Charleston C-17 squadron completes deployment

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chuck Marsh
  • U.S. Central Command-Forward Public Affairs
The first full-squadron deployment of C-17 Globemaster III aircrews and leaders at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., came to a close Sept. 1.

Lt. Col. Ricky Rupp assumed command of the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron from Lt. Col. Lenny Richoux, both from the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston AFB, as new members of the 816th EAS were already en route to their first alert mission, proving a seamless transition from one team to the next.

"I believe teamwork is what makes any complicated operation succeed," Colonel Richoux said. "We were not the first to ever deploy a unit, but we (along with the 817th EAS at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey) were the first to take a whole squadron from a stateside base and deploy them to the theater and do their job as the same unit.

"When you take people out of a familiar environment and put them into a new environment, things get complicated," he said. "You take away all the things you're accustomed to working with and you have to rely on each other, which is why the teamwork was so important."

In order to keep the teamwork feeling, Colonel Richoux opted to give the aircraft commanders continuity with their crews.

"I used 24 captains and majors to lead 24 hard crews (two pilots and one loadmaster)," he said. "The crews stayed the same for most of the deployment and I let those officers run their crews. I delegated that leadership to them and they did great things."

The squadron's efforts did not go unnoticed. Brig. Gen. Thomas M. Gisler Jr., director of mobility forces during the 816th EAS startup, was pleased with the execution of the EAS concept.

"They certainly had the right leadership and crews who were motivated, professional, well-trained and had the right perspective," the general said.

"I think they have proven the concept is viable and have laid a great foundation," he said. "It definitely helped with squadron members being together, to have the camaraderie and to work with efficiency because of the already established communications."

Continuing the successes of the EAS concept is a priority for Colonel Rupp, but he said seeing how they can help the U.S. and coalition forces on the ground is truly rewarding.

"When you can see and hear of the effects on the ground, it keeps you going from mission to mission, knowing you make a difference," he said. "Sometimes you fly a lot of cargo around, but the real missions that touch you are the ones that have the Soldiers in the back of the airplane. It allows you to connect.

"Either you're taking them in and you see how eager they are to get involved and make a difference or you're taking them home and you see that sense of pride they have and their excitement about returning to their families," Colonel Rupp said. "It feels good to be the person who helps them."