Category Archives: Air Force

C-17 Globemaster Cargo Plane

by Jim and Melanie

The United States Air Force is cooperating with relief efforts for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico as they did for the Gulf Coast and Florida. Members of the 15th Airlift Squadron , 437th Airlift Wing, out of the Joint Base in Charleston, SC, have flown more than 70 missions supporting relief efforts after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria as detailed in this brief.

The planes used are the C-17 Globemaster. We recently toured one of the planes and felt others would appreciate seeing it up close and inside. First impression as you walk toward it is its imposing size. The loud noise is an auxiliary power unit providing electricity to the plane while parked.

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National Museum of the Air Force

by Melanie and Jim 

You may have seen some of our posts about our travel to Yellowstone and back. That’s only one of the four road trips we’ve done in the past few weeks. Recently we also headed the other direction, to southern Ohio. On the way we visited the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton.

The museum has a number of galleries inside. The interior collections include the early years of flight, aircraft from World Wars One and Two, Korea and Vietnam, and current times. There are cargo planes, a variety of fighters and spy planes, intercontinental missiles, and experimental craft. Presidential and other executive transport planes, space travel, and Cold War air memorabilia are shown. Outside the huge hangars are more planes and a memorial park.

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Smithsonian | Udvar-Hazy Center

by Jim and Melanie

When we get a chance, we enjoy visiting the National Mall in Washington, DC. Over time we’ve experienced many of the museums and monuments. The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is one we have visited several times. It is full of thousands of artifacts documenting the history of aviation and space exploration. Did you know about their companion facility the Udvar-Hazy Center? It is located near Dulles airport west of the DC area in Chantilly, VA. It consists of two hangars with some iconic space and aviation exhibits. We finally got to visit and urge you to do the same if you have an interest in aviation and space.


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by Melanie

An origin myth, republished in honor of our son. Today is his graduation day. He will receive his wings as a pilot for the United States Air Force.


Sky dominated my view, expansive and welcoming. Flyers found air space at varying levels, like planes directed by hidden air traffic controllers. Swooping low, barn swallows performed touch-and-go exercises. Higher, clouds of blackbirds undulated almost across the horizon. They signaled cooler weather coming, but it was not fall yet. For now, clear, indirect light silhouetted the birds against pale blue.

At ground level, thistles reached upward, tough and tall. Goldenrod, flowering heads brushed lengthwise, reminded me of ancient brooms, worn down from years sweeping the stone hearth. Queen Anne’s lace had curled into tight clusters, pregnant with seeds waiting to spill forth.

Pelicans were back, flying so high, wingtips reflecting the late afternoon sun. They looked like confetti drifting slowly in a circle, until they wheeled and changed direction, moving closer in view. For me, the pelicans’ appearance always seemed like a gift. Now, with such perfect timing, the pelicans must be a good omen.

I needed a good omen. The year was difficult in many ways, full of extremes, joy marred by illness and tragedy. The cancer and anorexia were merely death threats. The murders were unbearable and incomprehensible, tearing the fragile scrim, the illusion of safety.

I flew, too. As with the pelicans above me, it was easier to fly than walk, my body awkward and unbalanced on the ground. Like Icarus, I used my wings to escape. Unlike him, I flew low, skimming the rooftops and crowns of trees. The view from above, in motion, removed details I needed to ignore. Instead I could focus, just on moving forward, and then on landing safely.

The sun shifted and blackbirds and pelicans moved on. As the leaves curled and fell, as dew on the dried maize reflected morning light, death hovered around us. The sky became broader still, opening through stark bare branches.

Waiting, I still flew. Crows bossed during the day. In the evenings they settled, scores in stands of trees, chattering odd noises like rusty hinges.

I posed no threat to them, did not disturb them from their roosts, even while I prepared to make my own. Landing, nesting, I had flown past the sorrows of the summer, though they were visible to me when I turned.

