Military News

Friday, December 20, 2013

Community remembers firefighter

JBER Public Affairs staff report

12/20/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARSON, Alaska -- On Dec. 17, base leaders, friends, family members and fellow firefighters celebrated the life of Air Force Staff Sgt. Tanner Volkers, 673d Civil Engineer Squadron, who was found dead near an Anchorage trailhead Dec. 10 after a multi-day search by fellow Airmen and the Anchorage Police Department.

The cause of death is still under investigation by the APD and Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Volkers was last seen Dec. 7 at his home in Anchorage and was reported officially missing Dec. 8 after failing to show up at the fire department for scheduled duty.

After locating Volkers' truck near the Basher Trailhead in East Anchorage Dec. 10, searchers found a body, which was subsequently confirmed to be the missing Airman.
During the memorial ceremony, the base's top firefighter characterized Volkers' spirit and character.

"Tanner was a patriot who wanted nothing more than to serve his country," said JBER Fire Chief David Donan, 673d Civil Engineer Squadron. At the same time, Tanner discovered he had a passion for the fire service. He entered the Middleton Rural Fire District's Explorer program and eventually graduated from Firefighters Recruit Academy - allowing him to become a volunteer firefighter."

Volkers, a native of Nampa, Idaho, graduated from the Department of Defense Fire Training Academy and was assigned to JBER in January, 2010. He deployed in 2012 to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

Air Force Col. Brian P. Duffy, JBER and 673d Air Base Wing commander, expressed his sorrow at the loss of Volkers in a statement after the Airman was found.

"On behalf of all the Arctic Warriors, I want to express my deepest condolences for the loss of Staff Sgt. Tanner Volkers," said Air Force Col. Brian P. Duffy, JBER and 673d Air Base Wing commander. "Our thoughts and sympathies are with the Volkers' family, friends and the JBER community during this tragic loss."

Psychiatrist Receives Honor for Treating Special Ops Troops



By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2013 – A Navy psychiatrist was presented the U.S. Special Operations Command Patriot Award for treating 68 Special Forces operators for traumatic brain injuries and psychological health conditions.

In a recent ceremony in the Pentagon, Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, presented the award to Navy Capt. (Dr.) Robert Koffman, senior consultant for integrative medicine and behavioral health at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md.

Socom’s Patriot Award is bestowed annually to recognize one individual or organization that provides significant and enduring support to Socom’s wounded warriors and their families.

The award recognizes not only the care Koffman provided the Special Forces operators while they were in treatment at NICoE, but also for his follow-up on their care after they returned home.

Koffman treated both junior operators and senior leaders who are tasked with significant Special Forces’ missions.

“It is truly a joint effort at the NICoE to treat these patients and without this team effort we would not be able to provide the high level of care that our patients have come to expect and deserve on a daily basis,” Koffman said at the award ceremony.

Koffman’s award was based on his ability to “tirelessly” give himself to his 68 patients by arriving early, staying late and accepting phone calls and texts “from any and every patient, anytime and anywhere” to get the wounded warriors the help they needed, McRaven said.

NICoE, situated on the campus of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, is the Military Health System’s clinical research institute for service members who have been adversely affected by the combination of traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress. The center treats active-duty service members from all service branches for these invisible signature wounds stemming from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The holistic care offered at NICoE resonates with the Special Forces population, specifically the mixture of traditional medicine with integrative modalities, such as acupuncture and art therapy, Koffman said.

Treatment at NICoE helps service members heal and return to service, equipped to carry out their tactical missions and become better leaders, he added.

“The NICoE is a valuable asset within the DOD that we need to maintain and protect to continue providing state-of-the-art research and clinical care for service members suffering from TBI and [psychological health] conditions,” McRaven said.

Air Force releases results of aerospace accident investigation

by Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

12/20/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Air Force officials announced the results of a UH-1N helicopter accident investigation today.

The investigation into a Feb. 25, 2013 mishap near Minot Air Force Base, N.D., found clear evidence that the cause of the accident was due to a loss of tail rotor thrust following the failure of a driveshaft coupling. Lubricant starvation and contamination destroyed the gear teeth in the coupling, resulting in the loss of tail rotor thrust.

