Rolling with the Punches (and Waves) – 183rd Airlift Squadron Completes Annual Training in Hawaii

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jared Bound
  • 172nd Airlift Wing

Stay flexible. That’s the key to airpower. Members of the 183rd Airlift Squadron, 172nd Maintenance Group, Jackson, Mississippi, and 186th Air Refueling Wing, Meridian, Mississippi, pushed through multiple challenges at Air Station Barbers Point, Kapolei, Hawaii, to successfully conduct annual training this July.

“We launched with a plan, and we expected it to change, based on operating factors and maintenance,” said Lt. Col. Chipper Woodruff, current operations chief of the 183rd Airlift Squadron. “We see what’s going on around the world; in Europe, in the Pacific,” said Woodruff. “It’s training like this that allows us to travel a very long distance, stand up an operation and execute. It gives a sense of being forward-deployed.”

Planners originally designed a straightforward aerial refueling training mission with KC-135 refueling tankers from the 186th Air Refueling Wing. However, operating in far-removed environments often presents unique opportunities for value-added training.

“Take the transportation plan, for example,” said Woodruff. “We thought we had it sewn up, but with our personnel displaced at multiple points across the island [of Oahu,] we had to get creative.” Teams were built, shuttles and carpools had to be worked out, and schedules had to be devised. And when a hydraulic pump grounded one of the C-17 Globemaster III jets in the middle of training, members of the 172nd Maintenance Group immediately began coordinating with units on the island to find a replacement pump, acquire it, and install it. This pushed the maintainers who were operating in an environment more than 4,000 miles from home, and who still had three other mission-critical C-17s to support.

“We were able to get some vital training that we’re not typically able to get at home,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Clifton, first sergeant of the 172nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “Wherever we go, it’s our job to keep those jets running, and the maintenance team that was in Hawaii did a phenomenal job of troubleshooting, resourcing parts and repairing that aircraft.”

“We owe our maintainers a huge debt of gratitude,” Woodruff said. “Given the professionals they are, the challenges we met did not affect the flying mission, and not a single sortie was lost.”

Off-station training not only produces more flexible Airmen; it builds stronger teams.

“You’re outside of the parameters you’re used to doing business in,” said Woodruff. “Challenges arise, and you suddenly find you have to lean a little heavier on the folks around you.” This combination of factors generates what Woodruff described as “magic.”

“That’s where the magic happens,” Woodruff said. “These kinds of conditions form stronger relationships between individuals, make the units collectively stronger and enhance our ability to perform our warfare specialty.”

Airmen of the 172nd Airlift Wing continue to maintain and operate a fleet of C-17 Globemaster III aircraft that provide flexible, world-class strategic and tactical airlift in support of National Command Authority objectives, as well as the objectives of the Governor of Mississippi.