Chief Master Sgt. Lazaro Ibarra Retires After 35-Year Career, Takes Fini-Flight
By Master Sgt. Elizabeth Moody 920th Rescue Wing, Public Affairs // December 6, 2015
Worked as a HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter pilot
BREVARD • PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, FLORIDA – As the 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 RQS.
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.
Ibarra retires 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 mission.”
“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”.
Col. Brett 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!”