Original 104th Fighter Wing airman recalls World War II service and a new Massachusetts Air National Guard base

By Staff Sgt. Matt Benedetti, 104th Fighter Wing

Read the full story as it was published Aug. 17, 2017 in The Republican


Retired 104th Fighter Wing Chief Master Sgt. John Machnik and Angela Cormier at the 2017 Westfield International Air Show. (Photo by 104th Fighter Wing Master Sgt. Julie Avey)

“I never thought twice about it, to tell you the truth,” said John Machnik, 93, recalling his decision to enlist in the Army Air Corps so many years ago.

“It was an unprovoked attack on our country, we were all proud to serve,” said the retired chief master sergeant, who flashes a ready smile and appears several years younger than his actual age.

From the moment he learned of the Japanese bombing of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, the 18-year-old Ware High School graduate knew what he needed to do. What he did not know, of course, was how his prosaic life in the shadow of the Berkshires would be irrevocably altered in the subsequent years. World events would take him across a frigid North Atlantic teeming with German U-Boats, to a besieged Royal Air Force base in the United Kingdom and ultimately to four decades of service in the United States Air Force.

Machnik’s celebrated career would lead him on myriad assignments including a year in Phalsbourg, France, amidst the Cold War intrigue of the Berlin Crisis.

In December 1941, Machnik left the recruiting office in Springfield a wide-eyed teenager and returned in the fall of 1945 a seasoned veteran of the legendary 8th Air Force. The wartime experience left an indelible impression and in 1948 compelled him to enlist in a fledging fighter or pursuit unit mustering in Westfield. Machnik became an original member of the 104th Fighter Wing serving 35 years in several important roles, rising to the rank of chief master sergeant.

Chief Master Sgt. Machnik, who retired in 1983 after serving 39 years in the Air Force, was designated as the “Honorary Commander” of the Westfield International Airshow Aug. 12-13, 2017.

Eighth Air Force, World War II

“Some were good days, some were not”

Due to a high mechanical score, Machnik was selected to train in hydraulics. After completing rigorous courses at Ft. Devens, Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, and Chanute Airfield, Illinois, he was assigned to the 63rd Fighter Squadron in Statford, Connecticut. Machnik qualified as a 558 hydraulics specialist on P-47 “Pursuit” planes and soon received overseas orders.

As a member of the 8th Air Force in Boxted Airbase in Langham, England, Machnik served with several Air Force aces including the legendary Col. Hubert “Hub” Zemke. The 8th Air Force also boasted several notable members including Hollywood luminaries Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable.

Conditions on a forward fighter base were less glamorous, however, as airmen slept in corrugated metal Nissen huts, subsisted on a steady diet of Spam and read Andy Rooney columns in the Stars and Stripes for the latest news. They would sometimes listen to Axis Sally, the notorious voice of Nazi propaganda on the radio. “She seemed to know everything about us. She used to begin the broadcast by asking ‘How do you feel today? You know your girl back home is with your best friend,” he said.

The threat level from potential roving German Messerschmitt 109s was present, but members of the 56th Fighter Wing, 63rd Squadron persevered. “We were too busy to be scared,” Machnik recalled.

Despite long days and the unrelenting pressure to generate sorties, Machnik remembers a strong sense of camaraderie among the men.

“The pilot was counting on you and the unit was counting on the pilot,” he recalled.

“Friendships were so important and we really stuck together. One of my buddies had relatives in Scotland and we visited one weekend. His cousins owned a pub and we didn’t buy a drink the whole time,” he said with fond remembrance.

Other times were somber.

“We were friendly with a number of the fighter pilots and it was very tough when they failed to return from a mission across the channel,” he recalled.

Machnik recalls places and events in England with amazing clarity.

“Traveling into London was memorable. Everywhere you looked was bomb damage or sandbags. You could see the silver barrage balloons in the sky above the city,” he said.

“The toughest part was being away from home, but the local people in Langham would take us in for dinner. They didn’t have much, but it meant a lot,” he said.

