Sunday, September 28, 2008

Guest Blog Post - Capt. Christian Hodge

Tuesday - U.S. Air Forces Europe

“One more day down, another closer to Air Force day,” is what I told some JCOC participants as we wrapped up Navy and Coast Guard days. Those days were fantastic, of course, but I knew we had a pretty cool day in store for the folks on Mildenhall and Lakenheath Air Bases in the UK. I’d told the participants Air Force today would be the best day!

After we landed and disembarked from the C-17 we entered the PAX terminal and met General Hunt from U.S. Air Forces Europe (USAFE), and the Wing Commander and Vice Wing Commander from Mildenhall and Lakenheath, respectively. We were then treated to a mini airshow, showcasing some of the weapons systems and capabilities of USAFE. Special Tactics Squadron members parachuted in, F-15s, F-16s, A-10s flew overhead and simulated dropping ordnance, and a C-130 did a tactical landing and quick pick-up of troops on the ground.

After the airshow General Hunt gave a robust briefing on all things USAFE. The guests were impressed by this tough and intelligent man, and personally I think he’d make a fine Army or Marine general or Navy Admiral (but thankfully he’s Air Force). After the briefing we had lunch with Airmen in the chow hall (dining facility), which was one of the highlights of the day. The JCOC participants were impressed with how bright and squared away America’s young Airmen are.

After lunch we went to a flightline hangar and after breaking into teams were privy to a carefully orchestrated display that showed weapons loading, an IED removing robot, Special Ops (with cool guns), a jet engine, fighter jet simulators and a KC-135 tanker. However it was the two awesome and impressive F-15s in the hangar that stole the show. Seeing the aircraft close-up, loaded to bear, huge-sleek-and-deadly, is what I feel had the most impact on the guests. Many were able to get into the cockpits and speak with the pilots, and witnessed firsthand why the U.S. Air Force is the world’s premier air, space and cyberspace force.

The evening concluded with dinner at the great hall in St Johns college in Cambridge. The food was surprisingly not-bad (for British food), but the atmosphere, camaraderie and spirits (St John’s beer) were definitely fantastic. General Hunt was presented a gift on behalf of JCOC 76, and as we wrapped up the night I did indeed have many JCOC participants come up and tell me that today, Air Force day, was their best day!

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