W.Va. 167th Airlift Wing supporting operations worldwide

  • Tech. Sgt. Devon Paskewich, a crew chief at the 167th Airlift Wing, seals a panel on the side of a C-5 aircraft, at the Martinsburg, W.Va., unit on April 7, 2011. The units C-5 aircraft have recently supported missions in Libya, Japan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, keeping both operations and maintenance personnel busy.
U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — In less than two weeks' time, the 167th Airlift Wing supported missions in Libya, Japan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

One day after United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 was passed, a C-5 Galaxy launched from the Martinsburg base in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. effort to support the resolution calling for a no-fly zone over Libya.

Lt. Col. Marty Timko, a pilot with the 167th AW said, "Special Ops units were expecting to move forward and anticipated the need for extra equipment." The 167th crew transported aircraft support equipment from Hurlburt Air Force Base, Fla., to units based in Mildenhall, England.

Four days later, the unit launched a previously scheduled mission transporting supplies into Japan. Due to radiation threats in the aftermath of the earthquakes and tsunami, the crews took extra precautions.

Tech. Sgt. Jason Cliber, a loadmaster on that flight, said, "We took our C and D bags, which hold our ground and air crew ensembles; the protective gear we would have needed if the radiation threat was high."

Two of the crew members on that mission carried dosimeters, which measure radiation exposure. Lt. Col. Donald Magners, a pilot on that mission, wore one of the dosimeters. He said the crew spent two hours on the ground at Yokota AB, and the dosimeters didn't register high enough to warrant donning their protective gear.

Although the flight to Japan was technically not an Operation Tomodachi mission, the crew was tapped to transport blood from Kadena Air Base, which is on a southern island of Japan, to Yokota Air Base, which is on Honshu, Japan's main island.

On top of these missions, the 167th continued supporting deployment, re-deployment and sustainment operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.  

"We've been transporting a lot of helicopters and vehicles as units swap out in Afghanistan," Timko said.

Tech Sgt. Devon Paskewich, a crew chief who flew on a recent mission to Afghanistan, noted, "You can watch world events unfold in the news and you're a direct part of it."

With the drawdown in Iraq, the unit has been supporting operations by hauling cargo out of that theater, transporting 51 tons of cargo on one recent flight.

In the last two weeks of March, the unit accumulated more than 200 flight hours and carried more than 469 tons of cargo to destinations around the globe.

Some of the unit's C-5s are at home station for only two days before they are sent out for their next mission, according to Paskewich. The unit maintains a high-operational tempo even though two of its C-5s have recently been decommissioned, and others are receiving upgrades as part of the Avionics Modernization Program (AMP).

Maintenance personnel at the unit work feverishly to ensure the 40-year-old aircraft are up to the mission. Inspecting and servicing planes before and after each flight can take up to 16 hours, depending on the needs of the aircraft.  That's in addition to other home station checks and periodic isochronal inspections that are required.

Paskewich explained that two crew chiefs are also sent on each mission "to keep (the aircraft) safe and keep it moving, continuation of the mission is the whole purpose." He added, "We normally don't lose a mission due to maintenance issues."

The unit is slated to receive their first AMP'd C-5 aircraft this summer. Aircrew and maintenance personnel will be trained on the new systems during this same time period.

Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle is the base public affairs manager for the 167th Airlift Wing. 

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