Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

Posts made in: 'Tacoma' (9) Currently Viewing: 1 - 9 of 9

July 22, 2011 at 10:16am

Air Force recruiters work tirelessly to mold careers

Staff Sgt. Kevin Krzemieniecki, 361st RCS, measures Cory Stites at the Air Force Recruiting Office Tuesday in Tacoma. (Photo by Ingrid Barrentine)

Six Airmen and a lieutenant might have been shocked when Tech. Sgt. Rey Ornelas walked by them in the commissary or at the gym at McChord Field. They might have thought they had seen a ghost.

It was just their recruiter.

As a former recruiter for three years at the Tacoma Mall recruiting station, Ornelas has helped enlist 125 Airmen and commission four officers.

He met all of his enlistees as civilians looking for a career, unsure of whether the Air Force was right for them. Through a dialogue about what the Air Force offered, they joined and he became their biggest fan, helping them through the mountains of paperwork, transporting them for multiple visits to the Military Entrance Processing Center in Seattle and improving their physical training and military customs and courtesies. But after they left to basic training and technical schools, Ornelas didn't expect to see his recruits again.

His story is typical of the other recruiters with the 361st Recruiting Squadron, which has the mission to provide information and career guidance to those considering joining the U.S. Air Force.

The 361st Sqdn. has nearly 90 recruiters throughout Washington, Oregon and Alaska, across 733,000 square miles.

The headquarters element is in Building 100 at McChord Field.

The squadron is responsible for the largest territory in Air Force Recruiting Services Command, yet has consistently averaged as one of the top units in bringing people into the Air Force, said Master Sgt. Joseph Shelton, the 361st Sqdn. first sergeant. The unit enlists or commissions about 1,000 people a year.

Shelton is tasked with providing the logistic and personnel support for the recruiters working throughout the three states. It's not easy, as some recruiting stations in remote areas have only one recruiter.

Through flight chiefs, the first sergeant stays in contact with his Airmen and gets them what they need, no matter the location.

"It's no different than if they were deployed," Shelton said. "My job is to be the liaison so the recruiters can focus on the mission at hand."

The recruiting squadron is organized differently than most Air Force units.

Squadrons typically have a "triangle of leadership" - a commander, an enlisted superintendent and a first sergeant.

The 361st has a fourth - the production superintendent. This senior master sergeant is the direct-line supervisor for the field-based flight chiefs, and assists the commander with day-to-day operations, keeping track of each recruiter's numbers. Day in, day out, at all hours, the recruiter meets potential recruits at high schools, mall food courts, local concerts or at their houses.

Stress can reach high levels. That's why Shelton tells the flight chiefs to check in often on every recruiter.

"I want them to get close to their guys, know their Families and function as one big Family," the first sergeant said.

Along with the traditional methods for finding potential Airmen, social networking has become a routine part of the process. More leads are coming from Facebook and similar networking sites.

No lead is a bad lead, but not every person is Air Force material, Ornelas said.

"We determine if it's the right decision for the person right now," he said. "If it is and they join, then it's our job to provide them (the tools) to be ready for basic training and prepared for a career in the Air Force.

Motives have changed during Ornelas' six years in the unit. Before the economy took a downturn, recruits joined to help fight nation's wars. Now, it's more about finding a recession-proof career.

"Jobs are sparse and people are looking for opportunities," Ornelas said. "Ideally, economy good, economy bad, we are still finding the same high-caliber people and giving them every opportunity to make the Air Force an awesome career."

Recruiters are not immune from being deployed. It's rare, Ornelas said, but because Air Force recruiters retain their Air Force Specialty Codes (equivalent to the Army's Military Occupational Specialty) for at least three years to be a recruiter, deployment orders are a possibility.

The application process to become recruiters is straightforward. Airmen interested in offering career options to young prospects need to send applications and submit to psychological evaluations and interviews, to be accepted to the seven-week recruiter school at Lackland Air Force Base at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas,. Mall food, late hours and an intense travel schedule are likely parts of a recruiter's life.

Upon graduation, the new recruiter receives a year of on-the-job training to become fully qualified.

