Air Force Reservists Fly Last C-141
Mission to Combat Zone
Air Force News | By Maj.
Ted Theopolos | September 27, 2005
AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - For the last time in its long career, a C-141
Starlifter aircraft flew military patients out of a war zone Sept. 26.
It was the end of a five-day mission to the Middle East for the airlift plane
from the 445th Airlift Wing here. The aircraft first started airlifting the
sick and wounded from combat zones more than 40 years ago in Southeast Asia.
The Starlifter took cargo to Europe before the aircraft’s historic last mission
out of the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Medics will
continue their aeromedical role on other types of aircraft, such as the C-17A
Globemaster III or C-5 Galaxy.
“Many of our missions aboard the C-141 were to Vietnam in the 60s and early 70s
to carry patients and human remains back -- just as we do now,” said Chief
Master Sgt. Richard Hays, the wing’s chief loadmaster.
“I will really miss the plane and the mission as I will be retiring with the
airplane,” the chief said. “Since this is the only thing I’ve done for 36 years,
it has been my life. I will miss it immeasurably.”
Wing reservists began flying C-141 aeromedical evacuation missions in support
of the Global War on Terrorism more than two-and-a-half years ago. In the
beginning, the aircraft flew an average of six to seven times a week.
To keep up the pace, the 459th Airlift Wing from Andrews Air Force Base, Md.,
and the 452nd Air Mobility Wing from March Air Reserve Base, Calif., joined the
fray with their C-141s. However, two years ago the Andrews AFB unit converted
to KC-135 tankers. By the end of last year, the March ARC unit was down to a
handful of C-141s in preparation for receiving C-17s.
The 445th AW is the last C-141 operational wing in the Air Force and it is
converting to C-5s. The first of 11 C-5 Galaxy aircraft will arrive Oct. 3 --
three days after the last C-141 OIF mission is scheduled to land back at
“I’m looking forward to flying a larger aircraft,” said 1st Lt. Eric Palichat,
a 356th Airlift Squadron pilot. The lieutenant was activated in February 2004
and has flown into Iraq more than 30 times on aeromedical missions.
“We’ll miss the C-141, but I’m looking forward to flying missions on the C-5,”
he added. “I just wish we were getting more of them.”
Since 2002, C-141s have flown more than 2,000 combat sorties and moved more
than 70 million pounds of war-fighting material.
More importantly the aircraft have transported more than 70 percent of the
sick, injured or wounded out of the Middle East. The 445th AW has been flying
these missions four times a week for the past year. Reservists supporting this
life-saving mission from aircrews to maintenance, aerial port and life support
members will deactivate soon after the last OIF mission. A few will then be
activated to support other aircraft types.
After Sept. 30, wing aircrews will continue flying C-141s, mostly inside the
borders of the continental United States, until spring of 2006 when the last
C-141 will fly out of the Air Force inventory and into aviation history books.
“The C-141 has proven its aeromedical evacuation role through the test of
time,” said Tech. Sgt. Larry Davis, an 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron
“We’ll be training primarily on C-130s now,” he said. “Good aircraft but they
don’t hold as many patients as a C-141. The C-17 will be more comfortable for
the patients, but it will have to prove itself.