104th Fighter Wing Westfield Massachusetts

“I was proud to be a member of the 104 Fighter Wing-It has always been a great outfit”

In June 1947, the Westfield City Council approved 62 acres of land to be used for hangars, machine shops and other structures that would become Barnes Air National Guard Base. Within six months, aircraft and equipment arrived, pilots were checked out in P-47s and the unit that would evolve into the 104th Fighter Wing was on duty.

In 1948, Machnik joined the new unit, worked in the hydraulics shop and eventually became a crew chief.

“We attracted a pretty smart and experienced group. Most of the guys were veterans who served in all the branches. I believe that wide range of experience helped us a great deal,” he said.

“There was a strong sense of camaraderie and everyone knew their stuff,” he recalled. The 104th deployed several times during Machnik’s career, but the first real world test for the unit occurred in 1961.

During a period of increasing global communist encroachment, Soviet forces moved to cut off Allied access to Berlin, Germany. President John F. Kennedy ordered the 104th and its parent 102nd Tactical Fighter Wing to active duty as Cold War tensions intensified in Europe.

F-86H Sabre jets of the 104th Fighter Wing were among the hundreds of aircraft to be activated for Operation Stair Step, the largest airlift since World War II. Machnik was among the 700 unit members to be deployed to Phalsbourg, France, from October 1961 through August 1962. The Sabre jets remained on duty at Barnes until they were supplanted by F-84F Thunder Streak fighters in 1964.

Machnik recently had the opportunity to visit Barnes Air National Guard base and enjoyed visiting the current airmen.

Amazed by the growth and technological advancements at Barnes, Machnik observed that some similarities are still apparent.

“The 104th was always considered the best unit in the Air Guard and without a doubt, it still is,” he said. “The pilots and airmen are super people, you can see morale is still strong.”

He visited the engine shop, MXS, his former work station at Barnes.

Unit members were glad to meet Machnik and discuss their shared craft and commitment to the 104th Fighter Wing.

“He is a really nice guy and knows his stuff. Visiting with him gave us a sense of history and we spoke the same language,” said Senior Airman Steven Abde, a current member of the engine shop. “He is welcome to stop by anytime,” said Abde, of Pembroke.

Machnik was thrilled to be recognized by the wing at the airshow and grateful for the men and women serving at Barnes today.

“I am proud of each and every unit member. What they are doing is so important and I am honored to have been a member of the 104th,” he said.

This undated photo is from the personal collection of retired U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. John Machnik, who served in World War II, the Cold War and for 35 years with the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard in Westfield.
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Navy Senior Chief builds toy box, self-esteem for kids at orphanage

Read the story originally published here.

By Matt Benedetti

TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan – U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Cook is faced with a dilemma. After weighing the risks and benefits, the carpenter decides to make removable lids; ones that won’t drop and slam on small fingers.

To the kids at the Friends of Children Orphanage in Sokuluk, Kyrgyzstan, the Fort Worth, Texas, native is known as “Mr. Mike.” At the Transit Center, he is the U.S. Naval Forces Central Forward Headquarters lead chief petty officer of pay and travel who is deployed out of Naval Station Norfolk, Va.

Since arriving at the Transit Center in April for a year-long deployment, Cook has volunteered his off-duty time and energy to several community partnership projects, including the Friends of Children Orphanage.

The orphanage is home to more than 35 children ranging in age from 1 to 18 years old.

Cook, bespectacled with gray hair and a compassionate demeanor, plays the role of grandpa to the children, who have come a variety of backgrounds.

“My grandkids at home call me, ‘PaPaw’ and here I am, ‘Mr. Mike.’ I enjoy going to Friends of Children and being a grandpa to these kids,” Cook said.

“Back at home, my grandkids are always at my heels, watching me work. When I am working on a project at the orphanage, I have four or five kids watching and helping me the whole time. Sometimes it slows me down, but that is OK,” he said. “It is more important to give kids attention and make them feel special.”

Cook feels that building the kids’ self-esteem is equally as important as any construction project.

“These kids already struggle with feelings of worthlessness due to their history, but if they go to bed thinking that someone they respect believes they are special, it counts,” he said. “If you can change how they view themselves as they grow up, it might make a difference in their lives.”

Maj. Brian Miller, Transit Center Theater Security Cooperation division director of operations, is grateful for Cook’s work with at the Friends of Children Orphanage.

