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1,000 hours: Team effort earns historical Veterans Day achievement

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tyler Woodward
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- A cell phone alarm chattered. Senior Airman Cameron silenced his phone and checked his messages. He scrolled through the ‘I Love you’s, I miss you’s and I’m proud of you’s.’

While momentarily reflecting on the Veteran’s Day thanks he received from his family and friends, he sat down his phone, laced his black maintenance boots and made his way towards a roaring dusty flight line.

This is his second deployment maintaining the F-22 Raptors at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing.

 “Being over here and away from the family is hard,” Cameron said.  “But being over here and supporting the mission on Veteran’s Day is awesome. This is one of the most dominant aircraft in the world and its incredible watching it do its thing!”

Cameron and several other maintainers of the F-22 Raptors have directly participated in at least 10 percent of all deliberate airstrikes against Da’esh and have dispatched more than 1,000 precise weapon deliveries during Operation Inherent Resolve.

While the 23-year-old analyzed every square inch of the aircraft, he wiped gathering beads of sweat off his brow. His cotton t-shirt soon became damp and darkened with perspiration. 

On Nov. 11, he completed the same job he’s completed a thousand times before –maintaining a $412 million F-22. However, for him, this launch was unlike any other.  

At a nearby location, Airman 1st Class Kristen, an aircrew flight equipment technician, prepared equipment for the F-22 pilots before the launch. She methodically placed high performance helmets, anti-gravity suits, oxygen masks and survival vests in the designated places before the pilots arrived.  

A door opened.

Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, F-22 pilot and 380th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, immediately gathered the various pieces of his flight suit. In just a few seamless moments he walked out of a door and into a hazy day.

Kristen transported Corcoran to his airframe for the departure.

“We get to share in special days like today,” Kristen said. “Being able to work so closely with the pilots and getting to share in such moments is an amazing thing as well as getting such close insight into the mission overall.”

As the preflight inspections were completed, Corcoran shook hands with Cameron and boarded the aircraft.

Corcoran ignited the F-22’s dual engines and the taxi began. Cameron stood at attention and saluted the departing Raptor.

“Delivering Airpower is a team sport.  Every one of my 1,000 flying hours in the F-22 and over 3,000 total flying hours is a direct result of a team of folks working together to accomplish our AF mission,” Corcoran said.

During the flight, Corcoran completed 1,000 successful flying hours as an F-22 pilot; becoming one of 15 Raptor pilots to reach this achievement.

However, he was not alone. He placed responsibility on the shoulders of the many Airmen contributing to this mission daily.

“The fact I reached this milestone on Veteran's Day serves as another great reminder that we stand on the shoulders, and follow in the footsteps, of giants,” Corcoran said.  “I had this opportunity because of countless folks who served long before me and in reality the opportunities all of us in uniform have today are the direct result of the hard work and sacrifice of those who have gone before us.  So we owe it to them to live up to their standard, to take what they gave us, make it better, and pass it on to the next generation of service members.”