Before the last C-17, part III: So the bird may fly

By Senior Airman Dennis Sloan | Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs | Aug. 27, 2013

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. — Editor's Note: For more than 20 years, the C-17 Globemaster III has delivered rapid air mobility at a moment's notice around the world. With the last U.S. Air Force C-17 scheduled to roll off the Boeing assembly line Sept. 12, 2013, we look back on the continuing impact this signature Charleston aircraft makes to the United States Air Force through our series, "Before the last C-17."

The moment the last U.S. Air Force C-17, fresh off the Boeing production line, touches down at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., and the smoke from the wheels dissipates, a team of crew chiefs will be set and ready to marshall the aircraft into place and perform the first recovery and maintenance inspections on the aircraft.

For more than 20 years the mission of a 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chiefs has been to maintain Charleston's C-17 fleet and ensure the aircraft is ready at a moment's notice to either carry cargo or troops anywhere in the world.

"Knowing I am going to be here for the final C-17 delivery is definitely special to me since this is the aircraft I work on day and night," said Senior Airman Cody Richman, 437th AMXS flying crew chief.

Richman grew up in Warren, Ohio, where he worked on cars with his stepdad after school. When Richman graduated high school he knew that he wanted to join the Air Force and aircraft mechanics was going to be a big part of his career.

"I came into the Air Force open general mechanics, because I loved working on cars and figured aircraft would be just as fun," said Richman.

After basic training, Richman attended technical school training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, to become a C-17 crew chief. Richman came to Joint Base Charleston shortly after where he finalized his crew chief training.

"Walking the flight line as a crew chief, ready to fix any problem at any time makes me feel like I am truly contributing to the Air Force mission," said Richman.

Richman recently transitioned from a ground crew chief to a flying crew chief and has completed three missions.

"Flying with the crew and seeing the mission from start to finish gives me a great perspective on how important our job is to the mission," said Richman. "The proudest mission I've done as a flying crew chief was performing presidential support."

Since the C-17 plays a critical role in supporting Operation Enduring Freedom the aircraft and its aircrew deploy frequently. Richman experienced his first deployment in 2011 where he performed maintenance in Southeast Asia for six months.

"The job doesn't really change much when we deploy," said Richman. "The biggest difference I noticed was actually seeing the impact of our work up-close and in-person. If we fail at fixing an issue then the mission stops and we can't afford to have that happen."

Recently selected for staff sergeant, Richman enjoys his day-to-day duties on the flight line whether it's as a ground or flying crew chief.

"I love working on the aircraft and performing tasks I've never done before, so I'm ready and capable to face any challenge a crew chief may come across," said Richman. "Working on the C-17 is a highlight of my job for sure, but the Airmen who I work alongside make it easy and fun."

The Air Force's last C-17 is scheduled to arrive Sept. 12, 2013, at JB Charleston - Air Base, S.C.

"It'll be awesome to say I saw the last C-17 in the Air Force be delivered to my base," said Richman. "I look forward to keeping that bird healthy and flying for many years to come."