Anyone who has been around Altus long enough has been a witness to the large planes flying overhead or they might have just heard the roar of the engines as they pass over the community. Although it has long been a staple of the City of Altus, there are some citizens within the community that may not actually know what the planes are doing.
Altus Air Force Base was established in 1943 as Altus Army Airfield for the purpose of flight training on multi-engine aircraft. The base has witnessed many changes since its activation long ago, but the primary mission — flight training — has endured through all of them.
Altus is a prime location for military flight training. Due to the mostly flat landscape, few obstructions and more than 300 great days of flying weather each year, Altus AFB has become a premiere air mobility training location in the Air Force.
Air Force Capt. David Redwine was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and served six and one-half years in operations while stationed at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina before being reassigned to Altus in late 2014.
He is a C-17 Globemaster III flight instructor with the 58th Air Lift Squadron and performs administrative work at the 97th Training Squadron at Altus AFB.
As a flight instructor, every training mission Redwine goes on is a two-day process.
“A full day is dedicated to planning what we’re going to go do, take-offs and landings, alternate airfields… We’ll actually leave the local area and do some practice take-offs and landings in other places,” Redwine said. “So we’ll plan all that out, we’ll make some phone calls and let them know that we’re going to be out there to manage the traffic flow into all these other airfields. We’ll also do refueling with the KC-135’s that are stationed here.”
“We take our C-17’s up to 20,000 feet or so, connect in the sky and train to receive fuel,” he said. “The day of the flight is the focus of what we do out here. We train 1,400 students every year and for a lot of them it is their first time doing a lot of these things. We do short field landings, night vision goggles, air fueling, air drop, formation flying and things like that.”
For a lot of these airmen, they learn everything they need to know at Altus AFB.
They are given a few chances in a simulator before being put into the cockpit of a plane. Once they are qualified to go, they are assigned elsewhere, where they apply what they have learned at Altus AFB in wartime and operational situations.
“I just hope that in doing all this, I can get the lightbulb to go off in their heads,” Redwine said. “Being experienced, I want to translate that experience into something students can take away. Not just practicing the training but actually knowing why they are doing what they’re doing and the significance of it.”
Redwine said he believes Altus is ideal as a flight training base for more than just the flat landscape and perfect flying days, he also believes Altus is great because it is a small town that provides minimal distractions for his students, making their ability to learn what he has to teach their top priority while here.
For pilots, airspace is key and due to the relatively uninhabited airspace over Altus, their jobs are much easier. Although there are several airbases nearby, Altus AFB sort of owns pieces of the sky for all the different types of training that is done. He gives credit to air traffic control for deconflicting traffic and keeping pilots safe while in the air.
Part of their proficiency and practice for real world combat scenarios is flying at night which helps them train to minimize their detection while in hostile areas and while using night vision goggles — one of their strongest areas — it has to be dark for them to practice flying with them.
But the buzz around Altus has been about the incoming KC-46’s and although Redwine expects there will be some changes in store for the base, he does not expect it to be completely new.
“In the training squadron, one of our areas is having some of the KC-46 folks working with us. The weather will help them out, but the airspace will probably get a little more busy, so we may send people to different training bases, we will be deconflicting towards other training bases so that there are not too many airplanes in the sky for air traffic controllers to handle. That’s probably the first thing,” Redwine said. “The base, when it was originally designed — size-wise — supported even larger aircraft in its past, so just re-upping the airfield maintenance and logistical capabilities to support the new KC-46 because the infrastructure is there and the land area is available.”
Redwine expects to be stationed at Altus AFB for another two years and has enjoyed his time here since coming in 2014.
“The family aspect is huge for us here in Altus. The commute is really short so I don’t spend all my time in the car — I can spend it at home with my folks. That part is great,” Redwine said. “As far as the town and resources and things that we do, if there’s something you need in Altus, you just have to ask to find it. Everyone is very friendly and I’ve had a very positive experience out here.”
Redwine also wants to remind people that airmen are people too and they do their jobs every day to protect America’s citizens from harm.
“What we do here and what we want the community to know is when they see us flying out there, it is us practicing for the wartime mission which is to defend the nation. At the call, whatever that call is, whether it be Congress or the president, when someone says go, we go,” Redwine said. “Even our training mission, we’re not immune to that so say if they need more people to fly, we’re perfectly capable, qualified and ready to go.”
“Since 2001 we’ve had about 120 people deployed from the wing every year,” Redwine said. “It is our duty to represent our fellow citizen when we’re out and about in town and also when we’re deployed. People see the flag and they see the United States and all of the core values that we try to live on or off-duty. We are focused on just being good citizens and trying to help out wherever we can. When you see us out and about, say hello. When you see us flying, there was an intention behind why the flight was planned. It is all preparation so that when the war happens, we’re ready and prepared and confident that our training is going to protect us and protect everyone at home.”
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.