The extremely tight security surrounding the remote Beale Air Force Base in northern California seems out of place for the daughter of a Star Valley woman stationed here. Earthtone buildings with high tech gadgetry are tucked into an area more fit for rattlesnakes and coyotes than for the men and women who call this place home.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Amelia C. Newton-Ingram, daughter of Gloria Newton of Star Valley, is a member of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, responsible for the Air Force’s high-altitude reconnaissance mission with the ability to provide high quality imagery from the far reaches of Earth’s atmosphere.
Airmen at Beale work with both the U-2 manned and Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft that provide commanders and other decision-makers with near real-time and high resolution imagery. Newton-Ingram is a dental clinic supervisor with the 9th Medical Operations Squadron, working with the U-2 aircraft.
“We ensure members are dentally cleared for deployment. This is crucial for airmen deployed in a war zone or remote location,” said Newton-Ingram.
Pilots at Beale routinely fly the U-2 at altitudes of over 70,000 feet, requiring them to wear pressurized suits similar to those worn by NASA astronauts. The low-handling characteristics and special landing gear requires critical runway alignment handled by a second pilot in a specialized vehicle, making the U-2 one of the world’s most difficult aircraft to fly and land.
The newest aircraft in the high-altitude reconnaissance arsenal is the Global Hawk, an unmanned aircraft that can fly at an altitude of 65,000 feet and speeds of up to 400 miles per hour. The aircraft can provide imagery of more than 40,000 nautical square miles — about the size of Illinois — all within a 24-hour period.
For Newton-Ingram, both aircraft represent an edge that makes the mission at Beale one of the Air Force’s most important. “The U-2 is an important aircraft because of the advantage in intelligence and reconnaissance it provides. This helps us protect our airmen and our country,” said Newton-Ingram.
Beale Air Force Base is located about an hour north of Sacramento, in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains, in an area that is semi-arid, rugged and desolate.
“It is really hot here, but this is a great place to see wildlife. You also have a lot of interesting places within a short driving distance, such as Reno and San Francisco,” said Newton-Ingram.
Life may be a bit remote for the men and women at Beale charged with the important mission of high altitude reconnaissance, but when they think about those “customers” on the battlefields in Iraq or Afghanistan and the firefighters battling infernos raging throughout California forests, they feel it’s a small price to pay.