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100 airmen from McChord’s 8th Airlift Squadron get orders for the Middle East

Post by Kris Sherman / The News Tribune on April 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
April 21, 2010 4:36 pm

More than 100 airmen from Joint-Base Lewis McChord will soon deploy to the Middle East for missions in and around Iraq, Afghanistan and into Africa, the Air Force said today.

The members of the 8th Airlift Squadron of the 62nd Airlift Wing based at McChord Field will will be gone for about five months, according to a news release on the base website.

No date was given for their departure.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Cimino, 8th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, looks on as a heavy airdrop platform extends from the rear of a C-17 Globemaster III over Moses Lake April 13./Air Force Photo by Abner Guzman)

They’ll take over operations from the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, said the news release from Air Force Capt. Ali Kojak.

Their mission is to provide C-17 airlift, airdrop, medical evacuation and humanitarian aid, the release said. They haul people, equipment and supplies throughout their area of assigned airspace.

“We are constantly adapting and changing our mission because we are at war,” Lt. Col. Stephen Ritter, commander of the 8th Airlift Squadron, said in a statement. “As the guys on the ground take the fight to the enemy, it’s our resupply that allows them to keep going. We deliver anything they need to finish their mission.

“”Our job is inherently dangerous, and the more often you fly in certain areas, naturally the chances are higher of something crazy happening,” he added. “It’s important for us to maintain our focus and intensity, and fight the complacency that might creep in.”

The 62nd Airlift Wing has four flying squadrons. Each deploys about every 16 months

Here’s a copy of Kojak’s release, posted on the McChord website:

by Capt. Ali Kojak
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

4/21/2010 – JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — More than 100 Airmen from the 8th Airlift Squadron will soon deploy to the Middle East in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. For approximately 120 days, the unit will operate out of a single base, managing and flying missions concentrated in and around Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa.

The McChord Field Airmen will take over the operations of the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. The mission of the 816th EAS is to provide global strategic airlift, airdrop, aeromedical evacuation and humanitarian relief, to create an air bridge for personnel, equipment and supplies throughout their assigned areas of responsibility.

“We are constantly adapting and changing our mission because we are at war,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Ritter, 8th AS commander. “As the guys on the ground take the fight to the enemy, it’s our resupply that allows them to keep going. We deliver anything they need to finish their mission.”

On any given day there are numerous aircrews from the 62nd Airlift Wing out on the road, flying missions in support of various operations. With a demanding operations tempo considered standard, flying in a deployed environment might seem like just another day on the job.

“The biggest difference is that you are doing it every day for four months straight,” said Colonel Ritter. “Our job is inherently dangerous, and the more often you fly in certain areas, naturally the chances are higher of something crazy happening. It’s important for us to maintain our focus and intensity, and fight the complacency that might creep in.”

The 62nd AW has four flying squadrons, and each squadron deploys approximately every sixteen months. The deployments allow Air Mobility Command to consistently position assets closer to the action.

“When a squadron is deployed, there are crews and aircraft already in the AOR dedicated to that specific mission,” said Lt. Col. Teri Consoldane, 8th AS director of operations. “C-17 squadrons are needed because the C-17 is a relevant and critical platform in today’s operating environment. This airframe and its capabilities are necessary for the warfighters to do what they do.”

Preparing more than 100 Airmen to deploy is never easy, and when those Airmen are frequently on the road supporting mobility operations, the job gets even harder.

“It’s like the legs of a stool: you have the flying, family and mobility aspects,” said Colonel Ritter. “It has been a herculean task to maintain the current ops tempo while making sure everyone is ready to deploy with the necessary training and currencies. It’s a balancing act between training requirements and operations, day-to-day issues, and taking care of families.”

On top of ensuring usual mobility requirements are met, it is also important to address flying-specific concerns as part of the preparation. Working with wing tactics, the 8th AS leaned forward to build a training program that focused on the current needs of aircrews in the field.

“We really took a proactive approach to training for this deployment,” said Colonel Consoldane. “Taking into account that the nature of our flying and the conditions of the airfields are constantly changing, we did our best to create realistic simulator and ground training to make crews as prepared as possible.”

Although away from loved ones and far from home, deployments offer some benefits for a flying squadron.

“It really helps the camaraderie of the squadron because everyone is at one location at the same time,” said Senior Master Sgt. Rob Cissell, 8th AS superintendent. “Usually we are scattered around the world in twos and threes, but during the deployment we can all come together. We have squadron events where everyone can attend, and that does a lot for morale.”

More importantly, it gives squadrons a chance to cultivate unit pride.

“The most rewarding part of deployments is being able to flex our capabilities and show what we are all about,” said Master Sgt. Malcolm C. Beegle, 8th AS operations superintendent. “We truly are workhorses, and this gives us a chance to prove what the squadron is really capable of.”

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