Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: September, 2017 (14) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 14

September 1, 2017 at 10:57am

McChord leadership honor loadmaster legend

Dan Watson, friend of the late Chief Master Sgt. William Cannon, unveil the newly named Chief Master Sgt. William M. Cannon Boulevard Aug. 19 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez

A rare honor was bestowed on a prior McChord airman and his family during a street renaming ceremony Aug. 19 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. 

The ceremony unveiled McChord Field's  newly renamed street Chief Master Sgt. William M. Cannon Blvd., previously 5th St. NE on Heritage Hill.

The late Cannon was a retired McChord loadmaster who was a Distinguished Flying Cross recipient and made immense contributions to the loadmaster community and the development of the C-17 Globemaster III.          

"Chief Master Sgt. Bill Cannon was a seasoned aviator, gifted leader and the ‘father of the C-17 loadmaster,'" said Col. Reba Sonkiss, 62nd Airlift Wing commander. "This street, now to be called Chief Master Sgt. William M. Cannon Boulevard, recognizes the contributions of a man who dedicated his entire life and career in service to our great nation and our Air Force."

Serving more than 30 years in the Air Force, Cannon held more than 16,600 flying hours in the C-54, C-24, C-130 and C-141 aircraft, Sonkiss noted. He also served in Vietnam where he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross.

"When you think back to the incredible history of airlift here at McChord, it really puts into perspective the accomplishments and contributions of incredible airmen like Chief Cannon," said Sonkiss. "We can only hope to make him proud in the future as we set out on our own paths."

After retiring as the chief loadmaster at McChord, Cannon was the chief loadmaster of the C-17 flight test program. He also founded the Airlift Tanker Association and the Professional Loadmaster Association.

"Chief Cannon was a great leader, an inspiration to look up to and his dedication to service and others was beyond reproach," said Dan Watson, friend of Cannon. "He was an amazing man and the renaming of the street is befitting of his service to all loadmasters past, present and future."

Chief Master Sgt. William M. Cannon Blvd. joins those of the distinguished streets and buildings on McChord Field named after airmen who've made great contributions to the Air Force.     

"Chief Cannon left behind an undeniable legacy of service and excellence that paved the way for our current mobility Air Force," said Sonkiss. "This renaming honors the trail that he blazed for the C-17 community, the 62nd Airlift Wing, and the United States Air Force."

September 1, 2017 at 11:03am

Air Force introduces new, improved tool to manage civilian benefits

The GRB Platform recently replaced the Employee Benefits Information System and helps Air Force civilians more effectively manage their benefits and entitlement info. Photo credit: Richard Salomon

The Air Force is the first agency in the Department of Defense to roll out a new tool that helps government civilians more effectively manage their benefits and entitlement information.

The Government Retirement and Benefits Platform is a web-based application that allows employees to make changes and updates to their health insurance, life insurance, Thrift Savings Plan and other personal benefit information.

The GRB Platform replaces the Employee Benefits Information System, which replaced most paper-based processes in 1996.

"The GRB Platform includes all the functionality previously offered with EBIS, but in a much more intuitive and user-friendly environment," said Annette Castro, a human resource specialist at the Air Force Personnel Center. "It gives employees the ability to easily obtain and request various retirement estimates, complete their retirement packages and review their current benefits coverage."

The site also contains informational videos, facts sheets, electronic forms, calculators, retirement courses and links to external websites to help individuals make important decisions regarding their benefits.  

Employees can access the GRB Platform application through AFPC Secure by selecting the "GRB Platform" application link. Employees should see a brief video explaining the new system the first time they log in.

"This is another example of how we are providing smarter and more efficient personnel services to our customers worldwide," Castro said. "It's important that we continue to improve and enhance all of our business processes, so our customers can have what they need right at their fingertips."

For more information, visit the myPers website and search "GRB Platform." 

September 6, 2017 at 7:04am

Get ready to boogie down at McChord Block Party

Athena Mabry The annual McChord Housing Block Party will take place Sept. 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Carter Lake Elementary School on McChord Field.

School may be starting, but there’s still time to party in the ’hood.

