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'Spirit of Strom Thurmond' honors senator's 100 years

ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. -- The Air Force commemorated the 100th birthday of one of the longest-serving U.S. senators by naming its newest aircraft in his honor Dec. 12.

The 100th C-17 Globemaster III to roll off the assembly line was christened the "Spirit of Strom Thurmond" in a ceremony here seven days after the senator's birthday.

Thurmond watched as the aircraft's name, painted in an oval shape over the crew door, was unveiled during the ceremony. An Army combat officer in World War II, Thurmond has been a U.S. senator for 48 years. He is a member of the Senate's Armed Services and Veterans' Affairs committees.

"It's a great honor that both the name and the spirit of a great American resides with this airplane," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper. "It signifies the gratitude of generations of airmen who have served and will continue to serve around the world."

Secretary of the Air Force Dr. James G. Roche noted the significance of Thurmond's name being attached to a C-17 as the Air Force begins celebrating the 100th year of powered flight.

"During his years of public service, the senator has seen the evolution of the Globemaster," he said. "Two previous versions of this venerable system have seen service during his lifetime, from the Berlin Airlift (the C-74 Globemaster) to Southeast Asia (the C-124 Globemaster II).

"So this day, (with) the C-17 Globemaster III being dedicated in his honor, it seems so appropriate that he be memorialized as one of the icons of flight," Roche said. The "Spirit of Strom Thurmond" is assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base in Thurmond's home state of South Carolina.

The C-17, which first flew operationally on June 14, 1993, holds more than 20 records for its lift and short airfield operations capabilities. The Air Force plans to purchase enough C-17s to maintain a fleet of at least 180 of the aircraft.

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