Instructors at the 57th Weapons Squadron started teaching its current class for the U.S. Air Force’s Weapons School’s Weapons Instructor Course for C-17 Globemaster III pilots in July, despite the fact that they haven’t finished settling into their new home at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“I still have eight personnel at (Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.,)” said Lt. Col. David Myrick, squadron commander and senior instructor of the 57th WPS. “Five of them are going to be there for a whole other year.”
Myrick also said service members from the unit started moving from McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to JBLM in 2016.
The 57th WPS was established in 2003 at McGuire. Air Force officials decided to move the unit to McChord Field because of the facilities, airspace and proximity to other C-17 units with similar missions — all of which will be more cost effective for the Air Force. The Air Force expects to save more than $12 million annually by moving the 57th WPS to JBLM.
“It’s nice to be able to go over to the other airdrop- and formation-qualified squadrons and be involved with some of their tactics briefs and be able to interfly with them as well,” said Maj. Jeffry Harnly, who is an instructor and evaluator with the 57th WPS.
The C-17 WIC training at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst had some challenges, due to the fact that jets assigned there are KC-10s and a nonairdrop-qualified C-17 squadron with a different mission. The 57th WPS often had to request aircraft support from jets based at McChord Field and travel to other installations in order to meet cadre training requirements.
C-17 pilots attending the WIC receive doctorate-level training. The instructors’ goals are for the pilots to become tactical experts and leaders who control and exploit air, space and cyber on behalf of the joint force. The C-17 is not a fighter jet; it’s a cargo aircraft that does not have weapons. The lack of weapons does not exclude C-17 pilots from having roles in combat missions.
“Although I don’t have weapons, I’m going to be asked to go do a mission,” Myrick said. “For instance, like a joint forcible entry where I go drop paratroopers and equipment into a denied environment. I’m going to have support from fighter, bomber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft as well as modern warfare space and cyber forces. Our graduates need to know how they accomplish their tasks in order for mobility forces to survive and accomplish our mission.”
Graduates of the 23-week course will join the ranks of a small number of C-17 weapons officers in high demand. Upon graduation, the pilots will wear the distinctive weapons school graduate patch and gain a special indicator on their Air Force Specialty Code to fill weapons officer billets in operational squadrons and tactics offices worldwide.