August 29, 2018 (by A1C Pedro Tenorio) - In late March 2018, an MC-130P Combat Shadow out of Moffett Federal Field, California, took its final flight to Sheppard AFB, where it would continue its legacy of supporting the Air Force as a maintenance trainer for Airmen in Training.
363rd TRS armament apprentice course students pose for a photo at Sheppard AFB, Texas, August 15, 2018. Since receiving the new MC-130P #66-0223 Combat Shadow in May, this is the third class to graduate with the extra training implemented. [USAF photo by A1C Pedro Tenorio]
This particular MC-130, which has been in combat in Vietnam, the Cold War and was even deployed to catch falling satellites, now serves as a part of the 82nd Training Wing's Special Missions Aircraft Armament Apprentice Course and the C-130 Aerospace Maintenance Apprentice Course.
A new type of C-130 for the Airmen to train on and interact with is something that has greatly increased the effectiveness of training here.
"We didn't have an aircraft to train on at all before we got it," said Staff Sgt. Stephen Jervis, 363rd Training Squadron armament instructor. "[The students] love all the new hands-on and actually being able to see and feel everything they've been learning. [Before this], it was just showing videos and pictures from the field."
Since being available for the classes since May 2018, Jervis said there has been a number of changes since then to the curriculum. Students going through the course are also benefiting.
"It gives us a unique opportunity to see a variant of the aircraft that you rarely see outside of rescue and special operations squadrons," Jervis said. "It replaced outdated aircraft that the 362nd was using for training for their crew chief course, and added the ability for weapons load crew training. It also gives us the ability to load the BRU-61 bomb rack onto the left and right wings, simulating the AC-130W and AC-130J."
This training has been a significant boost to overall readiness and capability. Originally, this certain training was not available to AiTs, who would get advanced training on the BRU-61 at other bases before being considered fully operational. But now, pipeline students will be more ready and more experienced even before getting to the advanced training.
"The flight chiefs have been very happy with the students coming in," Jervis said. "Part of loading these bombs is getting on a 13-foot ladder, which doesn't seem too bad. But out in Hurlburt and Cannon, a lot of Airmen have found it a little nerve racking when you add in 1,000-plus pounds worth of bombs, wind and loud noise. We're able to identify those Airmen while they're here, so the operational units can save valuable time and put them in a position that suites them."
Since getting the new trainer, Jervis and others hope for more types of aircraft to train on, but understand the needs of the Air Force and will make do with what they have, training the next generation to the best of their abilities with the resources they have.
"Of course, I want as many of these things as possible," Jervis said. "However, in my course, we cover all three AC-130 variants (AC-130U, AC-130W, AC-130J), so it wouldn't be realistic to have three different airplanes here that are needed out in the fight. For the amount of things we can do with this plane now, and possible future modifications, I'm very happy with it."