Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: February, 2017 (15) Currently Viewing: 11 - 15 of 15

February 17, 2017 at 12:08pm

ATOC keeps the mission moving

Staff Sgt. Christopher Craig (center), 62nd Aerial Port Squadron ramp services technician, pulls a ramp up to a transient aircraft, Feb. 8 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Divine Cox

Whether its cargo, passengers, military aircraft, or transient aircraft the 62nd Aerial Port Squadron Air Terminal Operation Center has a hand on every aircraft that lands on McChord Field at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

ATOC coordinates all outside requests for agency support and information and distributes them to the different sections throughout the aerial port for proper coordination.

"We are the command and control for the 62nd APS," said Master Sgt. Brandon Banks, 62nd APS ATOC superintendent. "We deal with worldwide channel missions, contingency missions and aeromedical evacuation missions. In this section, all flow of cargo and passengers being handled by the aerial port is managed, accounted for and tracked by us."

More than 30 personnel work in the ATOC. Working around the clock, providing military logistical functions assigned to aerial port.

"We go out to every aircraft and find out what they need from the aerial port," said Banks. "Within the APS, we manage the passenger terminal, ramps services section (loading and unloading of cargo), fleet services (cleaning the aircraft), and the special handling section (handling explosives). We go out to every aircraft and kind of direct all those sections of the APS."

Ron White, 62nd APS ATOC flight chief, said here at McChord, the workload at the ATOC can be a challenge sometimes.

"We support the Army and move a lot of their passengers and cargo," said White. "Our joint inspectors, inspect their gear and a lot of the challenges comes from the different verbiage and language we each use.

"A lot of the contingency missions we deal with are from the Army, to load their cargo and passengers. We have specific requirements that we need done ahead of time for the mission to flow properly and the Army doesn't recognize that because they don't use our processes, but we still manage to push through the challenge and get the mission done."

Another challenge that adds to the operations center workload is the deployment tempo.

"APS airmen deploy a lot," said White. "So with a six-month deployment, we might see the airman for three months out of the year because of training and schooling they may need before they go. So it's a challenge to keep them qualified and get them back in the rotation. At ATOC we help the APS flow properly, and with the deployment tempo, there can be sections that are low manned, so we kind of take over and divert people wherever to make the mission happen."

In order to work in the ATOC, airmen are required to have a good knowledge of all the sections within the port.

"We do not get pipeline students in ATOC," said Banks. "There is a requirement that the individual is supposed to be knowledgeable in all the other sections to be able to work ATOC. Those selected to come work ATOC don't have a lot of time to get spun up on everything, so they need to know the basics about every job. A lot of the slots in ATOC are one deep, so training consistently is a struggle, but we still get the job done."

White is a retired aerial port airman and loved the job so much that he decided to continue giving back by working in the ATOC as a civilian.

"I absolutely love working at that the port and watching all the great things we do here," said White. "I retired out of here, I was away from it for two years after I retired and missed every minute of it. ATOC is the focal point for the other sections, and you can't run the APS without it. You need someone to coordinate and direct everything, and ATOC is the brains of the operation."

February 17, 2017 at 12:11pm

627th LRS keeps wing fueled for flight

Senior Airman Mason Boyd (Left) and Airman Katara Williams, 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron, fuels apprentices, add fuel to a fuel truck on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Feb. 7. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley

The 627th Logistic Readiness Squadron Fuels flight provides fuel to the 48 C-17's at the 62nd Airlift Wing on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but they do more than deliver the fuel to aircraft, they make missions possible.

The fuels flight provides support to not only our aircraft, our government vehicles, civilian aircraft that land here and deployment rotaters, they also provide support to the President of the United States.

"It's a cliché, but we always say without fuel, pilots are pedestrians," said Master Sgt. Keith Grady, 627th LRS fuel operations section chief. "Without fuel these planes can't get off the ground.

Grady oversees the fuel distribution element and fuel hydrants on base.

"Fuels distribution is in charge of issuing the fuel to the aircraft, transporting liquid oxygen carts as well as filling those carts with liquid nitrogen and liquid oxygen," said Grady.

As far as fuel capabilities go, they have two pump houses, which both can dispense 2,400 gallons each, per minute.

They also have 11 re-fuelers, which have 6,000 gallon tanks that can dispense up to 600 gallons of fuel per minute each.

"On an average day, we deliver between 75,000 to 200,000 gallons of fuel," Grady said. "That fuel is delivered to anywhere between six and twenty aircraft a day."

The process for re-fueling starts as a simple phone call from the 62nd Maintenance Group Maintenance Operations Center.

"One of our fuel service center controllers will log that request into our fuels manger defense program and at the same time they'll dispatch an operator to take a vehicle out," said Grady. "They will hand a vehicle clip board to that operator, the operator will check the paperwork, go out to the vehicle and do an inspection then drive out to the aircraft.

