Operation America Strong: 146th Airlift Wing salutes first responders with local flyover during training mission

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  • 146th Airlift Wing

An aerial flyover to honor Ventura County’s first responders, healthcare workers, and essential personnel took place May 15, 2020, as two146th Airlift Wing C-130J Super Hercules aircraft accomplished a training route over several Hospitals and Medical Centers in the area.

The flyover demonstration was part of a national two week-long project known as “Operation America Strong”, an Air Force and Navy collaborative salute recognizing healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Departing from the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, four 115th Airlift Squadron (115 AS) C-130J Super Hercules aircraft flew in a low-level formation over the Pacific Ocean, the Los Padres Forest, and areas of the Palmdale desert accomplishing a multitude of training requirements for the squadron’s pilots.

California Air National Guard Col. Christopher Dougherty, Commander 146th Operations Group, explained the shared benefits for his squadron and the community in adding this flyover at the end of the training.

“We get our training accomplished and we get to make a lot of people on the ground very happy with a flyover honoring them, so it’s a win-win,” said Dougherty. “These flights are being conducted as part of a previously scheduled tactical formation training; our pilots are receiving valuable training they need with their aircrew during these tactical formations.”

Many in attendance watching the flyover from the ground expressed happiness and joy, recording the events from their smart phones and sharing them on the 146AW’s social media accounts under the hashtags #146AW and #AmericaStrong. On the Wing’s Facebook page many expressed their sincere thanks and appreciation.

One Facebook comment reads, “Thank you 146th Airlift Wing so much for today’s flyover at Ventura County Medical Center, Community Memorial Health System, and Hospital Santa Paula! Your planes flew right over my house as I live near both Ventura Hospitals, and it made me happy to see this recognition given to our frontline healthcare workers. I have two hospital nurses in my family which made the flyover even more meaningful! Again, a loving thanks to all of you involved!”

California Air National Guard Capt. Cameron Sheppard, a 115AS pilot who participated in the flyover and training, said he’s happy to be a part an event that honors the first responders in his community.

“I was really excited to be able to give back to the brave men and women who have been on the front lines of this whole COVID situation in our local area where we live. It really works out perfectly because our local missions here require us to fly low for our training,” said Sheppard. “One of our main missions is our firefighting mission where we do have to fly low over mountains and communities around this area. We’re going to be doing this type of training regardless, it’s just nice that it works out that we can do it and help support our local community at the same time.”