OK, so I put the boom through the canopy of an F-35, otherwise, it was a fantastic time. I’ll get back to that in a moment. What got me to this opportunity is really the point of this post. I received the nicest email some months back from “Radio.” Radio is a very talented photographer who also is an MSGT at Fairchild AFB, head instructor at the Weapons School. He has over 1500 hours operating a Boom on a KC-135. He reached out to me simply to say thanks for the years of my photographic encouragement and an offer to spend time with him on the base. As you’ll read, neither I nor the Air Force will ever be the same again!
Back to my putting that boom in the canopy of an F-35 (I meant well). “Radio” invited me to spend time with the KC-135, an aircraft I have sooooo wanted to work with. Its mission is just so simplistic (refueling aircraft) and yet so complicated (do it in the air, at night at times). This 50+-year-old aircraft is still the backbone of air refueling so I jumped at the first opportunity to spend time with “Radio” and his passion. We started off in the Cym for Boom operators. The Cym is just an amazing
toy tool where the student gets in the tail of a KC-135, lay on the Pallet and operates the virtual boom delivering fuel to virtual aircraft. As you might have guessed by now, “Radio” put me on the Pallet and the boom I put through the window of an F-35 was virtual. But it seemed all too real to me. After an hour of instruction (“Radio” is a really good teacher!), by my fourth refueling, he said, “You did fine and aren’t even as bad as some of the brand new “trained” booms I have instructed (true story).”
I then got a tour of the Weapon School which was really cool. Honestly, I didn’t mean to fire off that rocket launcher indoors! I’m told they can patch the hole, thank goodness. Yeah, you shouldn’t let me around them virtual
toy tool I guess. The Boss still shook my hand afterward and welcomed me back anytime so I guess that tour went OK (it was really cool!). After that hour, we then spent another three really cool hours inside a 93rd Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 on the flight line. No, I didn’t get in the skies on a KC-135, yet! It is a remarkable aircraft and “Radio” did one helluva job bringing it to life for me with all his stories, on the ground, and in the air! It was an afternoon I won’t soon forget.
And why was I there? Photography has many rewards, the best are those you don’t even see coming. In this case, someone was just paying it forward with a very special thanks. “Radio” is a very special person who services our country (thank God he’s on our side) and reaches out to say thanks to many. I’m glad I don’t have to pay for any virtual damages but man, what a day in a world that up until this afternoon, I could only imagine. Thanks “Radio,” I can’t wait until we meet on the flight line again!