Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sun, Speed, and Soldiers

About four months ago, I was notified at work that I had been selected to participate in an ESGR trip. ESGR stands for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves. We have an active base here that trains F-15 pilots. They are our third largest employer and to say we are a patriotic town would be an understatement.

In recognition for their support, about 20 of us were treated to an overnight stay in Tuscon, Arizona. Our transportation from Oregon to Arizona was this beautiful KC-135.
Now maybe some of you have travelled aboard one of these "luxury" liners but let me help those of you who haven't. First, you'll notice there's no luxury. True to the military style, everything has a purpose. There's no real bling on this liner. I arrived expecting cargo net seats but was pleased to find they put chairs just for us.
So on a regular commercial flight, it's all prettied up. The pretty little lights signify the exit, yadda yadda. Not so on this plane. A warning is a warning - it's stated plain as day.

Anyway, we said goodbye to 42 degrees and headed up into the clouds. We were going to get treated to something special. About an hour into our flight, these beautiful visitors stopped by to say hi:
After they posed for photos, they took turns coming to the back of our plane for refueling. We got to lay down in the boom and watch the refueling. It was fascinating. I'm amazed at what the guy in charge of this is able to do. He basically uses two controllers similar to a joystick and lines everything up perfectly. Here's the operator.

Here's our first visitor for refueling:
Notice how close to us he is to our plane. We could darn near make eye contact. Well hello there flyboy:) Now back to the guy who refuels, he has to line up this thing (shown in the photo below) with the plane (shown above) to refuel.

He does this all while flying at warp speed in a circle. With me on one side taking photos and asking a million questions. He's a superstar!

We landed and got a tour of one of Tuscon's Air Force Bases. We got to stand out on the runway and watch the jets land:

And take off (that's our bus):

The next day, we were treated to a trip through the boneyard. The place aircraft go to retire. To say it's huge is an understatement.
We found a row that contained several planes from home

I'd like to add we also got to fly in their state of the art simulators...the only place we weren't allowed to take photos. After taking my plane underground, I recovered and was able to land it (sort of). I don't think pilot is in my list of available occupations.

We had a great time and I learned alot about the Guard's role in our communities. The men and women who serve were gracious and friendly and willing to answer questions. I'm so honored to have been able to go! Hope you enjoyed the photos!

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