Serving Franklin County, WA

Into the wild blue yonder

On Friday, I had an opportunity to fly aboard a U.S. Air Force KC-135 aircraft and see the demonstration team in action.

I was a frequent flyer when I was in college (I choose to go to a college in Illinois). So, when my boss asked if I wanted to try to fly on the massive Air Force plane, I told him that I loved flying. I was excited the opportunity would further my knowledge of military history and would enjoy talking to a veteran crew about their experiences.

My mother was in the Air Force as an administrative specialist, working for the 400SMS Strategic Missile Squadron, and transportation and supply squadrons. She ended her time in the service as an E5 staff sergeant with Strategic Air Command 90th SMS at F.E. Warren Air Force Base.

She told me many stories of her time in the service, including that she herself could not handle flying on planes and would get very sick.

Little did I know, I would have the same experience.

I quickly got ready to drive to Airway Heights, receiving a call that my flight had been moved up. So, I went straight to Fairchild. There, my fellow media members and I followed our escort to a truck and soon arrived at the very large KC-135.

All three of us were able to take a seat in the cockpit for take off and wear headphones to join in the conversation during take off.

The usual bit of pressure started to hit me as we climbed and a very kind airman asked if I would like some water. I assume I was starting to look a little green. One of the pilots made sure that fans were pointed in my direction.

The plane was circa 1962, the year my mother was born. There wasn't any air conditioning on the 80-degree day.

Once we had reached 10,000 feet, the airman offered for me to see the boom, an area located at the back of the KC-135, which is used to refuel and airlift.

I was able to lay down to look out the small window and see rolling landscape underneath, with many circular crops that I pointed out looked like Pacman - before utilizing the sick bag that had been given me at the beginning of the flight. Most of my flight consisted of sweating, dizziness and a few bouts of sickness.

But the experience wasn't lost on me.

The Air Force crew apologized and reassured me that I wasn't the only person to get sick. As I made my way off the plane and thanked them for the opportunity, I found myself in awe of how they serve our country and take the time to get used to life in the air.

So often I look up at the sky and see a plane flying and wonder about the people who are between destinations, where they are going and what they might be off to do.

The men and women who serve our country in the sky have a mission and purpose to fly, fight and win anytime, anywhere. They protect our sky. Or in the case of the KC-135, they provide aerial refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied aircraft, as well as transporting litter and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets.

With Independence Day approaching next week, I think of how far our country has come thanks to the men and women who give their time, energy and skills to serve our country and keep it free.

Of course, I told my mother all about how I ended up getting sick, with her laughing in response and stating that is why she worked in an office dealing with missiles before bursting out in a spirited rendition of the U.S. Air Force song she said they used to sing.

"Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun; Here they come zooming to meet our thunder, At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun!"

I can only imagine what it must be like to fly under fire and I am beyond grateful to the men and women who choose to serve our country from the sky.

- Teresa Simpson is a Whitman County Gazette reporter. Email her at [email protected].


Reader Comments(0)