During the summer of 2002, the C-17 kiss of death had descended upon the 446th at McChord AFB. The last C-141B sortie would be flown to the boneyard in April 2002. the once proud C-141 Flight Engineer would be relegated to a back office updating C-17 publications or handing out pudding cups in the back of a C-17. The Loadmaster corps that had endured second-class C-141 status for 36 years cheered when the Flight Engineer job was terminated and joined the ash heap of aviation history. The smiles and validation would end after the first year of 26 hour crew duty days and the sterile and stringent interaction with the class-conscious officer corps. Fun, adventure, and camaraderie with a larger enlisted crew would become 20 hours in the air on a routine basis followed by the pathetically short attention span of the Air Force officer aviator in crew rest. In lieu of beers in downtown Germany with a robust contingent of aviators, the lone Loadmaster would have to endure Victorian-style dinner outings with anal retentive and pathologically constrained pilots waiting for a job with United. While the Flight Engineer enlisted was gone, the Loadmaster would still be a second class citizen on the aircraft only without the friends and camaraderie save maybe a few crew chiefs and an overworked Med crew.
The McChord ramp with Mount Ranier in the background would be full of freshly minted C-17s. With the C-17 came a whole new way of doing business. Unlike the C-141 that was a creature of the Military Airlift Command, the C-17 represented a different style of ops tempo. In 1992, the Strategic Air Command, the Tactical Air Command, and the Military Airlift Command were dissolved and restructured into the Air Combat Command and the Air Mobility Command, for the most part. General Merrill McPeak would kill off MAC, SAC, and TAC along with introducing faggy flight suits with epaulets. In addition, the restructuring of 3 commands into 2 would allow the newly formed AMC to be infected with the heinous SAC ideology disease. The easier laid back old MAC way of doing business was replaced with the C-17 and 26 our duty days. A tolerable flying schedule was replaced with wholesale abuse of aircrews. Instead of retaining folks for decades, the new C-17 flying OPS tempo and crew duty days would burn out aviators quickly. The tolerable “Tube of Pain” would become SAC infected aviation torture with better lighting.
The C-141 had been at McChord since 1966. The wing had flown over 160 million miles or 6600 times around the earth. Many of the Flight Engineers had been flying since 1966. A few had over 15,000 flying hours. That equates to 7 years in the air. McChord AFB was one of the best C-141 wings in the Air Force. Many of the civilian employees that ran the Air Reserve units had been flying the C-141 since 1966 and cut their aviation teeth in Vietnam. Prior to that, they would fly on the C-124 or “Old Shaky.” These folks basically transitioned the “Golden Age” of piston engine aviation to the Jet Age. The Flight Engineer trainer that had the greatest impact on me, had been flying the C-141 since 1968.
The Air Reserve Technicians at the 446th Flying Squadrons had trained and employed utter thousands of Flight Engineers. Their efforts allowed the C-141B to operate safely throughout the world. Given that McChord AFB Reserve units flew 60% of all MAC missions, a full 60% of C-141 missions out of McChord AFB were flown by Reservists. Folks that were not “paid to shave!” These Reserve units would retain dedicated Air Reservist aviators for decades. This would change with the C-17. In order to support long duty days, the Air Mobility Command would scrap the nonexistent physical testing program for an Army style physical training program. Instead of walking a mile and a half once a year, older Reservists were forced to run, and do a specified number of sit-ups and pushups to prove their physical capabilities. Then if one could not pass the physical, one was removed from the service or put on a fat boy program. This type of physical program had not existed at McChord since 1966. I thought it pathetic to see 50-year-olds playing the game just to keep their tiny Reservist check and status while a 20-year-old internet addicted millennial with a clipboard and a stopwatch looked on. It was a new age and all of the previous aviation standings and behavior would receive the Zyklon B treatment. If one wanted to sit in the back of an airplane for 20 hours at a time and eat greasy MAC terminal food across the planet, one must be able to do a predetermined amount of situps.
The C-141 and the MAC mentality was worth fighting for to maintain affiliation. The C-17 mission was basically heinous aircrew torture for a little over minimum wage for a Reservist.
The scorned Clinton Air Force had turned into the Bush Air Force, and nation building 10,000 miles way. In order to accomplish the role of world policeman, one must be able to negotiate a pushup or run the mile and a half in Roger Banister fashion.
the Air Force cared more about the aspect of a height weight proportionate Air Force than experience. In fact, every aspect of one’s being was fair game as it related to an enlisted performance report. This level of overzealousness might work in an Active Duty environment, but not in an Air Reserve environment where the individuals take off work to participate for minimum wage. Then again, the power structure of the 313th liked to do behavior modification and asshole checks as part of a checkride. They would fit right in with the new C-17 mentality.
I have worked on the B-52 G/H, the KC-135A, the C-130H, the KC-10A and the C-141B/C. The C-17 was just another airplane and meant nothing to me or my financial future.
The new C-17 flying requirements would lead to unsafe flying conditions and “Air Crew burnout”. Instead of retaining pilots after the 10-year mark, they would quit and become airline pilots. They would trade the 26 to 30-hour crew duty day for the FAA mandated 8 hours a day flying limitation. Aircrew training costs would go through the roof when Loadmasters would quit after 4 years or seek a ground job. Instead of seeing the same folks in a squadron photo year after year, one would see unknown faces after only a few years time. Ultimately the C-17 Ops tempo and crew duty days will lead to every manner of physical problems from sleep apnea to emotional issues. The only benefit is that the airlines which are strapped for pilots have a constant new pool of trained USAF pilots that burn out after the 10 year Active Duty mark. This is by design.
