First C-17 Cargo Planes, Crews Arrive at Travis
The first of 13 C-17 cargo planes arrives today at Travis Air Force Base, beefing up not only the mission of the local air base, but also the national security of the United States.
While it is cause for celebration and a salute to the men and women of Travis who have a critical role in the war on terrorism and U.S. military operations around the globe, it is also a time to recognize that more, not fewer, resources are needed.
A 200-person squadron at Travis has been created to maintain the incoming fleet of C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. The 945th Aircraft Maintenance squadron, responsible for the C-17, will be a part of the reserve 349th Air Mobility Wing based at Travis. The agile, state-of-the-art C-17 cargo haulers are the "third weapon" in the base's arsenal, along with the massive C-5 Galaxy and the KC-10 refueling aircraft.
Funding the replacement of older planes with the new C-17 has been a constant battle in Congress and the White House. And that fight continues. It is important to have a plane with an existing U.S. production line reinforcing efforts to move troops rapidly around the globe, given the American presence in the Middle East.
Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan, whose prior career in the Air Force gives him a keen understanding of the importance of the C-17s, recently explained: "Specializing in heavy-lift operations in 'hot-zones,' the C-17 brings troops and supplies - including tanks, helicopters, and other outsized equipment - directly to and from the front lines. Its ability to take off and land from limited runways has proven invaluable."
He added, "The C-17 is the new global airlift standard - the only airlifter capable of both tactical and strategic missions - making it the airlifter of choice."
The C-17 has already fulfilled a critical role in humanitarian missions at home and around the world. It was C-17s that delivered aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina and to survivors of the earthquake in northern Pakistan.
There was a moment of concern last week when it was reported that the Boeing plant in Long Beach was having problems with the final stage of production. While the construction of planes was going smoothly, the military was concerned about last-stage preparations for planes on the flightline ready to be shipped. In the end, the company and the military said the problems were minor and would be worked out, creating no delay in getting the new planes to Travis on time.
The importance of the new squadron for the community is obvious. Downsizing has gradually shrunk the workforce of civilian and active-duty personnel at Travis. At a time when there is constant behind-the-scenes talk of more base closings and consolidations - and as the supply of older generation cargo planes, the C-5 Galaxy has been decreased - the future of Travis will be bolstered by the arrival of the C-17s.
The base's first C-17 is named "Spirit of Solano," the Air Force's acknowledgement of the community support for Travis and the men and women who serve the country there. "The surrounding communities of Solano have been terrific in their unwavering support of our base here in Northern California," said Col. Michael Shanahan, chief of the C-17 Program Integration Office. "It seems fitting that we salute that commitment by naming the first C-17A after the community."
Today's welcome ceremonies represent a genuine appreciation for the new plane, the crews that will maintain them and the civilian jobs that will be needed to keep them here. It is a time to celebrate.
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