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Army Spc. Kayla Richie, a combat medic, used CPR chest compressions and an automatic external defibrillator alongside another soldier to revive a military family member who collapsed at the Buckner Physical Fitness Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Sept. 27, 2014. Richie is assigned to 2nd Engineer Brigade, U.S. Army Alaska. U.S. Air Force photo by JustinJOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – His eyes were lifeless and empty, staring up at her from the gym floor. She could hear his ribs cracking with each compression, but she knew she couldn't stop.

PHOTO: Army Spc. Kayla Richie, a combat medic, used CPR chest compressions and an automatic external defibrillator alongside another soldier to revive a military family member who collapsed at the Buckner Physical Fitness Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Sept. 27, 2014. Richie is assigned to 2nd Engineer Brigade, U.S. Army Alaska. U.S. Air Force photo by Justin 
 
If she stopped, those eyes would never see life again.

"That was the worst part," said Army Spc. Kayla Richie, a combat medic with U.S. Army Alaska’s 2nd Engineer Brigade here.

"It was a Wednesday, just a regular day I guess," said Richie said. "I was just going for a quick workout. I couldn't stay long, because I had a Bible study to go to."

But Sept. 17 turned out to be anything but ordinary.

"I think I was using the ropes, and a gym attendant came up to talk to me," she recounted. "I figured someone had rolled their ankle or something. They know I'm a medic, and whenever someone gets hurt, they will occasionally ask me to check it out."

Richie never expected what was about to happen next. Amber Fraley, a recreation assistant at Buckner Physical Fitness Center told Richie that someone apparently had passed out on the basketball court and didn’t seem to be breathing.

Responding to the Scene

Richie ran to the court and saw the player sprawled on the court. Fraley already was on the phone with a 911 diospatcher.

"You could tell he passed out," Richie said. "You could tell by how his body was laid out. A lot of times, when someone is passed out, they will do quick, shallow breaths as their body tries to get oxygen back to their brain. He wasn't even doing that."

Richie pushed through the crowd around the fallen player and was quickly at his side. "I rolled him over to check for breathing," she said. "He wasn't. I couldn't find a pulse. I thought it might be because my hands were shaking and my adrenaline was going, so I took a breath and tried again."

Richie said she told the nearest bystander to go find an automatic external defibrillator, and then another man appeared - a man Richie wouldn't identify until the next day.

Colonel Joins the Effort

"I know CPR too," said Army Col. Scott Green, who is scheduled to be the next commander of the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team.

Richie went to the patient's left side, and the colonel took position at his head to position him for rescue breathing. If his head was angled too far, Green could risk blowing air into his stomach instead of his lungs.

Richie put her hands on the basketball player’s gray, quickly cooling skin, and began the first set of compressions"I could hear his ribs crunching," Richie said. "I don't know if I broke them, but I had to keep going, you know?"

Green leaned down to begin rescue breathing after the 20th compression, but Richie knew the recommended number of compressions before beginning rescue breathing had changed. "No! It's 30 now!" Richie said as she continued compressions.

Still No Vital Signs

When Richie finished the 30th compression, Green gave two rescue breaths. While he did this, Richie frantically ripped off the weight gloves she still had on from working out. They checked the player’s vital signs. There were none, so they started over.

"I was so scared I was shaking," Richie recalled. "I just kept thinking and praying, 'Oh God, please let this guy come back.' But it just didn't look good."

Toward the end of the second set of compressions, Fraley came running onto the scene with an automatic external defibrillator. Several people ran to help get the packaged device unwrapped and ready for use.

"One gentleman was pulling the pads out while someone else positioned the unit," said Chad Personius, a lifeguard at the fitness center. "I grabbed the pads and started applying them."

Personius positioned himself on the patient's right side and applied the pads as Richie continued compressions. The automated system already was attempting to analyze the patient's vital signs before all the pads could even be applied.

‘Analysis Complete, Shock Advised’

"Analyzing, do not touch the patient," the primitive male robot voice from the AED said.

"We had to stop, step back and wait for it to do its thing," Richie said, remembering the anxiety of the moment.

Finally, the AED said, "Analysis complete, shock advised."

"Everyone get back!" Richie commanded. "Nobody touch him!"

