Friday, June 01, 2007

Dover to receive its first C-17

With much anticipation, a combined flight crew from the 436th and 512th Airlift Wings departed Dover Air Force Base May 29 for Long Beach, Calif., where they assumed ownership of the base' s first C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from Boeing May 31.

After years of planning and preparation, the addition of a new airframe to Dover's current all-C-5 Galaxy fleet is now a reality.

For Dover's first crew to fly the new C-17, known as the Spirit of the Constitution, this is a monumental trip, said Maj. Justin Riddle, 3rd Airlift Squadron and the aircraft commander for this trip.

"When I arrived in Dover in May 2006, the C-17 transition was just beginning," said Major Riddle. "For the next year, I witnessed Dover's transformation and how every base agency contributed towards the beddown.

"Today, it's an honor to be selected to command Dover's first C-17 sortie and to witness the beginning of a new chapter in our history," he said.

A team of pilots and loadmasters who also have made their marks on Dover's history as some of the base' s first C-17 professionals, joined Major Riddle as crewmembers on this inaugural trip.

The history-making crew consisted of Maj. Kevin Higginbotham, 326th Airlift Squadron and Team Dover's first Reserve C-17 pilot; Capt. Paul Scambos, 3rd Airlift Squadron's chief of C-17 tactics; and Dover's first active-duty and Reserve C-17 loadmasters: Master Sgt. Steve Rucker, 3rd AS, and Master Sgt. Mike Wright, 326th AS.

"As one of the first people to work with the C-17 Program Integration Office for the last three years, it's nice to actually help bring the first airplane to Dover Air Force Base," said Sergeant Wright.

While not all of the crew has been involved in the process for as long as Sergeant Wright, the entire team is proud to be part of something so significant.

"So much work and effort has gone into the C-17s arriving in Dover. To be a small part of that is an honor and something I will always remember," said Captain Scambos, who arrived at Dover in January after having flown C-17s at Charleston AFB, S.C.

Once the C-17 was accepted, the crew then made the cross-country trek to McGuire AFB, N.J.

In addition to the Dover crew, Brig. Gen. Alfred Stewart, 21st Expeditionary Mobility Task Force commander at McGuire AFB served as the delivery official and flew onboard the aircraft from Long Beach to McGuire, where the aircraft will remain until early June 4.

Gen. Duncan McNabb, Air Mobility Command commander, will assume the position of delivery official June 4 and fly the aircraft into Dover for its grand arrival.

After the short flight from McGuire to Dover, the new Globemaster III and its crew will be welcomed by the Dover community.

A full-scale arrival ceremony is planned for the C-17 June 4. With local, state, AMC, Air Force and Boeing officials on the guest list, the new aircraft will take its place alongside the C-5.

"(June 4) will be a historic day for Team Dover," said Captain Scambos. "The arrival of America's newest and most-capable airlifter gives Dover an unmatched global air transportation capability.

"This new addition, on top of the existing C-5 platform, will give Dover the ability to move anything, at anytime, anywhere on earth well, into the 21st century."