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Local incentive flight offers new perspective

By Airman 1st Class C. Todd Lopez

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (Nov. 06, 1998) -- Systems were checked, lap belts were strapped, engines roared, and eyes were wide open as six young airmen embarked on what for the most of them, was their first military flight aboard one of Dover Air Force Base's C-5 Galaxy aircraft.

The flight was an air refueling training mission which had been additionally tasked as an incentive flight. The incentive flight program allows outstanding Dover Team members, not involved in flying career fields, to see what the flying part of our mission is really like.

"I think it expands their visibility a little bit more on what's involved with flying, because they start first thing in the morning with the aircrew," said Chief Master Sgt. Jay Gross, 436th Operations Group superintendent and current administrator of the incentive flight program. "They get to see a little bit of what the aircrew goes through and what they have to do to prepare for a flight."

The program was started several months ago by Command Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Lewin and Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Powell, 436th 0G. They started researching the program back in March or April. It's been running now since about June, said Gross.

Airmen are hand selected for the mission through their chain of command, said Gross. "The selection process is done through the group superintendents."

"This last flight, I called the aerial port and told the first sergeant they're allocated one slot for the incentive flight. Then I let the first sergeant within the squadron do the selection. I believe they selected their Airman of the Quarter."

It's not just airmen who are selected for the incentive flights either. "Anybody is eligible," said Gross, "including civilians."

Those selected for the flight will see, for the most part, what an aircrew goes through on a typical flight.

"It's a chance to let them see how many people are involved in the process. You start at the flying squadron and see what the loadmasters, pilots and engineers do to get ready," said Gross.

Additionally, the program helps members not involved in flying related jobs realize how complex the mission is and how their own efforts fit in.

"From aerial port loading operations and fleet services, to life support and maintenance, you see all the people that are involved in launching just one airplane," said Gross. "A lot of things have to be coordinated and put together. It helps an individual get a perspective of how important their little piece of the pie is in getting that airplane off the ground and on its way to where it needs to go."

"It was good for an airman that doesn't spend much or any time on the flight line in the course of duty, to see what Dover's mission is," said Airmen 1st Class Jonathan Spreadbury, 436th Medical Operations Squadron, one of the six airmen selected to go on the flight. "Flying on the flight deck and hearing what the crew is doing, it's very different, as opposed to a 747."

The next incentive flight, a night refueling mission, is scheduled Nov. 23. If things go as planned, the incentive flight program will continue to reward deserving team members at Dover.

"The most important thing is that we're recognizing our people for the job they're doing," said Gross. "This is one way we can recognize our top performers and say thanks for the time, work and effort they put in."