Page 12 - Luke AFB Thunderbolt, May 2022
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12 May 2022 NewS Thunderbolt
Flying for the Air Force is a family affair
  By Staff Sgt. BeTTY CHevALieR
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — Joining the U.S. Air Force involves a sacrifice of leaving home, parents and siblings without knowing when leave will allow for a reconnec- tion. Add in multiple family members serving and the chance of hugging those loved ones can be extremely limited. For one family, a routine mission brought two siblings together thousands of miles from each of their duty stations.
Capt. Jack “Shotgun” Miller, 62nd Fighter Squadron F-35A instructor pilot, and 1st Lt. Macy Miller, 6th Air Refueling Squadron KC- 10 pilot, each traveled for a temporary duty, with their missions coinciding at Tyndall Air Force Base.
The 62nd FS, out of Luke AFB, Arizona, spent approximately two weeks training out of Tyndall to complete part of the student pilot basic course syllabus. Training at Tyndall allows not only U.S. pilots, but also the joint partners within the 62nd FS a more complex combat training environment than available at Luke, due to the variety of airframes and airspace available in the Tyndall area.
When it was time to head back to home station, they requested support of tanker aircraft to help get the 16 F-35A Lightning II aircraft, along with support equipment and personnel home. The 6th ARS, out of Travis AFB, California, took on the mission.
“We got tasked to assist the 62nd [FS] moving all of their maintenance person- nel, some of their pilots and their cargo,” Macy explained. “The KC-10 is able to take cargo passengers and drag the fight- ers from Tyndall to Luke so they don’t
Photos by Staff Sgt. Betty R. Chevalier
U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Macy Miller, 6th Air Refueling Squadron KC-10 pilot, and Capt. Jack “Shotgun” Miller, 62nd Fighter Squadron F-35A instructor pilot, pose for a photo at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, March 2, 2022. Jack and Macy, assigned to Luke AFB, Arizona, and Travis AFB, California, respectively, ended up on temporary duty assignments at Tyndall, their first-time meeting at a location away from either of their home stations while actively supporting a mission.
including Jack. The remaining F-35s would be dragged home by another Travis tanker, flown by Macy’s husband. On Thursday morning, a maintenance issue was identified with the refueling probe on the KC-10. In a display of teamwork and flexibility, both units worked out an alternative to make the day’s mission successful: the F-35s would stop for refuel- ing in Texas and the KC-10 would ferry the personnel and cargo directly to Luke.
“We all showed up to work with a mission that day and that was to get eight jets, how- ever many passengers and all the cargo back to Luke AFB,” Jack said. “Whatever factors came up, we were going to continue to press with the mission. We all sat around the table and went through factors that we thought were limiting, important and concerning. We weighed our options, made a decision and went with it.”
While the initial plan didn’t work out, they all arrived back to Luke at approximately the same time that evening, according to Jack.
Seeing each other hasn’t been as sporadic for the Miller siblings, as Macy and the KC- 10 periodically stop at Luke for missions. However, this meeting was the first time the Miller siblings were able to work a mission together. Whether it’s a quick stop at each other’s base or flying a mission together, they are capitalizing on all the chances the U.S. Air Force presents to them and still keeping the mission going.
“I think everyone’s really understanding that seeing family is a little harder for us in themilitaryasawhole,”saidMacy.“Whenthe opportunity presents itself, I definitely jump on it. I’ve gotten to see my nieces a couple times, Jack and my sister-in-law. Even if it’s like for 30 minutes and a quick hug, it’s super cool and totally worth it.”
or there in Texas – it doesn’t really matter where he is — it makes me feel like the Air Force actually cares about my family.”
She went on to say that she feels like they see them as people and that they see her children as important.
“I feel very valued, even by people I’ve never even met,” she said.
Jessica also noted that many of the families she’s met caring for children with childhood cancer are not as fortunate as the Sykes have been with their work situations. In most cases, one of the parents are still forced to work and don’t get to take the time to spend with their family.
“The Air Force has been so understand- ing,” said the mother of three. “Anytime Zoey has been hospitalized, they are always will- ing to give my husband time off so we can keep our family together as much as possible. It’s a huge blessing for us. I don’t really know that you can find that anywhere else.”