Personius and Fraley began pushing the crowd back, a friend let go of the man's hand, and the button with the orange lightning bolt on the AED began to flash. Personius pushed it.

"On TV you see them twitch, but this was different," Richie said with a disturbed shudder. "His whole body … jumped. At this point, I'm trying not to cry, because nobody wants to see the one person they think knows what they're doing break down, you know?"

The shock was over in a heartbeat, but there was still no pulse.

While the AED charged, they began the third set of compressions.

The patient's neck strained, tendons bulging against the skin and a sucking sound came from his throat.

"He's trying to breathe! Let's keep going!" Richie exclaimed.

The patient was making short, gurgling breath sounds Richie said. "But he wasn't really breathing,” the Mililani, Hawaii, native added. “There was no exhale. I never heard air come out."

Emergency Personnel Arrive

The AED was nearly recharged, and emergency personnel came rushing in with their equipment. "Just keep going until we're set up," they said.

Finally, the AED was ready to analyze again and they stopped compressions to let it do so.

The unique robotic voice said, "No shock advised."

"That's good," Richie said. "That means it's detecting vitals."

As the analysis completed, the emergency personnel took over and began to put intravenous fluids into the fallen player.

"As soon as they put the IVs in, he jumped awake, trying to fight them off," Richie said. "All I could think was, 'Oh thank God. Thank God.'"

Richie received the Army Achievement Medal for her instrumental role in saving the man's life. Richie didn't know that was coming until attending the state-of-the-brigade address. Her noncommissioned officer, Army Staff Sgt. Kelee Williams -- also a combat medic with U.S. Army Alaska’s 2nd Engineer Brigade -- asked her, "So what's up with your award?"

"What award?" Richie responded. Then she was called to the front.

"I was trying not to blush, I was so embarrassed," Richie said with a laugh. "I just wanted to tiptoe into the shadows."

Before she had time to think, she heard the command, "Attention to orders!"

Army Lt. Col. Kirt Boston, the rear detachment commander for the 2nd Engineer Brigade and the rear detachment's command sergeant major, Army Command Sgt. Major Bryan Lynch, presented the medal to her.

Tried to Remain Anonymous

Richie said she tried very hard to get away with saving this person's life anonymously. "I didn't tell anybody," Richie said. "My NCO didn't even know. I didn't want them to do all this stuff."

Green praised Richie’s handling of the incident.

"I was very impressed with her medical and technical knowledge," the colonel said. "She was very calm and collected. It seemed like just another day for her."
 
Written Nov. 3, 2014
By Air Force Airman 1st Class Kyle J. Johnson
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson

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Article Redistributed by Support Our TroopsRedistributed by www.SupportOurTroops.org

Army Capt. David Kingery, senior researcher with the Joint Combat Casualty Research Team, smiles for the camera April 4, 2014, at the Role 3 NATO Multi-National Medical Unit Hospital, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Kingery’s role is to capture medical lessons learned during Operation Enduring Freedom and use the research to help further military medicine. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer  KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Army Capt. David Kingery was faced with a tough choice a few years ago.

PHOTO: Army Capt. David Kingery, senior researcher with the Joint Combat Casualty Research Team, smiles for the camera April 4, 2014, at the Role 3 NATO Multi-National Medical Unit Hospital, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Kingery’s role is to capture medical lessons learned during Operation Enduring Freedom and use the research to help further military medicine. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer 
 
“Originally I wanted to be a doctor, but I just wanted to do something more with science. I enjoyed it more than the ‘business’ aspect of it,” he said. “I wanted to make a difference. So after doing some research, I found a place where I could do that -- the Army.”

After getting his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Yale University, Kingery received a direct commission as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Department in 2010.

Shortly after his commissioning, he began his first assignment as a biodefense researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., where he conducted laboratory research with the goal of increasing soldier effectiveness.

Kingery, whose father and grandfathers also served in the military, said the combination of science and being able to serve as a commissioned officer and leader was the perfect mix.

“In the end I just wanted to be a leader within the medical community,” Kingery said. “With the work I have done, I feel like I am doing just that.”

His work now has him serving at the Role 3 NATO Multi-National Medical Unit Hospital, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, as part of the Joint Combat Casualty Research Team, which directly reports to U.S. Army Central Command.

