Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

May 12, 2011 at 1:43pm

Wall dedication honors former 8th AS commander

PHOTO BY Ingrid Barrentine Gen. (retired) Duane Cassidy, center, visits with his son, Col. Mike Cassidy, during the 8th AS dedication ceremony at the squadron headquarters.

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The 8th Airlift Squadron at McChord Field of Joint Base Lewis-McChord has moved people and cargo across the world in giant C-17 Globemaster IIIs for more than 10 years now. Their pilots have flown to austere locations like Antarctica and ensured air and supply dominance in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And the person they have to thank for helping ensure the C-17 became the Air Mobility Command's aerial powerhouse? That would be the man whose face appears on the walls of the squadron's newly updated auditorium.

The 8th AS dedicated its briefing room to the proclaimed "father of the C-17 and modern-day airlift mission," retired Gen. Duane H. Cassidy. Before serving as the first commander of Transportation Command, Cassidy commanded the 8th AS from 1972 to 1974. The unit invited the retired four-star general back to unveil the result of the two-year auditorium renovation named after him and show off a detailed pictorial history memorial exhibit of Cassidy's career and accomplishments.

"Most of the airplanes I flew are up on pedestals now, which means either I'm very old or the airplanes are very good," Cassidy said. "I'm honored to add my name on it."

One quote on the mural, prominently displayed at eye level, best portrays how respected Cassidy was by the Airmen in the 8th AS.

"Whenever he spoke, people listened, and not just because he was the commander; they listened because he had something to say."

The renovated auditorium named in Cassidy's honor features dual projection screens and seating for about 100 people.

Commander Lt. Col. Stephen Ritter opened the dedication ceremony in his typical Southern-style analogy. Our lives are like an individual string on the back of a tapestry, he said. People don't realize all the other strings that cross around that one string.

"The impact you've had has impacted so many lives," Ritter told Cassidy. "I can't tell you how much I have looked forward to this day."

Cassidy's career spanned 30 years and included his serving as the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Transportation Command and Military Airlift Command. Cassidy said his favorite assignment was as the squadron commander of the 8th AS at McChord, he said.

"This is my best assignment, and clearly it will be the best for you," he told the filled-up room of 8th AS Airmen. "We just had fun every day, even when times were tough."

After retiring, Cassidy has spent the past 15 years working for the private sector in transportation industries - rail, trucking and air. Corporate executives have asked him how private-sector leadership stands up to military leadership.

"You just can't compare them," Cassidy told the assembled crowd. "The private sector has good management, but is weak in leadership. Management is necessary, leadership is essential."

The 8th AS came to McChord Field in 1947 as the 8th Troop Carrier Squadron. The unit received C-141 Starlifter aircraft and flew regular missions in Vietnam starting in 1966. The unit was pivotal in moving troops, families and equipment out of Vietnam at the end of the war. It then took on its current mission of providing disaster relief and humanitarian aid throughout the world. This was a major part of Cassidy's mission as commander.

"No one gets the opportunity to serve our country and the countries of the world as you do," Cassidy said to current 8th AS Airmen.

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