ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
The work done at Robins Air Force Base has worldwide implications – not just for the U.S. Air Force, but for other countries as well.
Take for example the C-17. Robins Air Force Base houses Foreign Liaison Officers for four respective militaries within the C-17 System Program Office.
C-17s are owned and operated by Australia, Canada, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Qatar, India, Kuwait and NAMP, NATO’s airlift management program comprised of 12 countries. Canada, Australia, NATO and the UK have FLOs integrated into the C-17 SPO.
Currently, there are 52 foreign C-17s – about 20 percent, of the 274 aircraft worldwide, said Dusty Dodd, C-17 international branch chief.
Five to six FLOs per military work at Robins for a two- to three-year tour. Flags from different countries hang from the ceiling over each corresponding country’s area.
“Unlike traditional FLOs, these representatives get real time information related to status and issues affecting the operation and maintenance of the C-17,” Dodd said.
The foreign officers work side-by-side with Air Force staff and civilians which benefits both parties.
“The concept is to combine resources so we can use the dedicated people here to be one voice to Boeing,” said Capt. Jean-Francois Dufresne-Beauchamp, CC177 Deputy Aircraft Engineering Officer, Royal Canadian Air Force.
The officers for each country can share parts as well as ideas – which saves not only time but money as well.
When there is an issue on an aircraft, the C-17 System Program Office convenes a crisis management team to identify the root cause of the problem and to mitigate risks. The FLOs participate on the team and get real-time information to send back to their own country’s offices.
The FLOs also participate in the proposal for the contract effort with Boeing. Although not part of the negotiations, the foreign countries do have a say in what requirements are proposed in the contract.
“It also benefits the U.S. Air Force by having insight into the Foreign Military Sales partners’ C-17 expertise. They bring experience and knowledge to the table when considering how to service and modernize the fleet worldwide,” Dodd said.
The UK was the first foreign military to procure a C-17 in 2001. It was followed by Australia and then Canada. In 2013, the FLOs started assembling here at Robins and all were transferred from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, by 2014.
Not only do the FLOs integrate with the U.S. Air Force but also in the community. There are members who are part of a bowling team, ball hockey and active in local schools.
There is an adjustment in coming to a foreign country, Wing Commander David Zemel, Australian Senior FLO, said.
“Some people underestimate the challenge of going to a new country with the same language and values. In many cases, small changes tend to magnify but it eases once you get used to the subtleties,” he said.
Zemel will be leaving shortly after serving two and a half years as the FLO at Robins. He will take the experience he has learned here back home to better serve his unit there.
“It is absolutely paramount to be able to get quick, fruitful outcomes. We have a close relationship with the other FLOs to get a good understanding of how everyone uses the aircraft,” he said.
One of the ways the Australians use the aircraft is for strategic inter-theater transport. The program is expanding to include additional communications capabilities as well as air refueling with Australia’s KC-30.
This type of example is shared with the other integrated members of the C-17 SPO to allow ideas to become realities in terms of the ability of the aircraft.
The cooperative nature of the program allows the countries to share in a parts pool as well. Without the program in place, Australia wouldn’t be able to access all of the C-17’s capabilities.
“The most important part is not just the visibility but the relationship. We learn how to work together as a team with the entire program office,” Zemel said.