August 21, 2014 (by Maj. Bryon Turner) - The Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft will turn 60 years old August 23rd and the Airmen of the 103rd Airlift Wing at Bradley Air National Guard Base here are projected to receive the unit's eighth and final C-130H within a month, marking an important milestone for operations.
Aircrew aboard a C-130H #74-2134 assigned to the 103rd AW prepare to taxi moments before conducting the first locally-generated sortie with the unit’s new airframe at Bradley ANGB, on December 19, 2013. [ANG photo by Maj. Bryon Turner]
The C-130 has been in continuous production longer than any other military aircraft and has earned a reputation as a "workhorse" ready for any mission.
"There is no aircraft in aviation history -- either developed or under development -- that can match the flexibility, versatility and relevance of the C-130 Hercules," according to the Lockheed Martin's website , the aircraft's manufacturer.
The C-130's positive attributes and mission capabilities are not lost on the Airmen of the 103rd AW, and they're eager to talk about it.
"It's enjoyable to fly an airplane with such a wide range of capabilities that complements a diverse mission set," said Maj. Christopher Papa, a flight commander with the 118th Airlift Squadron. "On a single two-hour training sortie, it's not unusual to experience low-level airdrops, tactical arrivals, and maximum-effort, [also known as] assault, take-offs and landings. Multi-ship formations and night-vision goggle flying make those capabilities even more remarkable."
The first C-130H assigned to the 103rd AW arrived Sept. 24, 2013, and now, less than a year later, the unit's fleet is nearly whole. Each aircraft is emblazoned with the Flying Yankee's traditional black and yellow thunderbolt along with the image of the late Capt. Joseph Wadsworth, who legend tells us secreted Connecticut's colonial charter within an oak tree to keep it from being seized by the British during colonial times. The tail flash artwork borrows elements from the wing's patch, a nod to the storied unit's proud lineage as the next chapter in its history unfolds.
"This milestone is incredibly important for the Flying Yankees because the longevity and proud history of the C-130 bodes so well for the future on the Connecticut Air National Guard," said Col. Frank Detorie, commander of the 103rd AW. "We are now inextricably tied to the tactical airlift mission and our conversion to the venerable Hercules points to a very bright future at Bradley."
While acquiring all of the assigned aircraft is a critical element the 103rd AW's ongoing conversion efforts, developing experienced and well-trained air crews, maintainers, logisticians and other support capabilities is also crucial.
"The challenge is to get qualified people to serve as pilots, navigators, flight engineers and loadmasters. Over the past few months, the strength management team and members of the 103rd Operations Group have come a long way with recruiting qualified members," said Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Jenkins, recruiting and retention superintendent. "We've advertised opportunities and have been in contact with recruiters who work on active-duty bases to bring in qualified aviators who have expressed an interest in leaving the active duty and possibly joining the Air National Guard. But the best way for the base to recruit qualified members into these emerging career fields is through word-of-mouth from our own unit members."
The unit wasted no time in providing academic and hands-on training for the Airmen of the wing, sending more than 200 new and cross-training Airmen to technical schools and conducting additional training both here at home station and while deployed.
"Since September 2013, we have processed 207 initial skills and retraining formal school students directly related to the C-130H conversion, from pilots to maintainers," said Master Sgt. Johnny Ross, force development office superintendent.
The unit is projected to achieve initial operational capability in 2016, at which time they will move beyond the conversion stage. In the meantime, the men and women of the Flying Yankees continue to focus on developing and sharpening their skills as they work toward the next milestone.