DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFNS) — The Dover tail flash is blue, yellow, black and white, has the head of an eagle, depicts the Liberty Bell, proudly displays the name “Dover,” and normally is only found adorning the tail section of Dover Air Force Base C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.
So how exactly did a Dover tail flash find itself speeding around the Dover International Speedway Sept. 28, at speeds in excess of 160 mph during the 2014 AAA 400, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series?
Three days prior to the green flag, the Germain Racing team, with Casey Mears, driver of the No. 13 GEICO Chevy SS; Robert “Bootie” Barker, the crew chief; and crew members took part in a community relations orientation flight aboard a C-17, operated by the 436th Airlift Wing. The community relations orientation flight also served as a training mission for the aircrew to remain current on their training.
Maj. Glenn Garcia, the 436th AW commander’s action group chief and aircraft commander, said that when he joined the Air Force and became a pilot, he never imaged he would one day fly a NASCAR team on an aerial refueling training mission.
“It was really cool,” Garcia said. “I had no idea that an event like this was possible.”
The Dover AFB C-17 carrying the team rendezvoused with a KC-135R Stratotanker, operated by the 459th Air Refueling Wing, from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
The two aircraft successfully completed 14 closures that night, with all the members of the Germain Racing team able to witness an aerial refueling closure from the aircraft’s flight deck.
“You always look at these aircraft and wonder what it would be like inside and think it would be cool to ride in one,” Mears said. “I appreciate the opportunity and how great everybody has been. I appreciate everything everyone in the service does for our country, and this is a great opportunity for us to see it firsthand.”
Barker, who happens to be a mechanical engineer, knows his way around the competitive field of motorsports but a C-17 is a whole different beast.
“They have a lot more procedures and tons of checklists,” Barker said. “We have procedures as well, but these guys make ours look miniscule.”
To thank the Airmen at Dover AFB, the Germain Racing team decided to place a few Dover tail flashes on their No. 13 GEICO Chevy SS stock car.
“What we really wanted to do is show our appreciation for the military and specifically all the folks at Dover Air Force Base,” said Larry Rogers, the Germain Racing general manager. “We are proud to be carrying those colors on our car; it’s an honor for us.”
The morning after the flight, aircraft structural maintainers, Tech. Sgt. Duncan Alexander, Staff Sgt. Jasmine Jones and Airman 1st Class Loren Genao, all from the 436th Maintenance Squadron, travelled to the track to apply the Dover tail flash decals to the car.
Though not as large as the 1.5 feet by 24 feet tail flash on a C-17, the decals they applied to the car were prominently displayed on the lower quarter panels and the decklid (the rear trunk).
Racing at speeds more than 160 mph around the track, the Dover tail flash has never gone so slowly, compared to the speeds of more than 500 mph a C-17 flies.
Not only was the Dover tail flash on the car as it raced around the track, but Dover AFB Airmen could also be found in the Germain Racing team’s pit, as honorary pit crew members.
One of the honorary pit crew members, Senior Airman Caroline Caballero, the 436th Comptroller Squadron NCO in charge of the commander support staff, gained a new appreciation for the sport.
“Coming to the race today, I didn’t really know much about the sport,” Caballero said. “But seeing everything that the driver and pit crew go through has really turned me into a fan. It’s really great that they invited us here into their pit.”
From the orientation flight to the race, the entire experience was a victory for both Germain Racing and Dover AFB