Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: April, 2011 (17) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 17

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.    

April 4, 2011 at 1:55pm

Govt shutdown update: Troops shouldn't worry

This from Air Force Times: The House Armed Services Committee chairman sought Monday to reassure service members who are worried about not being paid if the government shuts down because he believes a fiscal crisis will be averted.

Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said he doesn't think a government shutdown will happen at the end of the week because he believes lawmakers will agree on a budget.

If there is a shutdown, he doesn't see it lasting more than a few days, which would not affect the April 15 military payday. And, if the military cannot make the April 15 payroll because of a shutdown, service members will not lose any money because they will be fully paid once funding is restored, McKeon said in a meeting with reporters.

"I think we are mature enough to get this fixed," McKeon said of the standoff on the 2011 budget that was supposed to have been approved by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.

Filed under: Defense News, News To Us,

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 12, 2011 at 6:45am

446 Reservist turns wheels for a good cause

Locked and loaded for the workout of a lifetime, Air Force Senior Airman Tamie Zabroski, a medical technician with the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, McChord Field, Wash., readies for the 2010 National Emergency Medical Services Memorial Bike Ride ev

MCCHORD FIELD, Wash.  -- The number 600 could just be a lucky one for the road. It's the number of miles clocked going from Seattle to Olympia, Wash., 10 times in a day. It's the namesake of the "Coca-Cola 600," the longest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. 

Coincidentally, it's the exact number of miles Senior Airman Tamie Zabroski, a Reservist with the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, plans to cover during the National Emergency Medical Services Memorial Bike Ride Inc., to celebrate the men and women of America's Emergency Medical Services. The grueling seven-day race starts May 14, 2011 in Boston, Mass., and finishes in Washington, D.C. 

Airman Zabroski rode her first EMS Memorial Bike Ride in 2009 after hearing an EMS national conference speaker challenge attendees on their knowledge of the event. The volunteer firefighter with East Pierce Fire and Rescue Department said she wanted to get out of her comfort zone and be part of something bigger than herself. "I remembered telling my friend, 'I'm doing this ride'," said Airman Zabroski. "And the more I found out about it, the more intrigued I got by the community side of the EMS profession."

Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Jones, 446th ASTS health services manager, praised Airman Zabroski's positive attitude, and said her passion and heart for humanity, combined with her experiences as an EMT/firefighter will take her to great heights as a medical technician. 

"She is not the type of person to be intimidated or back down from a challenge," said Sergeant Jones. "I can definitely envision her as a future leader at the 446th ASTS. Her natural drive to help others is not a quality you can teach. There is no question that her business in life is helping others in need."

Airman Zabroski, who works for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, is currently the only Washingtonian registered for this year's race. She will ride to honor firefighter Matt Durham, a Woodinville, Wash., resident who lost his life Dec. 30, 2010, battling cancer that was a direct result of his work as an EMT/firefighter. 

"It [the ride] is one of the most emotional times of my life," said Airman Zabroski. "I've never personally lost anyone in this business, but most of the people who ride have. The ride helps give closure to those who've lost loved ones." 

The Reservist said the previous rides have been life-changing for her and the dedication, loyalty and camaraderie she witnessed in them reminded her of being part of the military and played a big part in her decision to re-enlist into the Air Force Reserve in July 2010. 

"Getting on the bike, meeting people all over the world, and sharing similar views makes me feel connected to the military life," said Airman Zabroski. "And like the military, the bike ride extends itself beyond what I can see." 

For more information on the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride, click on

April 12, 2011 at 12:31pm

Seattle Museum of Flight won't get a space shuttle

SEATTLE - The Museum of Flight won't get to display one of the retiring space shuttles, but Seattle's air and space museum will get a consolation prize of a full-scale training mock-up that looks like the space shuttle without wings.

The museum near Boeing Field was one of 21 museum and science centers around the country hoping to land one of the spaceships. A new $12 million building called the Space Gallery is being prepared for the display.

Of the space shuttles that actually flew in space, the Discovery will be going to the Smithsonian Institution. It will take the place of Enterprise, the shuttle prototype used for tests in the late 1970s. The Enterprise will be going to Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York.

The shuttle Atlantis is going to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Endeavor is going to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Seattle museum visitors will be allowed to climb aboard and try out the full-size training module, which has been used by every astronaut and is the only one of its kind. Visitors won't be allowed to climb aboard the actual shuttles, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire noted in announcing why the consolation prize is a "true win" for the people of Washington.

