Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Travis personnel training, preparing for arrival of C-17s

January 31, 2006

Travis personnel training, preparing for arrival of C-17s

By Ian Thompson

TRAVIS AFB - The pending arrival of the new C-17 Globemaster jet transport at Travis Air Force Base is already having a deep effect on the Air Force Reserve squadron that will fly them.

Members of the 301st Airlift Squadron are training to start flying missions as soon as the C-17 arrives, squadron commander Col. Dave Pavey said.

By the time Travis' C-17s start arriving, "we will have a pretty good stable of horses to run," Pavey said.

Travis is preparing to receive a squadron of 13 C-17 Globemaster III jet transports, which should start arriving later this year. The work on the buildings and services needed to support the aircraft is already under way.

Like the C-5s and the KC-10s already stationed at Travis, the C-17s will be shared between the active-duty 60th Air Mobility Wing and the Air Force Reserve 349th Air Mobility Wing.

The C-17s will replace the C-5s in two Travis squadrons, one active-duty and one Reserve, in the case of the 349th AMW, the 301st Airlift Wing.

Unlike the active-duty side of the base, the Reservists of the 349th can't send its C-5s aircrew to other C-5 squadrons elsewhere and ship in new airlifters to take on flying the C-17. Instead, because the 349th is so closely connected to the surrounding communities that supply its members, it is sending members of the 301st Airlift Squadron to retrain to fly the C-17.

The 301st, which has roots that extend back to carrying 101st Airborne paratroopers to launch the Normandy Invasion in 1944, will become the 349th's C-17 squadron.

Training for the new task

The members of the squadron, who now fly the venerable C-5 Galaxy jet transport, started retraining a cadre of members to fly the C-17 early last year.

"We sent 17 people to Altus Air Force Base (in Oklahoma) to train last January, 10 pilots and seven loadmasters," Pavey said.

With this group wrapping up most of its C-17 training and flying missions with C-17s from other bases, the majority of the squadron is now also starting to train.

Tech. Sgt. John Willoughby, a loadmaster with the 301st, signed on for C-17 training because he wanted to stay with the squadron and was impressed with the C-17's capabilities.

With a smaller crew, the C-17s loadmasters will become more involved with the flying aspect of the mission as well as overseeing the cargo.

"It has been a challenging experience learning the airplane," Willoughby said, noting he'd spent 13 weeks at Altus and has 200 hours already logged on the C-17 "and that doesn't count personal time studying the books."

"I was intrigued by the airplane for some time," Maj. Dennis Wolf said. "It has more of a tactical capability than the C-5."

Wolf has already gone through the C-17's co-pilot schooling and flown some missions on the aircraft.

Both he and Pavey consider getting the C-17s an opportunity to look back on the squadron's history, because the C-17 could be considered a return to the 301st's tactical roots. Pavey has worked to strengthen this by collecting photos of the 301st's duty in World War II and has contacted those fliers from then who are still alive.

In need of fewer personnel

Because the C-17 requires a smaller aircrew than the C-5, the 301st will downsize as well with some of its airlifters, particularly engineers, going to the wings other squadrons.

Wolf is melancholy about seeing some of the 301st members move to other units or retire but is also excited at being a part of bringing this new mission to Travis.

"It is an opportunity to take part in the missions that have helped shape our world," Wolf said.

Much of the training is done in Altus' C-17 simulators, which feel just like a real C-17, followed by joining up with C-17 squadrons at bases such as McChord Air Force Base, Wash., to fly missions with those aircrews.

The 301st fliers are impressed with the aircraft they are learning to fly.

Senior Master Sgt. Charles Speir had been anticipating the C-17's arrival for some time, describing the C-17 as an aircraft that requires a much different mindset from its crew.

"The crew is smaller and has to be a much better team," Speir said, adding the C-17's capabilities require a sea change "in the way you think, the way you do business."

It is packed with technology that includes a heads-up display for the pilot to replace much of the instrumentation he had to look down for in a C-5. The C-17 requires the reservists to shed routines they learned while flying the C-5s.

"It is so much more friendly to those computer-oriented younger people," Pavey said. "It is just amazing how that plane works."

Pavey called the change to the C-17 "the high point of my time in the Air Force" and a return to missions the more tactically oriented C-17 will allow them to carry out.

Not only can the aircraft fly the long-range missions the C-5 is capable of, but it can land in more austere environments on runways too small for the larger C-5.

Overall, the C-17's coming arrival is making for a better squadron that is looking forward to being on the cutting edge of air mobility.

"It is gratifying to see the squadron working together," Pavey said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at


What they are: The C-17 is the newest, most flexible cargo aircraft that can move troops and cargo to major bases or to forward bases. It is also capable of performing tactical airlift missions and airdrop missions.

Who will fly them: The 60th Air Mobility Wing's 21st Airlift Squadron and the 349th AMW's 301st Airlift Squadron

What training have they had: While active-duty C-17 aircrews and maintainers will be transferred to Travis Air Force Base from other bases, the Air Force Reservists of the 301st are going to Altus Air Force Base, Okla., to train to fly and care for the C-17.

How the C-17 differs from the C-5 Galaxy: While the larger C-5 Galaxy can carry twice as much cargo farther than a C-17, the Globemaster is a much more flexible aircraft capable of more diversified missions that will carry it closer to the fighting.

Source: U.S. Air Force

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