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NEWS | June 3, 2008

15 years of C-17s taking the fight to the enemy

By Stanley Gohl 437th Airlift Wing historian

Fifteen years ago, the highly touted "Spirit of Charleston" made its long-awaited arrival to Charleston AFB. The first operational C-17A was delivered to the 17th Airlift Squadron June 14, 1993. Then Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Merrill McPeak, delivered the new aircraft to its new home in the Lowcountry. Congressmen, military members and civilians alike eagerly awaited their chance to take part in a piece of American military history.

In the past 15 years, the C-17 Globemaster III has exceeded its expectations, thrusting it in the spotlight as America's premier global reach aircraft. On a daily basis, the C-17 allows the men and women of the 437th Airlift Wing to directly impact the world at home and abroad.

The C-17 has become the nation's preeminent aircraft for cargo delivery, aiding in the resupply of military forces and others in need in combat zones such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition to providing support to service members, the C-17 has enabled the Air Force to help the world one massive delivery at a time. Since its inaugural flight, the C-17 has been involved in almost every humanitarian aid operation ranging from earthquake relief in China and Iran, to tsunami relief operations in Bangladesh and civilian evacuation operations in war-torn Lebanon. Not only has the C-17 been imperative in aiding citizens of the world, it has proven to be a lifesaving device on U.S. soil as well, specifically in its disaster relief during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

While the C-17 is celebrated for its outstanding performance, it continues to set new benchmarks each and every day. The Boeing C-17 has set or broken 33 world records, to include: payload to altitude climb time, and short takeoff and landing marks. In 2006, as the 17 AS was deployed to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, four operational world records were set: number of drop zones (six in less than an hour), airdrop (40 container delivery system bundles weighing a total of 65,000 pounds), number of sorties in one month (1,254 in July 2006), and number of time definite delivery passengers (2,462 in August 2006). This aircraft has been utilized in countless types of missions and March 20, 2006, during an air evacuation mission in Iraq, the C-17 airframe achieved its one millionth flying hour. In addition to the operational records and accomplishments the members of Team Charleston have achieved due to the capabilities of the C-17, December 21, 2006, while soaring high over the Lowcountry, the members of the 437th Airlift Wing and 315th Airlift Wing flew a staggering 20 C-17s in a single formation, garnering the world record of "largest C-17 formation flight from one base."

In order to formally celebrate the achievements of this aircraft, Team Charleston will be hosting a number of events the weekend of June 13-14. The first event, starting June 13, will be a golf tournament, followed by an evening social hour with a C-17 heritage tribute. The following day Team Charleston will host a general officer panel where members of the base community will be encouraged to learn about the C-17's past and future from the heroes that made it all possible. The weekend's festivities will conclude with the 17th Airlift Squadron's Annual Moose-Stomp Dining Out.

For more information about events being held to commemorate the C-17 15th anniversary, call Maj. Beth Carpenter at 963-3005