Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Elmendorf celebrates C-17 arrival

by Staff Sgt. Francesca Popp, 3rd Wing Public Affairs

The C-17 Globemaster III "Spirit of Denali" (Side number 0169) touches down for the first time June 11 at its new home at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. "Spirit of Denali" is the first C-17 of eight to arrive at Elmendorf AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Tinese Treadwell)

Elmendorf officially received its first C-17 Globemaster III airlifter June 11 during a ceremony here.

The C-17, "Spirit of Denali," was delivered by Alaska's Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell.

"The C-17 is an exceptional aircraft and what a smooth ride," said the lieutenant governor. "This is a great day for Alaskans, as well for our Air Force and Guard. Never have we been so well-equipped to do so much good in the world around us.

"Whether it's taking 102 Soldiers to strategic locations or flying over 170,000 pounds of humanitarian aid to impoverished nations ... we can do far more, far faster than ever before," he said. "For these reasons and many more, I was thrilled to be on this aircraft to contemplate the hope and opportunities the C-17 will provide."

The nation's newest airlifter will allow Elmendorf to improve its ability to accomplish the mission of global reach by delivering people and supplies anywhere, anytime.

The C-17 mission will be operated and maintained by the active duty Air Force and Alaska Air National Guard. The C-17 replaces the C-130 Hercules in the 517th Airlift Squadron and is a new platform for the Guard.

"We start a new heritage today in the Alaska Air National Guard. We make operational the 249th Airlift Squadron," said Brig. Gen. Tony Hart, the 176th Wing commander. "The 249th and 517th are going to be the cornerstone of the future total force integration that's going to happen here at Elmendorf."

Col. Tom Tinsley, 3rd Wing commander, said there is no better place to have the C-17 deliver airpower for America than in Alaska.

"Once the C-17 becomes fully operational here in Alaska, it will perform similar missions to the preceding aircraft (the C-130) with two major differences," Colonel Tinsley said. "We will be able to project mobility and airlift air power on a global scale. We are doing this with an associate partnership with the 176th Wing. We're doing total force integration and making it a reality for the first time in Alaska."

Total force integration at Elmendorf will create efficiencies, retain invaluable human capital, and above all, maximize the capabilities of the Air Force components.

Alaska provides a unique advantage for global delivery because it is strategically located near the center of the northern hemisphere. With more than 62,000 square miles of airspace, America's 49th state offers an ideal location for Airmen to test the aircraft's interoperability in an austere environment.

"I'll just bet that your pilots are chomping at the bit to take your new C-17 out for a spin in that environment," said Ron Marcotte, Boeing vice president and general manager of Global Mobility Systems and Integrated Defense Systems-Long Beach.

The airlift mission at Elmendorf will transform with the change to C-17s. Global-direct delivery will be the mission focus, while continuing to work closely with the Army supporting Fort Richardson Soldiers and the Stryker Brigade.

To support these aircraft, facilities on Elmendorf were built, upgraded, or are being built. These include a large-frame aircraft hangar; a state-of-the-art flight simulator; a dual-bay hangar; survival equipment shop; squadron operations buildings and hangars; egress; battery shops; and life support offices. There will also be construction at Fort Greeley's Allen Army Airfield to upgrade the assault landing zone there.

The eighth and final C-17 is scheduled to arrive here in November. Elmendorf AFB is the second Pacific Air Forces location for C-17s.