Hometown Heroes take flight with the 173rd Fighter Wing

 Klamath Falls Police Department Officer of the Year, Beads Yahwhee, smiles after getting fitted for a flight suit in preparation for an F-15 Eagle ride as a part of a new 173rd Fighter Wing program called Hometown Heroes. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson)

Klamath Falls Police Department Officer of the Year, Beads Yahwhee, smiles after getting fitted for a flight suit in preparation for an F-15 Eagle ride as a part of a new 173rd Fighter Wing program called Hometown Heroes. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson)

The 173rd Fighter Wing inducted two local civic leaders into the Hometown Heroes program Jan. 3, 2018 with a flight in the backseat of an F-15 Eagle at Kingsley Field, Oregon.

The Klamath Falls Police Department officer of the year, Beads Yahwhee, and Oregon Institute of Technology adjunct professor and veterans advocate, A.J. Davila, were both selected as the first participants in this program.

"We enjoy strong community support here in Klamath Falls,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Welch, the director of operations for the 114th Fighter Squadron. “It’s also a small enough community where we can reach out to leaders like these two and give them a personal view of what we do.”

The Hometown Heroes program is a newly realized civic relations program that benefits the wing in two ways.

Davila and Yahwhee saw firsthand the exacting preparation and professionalism required to fly in these aircraft as they did preflight briefings and accomplished all the required training before taking flight in the F-15. They will then be able to communicate this among their circles of influence. Secondly, they develop connections to the Airmen of the 173rd Fighter Wing and relationships like that grow community support.

 U.S. Air Force Maj. William Sullivan, an instructor pilot with the 173rd Fighter Wing, shows A.J. Davila, a local college adjunct professor and veteran’s affairs advocate, around the aircraft prior to boarding for a civic leader flight, Jan. 3, 2018 at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Ore. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson)

U.S. Air Force Maj. William Sullivan, an instructor pilot with the 173rd Fighter Wing, shows A.J. Davila, a local college adjunct professor and veteran’s affairs advocate, around the aircraft prior to boarding for a civic leader flight, Jan. 3, 2018 at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Ore. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson)

“Honestly the best part was getting a better perspective on what these pilots do,” said Davila. “I’ve lived here for eight years since 2009, I hear the jets all the time, but don’t really know what they are doing—it was really interesting to see that first-hand and frankly it was a huge honor and very humbling.”

Yahwhee said following her flight that, “this a really great interaction for people from the community to come out to the base and see a side of things we never see.”

This outreach is not an anomaly but is keeps with a tradition at the wing, whether it be conducting open houses, flyovers for patriotic holidays throughout the region, or bringing interested groups out for base tours. The wing seeks to foster goodwill with the Klamath Basin community.

“We have unrivaled community support from the Klamath Basin and we hope this further solidifies the great relationships and partnerships we have,” said Col. Jeff Smith, the 173rd Fighter Wing commander.

The 173rd Fighter Wing is located in southern Oregon in Klamath Falls and is home to the sole F-15C training base for the United States Air Force.

by: Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson, 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs