The goal of this program is to benefit children and their families in the local community who have catastrophic illnesses. It is not directed at any one illness of disease, and not restricted to children with "terminal" illnesses. For many children with catastrophic, but not "terminal" illnesses, the Pilot for a Day Program can be a significant part of their recovery. The media efforts associated with the program will be for the purpose of public education, community awareness, and community involvement. The end result is a positive experience for the child.
The day will begin the night prior to the big event with a meet-and-greet pizza party. This will give the child and their family a chance to interact with their host pilot who will be their wingman throughout the following day. It is here that the child will be issued their full set of flight gear to include: Flight suit and name tags, flight cap, leather flight jacket, Sq/Unit memorabilia (e.g. scarf, T-shirt, coins, stickers, etc), mini-flashlight, and helmet bag filled with goodies. They will also receive their orders to report in UOD at 0800 to the Visitor's Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) front gate.
Their day will begin with a trip to the SFS Working Dog compound where they will witness first-hand how the 62d Airlift Wing's highly trained, combat ready SFS personnel protect and defend the Air Base. Here they will encounter our canine unit and participate in a military working dog demonstration.
Afterwards, the group sets off to visit the Fire Department where the child will be met by a team committed to protect, rescue, and prevent harm to Air Force assets. Here they will dress in full Defender gear, get a chance to ride in the fire truck, receive an Honorary McChord Field Fireman Certificate and badge, and participate in a kid favorite event, shooting the fire hose.
Next, the kids and their families are chauffeured to the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit where they test their hand at manipulating the EOD bomb disposal robot. The fun at EOD doesn't stop there though as the kids get to watch the Air Force's best EOD team in action as they perform a live pyrotechnics display!
Following their bomb experience the kids are whisked away to The Club where they will get a chance to kick back and have lunch with the AFA and other military members. After the short breather, the child gets a chance to see the base and airfield from ten stories up as they ascend to the top of the Air Traffic Control Tower. Here they have the opportunity to interact with tower controllers and observe takeoffs and landings from a bird's eye view.
As the kids come back to earth from their ATC tour they will precede direct to the Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) training office where they receive a hands-on demonstration of the equipment which helps our aircrew survive in the event they had to egress the C-17 while airborne. Only a handful of SERE instructors exist in the Air Force and each endures specialized training to ensure their primary mission is met, and ensure all Airmen "Return with Honor". The virtual demonstration the kids experience includes a computer generated parachute training simulation where the kids get to see what it is like to fly under canopy while hanging from an actual parachute harness.
Following their SERE training the child and their family report to the 4th Airlift Squadron where the excitement continues. In the Operational squadron the kids will receive their mission brief, where they are informed that it is about to get serious, seriously fun that is. They will receive short Intel and Tactics briefs pertaining to their specific missions. Each brief will cover the threats and hazards to mission accomplishment, which just happens to be close to home for them. Actually, it is their home. The briefs are each catered to each child's neighborhood and are made personally relevant to them. After their mission briefs, the group then steps to the static display and a flightline tour where the a pilot and loadmaster will give them the grand tour of the Air Force's most strategic airlifter, the C-17A. Here they get a chance to sit in and take pictures which they will see again.
Of course their training and everything they have done up to this point can't go to waste, as their whole day culminates next. After their static display the honorary pilot is escorted to the Boeing Simulator Complex where the newly appointed pilot and his/her family have the opportunity to fly the C-17 simulator! Upon completion of their mission the child, parents, and guests are then transferred back to JBLM, McChord Field's front gate. They are then released from orders and receive their souvenir patches, C-17A Globemaster III model plane, and utmost gratitude from the men and women of JBLM for their courage to look fear in the eye and fight their personal battles.
The men and women of JBLM are proud to be able to offer this program to the children who serve as our motivation to wear the uniform. The Pilot For A Day committee is also dedicated to keeping each child with us. We will follow-up with the honorary pilot and their family and provide a C-17A litho with the actual pictures taken during their static tour.
The original "Pilot for a Day" program began in December of 1994, organized by Captain Rory "Ox" Blackburn at Randolph AFB, Texas. The concept has since spread to several bases across the country. The program focuses on children who have serious or chronic conditions. McChord Field "Pilot for a Day" program invites these children of all ages, military or civilian, to be a guest of the 62nd Airlift Wing and one of McChord Field's flying squadrons for an entire day. In so doing, we strive to give each child a special day and a break from whatever challenges they may face.