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NEWS | June 18, 2008

“Reliability, maintainability and availability:” a challenge fulfilled

By Capt. Bryan Lewis 315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A former squadron commander here made a list of characteristics, which included military commitment and availability, experience and rank with retainability. He also expected excitement from his Airmen for the new C-17. Summing it all up he said, "I need a squadron of locomotives."

It is safe to report that 15 years later, having current Airmen with more than 87 years of flight hours, there is a wing of locomotives.

The characteristics listed above were the expectation of then Lt. Col. Michael Lierley who assumed command of the 317th Airlift Squadron, a Reserve component designed to team with the 17th Airlift Squadron to verify the C-17 program here.

"We want men and women young enough to help us through the wing's conversion during the next few years," Colonel Lierley said during an interview in 1994.

What he couldn't have expected is that many of those initial cadre would still be flying today.

"We've had and still have a ton of experience on C-17s here," said Senior Master Sgt. Bryan DuBois, 315th Operations Support Squadron NCO in charge of tactics, who was part of the 12 initial crews of the 317 AS after its reactivation in 1992. "We have all these guys who've flown here and for the airlines and left active duty. There is so much knowledge here."

Perhaps the wealth of knowledge is none more evident than with a look at the numbers.

Nine of the top 10 total flight-hour holders in the C-17 at Charleston AFB are reservists. In addition, the total C-17 flight hours of the current 315th Airlift Wing is more than 763,000, which is 148,591 more than their active-duty counterparts demonstrating that the current Reserve force is more than "part-time." Interestingly, these numbers do not include the alumni whose legacy current reservists still feel.

"Maj. Paul Sikes, Capt. Dave Wallis and Senior Master Sgt. Kenny Nicholson of the 317 AS were crewmembers on the first C-17 that landed in Charleston on June 14, 1993," said Chief Master Sgt. Bill Hamilton, 317 AS loadmaster superintendent. "Major Sikes and Sergeant Nicholson were first to attain 1,000 flying hours in those days, and the joke was it took them 1,000 sorties to get it since it was primarily through local training flights."

This tradition of leading the way with time and experience in the C-17 continues today. Maj. Scott Torrico, 701st Airlift Squadron pilot, has more total flight hours in a C-17 than any pilot in the Air Force, and Master Sgt. Dennis Moore, 701 AS loadmaster, has more total C-17 hours than any aircrew member Air-Force wide.

"We are more than just weekend warriors," said Sergeant Moore.

The average total C-17 hours for 315 AW Airmen is more than 2,065 hours compared to 988 hours for active-duty Airmen here. As a team, the 315 AW and 437th Airlift Wing have more than 157 years of total time in Globemaster IIIs.

When the C-17 arrived 15 years ago, it marked the first time in Air Force history that an aircraft was in an inventory while still being tested. Additionally, it was the first time reservists participated in validation and concurrent advancement of a new jet.

As the actions of the Airmen here continue to demonstrate, a report to Colonel Lierley would certainly meet the standards of his list.

Reliability, maintainability and availability ... check.
Excitement from the Airmen who move this aircraft ...

"I just really enjoy flying the C-17," said Major Torrico. "Reservists tend to do their job because they want to, not because they have to. The big advantage with the Reserves is you really get to know the people you work with and this makes for a better, more efficient team."

Excitement ... check.