Late in January, at an altitude of nearly 30,000 feet, a 174-foot long aircraft cuts through the air with more than 40,000 pounds of thrust per engine.
The equipment and personnel on board is needed to support ongoing operations in the U.S. Central Commands’ area of responsibility.
The aircraft, a C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, based at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, has its belly full of shipping containers and pallets of equipment belonging to the U.S. Army Bravo Company, 244th Military Intelligence Battalion. The load is moving from Iraq to Afghanistan, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO Resolute Support missions.
Since the C-17 was operationally introduced to the Air Force in 1995, these are the type of missions that they were created to accomplish – rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to forward operating bases throughout all areas of operation.
In 2016, the squadron flew more than 2,400 missions, moving nearly 102,000 tons of cargo and almost 120,000 passengers, including 116 aeromedical patients.
The C-17 is not only proficient in the transportation of troops and cargo but can also perform tactical airlift and airdrop missions and transport ambulatory patients during aeromedical evacuations.
A couple dozen Airmen assigned to the 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force Squadron line the interior sides of the aircraft, with mere feet between them and the chained-down cargo.
They have been on the aircraft since it departed AUAB, some having just arrived in theater from the United States days prior. A handful of these forward-deploying Airmen disembarked the aircraft in Iraq, while the others stayed on board until reaching Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
The Prime BEEF Squadron regularly forward deploys to help plan, design, and construct forward bases. Their mission for further development of Kandahar Airfield was to compensate for the influx of additional troops, assets and aircraft needed for the fight against the Taliban in the region.
A stark contrast to the 77 degrees when leaving AUAB, it was a single degree above freezing on the flight line of Bagram Airfield as the C-17 loadmasters and members of the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron expeditiously off-loaded the equipment.
After more transient soldiers and Airmen boarded the aircraft the following day, it was back in the air, heading home to AUAB in the early hours.
The 816th EAS is an important component flying a vital airframe in the fight against terrorism throughout the area of operations supporting of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. In the coming days, weeks, months and years it will continue providing a vital role wherever they fly.