By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
“Ain’t no mountain high enough,” so goes the song.
Literally and figuratively, I reached new heights on Aug. 25, flying on a KC-135 from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma. Our goal was to watch two fighter jets flying parallel to our plane in the sky for refueling once we reached Oregon.
“This is not a movie,” I told myself, while peeking out through a tiny window of the war plane.
One by one, the jets lowered their position and glided over to the tail of the KC. As many as three jets could line up for refueling from the KC. Refueling was fast, efficient, and precise. I didn’t see any drop of fuel spill. These guys were exceptionally trained.
Can you imagine an ordinary immigrant like me (I am a naturalized U.S. citizen) on such a mission?
That would be unthinkable in other countries. China or South Korea would never invite regular citizens to ride in their military aircrafts.
Suddenly, from my American Dream emerges a new vision — cultivating incredible experiences of a lifetime — learning to do and see things in a fresh way. Awesome moments are the outcome of attempting the impossible with boldness and are possible with energy and conviction.
Thanks to the Air Force for inviting me and other citizens to witness KC’s purpose under the glorious sky.
During our mission, we were treated to three beautiful mountains: Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier. Our pilots flew to the top of Mt. Rainier, circling around so we could get a closeup of the top.
This view was far superior to any you get on a commercial airplane.
What a magnificent angle of Rainier. It was also very different from the one you see from Seattle.
Frankly, I won’t be able to visit Iraq or Afghanistan to see how these planes operate during wartimes.
However, flying in a military aircraft gave me a taste of some of the complexities of battling in the sky.
During the two-hour flight, I was welcome to talk with the military staff, sit inside the pit, and crawl down to the boom (which controls the refuel) as much as I wanted. I saw first-hand how transparent America is. I was also able to meet Washington state’s highest-ranking officer, Maj. General Timothy J. Lowenberg, who works under Gov. Chris Gregoire. Most strikingly, I was allowed to take pictures anywhere on the plane.
I was curious why I was even there. Every summer, the Washington Air National Guard invites about 45 guests to fly on the KC-135. I was the only Asian American on the guest list this year.
Please allow me to brag this one time.
Capt. Passion Julinsey, who I met recently, told me he chose my papers because of their spheres of influence is large and he admire their accomplishments. I’m glad I can share my experience with my readers, many of whom won’t have the opportunity to ride the KC in their lifetime. I felt so honored to be in the company of Reps. Luis Moscoso and Cathy Dahlquist, Sen. Andy Hill, and many other important leaders of our state.
At the beginning, I said no, due to time constraints. With my new perspective about the American Dream, I changed my mind.
As 9/11’s anniversary arrives, I think about America’s weapons in fighting terrorism. War is destructive no matter what the justification is. What really comforts me is that President Obama is planning a massive withdrawal of our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Hopefully, in the future, these weapons won’t be needed to fight, but only to effectively scare off our potential enemies and terrorists. ♦