Keeping the C-17 in the fight

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
The C-17 Globemaster III is a versatile aircraft in high demand across the globe. The airframe is used to haul cargo, transport passengers and medically evacuate wounded service members.

The 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron maintenance team at Al Udeid Air Base helps keep the base’s C-17 fleet mission ready by performing regular maintenance on each aircraft. The unit provides the only tier two C-17 maintenance capability in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility with the ability to replace engines and perform fuel cell work.

“Our goal is to maintain our C-17s so they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice,” said Senior Airman Matthew Vanderbosch, a 8th EAMS C-17 crew chief from Buffalo, New York. “We need to make sure the aircraft is crew ready. We configure the cargo bay for each mission, inspect everything on the aircraft and call in specialists, as needed, to fix problems quickly.”

Conducting preflight inspections is one of the many responsibilities of 8th EAMS crew chiefs. During inspections, nearly a half dozen crew chiefs inspect every system on the aircraft, Vanderbosch said.

“We inspect the interior and exterior of the aircraft, all lights, computer systems, hydraulics, every brake and tire … everything,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Hill, a 8th EAMS C-17 crew chief from Helena, Montana. “Each inspection consists of hundreds of items.”

Ensuring the C-17, an aircraft called upon to evacuate 80 U.S. Embassy personnel from Yemen in February 2015, is mission ready is vital, Hill said.

“Everything we do here has an impact. Every time we support a jet launch we’re making things happen,” Hill said. “Whether it’s moving passengers across the AOR, delivering munitions or delivering humanitarian aid like water, blankets or food to people in need; we are here to support all of that.”

One day, Vanderbosch was informed of a C-17 waiting to takeoff to transport wounded Soldiers out of Afghanistan. The aircraft was fueled up, the pilot was ready to start engines and the aeromedical evacuation crew was ready to go. However, there was one problem -- two tires needed to be replaced.

“Without hesitation, a team of us went out to the jet, jacked it up and replaced the tires,” Vanderbosch said. “Behind every flight crew, there’s a team of crew chiefs and specialists ensuring they can do their jobs, because if we don’t do our jobs, the flight crews can’t do their jobs.

“Knowing we were able to help bring those Soldiers home and get them the care they needed … being a part of that, was pretty cool,” he continued.

During his time at AUAB, Vanderbosch said he’s replaced C-17 brakes, lights and more tires than any other time in his Air Force career.

The 8th EAMS maintainers perform maintenance actions on a routine basis in an effort to ensure assets are available at the time of need, Hill said.

“We track the maintenance needs for every aircraft; we assign people as necessary, perform our inspections and focus on preventative maintenance so we take care of problems before they arise,” Hill said.

The 8th EAMS currently has a logistics departure reliability rate of nearly 93 percent. That means for every 10 aircraft assigned to missions, nine take off on time.

The LDRR is one of many achievements made possible by the hard work of the 8th EAMS maintenance team, said Capt. Danielle Rogowski, a 8th EAMS maintenance operations officer from St. Cloud, Minnesota.

“Our guys understand the importance of what they’re doing and they see the impact of what they do every day,” she said. “When a C-17 is transporting service members across the AOR or when someone needs to get medevac’d out, that’s possible because of the work my Airmen do.”

Rogowski said she’s impressed with the dedication her Airmen bring to the mission.

“I’m so proud of our people, to do what they do every day in extreme heat; I’m having to pull them off of stands to take breaks because they won’t stop. If something is broke, they won’t stop until it’s fixed,” she said. “To display such tenacity, that’s impressive and they bring that tenacity every day. They come here ready to go, focused on getting the mission done.”

In 2015, the 8th EAMS supported more than 1,700 sorties delivering nearly 24,000 tons of cargo and more than 9,000 people to locations across the CENTCOM AOR.