Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: December, 2017 (5) Currently Viewing: 1 - 5 of 5

December 7, 2017 at 12:25pm

62nd APS lifts spirits

Airmen assigned to the 62nd Aerial Port Squadron load cargo alongside sister servicemembers Oct. 9 on the island of Martinique. Photo credit: 62nd Airlift Wing

During what will likely be remembered as one of the fiercest hurricane seasons in a century, the Caribbean island of Dominica was devastated by Hurricane Maria, which made landfall in mid-September as a Category 5 hurricane.

In response, the 62nd Airlift Wing deployed members of the 62nd Aerial Port Squadron to support air mobility operations for hurricane relief in neighboring Martinique, managing aerial port operations to and from hurricane stricken areas.

"We traveled to Martinique in support of the island of Dominica," said Tech. Sgt. Henry Achilles, 62nd APS air transportation standardization evaluation program. "Martinique had not been hit badly by Hurricane Maria, while Dominica had been all but destroyed. Nine of every 10 buildings had been leveled there; trees had no leaves or branches, but looked like sticks shooting from the ground. It was unreal."

While in the Caribbean, Achilles and a team of 62nd APS members including Senior Airman Leonel Cardenas-Lopez, Senior Airman Bridger Stampe-Gerstenslager, Airman 1st Class Connor Adams and Airman 1st Class Kyle Knight, were tasked with the responsibility of redeploying the joint task force that had been dispatched to the islands in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

"Our primary mission was to assist with the redeployment of Joint Task Force Leeward Islands' cargo and personnel, as well as transporting any last-minute supplies to this island of Dominica," Achilles explained. "Each day, we met with our Army counterparts in the French military side of the airport which we were allowed to share. From there, we planned the logistical redeployment of all cargo that needed airlift to the United States ensuring it was air worthy and conducting joint inspections."

Proving ‘one team, one fight' is more mentality than simple slogan, airmen worked alongside service men and women from the Army, the Navy and the Marine Corps to bring relief to the people of Dominica.

"It is always interesting to see how other services interact amongst themselves, with sister services and between officer and enlisted ranks," Achilles said. "I have worked joint missions many times before, but in this particular environment you couldn't tell that everyone was from different services. We came together to work hard and get the mission done. That's what being part of a joint task force is all about."

When the 62nd APS headed for home, they were the last crew of United States service members to depart the island. Though their 10-day role in the mission was relatively brief, the temporary duty left a lasting impression on Achilles.

"In spite of the hardships the people of Dominica were facing, they were friendly and welcoming, grateful for whatever supplies we could provide," the technical sergeant said. "It's nice to do the hard work and see the immediate, tangible reward."

In addition to aid rendered to the island of Dominica, Team McChord airmen flew 15 airlift missions in support of hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico including more than 920,000 pounds of cargo and 270 passengers and aeromedical patients airlifted by means of C-17 Globemaster III, a report from the 62nd Airlift Wing detailed.

The 62nd AW also flew the first C-17 into St. Thomas following Hurricane Irma, airlifting 50 Federal Emergency Management Agency Urban Search and Rescue personnel, ground equipment, and supplies to the badly damaged island.

"I had never been part of a humanitarian aid mission before," Achilles said. "I would love to be part of one again. Seeing conditions on the island headed in the right direction after such devastation was extremely rewarding."

December 7, 2017 at 12:30pm

Family Readiness pays it forward

Jill Marconi, Family and Airman Readiness director, speaks to community leaders during the Pierce Military and Business Alliance (PMBA) board in November in Lakewood. Photo credit: Maj. Brooke Davis

The 446th Airlift "Rainier" Wing Family and Airman Readiness is gearing up for the holiday season and is in the highly capable hands of a new director.

As the new Family and Airman Readiness director, Jill Marconi brings an extra special toolbox of skills to enhance the quality of life for military and families here.

With the holiday season ramping up, Jill gives us insight into her background and goals as the Family and Airman Readiness director.

1. Can you describe how your background in Family Readiness gives you the tools to help military members and their families?
I have worked for the government now for over 30 years and have a great toolbox that I have acquired over the years. Some from personal experience of being a military wife and some just from meeting other people and learning new things from them. There's always something that we can do, even if I don't have it in my toolbox, I can certainly go and try to find an answer and then add that source to my toolbox.

2. What was something you experienced early on in Family Readiness that inspires you to serve as the director?
There's a saying of paying it forward ... to me that means as a servant to others. My job is to serve in the capacity of helping others. So in my past, someone helped me out when I needed it and now it is my turn to pay back by paying it forward. My job is to help empower people, give them the tools to go out and be the person they want to be.

3. Can you tell us a particular story that stands out in your mind about how your passion for Family Readiness has helped others?
Sure, what comes to mind is about a young man that believed me when I told him I would help him anytime he needed it. At the time I was working on an active-duty Army base, and I didn't realize how troubled this young man was until he showed up at my doorstep at midnight one night. He told me he was trying to commit suicide, and had failed. He needed help and the only person he thought he could rely on was me. So what I said to him must've really stuck in that young man. He grew up to be a wonderful person and now is a father himself. That just means sincerity, honesty and compassion can mean so much to others.

