Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: September, 2012 (8) Currently Viewing: 1 - 8 of 8

September 7, 2012 at 4:52am

Extra innings just fine with Air Force

Scott Hansen/JBLM PAO 627th CES’ Brad Johannes celebrates after beating the throw to 56th MMB catcher Nicholas Doyley (top) and scoring the winning run in extra innings Aug. 31 during the JBLM installation softball championship game at McChord Field.

While Brad Johannes stood on third base as the potential game-winning base runner, one thought ran through his mind.

"All I could think about was my 0-for-5 game," Johannes said. "I was hoping I could make it up to the team."

Johannes did just so as he beat the throw at home on a slide that lifted the 627th Civil Engineer Squadron to a 16-15 victory over the 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord installation softball championship Aug. 31 at McChord Field.

With the game tied at 15 after the seven innings of regulation, a base runner was automatically placed on second base to start the extra inning. At the top of the eighth 56th MMB was unable to bring the base runner home. At the bottom of the inning Johannes was placed on second. He advanced to third and then scored on a grounder by pitcher James Abney.

This was the fifth and final season Johannes played with the Engineers; he will PCS next week to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

"I just wanted this last one before I went," he said.

After winning the JBLM Air Force softball championship on a rally in the final inning the previous week, the Engineers were used to fighting from behind. The 56th MMB created a quick 9-1 lead after just two innings, but the Engineers slowly chipped away at the deficit to take the lead in the fifth inning before the score was tied in the seventh.

"There were always ups and downs but we always had a way to come through," Abney said. "We always developed that spark that got us some hard fought games. It wasn't an easy season, but it was a successful season."

Abney was the only Engineer to hit a home run with a hard shot down the left field line, while Nicholas Doyley led the 56th MMB Warriors with an out of the park homer.

"I'm usually just a base hitter," Doyley said. "That's only my second home run of the season."

Doyley caught for pitcher Tommy Crumedy. The 56th MMB lost its first game of the intramural season and won every game afterward, including the Army championship, but fell short in the grand finale. The team was missing a couple players from their roster, but Doyley chalks the loss up to complacency.

"We just relaxed too much," Doyley said. "We had too comfortable of a lead."

The Engineers celebrated the start of their Labor Day weekend when they received their installation championship trophy.

September 11, 2012 at 7:54am

Airmen urged to reenlist, extend before MilPDS upgrade

Air Force officials are urging Regular Air Force Airmen who are eligible to reenlist or extend their current enlistment in December and early Jan. 2013 to complete these personnel actions through the myPers website and their base military personnel sections or force support squadrons by Nov. 15 to avoid processing delays and military pay issues.

Airmen need to accomplish these actions because the Air Force is upgrading and transferring the Military Personnel Data System to the Defense Information Systems Agency's Defense Enterprise Computing Center in December. The upgrade project is scheduled to take about 23 days to complete, during which time, MilPDS will not be available.

MilPDS is the primary records database for personnel data and actions that occur throughout every total force Airman's career. MilPDS is also used to initiate Airman pay actions, maintain Air Force accountability and strength data and support a host of interactions with other Air Force processes and systems that rely on personnel data.

Airmen should access the myPers website and work with their base MPSs or FSSs to minimize the impact the MilPDS upgrade will have on processing military personnel transactions like reenlistments or extending current enlistments.

Reenlistment-eligible Airmen or Airmen with service-directed retainability requirements such as Permanent Change of Station or retraining orders should contact their base MPS and complete their reenlistment or enlistment extension paperwork by Nov. 15.

"Airmen who accomplish their reenlistment or enlistment extension by Nov. 15 should not experience interruptions in their pay because their MPS can process their actions and clear any rejects in the system prior to the MilPDS upgrade," said Michael McLaughlin, Air Force Personnel Center reenlistments branch chief. "Getting these personnel transactions completed and into the Defense Finance and Accounting Service system are the fastest means to update an Airman's pay and entitlements and will reduce the need for DFAS to manually override or correct an Airman's pay record."

Airmen can reenlist during the upgrade in December, but they may experience additional delays in processing these transactions to DFAS if their date of separation expires during the MilPDS upgrade. AFPC officials also noted there are no changes to the Selective Reenlistment Bonus or Critical Skills Retention Bonus eligibility criteria.

The Air Force processes more than 60,000 reenlistments and enlistment extensions annually.

Reserve and Guard members will receive specific instructions from the Air Force Reserve Command and Air Reserve Personnel Center concerning how the MilPDS upgrade will impact their personnel programs. More information is available on the ARPC public website at

FSS and MPS representatives are continuing to host MilPDS upgrade briefings to help base leadership and Airmen understand the upgrade's impact on Airmen and Air Force personnel programs.

