Posts Tagged ‘ill’

Pilot for a Day

As many of you may or may not know, I am a Reservist in the US Air Force.

This entails attending a drill session one weekend a month, for the entire year. It’s great being back in uniform and I can’t say enough good things about the Reserves so far. Unlike active duty, they are VERY attentive to my interests and have gone out of their way to get me into a new career field, which I will hoepfully start in January.

Over drill weekends we (Traditional Reservists) primarily play catch up to the full time Reservists and GS employees who work a standard work week. As a Reservist, I am assigned to the Wing Public Affairs (PA) shop where…you guessed it, I take pictures!

In August, while I was still working as a contractor, I got a call from our full time employee who runs the PA shop during the week asking if I could come in on a Thursday to cover the Pilot For a Day program. The program is designed to bring cheer and hope to children suffering from medical ailments by allowing them to be our guest at Andrews AFB. The kids get to visit all types of military aircraft, simulators, fire hall, security forces, military working dogs, and a final stop at the control tower. After getting the quick rundown on this program I immediately jumped at the opportunity and used one of my last vacation days at Booz Allen.

The “Pilot For a Day” pictured above is 10-year-old Kayla Kiley from Waldorf, MD who is currently battling cancer for the second time around. Kayla and a big group of her family members were treated like royalty for a day by a large team of volunteers led by Major Susanne Schulz, who is a pilot with the 201st Airlift Squadron. I can’t even begin to describe all the hard work and preparation these volunteers put into this incredible program. It’s a worthy undertaking, and I am hoping that these pictures and this blog posting give you a small taste of what they do.

The day started with Kayla being sworn in as a pilot by our 459th Operations Group Commander Col Muncy. With the whole room standing at attention, Kayla was grinning ear to ear when she realized that we meant business! Pictured right, Kayla heads over to the 113th Wing where they literally rolled out the red carpet for her!

Kayla is standing alongside Maj Schulz while she introduces her family.

One of the coolest parts about this day is that literally everyone at Andrews pitches in to help out. Here, Kayla is meeting with one of the maintanance Chiefs from VAQ-209 which operates the EA-6B Prowler.

Pictured left, Kayla steps down from a F-16 which had her name in pink vinyl letters right underneath the canopy. To the right, Kayla takes a moment to relax in a KC-135 engine with Major Kara Sandifur, a pilot with the 459th (my Wing).

Kayla taking the left seat in a C-40 while talking to one of my old JSTARS buddies Capt Jason O’Brien, who now flies with the 201st.

I really like this cool (in terms of color), moody shot of Kayla and her friends walking to the KC-135 set up to host her and the rest of her family for lunch. A couple of the local area restaurants donated a huge pile of food for Kayla and the rest of the volunteers.

This was a really incredible experience to be a part of and I was VERY honored when Major Schulz asked me to be their official photographer from here on out! The Pilot For a Day program is just getting spooled up and pretty soon we’re going to start reaching out for more support to see how far we can make this thing go!!!

The next Pilot For a Day is on 15 October 2009 where we’ll be hosting Jay Carr, who’s fighting leukemia. I am especially stoked to meet Jay since he aspires to become a photographer when he grows up. I have a ton of cool stuff planned for Jay and can’t wait to meet him next month!

Starlight MidAtlantic

For those of you who haven’t seen this gallery on my page, take some time to read the descriptions and see what great work this organization does for a wonderful group of children. I truly look forward to going to these shoots to hang out with the kids and interact with the parents. Everyone is a lot of fun to work with and I am hard pressed to find anyone who shys away from the camera.

This last shoot just so happened to fall on my birthday and I could not have had a more perfect day. The weather was beautiful, everyone was enjoying themselves, Amy was with me, but the Nats lost…oh well. I captured some awesome candid shots from a somewhat slow game and I hope that everyone in attendance gets a chance to put eyes on the gallery.

I REALLY like this shot I captured of the little girl and would consider it one of my best shots to date! I wish I knew her name, but this was only my second time seeing her and I will be sure to find out who the mystery celebrity is during the next Starlight MidAtlantic event. I caught this shot as she was rushing up a flight of stairs right next to me and all of a sudden tripped. She came up from her spill smiling and the Beercan was spot on in capturing her and that lovely smile. I was fortunate that the a700 was in already in aperture priority mode set to F4 giving me that great crisp image with no center fallout. After a dab of Photoshopping (her lunch was still scattered on her face, very funny) an amazing image came out that I don’t think could ever be replicated.

If you want to read more about Starlight MidAtlantic you can check out their homepage here, and you can see some of my work posted on their site here and here.

More importantly, here is where volunteer information can be found!