Meet the Waltons: Dual-military couple brings new meaning to 'building partnership' exercise

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jocelyn L. Rich
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Inside your typical nondescript military building of brick and stone on Airlift Base Otopeni, Romania, there is a flurry of activity on March 16. Blurs of olive drab and sage breeze by as members of the U.S. and Romanian Air Forces work together hand-in-hand to get the mission accomplished.

On one side of the room, Captain Walton prints off maps and flight plans to go over the strategy for the day; while on the other end, Captain Walton discusses information with the crews that are gathered at a small wooden table.

While this may sound like a scene from a superhero or time-travel movie, the reality is a little easier to believe -- but just as unique.

Meet the Waltons, a married couple who are both pilots in the 37th Airlift Squadron. In Romania, they are experiencing their first opportunity to work together as a husband and wife team.

Captain Dan Walton is serving as mission commander for Carpathian Spring 2011, an exercise where U.S. military members join their Romanian counterparts to learn from one another and strengthen their already sturdy bonds.

"I think the Romanians are very supportive," Dan said. "We have a lot of effective training going on."

Captain Marci Walton, his wife, is serving as this year's chief of tactics for the exercise, and has been working side-by-side with Romanian airmen.

"They have been really helpful," she said. "It has been a good learning experience; they have been very involved."

And for Dan and Marci - they've also learned a lot about each other.

"This is our first time, in the same room, in the same building, trying to run the same thing together," Dan said. "It has been interesting."

"This is our first proving ground ... that we can work together and get something accomplished," Marci said.

The couple, new to Ramstein and the 37th AS, transferred from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., in September.

"It is our first time being the in the same squadron," said Marci. "Prior to this, we were always in different commands and separate squadrons."

The couple met at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where they were in the same squadron and graduated the same day -- June 2, 2004.

After their graduation, the two went their separate ways for just under a year, as they served in casual status while waiting for their class dates for flight training.

They reunited at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., during school, where they began to date.

"We had been friends for about five years prior to dating, we started dating while we were in Valdosta [Ga.]," said Marci, with a smile.

In 2006 the couple changed duty stations to Little Rock, where their relationship strengthened and grew. They were married in May 2007.

Marci transitioned from piloting the C-130 E and H models to the J model. Dan has been a J model pilot, and is also an instructor for the aircraft.

The Waltons draw on their experiences to support and encourage one another.

"I am an instructor currently, and she is brand new to [the C-130J]," said Dan. "We will be eating dinner, and she will say 'can I ask you a J-Model question real quick?' and I just say 'ok, go ahead.' It is good, because it makes me a better instructor."

Being able to talk to one another about their jobs, without having to explain details, offers a deeper connection to the couple.

"We would come home and we would both talk the exact same language, because we experience the exact same thing," said Dan, son of a Soldier who moved around in his youth from Texas to Florida, and then California.

Having open lines of communication has brought an advantage to the Waltons and the mission here at Carpathian Spring 2011.

"She is a very competent individual. I know that if I give her a task, she will make sure that it gets done, no matter what," said Dan, looking at Marci. And though they have worked near one another in the past, they've never worked together like this. "We have flown in the air at the same time, I would hear her on the radio, but she was flying in a different squadron, on a different airplane. About a month ago I heard her again on the radio, she was flying in a different formation, on a different mission."

Today is going to be the captains' first time in the same aircraft formation. They will both be flying C-130Js to conduct personnel drops on a landing zone near Campia Turzii, Romania.

"We'll do a low-level on the way up there, and we will be actively working together to de-conflict in the air to drop these troopers safely," said Dan. "It will be fun, and a good experience."

Amidst all of the responsibilities that come with their duties in the, they haven't lost sight of the importance of their relationship.

"We are going to have a date-night tonight, just the two of us. It is good personal time," said Dan, adding that at the end of each day, they take a photo of one another, just to illustrate that they haven't lost sight of their connection.

So for the Waltons, this off-station training has been a wonderful opportunity not just for the growth in partnerships with the Romanians, but also each other.

"This is a totally new experience for us," Dan said. "It is great to get the opportunity to be given a task that you cannot accomplish by yourself."

"It has been going really well, despite some growing pains that we have seen, just being new to Ramstein," said Marci. "I think we have been learning a lot about the process, and to see it being successful and things going so well is really reassuring."