Listen: Alex, Officer, Tom God discussed on EAA's The Green Dot - An Aviation Podcast
"Anyone everyone who loves aviation, the green dot sponsored by GE aviation. Welcome back. I'm one of your host. I'm Chris Henry of the EA aviation museum on the programs coordinator here, and we're sitting in a different scenario here today on my left. Tom sharpen tier government relations director. Well, Tom God to have you here with me today, a ties here, of course running the, the controls behind the curtain, and we have two very special guests here with us today, all the way from Hobart field, Florida. We have major clay tonight and we have technical sergeant Alex schedule. I wanna make sure I get your guys names right here so horrific. Yeah, I, I don't want to take you guys off because you guys can make house go away. So. Well, thank you guys want, you guys are crew members on the AC one thirty gunship. We are now. It's really been Neak community to be a part of and really enjoyed every minute of it. Well, so tell us a little bit. How did you guys get into the current field that you're in? Well, I was always interested in aviation started to build model airplanes with my dad my grandpa, and then a vulture CAP on that. I just knew was in the cards for me to go to your force. So started right off in the gunship in always been in the gunship. So loving your so far. How about you clay, I grew up in San Francisco, Bay area, and just going to watch your planes with my dad. There's a lot of good airports ago. Planes bought out there between San Francisco and Oakland and go down to Moffett field and see some military airplanes up at Travis so just seeing planes fly over all the time. Really got me excited for it. And then I learned about civil patrol just before getting into high school and started learning. More about aerospace and some of the history involved with it and just being a aviation geek, ever since. Really? That's awesome McClay. Don't understand it. Right. You're a young eagle. Is that right? I think it a young eagle flight as a young middle schooler out in concord, California. My dad worked with a guy who was in the and Gaza fly in his Cessna one eighty which was a great experience. That's awesome. So how'd you wind up on the specifically on the one thirty? Do people generally start on the C one thirty matriculate into the one thirty or did you just go straight in and was it your first choice? You know, what's neat is in the past before nine eleven. Oftentimes, you had to fly something else before you could come to special operations command. And then manning was so thin after nine eleven with all the deployments. They started to allow guys to come straight again ships so Alex, and I are what you, call your babies which has been great because we could come straight to the community. And when I was for Kevin cadet they took us on a trip to kirtland and before, then I didn't really know what I wanted to fly is pretty open to anything, but we got flan talent to, and then on an age fifty three and, and get to see a little bit of what special operations flying as like and you know, just the teamwork involved with it, the camaraderie, the leadership and starting to talk to one or two, people that were at the academy at the time here, what those missions were like that. This is definitely what I wanna do. And so from day, one a pilot training us at a really hope I can get the gun ships. I don't think I will initially, I'll. Fly something else, and then get the gun ships, but whether it was karma or timing really worked out and got to go to the sixteen th special operations squadron. Oh out spout that the same thing for, you know, Solman listed. So I took a different avenue. I when I enlisted telemarketer don't call me less garner drops. Because I, I wasn't interested in anything else into it, just wanna because he was like, well, you know, that might take a year, I guess we'll hear from any year, so well not quite that long, but a signed a goner only in that likes that the only thing that's going to accept into, you know what you're B, M T, then it got to the flight program into straight into the sixty SOS. So our side of the house, illicit size, lot faster than the officer side, just because we don't have the lengthy pilot training process, and our school house has a bit of a trimmed down if you will. So when you talk about gun or can you talk a little bit about the size of an easy one thirty crew. And, and kind of what everybody does go. Yeah. Well front if you want to start the pilot. Yeah. Absolutely. So what's needed have a large crew compared to some airplanes? You know, there's, there's thirteen of us on there for a normal combat mission at home, though, we can have up to twenty one on board between students instructors, evaluators everyone getting training, and also. Sometimes we'll have our ground forces fly along with us, too. So we might have an army ground force commander fly long just to see his troops on the ground and watch how the missions are going down, but up front, we'll get the aircraft commander in charge a leading the mission and getting things done. He's assisted by our co-pilot, and we haven't flight engineer, as well and flight engineer much like our systems expert. He's the one who's running all of our normal onboard systems, and just keep an eye on the engines and everything that we use to get the mission done from there. We were back in the aircraft we call it our battle management center. And that's where the rest of our tactical crew it. So our sensor operators. We have infrared in a TV sensor operator. And they're basically eyeballs of the gun ship. They're operating are visual sensors and the next to them. You've got the navigator and the fire control officer fire control officers overseeing the whole situation on the ground and recommending weapons and fuze combinations to the pilot for employment and the navigator. I it's often known that navigators really the voice of the gunship, so. When we're talking to the Jake tack on the ground. He's actually talking to the navigator. He's the voice of everything that's going on the plane contents, and all are inputs and then push them out to something that makes sense. And that's usable for the Jay tack right behind him, is the our electric warfare officer and his job is basically defensively aircraft. So he operates