TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Aircrew from the California Highway Patrol joined members from the 6th and 9th Air Refueling Squadrons at Travis Air Force Base, California, May 11 for a KC-10 Extender training mission.
The 14 pilots from the Redding, Napa and Auburn sections of the CHP had the chance to learn about the KC-10 and base missions as they toured the aircraft and watched air refueling of a C-17 Globemaster III.
The CHP operates two airplanes and two helicopters to assist with traffic enforcement and medical services throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The airplanes are primarily used for enforcement and support CHP teams on the ground. The helicopters offer advanced life support capabilities and are also used for rescue missions – anything from missing or injured hikers to earthquake support.
When they’re not conducting their own missions, the pilots take requests from allied agencies to assist in other forms of air support, including pursuits, searches and photo missions.
“We’re one of the few resources in the Bay Area that can provide 24/7 air coverage,” said Morrissey.
While the team flies every day, seeing the KC-10 mission offered an entirely different perspective on aviation and air support, said Tom Lipsey, CHP Napa.
“There’s a big difference between being low altitude and orbiting on calls versus being up high and conducting air refueling,” he said.
Throughout the flight, each CHP member had the chance to climb down into the aircraft’s refueling pod and watch the process from start to finish.
“It was a great experience,” said Kaze Morrissey, Napa CHP. “We’re all Airmen and we love airplanes. This was something all of us jumped on when we got the opportunity.”
“What better way to say thank you to the men and women of the CHP than to get them on a KC-10 to see in-flight refueling?” said Senior Airman Ryan Bayles, 6th ARS. “It was an incredible opportunity.”
The team was also exposed to the various capabilities of the KC-10.
“I didn’t realize the cargo carrying capacity of the aircraft,” said Chad Jessee, CHP Napa. “It has a diverse mission capacity. Initially I thought it could just refuel, but it has all these other missions it can do as well.”
After the mission, the pilots toured the 6th ARS headquarters and received a mission brief, where they learned more about the process of scheduling and flying KC-10 missions. The sharing of information benefits the relationship between the CHP and Travis, said Morrissey.
“Our area of coverage is within the main training area for Travis,” he said. “We’re up in the sky with these planes going over and under us all day, almost every day. It’s nice to meet the crew and learn what their mission is, because we’re up in the sky with them also.”
“This flight allowed us to demonstrate the mission profile of a typical air refueling mission out of Travis,” said Lt. Col. Justin Longmire, 6th ARS commander. “(This) will help the CHP pilots anticipate our maneuvers and appreciate the time-sensitive nature of our in-flight refueling business. This type of familiarization enhances situational awareness in our highly congested airspace and reduces the chance of a mishap. It's a proactive safety step, and it's a win for everyone.”
“It allowed us an avenue to swap stories and share experiences,” said Bayles. “It’s important to keep building relationships with agencies off base and I definitely believe this was an experience no one will forget.”
Having open communication between the various air missions in the area also contributes to the safety of the aircrew, said Jessee.
“When we’re flying around the Bay Area, we always have to be aware of what the capabilities of other aircraft are,” he said. “Criminals don’t care where we fly- they’re going to do what they’re going to do where they’re going to do it. We have to be able to position ourselves in such an orbit that we can be there. Knowing what other aircraft are capable of doing lets us better position ourselves so we’re not interfering with them and they’re not interfering with us.”
“Travis aircraft share local airspace with many other aircraft and mission sets,” said Longmire. “Both CHP and Travis Airmen are very comfortable with how we use this airspace for our own respective missions, but we're largely unfamiliar with the demands placed on other airspace users. At the end of the day, it builds better partnerships and helps everyone understand our highly congested airspace better.”
The flight opened the door for more collaborations and learning opportunities between the two aircrews in the future.
“I was really impressed with the organization and how well the crew worked with each other,” said Jessee. “I think that’s something every unit can strive for is really good, strong, well-trained crewmen and crew communication with each other. Everyone knew their job and everyone did their job, and there was no lost communication. That’s a sign of really good training, and I think that’s something everyone can learn from.”
The 6th and the 9th ARS displayed their mission to the best of their ability to the CHP team, said Lipsey.
“Everyone had their role and their job and they did it,” he said. “That’s the highest level of professionalism you can expect in your crew.”