DM-50 tours rescue squadrons, flies new paths over Tucson

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. -- Both the 55th and 305th Rescue Squadrons hosted DM-50 members for an aerial
tour of Tucson Jan. 31. 

The DM-50 is a group of local business members who actively advocate Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and its positive impacts on Tucson's economy. 

Better understanding of the mission, safety, and noise abatement were central themes of the DM-50 visit. 

"We wanted to expose them to the rescue mission - one of the most important peacetime and combat missions," said 355th Wing commander Col. Kent Laughbaum. "The rescue squadrons have so many people in harm's way right now, and are some of the most heavily-deployed units on base." 

After receiving an orientation to the squadrons' missions and capabilities, DM-50 members loaded onto HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters to observe the new departure routes from D-M. 

"We also wanted them to see, from a flying perspective, what the new departure and
arrival routes mean to reducing noise to the city of Tucson. We have taken larger steps to reducing noise than have ever been taken and have done about all that safety will allow,"
said Colonel Laughbaum. 

He added that he must carefully optimize the balance of mission, safety, and noise reduction. Due to this continued focus on safety, there has not been one A-10 or HH-60 mishap in the Tucson area in the history of D-M. 

Jay Zucker, DM-50 member and honorary 563rd Maintenance Squadron commander,
said it was a great experience. "We got to review the new departure and approach
patterns and observe first-hand how they will minimize the impact on Tucson noise. He said the base has been extremely responsive to the community in making these changes. What they are doing is the right thing." 

The eastern helicopter departure route itself has not changed, but is now flown at
300 feet higher than before. Due to Federal Aviation Administration restrictions, the new western helicopter route cannot be flown at a higher altitude, but flies further south than the former route to avoid flying over densely-populated neighborhoods. Additionally, the fixed-wing flight pattern has been changed by increasing the altitude at initial approach
by 500 feet. 

DM-50 member Glen Kerslake said, "What was great to me was how careful they were to follow the new departure pattern to show it to us. It is nice to know that they pay that much attention to meeting the needs of the community. Wow!" 

Helping the DM-50 to also understand how rescue units work together was a combined effort of many DM units who briefed them on their respective missions and capabilities. Maj. Clifton Hicks, 55th Rescue Squadron, who helped organize the event, told DM-50 members, "This is your day to enjoy and to learn a little bit more about who we are and what we do." 

Colonel Laughbaum said, "We allow you to help us by educating you - helping you to be better advocates for the base." He added that the Military Affairs Committee, Air Force Association, local, state and national politicians, and the DM-50 have all been very supportive of the base. He said the DM-50, at a local and national level, has been able to
bridge the gap. "They are able to provide support at the tactical level to families and individuals and at the national level by lobbying Congress on behalf of our base." 

"I am very thankful to (DM-50) friendship to me as the wing commander. They were very welcoming and I know that I have made some friends for life. A real sense of support for our Airmen permeates our society. It is routine for someone to walk up, shake a hand, and say 'thank you' to our (servicemembers). I have seen it at the airport and other places around Tucson. This is a real sense of encouragement to our people." 

Colonel Laughbaum talked to the DM-50 about today's Airmen as well. "We have a special group of people coming into the service today. They are intensely patriotic.
Nine-eleven motivates people today. The World War II generation was a selfless generation; we have not seen another group like that until now. Sixty percent of our Airmen came in after 9-11. The commander went on to explain that virtually every single Airman at D-M deploys, especially if they've been on station for six months or more. There are 1,000 D-M Airmen currently deployed and that number is expected to grow to 1,500 this year. 

Mr. Zucker said he sees the DM-50 as the liaison between the base and the community. "As Tucson has grown, so has the base. But in Tucson, the base and the community have assimilated together. The base is part of the community instead of being completely separate and unapproachable." 

As a special treat, the DM-50 members were also invited to attend the Air Combat Command demonstration teams' A-10 and F-16 flights being performed for the SOUTHCOM commander's conference. 

DM-50 President Bruce Dusenberry said, "The day was absolutely phenomenal. We recognize how much work went into putting this together and we really appreciate it."