PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Over the last several months, medical personnel, healthcare workers and essential personnel all over the world have been working against one common enemy; COVID-19. In Colorado, as of May 6 there have been 17,830 cases, 2,986 hospitalized and 921 deaths, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment website.
Aircrews with the 302nd Airlift Wing flew two C-130 Hercules to honor those personnel during a training flight around Colorado on May 6. They flew over several hospitals in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Greeley and Fort Collins.
Honoring the personnel has also hit home for some of the aircrew who have family on the frontlines battling COVID-19.
“It meant the world to us to get to participate in it and show the state of Colorado that we’re behind them 100% and right there on the front lines with them,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Brader, the 731st Airlift Squadron commander. “My entire family’s born and raised in Colorado. They’re first responders and police officers up in the Denver area and they were cheering us on as we went by today as well.”
Brader was one of the pilots and mission director for the flyover. His co-pilot, Maj. Cullen Vetter, 731 AS training and pilot, and navigator, Lt. Col. Kip Blackwell, 731 AS chief navigator, also have family on the COVID-19 frontlines. Vetter’s wife, Courtney, is a local doctor at UCHealth Memorial North Hospital where she and the medical staff were able to see and were excited about the flyover. Blackwell’s spouse, Col. Rebecca Blackwell, 559th Medical Group commander, is a practicing flight doctor and pediatrician at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
Blackwell hopes the flyover raised morale for medical and essential personnel and for those who are fighting the virus.
“I think this had a side benefit of helping raise the morale of the communities of Pueblo, Colorado Springs, West Denver, Boulder, Greeley, and Fort Collins,” said Blackwell. “I think even those that are not in the clinics dealing with this disease are dealing with it on a personal level, and the small action of the 731 AS today helped to remind them that they are not alone.”
Flying wings all over the U.S. are performing flyovers for their local communities and states. The Colorado Air National Guard’s 140th Wing also flew their F-16 Fight Falcons over Colorado on May 6.
“The 302 AW has many reservists living and working throughout the Colorado Front Range, to include our hospitals,” said Col. James DeVere, 302 AW commander. “We are proud to perform these flyovers to say thank you for your service and taking the risk to protect the American people.”
The following 302 AW reservists are currently supporting the front lines of COVID-19:
Col. Stephen Hernandez
Lt. Col. Matt Bershinsky
Maj. Kelly Prigge
Maj. Les Shook
Capt. Stacy Thomas
Capt. Melinda McClendon
Tech. Sgt. Rob Vuitonnet
Senior Airman Mehader Tefari