"It will help inspire young people to the adventure of space and to the excitement of a career in science, technology, engineering and math," the governor added in her written statement.

Filed under: News To Us, Education,

April 16, 2011 at 8:26am

McChord's One-Stop Shop: Fitness Assessment Cell’s new location

The McChord Field Fitness Assessment Cell, formerly located near building 552 behind the Airman and Family Readiness Center, has been re-located next to the track on Battery Road. As of April 11, the facility has resumed the normal testing cycle of 3 time

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.  -- After three months of construction, the McChord Field Fitness Assessment Cell is open for business.

The FAC, formerly located near building 552 behind the Airman and Family Readiness Center, has been re-located next to the track on Battery Road.

According to Senior Master Sgt. Cleofas Trejo, 627th Force Support Squadron service sustainment flight superintendent, the new location offers a more convenient physical fitness testing process. 

"The building right beside the track serves as a one-stop shop for our fitness testing," said Sergeant Trejo. "Airmen have their height and weight measured in the building, and then we step right outside for the sit-up, push-up and 1.5 mile run portion of the test. Everything we need is provided in one easy location."

The building, essentially a triple-wide trailer, was broken down into three separate pieces, transported one mile down Barnes Blvd. onto Battery Road and then re-assembled at the new location. 

"It's literally the same building," said Sergeant Trejo. "We just took it apart, moved it and put it back together. Everything is coming along very well. I'm proud to say it was a successful project."

The FAC temporarily operated out of the McChord Field Fitness Annex during construction. As of April 11, the facility has resumed the normal testing cycle of 3 times a day, five days a week, at the new location. The FAC conducts physical fitness tests for Active Duty Airmen and Reservists during Unit Training Assembly weekends. 

"The move was a huge collaboration between contractors, the force support squadron, civil engineering squadron and communications squadrons, the Department of Public Works and pretty much anyone else willing to help out," said Sergeant Trejo. "We had tons of support."

To schedule a fitness test, contact your Unit Fitness Program Manager. To contact the FAC directly, call (253) 982 - 0524.

April 16, 2011 at 8:28am

In-flight training sharpens Reservists' mission readiness

Air Force Reserve 2nd Lt. Kimmie Marin, left, 1st Lt. Amy Swaim, Senior Airman Marcello Yamaguchi, and Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Wegehoft, all with 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, McChord Field, Wash., work to revive Bing - a patient in cardiac arrest -

 JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Every other Sunday, 24,000 feet above Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Air Force Reserve conducts a special training mission. 

Airmen of the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron set up full-scale emergency rooms in the confines of C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to practice providing real-world medical care to those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

The unit is part of the 446th Airlift Wing at McChord Field, made up of 2,300 Reservists primarily from Washington state. 

The training complements the squadron's primary mission of providing aerial medical capabilities to ill, wounded or injured servicemembers serving overseas. Since March 2003, more than 160,000 patients have been treated, stabilized and transported on Air Force aircraft from the Middle East to Germany. Medical professionals like those in the aeromedical squadron have maintained a 98 percent survival rate, including critical care patients, with flights lasting up to nine hours. 

"If we can get them to the aircraft, they are going to survive," said Maj. Lorie O'Daniel, a 446th AES flight nurse. 

The unit also assists humanitarian missions with aerial health care like the current effort in Japan. Though the 446th AES has not been called to support relief efforts in Japan, crew members of the aeromedical squadron took to the skies March 31 to prepare and practice in case the call to deploy comes. 

"That's our goal -- to go out the door at a moment's notice," said Master Sgt. Kristy Wellman, an aeromedical evacuation technician, serving as the medical crew coordinator for the flight.

A two-hour excursion to eastern Washington and back, allowed 10 Airmen to receive training in basic medical emergencies that occur in flight. Scenarios included providing medical care to a heart attack victim, starting an IV, even putting out a fire. 

Before departing McChord Field, medical teams installed two stanchions, metal beams secured to the aircraft designed to hold six medical litters or outline workspace. Only one litter was used during the flight for a mannequin in a resuscitation scenario. Others were pulled down off the stanchions and used by the crew members for other scenarios. 

"Whatever our situation is, the (team) comes together and takes care of the patient," Sergeant Wellman said.