Officials will continue to release additional information and guidance to the Air Force's manpower, personnel, services and pay communities and total force Airmen to continue to educate them on how the service will perform critical personnel and pay tasks during the MilPDS upgrade.

For more information about the MilPDS upgrade, visit the myPers website at

September 12, 2012 at 6:44am

ACSC launches new distance learning program

The Air Command and Staff College is launching a new version of the non-master's "correspondence" program during the last week of September.

This comprehensive distance learning transformation is designed to enhance critical thinking skills and improve the educational value of professional military education for mid-grade officers and civilians, officials said.

While the content remains similar, the learning experience will be completely different. Along with lesson narratives, reading materials and lesson progress checks, students will encounter videos, computer-based interactive learning activities and "game-like" exercises, all available in an online environment. Self-paced study will be enhanced through collaborative online seminars that enable students to engage more deeply in course concepts via faculty-guided, peer-to-peer interactions.

"Senior leadership has charged us to develop adaptive, critical-thinking leaders capable of meeting the dynamic challenges presented by our complex security environment," said Dr. Bart Kessler, dean of distance learning programs at ACSC. "We are working to meet that challenge with the next-generation ACSC distance learning program."

Building on lessons learned from the online master's program launched in 2007, ACSC distance learning developers leveraged technology and collaborative learning to create an interactive learning experience that eliminates the traditional "box of books," comprehensive multiple-choice exams and trips to base test centers. While several hundred officers and a number of civilians are able to attend ACSC in-residence for 10 months each year, the distance learning programs enable thousands more to complete PME at their own pace from locations around the globe.

Current distance learning students have received notification about program completion deadlines as a means to help prevent any interruptions in student PME progression.

More information about the new ACSC DL program will be posted at

(Courtesy of  Air Command and Staff College.) 

September 14, 2012 at 6:26am

JBLM commander defines local commute area

Reservists who commute to Joint Base Lewis-McChord for duty receive travel pay based on distance. Those traveling from outside an established commuting area are eligible for lodging. That commute area has recently changed.

Based on a policy memorandum recently signed by the Joint Base Lewis-McChord commander, Col. H. Charles Hodges, and coordinated with the 446th Airlift Wing commander, Col. Bruce Bowers, Jr., the local travel area surrounding JBLM has been redefined.

The local travel area surrounding JBLM is defined as Pierce and Thurston counties and portions of Lewis, King, Kitsap, and Mason counties. Zip codes more precisely identify the commute area.

Reservists can find the new policy, with list of zip codes defining the commute area, on the wing's SharePoint page under "Announcements."

The new policy memorandum supersedes previous procedures for determining local commute area contained in 446th AW/CC Interim Guidance Memorandum dated Aug. 4 , 2009 and becomes effective for Reservists for all travel beginning Nov. 1.

"Before, the guidance we followed to determine the local commute area was 50 miles or one hour drive time. But, the Joint Federal Travel Regulation specifies that we can't use an arbitrary radius to define the local commuting area," said Butch Cruz, 446th AW Financial Management Office. "And the JFTR also gives the installation commander the authority to establish the commute area."

"I think a few more people will now be outside the local commute area, thereby increasing requirements for lodging a bit," said Cruz, who also is a senior master sergeant with the 446th Operations Group. "An area we focused on was Seattle. Under the new policy, the Seattle area north of I-90 is now outside the local commute area. Previously, some of those areas were considered local."

September 21, 2012 at 6:42am

McChord Airmen complete Antarctica mission

Courtesy photo Airmen from the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings at McChord Field deployed to Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, to conduct winter flying into McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Aug. 29, in support of the U.S. Antarctic Program and t

Despite operating in harsh conditions and experiencing multiple weather delays, the 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, comprised of Airmen from the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings at Joint Base Lewis-McChord McChord Field, completed its winter flying period into McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Aug. 29, in support of the U.S. Antarctic Program and the National Science Foundation.

During the period, known as WinFly, crews completed six missions aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. The aircraft was deployed from McChord Field and delivered 319 passengers and more than 230,000 pounds of cargo to the remote, icy airfield. Additionally, 69 passengers and more than 35,000 pounds of cargo were transported out of McMurdo.

Using Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand, as the base of operations, the mission of WinFly is to deliver advance teams and cargo to the remote research center in preparation for the main season of Operation Deep Freeze.

During the period leading up to main season, the research center will swell from approximately 150 NSF and support personnel to roughly ten times that size, helped largely by the efforts of the 304th EAS, said Lt. Col. Brent Keenan, the 62nd Operations Group deputy commander and ODF commander.

These operations are unlike any other U.S. military operations and present unique challenges for all members involved.