One of the biggest takeaways for both parents as they have dealt with this over the last year is to ask for help. Both Jessica and James said they found that no matter what, the Air Force was willing to provide so they could take care of their daughter.
“Your military family will always be there to help you carry some of the load,” James said.
Staff Sgt. Sykes graduated from NCOA on April 1, 2022, and reunited with his wife and three girls — and his Luke AFB family.
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have to stop and get fuel, theoretically.” “Dragging” jets means fighters and tank- ers fly across the country in unison, working together to refuel the fighters when neces- sary. This can save the units time, money and resources while also providing valuable
“As important as it is getting dragged
across the United States by a tanker, es-
importance of giving blood. For many of his classmates, it was the first time they heard what he and his family had endured to this point.
Jessica had prepared a video of Zoey for James to show, which also was in cel- ebration of her one-year mark since the diagnosis.
“I was able to go up in front of the class and show them their blood could possibly be going to help someone like our Zoey,” James said. “...and that it doesn’t just sit somewhere on a shelf.”
After hearing about the 2-year-old and her journey, another family of Airmen ral- lied around the Sykes family. What was different this time was that these Airmen only knew each other for a short time since starting the NCOA together and were from 12 different duty stations in the western region of the United States and dozens of different jobs within the Air Force. But, the one commonality they shared was the kinship that happens in the military family. They take care of their own.
More than 130 people heard the message and showed up to give blood on the day of their blood drive.
Sheppard NCOA class 22-4 didn’t stop there with their support. It is typical in the armed forces community to do 5K runs or rucks in honor of a fallen service member or hero. The class instructors were planning just that to culminate and
pecially from Tyndall back to Luke, it also enables us to do student training on the back end of missions,” Jack said. “The tanker was able to drag the [F-35s] across the United States and dropped them off at Luke to meet a 15-minute airspace window that they had in order to accomplish pilot flying training.”
Originally, eight F-35s were to leave on Thursday, dragged home by Macy’s team,
finish their time together before gradua- tion. They decided to honor Zoey for theirs. “Zoey’s strength has put a lot of things into perspective for me and the others she’s touched around her,” an emotional James said. “She’ll get hours of chemo and we’ll watch the nurse put on layers of protective gear to protect herself from the things she
is about to pump into our daughter.”
He said to see his daughter go through that and then go home and want to play makes him realize his days are not allowed
to be bad ever again.
“I don’t have the right to complain about
anything anymore. My daughter is so strong and she’s only 2. And yes, this was a perfect way to celebrate her.”
On March 28, 2022, a family of 260 Air- men from NCOA Class 22-4 ran, walked and rucked in honor of a 2-year-old little girl who resides 800 miles away. Another example of the even bigger picture — the Air Force family. Not only did they honor Zoey, but they also raised money to help buy playgrounds for other cancer stricken children, something the Sykes said was one of the best things that they received for their family during this hardship.
never Alone
Jessica remained at home with the Sykes’ three daughters for roughly five weeks while James attended NCOA.
“Even though he’s far from home, I don’t feel so alone,” she said. “Here in Arizona,
 James would have to attend a noncommis- sioned officer academy before he could pin on the new rank, a professional development re- quirement to prepare those NCOs for greater leadership responsibilities. Sheppard would be his destination.
This was James’ third time coming to Sheppard AFB, having started here with initial technical training and returning for 7-level school.
It has been customary for each NCOA class that comes through the school to host a blood drive benefiting a local Texas blood bank. The need for units of blood is something with which the Sykes are all too familiar.
“We’ve had multiple stays in the hospital where we have to wait several hours for them to find blood,” James said. “In the meantime, Zoey suffers through that waiting period.”
Zoey has had to go through upwards of 10 blood transfusions as a result of her treatments for her type of leukemia, includ- ing one while he was attending the NCO academy. James said watching his daughter go through all that she has, has made him and his family extremely passionate about giving blood.
When James found out his class would participate in a blood drive at Sheppard, he approached his instructor, Tech. Sgt. Brian Runyon, about addressing his class on the

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