Hickam AFB welcomes its final C-17 July 18, 2006
Hickam welcomed "The Spirit of Kamehameha-Imua" today -- the last of its eight C-17 Globemaster IIIs. The arrival marked the successful transformation of the 15th Airlift Wing from a support unit to an operational strategic airlift wing.

Earlier this year the 15th AW had no strategic cargo aircraft of its own, only the promise of eight C-17s. The aircraft were to be delivered one at a time over several months. The wing served primarily as a support unit for nearly 70 organizations, including the Pacific Air Forces headquarters, an Air Mobility Command unit and the Hawaii Air National Guard. That role quickly changed.

The first of Hickam's Globemaster IIIs landed Feb. 8. Christened "The Spirit of Hawaii Ke-Aloha," it was the first C-17 to be permanently assigned outside the continental United States. The stout, gray workhorse promised new opportunities for strategic airlift in the Pacific theater.

"The C-17, as amazing as it is, is nothing more than an opportunity for America to continue to show who America is," said PACAF commander Gen. Paul V. Hester at the first aircraft's reception ceremony.

"We've had the opportunity … in times of need to show those in this region in particular that America can reach out the velvet hand of humanitarianism and that we can, in fact, embrace those who need help," the general said.

It didn't take long for Hickam Airmen to begin seizing those opportunities. Less than two weeks after the arrival of the first jet, a plan swung into action to provide supplies and recovery equipment to areas in the Philippines affected by mudslides. The C-17 brought 30,000 pounds of supplies to the nation, just as Pacific Command leaders anticipated it could. Since then, crews have delivered people and goods to neighboring Hawaiian Islands, Australia and Fiji, among other places.

The crews who operate and maintain the C-17s form a composite unit of active duty and Air National Guard Airmen. It's a Total Force arrangement designed to share the responsibility of operating the airlifters. While some said the arrangement wouldn't work, Col. William Changose, 15th AW commander from March 2005 to June 2006, didn't agree.

"I think that you're going to find that this Guard-active-duty-mix will be, if not the model for the rest of the Air Force, a model to completely extend and maximize what we have," Colonel Changose said in 2005.

"I hope we are the model for the rest of the Air Force; we're going to give it a good shot," he said.

So far there seem to be very few downfalls to the partnership. Active duty and Guard Airmen work together in a cohesive unit that has proven capable of sustaining the airlift mission.

"There are still people out there who say it's not going to work," Colonel Changnose said. "Take a look out the window; it's working. It's working like a champ."

The arrival of The Spirit of Kamehameha-Imua marks a new chapter in the history of the 15th AW. Colonel Changose has retired and Col. John Torres now commands the wing. Hickam's new fleet offers an opportunity to prove that the C-17 is the right aircraft for the command's strategic airlifting.

"What is really needed in this theater is the ability to rapidly and reliably move things to faraway countries. Every country needs to be able to do that," Colonel Changose said before his retirement.

"We can do it better than anybody else and we can do it better than anybody else because we have the C-17," he said.

"Absolutely it's the right plane for this theater. It's going to pay huge dividends."

Hickam AFB welcomes its final C-17

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt Chris Vadnais
  • Air Force Print News
Hickam welcomed "The Spirit of Kamehameha-Imua" today -- the last of its eight C-17 Globemaster IIIs. The arrival marked the successful transformation of the 15th Airlift Wing from a support unit to an operational strategic airlift wing.

Earlier this year the 15th AW had no strategic cargo aircraft of its own, only the promise of eight C-17s. The aircraft were to be delivered one at a time over several months. The wing served primarily as a support unit for nearly 70 organizations, including the Pacific Air Forces headquarters, an Air Mobility Command unit and the Hawaii Air National Guard. That role quickly changed.

The first of Hickam's Globemaster IIIs landed Feb. 8. Christened "The Spirit of Hawaii Ke-Aloha," it was the first C-17 to be permanently assigned outside the continental United States. The stout, gray workhorse promised new opportunities for strategic airlift in the Pacific theater.

"The C-17, as amazing as it is, is nothing more than an opportunity for America to continue to show who America is," said PACAF commander Gen. Paul V. Hester at the first aircraft's reception ceremony.

"We've had the opportunity … in times of need to show those in this region in particular that America can reach out the velvet hand of humanitarianism and that we can, in fact, embrace those who need help," the general said.

It didn't take long for Hickam Airmen to begin seizing those opportunities. Less than two weeks after the arrival of the first jet, a plan swung into action to provide supplies and recovery equipment to areas in the Philippines affected by mudslides. The C-17 brought 30,000 pounds of supplies to the nation, just as Pacific Command leaders anticipated it could. Since then, crews have delivered people and goods to neighboring Hawaiian Islands, Australia and Fiji, among other places.

The crews who operate and maintain the C-17s form a composite unit of active duty and Air National Guard Airmen. It's a Total Force arrangement designed to share the responsibility of operating the airlifters. While some said the arrangement wouldn't work, Col. William Changose, 15th AW commander from March 2005 to June 2006, didn't agree.

"I think that you're going to find that this Guard-active-duty-mix will be, if not the model for the rest of the Air Force, a model to completely extend and maximize what we have," Colonel Changose said in 2005.

"I hope we are the model for the rest of the Air Force; we're going to give it a good shot," he said.

So far there seem to be very few downfalls to the partnership. Active duty and Guard Airmen work together in a cohesive unit that has proven capable of sustaining the airlift mission.

"There are still people out there who say it's not going to work," Colonel Changnose said. "Take a look out the window; it's working. It's working like a champ."

The arrival of The Spirit of Kamehameha-Imua marks a new chapter in the history of the 15th AW. Colonel Changose has retired and Col. John Torres now commands the wing. Hickam's new fleet offers an opportunity to prove that the C-17 is the right aircraft for the command's strategic airlifting.

"What is really needed in this theater is the ability to rapidly and reliably move things to faraway countries. Every country needs to be able to do that," Colonel Changose said before his retirement.

"We can do it better than anybody else and we can do it better than anybody else because we have the C-17," he said.

"Absolutely it's the right plane for this theater. It's going to pay huge dividends."