Western Washington recruiters have the advantage of proximity to McChord Field, where they often bring prospects to see Airmen working in fields in which they're interested. The 361st also brings local educators by to showcase the community of McChord Field and JBLM.

"Living on (base) is like a little town, with a movie theater, bowling alley, golf course, a gym," Ornelas said.

Successful recruiters get their job satisfaction from knowing the personal contribution they have made to improving another individuals' life, Ornelas said.

"It's a job like no other in the Air Force," he said. "As a weapons loader or aircraft mechanic, you'll know your jet or bomb went on this mission, but you may not see how much impact you had. As a recruiter, when that young man or woman goes to basic training and two years later is an Airman first class or senior Airman, you can see what contribution you made to that individual and the Air Force."

March 17, 2011 at 2:20pm

Washington HS AF JROTC cadets excel at nationals

The Washington High School Air Force JROTC team traveled to Phoenix last weekend to compete in the Air Force Junior ROTC west coast nationals against top teams from western states including Texas, California, Hawaii and Arizona.

Under the leadership of cadet Joshua Stage, the team  competed in unarmed exhibition, regulation and inspection, and all team members competed in the unarmed drill down. In their best performance of the year, the team managed a second place finish in exhibition and also garnered a fourth in inspection. To top off the competition, cadet Brenda Munguia finished first out of over 250 participants in the unarmed drill down. While this was the team's first trip to Arizona, it was the third time in the past six years they earned a first or second place at the national level.

"The competition at nationals was fierce but our team's dedication and hard work paid off in the end," Stage said.

Other team members included Jesse Tuivaiave, Kushaiah Pritchard, Cody Hoefs (Franklin Pierce), Nick Patrick, Byron Crisostomo, Jasmine Kim, Mi Kyeong Jung, Francesca Pratt (FP), Alexandra Svendsen, Brenda Munguia, Collin Schaaff (FP), Nina Williams, Amanda Jimmie,Cody Barnett, Kennett Ashford-White and Meagan Dunmire.

Filed under: Honors, Tacoma, Education,

December 27, 2010 at 10:30am

Local AF veteran restores F-4 Phantom

This from The News Tribune: U.S. Air Force Capt. Howard Stroupe III gave up his status as a fighter pilot in 1978, settling into a long career as an airline pilot with a penchant for collecting.

Space memorabilia, movie posters, fossils - you name it, Stroupe has boxes of it at his Federal Way home.

After decades of amassing such items, he last month added the crowning glory to his massive collection.

It's his old flying partner - an F-4 Phantom II jet, one of the most versatile fighters ever built.

"I never dreamed you could own anything like this," said Stroupe, 62. "I like sitting and looking at it. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling."

To read the complete story, click here.

Filed under: History, U.S. Air Force, Tacoma,

December 20, 2010 at 1:41pm

9-year-old joins airlift squadron

MCCHORD FIELD, JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.  -- After bouncing around from foster home to foster home, Mark Moore Jr. is relieved to be with a loving family during the holiday season. 

The 9-year-old Tacoma, Wash., native was selected by members of the 4th Airlift Squadron to participate in their "Pilot for a Day" program Dec. 17.

Pilot for a Day is an Air Force program that enables challenged youth a chance to visit an Air Force base, becoming part of the team in the process. The participants are usually selected through a partnership with a community hospital or foster program.

"There are so many different agencies and people working to make this day special for one child," said Capt. Chris Kojak, 4th Airlift Squadron Operations flight commander. "We all know how much it means to them. We try as hard as we can to make today perfect."

As a new member of Team McChord, Mark, along with his foster mother, brother and grandfather, took a ride in a fire truck at the McChord fire station. They tested out the emergency evacuation hanging hardness and climbed to the top of the command tower. They also got the chance to visit the 62nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog unit and tour the inside of a C-17 Globemaster III. 

"My favorite part was visiting the military dogs," said Mark. "I want to buy one when I get older. Not a mean one, but a nice one."

Moore's foster mother, Colleen Remaly, expressed his long awaited anticipation and excitement for the day's events. Her son, Jaden, is two years older than Mark, and she says they get along perfectly. 

