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OUR HISTORY

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C-17A S/N 05-5153
 
Accepted July 13, 2006 
 
Assigned to the 15th Airlift Wing (PACAF), Hickam  AFB, HI
 
 
photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo                                                                                        USAF

Aircrew members walk away from a C-17 Globemaster III at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, on July 18, 2006 The "Spirit of Kamehameha-Imua" is the eighth and final C-17 for the 15th Airlift Wing at Hickam. It marks the successful transformation for the 15th AW from a support unit to an operational strategic airlift wing. The maintainers are active duty Airmen and Hawaii Air National Guardsmen.

 
 
 
photo by BRUCE ASATO                               The Honolulu Advertiser

Maj. Gen. Darryll D.M. Wong, commander of the Hawai'i Air National Guard, left, looked on as the name Spirit of Kamehameha Imua, was unveiled on the eighth and final C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft to go into service with the Hawai'i Air National Guard.

 
 
Hickam's final C-17 touches down
By William Cole Honolulu Advertiser Military Writer
 

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE The eighth and final C-17 cargo aircraft being based in the state was welcomed yesterday with a strong Hawaiian emphasis as a new Hickam base commander prepares for their worldwide mission ahead.

The Spirit of Kamehameha Imua rolled up outside the historic base operations building just after 1 p.m. after being flown in from the Boeing plant in Long Beach, Calif.

"This is not just a new aircraft," said Maj. Gen. Darryll D.M. Wong, who commands the Hawai'i Air National Guard. The eighth C-17 "is the namesake of one of Hawai'i's most revered heroes."

The naming "has special significance with those of us in the Hawai'i National Guard," Wong told several hundred mostly military members at the arrival ceremony. "As the state militia, we can trace our lineage at least as far back as Kamehameha the Great's grandson."

The warrior king was a skilled negotiator and knew how to incorporate new technology into his battle plan. Wong said the new C-17 "will draw upon the spirit of Kamehameha wherever it goes," whether to project military power or for humanitarian aid.

In an interview yesterday, new 15th Airlift Wing commander Col. John "J.J." Torres, said the squadron of C-17s brings true airlift projection capability to the Pacific.

"In order to operate in this theater with this tyranny of distance and all this water, you've got to project power, and you've got here the platform to be able to do that," Torres said.

Torres, 42, whose father was born and raised in Kohala on the Big Island, took command of Hickam on June 29. He had been vice commander of the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Torres said he plans to "push that (air) mobility to the next level" at Hickam as the relationship with the Hawai'i Air National Guard to maintain and fly C-17s matures.

The focus over the past year was bringing eight of the Air Force's latest-generation cargo carriers to Hawai'i. Now it will be on actual operations.

Four of the jets will be available for missions through U.S. Transportation Command and executed through Air Mobility Command, Torres said. The other four will be used for local command taskings.

"That's part of the maturation now getting our crews versed, experienced at doing the global mission," Torres said.

Each week, Hawai'i C-17s fly the "channel run," stopping at Japan, Singapore and the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, where U.S. bombers are based, to deliver supplies, Torres said.

In the spring, two of the C-17 Globemaster IIIs moved Australian troops and equipment.

Until the arrival of the C-17s, Hickam was largely a mid-Pacific refueling stop. The Hawai'i Air Guard has F-15 fighters and KC-135R refueling tankers. The C-17s replaced the Guard's propeller-driven C-130 Hercules aircraft.

But with a greater military emphasis on the Pacific, the Air Force also indicated it wants to base at Hickam 18 of its most advanced weapons systems the stealthy F-22A Raptor fighter.

The Raptors, with no arrival date as of yet, would replace the Air Guard's 18 mid- to late-1970s F-15A and B Eagle fighters, which have been used for Hawai'i air defense and in no-fly-zone missions in Iraq before the start of the war in 2003.

Capt. Tony Wolleat, 32, an Air Guard pilot from Waimanalo who flew in on the eighth C-17 delivered to Hawai'i, said Guard pilots have been getting 20 to 50 flying hours in the aircraft a month.

"There are rumors that we may (fly missions) to Iraq; there are also rumors that we may just be staying in the Pacific region," said Wolleat, a 1992 Kahuku High School graduate.

A pilot with Aloha Airlines, Wolleat said he's in the Air Guard "to serve my country. I love to fly." He added if Hawai'i C-17s are sent on Iraq or Afghanistan missions, he'll volunteer to go.

Donnalei Smythe, president of the royal Hawaiian society 'Ahahui Ka'ahumanu, officially christened Spirit of Kamehameha Imua yesterday.

The Hickam C-17 squadron also has Spirit of Hawai'i Ke Aloha, and Spirit of Go For Broke.

 

 
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