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Keepin’ the engines running; Hickam C-17s return from support mission down under

Staff Sgt. Joleen Manuia and Master Sgt. Mike Cumberland review publications before departing from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, on Thursday, May 25, 2006. Sergeant Manuia is with the Hawaii Air National Guard's 204th Airlift Squadron. Sergeant Cumberland is with the 535th AS at Hickam. Both are C-17 Globemaster III loadmasters. They are two of the Air Force crew members helping move equipment and troops from the Solomon Islands to Australia, repositioning Australian Defense Forces to support peace operations in East Timor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

Staff Sgt. Joleen Manuia and Master Sgt. Mike Cumberland review publications before departing from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, on Thursday, May 25, 2006. Sergeant Manuia is with the Hawaii Air National Guard's 204th Airlift Squadron. Sergeant Cumberland is with the 535th AS at Hickam. Both are C-17 Globemaster III loadmasters. They are two of the Air Force crew members helping move equipment and troops from the Solomon Islands to Australia, repositioning Australian Defense Forces to support peace operations in East Timor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

HICKAM AFB, Hawaii, (AFPN) - Airman James Ngo, 535th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and Staff Sgt Joleen Manuia, 204th Airlift Squadron loadmaster use in-flight communication systems to answer questions from their instructor aboard a C-17 Globemaster III on May 27, 2006.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

HICKAM AFB, Hawaii, (AFPN) - Airman James Ngo, 535th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and Staff Sgt Joleen Manuia, 204th Airlift Squadron loadmaster use in-flight communication systems to answer questions from their instructor aboard a C-17 Globemaster III on May 27, 2006. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

HICKAM AFB, Hawaii, (AFPN) - C-17 loadmasters marshal a pallet aboard a C-17 Globemaster III at Royal Australian Air Force Base Townsville, Australia on May 28, 2006. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

HICKAM AFB, Hawaii, (AFPN) - C-17 loadmasters marshal a pallet aboard a C-17 Globemaster III at Royal Australian Air Force Base Townsville, Australia on May 28, 2006. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

HICKAM AFB, Hawaii, (AFPN) -- A pair of C-17 Globemaster IIIs have returned to Hickam Air Force Base after a 10-day mission to reposition Australian Defence Force members and equipment from the Solomon Islands to locations in Australia.

The U.S. Air Force team, which included approximately 25 Airmen from Hickam and three Airmen from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, moved more than 1.1 million pounds of cargo in eight days to support Australia’s peacekeeping operations in East Timor.

“We transported 333 passengers, 48 pallets and 74 vehicles accident free,” said Maj. Landon Henderson, director of operations for Hickam’s 535th Airlift Squadron and mission commander for the Australia support operation. “That kind of efficiency only comes through hard work, professionalism, and solid training.”

The fast-paced mission was a courtesy extended to an ally, but Hickam Airmen who have only been flying their C-17s for a few months also used the mission to conduct training opportunities. One of the techniques crews practiced was engines running onload/offload or ERO. During an ERO pilots leave the engines running while loadmasters get cargo on and off the aircraft, minimizing ground time and making shuttle missions more efficient.

“Using ERO procedures is normal in hot spots like Iraq and Afghanistan, where you have to get in and out quickly,” said Capt. Alfred Basioa, a 535th Airlift Squadron C-17 pilot. “Here, they don’t need us on the ground for a long time, so we just get the cargo off and we’re out of there.”

EROs were perfect for the shuttle mission which moved approximately 20 loads of cargo from Townsville, in east Australia, 1,020 miles northwest to Darwin, Australia. An aircrew can operate for a maximum of 18 hours before mandatory crew rest. Without ERO, two of these trips in one day would have likely exceeded that limit.

For the C-17 loadmasters–who oversee the loading, securing, and unloading of cargo–less ground time translates into fewer idle minutes.

“We have shorter travel legs, which then means we have more ground time [each day] to work and do what a loadmaster does,” said Amn. James Ngo, a new loadmaster with the 535th Airlift Squadron. “So that keeps us busy and keeps time flying on by,” he said.

Doing EROs is also good practice for Staff Sgt. Joleen Manuia, a 204th Airlift Squadron loadmaster from the Hawaii Air National Guard. A former medical technician who recently retrained, she’s using this experience to reinforce her new skills.

“Before we’re mission qualified we have to go on two local flights around Hawaii, and we have to go on two overseas flights, and this is my first,” said Sergeant Manuia. “This is a good one because I get a lot of ERO experience, which is an exciting thing for me. It gets my adrenaline pumping.”

It’s exciting because it’s repetitive, so the new loadmasters can challenge themselves to complete their part of the mission quicker than the last time—all while maintaining the highest levels of safety.

“They completed an ERO down there in 12 minutes, which is phenomenal,” bragged Master Sgt. Mike Cumberland, the 535th Airlift Squadron loadmaster responsible for training Airman Ngo and Sergeant Manuia. “We had four vehicles with trailers and three pallets, which meant reconfiguring the aircraft, closing the doors, getting the ramp toes on, so that we could drive the vehicles off after we offloaded the pallets.

“Am I proud of my students? You bet,” Sergeant Cumberland concluded.

The Gen. George C. Kenney Headquarters, also based at Hickam, was the lead agent for the operation. Known as KHQ, the unit oversaw the planning and was responsible for command and control of the mission.

“This support shows the capability of expeditionary U.S. forces, their rapid global mobility, and the value of forward-based forces,” said Lt. Gen. David Deptula, KHQ commander. “Australia is a long-time treaty ally, valued partner in security activities worldwide, and regional power. This support to the Australian Defense Force reaffirms the U.S. commitment to our allies, and to regional peace and stability.”