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'Pilot for a Day' joins 4th Airlift Squadron

Nine-year-old Owain Weinert smiles as he sits in the pilot seat of a C-17 Globemaster III as part of the Pilot for a Day program Feb. 15 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Pilot for a Day is an Air Force program that enables challenged youth a chance to visit an Air Force squadron, becoming part of the team in the process. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Nine-year-old Owain Weinert smiles as he sits in the pilot seat of a C-17 Globemaster III as part of the Pilot for a Day program Feb. 15, 2011, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Pilot for a Day is an Air Force program that enables challenged youth a chance to visit an Air Force squadron, becoming part of the team in the process. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Owain Weinert, left, 9, and brother Dylan, 7, stand in front of a C-17 Globemaster III as part of the Pilot for a Day program Feb. 15 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. While touring the C-17, they sat in the pilot’s seat and learned about the engines. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Owain Weinert, left, 9, and brother Dylan, 7, stand in front of a C-17 Globemaster III as part of the Pilot for a Day program Feb. 15 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. While touring the C-17, they sat in the pilot’s seat and learned about the engines. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Owain Weinert, left, 9, and father, Alex, share a laugh while riding in a fire truck as part of the Pilot for a Day program Feb. 15 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Adamarie Lewis-Page)

Owain Weinert, left, 9, and father, Alex, share a laugh while riding in a fire truck as part of the Pilot for a Day program Feb. 15 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Adamarie Lewis-Page)

Owain Weinert, left, 9, speaks to Capt. Ellie Morgan, 4th Airlift Squadron pilot, about the television show ‘Tom and Jerry’ while eating lunch during the Pilot for a Day program Feb. 15 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

Owain Weinert, left, 9, speaks to Capt. Ellie Morgan, 4th Airlift Squadron pilot, about the television show ‘Tom and Jerry’ while eating lunch during the Pilot for a Day program Feb. 15 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Leah Young)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- "This is awesome," said Owain Weinert. "I mean, I got the chance to sit in the cockpit of a commercial flight plane once, but that was nothing compared to this."

The 4th Airlift Squadron showed its newest member Feb. 15 as 9-year-old Owain became Pilot for a Day.

Pilot for a Day is an Air Force program that enables challenged youth a chance to visit an Air Force squadron, becoming part of the team in the process. The participants are usually selected through a partnership with a community hospital or foster program.

"It is an honor for us to host events like this," said Capt. Stephen Vetek, 4th AS pilot and Pilot for a Day coordinator. "We hope to make this a special day for Owain and his family, and look forward to showing him 'Airlift Excellence' up close and personal."

Last March, Owain was diagnosed with Leukemia and has been in treatment ever since.

"To see him come back and have a concentrated dose of pure fun was really awesome," said Owain's father, Alex. "Seeing him actually act like a kid for a day has been great."

As a new member of Team McChord, Owain, along with his mother, father and brother, saw military working dog and explosive ordnance disposal demonstrations. They also got a chance to tour the fire station, sit in the pilot seat of a C-17 Globemaster III and "fly" in an aircraft simulator.

"My favorite part was controlling the robot at the fire station," said Owain. "I named him Montse. I really have a knack for electronics."

Owain's 7-year-old brother, Dylan, looks up to him and tagged along all day. They spent the day touring McChord Field, eating pizza and laughing together.

"He's a good big brother," said Dylan. "He liked the robot, but I liked the explosions more. I don't like when he gets sick. Its better when he's happy, like he is today."

After a long day of tours and demonstrations, Owain tried to express how he felt about the Air Force and the people who made the day possible.

"Today seems like it isn't real, it kind of feels like a dream," said Owain. "I really don't have the words to explain how I feel. I never thought anything like this could happen to me."
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