Col. Ronald Han Jr., commander of the Air Force's 15th Maintenance Group, left, and Col. Larry Stephens, commander of the 154th Maintenance Group of the Hawaii Air National Guard, untied a maile lei yesterday to open the consolidated maintenance complex for the new C-17 planes due to arrive in Hawaii next year, at Hickam Air Force Base.
C-17 cargo jet facility opens at Hickam
THE AIR FORCE and the Hawaii Air National Guard yesterday opened a new maintenance facility for C-17 cargo planes due to move to Oahu next year.
Eight of the aircraft will make Hickam Air Force Base home starting in February, the first time for any of the planes to be stationed away from the mainland.
The C-17 is the newest, most flexible cargo plane in the Air Force. It is capable of carrying heavy loads, flying long distances, and landing on short runways as well as dirt fields.
The Air Force used the planes to parachute soldiers into northern Iraq in March 2003 after Turkey denied the United States a route to invade from land. The Air Force dropped humanitarian food rations to civilians from C-17s during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
Active-duty Air Force and Hawaii Air National Guard units will jointly supply the maintenance crews for the plane in the first such arrangement anywhere in the country.
Active-duty and Hawaii guard airmen will also both fly the planes.
Lt. Col. David Snakenberg, vice commander of the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing, said the two sides would complement one another well.
"One of the strongest suits for the guard is their maintenance -- mainly because our folks don't rotate out, they kind of stay in place for sometimes up to 40 years," Snakenberg said.
The active-duty crew, meanwhile, will bring in new ideas as their troops rotate in and out, he said.
The active-duty side will contribute 60 percent of the maintenance crew that will service the C-17 planes. Guard troops will add another 40 percent.
Both sides have been strengthening ties as February nears and the planes are due to arrive. Last week, they held a family day at Bellows Air Force Station to get to know one another.
Col. Larry Stephens, the commander of the Air Force's 15th Maintenance Group, said the cooperation could serve as an example for other Guard and active-duty units on the mainland that may also be called to work together in a similar way.