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C-5 Galaxy: Maintainers discuss caring for Air Force’s biggest airlifter

Staff Sgt. Staff Sgt. Nicholas Barker, C-5 Galaxy crew chief from the  436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, works on a C-5M Super Galaxy on June 5, 2011, prior to the plane's departure for a direct delivery airlift mission through the Arctic Circle from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Sergeant Barker is a native of Plymouth, Mich.  (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Staff Sgt. Staff Sgt. Nicholas Barker, C-5 Galaxy crew chief from the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, works on a C-5M Super Galaxy on June 5, 2011, prior to the plane's departure for a direct delivery airlift mission through the Arctic Circle from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Sergeant Barker is a native of Plymouth, Mich. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Airmen from the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work on the flightline at Dover Air Force Base, Del., while preparing a C-5M Super Galaxy for a mission June 5, 2011. The work was done prior to the plane's departure for a direct delivery airlift mission through the Arctic Circle from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Airmen from the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work on the flightline at Dover Air Force Base, Del., while preparing a C-5M Super Galaxy for a mission June 5, 2011. The work was done prior to the plane's departure for a direct delivery airlift mission through the Arctic Circle from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Airmen from the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work on the flightline at Dover Air Force Base, Del., while preparing a C-5M Super Galaxy for a mission June 5, 2011. The work was done prior to the plane's departure for a direct delivery airlift mission through the Arctic Circle from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Airmen from the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work on the flightline at Dover Air Force Base, Del., while preparing a C-5M Super Galaxy for a mission June 5, 2011. The work was done prior to the plane's departure for a direct delivery airlift mission through the Arctic Circle from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Staff Sgt. Staff Sgt. Nicholas Barker, C-5 Galaxy crew chief from the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, works on a C-5M Super Galaxy on June 5, 2011, prior to the plane's departure for a direct delivery airlift mission through the Arctic Circle from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Sergeant Barker is a native of Plymouth, Mich.  (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Staff Sgt. Staff Sgt. Nicholas Barker, C-5 Galaxy crew chief from the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, works on a C-5M Super Galaxy on June 5, 2011, prior to the plane's departure for a direct delivery airlift mission through the Arctic Circle from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Sergeant Barker is a native of Plymouth, Mich. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Airmen 1st Class Philip Hess, C-5 crew chief from the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, works on a C-5M Super Galaxy on June 5, 2011, prior to the plane's departure for a direct delivery airlift mission through the Arctic Circle from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Airman Hess is a native of Blacksburg, Va. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Airmen 1st Class Philip Hess, C-5 crew chief from the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, works on a C-5M Super Galaxy on June 5, 2011, prior to the plane's departure for a direct delivery airlift mission through the Arctic Circle from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Airman Hess is a native of Blacksburg, Va. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- One C-5 Galaxy crew chief here said, "It's like a warehouse with wings." Those words may be reflected by many maintenance Airmen who work on the C-5 at Dover AFB, and possibly other bases where the C-5 operates throughout the world.

The Air Force's largest airlifter, which its Air Force fact sheet describes as "gigantic," can carry more than any other Air Force airlifter. It has the ability to carry 36 standard pallets and up to 81 troops simultaneously. A full fuel load in a C-5 alone weighs more than a fully-loaded C-130.

To keep the airframe flying, maintainers know it's a tall effort they are proud to support.

"We're out here every day getting these aircraft ready for whatever they are tasked to do," said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Barker, a C-5 crew chief with the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Dover AFB and a Plymouth, Mich., native.

"It's hard work to do our job but it's also rewarding knowing what the C-5 does for the Air Force," added Airman 1st Class Philip Hess, also a 436th AMXS C-5 crew chief and a native of Blacksburg, Va.

Dover AFB has been home to many variants of the C-5. They've included the C-5A and C-5B to now the C-5M Super Galaxy.

"The C-5M is the future," said Sergeant Dow, a "flying" crew chief for the C-5M from the 436th AMXS and who has been a C-5 maintainer for more than 10 years. "The C-5M is a great mobility weapons system. I love the C-5 -- always have in any variant -- but the C-5M is spectacular."

Sergeant Dow, who is a native of Augusta, Maine, was a member of the 14-person crew who flew on the Air Force's first-ever direct Arctic overflight mission by a C-5M that went from Dover AFB to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. He said the C-5M performed "magnificently" during the mission that was non-stop and went for more than 15 hours.

"During our mission to Afghanistan the plane flow all the way and had zero discrepancies or write-ups," he said.

Sergeant Dow added that crew chiefs are just one small part of maintaining a plane like the C-5. In addition to crew chiefs, Airmen specializing in instrument and flight control maintenance, communications and navigation, hydraulics, aerospace propulsion, fuels, electrical and environmental systems and aero repair also work on the plane.

"As a crew chief, you have to know a little about everything that's on the plane," Sergeant Dow said. "You have to know how to direct things that need to be fixed so you can get that plane back to flying as soon as possible."

Even as the C-5 maintainers like crew chief and Scranton, Penn., native Senior Airman Scott Eggert of the 436th AMXS may ask for a fellow maintainer to "pass over that wrench," many say the Galaxy in any variant is a plane to remember.

"It's an amazing plane that has served our Air Force well," Sergeant Dow said. "It's an airplane that was built and designed in the 1960s yet today it, even with the modifications, it maintains nearly 80 percent of its originality. It's big, and as an M-model, even more powerful. It's the plane that is 'super' to folks like us."