Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque Zooms into Action
As a multideployment combat veteran in the U.S. Air Force, Capt. Scott Gwin knows the rush of adrenaline that surges through an airman when lives are at stake.
As an instructor pilot for the CV-22 aircraft at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, his days are usually a little slower paced now, but he is always ready to snap back to action when that critical call comes.
He received such a call the morning of October 5, 2007. A medical aircraft carrying three people had disappeared from radar over the San Juan Mountains in Southern Colorado late the night before, and Gwin and his crew were commissioned to find the missing aircraft.
“The feeling of the adrenaline and the focus is something that many of us have felt before, but here at Kirtland, in the training environment, we don’t feel very often,” Gwin says. “That feeling comes right back – the mission focus and the drive to get there and lend whatever assistance you can immediately comes back.”
The crew flew a CV-22 Osprey, which can take off and land like a helicopter and fly as fast as a turboprop airplane, along with two HH-60G helicopters and a MC-130P.
Though no survivors were found at the crash site, the speed with which the rescuers reached the location was remarkable.
“In this mission particularly there was a sense of accomplishment in that we were able to put together crews and aircraft very quickly,” Gwin says. “It was just another example of the great work that the guys at the 58th [Special Operations Wing] do on a daily basis, from the pilots right down to
Kirtland Air Force Base is occasionally called upon to assist in dramatic rescue missions such as the one in Colorado, but their tasks extend far beyond these high-energy, life-or-death assignments.
A major focus of the base is research and development, according to Rich Garcia, director of public affairs.
The base, which is the largest employer in Albuquerque, has a little less than 20,000 people on it, but almost half of those people work for the U.S. Department of Energy rather than the U.S. Department of Defense.
Despite several critical missions on the base, many Albuquerque residents just think of the base and its personnel as neighbors.
“All of our military members and their families are members of our community,” says Jillian Speake, chief of current operations. “They go to Albuquerque churches, their kids go to Albuquerque schools, and we pride ourselves on being good stewards and good community members
“For the most part, here in Albuquerque with Kirtland, the support we get from the city is tremendous. We’re striving to be good neighbors and positive role models.”