Joint Base Andrews


89 OG to transfer SAM FOX excellence to C-17

By Capt. Herb McConnell | 89th Airlift Wing Public Affairs | January 16, 2007

ANDREWS AFB, Md. -- A five-man flight attendant shop under the 89th Operations Group is aiming to transfer the SAM FOX tradition of excellence from a blue and white executive jet to a C-17.

The team, called the Special Airlift Program, services customers such as the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State who are used to flying on the blue and white jets and are also used to its conveniences and services. Although there are only five Airmen assigned to the shop full time, they are augmented by flight attendants from the 1st and 99th Airlift Squadrons when needed.

The challenge is to transfer the product they are used to providing to a jet usually used for cargo or troop transport. The C-17 is often a better fit for travel into a combat zone because it leaves a lighter footprint than the instantly recognizable blue and white aircraft and boasts several defensive capabilities.

During these missions, a C-17 is outfitted with a distinguished visitor palletized trailer. Inside are two cabins. The main DV cabin is outfitted with a leather couch, which folds into a bed, and a table with a captain's chair that can be used as a desk or dining table. The trailer, referred to as a silver bullet, also has office equipment and audiovisual capabilities.

"On a C-17, we don't have elaborate kitchens," said Tech. Sgt. Rob Ferry, 89th Operational Support Squadron NCOIC, who is the SAP manager. "We do a lot more with a lot less."

"We have a pared down galley system -- the minimum," said Sergeant Ferry. "On the C-17, we have a two-by-two oven, three dorm-size refrigerators and no freezers. We take dry ice with us to support our freezing requirements."

"The temperature might be a lot cooler because it's a bigger cavity to heat," said Sergeant Ferry. "It's louder, and it's not pretty. The passengers are usually working. They hit the ground running and their schedules are very demanding, so they usually don't stop until they get back on the airplane. Then, on the flight home, they actually may get some sleep."

The flight attendants do a combat entry checklist for exiting and entering the area of operation. Flak vests are worn upon entering and departing, and the C-17 often lands with its lights off while using night vision goggles -- all in an attempt to avoid enemy fire.

The aircraft is capable of, and often does, aerial refueling. While the extra fuel decreases the overall travel time, it increases the length of time spent in the air without landing.
"The hardest thing about our job is the amount of crew rest we get," said Sergeant Ferry. "We'll fly for 18 hours, be on the ground from 12 to 15 hours and be on our way back home the next day."

Sergeant Ferry usually flies with four other flight attendants, and they have all been recognized for the outstanding job they do by their high-level customers. They also get feedback from the aircraft commander and have received excellent ratings.