Ordinary People Make Extraordinary Impacts
(May 8, 2010)
Senior Airman J.C. Wardean, an HC-130P Hercules loadmaster assigned
to the 79th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, in a moment of levity,
waits for a fuel truck to refuel an HC-130P aircraft, April 17,
2010, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan (AFNS - 4/20/2010) -- He was 14
when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, flashed across
his television screen at his home at Mayport Naval Station,
His dad, retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. John A. Wardean, who spent
24 years on active duty, 13 years as an officer, was
stationed there at the time. As Senior Airman John C. (JC)
Wardean, 79th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron loadmaster
deployed here from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.,
recalls his father was furious.
Like most Americans 9/11 was a day that filled them with
extreme shock and anger - the Wardean's household ,including
his mother Tracey and sister Kristie, was no different.
For 14 year old JC, the day was tragic, but he spent his
high school years growing up in a country at war. He grew up
avid sports fan feverishly cheering for the Seattle Mariners
baseball team and Seattle Seahawks football team. He still says,
"The refs cheated us out of Super Bowl XL. We would have won if
those bums would have called the game right."
He is a part of a generation, who has lived with war as a
part of their lives. It has been a part of the background
noise of everything else going on in the world. Now it's
normal ... America is a war, as it has been for the last
In 2005, while living in Belfair, Wash., JC graduated from
North Mason High School, like most young men, he was unsure
of what he wanted to do.
"I worked in a hardware store for about a year after high
school," said the 22-year-old Wardean. "I didn't know what I
wanted to do, college, join the military, travel or whatever
... all I know is I needed to get out of my home town."
Like most people with a good relationship with their parents
he consulted them about his future decisions.
"My father never pushed the Navy on me, he said if I decided
to go that route I should join a Submarine unit," Wardean
said reflectively. "I didn't want to do that and then my dad
told me to consult an uncle who was in the Air Force."
It was that day he was introduced to the idea of becoming an
Air Force loadmaster. It sounded cool to JC.
"I'd get to see the world from the back of an airplane," he
said. "Sounds good to me and I can probably meet girls all
over the world."
What JC didn't know at the time was a loadmaster is in
charge of all cargo loading and offloading, cargo
restraints, aircraft weight and balance, passenger loading
and offloading, passenger safety, aircraft preflight
checklists and cross checking all aircraft systems.
During the flight a loadmaster assists the pilot by running
checklists and checking engine and hydraulic systems to
ensure passengers and cargo arrive to their destination
safely. For the young Wardean, not only would he become a
loadmaster, he was also going to be qualified as a rescue
"My family was extremely interested in my job, most of them
are firefighters, so they were proud that I was going to
have a job helping people" Wardean said. "It was cool - I
couldn't wait to get started."
After finishing basic training in 2006, JC started down the
long road to becoming an Air Force rescue loadmaster ...
15-months of training. First, there was technical school at
Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Next, he attended a
parachute water survival course at Pensacola Naval Air
Station, Fla., then there was the survival evasion
resistance and escape course at Fairchild AFB, Wash.
He was whisked off to Altus AFB, Okla., for the basic
loadmaster course, before traveling to Little Rock AFB,
Ark., for his initial- and mission-loadmaster qualification.
Finally he landed at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., to
become rescue-mission qualified, before going to his first
and only destination in the Air Force so far, Davis-Monthan.
"It felt like I had been in the Air Force forever, all that
training," Airman Wardean said smiling." But I did it. I was
a loadmaster and in a rescue unit. How cool is that."
Airman Wardean was now the third-generation of Wardeans to
serve his country by way of military service. His
grandfather John Francis Wardean, retired as a W-4 from the
Navy after more than 20 years.
JC joined a military, in a country at war, attached to a
unit that lives by the motto "That Others May Live," so it
did not take long for young Airman Wardean to start seeing
the world. In 2008 he deployed to Djibouti, where he
received an Air Medal for his aircrew's 10 saves.
|Senior Airman J.C.
Wardean, an HC-130P Hercules loadmaster and
First Lieutenant John Graham, HC-130P pilot,
both assigned to the 79th Expeditionary Rescue
Squadron, enjoy a video game and talk, April 18,
2010, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.
"On one of my trips on my first deployment, I actually felt
kind of patriotic for the first time," Airman Wardean said,
now with a serious look on his face. "We picked up some guys
and they were shaking my hand and saying thank you. It was
the first time it struck me ... we help people and we get
them to a safe place. Cool!"|
Helping to save lives in Djibouti inspired him. He thought
back to his father's outrage on Sept. 11, 2001, he thought
back to the war America was in and he wanted to be a part of
Unfortunately for the young Airman, his HC-130 "Combat King"
unit was not active in Operation Iraqi or Enduring Freedom
and had not been since he was a high school senior in 2005.
"I had done this training and gotten the chance to serve in
the horn of Africa, now I and my entire unit wanted to get a
chance to use our skills in Afghanistan or Iraq," Airman
He finally got his chance when the 79th ERQS deployed here
in March. The squadron, which stood up March 29 and went on
alert status April 8, consists of 86 Airmen. The aircrews,
maintainers and pararescuemen making up the squadron brought
a unique capability back to Afghanistan, by providing a
dedicated fixed-wing multirole platform to be used for
personnel recovery, medical evacuation, casualty evacuation
and aero-medical evacuation.
He got his first mission delivering medical supplies to a
hospital in Her'at. "I want to help people - that's what
makes my job fun," Airman Wardean said. "We have a cool job!
So now when I meet girls I can say 'hey I'm JC and yeah I
help save lives in Afghanistan,'" he added laughing.
JC said he has a deep respect for the Marines he sees every
day here. He lives in a place surrounded by them. They are
all a part of the increase in troops to support of Operation
Moshtarek, a NATO-Afghan joint offensive involving 15,000
Afghan, Canadian, American and British ground forces.
"They're just regular guys like me serving their country and
I feel like they have my back out here," Airman Wardean
said. "If we are called to help them or any Coalition Forces
and Afghan citizens we will have their back too."
JC doesn't know if he will make the Air Force a career.
After all he's 22 and he has goals - finishing school,
becoming a sports agent, working for the Seahawks or
Mariners and one day having a family.
For now he is an American Airman and like most he came from
humble beginnings. Still JC is serving his country during a
time of war.
"I am just a regular guy, who likes hanging out with his
crew, but what I get to do every day for the Air Force is
extraordinary," Airman Wardean said. "For now life is Cool!"
Article by USAF TSgt. Oshawn Jefferson, U.S. AFCENT Combat
USAF photos by Staff Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez
Air Force News
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