4. Arriving in the area around the holidays is great timing. Can you describe how it is to work with the local community to help support military families during the holidays?
This was great timing for me; holidays are wonderful. However, some of us may need that extra blessing from family, friends or support agency. Working with the community is easy; I just jumped right in. There's a great legacy here with Team McChord, always ready to jump into action when called. Everybody was very receptive in our community to have me here. Coming from the same type of job, it was easy for me to transition into a new community and one that I am very grateful to have around all of us.

5. Transitioning from Grissom Air Reserve Base to a joint community, can you discuss some advantages of resources available to military members and their families?
Being on a standalone base is great ...  things happen easily because everybody knows everybody and can always assist when needed. However, the advantage of being on an active-duty base for our military members is fabulous. Working with the resources of Team McChord and JBLM resources creates a tremendous resource of helping agencies. There are more resources that our people will be able to take advantage of so it's great to be part of a wonderful team here.

6. What are you looking forward to most about returning to your home state?
The best thing about returning to my home state is that I get to be with my family again. I left when I was very young and it has been numerous years that I have not returned home for long periods of time. So now it's wonderful to be able to spend holidays and birthdays and just any day with my family here.

7. What advice would you have for a military member or their family who might be struggling here with financial issues?
Over the years I've seen numerous people struggle with finances and there's always some form of help out there. Even if it's from budgeting to writing checks to understanding how to stay within a budget or getting some form of aid and assistance. It takes a very strong person to come in and ask for help. For a person to come in here and tell me that they are financially struggling means that they are working very hard in order to pull themselves out of the situation. I'm honored to serve those who are trying and figure out how to help each other. Life is hard sometimes and they just need that extra hand.

8. Can you give us a rundown of your goals as the new Family Readiness director?
My goal is to have events when all the helping agencies that we have are together and being able to share with the family members what we have available for them. Families are curious about what their loved ones do with their time here, and letting them know that we are here for the families as well can bring a better understanding when it comes to deployment separation.  I would really like to see us have a Christmas party for the children each year and perhaps a Wing family day, so that we can come together at least twice a year.

December 14, 2017 at 10:02am

62nd Airlift Wing Airman found deceased

An Airman assigned to the 62nd Airlift Wing was found deceased in his on-base dormitory at approximately 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12.

Airman Cody Watt, an aerospace propulsion apprentice assigned to the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, enlisted in the Air Force, Oct. 18, 2016 and arrived on station here, March 13, 2017.

“This loss comes as a shock and is felt deeply,” said Col. Rebecca Sonkiss, 62nd Airlift Wing commander. “We are all grieving alongside Airman Watt’s family and extend our sincere condolences to them during this time of great personal loss."

The cause of death is currently under investigation, but no foul play is suspected at this time. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.

December 14, 2017 at 11:13am

Heroic cop joins Rainier Wing

Officer Daniel J. Aguirre. Courtesy photo

The desire to serve is strong for many Reserve citizen airmen, and one heroic police officer returned to service after being recognized for his valor during an intense standoff with an armed robber.

Before he signed up to become a member of the 446th Security Forces Squadron in April, Staff Sgt. Daniel Aguirre, 446th SFS fire team leader, was serving as an officer in the Seattle Police Department where he still serves today.

During the course of his duty as a police officer earlier this year in January, Aguirre and his partner became involved in the pursuit of an armed robber that would ultimately result in their award of the highest distinction the SPD has to offer: the Medal of Honor.

Early in the afternoon, police received a report of an armed robbery in the 3300 block of Rainier Avenue South, where the suspect had reportedly brandished a handgun and taken another man's cellphone. The suspect, later identified as notorious robber "Top Notch," pistol-whipped the victim and also fired a shot.

The suspect fled the scene in a stolen Volkswagen Jetta before police could arrive. Aguirre and his partner, Officer Christina Bradley, located the car a short time later in the Central District, having already been present to address nearby community concerns.

While leading police on a brief chase through a residential neighborhood, the suspect collided with an unoccupied parked car. He then exited his own vehicle where he fired one shot at Aguirre and Bradley who quickly proceeded to pursue the suspect on foot.

Aguirre and Bradley called in for support and quickly set up a perimeter and contained the area where the suspect had been hiding. With nowhere to go, the suspect was eventually overwhelmed and apprehended by police.

For their heroic actions during the pursuit and their instrumental roles in apprehending a violent criminal, Aguirre and Bradley were both awarded with the Medal of Honor by the Seattle Police Department, a rarely awarded distinction.

"I think the award really represents the entire unit," said Aguirre, "a lot of people played important roles in this incident and my role in it was small, but I am honored on behalf of everybody who was involved."

In joining the 446th SFS a few months after the incident, Aguirre brings with him a breadth of experience that he can share with his new unit.

"Having known him prior to his joining it was no surprise at all to see the way in which he conducted himself. He really adds to the strength of our unit through his selfless sacrifice," said Maj. Ryan Bradley, 446th SFS commander and former SPD Officer.

