Dover C-17 Flight Crew Completes Almost Impossible Mission
DOVER, Del. - The C-17 Globemaster III helped eight airmen based in Dover and 18 medical personnel fly more than 19 hours nonstop to save a critically wounded soldier back in August. Reach 797 was the call sign the crew was operating on that day and it is the name of this mission that some say is nearly impossible to pull off.
Capt. Jimmy Dimmick says they were assigned almost by chance.
"We happened to be in the right place at the right time to be selected to pick it up," he says. "We had the right crew complements and we had the right people to get the job done."
Flying Crew Chief Terrance Williamson had to make sure the plane was prepared as the crew detoured from Germany to evacuate a soldier in Afghanistan who had been wounded in a roadside attack and take him more than 8,000 miles to Texas.
"We usually don't get woken up out of our sleep to fly a different mission than we're already flying," he says. "That was the longest flight I think any of us had ever done."
Loadmaster James Ballard helped ensure that the mobile hospital was secure and that the patient was comfortable.
"The individual was in the back of the cargo compartment, which gets really cold," he says. "We had to make sure that we had the proper flow of air to make sure it was hot enough or cold enough."
The lengthy journey required two aerial re-fuelings. Pilot Scott Strebel explains that the alignment of the aircraft with a tanker over both England and Canada needed to be exact.
"When we showed up, the tanker was waiting for us both times and we could go up to the gas and do what we needed to do," he says.
Aircraft Commander Dan Kudlacz flew both aerial re-fuelings. He says it's possible no other mission to this magnitude has been done before.
"There have been missions that have flown out of Afghanistan direct to the United States, but it's usually the east coast," he says. "To go that far in to the main land though, it's essentially an additional five hours of flight time."
The Reach 797 crew isn't in direct contact with the patient in Texas, however they have heard from medical examiners who say that his conditions have improved since he first arrived.