by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Lane
315 Airlift Wing Public Affairs
12/7/2015 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- A
Team Charleston Aircrew, received the Fourth Air Force Aircrew
Excellence Award Nov. 19 here for their efforts while executing an
airlift mission to Central African Republic Sept. 25, 2015.
As a part of Operation Echo Casemate, the aircrew of REACH 356 braved
poor weather conditions, fuel system malfunctions, extended duty hours
and enemy ground fire to deliver French peacekeeping soldiers and
mission-critical cargo to Central African Republic.
"We had 315th Aircrew, a 437th Flying Crew Chief, and 628th Ravens,"
said Col. Caroline Evernham, 315th Airlift Wing Operations Group
commander. "This crew was truly representative of Joint Base Charleston
and the great association we are a part of. These Airmen did the job we
sent them to do. Lt. Col. Scott Torrico led his crew superbly. With the
help of his crewmembers, he analyzed each situation and made the right
decisions in order to accomplish the mission and protect the crew, the
passengers and the aircraft. The crew responded perfectly and all did
what was expected of them."
The crew's mission was to provide the existing forces in Central African Republic with fresh personnel and supplies.
"We were moving some French troops into Africa and then picked up some
people that were doing the same job as them and taking them back to
France," said Staff Sgt. Meghan Servais, 701st Airlift Squadron
During the mission, the Airmen contented with heavy rain, thunderstorms and approximately 40 knot wind gusts.
"Africa has some of the worst thunderstorms in the world," said 1st Lt.
Jordan Barnes, 701st AS pilot. "Because of all of the heat, they're very
Due to that bad weather and a language barrier with another airport, the
crew was forced to divert to Diori Hamani International Airport,
Niamey, Niger for refueling, said Barnes.
Upon final approach into Niger, the crew experienced hostile ground fire
and lasing directed at their aircraft, however, they were able to
accomplish a safe landing.
"Along the way, there were some incidents that happened," said Barnes.
"There were no injuries, no damage to the jet, but there were some
people there that didn't like us."
After obtaining the fuel for the C-17, the crew encountered a problem
with the fuel system, which left them "dead in the water," Barnes said.
"Our jet was borderline broken," said Servais. "One of the fuel
totalizers wasn't showing us the amount of fuel that it had in it so we
couldn't take off unless that was fixed."
After an intense hour of contingency planning and collaboration from the
entire crew via Crew Resource Management, the system regained the
appropriate readings for takeoff.
The aircrew endured further complications and battled fatigue from a 28 ½
hour duty day. However, the crew was successful at getting airborne and
safely delivering 41 passengers and cargo to Evreux Air Base, France.
"We worked great as a team, that was a big thing," said Barnes. "Fatigue
can make you really short, but none of that ever happened. We had a lot
of people in the back and we had to get them back safely."
"In the heat of the battle, the heat of the moment, you never think
about the accolades," said Barnes. "You do want you're trained to do to
get the mission done."