Conducting training in-flight creates realism. The medical teams are stressed more in flight than in static training, Sergeant Wellman said. For example, one small bump in the air is all it takes for 2nd Lt. Kimmie Marin to go from starting a routine IV to potentially causing a full-on emergency. And the aircraft presents challenges to medical standards as a sterile environment, she said. 

"The rules are that we don't change dressings during flight; we reinforce them," Lieutenant Marin said. "But the infection rate from an aircraft is extremely low."

Citizen Airmen
Lieutenant Marin was one of several nurses and medical technicians new to the unit, training with experienced veterans like Major O'Daniel. The major recently redeployed after volunteering for a four-month assignment moving patients out of the Middle East to hospitals in Germany, or "over the pond" from Europe to the U.S. 

"It's very nice to take care of our finest folks," said Major O'Daniel, whose civilian job is as a nurse with the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Seattle. Her civilian job prepared her to handle the typical injuries she saw on her last deployment -- gunshot and IED blast wounds. She hasn't lost a patient on a plane, which speaks volumes for the level of care, experience and training of the Reserve military health-care professionals. 

Reserve Air Force nurses must be employed as civilian nurses. Most enlisted medical technicians on the flight either work in a fire department or are EMT-qualified. Air Force Reserve and National Guard health-care professionals make up more than 80 of the Air Force's aeromedical crews. 

"The amount of experience we fly with as Reservists is incredible, because the active duty (aeromedical technicians) doesn't get to go to a clinic and work," said Sergeant Wellman, a veteran of four deployments. "We are doing this every day in our civilian jobs, so when we get on the plane, we are ready to go."

Aeromedical aircraft
The C-17 Globemaster is a crew favorite for the aeromedical missions because of its convenient amenities: electrical outlets to plug in medical equipment, self-contained oxygen within the climate-controlled aircraft, and the ability to move nearly 40 patients across the skies. The plane can be converted into a makeshift ER in less than 30 minutes. 

Its design allows the aircraft's crew to do its work in the most austere conditions -- remote airfields found in the out reaches of Afghanistan and Iraq. It can land on runways as short of 3,500 feet and as narrow as 90 feet; potentially life-saving capabilities for wounded troops needing urgent and comprehensive medical care not available in-theater. 

"This aircraft is the BMW of all aircraft; you get everything you need to do a medical air mission," Sergeant Wellman said. 

These attributes are no surprise to Senior Master Sgt. Derek Bryant, a loadmaster with the 446th AW's  728th Airlift Squadron.  He was there when the airlift wing received its first C-17 in 1999. The $200-million Boeing aircraft has moved everything imaginable, from Secret Service limousines and security personnel for presidential missions, through Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and Strykers in Iraq and Afghanistan, to an Iraqi MiG 25 that was dug up by coalition forces, an effort in which he personally participated.

Worldwide missions
Pilots for this day's training mission were Maj. Sam Arieff and Capt. Judy Coyle, both wit the 446th AW's 728th Airlift Squadron. Their perspectives on aeromedical missions differed than those of the medical crew. With more than 4,500 hours of experience piloting a C-17, Major Arieff said he worries less about the patients in back than the instruments and clouds in front of him because he knows they are in good hands.

"I try to fly more stable, take more considerations, and really ease the landing," Major Arieff said. "A small movement up here (in the flight deck) is a big movement down there, especially when patients are on litters."

The presence of patients on board elevates the urgency level for Captain Coyle. Otherwise, traversing war zones can become almost routine, until an air medical mission comes up. 

"When going back and forth and you have human cargo, there's a sense of purpose; it's very sobering," she said. "It just becomes more real."

April 18, 2011 at 6:53am

No more social security numbers on ID cards

 Beginning June 1, Social Security numbers on military identification cards will begin to disappear, said Air Force Maj. Monica M. Matoush, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The effort is part of a larger plan to protect service members and other DOD identification card holders from identity theft, officials said.

Criminals use Social Security numbers to steal identities, allowing them to pillage resources, establish credit or to hijack credit cards, bank accounts or debit cards.

Currently, the Social Security number is printed on the back of common access cards, and on the front of cards issued to dependents and retirees. Beginning in June, when current cards expire, they will be replaced with new cards having a DOD identification number replacing the Social Security number, officials said. The DOD identification number is a unique 10-digit number that is assigned to every person with a direct relationship with the department. The new number also will be the service member's Geneva Convention identification number.

An 11-digit DOD benefits number also will appear on the cards of those people eligible for DOD benefits. The first nine digits are common to a sponsor, the official said, and the last two digits will identify a specific person within the sponsor's family.

