C-5M flies in on wings of Dover Air Force Base heritage

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Andria J. Allmond
  • 512th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The C-5M's wheels screeched to a halt on the Dover Air Force Base flightline and taxied in front of Hangar 706 where a crowd eagerly awaited the arrival of the first Super Galaxy. Seated in that crowd were four Airmen who ushered in Dover's strategic airlift era with the delivery of the base's first C-5 almost 40 years ago.

Tom Dennis, Les Finney, Dr. Willie Curtis and Bob Valeski, crewmembers of the original C-5A delivered to Dover AFB in 1971, were present once again to witness a new era of military airlift Feb. 9.

While the C-5M was received with pomp and circumstance, it was business as usual when the 9th Airlift Squadron crew delivered Dover's first C-5 April 16, 1971.

"There was not a big deal made out of the arrival of the C-5A, but I knew we were part of history," said retired major and C-5 pilot Mr. Dennis, who lives in Dover and retired in 1977. "After we flew in with the aircraft, it was just another day. We finished up at got ready for work the next day."

The refurbished C-5M, named Spirit of Global Reach, was delivered by Gen. Arthur J. Lichte, Air Mobility Command commander, who accepted the symbolic key to the C-5M in front of Dover's total force audience and key civic leaders. The ceremony included the U.S. Air Force Band Ceremonial Brass Quintet, the base honor guard and speeches by Lockheed Martin representatives, government officials and military leaders.

During the ceremony, General Lichte asked the four original crew members to stand and receive their long overdue recognition. Silhouetted by the backdrop of flags, brass and the new aircraft, the cadre of Dover's original C-5 aircrew were finally acknowledged in front of their Air Force family.

"I felt proud to be part of the program [delivering the C-5A to Dover AFB] and having the trust of my commander and the crew members," said Dr. Curtis, former senior master sergeant and squadron standardization loadmaster, who retired in 1978. "I was proud of the excellent transition in airlift missions of the U.S. Air Force and Dover Air Force Base."

Dr. Curtis said he was delighted when he received the invitation to take part in the C-5M delivery ceremony and to meet up with his fellow crewmembers who accompanied him that historic day in April.

"Getting the invitation to be here brought back a lot of good memories," said Mr. Finney, a former C-5 engineer and chief master sergeant who spent 28 years on active military duty. "Our C-5 crew flew missions to Vietnam, Iran, Alaska and all over the world. It was great to be part of that team."

One such mission that the first C-5s flew was in 1977, which involved hauling a 40-ton electromagnet from Chicago to Moscow in support of a joint energy research program between the two countries. That mission earned the crew the MacKay Trophy, awarded yearly by the U.S. Air Force for the "most meritorious flight of the year" by an Air Force person, persons or organization.

"I have been out of the Air Force for over 20 years," said Mr. Finney, who retired in 1984. "I miss it. I miss flying. I miss the people. I saw a lot of the old guys I flew with over the years sitting in that audience, other guys from the squad who had also retired. It was like a homecoming."