by 2nd Lt. Alexandra Trobe, Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs
JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- A long-awaited milestone was reached at Joint Base Charleston Thursday, as the last U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, arrived home where C-17 operations first began.
The arrival of the last U.S. Air Force C-17, P-223, represented a landmark day and offered a moment for reflection on more than 20 years of successful global airlift, whenever and wherever duty calls.
The first C-17, The Spirit of Charleston, landed at Charleston Air Force Base June 14, 1993 and was piloted by Gen. Merrill McPeak, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force at the time.
P-223 was piloted by Gen. Paul Selva, Air Mobility Command commander, Lt. Gen. James Jackson, Air Force Reserve Command commander, and Lt. Gen. Stanley Clarke III, Air National Guard director.
Col. Jeff DeVore, Joint Base Charleston commander, began the ceremony by marking this day in history as one that "highlights the heritage of the men, women and industry partners who contributed to the significant milestones over the last 20 years."
Whose legacy has enabled Joint Base Charleston to become a "worldwide leader continuing to move people, vehicles, munitions and supplies in support of global reach aircraft capability worldwide."
The delivery ceremony celebrated not only the closing of this chapter of Air Force history but also the hard work and innovation of the original cadre and all of the Airmen since then who helped make this day possible.
"There's nothing we won't do with this airplane. It is a tribute to the men and women who built it, a tribute to the men and women who had the vision to field it. Men like Tom Mikolajcik, Bud Engersoll, Steve Roser and a whole variety of others... who said 'not only are we going to build it, but we are going to use it for everything it was designed to do," said Selva.
Since its inception, the C-17 Globemaster III is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operating bases or directly to forward bases in remote locations. The C-17 can perform airlift and airdrop missions and can also transport patients during aeromedical evacuations.
During the ceremony, Clarke highlighted the versatility of the C-17, "Out of necessity, we plan for a lot of things we never do, we have to. Conversely, we do a lot of things we never plan for. This aircraft gives us that opportunity. It gives our national leadership the opportunity to do many things whether it's humanitarian aid or global strike capability."
Col. Darren Hartford, 437th Airlift Wing commander, reinforced the adaptability of the C-17 aircraft and ingenuity of Airmen in pursuit of the mission.
"The Airmen of the 437th continue to find new ways to maximize the capabilities of this aircraft and to make sure we are always ready to answer the nation's call," said Hartford.
Threats to U.S. interests will continue to change in the future. Consequently, the demand for newer and more flexible aircraft is needed to meet a wide variety of mission requirements around the globe.
Col. James Fontanella, 315th Airlift Wing commander, added that, "Over the past 20 years, the Charleston tail flash and the American flag that's just above it represents a symbol of American might, American reach, and American innovation. However, the people behind that symbol are what we really need to celebrate, the men and women of the 315th, the 437th and the 628th Air Base Wing."
The ceremony ended with Hartford and Fontanella receiving the keys to the C-17.
"She's all yours, take good care of her," said Gen. Selva to the receiving party.
Jackson reminded all the members of the audience that "Wherever our citizen Airmen in the C-17 are, they are an impressive team, and while this may be the last aircraft delivery to Charleston, this proud bird has many more flights to go."
Before the ceremony concluded members of the audience were reminded of the true source of airpower.
"The crews that fly this airplane, the maintainers who maintain the aerial porters that feed cargo into it," said Selva. "They give it life, they give it a conscious, they are its heart and soul."