Here we sit, waiting for the call

Aircrew members from Fairchild Air Force Base practice an alert response Nov. 3, 2013, at Fairchild AFB, Wash. Practicing for various emergency scenarios helps maintain mission preparedness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Veronica Montes)

Aircrew members from Fairchild Air Force Base practice an alert response Nov. 3, 2013, at Fairchild AFB, Wash. Practicing for various emergency scenarios helps maintain mission preparedness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Veronica Montes)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash -- On the television the cult classic movie "Dr. Strangelove" plays for about the ninety-second time, and my co-pilot and I debate what to do with our time. Surrounding us are a few dozen of our newest best friends, all of which are also debating how to shape their evenings, sleep cycles, and most importantly what is being served at the dining facility. 

I've seen most of these people around but have never spent every waking moment with them, until now. Squadron patches, group patches, wing patches, even Air National Guard patches, and ABUs and flight suits unite us all and embody the true nature of this mission - we are all equally committed to its success. 

This wing-wide machine seems pretty quiet here inside the Cold-War era alert facility, but just a quick glance outside proves that it is spun-up and ready for anything our nation calls for. The Security Forces Airmen are unwavering at the gate, and no mention of "wind chill" from this evening's winter forecast is going to shake them from taking down anyone trying to mess with the jets even if it's a wayward crewmember that forgot protocol. A sea of bread trucks line the parking lot filled with every maintenance specialty this wing can provide. Just the exhaust from the trucks' tailpipes shows how many lay waiting to assist at a moment's notice. Behind them, Airfield Management takes the active runway to check for ice and debris, ensuring the runway is consistently available for takeoff. The beginning of the parking apron appears with yet another small platoon of vehicles. De-ice trucks sit with fluid warmed and personnel ready to rise above any aircraft on the line and spray ice and snow off critical flight surfaces to ensure the massive birds can fly. And, like a shepherd tending to the flock, Wing Safety watches the movements of all, on the ground and in the air.  

Finally, a metal tail appears in my peripheral. Turning my head I can see rows of the Eisenhower-era KC-135s standing primed and ready for launch. It gives me chills to think that what lies in front of me is what our parents, grandparents, and possibly even great-grandparents saw in front of them from this very type of facility for the last fifty years. As the politics of our nation change, the mission changes as well, but no matter where these birds are aimed, their purpose still rings as true today as ever before; for the defense of our nation. 

Horns blaring, lights flashing, people yelling. GO, GO, GO!

Without warning the world of peace and boredom is interrupted by orchestrated chaos. I don't bother finding my crew - they know where to go. Turning the corner to my vehicle I find my crew diving in and cranking the engine. All around us, vehicles fly by with some of the most combat tested aircrews in the world all heading out to battle once again. We fall into the stream and flow out to the flight line. Although this looks like mayhem, the mind slows down a bit and muscle memory takes over; so this is why we've practiced so many times.

Every sense you possess is stimulated during a response. The sight of men and women running as fast as they can in all directions fill the ramp. Sounds of auxiliary power units pop up from each aircraft, indicating it's coming to life. The smell of jet fuel and exhaust fill the air as each crew puts fuel to their massive jet engines. 

We park the car and run, my crew and I. Four parents, siblings, and friends - four Team Fairchild members, Air Force Airman, and American warriors - all racing toward the unknown together.