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Dreams do come true

  • Published
  • By SrA Peter Dean
  • 107th Airlift Wing
At 10 a.m. sharp on Nov. 15, Hunter Winship was present and accounted for, ready for duty, for he was an honorary pilot for the day at the New York Air National Guard's 107th Airlift Wing, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Hunter is a six-year-old boy from Freedom N.Y., whom a little more than a year ago was diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Burkitt's lymphoma is highly aggressive and spreads rapidly, affecting only 1 to 300 children annually.
Hunter as all pilots in training do, reported to his training officer Maj. Greg Miller, 107th AW, C-130 pilot, who presented him with his duty uniform, a flight jacket complete with patches and a name tag. From there, first order of business was a preflight briefing which included a flight plan that covered altitude, air speed and route.
After Hunter and his crew were clear on the mission at hand they were transported out to their aircraft, a C-130 Hercules. Hunter and his air crew then proceeded with a preflight check where they ensured that all instruments, controls and communication equipment were functioning as they should. All systems go, clear for take-off.
It would take a few more training sessions before Hunter would be ready to pilot a C-130; Maj. Miller debriefed Hunter and thanked him for his service. From the end of the runway Hunter kept a keen eye on Fuzzy 63 as it took off, observing take-off techniques such as airspeed and ascent angle.
After a morning filled with training, Hunter had built up quite the appetite. The 107th AW Services Squadron invited Hunter and his family to the dining hall for a traditional 107th holiday meal, which included turkey, prime rib and all the fixings.
After chow, it was back to work for Hunter, as his duty day was not over. Hunter reported to hanger 850, where Lt. Col. Michael Bank, 107th AW, Operations Officer, along with Staff Sgt. Greg Sliwa, 107th AW, C-130 Maintainer, had an afternoon full of systems training in store for Him.
Hunter participated in a one-on-one flight training session with Lt. Col. Bank that included hands on training in the cockpit. While in the cockpit, Hunter became familiar with throttle controls, steering controls and the navigation systems of the C-130s.
After completion of Hunter's flight control training, Staff Sgt. Sliwa stepped in to familiarize Hunter with the rear of the craft. Hunter learned the basics of loading and unloading procedures, tie down and cargo distribution.
With the duty day complete Hunter was up for some rest and relaxation, but not before a stop at the book store, where he was able to select a few books complements of 107th AW Family Readiness Group.
Tech. Sgt. Patrick Paolini wanted Hunter and his family to leave with more than just memories. On behalf of the 107th Recruiting Office the sergeant provided Hunter and his family with Air National Guard hats of their very own.
With all the basics under his belt Hunter is well on his way to becoming a fully qualified C-130 pilot. Perhaps when Hunter is old enough his dream will become reality and he'll be protecting the skies from all evil doers.
According to Shawn Winship, Hunters father, at present Hunter's cancer is in remission and has a 90 percent chance of a full recovery.