Social Security numbers embedded in the bar codes on the back of identification cards will remain there for the time being, and will be phased out beginning in 2012.

The department will replace identification cards as they expire.
"Because cards will be replaced upon expiration, it will be approximately four years until all cards are replaced with the DOD ID number," Matoush said.

The identity protection program began in 2008, when DOD started removing Social Security numbers from family member identification cards.

Filed under: Defense News,

April 21, 2011 at 3:18pm

More McChord housing in progress

Photo by Ingrid Barrentine The McChord Field Cascade Village housing complex, located just inside the Housing Gate, is home to 26 families so far, with 36 units still under construction and scheduled for completion by the end of 2011.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Clayton likes the security and comfort living on base provides his family. Clayton recently moved into a new four-bedroom house in the Cascade Village neighborhood of McChord Field on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

He goes to the field often and will deploy with his unit, the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade. He appreciates the piece of mind the close-knit community offers his wife and three children, particularly when he's gone.

Clayton is just one of several new residents of McChord's newest development. Residential Communities Division broke ground last year and has completed 26 of 62 Cascade Village duplexes and single-family homes on McChord Field. All 26 homes are currently occupied.

The development offers military families multi-level three- and four-bedroom units for lease to senior NCOs, warrant officers and commissioned officers. A JBLM servicemember can lease a single-story home there that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. All JBLM housing is averaging a 96 percent occupancy rate, said Greta Powell, Residential Communities Division chief.

Each house in the neighborhood features a heat pump, air conditioning, covered garages and at least 2,000 square feet, said Equity Residential Managing Director Todd Vasko.

"The homes are what you would see, in size and amenities, if you were buying a new home off post," Vasko said.

The Army formed a 50-year partnership with Equity Residential when it was Fort Lewis. The privatized contractor delivers maintenance and yard services to JBLM residents, a partnership that allows on-base residents to have one point of contact for in-home service-related issues, no matter where they live on the installation, he said.

McChord Air Force Base privatized its housing communities in 2008 with Equity Residential. Now with joint basing, billing processes, repair issues and a single garrison commander has made day-to-day operations easier for Equity Residential, and residents benefit.

"We now have one philosophy, one point of view, and we aren't trying to appease two separate groups, being the Army and Air Force," Vasko said.

Another advantage to having a joint base housing system is relief from the "live where you work" policy, the stipulation that Soldiers must live on Lewis and Airmen live on McChord. Army families now make up 46 percent of residents living in McChord Field neighborhoods, Powell said. The numbers aren't quite that high for Airmen living on Lewis, because of the ratio of eight Soldiers to each Airman. Air Force families have priority and the right of first refusal to McChord housing.

"We are excited in the privatized progress of breaking down the barriers between the services in our installation communities," she said.

Clayton is one of those barrier breakers, as a Soldier living on the Air Force side of the joint base. He arrived at then-Fort Lewis nearly two years ago, and moved into his first house on McChord. Two months ago, he was given the option to move to Cascade Village.

"I am loving the new house greatly," Clayton said. "Space-wise, we are two to three times bigger than what we were in."

Regardless of where he's living on JBLM, he doesn't have to mow the lawn, giving the warrant officer more time to spend with his family.

"Being an Air Force brat, I had to mow the lawn," he said. "Now, especially after a recent deployment, I can concentrate on other things around the house other than the lawn."

Monthly lease payments and maintenance costs for each household are paid through servicemembers' Basic Allowance for Housing. It also pays for future construction projects, meaning that no extra money is required in the form of new appropriations from Congress. The self-sustainability program created through privatization ensures that even during a housing crisis, on-base home construction will continue.

"Privatization is a good tool that Congress has provided the military departments to take creative approaches to funding construction," Powell said.

The remaining 36 Cascade Village homes are expected to be completed and available for occupancy by the end of the year. The next housing project is planned in the Heartwood Community on McChord Field, where 156 duplex units will be built for junior enlisted servicemembers and their families. A new family housing community center near McChord's Carter Lake Elementary School will be constructed by 2013, to serve as a meeting location for residents to use.

"It's exciting time for family housing and it's great to see families enjoying their communities," Powell said.

For more information about JBLM housing or McChord Field's Cascade Village, visit Lewis-McChord Communities website at, or call Equity Residential's Lewis Main office at 912-2150 or McChord's office at 589-0523.

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.     

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