KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Lt. Col. Ivan J. Deroche, 403rd Operations Group chief of standardization and evaluation, was recently named the Air Force Reserve Command's nominee for the 2017 National Aeronautical Association’s Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy.
The award was established by the NAA in 1948 to honor the memory of Orville and Wilbur Wright and is presented every year to an American for significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States. Previous recipients include Harrison Ford (2010), John Glenn (2003), Neil Armstrong (2001), Lt. Gen. James Doolittle (1952), and Charles Lindbergh (1949).
Deroche is a third-generation military aviator who has been part of the Air Force and aviation community for 27 years. His grandfather was a B-17 Flying Fortress engine mechanic who later became a sergeant pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, and his father was an F-106 Delta Dart and C-130 Hercules aircraft mechanic during the Vietnam War.
“As a young boy I listened to the colorful stories my father and grandfather told about their days in the service,” Deroche said. “I always dreamed of becoming an Air Force pilot.”
He began his career as an enlisted maintainer in the electronic warfare specialist career field maintaining A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft. When his unit transitioned from the A-10 to the F-16, he became a precision measuring equipment laboratory specialist and spent four years repairing and calibrating all the equipment used to fix and maintain the F-16. Four years later after a reduction in force, he moved to Keesler Air Force Base and became part of the 403rd Wing as a meteorological sensors technician working on WC-130H Hercules aircraft for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Hurricane Hunters.
In 1998 he was made the lead in converting the dropsonde system from OMEGA navigational signals to the Global Positioning System. This system is critical to the mission of the 53rd WRS because it is used to collect data that the National Hurricane Center uses to predict the intensity and direction of tropical systems in the western Atlantic, eastern Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. The problem crews were having after conversion is that the new sondes were showing a high failure rate of temperature and humidity sensors. He and his friend and machinist, Tech. Sgt. Tony Frye, worked together to design and fabricate a sleeve that reduced the inside diameter of the tube to keep the sonde steady during release. This saved the military $3.2 million in research and development costs (as estimated by Lockheed Martin) to update the existing equipment as well as ensured mission accomplishment that hurricane season.
“The new sonde was considerably smaller in diameter and would flop around while exiting the launch tube,” Deroche said. “Tony and I took a common sense approach to solving the sonde issue. The launch tube was too big, so we made a bushing or sleeve to make the existing tube smaller. This modification eliminated the sonde malfunctions.”
In September 2000, Deroche, then a technical sergeant, was selected for pilot training and was commissioned as an officer into the Air Force Reserve. Two years later, he was selected as the first pilot from the unit to attend the Air Force-led training on the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft that the 53rd WRS now exclusively flies.
“Lieutenant Colonel Deroche has considerable expertise both in and out of the cockpit,” said Col. Robert Stanton, 403rd Wing vice commander. “He finds the most satisfaction in imparting knowledge by teaching and instructing pilots new to the WC-130J and to the Hurricane Hunting mission.”
Stanton also said that with more than 150 hurricane eyewall penetrations, he had developed perspective and techniques that benefit flight safety in those extremely hazardous conditions and that his work has made a lasting impact on the development and implementation of the WC-130 series aircraft and the hurricane hunting mission.
“Deroche has made significant contributions ensuring success of his unit and the Air Force Reserve Command’s mission. He is an invaluable member of his community and truly deserving of this prestigious award,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Scobee, AFRC deputy commander said.