C-17 Elephant Walk at March Air Reserve Base

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Oz Suguitan
  • 452nd Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. — An elephant walk is what the 729th Airlift Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, California, demonstrated with five C-17 Globemaster III heavy cargo aircraft preceding a minimum interval of takeoff (MITO), which can facilitate rapidly launching a sortie surge of planes for a mass deployment event, Dec. 9, 2023.

The elephant walk got its name in World War II when massive fleets of American aircraft were launched as quickly as possible in close timing and proximity. It refers specifically to the moving formation of a large group of (mostly colored grey) military aircraft or smaller groups of extremely large aircraft, such as the 729th's C-17 fleet of heavy lifters.

U.S. Air Force Major Jon R. Millman, chief of group tactics, 452 Operations Group said "it's a unique opportunity to have C-17's launch all at the same time to allow us to practice different threat reactions and mission sets--flying in close proximity and adapting to the challenges of putting that many C-17s in the air at one time."

To put one C-17 mission in the air requires the efforts of a lot of Airmen, with a dozen in the maintenance teams and aircrew scrambling to get the aircraft loaded and in the air. It's much harder to manage the amount of manpower required to coordinate so many launches in brief sequence. "The training, the coordination, and most importantly, the execution is a unique opportunity that will prepare us for the next fight."

The mission of the Squadron ranges from humanitarian cargo, moving personnel, aeromedical evacuation, and sustainment. Millman said that these types of practice scenarios can help prepare crews to fly and return while completing those missions in a contested environment. He said that this is the type of training that truly gets the squadron ready for any mission where fast mass deployment is a requirement for success.

But, before the planes' takeoff: the elephant walk. Comprised of 5 C-17 aircraft, this elephant walk was truly a sight to behold at March Air Reserve Base as the massive planes taxied in unison together towards the runway to leave in succession.

After a brief stop at Edwards Air Force Base, all of the aircraft returned at the end of the successful training mission.

"This is such a wonderful training opportunity," said Millman, "The United States is unique in it's capability of rapid global mobility anywhere in the world, and that's something you need to maintain and train. We're very thankful for the opportunity to demonstrate what we're capable of because when something like this comes together and works, it's just astounding."