Weather and visibility are the two major factors which increase the difficulty of the mission, said Capt. Rok Dedic, 62nd AW instructor pilot and one of the pilots involved in the missions.

"In Antarctica, the weather changes at a moment's notice," said Dedic.

The unpredictable weather caused the first mission into McMurdo to be aborted after takeoff.

"The weather was good, we launched our mission and by the time we reached our point of safe return, we had to turn around and come back to Christchurch due to a change in weather," said Dedic.

Despite the delays, the crews completed all six missions just slightly behind the estimated completion time. "The weather support team did an excellent job analyzing weather trends to assist in determining the best launch times," said Keenan. "The 304th maintenance team also did an outstanding job keeping the jet mission capable," said Keenan.

The final five missions were completed over the span of just 86 1/2 hours and only 16 1/2 of those hours were spent on the ground at Christchurch, said Keenan. This shows how well the weather and maintenance teams worked to ensure the aircraft had minimal downtime.

In addition to delivering NSF personnel and cargo into and out of McMurdo, the 304th EAS also completed valuable training to include seven pilots getting trained and certified to perform nighttime landings at McMurdo using night vision goggles.

"This training has better equipped us to perform emergency support operations for the NSF during the winter months," said Keenan.

The main season of ODF is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.

September 21, 2012 at 6:53am

Requirements updated for new Rifle Qualification Course

Passing the Air Force's new Rifle Qualification Course just got a little more challenging for 446th Airlift Wing Reservists.

In November 2011, the Air Force began rolling out an updated rifle fire course for the M-4, which is the assault rifle replacing the M-16 as the standard-issue deployment weapon. The new standards and training were implemented at JBLM McChord Field in July.

"The principles of instruction haven't changed in the course," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Becker, 446th Security Forces Squadron Combat Arms Training and Maintenance instructor. "The primary changes are on the range."

The course will still include basic weapon skills such as loading and clearing, assembly and disassembly, basic rifle marksmanship, and preventative maintenance. Changes include using dummy rounds to simulate a jammed weapon, tactical movements with a loaded weapon, and multiple target engagement. In addition, there are stringent time constraints and wearing the combat helmet and body armor are now required.

"This new course is challenging and requires participants to step outside their comfort zone while rising to the challenges they might face in a real-world situation," said Becker. "People have a good understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it. They have to apply what they've learned in the classroom in a more direct way." "I like the new training; it's reinforced everything I've learned in my career and it's more in line with what the other services are using," said recent course participant Master Sgt. Ray Escott, 446th Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight section chief. "When I first came in the Air Force 23 years ago, we fired for a short time at one target. Now the training incorporates moving and multiple targets. Realistically, this is closer to what we'd be facing in a combat situation."

Becker encourages students like Escott, who hasn't fired a weapon in five years and has never fired the M-4.

"As an instructor, I can usually tell in the classroom who is getting it and who needs more time before we get to the range. Some students need to handle their weapon more to let the training sink in," Becker said. "My goal is for everyone to be qualified and go home with the knowledge so they can go on to the next step. For some, that might mean a deployment, for others it might mean having a better understanding of the weapon system in general."

Though Escott hunts and is familiar with many types of firearms, this training introduced him to firing a weapon in a tactical situation.

"The old training didn't incorporate using the weapon in burst mode or firing while moving," Escott said. "This is likely what we'd be doing if we actually needed to use our weapon. The training used to be pretty generic, but I think they made some good changes to the training."

Becker advises his students to pay attention to both the fundamentals and safety, des-pite any changes to the curriculum.

"The better able you are to fire your weapon safely and accurately, the more likely you are to use that weapon effectively in a combat situation," he said. "It's a sobering thought and we hope our students never have to use their weapons, but there is always the chance they will. It's our job as CATM instructors to make sure they are able to use the training we give them in a way that saves lives."


Jami K. Lancette

Staff Sgt. Alasdair Earley, 434th SFS combat arms specialist, monitors other 434th SFS Airmen as they fire their M-4 carbine rifles during a recent weapons training event held on JBLM. Earley and other SFS Airmen participated in the training that is meant to keep them ready to deploy around the world at a moment’s notice.

September 21, 2012 at 7:00am

JBLM Airmen earn elite tactical status

Sgt. Adam L. Mathis Airmen run to enter a helicopter as part of their annual training, hosted by the 1st ASOG at JBLM Sept. 12.

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. David Knutzen was in a different world.

He dropped the water jugs and kept moving. The magazine fell out of his weapon and he paused, wanting to go back for it.

"This is not the way to start things off," thought Knutzen, a communications officer with the 5th Air Support Operations Squadron, The instructor running with him did not care. Press on.

