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The Globemaster: Reservists reflect on C-17 as fleet reaches four million flying hours

Team McChord 2020 Year in Photos

A C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, flies over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge May 8, 2020. The 62nd Airlift Wing C-17 Demonstartion Team, made up of pilots and loadmasters from the 4th, 7th, and 8th Airlift Squadrons, conducted a flyover of nearly 45 hospitals, healthcare organizations and landmarks up and down the Puget Sound, in appreciation of those working during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Airman 1st Class Mikayla Heineck)

An Airman from the 791st Airlift Squadron adjusts his harness on a C-17 Globemaster III above North Field North, S.C., Jan. 15, 2021.

An Airman from the 791st Airlift Squadron adjusts his harness on a C-17 Globemaster III above North Field, South Carolina, in January. Joint Base Charleston hosted and executed a ceremonial flight of the C-17 to celebrate the airframe’s four millionth flying hour. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --

In January, the U.S. Air Force celebrated the four millionth flying hour of the C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.

More than two decades ago, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, received its first C-17. It has added another nearly four dozen of the cargo aircraft to its fleet since, carrying out missions supporting worldwide combat and humanitarian airlift contingencies.

The Air Force Reserve’s 446th Airlift Wing at McChord has flown more than its fair share of the four million flying hours. From peacekeeping missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Persian Gulf buildup, African relief efforts, Operation Deep Freeze missions in Antarctica and even transporting a killer whale, the airlift wing certainly added to that total.

“What a fantastic aircraft in which to have spent the last 24 years of my life. I’ve probably logged around 6,000 flying hours since that time,” said Lt. Col. Charles Corrigan, examiner pilot for the 313th Airlift Squadron. “I’ve been privileged to travel to more destinations than most of the population will ever know or care about, but I think the camaraderie with the folks I travel with trumps everything else.

“We truly have the best crew community on the planet. We stick together and support each other to get the job done through thick and thin, highs and lows,” Corrigan added.

A C-17 can execute the strategic delivery of troops and cargo to forward areas, perform tactical airlift and airdrop missions, and transport litters and ambulatory patients.

In the cargo aircraft, Corrigan and other aircrew members have experienced many things.

“We have been privileged to repatriate fallen military service members from North Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan,” Corrigan said. “Equally importantly, we’ve given life-saving flights to those gravely injured in battle so they may receive care outside the combat zone. I’ve been honored to fly U.S. presidential support into combat zones. And I’ve been fortunate to have supported the U.S. Antarctic program with flights to Antarctica.”

On March 26, 2003, nearly 1,000 U.S. service members were parachuted into the Kurdish-controlled area of northern Iraq in Operation Northern Delay in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This was the first combat insertion of paratroopers using the C-17.

“The large airdrop, Operation Northern Delay, in northern Iraq was one of the most memorable flights I’ve had on the C-17,” said Chief Master Sgt. Derek Bryant, chief loadmaster for the 728th Airlift Squadron. “And I have more than 8,290 flight hours and counting on the C-17.”

The Boeing-built aircraft is designed to fly longer, carry more and land on shorter runways than any of its predecessors.

“My overall experience as a C-17 loadmaster has been nothing short of amazing,” added Bryant. “I was a loadmaster on the C-141 Starlifter and the C-17 came along and opened up doors to the career enlisted aviator field that I would never have imagined.

“From special mission certifications to career broadening to promotions to leadership and circling back to my serving the newly enlisted Airmen in our Air Force.”

At 174 feet in length, 55 feet high, with a wingspan of just under 170 feet and a maximum gross takeoff weight of 585,000 pounds and the ability to land on a runway as short as 3,500 feet, the C-17 remains flexible.

The C-17 is also known for its reliability. It has an aircraft mission completion success probability rate of more than 92%. #ReserveReady

(Butac is assigned to the 446th Airlift Wing public affairs office.)