Combat Capable in Alaska

Special events were held Sept. 5 to celebrate the Initial Operating Capability for Elmendorf Air Force Base’s C-17 and F-22 units. Elmendorf’s 3rd Wing, Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing and Air Force Reserve’s 477th Fighter Group all declared IOC for their respective airframes. 

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.

703rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
Senior Airman Matthew Cunningham
Staff Sgt. Jason Emery
Master Sgt. Terry Hooten
Tech. Sgt. Leslie Torrance
Staff Sgt. Joseph Maestre
Staff Sgt. Lisa Mahaffey
Tech. Sgt. Russell Maxwell
Tech. Sgt. Ron Moore
Staff Sgt. Matthew Wheeler
Senior Master Sgt. Archie Vance

249th Airlift Squadron
Lt. Col. Nathan ‘B12’ Braspenix
Lt. Col. Chaz Fitzgerald
Maj. Michael Freyholtz
Lt. Col. Blake Gettys
Lt. Col. Jeff Sladko
Senior Master Sgt. Robert Stamm

517th Airlift Squadron
Maj. Katie Buss
Airman 1st Class Kyla Heikkinen
Lt. Col. Tim McLain
Capt. Chuck Morris
Senior Airman Kris Mullin

302nd Fighter Squadron
Mr. David Currier
Ms. Lynda Davis
Tech. Sgt. Paul Hennig
Capt. Steve Lee
Lt. Col. David Piffarerio
Tech. Sgt. Travis Schlapbach
Chief Master Sgt. Wade Shaw
Lt. Col. Brian Silkey
Tech. Sgt. Derek Welch
Tech. Sgt. Michael Whelan

90th Fighter Squadron
Senior Master Sgt. Pete Allen
Capt. Scott Bradley
Senior Master Sgt. Scott Dorler
Maj. Dave Elliot
Staff Sgt. Andrew Fowler
Staff Sgt. David Gaston
Staff Sgt. Daniel Grochowski
Staff Sgt. Eirik Lane
Staff Sgt. John Richmond
Lt. Col Mike Shower
Staff Sgt. Luke Vetter

525th Fighter Squadron
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Browning
Senior Master Sgt. Ray Devite
Staff Sgt. Alex Duarte
Senior Airman Melissa McIlheran

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