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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 16, 2010

15th Wing is 'airlift,' and more

 •  Terrain's a tough foe, too

By William Cole

On Tuesday, the 15th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will be redesignated the 15th Wing.

It's a small name change with some bigger implications.

The active-duty Air Force wing at Hickam flies, crews and maintains C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft with assistance in those jobs from the Hawai'i Air National Guard in what's known as an "associate" unit.

The "airlift" in the 15th Airlift Wing refers to those jet cargo aircraft.

But the active-duty Air Force soon will be assisting the Air Guard with F-22 Raptor fighters, the first two of which are expected to arrive in Hawai'i around June 30.

The active-duty side also will be assisting the Air Guard with KC-135R refueling tankers, which have been here for years. The mutual assistance with F-22s (even though the fighter aircraft may not be here yet) and KC-135Rs begins June 18.

That participation by active-duty airmen means the 15th Airlift Wing will no longer be solely an "airlift" wing, and the name is being changed accordingly.

It's an Air Force crossover like never before.

The Air Guard's 199th Fighter Squadron will be the first-ever Air Guard-led F-22 Raptor fighter associate unit, which also means the Air Guard "owns" the aircraft.

The 203rd Air Refueling Squadron of the Hawai'i Air National Guard "owns" the KC-135R tankers.

By comparison, the active-duty Air Force's 15th Airlift Wing "owns" the C-17s at Hickam.

The active-duty Air Force has associate units elsewhere with Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units.

"But even associate units traditionally have not been quite as integrated as what we have been doing with the C-17 and we plan to do with the F-22 and KC-135s," said Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony, a Hawai'i National Guard spokesman.

Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina has an association with an Air Force Reserve unit for C-17 operations, but those reserve airmen operate from a different section of the base, Anthony said.

"If you go to the C-17 side at Hickam, you'll see the unit commanders' offices are side by side, you'll see the planning offices are integrated, and you'll see that active-duty airmen and Guard airmen might actually be planning a particular trip or mission side by side," Anthony said.

Command of the 15th Wing also will be transferred Tuesday from Col. Giovanni Tuck to Col. Sam Barrett. The change of command ceremony will be at 9 a.m. at the Freedom Tower Mall.

There are eight C-17s in Hawai'i, there will be 20 F-22 Raptors, and the number of KC-135R tankers will increase from nine to 13, officials said.