817th EAS offers support via resupply, airlift missions

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- A deployed unit from the 10th Airlift Squadron, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., has been operating out of Incirlik Air Base contributing supplies to Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.

The 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron's mission is to provide global strategic airlift, aeromedical evacuation and humanitarian relief to create an air bridge for service members, equipment and supplies throughout most combatant theaters.

"We deliver whatever the combatant commanders need to forces throughout both OEF and OND; and depending on what those requirements are, the C-17 (Globemaster III) is completely capable and flexible of delivering all sorts of cargo," said Capt. William Booth, 817th EAS executive officer and C-17A aircraft commander.

The maximum payload capacity of the C-17 is 170,900 pounds. It can travel at speeds of 450 knots and fly an unrefueled range of approximately 2,400 nautical miles. The C-17s design allows it to operate into short, unprepared and austere airfields.

Although, the 10th Airlift Squadron is airdrop qualified and has completed numerous combat drops, the 817th EAS does not have an airdrop mission here, according to Booth.

"We are constantly bringing supplies to people who don't have an easy means of getting them. Sometimes it's as simple as bringing water to somebody," Booth said. "The locations we are bringing supplies to are sometimes so austere that even getting Soldiers and Marines a source of fresh water can be very rewarding. In that aspect, it's one of the most important things we do."

In addition to tactical airlifts, the 817th EAS also transports litters and ambulatory patients.

We have the responsibility and the honor of transporting human remains also, Booth said.

"Dealing with the emotional ups and downs is one of the hardest parts of the job. We have to start thinking about combat, getting our 'game faces' on and focusing on the mission; and then there's a sudden change in mood when you are going into a Fallen Warrior Ceremony," said Booth.

The long hours can also take a toll on the Airmen.

"The long days are tough," said Master Sgt. Matthew Mueller, 817th EAS operations superintendent and loadmaster who recently returned from a 16-hour mission. "Believe it or not, these are short days."

The C-17A is operated by a crew of three: a pilot, a copilot and a loadmaster. But the mission can't be accomplished with only them.

The squadron consists of approximately 110 Airmen, with a fraction of that number deployed to another base in the area of responsibility.

The aircrew flight equipment section, which is made up of Airmen and NCOs, supply crews with the necessary combat equipment such as helmets, armor, life support, oxygen and gas masks. Intelligence, weather and maintenance Airmen also play roles in the 817th EAS.

"The maintainers truly keep the mission running, and without their support the 817th comes to a grinding halt," said Booth.

Everything for the 817th EAS begins at the Tanker Airlift Control Center, Headquarters Air Mobility Command, located at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. TACC plans, schedules and tracks tanker, airlift and aeromedical evacuation aircraft worldwide to accomplish AMC's global reach mission.

The combatant commanders will decide what bits of cargo are needed. As those missions flow down, the 817th EAS is assigned to certain theaters, certain airfields and certain times. Once those decisions are made, that information flows down to the unit, according to Booth. From there, the 817th EAS schedulers assign a current and qualified aircrew to accomplish those missions.

"Generally, we have a plan of what our final destination will be, but sometimes that does change. As the war flexes, so will our final destination," added Booth.

After the "download phase," where loadmasters offload cargo, the aircrew will depart the AOR and fly back to Incirlik. A debrief on the mission will follow, the aircrew will go on crew rest and the aircrew will continue the process all over again.

When the 817th EAS Airmen's four-month rotation is complete, a new squadron will deploy to Incirlik to replace them.

"The handover is pretty seamless, and the mission keeps flying without a burp in the system, because the next squadron is already spinning up for the deployment at their homestation," said Booth. "At the end of the day, our mission is to get that stuff down range, but we truly can't do it without everybody behind us, supporting us."

"What we do here is a great thing. The impact it has for the people we served - the Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors that are downrange and fighting the fight everyday," said Booth.