On Knutzen ran across Range 16 until he came to a jeep: take cover, shoot, continue. Out into the open now, shoot some more, climb over a trailer, stop again to shoot, then fire the weapon while moving. Another run with water jugs, uphill this time, then drop to the prone and shoot some more. During all of this, his instructor was blowing an air horn, shaking him or hitting his helmet with the horn.

This is how the 1st Air Support Operations Group prepares Airmen for combat.

The stress shoot at Joint Base Lewis-McChord was part of an annual training exercise for tactical air control parties, or TACPs, attached to the 1st ASOG. TACPs consist of support personnel and some of the Air Force's elite units, joint terminal attack controllers, or JTACs, a group critical to deployed operations for the military. In addition to support and the attack controllers, Airmen also serve as apprentices to become JTACs.

"(JTACs) are spread out across combat units all across the United States military - whether it be Army conventional units, Rangers, Special Forces, Navy Seals, Marines - and a JTAC is basically someone that the Department of Defense has recognized through their training that has the ability to provide final control for fixed wing aircraft, providing close air support to ground troops in close proximity to the enemy," said 1st Lt. Brandon Temple, an air liaison officer with the 5th ASOS.

To earn that recognition, the JTAC trainees have their skills tested in stressful situations. After more than two to three years training, the apprentices can become JTACs. Attack controllers often deploy with little support from other Air Force personnel on the ground, Temple said, meaning a JTAC needs to know every aspect of combat operations without relying on others.

This is why the training week at JBLM, which included convoy operations and exiting and loading an aircraft while under fire, focused on the details that make up each mission. JTAC training must instill attention to these details or weed out those who cannot handle the responsibility.

"If you don't have that attention to detail then, you pass a wrong grid, drop a bomb on friendlies instead of, you know, whatever your target is," said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Bowling, a JTAC with the 17th ASOS. "Things like that make attention to detail very important, you know, because you've got guys lives in your hand and whenever you got enemy 100 meters away ... and you're trying to drop a bomb on them versus you, all that stuff comes into play."

The kind of training necessary to create a JTAC does more than just check a box for a candidate.

For Knutzen, much of this training was new and it instilled a new respect for what these service members do.

"A lot of the stuff that we did this week, I've never seen before. I'm new to the unit; even though I do have a tactical (communications) background and coming from kind of big Air Force, this is a slightly different world for me, and if nothing else I have a lot more appreciation than I did previously for what these guys - the TACPs, the infantrymen, all the combat arms types - do in the field," Knutzen said.

September 27, 2012 at 8:13pm

Adventures Unlimited re-opens

Scott Hansen/JBLM PAO The Adventures Unlimited rental shop houses equipment needed for any outdoor adventure from mountain climbing to kayaking to camping.

Adventures Unlimited on McChord Field re-opened its doors to a brighter and updated facility Sept. 18.

The rental shop houses equipment needed for any outdoor adventure from mountain climbing to kayaking to camping. The facility closed May 12 and underwent a 90-day $156,000 renovation. Joint Base Lewis-McChord Commander Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr., welcomed the crowd and cut the ceremonial ribbon along with JBLM Director of Outdoor Recreation Laura Lad, Northwest Adventure Center Business Manager Kristin Sutich, Adventures Unlimited Recreation Assistant Tarah Strouse and Adventures Unlimited Lead Recreation Assistant Megan Rorabaugh.

"This is our commitment to all service members, not just the Airmen on McChord Field, but all service members have the opportunity to utilize this facility," Hodges said. "It's very much inviting."

Located on Battery Road on McChord Field, the rental facility's renovations included new wood flooring, new interior and exterior paint, new outdoor signage, a new garage door, new displays and fixtures, new ski and snowboard equipment and an upgraded kitchen and restrooms.

"It's updated and fresh, and it's more 2012," Sutich said. "We wanted to showcase more of what we have."

The warehouse feel of the old facility gave way to more of a store-like atmosphere with clothing and equipment racks. The customer service counter was also moved to a more central location to increase visibility and better assist patrons. The renovation included taking down the indoor rock climbing wall that didn't get much use and took up valuable space.

The new space allows for more displays of available rental items for service members, DOD civilians and family members. The rental floor displays include camping, mountain climbing, snowshoeing and a ski shop. None of the displays is seasonal, as all equipment is available to rent at any time of the year.

"We don't have anything you can't rent at any time," Sutich said. "You can come in in June and say, ‘Hey I'm going skiing at Whistler, can I get some skis?'"

What can't be seen on the rental shop floor is stored in a large storage facility located behind the store.

Adventures Unlimited is one of two outdoor recreation facilities on JBLM. The Northwest Adventure Center is located on NCO Beach Road on Lewis North.

Adventures Unlimited is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays, 7:30 a.m. to noon, closed on Sundays and holidays.

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