McChord Airman achieves career milestone

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Ten-thousand hours. That's a little more than 416 days, or 600,000 minutes. Regardless of how you measure it, Master Sgt. Pat McCarty, a loadmaster with the 8th Airlift Squadron, has spent a lot of time in airplanes. 

"Time literally flies by," said Sergeant McCarty, who has served for more than 23 years in the Air Force and recently joined an elite group of Airmen who have more than 10,000 flying hours under their belt. 

"I was flying back from Antarctica to Christchurch, New Zealand," Sergeant McCarty said of the flight that put him past the milestone. Along for the ride was former 62nd Airlift Wing Commander Col. Jerry Martinez, who was flying to Christchurch to inspect the wing's support of Operation Deep Freeze. 

Sergeant McCarty credited his wealth of flying hours to the fact that he has seen a majority of flying operations instead of desk jobs. He has remained a loadmaster his entire career, and aside from a three year teaching stint at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., the majority of his service has been "on the line". 

"When I got to Sheppard in November of 1984, I didn't know what to expect," he said. "My first time on an airplane was flying to basic training." 

Since then, his career as a loadmaster has taken him to every continent in the world. The first operational mission he participated in was Just Cause, over Panama in 1989. Since then, he has been involved in nearly every major operational mission, aside from missing the beginning of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom while teaching at Altus. 

While Sergeant McCarty has seen his career field evolve over the years, he said the biggest change was moving from the C-141 Starlifter to the C-17 Globemaster III. The C-141 was 1950s and 60s technology, he said, and required more manual labor. The C-17 is more automated, which has enabled loadmasters to "do more with less", he said. 

But one thing hasn't changed over the years for Sergeant McCarty. The fact remains that for a loadmaster, the majority of work is done before and after takeoff. Once airborne, the mission focuses on ensuring the comfort and safety of the aircrew and passengers, he said.