When American300, the nonprofit responsible for producing the first ever xHEAVY Medal Tour for the Department of Defense's Armed Forces Entertainment office found out that Charleston Air Force Base C 17's were at this undisclosed base in the middle east, it decided it had to do something.
It was the 3rd time the nonprofit had visited this command this year and founder and volunteer tour leader Robi Powers was determined to create a 'leave behind' for the base and one special group of American Heroes.
The 18th Anniversary of the C-17 was July 14th, the 14th Airlift Squadron a sister to the first ever C17 Squadron (17th Airlift Squadron, both out of Charlestown AFB, SC) was here at this base.... simply put, the strong July winds had blown in more then X Games Athletes and the stars were aligned with more then X Games Gold Medals here at this isolated and classified U.S. Air Base.
"The C-17 is a very unique aircraft, capable of some serious heavy lifting" said Powers, who noted that there are a lot of 17's in the specifications of the C-17 ( 174 feet long,170 foot wing span and a 170,900 pound lift capacity) "Makes me thing that more then one C-17 crew member has 'put it all on 17' in Las Vegas over the years."
While the team of ESPN X Games Gold Medalists: Levi LaVallee and Mike Schultz along with crew chief Glenn Kafka, prepared for a day of resiliency stop and talk visits with the bases behind the scenes units, Powers and Byron Turk (the nonprofits public affairs videographer for the tour) awoke early and headed for the flight line. Their mission- to capture the essence of a C-17 crew in film so that the base and C-17 teams could have a unique historical document to 'look back on', after their deployment.
"When Robi and Byron told us what they wanted to do, I was like heck ya guys... Glenn and I would haul a snowmobile over here and set it up for me to do back flips off of for these guys... if I knew how to operate a pro camera we'd have been right out there with them..." said 7x ESPN X Games Gold Medalist, Levi LaVallee " For me it starts at the top, both the base Commander and Chief are so motivated and it transfers right down to the youngest airmen we've meet, this place is fired up, we're having so much fun slamming X Games Gold Medals around their necks and talking with them all."
With Lt Colonel Henry Steenken serving as flight instructor, Captain's Kevin Grasse and Anthony Viccellio sitting right and left seats up front, Staff Sargent Shane Powell and Airman First Class Joshua Nettles handling the loadmaster duties... it was up to Staff Sargent Tait Panoke to give the entire team a thumbs up that it was time to fly, in his roll as Crew Chief.
Turk and Powers had done their part in documenting the entire preflight, the loading of three US Marine Amphibious Assault Vehicles (LAV-25's), caught the duty actions of the AeroPort and Aircraft Maintainer Teams... it was all in the log books...and on flim... now it was time to fly.
Moments later, the C-17 rocketed down the runway and counter rotated and lifted off into the sky...it's tail which stands 55' off the deck issuing a 'salute' to the dozens of troops who paused to watch it take off. Finding it's heading high above the Air Base it only took minutes before the huge aircraft was gone from sight. "That was just AWESOME" said Mike Schultz to Glenn Kafka. "Next time I want to fly in one of those" he added, sending a clear message to all that he along with this entire team would be willing to come visit this base and others in the years to come.
While no one on the ground could see the crew inside the plane, all knew that their was a single US Marine passenger sitting alone in the back of the massive cargo area... keeping a watchful eye on three of his units fighting vehicles.
A lonely Marine and his vehicles, a crew with a mission all working together on a base that doesn't show up on any map... another great day in the lives of great American's all of whom have volunteered to serve our country, all of whom are Heroes!
The Tours Continue...
** Full feature video on C-17 Loading, Crew Etc... will be posted to our FACEBOOK site on 01AUG 11.... Video Trailer available now at: 'Videos' from: www.American300.org
For more information on Armed Forces Entertainment go to: www.armedforcesentertainment.com
To see all the xHEAVY Medal Tour Photos, Videos and Stories as well as the nonprofit organization that provides Armed Forces Entertainment with these resiliency minded tours please visit: www.American300.org
Join us on FACEBOOK