Enhanced family readiness, spiritual resiliency and community bonding are the goals for the McChord Field Housing Block Party scheduled at Carter Lake Elementary School, 3415 Lincoln Ave., on McChord Field, Sept. 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This the second year for the free event, which is sponsored by the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Religious Support Office and the McChord Field Chapel.

The event is open to all service members and families within McChord Field housing.

The first year, the event took place at Carter Lake Park, but this year it was moved to the elementary school campus for better support facilities and in the hope of accommodating a larger gathering, according to Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Gerald Snyder, a chaplain with the 627th Air Base Group.

“(The event is) an opportunity for fun for the whole family — an opportunity to meet your neighbors and learn about (the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Religious Support Office’s) fall programs,” Snyder said.

Last year, more than 200 McChord Field housing residents came out for the block party, Snyder said.

“The event features a multigenerational approach to community building,” Snyder said. “Numerous volunteers including retirees, active-duty and family members of all ages support the event.”

Music, carnival games, bouncy houses, free food and raffles will be part of the experience that’s aimed at de-stressing military family members at the start of the school year.

“Everyone is welcome,” Snyder said.

September 6, 2017 at 7:06am


Make some quick cash by selling gently used items, or come to buy unique treasures at the annual Joint Base Lewis-McChord Fall Flea Market Sept. 16 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Family and MWR’s Fest Tent next to Bowl Arena Lanes at 2200 Liggett Ave. on Lewis Main. Rent two 6-foot tables, spaces or combos for only $26. Three tables/space combos spanning 18 feet are $30. Rent an additional 6-foot table or space for $6 more. You must be an authorized military ID cardholder in order to sell your household or yard items. Email, or call 253-967-6772 for reservations.

September 7, 2017 at 11:32am

Air Force to lessen pilot shortage, added incentives to keep troops flying

Air Force pilots can cash in on new incentives if they are willing to stay in the cockpit. Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Air Force officials announced three additional initiatives designed to enhance mission readiness by keeping pilots in the service and bringing retired pilots back to fill critical-rated positions.

The first is an increase in the aviation incentive pay, commonly called flight pay, for both officer and enlisted aviators for the first time since 1999, effective Oct. 1. The second is an expansion of the fiscal year 2017 Aviation Bonus Program to include non-contracted and contract-expired pilots that began Aug. 4. The third is the rated return to active-duty program which brings retired pilots back into the service to fill critical-rated staff positions that began Aug. 11.

"We need to retain our experienced pilots and these are some examples of how we're working to do that," said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. "We can't afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers."

Retaining experience, enhancing readiness

The Air Force was 1,555 pilots short at the end of fiscal 2016, which includes 1,211 total force fighter pilots -- with the deficit expected to grow.

To address this, the first initiative is directed at all aviators and provides higher amounts of incentive pay, or flight pay. Aviators will see a reduced number of steps in the Air Force Aviation Incentive Pay table, an increase to a maximum of $1,000 per month and increased pay rates across all steps for officers beginning Oct. 1.

Simultaneously, enlisted aircrew members will also see their incentive pay increase. The Critical Skills Incentive Pay, previously referred to as Career Enlisted Flyer Incentive Pay, will increase to a maximum of $600 per month.

Air Force incentive pay for aviators with less than six years of aviation service hasn't been increased since 1980. The most recent changes to incentive pay were made in 1999.

In addition to the incentive pay increases, the Air Force expanded the fiscal 2017 Aviation Bonus Program.

"The Air Force's fiscal year 2017 Aviation Bonus take rates have been lower than what the Air Force needs," explained Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. "The bonus is now being offered to a larger pool of pilots that includes those beyond their initial service commitments who have previously declined to sign long-term bonus contracts and those whose contracts have expired.

"This is one of many initiatives we are taking to retain experienced pilots," Grosso stated.

The final initiative is the Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD, program that is open to all pilot Air Force Specialty Codes (11X). The service is accepting up to 25 retired 11Xs volunteering to return to active-duty for up to 12 months to primarily fill critical-rated staff positions, thereby allowing current and qualified pilots to remain in operational units where they are needed to meet mission requirements.

A number of non-flying staff positions require a pilot's expertise. The Air Force has reviewed these positions to determine if each is necessary and if it requires a pilot to fulfill its duties. Volunteers for VRRAD will help fill these positions.

