March 9, 2017 (by SSgt. Katherine Spessa) - Aboard a C-130J Hercules, loadmasters in the cargo bay and pilots up in the flight deck perform their pre-flight tasks with practiced ease.
SrA Dallas Pope, Capt. Amanda Montague, Capt. Patrick Kellar and SrA Samantha Masten, stand in front of a C-130J Hercules March 9, 2017 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Pope and Masten are loadmasters with the 774th EAS. Kellar and Montague are 774th EAS C-130 pilots. All are deployed to Bagram out of Dyess AFB. [USAF photo by SSgt. Katherine Spessa]
The crew, Capts. Amanda Montague and Patrick Kellar, and Senior Airmen Dallas Pope and Samantha Matsen, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron pilots and loadmasters respectively, have flown more than 20 missions together since arriving in Afghanistan in mid-January.
“I think they put [crews together] because we get really comfortable with each other and we start to complement each other,” said Montague. “I can expect that [Kellar’s] going to do the same thing every time and he can expect the same from me.”
Their comfort with one another is apparent in the seamless process at each stop of a 16-hour flight, delivering cargo and passengers throughout Afghanistan.
Montague and her crew, along with the rest of their squadron provide airlift for Resolute Support Mission and Operation Enduring Freedom. Their squadron is deployed to Bagram Airfield from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas and the mission they are flying is a typical one for their time downrange.
The versatility offered by the C-130J and the crews assigned to the 774th allows the aircraft to be used in a variety of tactical airlift missions throughout the Afghan theater –everything from aeromedical evacuations to supply airdrops.
While Montague has deployed to Afghanistan before, it is the first time in the theater for Kellar, Pope and Matsen. The environment is challenging – long days, night missions, difficult cargo configurations and flying conditions.
“It’s the little things that we’ve developed as a crew since we’ve been here,” Pope added. “Those are my favorite. Everyone will be really tired and it will be dead quiet and all of a sudden someone will come out with an inside joke, or a song, or a fake accent and then everyone will be laughing and talking again.”
In addition to the over 150 hours that they have flown together, Montague, Kellar, Pope and Matsen also eat meals together, work out together, and have regular movie nights on their days off. They said the time spent together makes them a better crew.
“It’s a good mix of operating safely and efficiently, while still having a good time,” said Kellar. “The best part of being out here is getting to fly… we all love to fly.”