Friday, May 21, 2010

Challenges keep job interesting, say flyers

By Carl Bergquist
Dispatch staff writer
Maxwell-Gunter News
May 21, 2010

Wednesday brought the aerial demonstration for this year's National Security Forum, and Maj. Johnnie Green of the A-10 East Demo Team at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., gave the audience a taste of what the Air Force's A-10 Thunderbolt II can do.

Developed by Fairchild-Republic in the early 1970s, the A-10 is designed to provide close air support for ground forces and is sometimes affectionately known as the Warthog.

"I've had three deployments, and I love working with the demonstration team," said Major Green, who is in his second year of a two-year tour with the team. "It provides a great chance to show the capabilities of the A-10 and to meet new people in the process."

He said there are challenges at every base he takes his A-10, but that is what keeps the job interesting. The major, who has more than 1,700 flight hours in the Thunderbolt II, said because of the flat terrain there are not a lot of challenges at Maxwell.

"The primary challenge I have here is not to overfly the show box," he said. "I want to avoid housing areas, crowds and business districts because if something goes wrong and I have to put the plane on the ground, I want to have an open area to do that."

Major Green said one of the reasons he flies a practice run the day before the show is to map out and make adjustments to his flight plan for the next day.

Also on hand for NSF's aerial events day were Maj. Jason Pifer of the 48th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. and Maj. Mike Gallagher of the 71st Rescue Squadron at Moody. Both squadrons fall under Moody's 23rd Wing. Major Pifer described NSF as a "phenomenal opportunity" for NSF participants to get a "snippet into" the thought processes and analytical thinking of the Air Force and to see "what is expected of upcoming officers." Major Gallagher said NSF is a "free snapshot" into the next level of critical thinking for the Air Force.

Both agreed their participation in NSF was also a great opportunity to hear the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force speak about the issues of the day.

When not flying demos, Major Green works with Majors Pifer and Gallagher on search and rescue, humanitarian and personnel recovery missions. In combat, A-10s provide cover and protection while rescue members extract wounded and downed personnel.

Major Gallagher said one advantage of the rescue operations is that the personnel are stationed together and stay together as a team.

"That allows us to get to know each other's capabilities and confidence levels," he said. "This aspect of the job helps because rescue is a reactive process. You have to sit and wait at your base until blank hits the fan, then go do it."

Major Pifer said about 50 percent of rescue operations in Afghanistan involve Afghan citizens, and not all of them are associated with the coalition. Sometimes the calls for help are ploys by insurgents to gain intelligence about coalition operations.

"We do know the bad guys are testing us and observing our procedures. They will often injuresomeone intentionally just to see how long it takes us to get there," he said. "In Afghanistan, Air Force rescue is a lot about achieving the positive effect of helping those hurt. Anyone who gets hurt, to include the enemy, gets our attention."

The major said Air Force rescue is "an extremely busy capability" right now, and is also "very tactically focused" and has an operations tempo of "go, go, go" from the first notification to wheels up on the helicopters.

Major Green added that most search and rescue missions involve non-standard methods to accomplish the goal.

"In search and rescue, there really is no such thing as a standard mission," he said.

Maj. Johnnie Green waves from inside his A-10 Wednesday. (U.S. Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox)


No comments:

Post a Comment