“The senior chief has been here since April and has volunteered on several projects with us. Though he is not attached to us organizationally, he is part of our family. The kids adore him at the orphanage and his has been a huge help,” said Miller, a native of Pickerington, Ohio, who is deployed from the Pentagon.

“We are impressed with his knowledge and compassion, and look forward to working with him until the end of his tour,” he said.

Cook is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Transit Center mission in this capacity.

“Maybe, years from now, the box we built will be gone but hopefully they remember that some American, ‘Mr. Mike,’ showed them love, attention and kindness,” Cook said.

1000w_q95
Photo By Senior Airman Brett Clashman | Senior Chief Petty Officer Mike Cook operates a circular saw to cut wood at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, Oct. 9, 2012. Cook spends his free time handcrafting wooden toy boxes for the Friends of Children orphanage in Sokuluk, Kyrgyzstan. He is the U.S. Naval Forces Central Forward Headquarters lead chief petty officer of pay and travel deployed out of Naval Station Norfolk, Va., and is a native of Fort Worth, Texas.

 

 

104th FW Participates in Exercise Atlantic Spear, Boar’s Nest

SAVANNAH, Ga – Airmen and jets from the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Ma., are participating in Exercise Atlantic Spear from Aug. 14-27.

This robust training exercise is a multi-faceted event designed to test and enhance the air to air dogfighting capabilities of participating fighter pilots in a simulated combat environment. During the exercise, 104th FW pilots have the opportunity to integrate with other platforms from across the military including units from Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Oregon and California.

Exercise Atlantic Spear is being hosted at the Air Dominance Center (ADC), Savannah, Ga. Previously named the Combat Readiness Training Center, the ADC is an ideal location for large-scale fighter integration training due to its proximity to neighboring aerial units and vast coastal airspace which allows aircraft to ascend up to 60 thousand feet.

 Lt. Col. David Halasi-Kun, the 131st Fighter Squadron commander, recognizes the value of this joint training.

 “We are building partnerships with all the other platforms, F-18 Falcons, F22 Raptors and F-35’s. What is unique about this deployment is that we have our own exercise, Atlantic Spear and were also invited to participate in the Boar’s Nest Exercise, a relatively large air to ground scenario, ” said

Halasi-Kun. “We turned it into an air to ground and air to air joint exercise.”

Halasi-Kun also appreciates the freedom of airspace at Savannah.

“Similar to our training in Hawaii, we can operate in unrestricted airspace with no supersonic restrictions and plenty of altitude.  The dimensions allow for 30 or 40 aircraft to participate and we don’t have to worry about deconflicting by time or altitude,” he said.  “The ADC possesses the infrastructure to allow us to monitor the ‘battle’ and simultaneously track all the aircraft.  Range training officers are on the ground making independent assessments to determine the winners of each exchange,” said Halasi-Kun.

 “Savannah is a great deployment. Everything is already in place. We show up, plug in and we are integrated into the whole exercise,” he said.

 These simulated dogfight exchanges are proving a rigorous test of the 104th Fighter Wing’s operational and tactical capabilities. Although, during many of these simulated engagements, 104th pilots have frequently outmaneuvered their adversaries and demonstrated a level of expertise that left little doubt as to the victor.

 Exercise Atlantic Spear is also proving to be worthwhile training for the ground crew.

 Tech Sgt. Greg Liptak, a member of the 104th Maintenance Group, has been impressed by the development of younger Airmen in a deployed environment. “It is great to see the next generation performing so well,” he said.

 “These young Airmen are very capable and confident in their abilities. Based on what I’ve seen here and back home at Barnes, I feel good about the next generation at the 104th,” said Liptak.

 The skills learned and tested at Atlantic Spear allow 104th Airmen to prepare for any contingency and enhance mission readiness.

 The 104th Fighter Wing Operations Support Flight commander, Lt. Col Sean Halbrook, has found the training at the ADC to be particularly instructive given the potential for future deployments.

 “We have incorporated different platforms as adversaries-F-22, F-18, F-16- in coordination with the Boar’s Nest Exercise. Intelligence has also provided us with injects to be prepared for any contingency,” said Halbrook, who serves as the project officer during the deployment.