Flying snow, flurrying, melting; the fall did not readily concede to death. The rising sun brightened the sky, warming the earth again. And on that day, I gave birth to a flyer.

Fledged now, he flies for us as well as himself. Soon he will fly like the pelicans, broad wingspan carrying him higher, beyond view. Leaving and returning, a good omen.

2013 Year in Review

It seemed so simple. All we wanted from 2013 was a better, easier year than the one before. 2012 was marked with stress arising from the election, extended family tensions, health concerns, and other matters. Surely 2013 would be better.

But the year began badly, marked by events we couldn’t have foreseen, with effects on us and others that continue.

We are strong. We go on. And even with such a rough start, we succeeded in our modest hopes. It was, in fact, a very good year.

Neither of us are especially nostalgic, eschewing all the year-end reviews that mark the end of December. This year, however, we write our own.

Though stunned from the beginning, we quickly turned focus to upcoming celebrations. Our son graduated in mid-May with his master’s in mechanical engineering. The next day he commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. And at the end of May, we helped move him to Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma, where he began his pilot training. Those stories are told here:
On becoming an officer
On moving to Vance Air Force Base

We also looked forward to travel, with plans to visit Glacier National Park and Canada’s Banff National Park in July. In the meantime, we enjoyed hiking with my sister and brother-in-law in Illinois’s Starved Rock State Park. Before and after our big trip to Glacier, there were other hiking expeditions in Oklahoma, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia. A few of those stories, with wonderful photos by Jim, are here:
Glacier National Park, part 1
Glacier National Park, part 2
Banff National Park, part 1
Banff National Park, part 2
Maquoketa Caves State Park
Backbone State Park
Hike Along the Cedar River
Shades State Park Again After 33 Years
Hocking Hills Winter Hike
Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

We write, and we teach. To create venues for those needs for expression, we began this blog, Our View from Iowa. Our interests are broad, and we use this to publish posts on politics, hunger, and other social issues, science, nature, and personal concerns. In addition, Jim created the JAR Blog as a site more focused on science topics. In July, I also launched Catbird Quilt Studio. With more than 300 posts between the three blogs, I guess you could say we’ve been very expressive!

Besides working on our own blogs, we helped update the website for our nearest food pantry, the North Liberty Community Pantry. Since early this year, I’ve also volunteered a couple hours a week at the pantry. They provide seasonal clothes for children, and I help take care to make sure area children have appropriate, stylish clothing to wear.

After countless hours volunteering for the election in 2012, Jim’s taken a breather this year. He even retired (for the last time!) in June. But he stays busy. His gardening in the summer filled our freezer with produce to enjoy throughout the year. And he plays electric blues guitar regularly, one more creative outlet for him.

This has been a year of creativity for me in my quilting. Most of my quilts for the year are shown in this gallery.

As the year comes to a close, we find our lives full and rich, blessed with family and friends, with much to do, and means to reach out into the world.

We look forward to 2014, not with any wish for “more” or “better.” Our lives are blessed with plenty, and with peace and happiness.

We wish you a year of peace and plenty in 2014, as well.

The graduation quilt

I almost always have multiple projects in process, so the question of WAYWO (What Are You Working On?) usually stumps me a little. Sure, a project will take the forefront for a while, but few are done start to finish with no intervening work on other items.

Take, for example, my son’s graduation quilt. I started designing it in fall of 2010 at the beginning of his senior (fourth) year in college. At the time he was on track to graduate with a bachelors in mechanical engineering in May 2011.

But plans changed. He decided to enter Air Force ROTC, though most students enter the sequence of classes as freshmen or sophomores. There was no way he could finish school in four years and fulfill the requirements of AFROTC.

No problem! Besides finishing the BS, he would also enter and finish a masters in engineering, a plan approved by the engineering college, AFROTC, and the parents. Ultimately, this led to a date for his bachelors degree of May 2012, and the masters degree and commissioning into the Air Force of May 2013.

