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Dover Airmen support Operation Odyssey Dawn

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DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFNS) -- Three C-5M Super Galaxy aircrews from here delivered cargo March 23 to 27 in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

The Air Force Reserve's 709th Airlift Squadron and the active-duty 9th AS here worked together to deliver 387,000 pounds of cargo.

On March 18, the secretary of defense approved and ordered the use of military forces against the government of Libya.

According to Department of Defense officials, "coalition forces are striking targets that pose a direct threat to the civilian population. The targets, such as Libyan military sites and air defense systems, were carefully chosen to reduce enemy capability while minimizing risk to the civilian population."

In order for the strike operations implementing the no-fly zone to continue, however, the 'bullets' have to make it to the fight, and that is where the C-5M delivers.

"Higher headquarters is starting to realize that if you have a high-priority, 'no fail' mission, with a large amount of cargo, you give it to the C-5M because of the reliability of the airplane," said Col. David Hafer, the 436th Operations Group commander. "(Higher headquarters officials) come to Dover because when the system has a short-notice, high-priority mission, they also know that we are going to generate the crew, generate the airplane, load the cargo on the East Coast and get the goods to the fight faster."

The C-5M is designed to move 100 percent of outsized cargo for any of the services, anywhere in the world.

"That's what the airframe is here for, to support the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, all the different branches and units," said Lt. Col. Michael Semo, a 709th AS pilot and C-5M program chief.

When the C-5M gets back to Dover Air Force Base from carrying out the mission, there is about a four to five hour window where aerial port is loading more cargo, maintenance is working any issues and we are switching out crews before heading back out, said Capt. Matt Matis, a 9th Airlift Squadron pilot and aircraft commander on one of the missions.

"These are very rapid-fire missions," he said.

"It's not just the U.S. supporting this no-fly zone and other operations in Libya; it's us doing our part with Dover's airlift aircraft to support this international operation, and they need this stuff right now," Hafer said. "We understood as a crew -- loadmasters, flight engineers and pilots -- that the airplane needed to come back to Dover, so we could do it all over again."

Beginning March 23, an aircrew from the 709th AS flew direct to Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, from Dover AFB, with 160,000 pounds of cargo.

"This was a high-priority, short-notice mission to replace the Tomahawks that were released during the first days of military action in Libya," Semo said. "The C-5M is the only aircraft that could make the trip with that weight without air refueling."

Upon the crew's return March 25, the aircraft was only on the ground for a few hours before being deployed on yet another 'high-priority' mission, this time to Aviano Air Base, Italy.

"It's pretty awesome to see this happening," said Chief Master Sgt. Larry Williams, the 436th OG superintendent and a flight engineer on one of the missions. "We left on Friday, delivered our 155,000 pounds of cargo, de-positioned the plane to a base in Germany to free up space in Aviano and returned back to Dover on Sunday. We spent our weekend supporting this effort and came back to work today as if we were never gone."

By using the C-5M to deliver direct, the aircrews were able to transport more cargo faster without refueling in-flight, freeing up tanker assets to support other operations.

"A lot of times when you are looking at heavy airlift, you have to either compromise cargo weight for fuel weight or fuel weight for cargo weight," Hafer said. "The C-5M allows the system to plan a mission taking a whole lot of cargo and a whole lot of fuel, so we can take it farther into the area of responsibility without tanker support. And, we can do it more reliably."

Hafer called the mission one of the top three most rewarding missions he has flown in his career, and he has been flying the airplane for 20 years.

"We are excited that we get to fly a piece of equipment that our nation's leaders can count on to get the missions done," he added.

As of now, Dover AFB has four C-5M aircraft, all of which are involved in the support of the international crisis in Libya.

Article by Staff Sgt. Danella Shea, 512th Airlift Wing Public Affairs