 “Atlantic Spear has been a valuable training exercise and good preparation as we gear up for upcoming deployments,” said Halbrook.

104th FW Participates in multinational exercise in Malaysia

By Staff Sgt. Matt Benedetti, Public Affairs, Public Affairs

BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, WESTFIELD, Mass. — Airmen from the 104th Fighter Wing took part in Exercise Cope Taufan 2014, a biennial large force exercise between the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and the United States Air Force from June 9-20, 2014.

The objective of Exercise Cope Taufan is to enhance the combined readiness and interoperability of the Malaysian and U.S Air Forces while promoting peace and stability in the region. The deployment also demonstrates a U.S. capability to project forces strategically in a combined, joint environment.

The tactical and cultural exchange provided 104th pilots the opportunity to engage with F-22 Raptors of the Hawaii Air National Guard and MIG 29 Fulcrums of the Royal Malaysian Air Force in a realistic live-fly training environment.

The Southeast Asian exercise marked the farthest distance the 104th FW has deployed the F-15 Eagle and support personnel, as well as the first training exercise outside the continental United States (OCONUS). The austere conditions at the air base, RMAF Butterworth, and oppressive heat, reaching 100% humidity at times, presented a myriad of challenges for the Massachusetts Guardsmen.

The expedition proved a rigorous test of the unit’s operational and logistical capabilities.

Col. Alex Haldopoulos, 104th Operations Group Commander, found the deployment to be a vital training opportunity for pilots and maintenance personnel.

“Cope Taufan was a great tactics sharpener and relationship builder,” said Haldopoulos, a native of Peachtree, Georgia and resident of Longmeadow, Massachusetts.

“It is important for our unit to deploy OCONUS and practice our tactics, techniques and procedures in order to continue to perform the defensive and offensive counter air missions that we focus on. At Cope Taufan we were able to practice these tactics with the F-22 Raptors and against the Mig 29 Fulcrums,” said Haldopoulos. “As well, we were able to work closely with our partners in the Hawaiian Air National Guard in the Pacific Command area of responsibility. It was a great experience,” he said.

Haldopoulos grew to appreciate the distance between the U.S and the Malaysian peninsula.

“From a logistics perspective, we learned some valuable lessons. Ensuring that we bring the equipment most commensurate with the need and conceptualizing the distance required to ship items was important,” said Haldopoulos. “As our military pivots to Asia, we need to recognize the investment in infrastructure required to reflect that commitment.”

Flying against aircraft of the former Soviet platform was a huge benefit to the pilots.

“Most of our guys had never flown against a MIG,” he said. “Prior to deploying, we spoke extensively about engaging these aircraft; so flying against them in a basic fighter maneuver environment was an invaluable training experience.”

“I have flown for a long time, but have to admit it that flying against the Mig 29 was an exhilarating experience,” he added.

During these simulated engagements, the 104th pilots consistently outmaneuvered their adversaries and demonstrated a level of expertise that left little doubt as to the victor.

“Our pilots represented the USAF well and our maintenance folks went above and beyond. They did a fantastic job-working late and doing extra tasks to allow us to perform at the highest level,” he said.

Chief Master Sgt. Richard Tudisco, the 104th Maintenance Squadron Superintendent and non-commissioned officer in charge, was pleased with the ability of unit members to surmount difficulties and offer practical solutions to problems.

“The airlift was a challenge and keeping track of everything wasn’t easy, but we did extremely well,” said Tudisco, a native of Derby, Connecticut.

“The temperature was ‘Gurkha hot’ and we needed to watch rest cycles, hydration, and any heat-related issues. No one can recall experiencing climate and conditions similar to Malaysia. It was a challenging work environment but we accomplished the mission. I am proud of our people,” he said.

Haldopoulos lauded the efforts of the 104th Airmen involved in Cope Taufan 2014.

“We have some very capable leaders and experts in their respective fields,” said Haldopoulos. “Our folks are well trained, experienced and pretty damn smart. Cope Taufan 2014 was a huge success due to the hard work and trademark professionalism of 10th Fighter Wing personnel.”

