Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
Member Login

Site Notices
10/30/2020 2:42:12 PM
Posted: 8/24/2004 10:00:39 PM EST

Kahu Kordell Kekoa offers a blessing during groundbreaking at Hickam Air Force Base for support facilities for C-17 cargo carriers.

August 20, 2004
Ground broken at Hickam for C-17 facilities

By B.J. Reyes
Associated Press

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii — Construction began Thursday on a $190 million project that includes nine new buildings to accommodate a squadron of eight of the military’s newest cargo aircraft.

The groundbreaking ceremony at Hickam Air Base comes as Air Force officials evaluate four sites on the Big Island, Kauai and Oahu under consideration for a runway that would be used for training when the C-17 squadron becomes fully operational in Hawaii by summer 2006.

The 535th Tactical Airlift Squadron would be the first C-17 squadron based outside the continental United States.

“It demonstrates our commitment in the Pacific,” Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said before donning a hard hat and grabbing a shovel to join others in formally launching construction of the project’s first three new buildings.

“The policy-makers, the political analysts and strategists at the highest level are now concluding that the area of concern, the area of importance, is the area that you’re working in — the Asian-Pacific area,” Inouye told a crowd of about 200 people. “This aircraft is a demonstration of that.”

Basing the 535th at Hickam is expected to bring a greater role for Hawaii as a key location for troop deployments in the region. Each of the $236 million C-17 Globemaster III four-engine jets can carry 102 soldiers, or 85 tons of cargo.

The new squadron also is considered key to the Pentagon’s plan of making the Army a more versatile strike force because the C-17s would be used to transport the 25th Infantry Division’s forthcoming Stryker brigade to any world hotspot within days.

Each C-17 can carry up to two fully loaded 19-ton Stryker vehicles. In Hawaii, the aircraft are expected to replace the smaller, propeller-driven C-130 cargo aircraft. A report issued last week by the General Accounting Office in Washington noted that a C-130 carrying a Stryker would not be able to take off from all locations in higher elevations, such as Afghanistan, during daytime hours in summer.

Col. Raymond Torres, commander of the 15th Airlift Wing based at Hickam, noted that the Pentagon has ordered 188 of the C-17s, all of which would complement other squadrons if needed for missions such as a Stryker brigade deployment.

Meanwhile, Torres said the Air Force is continuing its work with state and federal agencies and native Hawaiian groups on the best location for a new runway that would be used for training by the 535th.

Sites under consideration include Kona on the Big Island, Barking Sands on Kauai, and Kaneohe and the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station on Oahu. Concerns already have been raised about noise and possible interference with other aircraft at the Oahu and Kauai sites.

“As we collect all the information, it’s clear that the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii meets our requirement for good training ... and it’s also in a not as densely populated area,” Torres said.

He said environmental assessments on all four sites are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The first C-17 is scheduled to arrive at Hickam in January 2006, with one more expected to arrive each month after that until August, Torres said.

The 535th would be composed of about 250 troops — 60 percent of whom would be active duty airmen with the rest coming from the Hawaii Air National Guard, said Col. Peter S. Pawling, commander of the 154th Wing of the Hawaii Air National Guard.

Pawling and others said the unit is unique because of its combination of active duty and guard personnel.

“The guard is looking for how to operate more effectively in the future — and efficiently — and this is one example in how to do that,” Pawling said. “There may be others that follow it.

“It’s the best use of the Air Force and the best use of the Guard working together, so we might see more units like this.”


Hickam breaks ground for C-17 cargo carriers

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE — Eight of the Air Force's latest cargo carriers, the C-17 Globemaster III, will start arriving in Hawai'i, one per month beginning in January of 2006.

Kahu Kordell Kekoa offers a blessing during groundbreaking at Hickam Air Force Base for support facilities for C-17 cargo carriers.
Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The Air Force yesterday celebrated the start of the new era of airlift capability at Hickam with a groundbreaking for the first three facilities planned, a year-long $30 million project for a C-17 training simulator and operations and maintenance buildings.

Three hangars and a reinforced concrete strip for short takeoff and landing combat practice are part of $190 million in construction projects that eventually will be completed.

Four locations are being considered for the 3,500- to 5,000-foot landing strip — Kalaeola and the Marine Corps base at Kane'ohe Bay, Kona International Airport and Barking Sands on Kaua'i — but officials said Kona may be the best spot.

Each of the big jet cargo carriers will be able to transport two of the Army's 20-ton Stryker vehicles as part of a plan to rapidly move the new fast-strike brigade to trouble spots in Asia and the Pacific.

Air Force officials and U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye and Rep. Neil Abercrombie, both Hawai'i Democrats, attended the groundbreaking , which included a traditional Hawaiian blessing and untying of a maile lei.

An Air Force honor guard stands by for groundbreaking ceremonies at Hickam Air Force Base for $190 million in construction projects.
Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The arrival of the C-17s will transform Hickam from a mid-Pacific refueling stop to the home of a strategic airlift wing with greater reach for military and humanitarian missions.

It will also mean a unique partnership between the Hawai'i Air National Guard and the active-duty Air Force. Pilots and maintenance crews will come from both sides to work on and fly the C-17s.

"It's brand new. There's nothing like it in the United States as far as the way the organization will look," said Col. Peter Pawling, commander of the Air Guard's 154th Wing. "The Guard is looking at how to operate more effectively in the future, and this is one example of how to do that."

Officials previously said 100 full-time Air Guard and 400 active-duty jobs would be created by the C-17 basing.

Both of Hickam's missions — refueling and airlift — were on display on the tarmac. A C-17 from Charleston, S.C., was parked near one of the Air Guard's C-130 Hercules propeller-driven aircraft that the new cargo carriers will replace.

A B-1 bomber returning to Texas from a mission was parked nearby, and several F/A-18 Hornet attack aircraft are at Hickam from California for training with the Air Guard's F-15A/B Eagle fighters. The Guard also has KC-135R tankers.

"This is a day when we are demonstrating to our nation and the world that our active force, the Air Force, and the Guard, can work together ... ," Inouye said. "But more important than that, it demonstrates our commitment in the Pacific. "

The Air Force has been looking for a short takeoff and landing strip for steep combat maneuvers that would put ruts in most runways.

Of the four locations being looked at, Kona International may have the lead. The C-17s, which will be flown to Washington state for the practice before a strip here is built, will make about 40 trips to the site a month.

"As we collect all the information, it's clear the west coast of the Big Island of Hawai'i both meets our requirements for good training ... and it's also not in a densely populated area as some of the other runways may be," said Col. Raymond Torres, the 15th Airlift Wing commander. "So if you are asking, are there more concerns with some of the other areas — clearly. Reopening of Barbers Point (Kalaeloa) would be more of a challenge for the C-17s than building a runway with state support on the Big Island."

Top Top