Approximately an hour into the flight, the crew from the 54th Helicopter Squadron heard a loud noise coming from the rear of the aircraft and felt an accompanying vibration. The pilot chose to make a precautionary landing in a snow-covered field.

During the approach to land, the helicopter lost tail rotor thrust about 100 feet above the ground. The pilot continued to autorotate - a procedure where the main rotor system turns by the action of air moving through the rotor rather than by engine power - to about 30 feet when he applied control inputs to level the aircraft and cushion the landing.

The helicopter's right rear skid impacted the ground first followed by the left skid. The aircraft continued to roll to the left until the main rotor blades struck the ground, coming to a rest on its left side.

The crew performed emergency shutdown procedures and exited the aircraft. Three crew members were injured as a result of the accident.

The mishap aircraft sustained major damage with a total loss valued at more than $2.3 million, but resulted in no civilian injuries or damage to civilian property.

"Spirit of Washington" rises from the ashes

by Candy Knight
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


12/20/2013 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Like the mythical Phoenix, the "Spirit of Washington" has risen from the ashes, ready to strike anywhere, anytime.

The "Spirit of Washington" participated in its first training mission at Whiteman Air Force Base, Dec. 16, after an engine fire in 2010 nearly destroyed the aircraft.

After three years and nine months in maintenance, the aircraft was restored to full mission-ready status.

The behind-the-scenes story is an extraordinary tale of cooperation and teamwork between different Air Force organizations, as well as collaboration between the Air Force and Northrop Grumman, the Air Force's B-2 prime contractor.

"We recognize how much this means to the warfighter, to have this aircraft back in your hands," said David G. Mazur, vice president of long-range strike operations for Northrop Grumman.

The "Spirit of Washington" was preparing to fly a mission Feb. 26, 2010 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, when one of its four engines caught fire, resulting in significant damage to the aircraft and the engine bay.

With only 20 B-2s in the Air Force inventory, the need to save and restore the aircraft was paramount; the challenge was finding a way to accomplish the task.

The B-2's technology, combined with the limited number of aircraft, made obtaining replacement parts challenging. A percentage of the parts could be remanufactured, but other parts could only be obtained from Air Force spare parts depots.

"One of the things that was most important to both the Air Force and Northrop was that the jet be returned to us without any flying or weapons delivery limitations. So far, it has been taking care of business perfectly," said Col. Chase McCown, 509th Bomb Wing Maintenance Group commander.

Perhaps the greatest challenge was making the necessary repairs to fly the aircraft from Guam to the

Palmdale facility at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
"The goal was to get [aircraft] 0332 to the Palmdale facility before the beginning of FY12, a goal which was accomplished two months ahead of schedule," Mazur said.

Getting the aircraft to Palmdale ahead of schedule saved money, and more importantly, it allowed the Air Force and other organizations to conduct initial tests on not only the engine itself, but also the other components of the aircraft.

Ultimately, the extra time to conduct these additional tests helped investigators determine the root cause of the engine fire, which is rare in accident investigations, as incidents like this one are typically caused by a number of factors, Mazur said.

Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, the situation presented an opportunity for Airmen to develop best practices and come up with innovative ways for approaching maintenance issues.

One example of a best practice was using dry ice pellets to remove charcoal from the aircraft's skin. The team would spray pelletized dry ice on the aircraft, after which the ice would melt, leaving no additional residue or material for the maintainers to clean up.

"To my knowledge, this was the first time this technique had been used," Mazur said.

The hard work of both the Air Force and her partners enabled Team Whiteman to bring another B-2 back into the fold, further buttressing the United States' ability to deliver conventional and nuclear munitions, penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation.

"Because of the B-2's importance to national security, we wanted to do everything we could to save it," Mazur said. "Everyone recognized this importance and everyone brought their 'A' team. It took longer than expected, but the aircraft is back and better than before. Hoo-Rah."

