Pargan 12,500 Flying Hours Milestone

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. David Speicher
  • 135th Airlift Squadron
If Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Riffe, former superintendent of the Maryland Air National Guard's 135th Airlift Squadron's loadmaster section, hadn't encouraged a young civilian to look into the Air National Guard back the early 1980s, Master Sgt. Steve Pargan might be still working behind the counter of an automobile parts store.
Instead, he has reached a milestone few fliers ever achieve: more than 12,500 hours of military flight time.
According to Lt. Col. Gordon A. Kenney, 135th chief of safety, "To put things into perspective, only five other individuals in the past four years Air Force wide have been awarded this milestone." 

Pargan reached the milestone while flying a local proficiency flight on Jan. 9. He was awarded the patch worn on his flight suit on Feb. 9, his 25th anniversary of joining the Maryland Air National Guard. 

During those years he has flown the C-130B, E and J model aircraft here at Warfield Air National Guard Base. He has flown all over the world, including every continent except Antarctica and Australia. 

"I love it. I love to fly," said Pargan, a loadmaster with the 135th Airlift Squadron.
Kinney added, "I know that he loves being on the road, flying, and bringing the Air National Guard mission to our customers. If he isn't executing the mission, you can bet he is planning and pushing for our next one. He is extremely proficient as an evaluator, instructor, and loadmaster. No one is more deliberant, cautious, and safety-minded than Steve." 

If a new loadmaster took off today, he would have to remain in the air, non-stop, for more than a 17 months just trying to catch up. 

Early on, Pargan's career took positive steps. 

"There was a 22nd Air Force standard evaluation loadmaster, Chief Master Sgt. Ron Chastain that gave me some pretty good write-ups during our [standardization and evaluation] visits. He recommended me to become an instructor as a senior airman early in my career and also gave me my instructor check ride at Langley Air Force Base back in 1986." 

Pargan also remembers learning from Tech. Sgt. Skip Way, an aerial port loadmaster during the 1980s. He learned by watching him and being patient. "Sometimes it's best to sit back and watch then to jump in," Pargan said. 

During the same period, Pargan remembers flying with Lt. Col. Ron James, a long-time pilot with the 135th who retired several years ago. James was Pargan's first aircraft commander on his first rotation. 

"I was a very, very new Airman in Panama and he had confidence in me. He never questioned me," Pargan said.

 "He had confidence in me to allow me to basically call the shots from the back. We were doing a lot of dirt strip work. We were doing everything from combat offloads - rolling pallets out the back of the aircraft as you taxi forward - to engine running offloads of fire trucks, road graders, etc."
Pargan says he enjoys being a loadmaster immensely. From 1985 to1987, he was working on a college degree as a precursor to applying to become a pilot.
"It was tough. The scheduler would call and offer me trips to Germany and Key West, Fla., and of course I would say 'Let me think about this for a second...Key West or sociology...what time do I take-off?' I was trying but then I got hired in 1988 [as part of the Active Guard and Reserve program] and the rest is history. No regrets, I love my job. The best enlisted job in the Air Force," Pargan said.
A lot of hours were accumulated before he went to work full-time. When he would come in on orders he could just fly. When he started working full-time, additional duties came in the place of flying. Currently he averages 50 hours of flying a month. Pargan says deployments up the tempo and flying time increases. In one 60-day deployment, he flew 220 hours. 

Pargan will keep flying with the next goal being 15,000 hours. "I'll see how I feel after that," he said.
He hopes the Maryland Air National Guard stays in the airlift mission, but the Base Realignment and Closure commission, which recommended redistributing Maryland's C-130J fleet to other units, has thrown some questions into that equation.
The plane and the missions keep him interested. "It's just a fun airplane. A lot of different opportunities: dirt strips, tactical events, [we go to] a lot more airfields because it's a short-field aircraft," Pargan said. 

Pargan feels all the missions are memorable, but a few stick out more than others. In Estonia during Exercise Baltic Challenge '95 "we dropped Navy underwater demolition teams as well as Estonian special forces. In the 90s we were involved in Joint Forge missions into the former Yugoslavia. We were involved in the airdrops as well as air lands into Split, Croatia and Sarajevo. And of course, Panama - the mission was made for a loadmaster." 

Flying tactical missions is the fun part for him. Personnel and equipment drops is what the plane is designed for. He looks forward to those missions in theater the next time the unit deploys. 

Unlike his previous milestone patch for 10,000 hours, which he didn't wear, he will wear his 12,500 hour patch. "I just figured if I ever did anything dumb in the aircraft no one would probably care, but if they see my patch they would say 'hey that guy with 10,000 hours just did this,'" he said. 

"It's been a fun ride," Pargan said. "Imagine if you could write your own job description for the perfect job - this would be it."