Unit leaders expect to deploy to similar exercises in the future.

Photo By Tech Sgt. Andrew L. Jackson

104th FW Participates in multinational exercise in Malaysia

By Matt Benedetti

BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, WESTFIELD, Mass. — Airmen from the 104th Fighter Wing took part in Exercise Cope Taufan 2014, a biennial large force exercise between the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and the United States Air Force from June 9-20, 2014.

The objective of Exercise Cope Taufan is to enhance the combined readiness and interoperability of the Malaysian and U.S Air Forces while promoting peace and stability in the region. The deployment also demonstrates a U.S. capability to project forces strategically in a combined, joint environment.

The tactical and cultural exchange provided 104th pilots the opportunity to engage with F-22 Raptors of the Hawaii Air National Guard and MIG 29 Fulcrums of the Royal Malaysian Air Force in a realistic live-fly training environment.

The Southeast Asian exercise marked the farthest distance the 104th FW has deployed the F-15 Eagle and support personnel, as well as the first training exercise outside the continental United States (OCONUS). The austere conditions at the air base, RMAF Butterworth, and oppressive heat, reaching 100% humidity at times, presented a myriad of challenges for the Massachusetts Guardsmen.

The expedition proved a rigorous test of the unit’s operational and logistical capabilities.

Col. Alex Haldopoulos, 104th Operations Group Commander, found the deployment to be a vital training opportunity for pilots and maintenance personnel.

“Cope Taufan was a great tactics sharpener and relationship builder,” said Haldopoulos, a native of Peachtree, Georgia and resident of Longmeadow, Massachusetts.

“It is important for our unit to deploy OCONUS and practice our tactics, techniques and procedures in order to continue to perform the defensive and offensive counter air missions that we focus on. At Cope Taufan we were able to practice these tactics with the F-22 Raptors and against the Mig 29 Fulcrums,” said Haldopoulos. “As well, we were able to work closely with our partners in the Hawaiian Air National Guard in the Pacific Command area of responsibility. It was a great experience,” he said.

Haldopoulos grew to appreciate the distance between the U.S and the Malaysian peninsula.

“From a logistics perspective, we learned some valuable lessons. Ensuring that we bring the equipment most commensurate with the need and conceptualizing the distance required to ship items was important,” said Haldopoulos. “As our military pivots to Asia, we need to recognize the investment in infrastructure required to reflect that commitment.”

Flying against aircraft of the former Soviet platform was a huge benefit to the pilots.

“Most of our guys had never flown against a MIG,” he said. “Prior to deploying, we spoke extensively about engaging these aircraft; so flying against them in a basic fighter maneuver environment was an invaluable training experience.”

“I have flown for a long time, but have to admit it that flying against the Mig 29 was an exhilarating experience,” he added.

During these simulated engagements, the 104th pilots consistently outmaneuvered their adversaries and demonstrated a level of expertise that left little doubt as to the victor.

“Our pilots represented the USAF well and our maintenance folks went above and beyond. They did a fantastic job-working late and doing extra tasks to allow us to perform at the highest level,” he said.

Chief Master Sgt. Richard Tudisco, the 104th Maintenance Squadron Superintendent and non-commissioned officer in charge, was pleased with the ability of unit members to surmount difficulties and offer practical solutions to problems.

“The airlift was a challenge and keeping track of everything wasn’t easy, but we did extremely well,” said Tudisco, a native of Derby, Connecticut.

“The temperature was ‘Gurkha hot’ and we needed to watch rest cycles, hydration, and any heat related issues. No one can recall experiencing climate and conditions similar to Malaysia. It was a challenging work environment but we accomplished the mission. I am proud of our people,” he said.

Haldopoulos lauded the efforts of the 104th Airmen involved in Cope Taufan 2014.

“We have some very capable leaders and experts in their respective fields,” said Haldopoulos. “Our folks are well trained, experienced and pretty damn smart. Cope Taufan 2014 was a huge success due the hard work and trademark professionalism of 10th Fighter Wing personnel.”

Unit leaders expect to deploy to similar exercises in the future.

