HomeMediaArticle Display

Arctic Terns bring Army Guardsmen home from Mongolia

Arctic Terns return Soldiers home

Alaska Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Hooper, 297th Regional Support Group command sergeant major, reads his tablet on a 249th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III July 1, 2018, during a flight from Yokota Air Base, Japan, to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson after Soldiers of the 297th RSG participated in Khaan Quest 2018. Khaan Quest is a combined (multinational) joint (multi-service) training exercise designed to strengthen the capabilities of U.S., Mongolian and other partner nations in international peace support operations. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. David Bedard/Released)

Arctic Terns return Soldiers home

Alaska Air National Guard Tech Sgt. Thomas Hough, a loadmaster with the 249th Airlift Squadron, paces a 249 AS C-17 Globemaster III July 1, 2018, during the final stage of its ascent out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, after the passenger Soldiers participated in Khaan Quest 2018. Khaan Quest is a combined (multinational) joint (multi-service) training exercise designed to strengthen the capabilities of U.S., Mongolian and other partner nations in international peace support operations. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. David Bedard/Released)

Arctic Terns return Soldiers home

Soldiers of the 297th Regional Support Group board a 249th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III June 30, 2018, at Chinggis Khaan International Airport, Mongolia, after the Soldiers participated in Khaan Quest 2018. Khaan Quest is a combined (multinational) joint (multi-service) training exercise designed to strengthen the capabilities of U.S., Mongolian and other partner nations in international peace support operations. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. David Bedard/Released)

Arctic Terns fly Soldiers home

Alaska Air National Guard Tech Sgt. Thomas Hough, a loadmaster with the 249th Airlift Squadron, helps Soldiers load a cargo pallet June 30, 2018, at Chinggis Khaan International Airport, Mongolia, after the Soldiers participated in Khaan Quest 2018. Khaan Quest is a combined (multinational) joint (multi-service) training exercise designed to strengthen the capabilities of U.S., Mongolian and other partner nations in international peace support operations. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. David Bedard/Released)

Arctic Terns fly Soldiers home

Alaska Air National Guard Tech Sgt. Jennifer Fitzpatrick (center), a loadmaster with the 249th Airlift Squadron, supervises Soldiers loading a cargo pallet June 30, 2018, at Chinggis Khaan International Airport, Mongolia, after the Soldiers participated in Khaan Quest 2018. Khaan Quest is a combined (multinational) joint (multi-service) training exercise designed to strengthen the capabilities of U.S., Mongolian and other partner nations in international peace support operations. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --

For Airmen of the 249th Airlift Squadron “Arctic Terns” and Soldiers of the 297th Regional Support Group, the C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft they were traveling on was a veritable time machine.


Leaving July 1 from Yokota Air Base, Japan, C-17 Tail No. 0168, arrived at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, late on the evening of June 30.


Occupying the role of Dr. Who was Alaska Air National Guard Maj. David Lang, aircraft commander of the Globemaster. 


The C-17 wasn't a TARDIS capable of contorting the fabric of space-time. Lang and co-pilot Lt. Col. Greg Yoschak simply piloted the aircraft over the International Dateline on the way to Chinggis Khaan International Airport, Mongolia, to retrieve several dozen Alaska Army National Guardsmen and a handful of 716th Explosive Ordnance Detachment Soldiers who participated in Khaan Quest 2018 for three weeks.


Khaan Quest is a combined (multinational) joint (multi-service) training exercise designed to strengthen the capabilities of U.S., Mongolian and other partner nations in international peace support operations.  


The return trip, mirroring the C-17 crew's journey out to Chinggis Khaan, required two legs – a five and a half hour hop from Mongolia to Japan and seven and a half hour leg from Yokota to JBER.


Lang and Yoschak said the landing approach in Japan was pretty standard despite being next to the world's most populous metro area and offering a bird's-eye view of Mount Fuji.


The approach to Chinggis Khaan International differed from landing at U.S. air bases, Lang said, because the tower gave him instructions using metric measurements — meters and kilometers instead of feet and knots, which required quick conversions on the part of the pilots.


After mandatory crew rest, the Airmen met their passengers and cargo the following morning. Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Fitzpatrick and Tech. Sgt. Thomas Hough, loadmasters with 249 AS, had their hands full with a 5-ton truckload of duffel bags, ruck sacks and storm cases. Normally handled by Airmen assigned to base joint mobility complexes, the loadmasters took it upon themselves to liaison with the Army unit and supervise the pallet configuration.


Despite cargo brimming over the rails of the truck’s huge bed, Fitzpatrick and Hough managed to work with the Soldiers to pack the majority of the equipment on two 463L pallets, aluminum 9-by-7-foot pallets that snapped into the C-17 floor like metal Lego blocks. The Soldiers duffel bags were neatly and strategically laid in alternating north-south and east-west oriented layers, making for a green Lincoln Log like load that ensured maximum stability in flight.


Once the pallets were packed, the loadmasters estimated the weight of the cargo and the passengers, and arrayed them throughout the cavernous cargo hold of the Globemaster to make for an optimal center of balance.


Meanwhile, Staff Sgt. Troy Kennedy, 703rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief, conducted pre-flight checks to ensure the aircraft was in top running shape. If he had found any major faults in Mongolia, he said he could call on backup maintenance personnel to assist. If faults were discovered in Yokota, he would work with base maintenance Airmen to quickly get the iron bird back into service.


Once the cargo was secured and the passengers were buckled in, Hough briefed the Soldiers on safety procedures and administrative requirements, injecting humor in an effort to add levity to a long flight.


“Are there any small children on this flight?” he asked when explaining oxygen mask procedures, before showing passengers how to use a hood-style backup oxygen mask, “which will probably be the only time your mother won’t yell at you for pulling a plastic bag over your head.”


Most likely because the Soldiers endured a 3 a.m. wakeup after three weeks of marginal sleep, Hough’s comedic efforts were met by scattered chuckles.


Still, passenger safety was serious business for the Airmen. Fitzpatrick said two loadmasters were assigned to the flight because there were more than 40 passengers, and having a pair granted them the ability to assist as needed.


In Japan, the loadmasters had the pallets weighed in an effort to re-validate the aircraft load. After a night or rest for aircrew and passengers, both rendezvoused the next morning to repeat the process for the final leg home.


Because the flight was returning from an international location, the loadmasters’ job included prosaic tasks such as handing out and collecting customs forms, and ensuring passengers disposed of any non-American meat or produce.


Touching down at JBER, the crew of C-17 Tail No. 0168 had crossed space and time to return the Soldiers to their home in Alaska after their Mongolian adventure.


“I know you had absolutely no choice in travel, but thanks for flying with us anyway,” Hough beamed over the intercom.

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.