NEWS | Nov. 4, 2020

SQUAD SWAP: 437th AW Conducts Deployment Swap at Al Udeid Air Base

By Story by Staff Sgt. Lance Valencia Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

A C-17 Globemaster III aircrew from the 15th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, conducted a deployment swap to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., on Oct. 28, 2020. The aircrew was swapping Airmen from 15th AS, who were deploying, and Airmen from the 16th AS, who were returning home after a 90-day deployment. Both C-17 squadrons are assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston.

The aircrew helped service members deploy to Al Udied and returned service members to Joint Base Charleston over a four-day mission which included stops to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait.

U.S. Maj. Air Force Major Addison Schenk, a C-17 pilot and the aircraft commander for the mission, said safety and timeliness were the two biggest priorities for the mission.

“We’re trying to get those guys out there on time so they can have a smooth transition to the EAS [Expeditionary Airlift Squadron] and not have any gaps in coverage,” said Schenk. “You also have COVID-19 considerations so those guys are all under quarantine posture, so we need to make sure they stay safe and well for the entire flight.”

Deployers were required to quarantine for 14 days prior to their leave date. The requirement is implemented in order to mitigate any time lost once the deployers arrived to Al Udeid Air Base in order to have a smoother transition into conducting operations.

Schenk also detailed his experience of bringing his wingmen back home after a successful deployment.

“Those guys were extremely happy,” said Schenk. “They were cheering and high-fiving when we started engines. It was a great feeling knowing we took them home after a successful deployment. As we were rolling into parking, it was great to see all the families welcoming them back from deployment. It can be tough being away from your family, friends and loved ones. It was a great feeling to bring them back safe and secure.”

Aircrews flying missions around the world can face multiple challenges. Schenk explained what obstacles an aircrew may face but also why overcoming the obstacles is important.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” said Schenk. “Between weather, maintenance and any other outside factors that could come into play like COVID and geo-political concerns, you have to stay flexible because we want to take care of our folks. We want to get them out and back safely.”

First Lieutenant Daniel Sims, a C-17 Globemaster III pilot assigned to the 15th AS, flew as a co-pilotfor his first overseas mission, also known as a “dollar” ride. He said it was important for his growth as pilot to be on the mission.

“I was co-pilot most of the flights,” said Sims. “There was a lot of learning and I got to fly way more than I expected. The other pilots I was with have a lot of experience and know how to teach it. Which is great so you can learn it the right way the first time.”

With a Major and two Lieutenant Colonels to fly with him, Sims had a substantial amount of experience to learn from during the flights while also ensuring Airmen are able to conduct real-world missions across the globe safely.