With members of the team spread throughout Afghanistan, Kingery serves as a senior combat casualty researcher for the JC2RT, capturing the medical lessons learned during Operation Enduring Freedom, with the overall goal of improving military medicine in the future.

Specific research includes working on trauma intervention and characterizing types of shock.

Although he is not directly involved with the treatment of patients like a surgeon or nurse, Kingery says the JC2RT has a great relationship with the hospital.

“We add to the hospital’s mission,” he said. “They have taken us in like we were one of their own and have been very welcoming. In return, we give anything we can to help everyone here. We have a great relationship.”

Kingery is on call just like a surgeon may be for an emergency.

“Whenever a call comes in, they rush in and so do we,” he said. “We have to collect the data immediately so it can be the most accurate.”

Sometimes those calls require a little more than data collection.

“There are times where I am a litter bearer because they may have personnel already engaged or working on something else,” Kingery said. “It goes back to giving anything we can back to the hospital, because they have given us so much. And in the end, whatever we can do to help patients, we do.”

Kingery also found another way to give back to the hospital, after volunteering to be the public affairs officer there.

He talked about his motivation for accepting additional leadership positions during his deployment.

“I volunteered to do it, because I wanted to get the message out about all the wonderful people and the outstanding service members working here at the hospital,” Kingery said. “People need to know that this isn’t just a trauma bay, it is a full-blown hospital -- it is a force-multiplier. We have people treating service members and getting them back out to their jobs, and it’s cool to highlight that story.”

Kingery’s research at the hospital and work in Afghanistan will conclude soon, but his role as a leader will increase shortly after he returns home -- as he is set to become company commander at the Landstuhl Medical Regional Center in Germany.

“I am excited for the new opportunity and the chance to serve in a command role,” he said. “With every new position or assignment comes extra responsibility and I am ready for that.”

Kingery’s excitement for his new position comes as a bittersweet moment, when he talked about the experience he has had in Afghanistan, and how it has been a tremendous opportunity.

“The hospital has really gotten us involved, and I have learned so much,” Kingery said. “Working amongst all the different services here and seeing people work together has taught me a lot. At the end of the day, we are all here to make the hospital better.”

Kingery talked about the impact working at the hospital should have on those who serve here.

“If you work here, you will never have to ask yourself if you made a difference. It truly is a special place,” he said.

Kingery said it is amazing to see where he is now after making the decision to join the Army four years ago.

“Looking back, it’s honestly been the best decision I could have made,” Kingery said. “The work we do, I know, is contributing to our country.”

Written April 10, 2014 By:
Army Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer
Regional Command South

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Article Redistributed by Support Our TroopsRedistributed by www.SupportOurTroops.org

Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 16:00

Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Juan Lopez smiles for the camera at the Role 3 NATO Multinational Medical Unit Hospital, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, April 4, 2014. Lopez, serving on his 12th deployment, is the senior enlisted advisor to the hospital’s command group. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Because he has traveled around the world and served on 11 deployments, some might think Command Master Chief Petty Officer Juan Lopez would be winding down in his Navy career.

PHOTO: Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Juan Lopez smiles for the camera at the Role 3 NATO Multinational Medical Unit Hospital, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, April 4, 2014. Lopez, serving on his 12th deployment, is the senior enlisted advisor to the hospital’s command group. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer 
 
He says otherwise.

“The day I ‘have’ to do something is the day I will leave,” Lopez said. “I don’t see that happening any time soon. I love what I do. I could never get tired of this.”

Lopez is serving on his 12th deployment, this time as the command master chief of the Role 3 NATO Multinational Medical Unit Hospital here.

As the senior enlisted advisor to the hospital’s command group, Lopez acts as the voice for all enlisted sailors serving there.

“Any need they may have, I make sure it gets taken care of,” he said. “I take care of everything that may cause an issue for them. That way, they can go focus on their jobs here.”

He also oversees the Chief Petty Officer 365 program, which is designed to help chief petty officers advance in their careers and eventually become senior and master chief petty officers.

Lopez talked about his motivation to emphasize the CPO 365 program, as well as the importance of being a chief petty officer.

