Reflecting on a Civic Leader Tour

  • Published
  • By Brent Newman
  • Captain, California Highway Patrol
After a pre-flight briefing that included introductions over pastries and coffee, we boarded our C-130, strapped in, and taxied. Shortly after takeoff, the #3 engine experienced an overspeed condition that caused us to return to base. This unplanned event provided an opportunity for the 934th to show what competent contingency planning is, as they transferred our cargo -- even the comfort pallet -- to back-up aircraft. The guests were amazed at the efficiency and coordination exhibited by the ground crew and the level of advanced planning by command staff. Before we knew it, we were once again airborne en route Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

The flight down was smooth. I had the privilege of sitting on the flight deck for the landing, observing the communication between the flight crew. Disciplined and orderly, impressive in every way.
Once on the ground, we were shuttled to lunch at the O-Club, which included delicious Mexican cuisine and presentations by Col. Tim Tarchick, 934th Airlift Wing commander,  to members of the 943rd Rescue Group at DM. We were then divided into three groups which rotated between three stations: static HH-60 display in the hangar; HH-60 flight; and introduction to PJs and their equipment. The PaveHawk flight was outstanding, but I was particularly impressed by the interaction with the Pararescue Jumpers. Realizing the level of expertise each obtains in a variety of challenging disciplines was jaw-dropping. The years of preparation for HH-60 flight crews and the PJs that deploy from them shows a level of commitment and discipline that commands respect.

We then checked into our rooms as the sun began to set. Our bags had been placed in our rooms - again, very impressive! As a group we ventured to Pinnacle Pete's for 32 oz t-bone steaks and a few more presentations. A live cowboy show followed, and then we rode the bus back to the base for a much needed night's rest.

The next morning we had a delicious buffet breakfast at the O-Club. Colonel Tarchick shared experiences when he commanded the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick AFB. We were reminded of those that sacrifice so much so that others may live. Given the opportunity to provide feedback, several members of the tour expressed appreciation for a new found knowledge of today's Reserve. Most on the tour had an outdated view of the "weekend warrior," rather than today's professional fighting airman. It became apparent that most of these dedicated men and women have families, full-time jobs outside USAFR, and still contribute many hours in service of our country.

We wrapped up our morning with a static display and tour of an A-10 on the flight line. We then bused to a waiting KC-135, which lifted off late morning en route back to Minneapolis. While somewhere over the heartland, we practice refueled a RC-135 with student pilots on board. The RC-135 was able to connect and disconnect for nearly 45 minutes, giving everyone on the tour a chance to lay down in the boomer box and watch in awe as the RC-135 danced under our aircraft. The view is awesome!

We landed back at cloudy Minneapolis a little after  4 p.m. To a person, we were all immensely grateful for the experience of a lifetime. Most importantly, and I mean this with all sincerity, we were all left with hearts of gratitude for the men and women of the Air Force Reserve who risk and sacrifice greatly to secure our liberty.

To that point, during the flights to and from Minneapolis, I was able to finish "To Try Men's Soul's", a recently released book about the Battle of Trenton of December 26, 1776. This battle proved to be the turning point for the Revolutionary Army, commanded by General Washington. The men under his command suffered beyond measure, and many died, for the improbable hope of liberty. During the low point in the war as the battle approached, Thomas Paine wrote, "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: -- 'Tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to set a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated."

Reflecting on the dedication and sacrifice of General Washingon's army was appropriate as I considered that of the men and women of the United States Air Force Reserve. May God continue to grant His blessings on these warrior servants and on this great country.