|Birth: ||Aug. 4, 1958|
|Death: ||Apr. 4, 2009|
CMSGT Gordan Scott Swarthout, Iraqi Freedom Veteran, Native of Washington State, United States Air Force Reserves member of the 86th Aerial Port Squadron.
Gordon Scott Swarthout passed away on April 4, 2009. He was born August 4 1958 in Berkley, California to Jack and Mary Swarthout. Gordon grew up in Missoula, Montana and graduated from Sentinel High School in 1977. In 1980, Gordon married Eileen Joy in Olympia. Shortly thereafter he enlisted in the Air Force and was served at Hill Air Force Base, Utah between 1981 to 1989. After leaving active duty service, he and his family moved back to Olympia where he began his career in information services at the Department of Labor and Industries.
Gordon continued his service to his country by joining the Air Force Reserve serving with the 86 Aerial Port Squadron. He achieved his dream of earning the rank of Chief Master Sergeant, the highest enlisted rank in the Air Force. In 2006, Gordon was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq. His meritorious service earned him many accolades, including the Bronze Star. Gordon cherished serving his community, from scoutmaster of Pack 333 to board member of Ballet Northwest.
Chief Master Sergeant Gordon S. Swarthout was the Training Superintendent for the 86th Aerial Port Squadron, 446th Airlift Wing, McChord AFB, Washington. He was the senior enlisted member responsible for management of training guidelines, activities and metrics used to ensure deployment readiness for one of AFRC's premier Aerial Port units. He provides direction and guidance to squadron senior enlisted managers working closely with the commander and senior operations staff to maximize training opportunities to enhance unit effectiveness. Chief Swarthout grew up in Missoula, Montana graduating from Missoula Sentinel High School in 1977 and claims to bleed Spartan Purple to this day. Upon graduation, he followed his family to Washington State where he attended Centralia Community College. In 1981 he enlisted in the Air Force under the delayed enlistment program and completed basic training at the top of his class. His first duty assignment was at the 2721 Munitions Test Squadron, Hill AFB, UT, where he helped design and build a data interface device used to collect and record telemetry test data for the air launched cruise missile. Two years later he was selected again to assist with the creation of a similar device for the newly developed Peacekeeper missile system. After eight years as an Instrumentation Technician, Chief Swarthout separated from active duty and joined the 446th Airlift Wing in 1989. His academic background includes an Associate of Arts degree in liberal arts from Centralia Community College, Centralia, WA. His military awards include: "Honor Graduate" for both Basic Military Training and Instrumentation Technical School, 1983 Air Force Logistics Command Missile Maintenance Airman of the Year, 1986 Air Force Logistics Command Missile Maintenance NCO of the Year, Distinguished graduate and Commandants Award from the Noncommissioned Officer Academy, the 2003 446th Airlift Wing UCI Top Performer and the Distinguished Graduate and John Levitow finalist in the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy. His military decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster. Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters. Air Force Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster. Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal with one device and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.
He is survived by his wife of 28 years, Eileen; three children, Christopher (Johanna), Conner (Beth), Katherine; mother, Mary Swarthout; brothers, Steve (Shauna), Mike (Kathi), Jack; sisters, Sandi (Vernon), Jacki: many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews; and his beloved dog. Sophie. He was preceded in death by his father, Jack Swarthout and his sister, Michele Swarthout. Christopher, a student at the University of Washington and also a former member of the 86th APS, Conner, a student at the University of Puget Sound, and Katherine in her first year of High School at Black Hills High in Tumwater.
A celebration of his life will be held 11:00 A.M Tuesday, April 14 at the Church of Living Water, 1615 Chamber St. SE, Olympia. A military service will be held 11:00 A.M. Wednesday, April 15 at the main base chapel at McChord AFB, Tacoma, Washington.
By Staff Sgt. Paul Haley, 446th Airlift Wing, 5/3/2007 - MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Welcome to the bullet train.
Those were the words of Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Swarthout to arriving members of the 447th Air Expeditionary Wing, Sather AB, Iraq, where he served for four months as the group superintendent.
"Imagine you're standing in your neighborhood. A bullet train comes through at 120 mph, and you just reach out and grab hold. You're instantly going 120, and you do that for 120 days, then you let go and you're suddenly standing back in your neighborhood," he said. Chief Swarthout, who normal serves with the 86th Aerial Port at McChord, said 12 to 18 hour days were not unusual, and the only way the mission could be accomplished was by using creativity.
"Many people don't think about what it means to be on an Air Expeditionary Force rotation. When we deploy, we have the same mission to perform as when we're home, but we don't have the same resources. It requires extraordinary effort and creativity to get the job done," he said. Chief Swarthout was in charge of 1,800 people total; 1,500 at Sather AB, and another 300 elsewhere in Iraq.
One example Chief Swarthout gave of the high operations tempo was the aerial port. There were 60 people working in the aerial port at Sather AB who moved more cargo than the 600 aerial port workers at Ramstein AB, Germany, during the same period. When Chief Swarthout arrived at Sather AB, there was no dining facility, and people were missing meals regularly. They had to make a one-hour round trip to get to an Army chow hall for meals, and it was difficult to do so. The only other option was to eat Meals Ready to Eat.