all our defensive systems provides me as a pilot with recommendations. Okay. What's threats in the area if we do get shot at what's our plan of action? What are we going to do from there? And then I'll pass it. Alex talk about the gunners and scanners and load. Yes. So there's five of us in the back. There used to be a split. There was a you had four gunners one loadmaster, but they changed that now we're all call special missions aviators. So we have the same job. Others. Conception out there, people think that you'll get qualified on one weapon, or actually qualified on all of them. So we're completely interchangeable. So with five of us, you're gonna have rice scanner, and then a load traditional loadmaster position filled by guy in the back looking at the bubble all night, and they're going to primarily work with pilots and the EU. Whoa talk about threats and just. Overall cut of the situation, whereas outside of the ground party, and then all your other guys in the back and listen to the radios and waiting for that piece of culture spiel coming down where you start hearing, the, the key words that far missions coming, then a we're waiting in the back to, you know, see which weapon they're gonna pick us. They want the immigration piece and then really from there. It's just a once we get our against like lights, basically, on the weapons up, and then just a fee nation fixing the guns when needed and it could be real short not broken for alumni, depend on how that goes. So Alex is what we call a league governor as well. So the whole gun deck, we have a league gun, and he's my Representative on the back to let me know what's going on. If there was a malfunction, what do we do in a fix it? What's the time like I moved to another gun? And really, he's the leader of everybody behind me in the airplane. So big responsibility. So one of the questions Tom and I were had we're sort of talking to other day was. Typically are you guys sorta orbiting already or is it a situation where you get scrambled from the from a base? So when you're when you're finding combat. How's that? How does that work? Also. I think it's changed. You know, it was on call basically, but we can do either. So either, you know, the long wintertime kind of in that picture of what's what's happened over the course the night, or like you said, you will not be over one mission, and here, you know, some some mission somewhere else is going south or you know, or a bad mission is coming down. So we'll part over there. Take care of it come back sometimes. So I say very dynamic. Absolutely. Yeah. We may go out wake up in the morning, and you think we're going to this mission, set it may change five times between what we actually end up on that night. You know, God forbid, he'll helicopter get shot down, get retest over to that or anything else time sensitive targets things that pop up that we need to go do to or go, even just get is on something that people wanna see what's going on, on the ground that has to be a pretty good. I, I mean, a good yet tense feeling knowing that you guys are close air support. You're, you're helping people on the ground that are probably in a bad way or can be in a bad way. D-. You know when we, we had a Tomcat pie. Here Megan who mentioned that, you know, it was all fun and games until that I call came out where she was going to go and be close air, support with the time cat. And then that certainly changed the tone of her mission. Do you guys feel that too? I mean when you get a call that you, you know that the, you know, someone's in trouble and need some help, absolutely really closer of support as our bread and butter mission set, and we like to pride ourselves in that day, we can take a call sign of frequency in a location. You give us those three things, and we can come and help you wherever you're at doesn't matter. If you're a JT qualified, or just a conventional troop, it's on the ground getting shot at we wanna come and help you the best. We can. And like you said, sometimes it isn't alert launch we're ruins run into get out and get in the air as quick as we can times. It'll just pop up while we're overhead an operation that may be a quiet night. Nothing's happened for hours, and all of a sudden, you've got a bunch of bad guys run out of a building with PG just surprises everybody. So you can feel the mood change. Everyone sits up in their seats and we're just ready to get to work split the basic question. He keeps saying night, d do you? Primarily operate it at at night to fly. A lot of daytime missions, and all we do primarily operate at night, and that has changed over the years to engage history. So there was a lot of tough lessons learned. You know, we lost gunship during the Gulf war, spiritual three because it stayed out into the daytime to continue prosecuting targets, and it was shot down. So for over the years, it really depends what environment were in if we would fly day mission or not any. No, we always a balance of risk to the airplane versus a risk to the ground floor. So if the, the risk is higher the ground force, and we can stay longer, and we need to we absolutely will. But then we have to valuate what's, what's the surface air threat look like to us as well. It does no good for us to have fourteen more guys on the ground just because we're out of the fight now too. So really, that's a leadership and a crew discussion about what we can accept risk wise. Alex, I got to ask you something as a gun, ship nerd here, full out. Anybody listening knows that I am. Man. What's like the fire that one? Oh, five off the back of that airplane, that has to be pretty cool was there's nothing like it. I mean you're talking, you know, one hundred five millimeters. Do you ever seen the videos that the recalls forty nine inches and just the power and force behind it? No, you know, buckle your knees. It's hard. 'cause you that's it's normal now but it's always the first round of the day, you're just like you know, unless something amazing out of I don't think anything to prepare for it. It's something you feel all the way up front to. I mean obviously Alex is right in the heart of it back there. But we can feel kick even lower flying around up to. And if you've ever been on the ground are safety, distances, a couple of hundred meters really. But even at that distance when you feel."