35-year career chief takes fini-flight
By Master Sgt. Elizabeth Moody, 920th Rescue Wing, Public Affairs
/ Published December 07, 2015
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
rotor blades of an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter churned and slowly came to a full
stop, they signaled the end of Chief Master Sgt. Lazaro Ibarra's final flight
here, Dec. 2.
Within minutes of his fini-flight, the 301st Rescue
Squadron's retiring chief was doused with fluorescent green sea dye, a powerful
tool for open-water rescue operations, familiar to all rescue aircrew. Removing
Ibarra's well-worn combat boots, his fellow air crew used a ceiling tile to make
a green imprint of the chief's bare feet, which would later be placed in their
hallowed halls alongside so many other honorees from the 301st
According to historians, the tradition of fini-flights is assumed
to come from the U.S. Army Air Force days of the World War II era. They were
designed to accompany milestones in the career of the entire aircrew, respected
individuals of rank or repute, or a commander's departure to another command or
retirement and mark the final activity before departure.
after a long Air Force career as a special mission aviator or flight engineer,
which began when he entered active duty Oct. 22, 1980. A reservist since 1987,
Ibarra transferred here following the closure of Homestead Air Force Base,
Florida in 1992.
Over the years, Ibarra has chalked up more than 6,426
flying hours, 3,828 sorties, 97.6 combat hours and 117 combat sorties. He's
deployed many times, serving in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring
Freedom, Southern Watch and Northern Watch and many more. The chief also
participated in numerous major hurricane support operations including in
Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike.
Reflecting on his
long career, Ibarra said, "I appreciate the friendship, camaraderie and
opportunity to work with some very unique and interesting folks over the years.
I could not pay for the education I have received in turn for wearing the
uniform nor replicate the adventurous journey filled with humorous stories and
an occasional chance to save a life. It has been my privilege to be part of
great organizations filled with highly motivated people engaged in a noble
"What can you say about a guy who's been in rescue so long he's
a legacy, " said Chief Master Sgt. Tim Bianchi, 920th RQW command chief. "Chief
Ibarra is one of the few that has mentored me throughout my career and made me
understand the rescue mission as a whole. He's mentored and supervised combat
rescue aviators for so long that he's touched everybody including ground crew,
air crew, and support staff. Chief Ibarra's departure is going to be a
tremendous loss to the rescue community but because of his legacy and who he's
mentored over the years, I feel that we'll pick up the baton and keep running
with it," said the command chief.
In a tradition nearly as old as
military aviation itself, Ibarra's fini-flight symbolizes the conclusion of more
than 35 years of honorable service. Camaraderie and strong ties develop
naturally over the course of a long career in the Air Force Reserve, especially
with an elite rescue unit such as the 301st RQS. You come to know your fellow
Airmen as family and not just "brothers and sisters in arms".
Howard, 920th RQW vice wing commander here, said, "From everyone at the 920th
Rescue Wing, we wish Chief Ibarra and his wife Barbara much joy and many
blessings as you move into the next chapter of your life!"