"It was absolutely a whole team effort," said McCown. "Anything that happens on this weapon system is a partnership between Northrop and the Air Force. The complex repairs required for this aircraft would not have happened without that healthy relationship."
For the Airmen in charge of maintaining the "Spirit of Washington," there is nothing more gratifying than watching their aircraft take to the skies once again.

"It gives me a strong sense of pride to know that an aircraft that I am personally responsible for has returned to home station and is ready to answer our nation's call," Senior Airman Patrick Holter, dedicated crew chief for the "Spirit of Washington." "This is my first jet as a dedicated crew chief and knowing that the maintenance my team and I performed on our aircraft directly contributed to safe, effective, on-time sorties is what I love most about my job."

"It was a very cool experience to see the excitement in the maintainers when an aircraft many of them thought would never fly again returned to service as part of the 509th Bomb Wing," McCown said.

War game helps reinvigorate nuclear strategic thinking

by Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs


12/20/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- The first war game developed and sponsored by Air Force Global Strike Command concluded here Dec. 13.

Codenamed Strategic Vigilance, the four-day war game was convened in conjunction with a recent re-emphasis on nuclear war-gaming by Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, and renewed emphasis by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III on nuclear table-top exercises to enhance strategic thinking across the service.

Key objectives for the first-of-its-kind war game included exploring AFGSC's ability to operate across the full spectrum of conflict from its conventional long-range strike mission to its capstone nuclear deterrence and assurance mission. This included assessing whether the command is developing and fielding the right kinds of capabilities to meet its warfighter requirements against assessed future threats and environments; and the professional development of a cadre of long-range strike and nuclear experts to lead AFGSC in the future.

"Strategic Vigilance was designed to explore our ability as a command to conduct operations across the stages of nuclear conflict," said Maj. Andrew Smith, chief of war-gaming and strategic studies for AFGSC. "The results will help us better prepare for the future and provide a more credible deterrent for the nation."

The war game involved participants from several commands, including USSTRATCOM, Headquarters Air Force and the LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education, which develops doctrine and conducts war games for U.S. armed forces.

Strategic Vigilance participants brought their unique expertise into the mix, improving the quality of the war game and its outcome, Smith said. This influx of knowledge and experience created a higher fidelity experience.

"While war games are hypothetical, we still seek the highest fidelity in simulating current and future forces," Smith said. "The greater the fidelity, the more reliable the result will be."

War games are designed to allow participants to determine what tasks would be required during a real-world conflict and whether the resources are available to support those tasks. In the case of Strategic Vigilance, participants and observers scrutinized the abilities of AFGSC in particular to respond to and interact with an adversary.

"Strategic Vigilance represents a uniquely focused examination of nuclear issues," said Brig. Gen. Clint Crosier, AFGSC's strategic director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments. "The strategic environment today is much different than during the Cold War. The number of countries who can threaten the U.S. and its allies with weapons of mass destruction is increasing at an alarming rate. Potential nuclear-armed adversaries are rapidly modernizing their delivery systems for air, land, and sea, and the concept of deterrence against hostile regional actors presents a very different problem set than the Cold War strategic model. All of these issues highlight our need to fully understand the environment we operate in and ensure we can successfully execute our missions. This 'first' for the command is indicative of the command's commitment to constantly improving the nuclear enterprise."

"We learned a lot from the war game and will undoubtedly learn more as we continue to process the results," Smith said. "It's a great opportunity to learn when we step back and think about how the big picture comes together."

Lessons learned from war games and exercises enable the Air Force to continually refine and improve its capabilities, facilitating the mission to deter enemies and assure allies.

"There is a definite call to think more deeply about the Air force's number one mission, and I believe we've done that with Strategic Vigilance," Smith said.

20th Air Force, Task Force 214 welcome new commander

by Staff Sgt. Torri Ingalsbe
90th Missile Wing Public Affairs


12/20/2013 - F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein assumed command of the 20th Air Force, Dec. 19 at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.

Active-duty Airmen, Reserve, retired, family and friends attended the ceremony. Among the guests were commanders, command chiefs and civic leaders from 20th Air Force's three missile bases here, from Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and from Minot AFB, N.D. The presence of all reinforced the continuing importance of the Air Force's nuclear deterrence and global strike forces.
"I'm honored to wear this uniform, and represent the Airmen of the 20th Air Force," Weinstein said during the ceremony.

Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command; and Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander, Air Force Global Strike Command, were on hand to officiate the assumption of command.

"20th Air Force has a unique, long and proud history," Haney said. "Some of the best talent in the United States of America is here, and I can't thank you enough for your service to our country."

The admiral spoke about the importance of the nuclear mission to national security, and particularly the strength and stability the ICBM mission brings to the fight.

"This triad will continue to provide deterrence and assurance well into the future," he said. "The ICBM provides exceptionally secure command and control. That success is due to the professional force that operates, maintains and secures these systems."
He added that the ICBM world needs to not only have extraordinary operators, but also the best leaders.

"There are two constant requirements for Task Force 214 - the excellence of the people who operate within it, and the quality and dedication of those who lead them."

Haney expressed his confidence in Weinstein and thanked the Airmen of 20th AF, and their families, for their service and dedication to the mission.
"I'm humbled by your commitment to excellence," he said. "It's the reason I can look the President in the eye, and the secretary of defense, and unequivocally say, 'We are ready.'"
Wilson shared his trust and confidence in Weinstein's ability to lead the Airmen of the 20th AF.

"There are three things you need in this command - to be an expert, be a leader and be ready," Wilson said. "Those words describe Jack. Every job he's ever held, he's become an expert. He has led at every level. He leaves every unit better, both the people and the mission. He is absolutely ready for the challenge. He has the courage and commitment we need as a nation to lead the 20th Air Force today."
Weinstein accepted command, acknowledging his responsibility to the Airmen of the 20th AF, as well as to the American people.

"Flawless nuclear surety is our keystone," he said. "It's what I expect, what the STRATCOM commander demands and what the American people deserve."

He thanked his family for their support, and echoed both Haney and Wilson's words about the tremendous history and legacy of the 20th AF.

"Today's 20th Air Force Airmen continue the legacy of their predecessors," he said. "They are serving their Nation with the same focus, sacrifice and dedication of those who served in the 'Greatest Generation.' They have earned their place as 'Today's Greatest Generation.'"

Weinstein expressed his honor to serve side-by-side with the Airmen of the 20th, as well as other Task Force commanders around the world.
"The United States is the greatest country this world has ever seen," he said. "The ICBM professionals of the 20th Air Force are dedicated to keep it that way."

Haney: Security Challenges Demand Vigilance, Agility



By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2013 – The challenging and ever-changing strategic environment requires a “vigilant, flexible and innovative” force able to prepare for and respond to threats to U.S. national security, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command said.

“Our strategic and operational environment requires a deep understanding of our adversaries and potential adversaries in the context of our complex and interconnected operating space,” Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney recognized in his first combatant commander guidance memo since assuming command in November.

“Change and uncertainty is a reality, both across our nation and around the world,” he said.

That dynamic has huge impact across the Defense Department, including at Stratcom as it carries out its vital deterrence mission, Haney noted.

The command and its elements oversee the nation’s strategic nuclear deterrence and work in close collaboration with other combatant commands, the services and interagency partners to deter and detect strategic attacks against the U.S. and its allies. Stratcom also must be ready to act to defend the nation when directed by the president or defense secretary.

In addition, the command is DOD’s global synchronizer for ensuring space, cyberspace, missile defense and intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities across the military. As Stratcom’s commander, Haney also serves as the department’s point man for combating weapons of mass destruction.

During his Senate confirmation hearing in July, Haney called the pursuit of nuclear weapons by violent extremists and nuclear weapons proliferation the greatest strategic threats facing the United States. He also recognized the pace of technology, particularly in the space and cyberspace realms, and the need to maintain a strategic edge in support of the United States and its global interests.

“In this complex environment, there remain those who wish to do the United States harm, and seek to limit our global awareness and power projection,” Haney said in his memo to his new command.

