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Military cargo plane glitch shortens homecoming mission

  • william cole /

After flying thousands of miles across the Pacific and Asia, a Hawaii Air National Guard crew and C-17 aircraft won’t be picking up the last remaining 52 Schofield Barracks soldiers left in Iraq — but will still bring them part of the way home, officials said.

The malfunction of a computer tied in with the jet engines — one of two on board that perform the function — led to a decision Thursday Hawaii time to delay the ongoing flight of the big four-engined cargo carrier.

The "Spirit of Kamehameha" had started its engines for takeoff at an island base the Air Force identifies only as an "undisclosed location" when the computer problem was detected.

Another Air Force cargo carrier will pick up the Schofield soldiers in Iraq and transport them to the island base. From there, the Hawaii-based C-17 will transport the troops back to Hawaii after repairs are made.

The soldiers, including Maj. Gen. Bernard Champoux, the commander of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, are still expected to return to Hawaii and families Sunday evening.

Champoux was the last division-level commander in Iraq, where only a few thousand troops remain as the United States brings to an end the nearly nine-year-old war. He deployed to Iraq with about 800 soldiers a year ago.

The "Spirit of Kamehameha," based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, was expected to first deliver more than 1,000 Army duffel bags and foot lockers to Afghanistan. The gear was picked up at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska, on Monday at the start of the mission.

The gear will be offloaded and sent to Afghanistan on the cargo carrier bringing the Hawaii troops to the island base where the Hawaii C-17 is now located.

The Spirit of Kamehameha also flew to Japan and Thailand before reaching the island base. The aircraft was expected to stop in Kyrgyzstan before heading into Iraq.

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