8th Airlift Squadron deploys for overseas contingency operations

By 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs on August 30, 2011

Airmen assigned to the 8th Airlift Squadron departed McChord Field August 26, 2011, for a 60-day deployment in support of the Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom.

"While it has been approximately one year since the 8th Airlift Squadron returned from last year's deployment, our aircrews have continuously executed flights in and out of the area of responsibility supporting war fighters on the ground in Operations New Dawn, Enduring Freedom and elsewhere," said Lt. Col. Harmon Lewis, 8th AS commander.

The unit will operate as the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, with a mission focused on providing global strategic airlift, combat airdrop, aeromedical evacuation and humanitarian relief, to create an air bridge for personnel, equipment and supplies throughout their assigned areas of responsibility.

The 62nd Airlift Wing has four flying squadrons, and has evolved the deployment construct. The system is shifting from 120-day to 60-day deployments, reducing both the pre-deployment preparation time and the reconstitution period post-deployment.

"While this means that we can expect to deploy for two months in every eight-month period, it also means that our aircrews can maximize the training opportunities at home and maintain unique flight and ground training qualifications," said Lewis. "It's a win-win for Team McChord and Air Mobility Command."

The change in deployment cycle is nothing new to first-time deployers, like Airman 1st Class Auston Witherrite.

"I've only flown one mission since I've been with the 8th," said Witherrite, a loadmaster who arrived at his first duty assignment just two months ago. "I'm both very nervous and very excited about the deployment."

19-year-old Witherrite will be celebrating his first anniversary of joining the Air Force during the deployment.

"I'm excited to learn and qualify for more things while I'm over there," said Witherrite. "I love being a loadmaster."

The 8th AS is replacing the 10th AS, which is scheduled to return in the near future.

"This squadron has a long tradition of combat airlift," said Lewis. "We are eager to do our part, and do it well!"