One Team-No Seam!

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Thigpen
  • 315th Operations Group superintendent
One Team-No Seam is a common term we use in the U.S. military to describe our total force capability and the relationship we have between the active and Reserve forces. While our forces are very different in many ways, in today's Air Force we have managed to cultivate a seamless environment between the two components.

Joint Base Charleston is a model base for the Total Force concept, integrating skills across every specialty and service. These days, it's simply the way we do business. While the Total Force concept has been around since the early 70s, I can remember a time when one significant effort really catapulted Team Charleston forward as a Total Force leader.

In the early 1990s, during the transition to the C-17 aircraft, Team Charleston really gained its Total Force momentum during the stand up of two new units that would receive, train and fly the Air Force's newest and most advanced airlifter. The first active duty squadron to transition was the 17th Airlift Squadron, housed at the time in Building 54 and the first Reserve squadron was the 317th Airlift Squadron housed next door in Building 60. Both stood up simultaneously. Since the C-17 was delivered to the USAF prior to Initial Operational Capability, both squadrons had the responsibility of proofing out this new aircraft to ensure it would meet or exceed USAF mission requirements.

From the first delivery of Tail #89-1192 (P-6) on June 14th 1993, both squadrons partnered in sharing the single aircraft on the ramp, squadron operations, training and support. Crews were often mixed to accomplish the mission and both units played a vital role in developing the procedures and policies we use today. Active and Reserve maintainers also worked side by side to accomplish training, develop maintenance procedures and repair the newly delivered aircraft. After every flight, the crews, maintainers, contractors and support personnel gathered for what was known as "hangar talk" to discuss any issues or lessons learned from that day's events. Every base function, whether active or Reserve, worked toward the common goal of fielding the Air Force's newest, state of the art airlifter; a feat that required Total Force capability!

Now, years later, as the C-17 fleet has grown to 222 and amassing more than 3 million flight hours, I think of the fine men and women of Team Charleston who patrolled the halls of Buildings 54 and 60 and the maintenance facilities in those early days. Names like Niemeyer, Sykes, Nicholson, Shiflet and Macko just to name a few. This was a time before the term One Team-No Seam had much meaning but the men and women of Team Charleston accelerated us down a path that proved both active and reserve components could blend into a seamless force to accomplish the airlift mission.

As the C-17 community has grown from those two initial squadrons to multiple airlift squadrons across our nation, the One Team-No Seam concept has grown along with it.

In June 2015, 22 years after the delivery of the first C-17 to Charleston, the 17th Airlift Squadron will inactivate due to budget cuts putting its eight aircraft in backup status. The 17th AS legacy will live on forever in Charleston and throughout our Air Force. The men and women who served in the 17th will go down in aviation history for the many achievements accomplished throughout the years. The 317th will carry on serving with its remaining Total Force partners, never forgetting the strong bond it shared with the 17th for so many years.

Yes, I can remember a time when the 17th and 317th Airlift Squadrons cast a mold for teamwork that would be handed off to every transitioning C-17 unit that followed. That mold has served us well in the airlift community. It has created a strong bond between active and Reserve squadrons and the men and women who serve in them. This bond has lasted for decades and continues to strengthen Team Charleston's One Team-No Seam concept.

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