A C-17 Globemaster III crew from the 729th Airlift Squadron and 452nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, flew a short distance to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., to upload and fly a precious piece of cargo halfway around the world, Aug. 25.
Upon arrival at Davis-Monthan, an HH60 Pave Hawk helicopter was towed to the back end of the cargo jet, where Tech. Sgt. Ryan Benson, loadmaster, 729th AS, took charge by gathering a fellow loadmaster, two maintenance troops from March and maintainers from the 943rd Rescue Group, Davis-Monthan, to discuss the task of uploading the helicopter.
"There's a lot that goes into loading it; it's an expensive asset and has a lot of critical areas we have to pay attention to," Benson said. "There's a fuel mast that sticks out on the forward right and a radar dome off the left side, so there's a lot of things to consider."
Benson further explained that pieces of wood, called shoring, needed to be setup just right to make sure the helicopter didn't scrape anything or damage the floor. He then had to make sure the wench, a device used to pull the helicopter into the C-17, was properly configured and that Airmen were placed at various vantage points to guarantee the aircraft was safely loaded.
Once the team had the HH60 positioned in the C-17, everyone once again worked together tying it down with chains and straps to make sure it will stay put for the long journey to Gimhae International Airport where it will undergo a complete refurbishment.
Chief Master Sgt. Hauck, superintendent, 943rd Maintenance Squadron, said the renovation happens every 78 months, will take almost a year to complete and will overhaul the entire Pave Hawk.
"When it comes back it will look like a brand new helicopter and it will fly like a brand new helicopter," said Maj. Dusty Dossman, commander, 943rd MXS.
Dossman and Hauck shared with the crew that the aircraft they were transporting was the actual helicopter flown to rescue Navy SEAL, Marcus Luttrell, who was the sole survivor during a Taliban attack in 2005. He wrote a book about the attack, which became a best-seller and was later developed into a motion picture.
"It gives you chills, it makes you proud and it's incredible to be able to transport it over the water safely, especially knowing the history this helicopter has," said Capt. Lee Hendrickson, mission aircraft commander, 729th AS. "It makes you feel great inside, being a part of something so profound."
Once the C-17 landed in Korea, the loadmasters and maintainers began releasing the straps and chains tethering the helicopter to the jet and gathered with personnel from the Korean Airlines Joint Depot Level Maintenance facility to prepare for the offload.
The same care, precision and teamwork necessary to upload was essential in the offload, said Benson.
The team effort was strong and the removal was quick and seamless.
"The Koreans were great; they were well prepared and experienced," Benson said. "It was great to work together as a team and shake their hands after we successfully offloaded the helicopter."
Once the Pave Hawk was off the C-17, Benson said he felt a great sense of accomplishment with his role in helping transport the Pave Hawk so it can be re-conditioned and eventually returned to its mission of search and rescue. He also marveled at the significance of the mission and the vast reach of the Air Force Reserve.
"The biggest shock to me was that it was an AFRC helicopter and a reserve unit that rescued Marcus Luttrell," he said. "It's pretty cool to know that the Reserve was out there doing something remarkable like that."
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