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NEWS | May 9, 2013

My uncle got me thinking …

By Lt. Col. Dave Owens 15th Airlift Squadron commander

Let me tell you the ending upfront, the 15th Airlift Squadron just returned from a successful 60-day flying deployment to Southwest Asia. It is the recurring deployment that the 437th Operations Group Squadrons here at Joint Base Charleston have been performing non-stop for the past decade.

Why do I say that it was a successful deployment? I say it because in 60 short days, the squadron flew 1,000 sorties while safely moving 40 million pounds of cargo and 5,000 passengers throughout the area of responsibility. The squadron also precisely executed 33 combat airdrops, resupplying forward operating bases throughout Afghanistan with 900 bundles of supplies.

So what does my uncle have to do with this article? Simple: he had no idea what there was for us to do during the deployment. After a long pause on the phone and a roll of my eyes, I eloquently told him, "We move stuff ... a lot of stuff and we do it well." After the phone call ended, I was not satisfied with my "eloquent" answer but what troubled me more and got me thinking was, "Do any of my other family, friends or neighbors understand what we and every rotating C-17 squadron do when deployed?" The short answer, not really.

With this being the case, how do I get them to understand? Simply by telling the stories over and over to anyone who will listen.

First, I will tell a story about a group of Airmen in the 15th AS, most of which are not yet 21 years old. I will explain that the amount of responsibility these young loadmasters hold is nothing short of amazing. What type of amazing responsibility you ask? Try rigging 40 air-drop bundles weighing nearly 70,000 pounds in a little under two hours, 33 times in two months. Try organizing loading teams in the middle of the night when not everyone speaks English at airfields in Afghanistan and getting everyone to work as a team to safely download 18 pallets to then turn around and upload a plane full of pallets and vehicles nearly 1,000 times in two months.

Next, I will tell a story of a group of captains that are between the ages of 26 to 32 years old. I will explain in detail that the amount of responsibility these young men and women possess is astonishing. Every real-time decision they make have consequences ... be it weather avoidance, how they choose to fly an approach or departure or how they command a crew of five for a mission that can last 24 hours ... they always do it right and did it right for 2,500 flying hours in two months.

So this is how I will get the answer out, this is how I will let every person I come in contact with know. I will let them know that there is a war still going on. I will let them know that Joint Base Charleston C-17 squadrons are deployed every day of the year and the remarkable Airmen operating them are amazing Americans doing an absolutely amazing job.

I think that should work!