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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Paul Trowbridge, a loadmaster, watches bundles of fuel parachute towards the ground over Afghanistan, Dec. 10, 2010, during the C-17 fleet’s historic mission reaching 2 million flight hours.

Jerry Drelling/Boeing Photo

P-190’s flight crew, (from left) U.S. Air Force Capts. Patrick Murphy, Jordan Leicht, and Rick Kind, with the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, celebrate the C-17 fleet’s 2-millionth-flight-hour mission.

As the U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III lifted off from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, early in the morning on Dec. 10, 2010, the mission appeared routine to its crew: airdrop 74,000 pounds of aviation fuel to coalition troops south of Kabul, and then return to base. But this C-17 made history.

The representative flight for the worldwide fleet of Boeing-built C-17s, achieved a remarkable milestone: 2 million flight hours, which equates to 1.13 billion nautical miles, or the equivalent of a C-17 flying to the moon and back 2,360 times.

The mission call sign “Moose 75” was flown by the Air Force’s 190th C-17, delivered in 2009 and assigned to Joint Base Charleston, S.C. It’s one of a global fleet of 226 C-17s that provide air-transport support worldwide.

Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster III Sustainment Partnership field support team, operating in and out of Afghanistan via Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases in Germany, has a lead role in keeping the C-17s mission-ready. Robert Guffey, Jr., the engineering team lead at Ramstein Air Base, couldn’t be prouder.

“Two million hours!” Guffey said, beaming. “It’s hard to believe. We certainly are flying the wings off these aircraft.”

P-190’s flight crew, (from left) U.S. Air Force Capts. Patrick Murphy, Jordan Leicht, and Rick Kind, with the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, celebrate the C-17 fleet’s 2-millionth-flight-hour mission.

Jerry Drelling/Boeing photo

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Paul Trowbridge, a loadmaster, watches bundles of fuel parachute towards the ground over Afghanistan, Dec. 10, 2010, during the C-17 fleet’s historic mission reaching 2 million flight hours.

For Bob Rabbitt, engineering manager, C-17 Field Services International Hub, the milestone is nothing short of mind-boggling.

“I’ve been on the program 23 years, and when I started I would have never imagined that I would still be here to see the C-17 surpass 2 million flight-hours,” Rabbitt said. “The plane’s a workhorse, and it’s amazing how many hours they’re racking up and continuing to work day in and day out, back and forth across the ocean and into the war zone. They just keep going.”

The C-17 has helped make Bagram Airfield Freedom Port the busiest military-aerial port in the world, moving more than 50,000 people and nearly 26,000 short tons of cargo in and out of its secured fence lines every month.

U.S Air Force Lt. Col. Kirk Peterson, commander of the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron, says the versatility of the Boeing-built heavy lifter is one reason they have been able to sustain operations for Operation Enduring Freedom.

 “The C-17 gives us that flexibility,” said Peterson. “On this day we had a load planned for 17 pallets, and now it’s taking out six air-evacuation patients back to Germany, saving their lives.”

In fact, one of the most important missions of the aircraft is evacuating wounded patients so they can get necessary medical care in Europe and the United States.

Col. Christopher Benjamin, U.S. Air Force physician and commander of Bagram’s 50-bed Craig Joint-Theater Hospital, says it’s aircraft like the C-17 that are making a difference with their reliability.

“I find myself just standing at the foot of the bed sometimes thinking, ‘In past wars he would have not made it, beyond Da Nang, beyond Tokyo, we wouldn’t have made it home’,” said Benjamin.

Now in its 18th year of service, the C-17 fleet continues to support numerous humanitarian and disaster relief missions worldwide -- including last year’s earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and flooding in Pakistan -- and it continues to operate at an accelerated rate due to the recent troop surge in Afghanistan.

“There’s tremendous satisfaction in knowing that in those 2 million hours, the C-17 fleet has saved countless lives around the world on so many occasions,” said Bob Ciesla, C-17 program manager. “We’re very proud that the C-17 continues to exceed expectations in performance and reliability.”