"Our combat-hardened aircrews are at the tip of the spear for applying airpower against our nation's enemies," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. "Secretary Wilson and I are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure we maintain that capability for the nation. We continue to swing away at this issue and we're looking at multiple options to improve both quality of life and quality of service for our pilots."

September 7, 2017 at 11:37am

Mobility Exercise enhances community, international partnerships

Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II is commander of Air Mobility Command based at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Air Mobility Command recently completed a very successful Exercise Mobility Guardian. The exercise, involving 30-plus nations and more than 3,000 exercise participants, challenged U.S. and partner militaries to "Train like We Fight" with outstanding support from the Spokane, Yakima, Tacoma and Seattle communities who served as our hosts.

The exercise tested our total force airmen on the "Core 4" Air Mobility Command missions of aerial refueling, airlift, aeromedical evacuation and mobility support.

The Air Mobility Command mission is diverse, impacting national security while contributing to how various communities view mobility operations. Recognizing this, we added another dynamic to the exercise: robust interaction with news media and the community.

In today's defense environment, the media and community are intertwined in our operations and demand an understanding of what the military is charged to do. Engaging both is a national imperative that ensures we hold ourselves accountable to our airmen, the American people and international partners.

I think the necessity of engaging the press in these activities is well understood. However, incorporating civic leaders and the communities we serve, both domestically and internationally, is equally important. Engagement presents tangible benefits for our mission, airmen and their families, leading to stronger mission partnerships. The military and our families rely on these partnerships during the good times, and under challenging circumstances when natural disaster strikes or world situations require evacuation.

So why is it important for civic leaders and communities to become immersed in the Air Force and mobility air forces mission set?

A few benefits include an enhanced:

  • Understanding of the demands placed on mobility air forces (both aircraft and personnel)
  • Insight into the impact the mobility air forces is having on national defense and global operations
  • Pride in installation's impact to larger AMC and Air Force missions
  • Opportunities to strengthen civic-military ties, trust and public support to complete the mission
  • Ensuring insight into the respective vantage points of the Air Force as well as our community partners
  • Awareness of the opportunities available to those interested in serving in the Air Force. We need everyone's help developing an interest in service and a passion for aviation.

When communities have a sense of pride and awareness of the impact of military operations, it results in stronger, supportive military-friendly environments. Supportive military communities make airmen and their families feel valued, welcomed and create a desire for them to stay in the Air Force.

Informing civic leaders about national defense roles, responsibilities, and impacts can also lead to enhanced national defense dialogue on the demands the military faces. Exposure to these topics leads to informed national and local decision-making ensuring we remain accountable to those we serve.

Transparency and a culture of engagement in Air Mobility Command is critically important to me. Our airmen deserve it and so do our community partners. Investment in educating community partners results in established trust and access. This trust is critically important when the Air Force navigates concerns about noise from our aircraft or environmental challenges.

It is important America understands the value we place on integrity, service and excellence -- the effects of what our airmen deliver for the nation deserves nothing less. I expect my commanders to be actively engaged in the community and to help build a strong team to ensure mission success and strong support networks.

At Mobility Guardian, the military-community partnership was on full display. The value of this exercise exceeded traditional military objectives, it factored in the total force team required to win our nation's wars -- our military, international and community partners. The Spokane, Yakima, Tacoma and Seattle communities aced the challenge and understand the role they serve in enabling a power projection platform for America.

September 8, 2017 at 11:26am

Enlisted special duty assignment pay effective Nov. 1

The Air Force semiannual review resulted in 13 additions to the pay table including a number of jobs with special experience identifiers such as flight engineer, special missions aviator and loadmaster. Photo credit: Osakabe Yasuo

The Air Force will update enlisted special duty assignment pay for several career fields, locations or special assignment duties effective Nov. 1, following the most recent Air Force semiannual review.

SDAP is a monetary allowance that compensates enlisted airmen serving in extremely demanding positions with unusually challenging responsibilities that differ from the normal demands of their jobs. Airmen receive a minimum of $75 per month up to the maximum of $450 per month.

The review resulted in 13 additions to the pay table including a number of jobs with special experience identifiers such as flight engineer, special missions aviator, loadmaster and remotely piloted aircraft sensor operator. Other duties added to the pay table include airfield manager, digital network analyst, cyberspace mission forces, RPA cyber technician, special operations surgical teams and Korean cryptologic language analyst.

