TOKYO (HawaiiNewsNow) - In just 3 days, soldiers from Schofield's the 25th infantry division will be the very last US troops to leave the warzone. They're getting picked up by the Hawaii Air National Guard.
Teri Okita continues our special exclusive reports and checks in from Tokyo.
"You may be wondering why we're in Tokyo now. Well, this was a required crew rest stop at nearby Yokota Air Base."
It took five-and-a-half hours to get to Alaska and more than eight hours to get to Japan, so by the time we arrived in Asia, the pilots came under mandatory rest orders.
Pilot Brent Ishii says you grab sleep when you can get it.
"I think combating the fatigue is a big part of probably our mission."
They're more than just "weekend warriors". Many of these guard members have second, full-time jobs. They also dedicate at least 30 hours a quarter to flying . That's more than twice-a-week, going up in the air.
When it's not their turn to fly the C-17, they do other things, whether it's watching movies, putting up Christmas lights, or reading.
"My other job, I gotta keep up with just training and things like that. So, I'll bring training material, if I'm not flying that leg. So, I'll study for that or I'll study for the actual Guard side of things," said Pilot Jason Lilly.
They're required to spend a certain amount of hours on the ground between legs to rest up. So the crew ventures out to nearby areas. In this case, Tokyo.
The city is loud. It is bustling. And it takes their minds off the stress of the missions.
"When we're on the ground, we're pretty much doing like we're doing now. We try to find pretty much the good things about the town. See what we can see. Usually we're not on the ground for a whole lot of time. Between 17 and 24 hours."
The co-aircraft commanders are two women: Dana lee and BJ Imoton and all of the crew raised their hands high when asked to come on this important trip.
When their shift begins, the game face goes on. When they arrive in Iraq for this one final mission, they know they'll be part of this historic homecoming involving their fellow Hawaii service members from the 25th infantry division.