From Round O to Uzbekistan by way of Rhein Main – Air Force reserve officer flies support missions for conflict in Afghanistan

From Round O to Uzbekistan by way of Rhein Main – Air Force reserve officer flies support missions for conflict in Afghanistan – Brief Article

Chris King

Flying from Rhein Main Air Base, Germany, to Uzbekistan requires navigating across the Czech Republic and the Ukraine, over the Black and Caspian Seas, and then across Turkmenistan. To get to the small farming community of Round O.S.C., requires more navigation than that, according to a C-17 pilot with the 315th Airlift Wing, Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.

Maj Westel W. Willoughby should know. He’s a farmer in Round O.

“I guess it’s strange to have someone be a farmer and a C-17 pilot,” he said during a flight from Karshi-Khanabad, Uzbekistan, to Rhein Main. “But a farmer is what I am and I love the job.”

With others from his Air Force Reserve Command unit, he is a volunteer flying Operation Enduring Freedom missions from Rhein Main.

“I have always wanted to fly,” he said. “When I graduated from The Citadel, I went into the Air Force as a navigator. Later, I had the opportunity to go to pilot training and became a C-141 pilot. I feel like a lucky man. How many people get to do the two things they most like to do?”

Major Willoughby said that although flying the C-17 takes up a lot of his farming time, it is his contribution to support the war on terrorism.

“Right now I’m over here flying and I should be out putting lime on my fields,” he said. “I really would like to put in some peas and wheat this season. I’ll have to see about corn. I may not have time for that this year. We are so busy flying I guess I’ll have to wait and see what I can do when I get back.

“After September 11, things changed for me.” he said. “I like the tranquil life on the farm. It gives me a chance to go from 500 miles per hour to five. That’s quite a change, but it’s one I look forward to. After 9/11, I knew that I would be needed to fly and started planning for that.

“This operation has given me a chance to see a different part of the world,” he said. “I wish people at home could see what it’s like over here and see how lucky we are to live in the United States. I also wish the people over here could see America and realize that we are not their enemy.”

Major Willoughby volunteered to fly for 120 days this year in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. So far, he has flown 25 combat sorties, and the corn is still waiting.

Lt Col Chris King, is a Public Affairs officer in the 315th Airlift Wing, Rhein Main Air Base, Germany

COPYRIGHT 2002 Reserve Officers Association of the United States

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