Modifications, particularly clarification to eligibility criteria, were made to an additional 23 duties.

"The Air Force meticulously evaluates this program to ensure we are accurately compensating our airmen working in rigorous career fields with an unusual degree of complexity, difficulty or responsibility," said Senior Master Sgt. Joey Williams, the Airman Support branch superintendent at the Air Force's Personnel Center. "We hope to provide an incentive for airmen to volunteer for and perform duties in critical career fields in order to best support future Air Force missions."

The specialty and individual assignment should meet one or more of the following criteria in order for SDAP consideration:

  • Duties require extremely demanding personal effort to ensure successful mission accomplishment
  • Positions are extremely demanding and require an unusual degree of responsibility over and above what would reasonably be expected in a military assignment for members with the same grade and experience
  • The special duty assignment is different from the normal career progression and job description for the Air Force specialty code
  • Duties requiring special qualifications that are met through rigorous screening and/or special schooling above the normal qualifications of the skill or grade to maintain proficiency

To see the full special duty assignment pay list and a summary of the changes, visit the enlisted compensation landing page on myPers. Alternatively, select "Active Duty Enlisted" from the myPers dropdown menu and search "SDAP."

For more info about Air Force personnel programs, go to

September 14, 2017 at 1:58pm

WADS remotely saves over 800 Hurricane Harvey victims

Capt. Nicholas Rhodes (from left to right), Maj. Matthew Horrocks, Staff Sgt. Kayla Sharpe, and Capt. Gregory Firestone assist with aviation rescue of victims of Hurricane Harvey. Photo credit: Capt. Kimberly D. Burke

The Western Air Defense Sector on Joint Base Lewis-McChord diligently worked with dozens of agencies and first responders in direct support of search and rescue operations in the Houston area following the wake of destruction left by Hurricane Harvey since Aug 30.

"The WADS is normally tasked with the air defense of North America for NORAD," said Col. Gregor Leist, WADS commander. "But by utilizing air battle management command and control skills, an extensive network of radio and telephone communication, radar and data link equipment and ingenuity and innovation, the Washington Air National Guardsmen of team BIGFOOT put their expertise to use to save over 800 people from rising flood waters."

On Aug. 30, military authorities scrambled an Airborne Warning AND Control System surveillance aircraft from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, to the Houston area.

"The mission was for situational awareness," said Col. William Krueger, 225th Air Defense Group commander. "But within a short amount of time the WADS began providing critical communications relay between the Texas Emergency Operations Center, rescue coordination centers, joint terminal air controllers and the U.S. Coast Guard helicopters who executed the SAR mission. The communications relay was needed due to cell tower and electrical outages throughout the Houston area."

According to Lt. Col. Brian Bergren, 225th Air Defense Squadron director of operations, the WADS vast communication network was able to provide real-time rescue status updates for 11 hospitals, numerous helicopter landing zones and aircraft refueling areas over an area of approximately 25,000 square miles."

"The WADS enhanced the decision-making abilities for those on the ground trying to rescue stranded people, and brought a sense of order to the chaotic airspace over the flood zone area," Bergren said. "The dedication of these Washington Air Guardsman directly resulted in the safe execution of 148 flying sorties, 81 SAR events and the notable rescue of over 800 individuals."

One poignant event that the WADS was involved with was the urgent call for help from one of the emergency coordination centers stating water had started flooding Pine Forest Elementary School, in Vidor, Texas, due to a dam break.

"There were over a hundred evacuees located there who needed immediate rescue," said Capt. Nicholas Rhodes, air battle manager. "When helicopters arrived on scene to pick up the survivors, we smoothly and calmly directed the airborne assets to Houston area hospitals after ensuring landing zones were both available and safe."

The Westen Air Defense Sector leadership had nothing but accolades for Maj. John Dalrymple, Maj. Matthew Horrocks, Capt. Nicholas Rhodes, Capt. Gregory Firestone, and Staff Sgt. Kayla Sharpe, all of whom remained calm under pressure during this rescue operation.

"This team was instrumental in expeditiously creating cohesive air extraction plans during the entire search and recovery effort," explained Krueger.