Aguirre, who was in the United States Marine Corps for five years prior to becoming a police officer, chose to become a Reserve citizen airman as way of getting back into the military life and serving his country.

"It's the comradery that draws me," said Aguirre, "the opportunity to participate in something bigger than myself."

For Aguirre the accolades and esteem have never been part of the appeal to service.

"Our people are silent professionals," remarked Bradley, "and I want people like him in my unit. It takes a special kind of person to run towards a threat when rounds are flying around, and I know that while he's in this unit he's going to be an asset, he's going to be a leader."

December 28, 2017 at 11:54am

JBLM airmen complete life-saving mission

Airmen from the 4th Airlift Squadron and downrange medical teams load a U.S. Navy sailor on to a C-17 for transport Nov. 9 in Baghdad. Photo credit: Capt. Tim McCammon

After completing days of continuous flights, one 4th Airlift Squadron air crew took on a seemingly impossible mission. Tasked to transport a U.S. Navy sailor in critical condition, airmen from the 4th AS raced against time to get the patient suffering from injuries sustained in an IED explosion, from Baghdad to Ramstein Air Base, Germany. 

The severity of the 34-year-old sailor's wounds reduced his survival rate to two percent, requiring urgent transport from Syria to Texas. Timing was of the essence and responsive, continuous air mobility was needed to successfully transport the sailor. Fortunately, the airmen were prepared to assist in providing critical transport.

Arriving to Baghdad from Syria, where the accident took place, the patient required more than seven hours of surgery before departure to Ramstein AB.

The sailor's injuries included a torn trachea, cervical spine injury, tibia/fibula fracture and an open eye injury. Doctors also had to perform an emergency thoracotomy to manually massage the sailor's heart before aeromedical teams arrived.

"The severity of injuries sustained by the patient were massive," said Maj. Joshua Hamilton, Critical Care Air Transport Team physician. "Many of us were shocked he survived the initial injury."

The McChord aircrew remained on alert while the patient was operated on. They were given 45-minutes notice to prepare for the patient's delivery to the C-17 and prepare for departure.

"The mission was getting the sailor the care he needed," said Capt. Tim McCammon, 4th AS pilot and aircraft commander. "Communication was key to the success of the flight."

The patient required constant care during the flight from numerous medical teams, which included a critical care air transport team, an extra corporeal membrane oxygenation team, and an aeromedical evacuation team.

"We were all trying to get the patient to Ramstein safely. It was our immediate goal," said McCammon. "We remained in constant communication with the medical crew director throughout the flight and kept an open line of communication."

Because of the patient's sensitive condition, the air crew had to take considerable measures to accommodate him during the flight, said McCammon. The max cabin altitude couldn't exceed a max of 5,000 feet for the well-being of the patient. This meant that the aircraft had to fly considerably lower than it would normally, which imposed new possible threats and consumed more fuel during the flight.

"We had to get the job done correctly to save his life knowing even if we did he still might not make it," said McCammon. "So that weighed on us, but we couldn't let that external stress effect the way we did our job."

Stress was high for everyone during the flight but particularly the sailor's partner who accompanied him, said Tech. Sgt. Brian Layton, 4th AS instructor loadmaster.

"I had to keep his partner up to speed with everything and keep him comfortable, said Layton. "I kept him engaged throughout the flight to keep his mind off his partner."

During the seven-hour flight the aircrew worked tirelessly to ensure the patients next flight would be ready for him and could also accommodate his care needs, but this came with some extra effort, according to McCammon. The aircrew used inflight satellite communications to order prescriptions for the patient and to ensure the aircraft would be serviced at Ramstein AB prior to its next flight.

"My responsibilities as aircraft commander were to ensure the safe transportation of the team and patient in and out of the combat zone," said McCammon. "In addition to operating the aircraft, I worked with the medical crew director to ensure the crew heading back to the states had what they needed to be able to accomplish their mission."   

Despite having transmitted more than 10 time zones in the last 48 hours prior to the flight and fighting exhaustion, the aircrew performed at their finest, said McCammon.

"We are always thinking about the patient, and at the same time we had to keep in mind threat maneuvering," said McCammon. The drive to get the mission done is always there but when you have a tangible goal that you can see, it motivates you to get the mission done to the best of your ability.

After facing plausible threats, adverse weather and challenges getting necessary diplomatic clearances, the aircrew and passengers touched down at Ramstein AB. At their parking spot they had another crew waiting for them to take the aircraft and patient to Baltimore, Maryland.

"There was a general sense of relief that we had gotten him their safely," said McCammon. "But the tone of the crew was solemn knowing things were still not looking better for the patient."

Close to 24 hours from the time the patient was transported from Syria, he safely arrived at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas, in better shape than when he left, said McCammon.

"This mission shows the level of training and proficiency of our aircrew. These airmen are superbly good at their jobs," said McCammon. "This also highlights AMC's (Air Mobility Command's) rapid global mobility capabilities."

The sailor is reported to be making a successful recovery according to medical experts at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Texas.

"It's awesome when you can have this kind of impact and potentially save someone's life. It resonates why what we do is so important," said McCammon. "Sometimes you need a reminder like this."

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