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Al Udeid-based C-17s link AFRICOM, CENTCOM

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Ted Nichols
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing
Crews from the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron recently completed multiple cargo missions with the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to U.S. Africa Command, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, with the most recent mission, Aug. 28.

The strategic location of Al Udeid in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility makes the base valuable to operations throughout Southeast and Southwest Asia, but the proximity to the African continent also makes logistics operations with AFRICOM within reach.

"With a relatively short flight time to Djibouti, and with the C-17’s versatility and range of employment, it’s only natural that our resources are leveraged to work with and assist neighboring commands — even when we are deployed," said Maj. Jonathan Jackson, aircraft commander for the Aug. 28 mission. "Our job in the C-17 community is to transport people and cargo. If people need to get somewhere or cargo is needed somewhere, we’re always ready for the mission wherever it may take us."

Cargo ferried to and from recent AFRICOM missions has included: general cargo, mission-essential equipment, medical supplies, and rolling stock consisting of mobile shelters weighing nearly 7,000 pounds.

According to Al Udeid operations personnel, seven 816th EAS C-17 flights to AFRICOM from Al Udeid have been completed this calendar year. The 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, also based at Al Udeid, has completed six C-130 missions to AFRICOM.

"If it fits, it ships for one low flat fee," joked Staff Sgt. Davin Losack, chief loadmaster for the Aug. 28 mission. "On wheels, on a pallet, loose, on two legs, signature service — we get stuff safely where it needs to be; plain and simple."

Rapid global mobility is the mantra of the 816th EAS and shuttling cargo and logistics resources from AFRICOM to other expeditionary locations within the CENTCOM AOR showcase that reach.

"Our missions take us all over CENTCOM and in today’s case — beyond," said Jackson. "If there’s an established U.S. presence at a base over in this area of the world, C-17s have helped shape that base and enabled its mission."

With a maximum payload capacity 170,900 pounds, C-17 bridges the gap between strategic and tactical airlift. The C-17 allows for rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to both larger main operating bases and directly to small, austere forward bases.

Airmen and aircraft from the 816th EAS come from a variety of bases across the continental United States to man the expeditionary unit. According to the squadron, bases currently represented include: Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; Travis Air Force Base, California; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

"The 816th EAS provides professional and safe combat airlift for the United States and its allies supporting the mission and objectives of CENTCOM," said Lt. Col. Andrew Beckett, commander. "As Air Mobility Command's forward presence executing rapid global mobility, we are a professional force ever ready to execute the full spectrum of mobility operations."

The 816th EAS is unique compared to most other units at Al Udeid who fall under the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, according to Beckett. Organizationally, the 816th falls under the 385th Air Expeditionary Group and reports directly to the 18th Air Force who maintains operational control of the unit. The 816th, while based out of Qatar, also has detachments spread across the CENTCOM AOR.