PHOTO: Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Floyd W. Atkins refuels a B-1B Lancer over Afghanistan, July 17, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colin Cates SOUTHWEST ASIA – Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Floyd W. Atkins, a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, has reached 8,000 refueling hours in his career, a rare feat for a boom operator. "The milestone signifies the love for what I do," Atkins said. "Reaching the 8,000 hours means I have been blessed to maintain good health -- good enough to remain on flying status for 28-plus years." Atkins said he hopes to reach the 8,765 hour mark, which would equal one full year of flying time. “I think I will have to get a patch that says 1-50 since I will probably be 50 when I reach that mark," he added. But just like every other boom operator, he said, he had to start somewhere.
"The feeling as a young boom operator was one of amazement," Atkins said. "I couldn't believe the Air Force was letting me do this for a living. One of my first missions was refueling the Thunderbird just after arriving at my first duty station. It's got to be the greatest job ever." Now, he said, he has the privilege of seeing the new faces in the boom operator career field and relives some of the same feelings he had as a young boom. "Being a boom is special -- no two days are the same, and again it's a rush of excitement at times,” he said. “Now it's fun to watch a brand-new boom refuel and get excited, and see that same look on their face that I had over 20 years ago.” Early in his career, Atkins said, he never gave much thought to how many hours he had. “To me, I was just doing what I enjoyed and never worried about the hours," he explained. "Only recently has it become interesting as people are amazed by the number of hours I have logged."
PHOTO: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Geoffrey Jensen places a cap on a fuel booster pump of a B-29 Superfortress he is restoring with other volunteers inside a Boeing hangar in Wichita, Kan., July 22, 2014. MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – As a child, he spent countless hours drawing aircraft from his World War II book collection, daydreaming about what it would like to be fly in one of them. The volunteers are restoring one of the last two B-29s to flying condition. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Linzmeier Now, as an adult with 19 years of Air Force service, his aircraft dreams are still alive and are even more vivid as he spends much of his free time restoring one of the last flyable B-29 Superfortress bombers. Tech. Sgt. Geoffrey Jensen, 22nd Maintenance Group logistic resource management program noncommissioned officer in charge, became a volunteer for the “Friends of Doc” restoration project in March and has been hooked on helping ever since. Doc, a B-29 named after a character from the fairy tale "Snow White," was built in Wichita, Kansas, during World War II.
It has been parked inside a Boeing hangar next to McConnell Air Force Base, close enough for Jensen to do a little work during his lunch break, something he does frequently. “It’s like bringing history to life,” Jensen said. “There are a lot of people who have never even heard of this airplane. It’s the same model that dropped the atomic bomb and ended World War II, and it’s so cool that I get to be a part of that.” Working on an aircraft is nothing new to Jensen. He was a flightline crew chief for 18 years and has brought all of his experience with him to aid the restoration project. But he’s not the only one involved in the project who has military experience. “We’ve got a large number of veterans helping out here, including a 95-year-old,” said TJ Norman, volunteer manager. “It’s so nice having these Air Force guys over here, because all I have to do is show them what project we are working on, and they know exactly what to do.” The aircraft is being pieced together to resemble its original image with a few modifications for increased safety. Jensen said he has helped to implement modern avionics technologies while trying to maintain the aircraft’s originality.
PHOTO: Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Burns II prepares Monterey chicken July 17, 2014, on Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Burns garnished his plate with sweet peas and mushroom sauce. MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – He can bust down a burning door and save lives from a flaming inferno, and if the kitchen survives, he might whip up some elegant blackened salmon, too. He is a 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron fire inspector. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Callaghan On duty, Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Burns II is a fire inspector with the 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron. On duty, he ensures fire code compliance across the base. Off duty, the 33-year-old staff sergeant does almost everything he can to fulfill his appetite for good cooking: teaching youth cooking classes, competing in cook-offs, cooking for friends, and even working as a chef at a local restaurant. Burns has been cooking for "15 years strong, at five different bases and through six deployments," he said. "I cook on a regular basis, and I always try to challenge myself with whatever I'm cooking."
Burns' interest in cooking is fueled by a desire to improve, he said, sparked by a fellow airman's badgering. "It was because one day I was told that I couldn't cook, and it went from there," he said. "I brought [leftovers] to work to eat. … I tried to warm lasagna up in a skillet. Everybody laughed and said, 'Burns, you don't know how to cook at all. This is horrible. You can't do this with a skillet.' From then on, we were always challenging each other to cook better." Eric Mortensen, the 23rd CES assistant fire chief, said Burns simply enjoys taking on a new venture. "He's very interested in expanding his horizons, and he's very adventurous," Mortensen said. "This is just one more thing. He's passionate about everything he does. Burns has jumped into cooking. He also did some gardening with no background in that, either. He grew some stuff, grew it very large, and entered it into a farmers market fair.