"They will get marshalled in, hook up the single point, ground and bond the aircraft and do all the preparation to fuel the aircraft."

Grady said during that time, there's a lot going on and the fuel distributor is always checking for safety hazards.

"They're pumping a lot of fuel and very fast," Grady said. "It can be very dangerous, so they are always checking their environment, but the whole process takes approximately an hour from the time the call comes in."

Before the fuel enters any aircraft, the fuel must be tested for safety and quality.

Staff. Sgt. Jason Drobish, 627 LRS fuels laboratory NCOIC, does just that.

"We are the first line of defense for any contamination within the fuel," said Drobish. "At the very first point where the fuel enters the base we sample and test the fuel for any additives and make sure those are within range."

The fuel comes from a barge that comes from a commercial contractor off base and then it is pumped through a pipe line on base.

"We are constantly testing our equipment throughout the month to make sure that the fuel meets specifications for water and additives," said Drobish. "We take a gallon sample, run them through some test membranes and we are able to see particular contamination such as sand or dirt or rust - things from the pipes."

It's beyond imperative that the fuel is tested and quality controlled.

"It's an important job," said Grady. "Just knowing the fuel that were putting on the aircraft is safe allows the plane to operate without any issues emanating from the fuel."

Providing the life blood to these aircraft, is the mission of the 627th LRS fuels flight and it is a mission they take very seriously.

February 23, 2017 at 1:25pm

McChord flight kitchen

Airman 1st Class Arlena Harges, 627th Force Support Squadron food services apprentice, prepares a box meal in the McChord flight kitchen, Feb. 14, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Divine Cox

Members of Team McChord never have to worry about missing a meal because the 627th Force Support Squadron flight kitchen is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing boxed meals at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The flight kitchen prepares boxed meals that are available to flight crews, dorm residents, active-duty members paying cash and Department of Defense employees who would not be able to eat at the Olympic Dining Facility during regular hours of operation.

"We provide more than nine thousand meals annually to Team McChord personnel," said Staff Sgt. Cody Christensen, 627th FSS flight kitchen noncommissioned officer in charge.

The entrées for the boxed meals include different types of sandwiches including turkey, ham and roast. They also have beef, breaded chicken strips and a chef salad, as well as breakfast items. The supplemental options are often pre-contained food items such as chips, cookies, fresh fruit and your choice of beverage.

The flight kitchen offers two ways airmen can order meals.

"Usually, Team McChord airmen call in for the ground meals," said Christensen. "For the flight meals, the passenger terminal and the aircrew fax us the information for the meals."

There are few differences between the flight kitchen and the Olympic Dining Facility.

"The first difference is that we are open twenty-four hours," said Christensen. "They have set hours for their meals and they do not have a midnight meal."

According to Airman 1st Class Arlena Harges, 627th FSS food services apprentice, another difference she said is the flight kitchen is more like a grab-and-go with salads and sandwiches, while the dining facility has a set menu with a grill and hot bar.

The flight kitchen sometimes receives big orders and that can be challenging for a small shop of five airmen.

"We only have five airmen including myself that work here in the flight kitchen," said Christensen. "Receiving big orders can be challenging because of the manning here. My four airmen are all on the Panama (schedule) of 12-hour shifts with only two working at a time."

Flight kitchens vary from base to base. Some bases have their flight kitchen attached to their dining facility, while others like McChord field have their flight kitchen located on the flightline for easier access for aircrew and maintenance airmen.

"Our mission is to prepare and sustain the force," said Christensen. "Whenever the phone rings or a fax comes through our office, no matter how big or small the order is, we get the job done."

The flight kitchen has a direct impact on the mission by providing convenient meals to those who need a meal no matter the time of day. For more information on ordering and food options at McChord's flight kitchen, call 253.982.2828. 

February 23, 2017 at 4:16pm

PCSing your EFMP

The Exceptional Family Member Program helps military families with issues and needs surrounding disabilities. Courtesy photo

A permanent change of station can be a stressful event for military families. For airmen who have family members with special needs, a PCS can be even more stressful due to concerns about whether proper medical care will be available. Fortunately, the 62nd Medical Squadron's Exceptional Family Member Program is here to help families through the process.

EFMP is a Department of Defense program with the goal of ensuring that, prior to relocating to a new assignment, military family members' special needs can be met at their new assignment.  Enrollment in EFMP is mandatory for family members who have a life-threatening or chronic condition requiring follow-up support more than once a year or for those receiving specialty care.

When an airman with an exceptional family member receives an assignment for a PCS, or when any airman with dependents receives an overseas assignment, the airman must coordinate with the EFMP office to initiate a relocation clearance process.

"The clearance process can take anywhere from three weeks to three months, dependent upon the gaining base, complication of family member needs and whether the documentation needs to be reviewed by the major command," said Lois Fisher, 62nd MDS EFMP special needs coordinator.