The Design

When I design quilts as gifts, I try to incorporate symbolism that represents the recipient to me. Whether or not they understand it, I do, and it helps me to “love on” every cut, press, and stitch. It was easy to decide what kind of symbols to use for his gift, especially once he’d decided to enter the Air Force. Propellers. Airplane propellers are appropriate, but so are wind turbine propellers, as he spent a couple of years working with a professor on wind energy projects.

There are lots of ways to include spinners into quilts, lots of windmill and pinwheel variations. I drew dozens of designs using blue and yellow, the Air Force colors, before settling on this:

This is a 9×9 layout using 2 blocks that create a secondary pattern. Only straight lines are used, but the combination gives the illusions of curves and circular motion. I also like the plaid effect that comes out from the block arrangement, giving reference to our Scottish heritage on my side of the family.
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On moving to Vance Air Force Base

by Jim and Melanie in IA

“I get to live in an airport,” he said. “How cool is that?” With a few words he brushed off Jim’s sentimentality of a moment before, signaling it was time for us to leave. The message was clear: he’s an adult now. We weren’t leaving him at band camp, or at his first dorm room, for crying out loud!

Crying silently, tears filling her eyes, Melanie hugged him longer than he expected, and Jim did, too. And we left him at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma.

The journey to get there was long, much of it described here. Since his commissioning ceremony on Saturday, May 18, he had a few days to sort his possessions, collect his paperwork, and pack. We left for Enid on Monday, May 27, Memorial Day.

The midwest storms had already begun, and that morning we drove through rain and stiff winds for six hours. We were spared rain for the rest of the trip, but the wind never let off. With two cars and three drivers, each of us drove a large portion of the 600 miles. The directions were simple: take I-80 to I-35, and keep driving through Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma until you’re a few miles east of Enid.

Once we reached base, we went to the visitors’ center for security clearance and passes. Closed for the holiday, the next option was the gatehouse. We handed the guard our driver licenses, car registration, and proof of insurance. He had us park and enter the guardhouse, where two other men worked at computers. “They’ll take care of you in here, Lieutenant,” the young man said, addressing Son by his officer’s rank for the first time.

Monday night we checked into a motel room at the Cherokee Lodge, while Son was assigned a “dorm room.” Like a miniature apartment, it consists of a large bedroom and a very small kitchen, a 2-sided closet in the hallway to the bathroom, and a small full bathroom. It’s enough, considering how busy he’ll be.

The yellow arrow points to his room, on the north side of the building.

Here you can see his room circled.

The view out his window.

The next morning Son reported for duty after breakfast. While he began his paperwork and long list of tasks, we had some time to explore. According to the Vance Air Force Base site,

Vance has nearly 1,200 active duty and Reserve military, as well as approximately 1,300 family members here. The base also employs more than 1,300 Federal civilian employees, non-appropriated fund civilian employees, contractors and private business employees.

Base housing includes more than 240 family homes, more than 300 “unaccompanied” housing units, and visitor and temporary lodging. Besides that, there is an elementary school, day care, and a teen center, an arts and craft building, the commissary and exchange, to help make residents more comfortable.

Of course, it isn’t just a small town. The primary purpose is to train pilots.

Vance is the U.S. Air Force’s only Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (JSUPT) wing, training over 400 Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied student pilots each year. The wing flies over 55,000 sorties (81,000 flying hours) per year, and owns and operates a fleet of over 200 T-1, T-6, and T-38 aircraft.

With more than 200 airplanes, the facility needs an air tower, hangars, and maintenance buildings. And runways. The main runways are parallel to the rest of the base, running north and south. Every couple of minutes, a plane takes off or lands. Here is a satellite view of the whole base.

On Tuesday, all the planes were taking off into the south wind. We watched from behind a fence for a few minutes, and then left the base. On a red dirt road south of the runways, right under the jet runway path, we watched them zoom over, bank hard to the west, and fly back around.

“I get to live in an airport,” he said. “How cool is that?”

Yeah, pretty cool.

To see more photos click here