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C-130J circumnavigates globe

2/24/2005 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFPN) -- Crossing 33 time zones, and stopping in nine locations and seven countries, a Reserve crew from the 403rd Wing here circumnavigated the planet in a C-130J Hercules. This was a first for the new airlifter.

The global trek was the culmination of a series of events that included the Aero India International Air Show in Bangalore, a showcase of military personnel and equipment that promoted strong United States ties with its Asian-Pacific allies.

On the way to the air show, the crew stopped at the Kbely-Prague Air Transport Base in the Czech Republic. The new heads-up display and computer systems were popular with Czech pilots and their counterparts in India, Brunei and Japan as the crew steered the aircraft from continents to islands throughout the world.

The reservists traveled for 22 days as they chased time zones, then crossed the International Dateline on their way to Hawaii and the continental United States. They met three United States ambassadors, dozens of business executives, flag officers from allied nations, more than one hundred media representatives and royalty.

One of the biggest moments of the trip included a visit by the Deputy Sultan and Crown Prince of Brunei, His Royal Highness, Pg Muda Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, who spent nearly an hour in the aircraft as crewmembers demonstrated many features of the new Hercules.

"The visit to Brunei provided an opportunity to showcase the aircraft as one of the finest assets in rapid, global mobility," said Col. Michael Underkofler, 403rd Operations Group commander and team leader for the trip. "We were very proud to have played a small part in building relationships in all of the nations we visited."

While in India, the Czech Republic and Brunei, the C-130J was viewed by numerous government officials. The Department of Defense does not participate in air and trade exhibitions to directly promote sales of weapons systems, but as a matter of policy it does support the sale of systems overseas when those sales promote the national security interests of the United States.

"Our involvement was about improving relationships with our allies," Colonel Underkofler said. "By participating, our reservists were able to show our allies, and potential coalition partners our commitment to their security."

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