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All smiles above the clouds

4th Airlift Squadron spouses take a wild ride in a C-17 Globemaster III

Tracie Thornberg, front, Jennie McCurley, middle, and Amy Dabney get off a C-17 Globemaster III after a recent flight offered to spouses of 4th AIrlift Squadron airmen at McChord Field. /Cassandra A. Fortin

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About 33 spouses of airmen assigned to the 4th Airlift Squadron at McChord Field boarded a C-17 Globemaster III recently for the flight of their lifetime.

During the one-and-a-half hour flight - which took them on a scenic tour of along the coast and over the Puget Sound - the spouses, many dressed in flight suits, got a small taste of what C-17 pilots, crew members and loadmasters go through on a daily basis.

"The flight was absolutely amazing," said Jennie McCurley, wife of Capt. Kyle McCurley.  "During the flight, they lowered the cargo door and we got the most beautiful view of Mount Rainier."

The flight was part of an annual tradition, an orientation that the 4th Airlift Squadron offers to spouses to help give them a glimpse of their active duty airman's job. The event also serves as a thank you to spouses for their support, said Maj. Jake Thornburg, assistant director of operations for the 4th AS.

"Some members of the 4th don't talk to their spouses at all about their jobs," Thornburg said. "This activity gives the spouses a look at the other side.  The 4th is deploying soon, so we wanted to do something extra special.  This year we got permission to open the cargo door in flight, and we are having a picnic for the families.  We want to say thank you for their support of our mission.  The 4th can't do anything without our spouses to support us."

Several spouses shared abouth their experience in the air after the flight concluded. 

Tracie Thornburg, Jake's wife, thought the crew was wonderful.

"They answered all of our questions and told us what was going on all the time," she said. "On the flight I was most impressed with the air drop aspect of it."

The flight was a reminder of what the spouses support, she said.

"This flight reminds us of what our spouses are doing," she said. "And that we are here to support it."

McCurley found the flight fun and educational.  She was grateful to the Air Force for spending the money to allow the flight, and for the opportunity to get a glimpse at what her husband does every day.

"The first time I flew on a C-17 I was so comfortable, I slept," said McCurley, who had flown previously on a C-17 from Hawaii to the States.

Amy Dabney, wife of Capt. William Dabney, found the flight surprisingly smooth.

"The weather was not so great, so I expected it to be really bumpy," she said. "But it turned out to be really smooth."

However, when the cargo door opened, that was a different story.

"The way they pressurize the plane to open the door makes it a little bit disorienting," she said.

Overall, the highlight of the trip for Dabney, was when the plane stopped, she said.

"It was called a maximum effort stop," Dabney said. "Now that was an experience.

Everybody was leaning. It was like the end of a roller coaster ride."  

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