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What a ride!

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Dale Place
  • 27 Aerial Port Squadron
As I look back on my military career, I am amazed at what I've been a part of that anyone who has not served would not even know existed. My whole career has been associated with military aircraft and I've gotten to play with almost every different kind at some point.

During my tech school, we trained on obsolete jets, some of which were still being used in the fleet. A4's and F3's were the primary trainers with parts of others thrown in. My first duty station was a small Naval Air Station near Pensacola, Florida as a structure mechanic on T-28 Trojan aircraft. All excited to work the new fancy jets the Navy had to offer, I was somewhat disappointed when I drove onto that small base to see brightly colored white and orange, prop driven aircraft sitting on the flight line.

After being assigned to a Plane Captain position on the line, I quickly realized our mission of training naval aviators was essential to maintaining quality pilots to send to Vietnam. I was an 18 year old farm kid that received training on all aspects of flightline processes including fueling, marshaling, pre/post flight inspections and doing engine runs every three days. Wasn't too glamorous but as I think back on it, I'm amazed at how much responsibility I had compared to my old schoolmates back home.

Fast track forward 20 years and I'm joining the Air Force Reserve as an Aerial Porter. Having no clue what I got myself into, I quickly learned the responsibilities that came with different sections in the port. Beginning with drop zone recovery and moving to actually rigging the loads, I knew that if I didn't do it right, I would be responsible for bringing an aircraft down. Then our world changed on 9/11. Off to the AOR within a couple of months supporting OPERATION Southern Watch. Then over the next five years, four more trips supporting all the operations we have been involved with. During those trips, I was able to be part of moving everything from passengers, Burger King Trailers, presidents and too many fallen heroes to count.

Why am I telling you this? Because sometimes those of us who do this all the time fail to realize what we are a part of. We are living and creating history that our children and grandchildren will be studying in coming years. That's something to be extremely proud of. Think about what you do and try to compare it to a job on the civilian side. Realize what you do make a difference in the defense of our country. We are the tip of the spear making sure the American public can sleep free. And we get to do it with the coolest equipment ever invented.

Editor's note: Chief Place will retire during the August UTA.