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USAF C-130 dedicated to Army's 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan

October 5, 2009 (by TSgt. John Jung) - An Air Force C-130H Hercules was dedicated to the Soldiers of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division stationed in Afghanistan, on October 5, 2009.

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The transport was originally dedicated at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., Oct. 25, 2008, to Fort Bragg's entire 82nd Airborne Division based in North Carolina.

Tail number 79282 from the 440th Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve, Pope AFB, has official nose art prominently displaying an American eagle in flight surrounding the iconic 82nd Airborne's insignia wings on the aircraft's fuselage. The plane also sports "Bragg-Pope" on its tail flash representing the close relationship between the Fort Bragg and Pope AFB.

Utilizing the Total Force, an active duty crew deployed from the 2nd Airlift Squadron, an associate unit of the 440th AW, to fly the Reserve C-130 Hercules to Bagram. The crew was comprised of Captains Alan Rathjen and Laura Easton, both C-130 pilots, and Staff Sgt. Matt Metz, C-130 loadmaster.

"The aircraft is being dedicated to the 82nd in honor of the cohesion of the Air Force and the Army in the fight in Afghanistan," said St. Louis native Captain Rathjen, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.

While the dedication was symbolic in nature, the tangible effects of the C-130 are felt everyday by Airmen and Soldiers alike.

"A few days ago we airdropped MREs [meals ready to eat] and water down to soldiers at a FOB [forward operating base]," said Captain Easton, 774th EAS. "It's the mission we trained for at the 2nd AS and [one] we're ready to employ here for the joint fight," said the Pittsburg native.

"I came here to be a part of history," said Army Master Sgt. John Plasse, 38th Infantry Division, Afghan National Security Forces Liaison. "It's great to have something you've worked in, flown into and out of combat with... and then it's gotten you home safely all those times... dedicated to you and your fellow Soldiers," said the activated Indiana Army Guardsman, who is from Terra Haute, Ind.

Bringing critical supplies via airdrop to soldiers on the ground is what the Hercules is suited to and is excelling at in Afghanistan. The "Herks" here at Bagram have been averaging between five and eight tons of cargo per airdrop mission.

Continuing the overall mission to feed, fuel and arm the fight, September marked the fourth consecutive month in which an increase of supplies was airdropped by the Air Force to Coalition partners and local citizens across Afghanistan.

In total, 4.1 million pounds of goods were dropped to forward operating bases, combat outposts and other austere locations in support of ground forces.

"It's our day-to-day job," said Staff Sgt. Matt Metz, 774th EAS. "I'm proud to have brought this C-130 to Afghanistan for the dedication, but I'm more gratified being the loadmaster who gets to airdrop [supplies] to the guys on the ground," continued the Springfield, Va., native.

Airdrops have proven to be a safe and reliable method for delivering vital supplies into locations where roads don't exist, the terrain is too mountainous, the cargo is too heavy for helicopters or where the insurgent threat is too great.

Courtesy of 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

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    Capt. Alan Rothjen, Army MSgt. John Passe, Capt. Laura Easton, Army Col. Luis Villarruel, and SSgt. Matt Metz stand in front of the 82nd Airborne Division nose art on a C-130 Hercules on October 5, 2009. The C-130 was dedicated to the 82nd in honor of the cohesion of the Air Force and the Army in Afghanistan and was put on display for servicemembers to view the aircraft. Capt. Rothjen, Capt. Easton and SSgt. Metz are deployed from the 43rd AW at Pope AFB. Captain Rothjen, a C-130 pilot, hails from St. Louis, Mo. Master Sgt. Passe, an afghan national security forces liaison, is deployed from the Indiana Army National Guard's 38th Infantry Division, and hails from Terre Haute, Ind. Captain Easton, a C-130 pilot, hails from Pittsburgh, Pa. Colonel Villarruel, Task Force Cyclone's Surgeon, is deployed from the Army National Guard's 30th Infantry Division, and hails from Indianapolis, Ind. Staff Sgt. Metz, a loadmaster, hails from Springfield, Va. [USAF photo by SrA Felicia Juenke]