SOUTHWEST ASIA – Capable of strategic delivery of troops and a broad range of cargo, the C-17 Globemaster III and its aircrews directly support operations within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The members of the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, deployed from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., accomplish the air tasking order via passenger transport, ground and aerial delivery to keep deployed operations moving.
“The C-17 is an incredible platform,” said Capt. Erica McCaslin, an 816th EAS C-17 pilot and Port Angeles, Wash., native. “It allows us to go into just about any field, from an international airport to a dirt field in the middle of Afghanistan, to deliver cargo to the Army or Marines or any troops who need supplies.”
With a maximum payload capacity of 170,900 pounds, the Globemaster III and its crews are able to transport passengers, and all types of cargo to include food, water, supplies and even vehicles. In this rotation, the 816th EAS has flown more than 375 sorties, transported 13.2 million pounds of cargo and nearly 2,400 passengers. Additionally, they have airdropped more than 71,000 pounds of cargo to forward bases throughout the AOR.
“The deliveries we bring in for the troops is pretty crucial, especially in some of the obscure fields we go into – supplies and ways to get them may be limited,” McCaslin said. “The roads may be dangerous and airlift is the only way to get those critical supplies to them.”
Typically aircrews consist of three pilots, two loadmasters and a flying crew chief.
“The crew compliment is critical,” McCaslin said. “From the loadmasters in the back, to [crew members] upstairs ensuring the aircraft is ready for takeoff and safely transporting everybody from stop-to-stop. It really takes a team effort, and without any one of those crew members, the whole thing could fall apart.”
As an aircraft commander, McCaslin has a major responsibility within the crew ensuring the mission is executed smoothly.
“[We] manage all the players involved and make decisions as far as safety of the crew and the aircraft, any sort of delays and changes to the mission cut,” she said.
Besides the pilots and flying engineer who have the crucial role of keeping the aircraft serviceable and in the air, the loadmasters have a very important role within the aircrew as well.
“Our job as C-17 loadmasters is to ensure all the cargo we take in and out of the AOR is prepared correctly and maintained throughout the flight,” said Staff Sgt. Frederick Jordan, an 816th EAS C-17 loadmaster and Panama City, Panama, native. “We make sure the cargo gets to where it needs to go safely and precisely.”
They work in tandem with the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron aerial port technicians who prepare the cargo prior to loading it onto the aircraft.
“Once it comes to the aircraft we are the last line of defense to make sure all the necessary steps were taken in preparation,” Jordan said.
Without the loadmasters, they’d have a hard time getting any cargo throughout the AOR and troops wouldn’t be able to get the supplies they need to complete their mission, Jordan explained. Before and throughout the flight, loadmasters perform a balancing act to keep aircraft flying safely.
All-in-all, like a well-oiled machine, the Globemaster aircrews work to support ground troops throughout the AOR.
“I get quite a bit of pride from the work that we do and the Airmen we work with across the board,” McCaslin said. “It’s pretty amazing when you can see from start to finish the pieces that are involved – what it takes to get us airborne and in the end to see those supplies delivered to the troops who actually need it.”