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Guam business leaders take flight

  • Published
  • By Major Colleen Johnson
  • 4th Air Force Public Affairs
Twenty-five local civilian employers of Air Force Reserve members assigned to the 44th Aerial Port Squadron and the 724th Aeromedical Staging Flight, here, participated in a Nov. 13th employer appreciation flight aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker.

While aboard the training mission, the group received an up-close view of the tanker refueling a B-52 Stratofortress over the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

The event marked an outreach effort by the 624th Regional Support Group, the largest Air Force Reserve presence in the Pacific, to educate the Reservists' civilian employers on what these citizen airmen do when fulfilling their Air Force Reserve duties.

Thirteen airmen from the 44th APS and 724th ASTF flew along with the employers as well.

The entire event, from the early morning arrival on base to the farewell luncheon, was organized and conducted by a team representing a cross-section of the Air Force Reserve Command. Employers met citizen airmen assigned in Guam and interacted with a consolidated aircrew from the 452nd Air Mobility Wing and 4th Air Force headquarters, March Field, Calif., 459th Air Refueling Wing, Andrews AFB, Md., and 931st Air Refueling Group, McConnell AFB, Kan.

The employers checked in at the gate that morning before arriving at the 44th APS conference room for introductions and mission briefings. Colonel Robert "Randy" Huston, 624th RSG commander, welcomed the guests and introduced them to the diverse mission of the two Guam-based units.

"Members of the Air Force Reserve are key enablers of the Air Force mission here on Guam," he said. "These folks, working both for you and for the Air Force Reserve, augment local operations, and many have participated in multiple deployments overseas."

Two Guam-based representatives from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve welcomed the business leaders, honored them with Patriot Awards (certificates and lapel pins to recognize and honor outstanding employers) and educated them on the legal responsibilities of both parties when an airman is called to duty. Each employer readily gave their pledge of continued support for the Reserve mission here by signing a support agreement, which serves as a symbol of the cooperative relationship the 624th RSG and other Reserve units aim to achieve with each employer.

"Working together and openly communicating will help us each achieve our mission successfully," Col Huston told the employers. "We recognize that you as employers make sacrifices, alongside our reservists and their families, and we want to work together to minimize the impact that deployed reservists have on your companies and the community."

After these conversations, the group headed through the passenger terminal, took a quick tour of operations there, and boarded a bus for the aircraft. Most of these employers had never flown on military aircraft before and one could easily feel their excitement.

"We are so thrilled to get this opportunity and have been looking forward to it for weeks," said Kim Young, president of Security Title, Inc., of Tamuning, Guam. Mrs. Young, along with her husband Ronald, flew for the first time on a military aircraft. "There's no way we were going to miss this," she said. The Young's employee, Airman 1st Class Angel Mafnas of the 44th APS, also flew on the mission that day.

"I've never flown on a military plane before, but my nephew told me I had to come," said Paul Shimizu, Export Manager of Ambros, Inc., of Guam. Mr. Shimizu's company employs four members of the 624th RSG as well as six guardsmen. "I'm ready to be impressed," he said.

The groups' anticipation grew as they were given a chance to survey the KC-135's exterior and discuss the planned, in-flight refueling with the aircrew.

"This is so much fun! My five boys are going to be jealous when I tell them what I did today," said 1st Lt. Margaret Gogue, 724th ASTF.

Senior Master Sgt. Ray Lewis, 18th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, McConnell AFB, Kansas, gave a tour around the exterior of the KC-135. The group asked him many questions, wanting to know specifics such as how close the receiving aircraft gets to the tanker during refueling (approximately 20 feet), how much fuel the KC-135 can carry (200,000 pounds) and how long the boom arm reaches (20 feet when fully extended).

Once aboard, Senior Airman Matt Oberlin, 756th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, instructed the employers on safety precautions and emergency procedures while on the aircraft.

Two employers were allowed to ride in the cockpit during take-off. "Seeing the island from this perspective is certainly new to me," said Tony Thomas, Military Accounts Manager at Midpac Distributors. Mr. Thomas is responsible for sales, marketing and promotions on military installations. Midpac employs four members of the 44th APS.

Approximately 30 minutes after take-off the tanker's rendezvous with the B-52 commenced. Twenty-five eager eyes flooded to the back of the tanker to watch SrA. Oberlin operate the boom. Because he made six contacts with the B-52, off-loading 1,200 pounds of fuel, everyone was able to get a clear view, take pictures and marvel at the aircraft's capabilities and the crews' skills and professionalism.

"This was the first incentive ride I've participated in where I was operating the boom in front of so many onlookers," SrA. Oberlin said. "I'm pretty much solely focused on the airplane that's 30 feet behind us, so honestly I wasn't very conscious of the people watching me."

Throughout the mission the aircrew and airmen flying with the employers answered many questions on the details of the flight and the dimensions of the tanker, but most importantly the airmen discussed their personal experiences in the Air Force Reserve.

"Having this sort of one-on-one interaction boosts morale for the Reservists and creates greater understanding between employer and employee," Col. Huston said. "This event has been a tremendous success, and we'll definitely do this again soon."