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Ceremony christens first C-17 in Pacific Air Forces

  • Published
The first of eight C-17 Globemaster III cargo jets arrived here Feb. 8 for its christening and Hawaiian blessing before a crowd of spectators and distinguished visitors from the local and military communities.

15th Airlift Wing Airmen and members of the 154th Wing, Hawaii Air National Guard flew the C-17 together, signifying a new era of “total force integration.”

“It was a logical step for us to invite the Guard in this adventure,” said Gen. Paul V. Hester, Pacific Air Forces commander. “We’ll have Guardsmen working side-by-side with active duty in maintaining and flying the airplane just as we did today on its first mission.”

The new squadron of C-17s will dramatically increase the military’s capability to rapidly deploy valuable assets anywhere in the Pacific.

“To be partnered up with the Air Force in this fashion with our Air Guard is a first-of-a-kind partnership and we are really proud of that,” said Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle.

When asked if this aircraft would see combat missions, General Hester said, “These planes are strategic airlift, meaning they will fly all over the world. So consequently they will do whatever mission is on their plate. It could be taking supplies to our forces in Japan and Korea, or it could be landing in the desert in Afghanistan. Our Hawaii crews are going to be involved in everything this aircraft was designed to do.”

Pre-ceremony entertainment included music from the Royal Hawaiian Band, conch shell blowing, a Chinese lion dance and cultural dance performances of Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.

Shortly before the C-17 taxied to the stands, the Kamehameha Children’s Chorus sang several songs followed by the Halau Hula Dancers, a local youth group who danced in traditional attire and performed as the new jet pulled to a stop.

Brig. Gen. Peter S. Pawling, commander of the 154th Wing, and Col. William J. Changose, commander of the 15th Airlift Wing, unveiled the C-17, named the “Spirit of Hawaii, Ke Aloha.”

After receiving a traditional Hawaiian blessing, the aircraft opened and ceremony attendees walked through to view their new aircraft.

"We're really excited about this partnership with the 15th Airlift Wing,” General Pawling said. “It will combine the best strengths that the Air National Guard and the active duty have to offer -- the long-term stability and expertise of the Guard work force and the fresh ideas and enthusiasm that active-duty Airmen will bring.”

The arrival of the C-17 marks many firsts for the Air Force, including the first C-17 squadron created from scratch, the first non-continental U.S. C-17 base and the first strategic airlift wing for PACAF.

“Total force is alive here today,” Colonel Changose said. “The U.S. Air Force and United States at large is going to benefit from the partnership between the 15th Airlift Wing and the 154th Wing.”

“We're one team first,” said General Pawling. “Then we're the Hawaii Air Guard and active duty. I honestly could not think of a better place to forge this partnership than here in Hawaii, where we have such long established ties at Hickam between the Hawaii Air National Guard, our active duty hosts and PACAF.”