“I want someone to eventually take over for me and be able to succeed at this position,” he said. “Once you become a chief, senior chief and master chief, it’s not about you any more. It is about your sailors. It isn’t a ‘job’ any more. You have to be there and help guide these young people.”

Lopez said he has had a great deal of guidance from his family, most notably his father, who was a colonel in the Nicaraguan army. His father, who Lopez said was a “highly decorated officer,” served in a multitude of positions, including as a liaison at the Pentagon.

“He was the youngest colonel to be that decorated and have the positions he had,” Lopez said. “There is a lot of history behind his name.” He is the only one of the eight children in his family who chose to follow in his father’s footsteps of serving in the military, he added.

Before joining the Navy in 1986, Lopez said, he lived with his sister in West Covina, Calif. “She pushed me and helped me stay out of trouble, and supported me when I decided to join,” he said.

Since that time, Lopez has served in many different places, including Iraq, Haiti, Panama, Greece and every country in South America. He also has served here before as a corpsman with a Marine expeditionary unit.

Lopez talked about the difference between his first time here and his current deployment.

“Back then, I slept in a two-man tent and none of this was here,” he said, referring to the airfield’s infrastructure. “Now, coming back, I get here and just say ‘Wow.’ It is crazy to think I will see the very beginning and the end of this place.”

Lopez said he is glad to serve his country. “I know we are all contributing to peace, and not giving the bad guys a chance,” Lopez said. “I am proud to be a part of that process.”

As he advanced in his career and traveled the world, Lopez said, he has kept one particular thing in mind.

“You’re always contributing, no matter where you are at,” he said.

Looking back over the positions he has held through the years, Lopez said his time as a command master chief has been his favorite.

“Being able to guide junior sailors is very rewarding,” he said. “There is no greater feeling than seeing them succeed. I wouldn’t change serving here and being in the Navy for the world.”

Lopez said he keeps the advice he gives to sailors short and simple. “Live by your Navy Code -- honor, courage, commitment and integrity,” he said.

Written April 9, 2014 By:
Army Cpl. Clay Beversdorfer
Regional Command South

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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 16:00

Marine Corps Cpl. Parnell Sararana, standing left, signs to students while Air Force Staff Sgt. Jon Espinoza reads aloud at the Stella Maris School Belize Academy for the Deaf in Belize City, Belize, April 4, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar BELIZE CITY, Belize – Hands wave through the air in an organized fashion, and children follow the movements as they enjoy the children's story "A Day at the Farm."

PHOTO: Marine Corps Cpl. Parnell Sararana, standing left, signs to students while Air Force Staff Sgt. Jon Espinoza reads aloud at the Stella Maris School Belize Academy for the Deaf in Belize City, Belize, April 4, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar 
 
Marine Corps Cpl. Parnell Sararana put his Universal Sign Language skills to use here April 4 as he translated while Air Force Staff Sgt. Jon Espinoza read aloud at the Stella Maris School Belize Academy for the Deaf.

Sararana is deployed from the 1st Civil Affairs Group at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in support of New Horizons Belize 2014, an exercise in which U.S. service members train with Belizean professionals in engineering and medical care. The civil affairs role in the exercise is to engage with the local population, as well as government and nongovernment organizations, to facilitate the best possible environment to build educational and health facilities and provide medical, dental and veterinarian care throughout the country.

The Marine Corps reservist with an affinity for caring for others has spent more than four years in the service, but he said this is the first time he's been able to apply his signing skills while wearing the uniform. He was glad to do so, he added.

"I started learning sign language about six years ago from my brother-in-law, who is deaf," Sararana said. "I would say I'm intermediate in my signing and use it fairly often, but I'm still growing with it and learning new words. My whole family speaks sign language, so I don't ever want to feel left out of a conversation."

Though he signs often with his family, it was "nerve racking at first to sign for the students," he said.

"But as I saw the smiles on the children's faces,” he added. “I relaxed and was happy to show them that I cared to share that time with them."

Stella Maris is one of three schools in Belize City to receive new facilities from the Belizean military’s light engineer company and the U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps civil engineers. The interaction offered both students and teachers a different perspective of service members outside the construction at the school.

Though there are teachers at the Stella Maris school fluent in sign language, sharing reading time with U.S. service members was a rare opportunity for the students and teachers, as well for as the service members.

