Editor’s Note: This is a three-part series featuring Cara Loken shadowing the Nebraska National Guard. She pursued the assignment to give families an up-close perspective of what Guardsmen experience during drill weekends.
Cara’s Chronicles: In the Shadow of a Guardsman Day 2 & 3
DAY TWO: OPERATIONS
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA – Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be in your service member’s boots for a day? To be able to change places with your spouse, child, friend, or significant other over drill weekend in the National Guard? I have long been curious about what my husband actually did when he put on his uniform.
After become acclimated with how things work on my day one shadow, we moved onto operations. What is operations? This is where the KC-135 pilots, boom operators and staff are at. I got a tour of the building led by Lt. Colonel Katy Millwood. She told me what each area does and stated the function each serves – including flight planning, current operations, standardization and evaluation, crew management, intelligence, the command post, and many others I forgot. She explained why they have each area and how they work together to accomplish everything they need to get done over a drill weekend, and a “normal” work week.
I say “normal” because just like all areas on the base, there are mission requirements that happen 24/7/365. Operations also does all of the mission planning and works very closely with aircraft maintenance to guarantee aircraft, crews, and support functions are scheduled appropriately. It was a great experience to be able to see firsthand all of the people and areas working together to get a flight crew and aircraft mission ready to fly.
There are also all sorts of different missions that the KC-135 performs. Some are local training missions for the flight crews to practice things like take-offs and landings, others are refueling missions where the KC-135 will fly to a designated area and refuel other aircraft. These are called receivers, as they receive the fuel. Everything from fighters, bombers, cargo, and even allied nation aircraft can be refueled in the air. Plus, there are cargo missions where the KC-135 is used to transport supplies, parts, or even food and water as the Nebraska Air Guard did after Hurricane Katrina. The unit has a strategic mission to support United Strategic Command. Overall, operations is just that: they make the missions happen.
The next day, I visited security forces.
DAY THREE: SECURITY FORCES
Security forces are responsible for defense and security of the base. Their primary mission is to protect the KC-135, at all costs. They are responsible for peace and order both stateside and at deployed locations. Additionally, they are responsible for security of all the facilities and personnel on the base, including the Army National Guard units co-located at the airport.
I toured their building, learned about how they gear up and brief for their security shift. They even let me stand at the front gate and check identification of people coming on the base, which included a random security check with one of the security forces airman to search a van.
For a typical guard drill weekend, the security forces airmen complete marksmanship, weapons training, law enforcement rules and training, perform guard duties, and assist other units with their security programs. As a KC-135 unit, security forces have to stand guard on the flight line all day, every single day of the year. There is never a time when they are not guarding the aircraft. Overall, the personnel are all very proud of their jobs, and take great pride that they are the first line of defense for the base. They are very proficient at their jobs.
Fun fact: The Nebraska Air National Guard Security Forces motto is “Duck or Die.” They have a toy duck mascot placed in their building that has accompanied them on deployments and training. This is a well-traveled duck as it has been to Turkey, Honduras, Panama, Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and many other locations. The duck has over 29 years of faithful service.
Stay tuned for Cara’s shadow with the Nebraska National Guard as she spends the day with the flight crew.
Missed Day 1? Catch-up here: Cara’s Chronicles: In the Shadow of a Guardsman Day 1