Once Chief Swarthout found out about the situation, he went into action to change it. He scrounged food containers from the Army, so that food could be brought to the base, and he had a postal tent converted to a dining facility. It took only six days before it was fully operational. By the time the permanent dining facility was finished, the temporary facility had served more than 100,000 meals. Chief Swarthout said he learned two important things while he was deployed. The first was that it's brutal, hard work.
"You will learn more about yourself than you will doing anything else. This is the hardest I've ever had to work," he said. The second thing he learned was an even greater appreciation for the Air Force Reserve. "I really saw how much the Air Force needs us (Reservists). Doing annual tour and things, I always thought we were useful. But Reservists bring innovation and creativity. On active duty, people do things that may not make sense in combat, but that's the way they're always done. Reservists ask why things are done that way, and if it doesn't make sense, they change it," Chief Swarthout said.
The need for change was apparent with the Baghdad international airport control tower. When the chief first deployed and went into the tower, he saw four American controllers and about 30 Iraqis. The tower was trying to get International Civil Aviation Organization certification, and was having trouble. One air traffic controller was a Reservist, who also works as a controller in his civilian career. This Reservist made a list of changes needed to gain certification, which included securing the tower. During security screenings, several of the Iraqi trainees stopped coming to work.
Though Chief Swarthout and his team tackled head-on the problems they encountered, there is still plenty of work for anyone else preparing to deploy. "Every team that deploys will have its own set of circumstances to overcome. It's those shared experiences that make a deployment so memorable," he said.
Memorable - like hanging on to a bullet train going 120 mph.
Some but not all of his Military Awards include, The Bronze Star Medal, The Air Force Longevity Medal(s), The Air Force Meritorious Service Medal and The Air Force Achievement Medal.
Open letter from CMSgt Swarthout to the members of the 86th Aerial Port Squadron, Monday, 08 Dec. 2008
Fellow Port Dawgs: As I was driving home from the UTA last evening, I couldn't help feeling an overwhelming sense of honor at being a part of an organization as amazing as the 86th APS. What brought me to that point? Well let me explain. We are faced with the toughest year the 86th has ever encountered in recent memory. Just look at what's on our plate:
• A significant number of our 86th brothers and sisters will soon be gone supporting AEF
• The shortage of trained staff and managers caused by the AEF will dramatically increase the workload and responsibilities for those remaining on station.
• We are still on the hook for an ORI even though we're also supporting the AEF
• We'll be providing most if not all the staff for the Airlift Rodeo
• Effective immediately, we'll be sharing all facilities with the 36th APS on the primary (A) UTA
• We will need to develop and implement entirely new training, planning, and communications processes in order to accommodate the needs of both squadrons.
• We have to move from our existing, temporary digs back into our newly completed HQ. It will probably be at least a couple of months before all of the bugs will be worked out of our new facility.
• The port development activity will be completed in January, or maybe February, possibly March, then again?????
• We still have 3 annual tours to complete and all training must continue uninterrupted.
Yep, looking at the year ahead one could hardly blame people for wringing their hands, rending their clothes, or pulling their hair. OK, that sounds a bit biblical but the prospects we face are more than a bit daunting. And yet, as all of these things were announced and discussed, I didn't have one person come up to me this weekend and complain or criticize. Instead, all I got over and over from all levels was "let me know how I can help".
That's the essence of this organization. Where others stand by and watch, 86ers can always be found in the middle of the fray. Other organizations refuse to give up existing processes or procedures because "that's the way we've always done it". The 86th on the other hand exhibits continuous innovation and ingenuity as a matter of course in everything we do.
I should have known it would take far more than the prospect of a "tough year" to bring down the spirit of an organization as mighty as the 86th. It's still inspiring however to be reminded once in a while how blessed I am to be part of this squadron. Your words and actions drive home to me once again that we don't just vacantly spout our motto in the 86th, we live it. Parantes Parati, the driving spirit behind AFRC's premier Aerial Port Squadron; To prepare is to be prepared!
May the next month bring you and yours all the peace and joy of the season. Please remember our AEF members and their loved ones in your thoughts and prayers reminding them they are all part of a large extended family; the 86th APS family. You all reminded me this past weekend that families rally when things get tough. It's what makes us so strong. Proud to count myself among your numbers,
MY LAST PARADE
Let the bungle blow
Let the march be played
With a forming of the troops for my last parade
The years of war and the years of waiting
Obedience of orders, unhesitating
Years in the States and years overseas
All waver in a web of memories
A lifetime of service passes in review
As many good friends and exotic places, too
As the warning sunlight begins to fade
With the martial music of my last parade
My last salute to the service and base
Now someone else will take my place
To the sharp young airmen marching away
I gladly pass the orders of the day
Though uncertain of what my future may hold
Still, if needed before I grow old
I'll keep my saber sharp and my powder dry
Lest I be called to duty by and by
So let the bugle blow
Fire the evening gun
Slowly lower the colors
My retirement has begun
McChord Air Force Base Memorial Grove
Created by: Tom Reece
Record added: Apr 27, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 36416453