"I'm fortunate to know sign language, and I wanted to see what I could do with it," Sararana said. "Now I know that I can help people -- help a child understand a book or just communicate outside of the normal day-to-day -- to let people know that I care."

Written April 7, 2014: By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar
12th Air Force

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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 16:00

Navy Reserve Petty Officer 2nd Class Charmaine Henry serves as a surgical technologist at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Clay BeyersdorferKANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Petty Officer 2nd Class Charmaine Henry is a U.S. Navy reservist, but she has spent a great deal of time serving on active duty tours.

PHOTO: Navy Reserve Petty Officer 2nd Class Charmaine Henry serves as a surgical technologist at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer 
 
In her assignment here, Henry serves as a surgical technologist at the Role 3 NATO Multinational Medical Unit hospital.

Her duties include assisting medical officers in carrying out surgical techniques, including selecting, sterilizing and preparing instruments and materials and creating the aseptic environment necessary for surgery.

Despite the high-intensity nature of the job, Henry said, she remains cool.

“It’s all systematic when you do it enough. You adjust yourself accordingly,” the Queens, N.Y, native said. “When you do that, everything else tends to fall in place. Basically, you are a mind-reader. You have to pay attention to detail. You have to be a couple of steps ahead of the doctor, know what they are going to do, and what tools they need or what they may need assistance with.”

Serving at Role 3 allows Henry to work among members of other service branches, and that’s something she has appreciated, Henry said.

“It’s been great because you can pick the brains of other people and talk a little bit about everything,” she explained. “The communication has been great, and I have learned a lot from the other services.”

Henry has worked with members of other services in Germany and Kuwait. Her experiences in Kuwait, while different, provided her with valuable experience she has been able to use in Afghanistan, she said.

“[Kuwait] was a different thing, because we had less to work with. … Here, you have this wonderful hospital and any equipment you could possibly need for any injury that comes in the door,” Henry said.

When she is not being called up for active duty, Henry said, she serves in a similar position back home. But she doesn’t regret having to leave work to serve wherever her country may ask her to, she added.

“It hasn’t been a tough decision at all,” she said. “I enjoy active duty, and I love what I do.”

Between her experiences in civilian life and her 13-year Navy career, Henry said, she has learned a major lesson.

“Always be prepared, no matter what,” she said. “The minute you are not, that’s when something happens.”

Written April 4, 2014 By:
Army Cpl. Clay Beversdorfer
Regional Command South

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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 16:00

Marine Corps Pfc. Linard Addison Jr. checks to ensure the morning accountability report is correct at the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit command post, Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 22, 2014. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua W. BrownMARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Marine Corps Pfc. Linard Addison Jr. said he was only 12 when his father died, and that his service is a way of fulfilling his late father’s expectations.

PHOTO: Marine Corps Pfc. Linard Addison Jr. checks to ensure the morning accountability report is correct at the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit command post, Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 22, 2014. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua W. Brown 
 
“He told me I should strive to be the best, and that’s why I joined the Marine Corps,” he said.

Addison -- who hails from Marion, South Carolina, and is an administrative specialist assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit -- said he knew even at a young age that he wanted to serve.

“My dad was in the Army, so for a while, that’s what I thought I wanted to do,” he said. “But when I got into high school, I realized that the Marine Corps was the best.”

Addison said he didn’t have a specific specialty in mind, but he knew he absolutely wanted to be a Marine. “I was real close to my dad, and I wanted to make my family proud,” he added.

Addison said his mother and his siblings -- four brothers and two sisters -- were happy about his decision.

“I’m the middle child,” Addison said. “I want to set the example for my younger siblings.” His younger sister recently turned 18, he added, and would like to be a Marine after she finishes college.

“I want to set the example by coming in and working hard, doing my best, and improving myself every day,” he said.

Though he is one of the youngest and most junior Marines in the unit, his responsibilities and expectations are the same as every other Marine in his section.

“He works hard, he seeks to learn more, and he’s improving quickly,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Michael K. Burns, Addison’s noncommissioned officer in charge.

As a Marine recently out of military occupational school, Addison is still in the process of learning all the facets of his profession. Burns said he is doing well and is a squared-away Marine.

