

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