140619-F-JZ552-185
A Massachusetts National Guard F-15 Eagle from the 104th Fighter Wing takes off for the final sortie of Cope Taufan, P. U. Butterworth, Malaysia, June 19, 2014. Cope Taufan is a two week exercise that reinforces U.S. Pacific Command Theater Security Cooperation goals for the Southeast Asian region and demonstrates U.S. capability to project forces strategically in a combined, joint environment. More than 450 Airmen are participating, as well as four U.S. Air Force airframes. (U.S. Air Force Photo By Tech Sgt. Andrew L. Jackson / Unclassified, and Released.)

KC-135 crew on point in Afghan skies

By Matt Benedetti

120802-F-UW118-003
A KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt over Afghanistan, Aug. 2, 2012. The 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron provides aerial refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied nation aircraft in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandria Mosness)

KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (AFNS) — From the window of her “office,” Senior Airman Brittany Bahner breathes deeply and takes in the view of the brown, arid expanse near Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. She waits patiently, lying prone in the boom pod at the rear of the KC-135 Stratotanker, while communicating through her headset with the pilots at the other end of the aircraft.

Suddenly, an A-10 Thunderbolt II appears in the boom siting window, moving in from the port side of the KC-135 against the desert backdrop, and steadily positions itself directly behind the larger refueler. After a moment and with careful precision, Bahner swiftly maneuvers the boom and achieves a positive connection with the attack aircraft. She calmly states, “contact” on the interplane radio, signaling the beginning of the refueling process that will allow the A-10 to immediately resume close air support operations instead of returning to base.

Boom operators like Bahner are part of a three-person crew who operate the KC-135 aircraft and take pride in providing aerial refueling capability directly to the fight.

“I am proud to support the mission in this capacity. We are actually up there over Afghanistan seeing things firsthand and it is rewarding,” said Bahner, a native of Yucca Valley, Calif., who is deployed from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. “It can be stressful at times, particularly when we experience turbulence or if the weather is poor and we are moving all over the place,” she said.

Bahner, who cross-trained into the boom operator career field, does not regret the transition

“I worked at a desk job for five years but decided to try something different and cross-trained into boom operator. I really love the job and it changes daily,” she said. “Some days we will refuel several different receivers urgently needing assistance. Refueling is a rewarding mission because we know that we are helping coalition forces firsthand,” said Bahner.

Capt. Christopher Knaute, a KC-135 pilot, appreciates the flexibility required by the crew during sorties over Afghanistan.

“It is not uncommon for us to travel a great distance to multiple places with different types of receivers. We always have a game plan but like most things in the military, conditions change and we adapt to those changes,” said Knaute, a native of Houston who is deployed from McConnell AFB, Kan.

“If someone needs fuel, they should get it at a moment’s notice. It is always better to have the fuel capability airborne rather than on the ground. That’s what we do,” he said.

Knaute is cognizant of their mission’s immediate impact on ground operations. Air refueling makes it possible to keep strike and reconnaissance aircraft airborne longer, providing a quicker response time to troops in harm’s way.

“Troops in contact request air support and we are able to make it happen, it is definitely a linear equation,” he said. “You hear the urgency in a pilot’s voice when plans are changing. The sooner we get receivers the fuel, the quicker they can assist the troops on the ground. We are buying time and ultimately saving lives.”

Knaute and Bahner are both members of the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. The 22 EARS is the second largest refueling squadron in the U.S. Air Force and provides one-third of the air refueling for coalition aircraft supporting international efforts in Afghanistan.

The Transit Center, a transportation and logistics hub, is home to the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing. The wing operates around-the-clock missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom that include air refueling of coalition aircraft, airlift of supplies and equipment, onward movement of coalition personnel and strengthening of local partnerships.

Knaute enjoys serving at the Transit Center due to the fact that he has the opportunity to meet the very troops he is supporting.

“It is a rewarding and incredible feeling to meet Soldiers who have been downrange and may have benefitted from our efforts,” said Knaute.

Bahner expanded those thoughts as she explained her approach to the mission after another successful sortie.

“I am focused on my job while we are flying but afterwards, during our debriefing, we will count the number of strikes and the troops in contact that were supported by our fuel. At that point, you have the opportunity to reflect and consider the impact we made during the mission,” she said.