He noted other factors that impact global security. As operations continue in Afghanistan and against terrorism, unrest festers in Syria, Egypt and elsewhere in the world. Earthquakes, floods and other disasters come without notice, driving humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts that often require U.S. military support.

Meanwhile, budgetary challenges at home have created “significant uncertainty” not only within DOD, but across the whole-of-government, Haney said.

He cited other signs of change, from leadership changes within DOD and internal departmental efficiency reviews and external fiscal realities that “continue to introduce new variables into our calculus.”

Adaptability will be vital as the United States faces ever-changing traditional and nontraditional threats that pose challenges to U.S. global interests, Haney told Congress during his confirmation hearing.

“Our potential adversaries have studied the U.S. way of warfare and are actively developing asymmetric responses,” he noted in his written statement, submitted for the record. “Complex threats provide opportunities for terrorism and raise significant security concerns …. We will need flexible and adaptive capabilities to respond to unknown abilities.”

Haney underscored that message to Stratcom’s chain of command shortly after taking command.

“The strategic environment requires us to remain vigilant, flexible and innovative as we synchronize all our mission areas with the other combatant commands to deny or disrupt threats, defend the nation and assure our partners and allies,” he said.

Haney said he has no doubt the command’s members are up to the challenge. He called on them, in the months ahead, to recognize fiscal realities as they carry out their mission.

“We must not only diligently advocate for appropriate capabilities, but we must be thoughtful in requirements development and be respectful of current and future resource constraints in execution and future-year planning,” he told them.

But Haney also recognized that the unique skill sets his command provides “demand a most thoughtful approach to any further reductions.”

Confronting new and emerging threats and challenges in a new fiscal climate, Haney emphasized the importance of continued excellence across the command.

“We have chosen a career where there is no room for error, [and] the American people expect nothing short of perfection from us,” he said.

“We will continue to enforce the strictest standards in all we do while seeking opportunities for efficiency and interdependence across the joint force,” Haney said. “Every member of the command shares this responsibility, and I have tremendous faith that each of you will continue to make extraordinary contributions to national security.”

Marines, Airmen deliver Toys For Tots

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs


12/19/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Marines and Airmen moved snowmachines and sleds through the winter darkness, across the flight line, and onto a C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Dec. 13.

The aircraft were bound for a hub of remote villages north of the Arctic Circle.
There, the Marines would travel village to village delivering toys to children as part of the Toys for Tots program.

Toys for Tots is a civilian program executed by the Marine Corps Reserves to collect new, unwrapped toys and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community.

The program's presence in Alaska began 19 years ago, and the Air Force has provided the airlift support to get the Marines around the state since.

"We're taking some Marines and snow machines to drop off toys for children," said Senior Airman Alan Cordell, 144th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and a native of Wasilla. "It's awesome to help out Marines; I've never done it before. We're serving the community and giving back; it feels good."

Working with the Air Force is a great partnership, said Marine Maj. Lee Johnson, inspector/instructor, Alaska Marines.

"It couldn't be done without the Air Force airlift capability," said Johnson, senior active-duty Marine in the state, and native of Clintonville, Wisc. "They've been able to fly us into these remote sites throughout Alaska."

"We have the equipment to load their gear up," said Airman 1st Class Joseph Saulys, 732nd Aircraft Services and native of Prairie Du Sac, Wisc. "It feels really good to help Toys for Tots, like I'm accomplishing something. When things like this come up, being able to help someone, help the kids, helping anyone in general, it makes me feel like I actually joined for a good reason."

The Marines snowmachined through a hub that includes three main villages; they have to travel approximately 400 miles to Kotzebue, about 300 miles to Galena and roughly 200 miles to McGrath.

Kotzebue has a population of more than 3,300. Galena has more than 400. McGrath, more than 300.

"We deliver toys to the villages up in the Arctic Circle, to kids that don't ever get the opportunity to get toys," said Marine Staff Sgt. Benjamin Rigney, Toys For Tots coordinator for the state of Alaska, and inspector/instructor for D Company, 4th Law Enforcement Battalion. His hometown is Hazard, Ky. "We go to them, drop off the toys, and give them a good Christmas. We do that for the kids here in Anchorage, too."

