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After more than 12,000 hours in the air, engineer takes final flight

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christina Russo
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

From an early age, Senior Master Sgt. Vince Bartlomain, an evaluator flight engineer with the 757th Airlift Squadron, was dead set on one thing in life.

“I wanted to work on airplanes, and I knew the best place to do it would be the military,” said Bartlomain.

In 1979, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, and after four years of active duty service in Omaha, Nebraska, Bartlomain found his home at Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna, Ohio.

Bartlomain joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1990 and hit the ground running upon his arrival at YARS. Within his first year at the installation, he went from being a crew chief to becoming a flight engineer.

Bartlomain would spend the next 30 years at YARS as a flight engineer traveling to all 50 states and most of South America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He even flew on a mission that not many aircrew members can say they have flown.

“I got to fly around the world when we went to Thailand (Operation Cobra Gold 1993),” said Bartlomain. “We took off going east and came back from the west.”

Aircrew members often aim for specific flying milestones. There’s the first 1,000 flying hours and even 7,500. But then, there’s the ever sought after 10,000 mark, which few C-130 aircrew members hit. Bartlomain blew through that milestone.

On Wednesday, May 6, 2020, Bartlomain took to the skies one final time as a flight engineer, and after landing from his “fini flight” clocked in with a grand total of 12,303.7 flying hours. Bartlomain spent more than 510 days of his military career in the air. 

“All my flying hours have been with 910th aircraft with the exception I flew other units' planes on deployment,” said Bartlomain. “I got to fly 910th planes when they were brand new. I didn’t get to pick one up from the factory, but I got to fly the plane when it had less than 20 hours.”

Having worked on several different aircraft throughout his career, one remains his favorite.

“By far, the C-130 is the best aircraft to work on and fly,” said Bartlomain.

The 910th Airlift Wing is home to the C-130H Hercules aircraft which is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips under a wide-range of operational climates in order to fulfill a mission. It’s considered to be a workhorse aircraft that is resilient and reliable. Bartlomain’s wingmen agree that he embodies those same qualities.

“Bartlomain could be defined as a workhorse,” said Chief Master Sgt. Scott Young, chief flight engineer with the 757th Airlift Squadron. “There wasn’t a mission that he would turn down. It could be a pilot proficiency training mission or a mission dropping equipment to troops in a combat zone. He wanted to be there in the seat, doing the job.”

Bartlomain’s work ethic and willingness to live by the Air Force core values have earned him two Meritorious Service, seven Air and five Aerial Achievement Medals along with other awards acknowledging his dedication to service.

“One thing that stands out the most to me is his commitment to the service of his country and the dedication he applied every day,” said Young.

Many individuals join the military to see the world, and that is exactly what Bartlomain did. While traveling on many routine airdrop missions to the Pacific, Bartlomain found a new passion in life beyond that of airplanes - he found Hawaii.

“Who wouldn’t love Hawaii?” said Bartlomain. “It’s such an amazing place. There is so much to do, and the sights are like nothing else I’ve ever seen.”

His love for Hawaii eventually turned into a yearly vacation tradition.

“The military has allowed me to see so much and I wanted my daughter to see some of what I’ve seen,” said Bartlomain. “Hawaii was the place. We have been vacationing in Oahu (Waikiki Beach) every February for the last 15 years.”

As Bartlomain begins a new chapter in his life, many on the installation will feel the void left behind.

“The 910th Operations Group and the flight engineer section especially will miss ‘Vinny’s’ ability to make people feel at ease and the 12,300+ hours of experience,” said Young.

Whether in the air or on the ground, Bartlomain has left a lasting mark on YARS and even though the void left by his departure will be ever present, there will be new opportunities for Airmen to step up and follow in his footsteps.

“The military offers so much to us,” said Bartlomain. “Take advantage of everything you can. Make your career the best you can by learning as much as you can. Get involved in making your workplace better, and be nice to each other.”

As the men and women of YARS send off their fellow Airman, they do not say goodbye to Batlomain; but rather, “A hui hou makou i ka lewa” which in Hawaiian means, “until we meet again in the air.”