"Instead of counting down the days until Christmas, they've been counting down for this," said Remaly. "They have not stopped talking about how awesome today is going to be."

After a long day of tours and demonstrations, Mark explained how the Air Force sounds like an appealing career choice. 

"I'm going to be in the Air Force when I grow up," said Mark. "I don't know what I'm going to do. But I really like this uniform. I want to wear it for a long time."    

September 24, 2010 at 2:26pm

Judge rules lesbian nurse should be reinstated in Air Force

This from The News Tribune: Margaret Witt has won her legal battle with the Air Force. The military was not justified in firing the lesbian flight nurse for homosexual conduct, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton ruled today at the federal courthouse in Tacoma.

Leighton's decision in the closely watched case throws the government's "don't ask, don't" tell policy into even more uncertainty.

Witt was fired for her homosexual conduct in 2004 after 18 years. The highly-decorated flight nurse challenged her dismissal, arguing it infringed on her constitutional rights.

Attorneys for the Air Force argued during the trail that all regulations in the military - including those involving homosexuality - must be enforced uniformly to maintain order and morale.

September 20, 2010 at 3:31pm

Lesbian seeking return to Air Force testifies

TACOMA, Wash. -- A decorated Air Force Reserve flight nurse discharged for being gay took the witness stand at her federal trial Monday and told the judge it "kills me" not to be able to care for wounded soldiers while the country is at war.

Former Maj. Margaret Witt has sued the Air Force in hopes of being reinstated.

For more on this story, click here.

April 29, 2010 at 4:16pm

Rainiers honor Armed Forces

The Tacoma Rainiers baseball team hosts a Salute to Armed Forces theme at its game May 8 at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, against the Las Vegas 51s at 7 p.m. Discount tickets are available for all military ID card holders and their families. Advance purchase tickets, which include a ballpark meal, are $5 and game day tickets are $5 (subject to availability).

Those in the military will be recognized throughout the game. For more information, visit

April 8, 2010 at 12:48pm

Chamber seeks nominees for citizen-soldier awards

The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber will recognize the Howard O. Scott Citizens of the Year at its 29th annual presentation May 4.

The chamber is currently seeking nominations for the award.  Guidelines are as follows:

1. A Reservist or National Guard member, any service;

2. A resident of Tacoma or Pierce County;

3. Professional in both military and civilian occupations;

4. An exemplary volunteer in the community

5. Additional consideration given if the nominee is an employee of a Chamber member or owns a business that is a Chamber member.

Nominations should be no longer than two pages (no photos).  While military professionalism is important, this is usually a given standard, according to a letter from Gary Brackett with the chamber.  As such, he recommends the nomination focus on the nominee' s volunteerism in the community.

Selection of the honoree will be made by the Military Affairs Committee of the chamber.  Wing Reservists' nominations should be submitted to Lt. Col. Anna Sullivan, 446th AW Public Affairs, in Bldg. 1214.  Deadline for submitting nominees to public affairs is April 19.

Courtesy 446th AW Public Affairs

November 16, 2009 at 2:10pm

Military children are a strong bunch

On Friday, I had the pleasure of attending a military family support summit at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center. The summit provided a great forum for educators, community leaders and private agencies to get together and collaborate on ideas and resources to support military families.

The morning panel featured a group of military teens who passed the microphone down the line answering a slew of questions designed to tap into subjects such as what it's like to be a military child, challenges each face when they change schools, how school administrators can better help incoming students and how each deal with their emotions when a parent is deployed.

Although some of the teens clearly weren't used to speaking in large groups(especially growing up in the age of MySpace and Facebook), I was impressed with how each one responded to the different questions.

When asked how she coped with her father's deployment, one teen responded, "I don't see it as coping — I see it as a part of my life and a part of our family."

Another teen said that while her and her older siblings were able to connect with their father on his deployment through letters and e-mails, she said her youngest sister (around age 5) was able to connect better with where her dad was and what he was doing through a gift from the country he sent her.

The panel was also emotional, as another teen said that one the most effective things a teacher can do to see how they are doing during a deployment is to listen.

"It can make our day," he said.

Another girl chimed in: "A hug can go a long way."


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