HICKAM'S C-17 GLOBEMASTERS
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The last of eight C-17 Globemaster cargo jets arrived at Hickam Air Force Base yesterday. The jet was nicknamed "Spirit of Kamehameha -- Imua."
Jets boost Pacific military might
The last of eight C-17 Globemaster cargo jets arrives at Hickam
An Air Force commander said yesterday "the Pacific has been shortchanged since the war on terrorism began," in terms of moving troops and supplies for war and humanitarian missions.
But Col. John "J.J." Torres, the new commander of the 15th Airlift Wing at Hickam Air Force Base, said that is a thing of the past with the arrival of Hickam's final C-17 Globemaster cargo jet.
"It is an area that is one of the most needed regions of the globe because of the vast distances that has to be traversed in order to do the missions," Torres said.
Yesterday, the Hawaii Air National Guard's 204th Airlift Squadron and the active Air Force's 535th Airlift Squadron welcomed and dedicated their eighth C-17, nicknamed "Spirit of Kamehameha -- Imua."
Torres, a jet cargo pilot with 5,000 flying hours (1,000 of them in a C-17), said he is looking forward to his first island flight in the cockpit of the 174-foot aircraft next week.
The reason the Pacific was shortchanged, Torres told reporters, is because all of the war effort since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks centered around the Middle East.
"We have the ability now to put the capability out there," said Torres, a 1985 Air Force Academy graduate whose family is from the Big Island.
Adding to the Pacific Ocean coverage are eight other C-17s that will be assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska.
Torres said the relationship with the Hawaii Air National Guard is "total integration" -- one of the first in the military -- with 40 percent of its maintenance crews coming from the National Guard.
"That means without them, we don't fly," Torres said.
Although none of Hickam's C-17s have seen service in Iraq or Afghanistan, their pilots and air crews have been assigned there to give them field experience, Torres said.
With a full complement of jet cargo planes, Torres said four will always be ready to fly global missions for the U.S. Transportation Command, while the remaining four will be used locally. Already, there is a Hickam C-17 doing what Torres describes as weekly "channel runs" flying supplies to Yokota Air Base in Japan, Singapore and Diego Garcia.