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Face of Defense: Airman Contributes to Nuclear Airlift Mission

By Dona Fair
Special to American Forces Press Service

McCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash., March 9, 2009 – For Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Thompson, there is no such thing as making a mistake.

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Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Thompson, with the 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Wash., is one of a small group of airmen responsible for the safety, security and reliability of a part of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. U.S. Army photo by Benjamin Faske
  

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

He is one of a small group of Air Force men and women responsible for the safety, security and reliability of a part of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, a job that leaves no room for error.

Thompson is a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft propulsion specialist with the 62nd Airlift Wing here, a part of the Prime Nuclear Airlift Force mission. Thompson’s job is to focus on the aircraft’s four main engines and auxiliary power unit, he said.

“I maintain, repair, service and operate these systems to make sure the C-17 is in top shape to transport these weapon systems if ever needed,” said Thompson, a Lutz, Fla., native.

This nuclear airlift mission is divided into three main areas. One area is the personnel reliability program. This program ensures that airmen who deal with nuclear weapons are emotionally stable, reliable and physically able to do their jobs. Another area is the upkeep and maintenance of the aircraft and the third, and perhaps most important, is training to ensure the proper transport of the weapons.

For Thompson and his fellow maintainers and aircrew members, this training is hardly left to chance.

He and his fellow airmen recently took part in a weeklong nuclear surety inspection and received the highest score possible. The training leading up to the inspection included at least a year of experience on the airframe, as well as qualification on engine-run training, borescope training, engine fan blade blending, and inlet and exhaust training, Thompson said.

“There was also a rigorous interview and singular senior review of my qualifications, as well as a training session with an experienced team member during an actual mission preparation,” he said.

In a job where second chances are rare, Thompson said attention to detail in every aspect of the job is paramount to success.

“It is what we are supposed to do every day and, for us, that second look and extra attention to detail is critical,” Thompson said. “During mission prep, the shift hours are longer to allow us the extra time to spend on those details and make sure everything gets done right the first time.”

(Dona Fair works at the Army and Air Force Hometown News Service.)

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McChord Air Force Base

Click photo for screen-resolution imageAirmen of the 62nd Airlift Wing perform a simulated nuclear weapons load onto a C-17 Globemaster III at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Wash., in February 2009. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Thompson helps to ensure the C-17 is in top shape to transport weapon systems. U.S. Army photo by Benjamin Faske  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMembers of the 62nd Airlift Wing strap down a nuclear training device to a C-17 Globemaster III at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Wash., in February 2009. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Thompson helps ensure the C-17 is in top shape to transport weapon systems. U.S. Army photo by Benjamin Faske  
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