Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A little background.....

I've had the honor to be a member of both the Air Force and Coast Guard Art programs since 1994. The purpose of the programs is to tell the story of the missions through art. Artists may visit bases and/or observe missions with the purpose of creating artwork that is donated to the military. In the Air Force program, many artists are members through illustrators' societies. My affiliation is through the Northwest Air Force Artists association.

While living in Kodiak, home to the nation's largest Coast Guard base in terms of area of responsibility, I was able to go out with cutters and small boats as well as fly on helicopters and C130s. For a small town, the large Coast Guard contingency is an integral part of the community. Over the years I have submitted many paintings to the program and one was displayed in a Coast Guard exhibit in The Netherlands last year.

Since we moved to Washington in 2006, I have continued to contribute to the programs, and in 2007 was invited along with three other artists to McChord Air Force Base south of Seattle to document the Rodeo where units from all over the world come together to compete in various exercises. Not only was the event an exciting experience, the other artists have become close friends and we had the opportunity to regroup at the "art turn in" held at Bolling AFB in Washington DC in 2008. The painting here is entitled "Wranglers," which Rodeo participants are called, and they are shown as they load mannequins onto a waiting C130, being timed and graded on their activities.

When the call came a few weeks ago asking if I would be willing to go to Kotzebue, Alaska to observe Operation Arctic Care, I jumped at the chance. To return to Alaska, to interact with our men and women in uniform as they go about their duties, to create paintings from the experience.....Does it get any better than this? Not for me!

Operation Arctic Care is in its 16th year. Reservists and active duty personnel with medical expertise come together from all over to provide medical coverage for people in the remote villages of Alaska. This year the mission would be hosted by the Air Force. We would spend two days there and weather permitting, would fly on BlackHawk helicopters to villages to observe and interact with medical personnel assigned there.

Official orders and itinerary arrived and I began checking weather in "Kotz," 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Emails flew back and forth with our assigned escort, MSgt Brady Kiel and fellow artist for the mission, Shiho Nakaza of Los Angeles. We were to bring sleeping bags, just in case we were to fly to a village and be unable to get back to Kotzebue, and don't forget the cold weather gear! Temperatures hovered below freezing. Like, 8. Or 18. Or 22 degrees. The Arctic is still frozen at this time of year. Unlike Kodiak, the cold is dry and breakup won't happen for another month.

So how could I take enough stuff, travel light and still get the job done? How would it feel being back in Alaska, even though I had never been that far north? I put my trust in God, and the Air Force, to show me what needed to happen and prepared for the trip of a lifetime. Pr 3:5, 6

More to come.......

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