The C-141 was a symbol of JFK, the Hanoi Taxi, the Cold war, Desert Storm, and every manner of the humanitarian event across the globe. The aircraft would symbolize the jet age and ultimately a symbol of peace and of a balanced foreign policy. The C-17 would become a symbol of regime change and nation building 10,000 miles away. It would become a Bush symbol with visions of soldiers being forced to go door to door in Fallujah with their rifles at shoulder level. While the C-17 was hauling our patriot soldiers to Muslim shitholes to create democracy and human rights, Bush and a military industrial complex gone-mad was stealing our 4th Amendment rights here in America. While drones were surveilling the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush and the newly created Computer Industrial complex was busy surveilling all of America’s taxpaying citizens and storing bulk data in massive 90,000 SQF bulk data collection centers in Mormon run Utah.
While many loved the C-17 and what it represented to them, I saw it as an instrument for the abuse of the symbol of 911. Moreover, given the new age of media, the internet, and cell phone movie cameras, the C-17 is a creature of the digital age. Anyone with a cell phone can digitally catalog all the C-17 events with the push of a button. For the individual who only considers their lot in life, the digital imagines have meaning within the context their own existence. In the greater scheme of things, they are just images in a massive collage detailing the worst foreign policy in America’s history. Of course, we always support the soldier even if the foreign policy and the leaders are special interest backed assholes who let their donor list run the perpetual wars and nation building.
the C-17 is a wonderful aircraft, but it is a symbol of regime change. The aircraft cut it’s teeth on “Perpetual war” and a time when theU.S. Federal government absconded our Bill of Rights. The name Globemaster III should be changed to “the Bush doctrine mobile.”
In the final analysis, the venerable and proud MAC legacy of the C-141 at McChord was replaced with the heinous SAC infected C-17 crew duty day and just a fucked up way of doing aviation business. The balanced MAC leaders were displaced by disgusting SAC fags that put their overzealous brand on the C-17. The last C-141 leaving McChord signaled the end of a great legacy and the good ol MAC way of doing business. The C-141 was replaced with the “Bush Doctrine Mobile” and a “trenches of Petersburg” aviation mentality with 30-hour crew duty days. Piss on the C-17 and handing out pudding cups. I am glad that I chose to walk the earth because I was no longer emotionally and physically tough enough to fly the heavies. Of course, as a prior enlisted multi-millionaire, it was beneath my station to be under the command of the C-17 pilot or the Lemay/McPeak shit infected way of doing business.
I would come back to say hi to the Loads at the 728th. The visits were somewhat welcomed but an emotional drain none the less. There were copious new faces. They belonged. You didn’t. They were in the throws of C-17 glory and had status. You were an obsolete nobody. They were enthralled in their own curtained off view of reality. Their status completely derived and nurtured via the military aviation construct and organizational paradigm. At that moment in time, I was an unworthy engineer with inadequate interaction skills. I would have been a communication liability to the greatness of the 728th Load section. After my last drive down the long road that led to the McChord Airlift Squadrons, the event became Pavlovian. I would get an ache in my heart and a rise in BP whenever I even thought of going there. In fact, I no longer wanted to even enter the base or go to the BX. I was not into casting pearls before swine. In lieu of casting pearls, they could just kiss my ass instead.
It was the spring of 2002, and I had been at March AFB for almost 2 years. Except for a few run ins with a passive aggressive East coast big mouth, I belonged. The clock was ticking on the C-141C however. The C-141C would only have about 3.5 years left in the Air Force inventory. By the end of 2002, the only two operational C-141 squadrons were at March or Wright Patterson. By January 2003, there were approximately 32 operational C-141C models left flying. At that moment in time, I still had two more years for my twenty. I would have to do whatever it took to make certain that I road the C-141C to the end.
The best thing I could do was treat all of the aircrews with sincere respect and not fall back into the Load/Engineer bullshit that went on at McChord. In 2002, I was not posturing for a C-17 Loadmaster job. I just wanted to do my best while the C-141C was still flying and then retire altogether.
From the time I was pushing maintenance stands through 2 feet of snow at 40 blow zero in 1978, I had wanted to be a C-141C Engineer. I tried to be a pilot and had all the degrees along with adequate AFOQT scores. It was not to be for the enlisted guy that was busted down, smoked weed, had an article 15 and several letters of reprimand. The C-141 was my first love. I would operate this wonderful aircraft until the end. She would be my last aviation love affair. Unlike a post-Superbowl NFL coach, I would not stick around to endure a sub .500 losing season with the C-17. I would go out when the TF33-p7s engines of the C-141C emitted their last ounces of carbon Before this would happen, the last remnants of the mighty C-141 would be called upon once again, and I would be activated for Iraq. At first, I was afraid that I was not up to the task and I would fail. I would fall apart and present the worst in my character to top off a career that started November of 1977. Instead, I was saved by the collective professional efforts of the 730th Airlift Squadron and thrived. I was among the finest aviators that the Air Force had to offer and insulated by a synergy of excellence. I would also get my “Northern Alliance” patch. My flying hat would be a Denver Broncos baseball cap. I represented the lowest standard of conduct and35-10.
In the Air Force, people who want to deep-six you don’t just chew your asshole. They eat completely around the poop hole so it all falls out. In January 2003, I would finally pull the last surgical stitch from my ass and be removed from the Air Force shitlist hall of fame.