The WADS air battle managers and command and control battle management operators from the Washington Air National Guard have completed the critical SAR support to Texas and Louisiana. This operation was the largest direct support effort to the Defense Support of Civil Authorities enterprise the WADS has participated since Sept. 11, 2001.

September 14, 2017 at 2:03pm

Fly away with Space A

Airman 1st Class Cody Nichols, a 721st Aerial Port Squadron passenger services agent, answers the phone while working at the passenger service desk on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 14. Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua

Space Available, commonly known as Space A, is a program at many U.S. military installations around the world that allows military members, dependents, retirees, and certain civilians to ride an aircraft to a destination at either a very cheap price or no cost at all.

The program stems from the concept that if a military or contracted aircraft is headed to a particular destination and extra space is available, eligible passengers join the flight.

Ramstein Air Base, which serves as a major Air Force hub, connects to many installations across Europe and the U.S.

Master Sgt. Christian Stamper, a 721st Aerial Port Squadron passenger terminal services section chief, emphasized that space availability depends on certain factors concerning the aircraft or the mission it supports. He mentioned that because of the unpredictable nature of military flights and missions, his airmen cannot guarantee that Space A passengers will be able to board a certain flight, or if a flight will take off at all.

"Space A is a privilege," Stamper said. "When mission and cargo holds allow, seats may be available to eligible passengers. Please be aware that Space A passengers must be prepared to cover commercial travel expenses if Space A flights are changed or become unavailable.

Do not demand to fly Space A," he added. "If you have places you need to be at a certain time, Space A may not be the option for you."

Passengers hoping to fly Space A fall under six categories, with category one taking the most priority and category six taking the least.

Category one is for people on emergency leave, while people on environmental morale leave are category two, and active-duty members on regular leave fall under category three. Category four is for dependents whose sponsors are deployed for 30 days or more, while dependents simply traveling without their sponsors fall under category five. Finally, category six is for retirees conducting leisurely travel.

Airman 1st Class Cheyenne Wood, a 721st APS passenger service agent, said one of the biggest challenges Space A passengers may face is obtaining an available seat, especially during peak seasons.

"Active-duty members tend to take leave with their children over the summer," she said. "They will take priority over dependents (travelling without sponsors) and retirees. It's very common in the summer for us to not even get through all the categories. It is a little harder to try and fly out ... summer is definitely the busiest season for us."

Wood added that passengers who are making a permanent change of station do not fall under Space A, but are booked through the travel office of their branch of service. Thus, PCS passengers take priority over those flying Space A.

Passengers wishing to fly Space A must bring a number of documents depending on their category and purpose of travel.

Active-duty members must bring their passport, leave form, and military ID. Active-duty members must also wait until their leave officially starts prior to signing up for Space A. Dependents traveling with their sponsor must bring their passport and ID. If the dependent is traveling without their sponsor, they must bring a command sponsorship letter along with the two aforementioned documents. A dependent's sponsor can refer to his or her chain of command to inquire about command sponsorship letters. The letter must also be signed by the sponsor's commander. Retirees wishing to travel through Space A must have their passport and ID.

Wood added that passengers traveling on emergency leave should have a Red Cross number in order for passenger service agents to contact and verify the passenger's priority.

Airman 1st Class James DeCoster, a 721st APS passenger service agent, stressed the importance of passengers making sure they have everything they need before showing up at the terminal expecting a flight.

"Make sure you're one hundred percent travel-ready," DeCoster said. "Make sure you've taken care of your lodging, you've turned in your rental car, you've got all your baggage to include your personal items, carry-on and checked bags. If you don't have all of that, you're not considered travel-ready and we cannot select you for that flight."

DeCoster explained that after being selected for a flight, the passenger can be ordered to go straight through check-in and security and they will not have time to take care of any pre-departure business. He also encouraged Space A passengers to be patient and flexible, saying that they are not guaranteed a seat especially during peak seasons. The seasons a passenger is most likely to obtain a seat are spring, fall and winter, except for Christmas time, he said.

"One minute can make the difference between being selected to board a Space A flight or having to turn-around and pay for a commercial airline ticket," DeCoster added. "If you're going to wait until the last minute thinking you'll be picked up for a flight, it's probably not going to happen. The earlier you sign up the better."

