Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Davis-Monthan Airmen Host February's Pilot for a Day

by Airman Jerilyn Quintanilla
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/24/2010 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB, Ariz. -- Marcus Lucero, a 7-year-old battling hydrocephalus, toured the base Feb. 20 as this month's participant in the Pilot for a Day program.

The purpose of the program is to provide local children with serious illnesses a day completely devoted to them and their interest in aviation.

Marcus brought along his mother, Charlotte, brother, Matthew, and sister, Sienna. His day started off by meeting his host pilot, Capt. Jason "Trunk Monkey" Bartels, an A-10 pilot with the 358th Fighter Squadron.

Captain Bartels brought Marcus to his squadron, where Marcus put on his new flight suit, complete with a personalized name tag and squadron patches. There, Marcus and his family learned more about the life support gear the pilots wear when flying and looked through night-vision goggles.

After finishing up at the 358th, Captain Bartels brought Marcus and his family to the D-M Fire Protection Flight to meet the Airmen and see the fire trucks.

From there, the group visited the 79th Rescue Squadron's hangar, where Marcus and his family checked out an HC-130 rescue aircraft. Marcus toured the inside of the plane before heading to the 55th Rescue Squadron, where he toured an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter.

At the next stop, Marcus had the opportunity to see an A-10 aircraft on static display.

The group then headed to the 355th Operations Support Squadron. While there Marcus experienced the A-10 flight simulator, a system that replicates flying an aircraft over a virtual map.

After his mock flight, their visit ended with a tour of the aircraft control tower where he had the chance to see the tower simulator. At the end of his tower tour Marcus was presented with an "Honorary Air Traffic Controller" certificate and occupation badge. Then, Marcus and his family headed home.

"My favorite part was flying in the A-10 simulator." Marcus said, "I got to shoot two planes down and I bombed my school! It was cool!"

The day was just as special for Marcus's mom.

"This is a great program -- very exciting and educational," said Ms. Lucero. "I really appreciate everyone who took the time to make this happen for him."

For Captain Bartels, teaching the young boy about the Air Force was a tremendous opportunity.

"Marcus is a phenomenal young man," said the captain. "His positive attitude is a model for us all to follow. Watching his eyes light up while shooting the fire truck's water cannon or flying the A-10 simulator was the greatest thanks I could have asked for."

Pilot for a Day participant Marcus Lucero, seven years old, experiences flight in an A-10 simulator at the 355th Operations Group, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, February 19, 2010. Marcus and his family were provided with a tour of the base and visited the 358th Fighter Squadron, the air traffic control tower and the D-M Fire Department. This program affords children with disabilities or serious illnesses with a day devoted to them and their interest in aviation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jerilyn Quintanilla) Hi-res


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