Three generals happened to be on the scene when Joint Base Lewis-McChord Capt. Lindsey Jackson delivered an M1 Abrams tank to a Marine unit in Afghanistan.
That tank was the second one to hit the battlefield after the Pentagon in December sent the Marines extra firepower.
“They were all super excited,” Jackson, 28, said about the generals who greeted the delivery. “They’ve been looking forward to those tanks for quite some time.”
The Puyallup resident returned to Lewis-McChord early Thursday with about 120 other airmen in the 4th Airlift Squadron. Their four-month mission included milestones not only for the war in Afghanistan, but also for the Boeing-made C-17 Globemasters that have been flying in and out of McChord Air Field since 1999.
One crew in Jackson’s squadron was recognized for flying a mission that recorded the C-17’s 2 millionth hour in the air. It was an airdrop south of Kabul on Dec. 10.
“It was such an honor to be part of the 2 millionth flight hour airdrop mission,” Capt. Jordan Leicht told an Air Force public affairs officer when he returned to Lewis-McChord. “This deployment was definitely the highlight of my career so far.”
It took the Air Force from 1993 until March 2006 to hit the first 1 million hours for the C-17. The second million came much more quickly, as six additional countries began flying C-17s and the Air Force supplied increasing troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Boeing trumpeted the occasion with news releases around the world and banners at the base the Air Force uses to supply operations.
“There’s tremendous satisfaction in knowing that in those 2 million hours, the C-17 fleet has saved countless lives around the world,” Bob Ciesla, Boeing C-17 program manager, said in a written announcement last month.
The 62nd Airlift Wing and 446th Reserve Airlift Wing at Lewis-McChord have been busy supplying the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2002. They frequently send individual airmen overseas or in larger units such as the squadron that came home last week.
The latest mission was Jackson’s second four-month deployment. In 2008, she carried out a similar assignment that focused more heavily on Iraq.
Back then, she remembers delivering Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles to destinations in Iraq. A C-17 could haul four of the hulking MRAPs, which are designed to protect soldiers from roadside bombs. They weigh between 14 tons and 24 tons.
By contrast, the 68-ton weight of an M1 Abrams tank meant that a C-17 could fly just one at a time into Afghanistan. The Air Force delivered 17 in all to Marines, the Air Force reported last month.
All totaled, the Air Force said the McChord squadron flew 2,204 sorties, carried more than 48,000 passengers and delivered more than 91.4 million pounds of cargo to U.S. troops.
“Whatever they request, we supply,” Jackson said.
She was back at work at McChord on Friday and looking forward to time off this week. She still sounded upbeat from her squadron’s achievements.
“It just validates how critical the C-17 is to operations and how much our command values our ability to move things,” she said. “It makes you feel you’ve accomplished something big.”