Passengers are allowed two check-in bags at 70 pounds each, plus one carry-on bag and one personal item. Those wishing to fly Space A are strongly encouraged to show up one hour before roll call. With the exception of active-duty members taking leave, potential passengers can sign up for Space A 60 days prior to their desired departure date.

Passengers flying to Baltimore, Maryland, will pay a head tax of $34.46 with card, or $34.50 with cash. The head tax is for all passengers regardless of age.

September 21, 2017 at 1:31pm

Delivering aid from above

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III sits on the flightline at the St. Thomas airport Sept. 9 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz

In the brief respite between Hurricanes Irma and Jose, members of the 62nd Airlift Wing were able to partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deliver much-needed supplies to San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

"Friday (Sept. 8) at approximately 2:15 a.m., we received the phone call that they were going to use us," said Lt. Col. Brandon Tellez, 62nd Operations Support Squadron director of operations. "We boarded the jet for our initial mission, which was to head to Westover, Massachusetts, to pick up FEMA supplies, but about 90 minutes prior to arrival, the Tactical Air Control Center diverted us to Oceana, Virginia."

As situations continued to develop across the Caribbean and personnel and cargo remained in a state of flux, the relief team adapted to the fluidity of their unique mission.

"We had a really flexible team," Tellez said. "The five of us executed the mission as expertly as we possibly could with all the changes. We diverted to Oceana because there were personnel ready to go right away, and aid was needed right away."

According to Puerto Rican officials, Hurricane Irma killed at least three people, left millions without power and more than 50,000 without potable water.

"We carried fifty FEMA personnel who were a mix of urban search and rescue and medical folks to respond to Hurricane Irma in Puerto Rico," said Senior Airman Zachariah Eye, 7th Airlift Squadron aircraft loadmaster.

Once that mission was complete, the crew was given a turn-around tasking.

"We took that group of fifty and all of their supplies down to San Juan," Tellez said. "We dropped them off and headed to Westover, which had been our original destination."

Upon arrival, loadmasters learned they would be dealing with drastically different cargo than they had in support of Puerto Rico relief.

"We had a diesel tanker truck, portable generator attached to a pickup truck, and a FEMA box truck," Eye said. "Most of the cargo we carry is already designed for airlift -- roll on, roll off. You don't have to do anything special with the ramp. However, because these were commercial vehicles, they were not designed for airlift.

"We had to use some ramps and other techniques to load the cargo on the aircraft without damaging either the vehicles or the aircraft. It wasn't quite as easy as the previous upload of personnel and pallets, but we made it work."

Like the delivery before, this load was initially earmarked for Puerto Rico, but was diverted to St. Thomas during the upload process. Once again, the crew took the changes in stride.

"We got all our ducks in a row and adapted to our new mission," Tellez said. "We arrived as the first C-17 Globemaster III into St. Thomas with FEMA supplies and found that airfield completely devastated. The runway was clear and the ramp was clear, but you could see the roofing material from the top of the terminal had all blown over and been pushed to the side. There were aircraft flipped over, upside down and in ditches. The windows were blown out and there was sea life washed inside the terminals after the flooding."

Though Tellez had involvement in earthquake relief after Haiti was devastated in 2010, he described his most recent relief-bringing effort as particularly fulfilling.

"It was very rewarding," Tellez said. "When we headed to St. Thomas and San Juan, it was after Hurricane Irma, but before Hurricane Jose. We were splitting two hurricanes just to get the FEMA supplies where they needed to be. You can't truck vehicles across the ocean into these islands, so the only source of immediate help is through airlift. That's what we were able to provide the cause."

A first-time experience for Eye, the minute-to-minute nature of the aid mission left a lasting impression.

"It's definitely the most dynamic environment I've ever been in during a mission," Eye said. "Usually when we leave, it's pretty much set in stone that we're going to go here, then here, and doing this; on this mission we just had to be flexible -- press with what you know, but be ready to change. It was a different and rewarding experience and I'm glad I was a part of it."

As the Atlantic continues to hurl storm after storm at the Caribbean and parts of the mainland United States, Tellez had these words of assurance to offer:

"I think I speak for all of the operations community when I say, this is what we want to be doing; this is what we love to do -- helping out and making a difference."


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