“You can tell he’s hungry to learn more,” Burns said. “He’s always focused on the task at hand and knows what he has to do to get it done.”

Addison said he wants to learn all he can in the Marine Corps and incorporate it into his life.

“Four years from now, I see Addison as a sergeant,” Burns said. “I think he’s passionate about his job.” He added that he can imagine Addison as a drill instructor who will mold the next generation of Marines.

Less than a year into his first enlistment, Addison said, he isn’t certain whether he will re-enlist, but he plans to make the best of it in the meantime.

“I’m just thankful for what I have and where I am,” he said. “I’m thankful to God [and] my family, and I have hope for the future and what it may have in store for me.”

Written May 30, 2014 By:
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joshua W. Brown
26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 16:00

Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Ray Lewis, a refueling boom operator assigned to the Air Force Reserve’s 18th Air Refueling Squadron, 931st Air Refueling Group, McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., has been serving in the Air Force for more than 24 years and recently passed 6,500 total flight hours and 1,500 missions flown. Courtesy photo by Jonathan PeceMCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – A reservist assigned here has reached a career milestone that was more than 24 years in the making.

PHOTO: Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Ray Lewis, a refueling boom operator assigned to the Air Force Reserve’s 18th Air Refueling Squadron, 931st Air Refueling Group, McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., has been serving in the Air Force for more than 24 years and recently passed 6,500 total flight hours and 1,500 missions flown. Courtesy photo by Jonathan Pece 
 
Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Ray Lewis, a refueling boom operator assigned to the Air Force Reserve’s 18th Air Refueling Squadron, 931st Air Refueling Group, recently passed 6,500 flying hours while at the same time tallying his 1,500th mission.

Lewis said he sees the totals as less of a milestone and more of a reflection on the fact that he has been able to continue to fly regularly for his entire career.

"I think I'm just lucky," he said. "I'm lucky in the sense that I've been able to stay in the Air Force for as long as I have and I've been able to continue to fly, serving as a reservist. I've been in the Air Force Reserve for more than 16 years of my career, and I get to fly roughly four hours a week, so it's really just been an accumulation of hours over the years."

As a boom operator, Lewis' primary job is to control the KC-135 Stratotanker's refueling boom during air refueling operations. He communicates and coordinates with the receiving aircraft's pilot to ensure the safe transfer of thousands of pounds of jet fuel, all while the two aircraft are less than 30 feet apart, traveling at 500 miles per hour, 30,000 feet above the ground.

Though he has spent the equivalent of nine months in flight doing the job, Lewis said, it never gets old.

"I still get excited each time I'm scheduled to go fly," he said. "It's been that way ever since the first time I did an air refueling mission, back when I was just a 19-year-old kid. I've always loved the job, always loved being in the airplane. Honestly, I like being in the airplane more than I like being at home. That may sound weird, but I'm just very, very comfortable in the airplane, and I love doing the job."

That excitement of doing the job has been a hallmark of Lewis's career, dating back to that very first mission.

"I was excited and terrified at the same time," he said with a laugh. "It was at now-closed Castle Air Force Base in California, and I was going up to refuel a C-130. I remember my instructor was irritated, because all Castle did at the time was B-52s, and now on my first sortie I was scheduled for a propeller airplane. He was aggravated about that, but I kept thinking it was no big deal, because I didn't know any better. And it's really not a big deal, but for the very first time it was unusual. But everything went totally fine, and I was able to log my first hours."

In almost a quarter century of flying, Lewis has refueled virtually every aircraft in the Air Force fleet and served on multiple combat missions, his first refueling F-16s during Operation Desert Shield in 1990 and Operation Desert Storm in 1991. He also has conducted and taught on hundreds of training missions, passing his own knowledge and experience on to the next generation of boom operators. Now in the twilight of his career, he said, he looks at each mission a little differently.

"The job is the same, and I treat each sortie the same, but at this point, the writing is on the wall -- I'm not going to get to do this forever," he said. "So I appreciate it just a little more than I did back when I was that 19-year-old kid. Every flight is a blessing, and I just feel lucky to be able to continue to do this."

Written May 28, 2014 By:
Air Force Capt. Zachary Anderson
931st Air Refueling Group

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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 16:00
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