Because of that, Fisher said, airmen need to contact the EFMP Family Member Relocation Clearance Coordinator as soon as they receive their assignment notification in order for the process to begin.

The reason the process can be a long one is because members may have to make follow-up medical appointments in order to get proper paperwork filled out by their medical provider or specialists, a face-to-face screening with the EFMP special needs coordinator may need to take place, and a Facility Determination Inquiry may need to occur at the gaining military treatment facility, said Fisher.  The FDI is a review of all the paperwork submitted to the gaining MTF and can take up to 14 days before a travel recommendation is made.

If family member travel is recommended, the airman will receive a travel clearance and can then proceed with the assignment process.  If travel is not recommended, however, then there are a few options available for the member.

"The sponsor can ask for the assignment to be canceled," said Fisher. "Additionally, the sponsor can pursue a reassignment, or the Air Force Personnel Center may pursue the reassignment through a ‘pinpoint' process, putting out the family circumstances to other bases that may be able to provide the necessary care for the family members."

Fisher added that AFPC may determine that the sponsor will still be assigned to the gaining base and the family member would not receive command sponsorship at the gaining location.

One additional option would be for the member to appeal the non-recommendation.

"An appeal requires new and substantial information other than what has already been submitted on the previous forms," said Fisher. "So perhaps the original document said a patient needed to be followed by a psychiatrist for a mental condition in order to get medication renewals.  New information may be that the provider who completed that form would add his professional opinion that a psychiatric nurse practitioner would also be able to prescribe the medications for that family member."

Fisher added that there are common misconceptions about the EFMP process as a whole.  One is that if a family member is enrolled in EFMP then the sponsor will not be able to PCS.  But Fisher said that is not in fact the case.

"The sponsor will be able to PCS, but possibly not to the desired or assigned base," said Fisher. "AFPC takes into consideration the training of the sponsor and where the sponsor can best be utilized."

Fisher offered a friendly reminder for anyone who may be going through a travel clearance screening.

"Remember," she said, "it's always about the mission of the Air Force."

For more information about EFMP, visit, or call the FMRCC at 253.982.3350.

February 23, 2017 at 4:19pm

McChord Thrift Shop hosts dress sale

The McChord Thrift Shop has a lot to offer, such as consignment and Operation Diaper Drop. Photo courtesy of the McChord Thrift Shop

The community might not realize there is a hidden gem of a place to shop right in their backyards. The McChord Thrift Shop has so much more to offer than one might think. The thrift shop is entering its 59th year of operation and giving back to the community. The McChord Spouses Club owns the McChord Thrift Shop, and while they do have three paid staff members, 90 percent of their staff is made up of volunteers, some of which have been there for over 40 years. The McChord Spouses Club and the thrift shop strive to give back to the community in as many ways as they can. This year, they are thrilled to roll out some new events and programs to continue to help support their community in new ways.

On March 10 from 5:30-8 p.m., the McChord Thrift Shop will be hosting an exclusive formal dress sale. With the generous donations from a dress shop in Tacoma, the McChord Thrift Shop has 92 formal dresses up for sale. The dresses range in size from 0-12 and will be sold for just $15-$25 during the event. Photos of the dresses that will be for sale can be found on their Facebook website. The McChord Thrift Shop is ecstatic to be able to have this wonderful event that offers gorgeous dresses at a reasonable price.

The McChord Thrift Shop frequently receives donations of items they cannot resell such as packages of diapers or baby wipes. Assistant manager Anna Kearney realized that people in the community still need such items and did not want to see them get thrown out. She created Operation Diaper Drop and implemented the program almost two weeks ago. The goal of the program is to have donated baby items available for pick-up 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "Anyone can stop by and take what they need, and maybe down the road, donate leftover items back for someone else to use," said thrift shop manager Jennifer Bayes. There are two cabinets located in the front of the store full of items like diapers, pull-ups, baby wipes, breastfeeding pads, and even bottles. "It is all absolutely free," said Bayes. "We would rather see them used by someone who needs them instead of throwing them out."

The formal dress event and Operation Diaper Drop are only two of the positive ways that the McChord Thrift Shop gives back to their military community. For the past several years, the McChord Spouses Club has proudly given out nearly $35,000 in scholarships and welfare requests. They also happily take consignments in the thrift shop, knowing that for some people, consignment is a way to supplement their income. Bayes is extremely proud of the McChord Thrift Shop for all that they do, but also because of the positive environment in which she works. "We have dedicated volunteers who all strongly agree with giving back to our military community," she said.

McChord Thrift Shop, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday and first Saturday of each month; 4-7 p.m., Tuesday nights, Building 717, corner of 4th and Battery Street, JBLM - McChord Field, 253.982.2468,

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