This has been the month of RIMPAC 2010 and the PACOM and PACAF offices are working overtime to expose the media to all the varied activities taking place around Hawaii. This past Friday, several of us joined the crew of the C-17 on a practice mission over Hawaii Island. We met at the Hickam Gate at 4:45am and the flight left at 6:30am early Friday morning from Hickam Air Force Base. According to Lt. Col Andrew Lashikar, Commander of the 535th Airlift Squadron, there are a total of nine C-17's assigned to Hickam Air Force base. Lashikar said, "Participating in RIMPAC gives us a great opportunity to conduct joint exercises with our fellow branch services." The mission over Hawaii Island was for two C-17s to drop off a simulated cargo load of about 12,000 pounds each. The transport planes flew to the military training area Pohakuloa, on the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. The C-17 went from an altitude of 5000 ft. to 500 feet to facilitate the drop. Two 6000 pound palettes were then jettisoned from the rear of the plane and parachuted to Marines below from Kaneohe Bay, 2nd Battalion. I shot a batch of photos and posted this video of the palettes as they flew out the back of the plane. Lashikar told me that the exercise over Pohakuloa is very much like a mission to Afghanistan. The hilly, rocky terrain is very similar to what you might find in the mountainous areas of Afghanistan. But in addition, Hawaii's environment is also similar to recent C-17 relief efforts to Haiti and American Samoa. The C-17, which is not armed, participates in both support mission in battle zones as well as humanitarian efforts in the Pacific region. After a brief touchdown in Kona, the second part of the exercise involved an intercept by a squadron of four F-16s from Hickam. The planes could practice escorting a distressed or hostile aircraft with flanking maneuvers and close proximity flying. It was quite the sight to see these fighters flying along side our plane. The photo to the right is out the rear door of the C-17. The challenge for the F-16 was to match the speed of our plane. Quite slow compared to what the F-16 can muster. Several members of our flight got the chance to venture to the edge of the rear of the plane tethered to a cord. To me it was a thin veil of safety as the thought of how futile it might be if you were dangling outside the plane flapping in the wind attached to that tether. Thankfully that scenario only existed in my mind. We safety returned to Hickam, personally much richer for the experience and appreciation of the C-17s support capabilities.
Friday's F-22 Arrival Ceremony was quite the event. In addition to the social media contingent, which included Marc Orbito, Ricky Li, David Lau, Gabriel Yanagihara, Lee J Hopkinson, Greg Yamane, Brian Dote, Ian Kitajima and me, there where a few hundred guests of the Air Force and joint services. Hula performance was done by Robert Cazimero's dancers which was followed with speeches by dignitaries including Gov. Linda Lingle and Sen. Daniel Inouye. Finally, Kahu Kordell Kekoa did a traditional Hawaiian blessing of the planes. These are just 2 of the F-22's that will call Hawaii home. By early next year that number will grow to 20. Each will be part of the Hawaii Air National Guard and operated under a joint agreement with the active duty U.S. Air Force. The social media team did a great job capturing the event and you can view photos by Jasmine Deborah, Gabriel Yanagihara, Brian Dote, Lee Hopkinson and Marc Orbito. Ian Kitajima shot several live videos and posted then to his Dual Use site. Greg Yamane posted this video of the F-22 taxiing to the ceremony. Ricki Li took it a notch up with this video production. Here is a set of photos and a rather sedate video I shot of the F-22. Of course the best was this video courtesy of KHON2News