An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Vance student pilots' photo 'combine' wings, harvest

  • Published
  • By Joe B. Wiles
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
It began with an Oklahoma Wheat Harvest hat from a second-hand store in Enid and ended with Class 09-06 posing for a photo with a John Deere 9770 combine on the Vance AFB flight line March 12.

The 18 members of Class 09-06 Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training needed a design for their class patch. 

"Our class sponsor, Steve Barnes, gave us some rodeo tickets, so I went to a local second-hand store to buy some rodeo clothes," said the patch designer, 2nd Lt. Shaun Carroll, soon to be a MC-12 pilot. He bought a hat with the Oklahoma Wheat Harvest logo on it.

"We were sitting around one day trying to come up with a patch design," Lieutenant Carroll said. "I said, let's go with this," referencing the logo on the hat.

They made it a "wing" harvest, referring to the pilot wings they would earn at graduation.

"We threw in a green and yellow combine, which seemed to fit with the local area, and everyone has loved it since," Lieutenant Carroll said.

"Our class sponsor, Steve Barnes, was the motivating force behind getting a combine on base to use in our class photograph," said Capt. William McDougall, the senior ranking officer in Class 09-06.

The student pilots often saw combines in the fields during their flight training.

"Our class patch is a reflection of how we've embraced the agricultural part of the surrounding communities. It shows the respect we have for the local farmers," Captain McDougall said.

While setting up for the class photo, Captain McDougall said several of Vance's contracting partners stopped by to point out that they, or their brother, had a combine like the 9770 model. "There are a lot of farmers working on base."

After seeing the class patch, Mr. Barnes decided it would be "cool" to have a combine on the flight line for graduation.

"So we talked to the right people and got it done," said Mr. Barnes.

Getting the large, expensive piece of farm equipment out on the flightline turned out to be bit more involved than Mr. Barnes made it sound. The 9770 model is 13 feet high and 30 feet across the header, the part that cuts the crop when the combine harvests.

"When Steve Barnes asked me if I'd bring a combine out for the class photo, I told him absolutely," said Drew Combs, P&K Equipment manager. "If you can get the base commander to okay it, I'll bring it."

For Mr. Combs, getting a photo of one of his agricultural combines sitting on the flight line was a strong motivator.

"This is a picture I'll have the rest of my life," he said with a smile.

Logistically, it was a matter of making sure the large machine would fit through gates and under wires, Mr. Barnes said. The header was removed and brought to the base on a trailer. The main body was driven from the shop north Enid to the Vance flight line.

"It runs along the highway at about 25 mph," Mr. Combs said. "I had two of the guys drive it down (March 11). It didn't take any time at all."

The morning of March 12, the combine was parked between a T-1 Jayhawk and a T-38 Talon in front of base operations. All 18 members of Class 09-06 posed for their photo. Despite the finger-freezing wind and horizontal snow fall, family members were out on the concrete to take photos of the soon-to-be pilots set to graduate the next day.