JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA –
Early in the morning February 9, 2017, in an unusual evolution, a C-17 Globemaster III from the 14th Airlift Squadron and a KC-10 Extender from the 2nd Air Refueling Squadron took off together from Joint Base Charleston enroute to a first of its kind training opportunity at the United States Air Force Academy.
During the transit west, the two aircraft conducted in-flight refueling exercises; the KC-10, a tanker, providing fuel to the C-17. Air Force Capt. Hank Goldsmith, the C-17 pilot commented, “As an Air Mobility asset, we don’t normally get the opportunity to fly with and refuel from the KC-10 platform.” The KC-10 is a multi-role, multi-asset air refueling aircraft. It has both boom and drogue refueling capabilities and can service other U.S. and NATO military aircraft. Goldsmith added, “We were fortunate to be part of an exciting and valuable learning experience.”
After completion of the refueling exercises over the middle of the country, the KC-10 departed to continue training elsewhere while the C-17 conducted low-level and mountainous flight training over Arizona and New Mexico.
Later, both aircraft arrived at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado to participate in the first professional training program with the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Center for Character and Leadership Development. The aircrews interacted with senior USAFA leadership, including Brigadier Gen. Stephen C. Williams, the academy commandant, discussing leadership, how to connect with the new generation of Airmen and participated in a study group hosted by Retired Lieutenant Gen. Jay Kelly addressing the importance of AF core values, their meaning today and the need for possible updating in the future.
Mentoring approximately 30 USAFA cadets was also part of this inaugural professional development program. The aircrews shared personal experiences, offered professional advice and responded to questions from the cadets. Additionally, the cadets toured the C-17 and the KC-10. Goldsmith said,” We were able to demonstrate the capabilities and roles of both aircraft while sharing our perspective on mobility operations and how it contributes to the military mission.”
The cadets seemed to be unfamiliar with the concept of enlisted airmen being part of aircrews. Airman First Class Joshua Smith, the C-17 loadmaster said, “The cadets assumed I was a Maintainer. They were shocked I was a loadmaster and an aircrew member.” Smith added that during the open discussion mentoring session, the enlisted aircrew members were able to explain their expectations of newly commissioned officers.
Goldsmith concluded, “The mentoring session really helped the cadets understand the importance and complexity of the AMC mission.” Smith added,” The cadets found the concept of being ready to mobilize at any time to be really cool.”
Prior to beginning their USAFA mission, the 14th AS took on a joint training exercise with the Army’s 4th Engineering Battalion out of Ft. Carson, Colorado. Because the Army normally moves heavy equipment via ground transportation, the aircrew demonstrated the basic rules for loading and restraining equipment for safe air transport. The exercise benefitted the aircrew as well. The aircrew loaded and secured an Army High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (Humvee) and a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT), which are extraordinarily large vehicles. “It was a great opportunity and a valuable experience to train with larger, heavier, armored vehicles," said Goldsmith. “I’ve been flying since 2010 and I’ve only carried two such vehicles operationally.”
Air Force Lieutenant Col. Adam Bingham, commander, 14th AS, said training evolutions combining operational and professional skills development are rarely done. However, he maintains such training is necessary to maximize the complete “fighting Airman.”
“This event was fantastic,” Bingham commented. “It improved the technical proficiencies of the pilots and loadmasters from both squadrons while developing relationships between the squadrons.” He added, "As with all organizations, relationships matter.”
Bingham also addressed the interaction with the academy leadership, the cadet mentoring and the joint operation with the Army. “It is important for our aircrews to focus on developing professionally by engaging with current senior leadership, sharing experiences with the next generation of leaders while working with our sister services,” said Bingham.
According to Bingham, the success of the event laid the foundation for similar training to be held more often. Bingham concluded, “If possible, we will try to do this training quarterly. It’s not just about flying missions; it’s about becoming better people.”