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3 teams, 1 theme: 'We're combat capable'

September 9, 2008 (by Capt. Torri White) - Special events were held Sept. 5 to celebrate the Initial Operating Capability for Elmendorf's C-17 and F-22 units. Elmendorf's 3rd Wing, Alaska ANG's 176th Wing and AFRES's 477th FG all declared IOC for their respective airframes.

Col. Eric Overturf, 477th Fighter Group commander, speaks to the attendants of the Inital Operational Capabiltiy ceremony on September 5th, 2008. The ceremony was held to celebrate the combat capability of the C-17 Globemaster III and the F-22A Raptor. [USAF photo by SrA. Matthew Owens]

The IOC celebration was held to recognize the first attainment of the capability to employ effectively a weapon, item of equipment, or system of approved specific characteristics that is manned or operated by an adequately trained, equipped and supported military unit.

"After years of aircraft development, testing, training, and the hard work of thousands at both industry and the Air Force, today the dream is realized," said Col. Thomas Bergeson, 3rd Wing commander. "It is my honor to officially report that General Howie Chandler, Commander of Pacific Air Forces, has declared that both the F-22 and C-17 at Elmendorf have achieved official operating capability."

Just last year Elmendorf celebrated the first C-17 arrival in June and the F-22s first arrival in August.

Air National Guard's 249th Airlift Squadron is a C-17 associate unit with active duty's 517th Airlift Squadron and Air Force Reserve's 302nd Fighter Squadron is an F-22 associate unit with both the 525th and the 90th Fighter Squadrons. The Reserve components fly, maintain and share facilities and equipment with the 3rd Wing.

A total of four events were held to mark the monumental occasion. Maj. Steve Johnson, a Reserve 302nd FS pilot, was the project officer for the entire celebration. Guard, Reserve and active-duty members planned an icebreaker, a golf tournament, an official ceremony and a banquet.

"It was a team effort to plan and execute each event," said Major Johnson. "Everyone's always sprinting and leaning forward to get things done. These four events were planned so that we could stop and celebrate the accomplishments of the 3rd Wing, 176thWing and the 477th Fighter Group."

During the official ceremony commanders from all components addressed a crowd of active duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen, along with many civic leaders and prominent members of the aviation community.

"The 477th FG and the 302nd FS didn't even exist a year ago, and at first we had five Reserve maintainers, two crew chiefs, one trained pilot, and no patch," said Col. Eric Overturf, 477th Fighter Group commander. "Over the last year, the 477th Fighter Group hired more than 100 Arctic Reservists. We grew from five to fifty maintainers, one pilot to eleven, and we've had Reservists deploy on every deployment with active-duty F-22s.

"What you have here at Elmendorf is the premier total force team in the world," continued Colonel Overturf. "We're a seamlessly integrated total force team, working together to build the best air supremacy unit in the world."

Col. Charles Foster, 176th Wing commander, said it was a great day for the Total Force Initiative.

"We do it better here at Elmendorf than anywhere else in the U.S. Air Force and that's something to be proud of," Colonel Foster said. "The machines are fantastic but it's the Airmen make that them so."

Colonel Foster spoke about the challenges associated with leading a C-17 associate squadron.

"We harvest the good ideas, have healthy competition and compete for bragging rights but we are committed to each other's success," said Colonel Foster. "That is the definition of a good team and that's what we have here. Our competition will never overshadow our cooperation. That is what has made us a success to date."

The Reserve Associate program is an important component of the Department of Defense Total Force structure. Guard and Reserve associate units utilize the tremendous experience and manpower of Reservists to augment active duty units.
"I think we can all be proud of the unity across commands and among squadrons," says Lt. Col. Hubie Hegtvedt, 302nd Fighter Squadron commander. "We're all one team protecting the people of our country."

Elmendorf's Airmen were the highlight of all of the IOC events.

"We often focus on the machines, but it's the people who make it happen," says Lt. Col. Charles Corcoran, 525th Fighter Squadron commander. "Without them the machines would just sit on the ramp."

Colonel Bergeson stressed that the reason IOC was accomplished was because of the many contributions from Airmen assigned to each squadron.

The following individuals were recognized by their organizations for the magnitude of their contributions. They helped make C-17 and F-22 IOC a reality. These individuals represent a small part of the total Elmendorf team that have worked tirelessly to bring the C-17 and F-22 to combat mission readiness.

Courtesy of 477th Fighter Group Public Affairs