This year, St. Louis Regional Airport Operations Manager Jay Christians has had the opportunity to be part of a refueling flight, a deployment drill and several other on-base learning opportunities as part of the Team Scott Honorary Commander Program at Scott Air Force Base (SAFB).
The program is designed to increase community understanding of the Air Force and to give airmen and community members a chance to explore mutual areas of interest. Christians was paired with a manager from the Scott airstrip and actually got to go into the squadron so they could learn about each other’s operations.
“I was able to go out on a KC-135 Stratotanker refueling a B52 over Oklahoma,” said Christians. “I was amazed at how many practice runs are done to keep the crew’s accuracy perfect.” (The Scott team has put a video of the flight up online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DdpeRRMPOYEA.)
Christians also found the flight training simulators impressive and said it was like being in a real plane. Video screens replaced the windows. The crews ran through every imaginable flying and refueling scenario using refueling booms exactly like the real planes.
The real flight beat the simulator hands down according to Christians. He said because of that St. Louis Regional has always supported the SAFB mission by welcoming crews to do practice missions, which he has was told by Air Force personnel is actually more economical in terms of fueling than using their own airstrip.
To help, the airport has kept multiple approaches for use in military training. They even keep an old Non-Directional Beacon (NDB) system operational since pilots might not encounter one otherwise until landing in a third-world country.
Besides learning about airport operations, Christians was also able to be part of a Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) cook-off and mock deployment training. Col. John Howard, 375th Air Mobility Wing commander, explained how humanitarian, contingency and wartime missions often revolve around SAFB personnel coordinating the transportation of people and equipment all over the globe.
“It was great to see what happens in person and hands on,” said Christians.
He says he has been contacted about the possibility of some of the Scott operations team coming up to St. Louis Regional to see a reliever airport and the commercial repair facilities at West Star Aviation, which has begun to establish a solid international presence.
As for starting his second year with the Honorary Commander program, Christians says he knows you get out of the program what you put into it. He encourages those who would like to be considered or nominate someone to be an Honorary Commander to speak to Christine Spargur or the 375thAir Mobility Wing Public Affairs staff at 618-256-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org.