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Crew Chiefs help keep C-17s flying

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal
  • Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. — Sitting at the length of four large school buses and with engines capable of over 40,000 pounds of thrust, the C-17 Globemaster III is the U.S. Air Force’s most flexible airlift cargo aircraft. This aircraft requires an equally large and powerful team of Joint Base Charleston maintainers.

"We set up the plane so it can takeoff," said Airman 1st Class Andrew Causey, 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Gold Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief. "Without us, it would be hard to ensure our C-17s are ready to go. We take pride in our work around here.”

Much like a doctor to a patient, crew chiefs diagnose C-17 ailments. From landing gear to engines, there is a wide array of equipment and parts requiring maintenance to ensure the 46 C-17 Globemaster IIIs based here can deliver rapid mobility across the globe.

“We’re in charge of inspecting and providing basic servicing,” said Staff Sgt. James Crance, 437th AMXS Gold AMU crew chief. “We do all those things during inspections. If we find something we can’t fix ourselves, we’re also in charge of managing the other shops to get them out there to ensure the aircraft is fixed on time before the next sortie.”

The Airmen who perform day-to-day maintenance on these jets, also known as crew chiefs, perform inspections and maintenance prior, during and after every sortie to ensure the safety of the C-17 aircrew on a variety of missions.

“This wing's mission spans across all facets of global mobility,” said Master Sgt. Joshua Lemons, 437th AMXS Gold AMU flight chief. “From presidential support to natural disaster relief to supporting the overall missions of combatant commands. All of this would not be possible if it weren’t for the dedication of crew chiefs scrutinizing the aircraft before and after every single sortie.”


After guiding a C-17 to the installation’s runway, crew chiefs may not see the direct impact their work has on those affected by the launch of the aircraft. For Crance, seeing how his team’s work helps people puts the long hours in perspective.  


“The most rewarding thing is seeing humanitarian aid in the news,” said Crance. “During the hurricane this past September, we saw news stories with aircraft that we generated going over to Cuba and the Caribbean, delivering doctors and medical supplies.”

Crance didn’t choose to be a crew chief upon entering the Air Force, but is glad he became one. Joint Base Charleston has the largest fleet of C-17 aircraft in the Air Force and Crance believes the high operations tempo prepares him to tackle future challenges.

“I enjoy working with my hands, getting dirty and seeing all the work put into the aircraft,” said Crance. “The pace at Charleston is a lot faster than at other bases. Being able to constantly go, go and go will make me better when I move to another base.”

437th AMXS continuously works to improve processes and proficiency at all levels to ensure rapid global mobility is carried out by mission-ready maintainers at Joint Base Charleston.


“You can always expect that every time you see a C-17 go airborne, countless hours by crew chiefs were spent making that aircraft mission-ready,” said Lemons. “Crew chiefs are the backbone of maintenance operations and our crew chiefs here at Joint Base Charleston are the go-to for Air Mobility Command.”