JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --
During the month of July, the 514th Air Mobility Wing conducted its Super Unit Training Assembly. While a typical UTA occurs once a month for two days, the Super UTA brings the wing together for an extended training event, combining two months of UTAs into one four-day event.
This Super UTA, I had the opportunity to work with Tech. Sgt. Kristine Glenn, the flight chief for the wing’s developmental training flight. Aside from this special duty, Glenn is a proud member of the 514th Security Forces Squadron and wears the coveted Raven tab. She also spent time as an instructor for the Phoenix Raven course here on Joint Base MDL. In her current role, her primary responsibility as the D&TF flight chief is to prepare future Airmen for the rigors of Basic Military Training. She described the program as, “similar to the active duty Delayed Entry Program, in that it is a way to keep track of new recruits who have signed their contract and are waiting for a date to begin BMT.” The DTF, however, goes further than just checking up on these future Airmen. Glenn trains the recruits on customs and courtesies, drill and ceremony, rank structure, military time, Airmen values and other key tasks they will be required to learn in BMT. Glenn also ensures the recruits are physically fit by conducting regular physical fitness training and assessments, while she also shoulders the responsibility of any pay, lodging and personal issues the recruits may encounter.
For the recruits, this gives them a leg up when they begin BMT. As they enter that high stress environment, many of them will have already mastered a number of core basics that may save them a push-up or two. They further began to understand the new lifestyle they are joining. They earn a paycheck for their weekend drills, and most of them not only know what vocation they are entering, but even the Reserve squadron they will join after their technical training.
After three days of Glenn drilling them on numerous tasks, teaching seminars, and a physical fitness test on Friday afternoon (with temperatures reaching over 90 degrees Fahrenheit), I worked with her to take them on a field trip. After an inspiring speech by 514th AMW Commander Col. William Gutermuth, 27 passengers loaded up to make our way to Lakehurst, the Navy side of the joint base. The group parked outside of the legendary Hangar One where we met up with Mr. Carl Jablonski, affectionately called Mr. Lakehurst, and Mr. Don Adams from the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society.
After introducing themselves and providing a quick itinerary, Jablonski and Adams went on to give our group a three-hour tour. Our first stop was the 1937 crash site of the Hindenburg. Adams briefed the group on lighter than air travel, the U.S. military’s involvement with balloons and zeppelins, some history on the Hindenburg itself, and finally the events of May 6, 1937, when the crash occurred. The next stop was Hangar One, a massive hangar used to house airships for maintenance. Inside the hangar, there are numerous sections used for the tour. The first is a museum of artifacts pertaining to lighter than air experimentation and the history of Lakehurst itself, which celebrated its centennial last month. The next room contained a replica of the Hindenburg pilot capsule used in the 1975 film Hindenburg, starring George C. Scott.
After admiring the Hindenburg cockpit, the recruits were invited into the military history museum part of the hangar. Inside the museum, artifacts from all branches of the military were on display. Helmets from various Navy pilots and crew kept watch over a 12 foot model of an aircraft carrier. In the next room Medals of Honor from the Air Force, Marine Corps/Navy, and Army from various eras of the 19th and 20th centuries sat in a glass display case, surrounded by other medals of valor. The next room held a corner dedicated to prisoners of war during Vietnam, and had the flight suits of numerous pilots who had spent time as POWs on display. Each flight suit had a note exhibiting the number of days that individual spent in captivity. The next room had uniforms from all eras and all branches including: Union cavalry coat, the M-1942 suit wore by paratroopers on D-Day, Air Force blues and a few leather A-2 flight jackets among many others.
Outside of the military history collection, the Lakehurst crew invited us to see the day-to-day work they do. The group is responsible for the preservation of display aircraft around the base. Currently being remodeled is an F-8 Crusader, a rare aircraft nicknamed “the last of the gunfighters” due to it being the final fighter to use guns as its primary weapon system. Across from the F-8 sat a blacked out F-14 Tomcat, the primary aircraft of the 1986 film Top Gun. While admiring the work being done to the aircraft and other military history items like a Soviet-era anti-aircraft gun acquired during Desert Storm, the recruits were then invited to go on top of what appeared to be a building in the middle of the hangar. The military history collection had been housed within this “building,” which turned out to be a mock aircraft carrier used to train Navy personnel on how to run the flight deck of a carrier.
After the overwhelming amount of military artifacts, and a quick stop at the gift shop, the tour reached its final destination; the Cathedral of the Air. The church was dedicated by the local American Legion, with construction beginning in 1929 and finishing in 1933. Inside the chapel, stained glass displays man’s quest for flight. From the myth of Icarus, to the inventions of Da Vinci and down to the Wright Brothers; the glass commemorates the history of human’s pursuit to reach the heavens.
As the adventure ended at the Cathedral of the Air, our hope is that these new recruits found inspiration for their future careers. The military’s greatest asset is its people. These recruits are the next generation that will lead us forward.
I would like to thank Mr. Carl Jablonski, Mr. Don Adams, and everyone at the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society for giving the group and outstanding tour. Following an extended shutdown due to COVID-19, the group has begun giving tours again. Feel free to contact them at tourNLHS@gmail.com. I would also like to thank Tech. Sgt. Glenn for inviting me to observe and take part in the D&TF during this month’s Super UTA. Finally, I would like to wish all the new recruits luck on their future careers.