Organizers purchased the toys with donations collected through various fund-raising drives; some have goals to raise as much as $30,000. The Marines delivered more than 1,700 toys to children statewide.

"It's great, that's one of the best things in the world," Rigney said. "When you've got your own kids, and you give your kids a good Christmas, it's one thing. When you actually get to help kids who don't get a Christmas, it's even better."

The villages don't normally get this opportunity, and treat the Marines as honored guests, Johnson said.

"The folks in the villages take care of us," he said. "You just can't describe it unless you're on one of these trips. It's pretty awesome. If you don't get up there to see this stuff, you may not understand what it's really like. They are very good communities; it's a program we want to continue to build if we can."

RAF Fairford supports training mission

by Tech. Sgt. Chrissy Best
501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs


12/18/2013 - RAF FAIRFORD, United Kingdom -- The sound of aircraft is a regular occurrence at most U.S. Air Force bases, but at RAF Fairford those noises are only heard when another unit comes in to test a new capability, evaluate their ability to deploy or for the annual Royal Internal Air Tattoo.

RAF Fairford opened its gates to more than 150 Airmen, three MC-130Js and three CV-22s from the 352nd Special Operations Group from RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, so they could conduct a logistics exercise with their new airframes Dec. 9 to 12.

"The unique thing about RAF Fairford is you do not have multiple units already here on the base," said Master Sgt. John Modica, 501st CSW logistics plans NCOIC. "So, when a unit does come here, they practically own the base."

"RAF Fairford provided us the perfect opportunity to go off-station, to exercise, train and be able to walk through the whole deployment process and validate that we were able to correctly identify those skill sets, people and equipment to perform our deployed mission." said Lt. Col. Michael Thomas, 352nd Special Operations Support Squadron director of operations.

RAF Fairford is a fully functioning forward operating location, which is currently a standby airfield and therefore not in everyday use. At 1,170 acres, and equipped with a 10,000 foot runway, the base provides more than 50 parking spaces and a 10 million gallon JP-8 hydrant refueling system. RAF Fairford provides full communications capabilities for visiting units and lodging for up to 900 additional personnel during contingency operations.

"On these types of exercises, we like to ask for at least 30 to 60 days' notice, because there is a ton of coordination that has to go into effect between the 501st Combat Support Wing (headquartered at RAF Alconbury), the 422nd Air Base Group (located at RAF Croughton) and the 420th Air Base Squadron here," said Modica. "So the more time the better, but we are able to receive people and aircraft within 24 to 48 hours, if necessary."

"We are normally ready and waiting for anyone to come in, whether it is the 352nd SOG or anyone else in the U.S. Air Force," said Feargal Glennon, 420th ABS contingency services manager. "We provide three meals a day, a fitness center, lodging and a 24-hour community center."

In addition to providing a quality service to the visiting unit, there is one additional benefit to training at a base run by civilians.

"Because we have civilians here and because civilians a have more longevity at a base, you've a great continuity and a depth of knowledge of history of how a reception should be run at RAF Fairford," said Modica. "So with that, the collaboration between the civilians, the military and the unit coming in is just tremendous. What they do here is just incredible. They are some of the best people I've ever worked with."

"The only way this mission could be successful is with the 501st Combat Support Wing," said Thomas." Even if they can't provide something for us like the security, they can at least give us all of the guidance, resources, phone numbers or all of the stuff you may not know you need but they do. They will walk you through the entire process - it's the only way this exercise could be successful."

Airlift milestone: JB Charleston C-17 reaches 20,000 flight hours

by Senior Airman Tom Brading
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs


12/18/2013 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The first C-17 Globemaster III to join the Air Force fleet, "The Spirit of Charleston," reached new heights recently by logging more than 20,000 flight hours.

This achievement marks the first C-17 to reach this milestone, and to honor the achievement Team Charleston celebrated with a small ceremony Dec. 18, 2013, at JB Charleston - Air Base, S.C.

"Prior to an expected service life extension, a C-17 is estimated to fly 30,000 flight hours during its service," said Norman Moore, 437th Maintenance Group deputy director. "Even though The Spirit of Charleston has been through two thirds of its expected run, it still has a long life ahead."

