Martinsburg Wing welcomes C-17 Globemaster III

by Senior Airman Nathaniel Taylor
167th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (December 6, 2014) -- It was a historic day at the 167th Air¬lift Wing in Martinsburg, W.Va., as the unit officially introduced the new C-17 Globemaster III airframe to the public during a formal ceremony, Sat. Dec. 6.

While the wing received its first C-17 in September, the ceremony served as a look ahead to the future and as a moment to look back on the long, storied history of the 167th.

Airmen, their families, and several distinguished military and civilian guests were in attendance as Bob McMahon, the director of C-17 field operations for Boeing, presented two C-17 models to Col. Shaun Perkowski, the 167th Airlift Wing commander, and Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the Adjutant General of West Virginia.

Perkowski emphasized the continued readiness of unit members and their ability to adapt to whatever challenges arise as the wing moves forward with the transition to C-17s. “Not quite 10 years ago, we stood together and watched the last of our C-130 Hercules [propjets] fly south to our sister wing, the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston, and readily welcomed the future with the C-5 Galaxy,” Perkowski said. “In that same spirit, we stand in the shadow of the C-17 Globemaster III. We have collectively prepared the wing to meet the renewed challenges and opportunities of this dynamic airframe and mission.”

“We now transition to becoming the premier C-17 wing for Joint Base West Virginia, the Air National Guard and the United States Air Force,” he added.

The transition comes as the Air Force moves toward a leaner, more fiscally efficient fleet structure. The more modern C-17, which flew its first flight in 1991, only requires a three person crew, much smaller than the C-5’s average mission crew size of 10.

While the C-17 is more efficient in terms of crew size and maintenance requirements, the smaller footprint calls for a smaller force structure as well. While maintenance and several other positions on base are facing a reduction in manpower, one position, the flight engineer, is disappearing entirely due to the C-17 not requiring an in-flight mechanic.

In light of this, the career field was honored during the ceremony with the presentation of a plaque in the shape of the original flight engineer wings. Chief Master Sgt. Jim Roberts (Ret.), the wing’s first flight engineer and first enlisted aircrew member, and Chief Master Sgt. Jake Fairburn, the wing’s last flight engineer chief, accepted the plaque on the behalf of all those who had served the wing as flight engineers.

Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Glazer, the 167th command chief, presented the award and emphasized how integral the flight engineer career field was to the wing.

“As we transition toward the future, we also take a pause to recognize an integral enlisted career filed that concluded with the C-5 mission here in Martinsburg, the flight engineers,” Glazer said. “Its origins date back to early aviation, originally referred to as “air mechanics,” these “F.E.’s” as they are often affectionately referred to were responsible for monitoring all of the aircraft systems before, during and after flight operations.”

In addition to the introduction of the C-17, the wing also recognized the airlift squadron for their accomplishments that earned them the Air Mobility Command’s Airlift and Tanker Association’s Fuel Efficiency award.

The last C-5 unit in the Air National Guard, the 167th began the conversion process in July and will maintain a fleet of eight C-17s. The wing has flown the C-5 Galaxy since 2007 and began C-17 flying operations in January 2015.