Spokane North Notes
A weekly bulletin of the Spokane-North Rotary Club
March 23, 2015
Editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
Photos: Eric Johnson
Program Coordinator: Jim Minkler
          An official welcome: Two new members were inducted at the March 23 luncheon – Robbie Jackson and Sister Bernadette Mary Nannyonjo.
          Robbie F. Jackson has been the legal administrator for the Winston & Cashatt law firm since 2013.  Prior to that she worked in the Multnomah County (Ore.) Circuit Court, at Lewis-Clark (Idaho) College and for 15 years was vice president of operations and controller for Virtual Education Software, Inc.   Robbie has a daughter in Seattle and another at home and enjoys traveling, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, golf and playing pinochle.  She was sponsored by Jodi Harland.
          Sister Bernie, a George Kuroiwa honorary club member, is on leave from the Cabana Nursery School in Kisubi, Uganda.  She is finishing her degree in social services at Spokane Falls Community College and was sponsored by Jim Minkler.
         Fund-raiser, cont.: Past President Steve Boharski, one of the fund event leaders, asks members to check the list of past auction item donors, especially restaurants, and to see if they are willing to contribute once again to help students at Holmes Elementary School.  Steve reminds that “all money raised – 100 percent – goes to Holmes projects.  No administrative costs are taken.”  Donated dinners and other items will be grouped into three or more packages to bid on at the June 4 Hawaiian night.
AF leader is a commanding presence
          Renewing the club’s longtime interest in Fairchild Air Force Base, Col. David E. Stookey, commander of the 92nd Mission Support Group, talked at the March 23 meeting about past, present and future developments at Fairchild.
           With a computerized slide show, Col. Stookey recounted the “Long Blue Line,” of Army Air Corps and Air Force involvement in Spokane, dating to a World War II-era B-17 unit based at Felts Field and in England.  FAFB has been home to B-29s, B-36s, B-52s and now to KC 135 refueling tankers.
           “The oldest (tanker) is a 1957 model and the newest is a 1963,” Stookey said, agreeing that the vintage sounds like old cars in Cuba. 
           Stookey recalled a recent flight in which “the crew members all were younger than my kids and the plane was older than me.”
           Ages aside, he said the mission remains “to deliver tanker gas wherever it’s needed in the world.”
           While the base in Spokane “is very safe here, we are in the fight because if fighter jets are going to operate, they need refueling by winds like ours,” Stookey said.
           Spokane has one of three refueling bases and is integrated closely with the 141st Washington Air National Guard Refueling Wing, he said.  While “before” the Guard and Air Force just shared the base, now (the “after”) offices are just across the hall, Stookey said.  He added: “Walking around, you can’t tell if it’s Guard or active duty personnel.”  However, the Air Force unit does not encroach on the state unit’s mission, and vice versa, he said.      
           Fairchild, Stookey said, remains the largest employer in eastern Washington, with 4,500 military and 1,400 civilian personnel and a $394 million annual impact on the local economy.
          The operations tempo remains high, he said, because concerns about ISIS threats have replaced missions in Afghanistan.  One side effect is base access.  Since October, Stookey said, “it has been tougher to get on the base.  When IDs are scanned in, they are checked against national data bases.”  He added that “as recently as last Friday we had someone checked out.” 
          At Fairchild, the wish list for new facilities in the next five years includes a $9 million operations center, partnering with Spokane County on a $19 million indoor firing range and a new $7.2 million air traffic control tower, Stookey said.
          Personnel now drive 82 miles to a Department of Energy firing range at Grand Coulee, Stookey said.
          Though McConnell AFB near Wichita, Kan., was picked to get the first of the new tankers, Fairchild hopes to become a hydraulics center for the KC 135s, which, he said, “will be on our inventory until the 2040s.”  A decision on housing new refueling tankers here will be made in about two years, Stookey said.
          On politically sensitive issues, he declined to comment on the BRAC base-closure review process, saying only, “I think Fairchild is a great base.”  Likewise, on Spokane tribal plans to build a 14-story casino near the base flight path, Stookey said  “the Air Force is neutral, with concerns.”  He added that the concerns were important enough that “a four-star” general flew by recently to check out the issues.
          Regarding increased use of drone aircraft in military operations, he said “drones still have pilots.  They’re just not in the planes.”
          Stookey, who grew up in western Washington, was commissioned in 1991, has been Support Group commander since last July, following two years at the Pentagon, where he was deputy director of information technology transformation.  He also has served at bases in Oklahoma, Guam, California, Ohio and England.