"Today is an important milestone both for our Air Force and for aviation history in general," said Col. Darren Hartford, 437th Airlift Wing commander. "And, while we celebrate this historical achievement, let us remember that this 20,000 hour feat has far less to do with the crafted aluminum, composites, and super alloys that make up the C-17 behind me, and everything to do with the brave men and women who fix, fill, and fly it, all over the world, every day, in service to our nation."

"The Spirit of Charleston" career began upon its arrival at Charleston Air Force Base on Flag Day, June 14, 1993. The aircraft, 9192, spent its first two years at Charleston AFB being used for training of maintenance and aircrew personnel until its first call to action in 1995, during Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"During Joint Endeavor, 9192, along with other aircraft, was operating in the harsh, cold climate of western Europe in an actual combat environment while landing on unimproved runways," said Moore. "The unique capabilities and maintainability made it a force multiplier that showed its potential of meeting future challenges."

Future challenges quickly arose during Operation Scorpion I, II, III and IV from 1997 to 1998 (in response to Saddam Hussein's defiance of not allowing weapons inspectors into Iraq), Operation Joint Guardian in 1999 (insertion of NATO peacekeeping forces into Kosovo) and Operation Allied Force in 1999 (NATO bombing in Yugoslavia.)

"The combat contingencies and humanitarian efforts were increased after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001," said Moore. "Those missions ranged from air-dropping food packets in 2001 during Operation Enduring Freedom, to Operation Anaconda in 2002, which was the first full-scale battle in Afghanistan against Al-Qaida; then Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, with the invasion of Iraq."

Every step of the way, the C-17 fleet from Charleston, including "The Spirit of Charleston," was at the tip of the spear, leading the way in air mobility.

"Aircraft 9192 has been around the world many times, for a variety of reasons, including many humanitarian efforts during natural disasters," said Moore. "These missions include numerous relief efforts during Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes, the Japanese tsunami, flood ravaged Pakistan ... and the list goes on."

Moore added, "The Spirit of Charleston" has accumulated more than 20,000 flight hours and has been stationed at Charleston more than 20 years. However, it has been maintained and flown by personnel from McChord AFB, Wash., JB McGuire - Dix - Lakehurst, N.J., Dover AFB, Del., Travis AFB, Calif., JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Elmendorf AFB, Ala. and other bases around the world. It will continue in the Air Force inventory for decades to come as a viable deterrent against enemy aggression as well as a sign of hope for those in need.

"The consistent excellent efforts of our Airmen made this milestone possible," said Col. James Fontanella, 315th Airlift Wing commander. "This accomplishment was truly a total force effort. I expect the C-17 to continue its dominance as the Air Force's premier strategic airlift."

The milestone of reaching 20,000 flight hours is a testament to much more than one aircraft, but also to the efforts of countless Airmen along the way who ensure each aircraft in the AMC inventory is capable and mission ready at a moment's notice. According to Moore, none of this would be possible without the hard work of the maintenance workers who keep the mission moving every day.

"This achievement is a win for everyone at JB Charleston," said Moore. "We're a team, and without the maintainers working in extreme weather conditions; from 2 a.m. and frigid winter conditions with freezing hands, to the blistering summer months with more than 100 degree temperatures. They are out there working in all environments, and without them, the mission wouldn't be possible."

"This is about much more than one aircraft reaching 20,000 flight hours," said Moore. "This milestone represents the Air Force's entire C-17 fleet. It shows the world that at any time, for any reason, when a C-17 is involved, a yellow Charleston tail flash will be on the aircraft that leads the way."

"I am both humbled and proud to be a part of such a monumental milestone for the C-17, but more importantly, for the men and women of Joint Base Charleston." said Hartford. "While 20,000 hours is a tremendous feat for any airframe, it is a truer testament of the blood, sweat and tears of all the Airmen in the 437th and 315th. I would like to commend all those past, present and future Airmen who make our mission possible. Safe, precise, reliable. 20,000 hours and beyond."