'Leavin' on a Jet Plane': GM-3 deploys aboard C-17 for Milstar mission to Guam
By Staff Sgt. Don Branum, 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 29, 2006
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 4th Space Operations Squadron's Ground Mobile-3 vehicle made history Saturday with its first-ever deployment aboard a C-17 Globemaster III.
The GM-3 and a crew of 4th SOPS Airmen deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and set up for deployed mobile satellite command-and-control operations.
In previous deployments, GM-3 had deployed via a C-5A Galaxy. Using a C-17 instead saved the Air Force $360,000 in Global War on Terrorism funds.
A test load on a C-17 in September validated the concept of deploying GM-3 on a C-17 -- a concept they adopted from the 137th Space Warning Squadron, said Capt. Kenneth Lancaster, 4th SOPS Operations Support Flight chief.
The loading process on the flightline at Peterson AFB went smoothly. GM-3 backed up under its own power to the edge of the C-17 loading ramp. From there, the aircraft's internal winch system took over, pulling the semi trailer neatly aboard for its trans-Pacific flight.
Getting the GM-3 into the C-17's cargo bay is a nail-biter -- the trailer has less than an inch of clearance to the roof of the cargo bay. But, according to Tech. Sgt. Dan Boawn, 4 SOPS' NCO in charge of mobile maintenance, that fraction of an inch is good enough.
"It's close enough that it gets us in," Sergeant Boawn said.
The mobile support trailer, containing additional equipment and spare parts for the mobile mission, was loaded next.
"We loaded it in the required time and got the flight off on time," Captain Lancaster said. "That's important because the last thing you want to do is delay the crew."
Minutes after the loading ramp closed, the C-17 taxied into position and took off, carrying its satellite command-and-control cargo westward.
The C-17's most precious cargo was certainly not GM-3, but rather a six-member 4th SOPS mobile satellite C2 team that will provide secure space-based communication to war fighters worldwide in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
The 4th SOPS Airmen will spend the holidays in their deployed location, along with many other Air and Space Expeditionary Force Airmen. Family members came out to Peterson AFB to wish their Airmen farewell.
"We physically moved GM-3 (in a C-17) for the first time," Captain Lancaster said. "It worked well for us and for the Air National Guard unit flying the aircraft."
"This is the first time in four years we've sent an expeditionary force overseas to execute the Milstar C2 mission," said Capt. Chris Bendig, chief of 4th SOPS' mobile operations crew. "It's a part of our satellite C2 mission -- and a way of delivering combat effects -- that we're very proud of."