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JCOC: Conference Participants Have Mixed Success on Flight Simulators

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan, Nov. 9, 2007 – From the pilot’s seat of a KC-130 air refueler, Mark Brainard carefully guided the craft over the ocean to the landing strip on the coast as his co-pilot coached him.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Mark Brainard, chief of staff for the governor of Delaware, sits in the cockpit of a KC-130 air refueler flight simulator Nov. 9, 2007, at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. Brainard is part of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, which landed here today on its fourth day of a week-long tour of military forces in the U.S. Pacific Command. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael D. Heckman, USN

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“Pretty good,” the co-pilot said of Brainard’s approach. “Start grounding out, pulling back towards you a little bit.”

Brainard, chief of staff for the governor of Delaware, is part of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, which landed here today on its fourth day of a week-long tour of military forces in U.S. Pacific Command.

As Brainard followed the co-pilot’s guidance, an electronic voice reported the altitude -- 100, 50, 30 … “All right, just hold that,” his coach said.

That’s when it all went wrong. Brainard dove too quickly, and if he had been flying a real plane, it would have been one rough landing.

“Woo hoo,” his would-be passengers exclaimed from behind, and laughter broke out in the flight simulator. “Oh, oh, there went my lunch,” one said.

“You shouldn’t be yelling at the pilot like that,” Brainard said and laughed as he slid from the seat. “You made me bounce in.”

“That was actually a pretty good approach,” the trainer pilot said.

“Everything was great until that sloppy end,” Brainard said.

“I didn’t say landing, I said approach,” the trainer said and there was more laughter.

In addition to the refueler simulator, the participants seated themselves into the “cockpit” of an F-15 Eagle tactical fighter. Most met with similar success, crashing and burning as they attempted to fly the highly technical craft. Others were able to pull off barrel roles and lived to tell the story. But, they took it all in stride and exited the multi-million dollar simulators with a lot of laughter and another vivid reinforcement of the skills of the servicemembers they have met throughout their stops in Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, and now Japan.

“I think everyone here knows in their own mind the sacrifice that the men and women provide for the country all over the world, but here we put a name and a face and so many human touches to understanding what’s happening all over the globe,” Brainard said. “This is just a little bit more of an exciting way to do that. This is an experiential way for us to understand what people are doing -- the expertise and professionalism and dedication and conscientious training that every single one of the men and women that we’ve met puts in their job every day.”

Before the stop at the simulators, the group met with members of 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery, and saw firsthand the Army’s technology behind shooting enemy missiles from the sky. Afterward, they sat in the grass and shared some field rations -- meals, ready to eat -- with the troops.

Some found opening the packages and preparing their lunch as confusing as they later did the simulators. Tony May, senior vice president and partner of Triad Strategies, in Harrisburg, Pa., said getting to his meal was a little difficult, despite what is supposed to be easy-open rip marks on the packages. “I can see why it is vermin proof. And you want to carry your Swiss army knife,” he said.

Reviews of the meals were varied, but it was obvious that is was not the usual fare for this group of doctors, lawyers, educators and business leaders.

Brainard had the beef enchilada with refried beans and a molasses cookie. “I gave the candy to the kid who opened it up and heated it up for me, because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing,” he said.

May was more impressed with the Army’s version of chili and macaroni. “I know for a fact that it tastes better than the … canned version. The oatmeal cookie was as good as you can find in a supermarket,” May said. “I can see why people find it a little odd, but it seems to be a good solution for the situation of being in the field.”

Throughout the day, the group added more facts and figures on operational capabilities to their growing cache of military knowledge. They also met more troops and thanked each of them for their service. Some participants in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference have experience with particular branches of the military, but as they make their way through this trip, exposure to different branches, locations and capabilities rounds out and broadens their understanding of the Defense Department as a whole.

Brainard said this trip has been an opportunity for him to learn about the sacrifices of the many who serve in his state.

“My job back home is going 80 miles an hour on a number of different things, and very rarely do I have an opportunity to take a breath and learn and get a better understanding,” he said. “With so many of our men and women in the Delaware Air and Army National Guard deployed all over the globe, it’s a great way to learn not only what they’re doing but what all the servicemen and women are doing around the world.”

Brainard said he will take back “a real personal understanding” of the level of commitment that servicemembers bring to their jobs. “It’s an unbelievable commitment and level of professionalism and dedication and a real love of country that they bring,” he said. “Before we all left our hometowns we knew that, but until you see it and until you meet these folks, it’s an extra level of learning that you wouldn’t get back home.”

May said he has been equally impressed with all of the services and said the level of discipline has impressed him most. “In general, most people say Marines are the toughest guys, and then you meet Marines, you meet guys who are in the Army, and you meet guys who are in the Coast Guard. They are all disciplined, and I’m impressed with the level of discipline and skill that everybody displayed. I’m impressed with their apparent readiness for a lot of conditions that I wouldn’t have guessed were going to exist,” May said.

“It’s reassuring for the public to know that the Army and the other services all seem to be doing a great job,” he said.

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Related Sites:
Joint Civilian Orientation Conference
Special Report: The 74th Joint Civilian Orientation Conference

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