April 15, 2015 (by Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo) - As part of a required Air Force report to Congress on the C-130 force structure, the Secretary of the Air Force released a force structure amendment pursuing the retention of 10 Air Force Reserve Command C-130J aircraft at Keesler Air Force Base.
The 403rd Wing's C-130J and WC-130J aircraft fly in formation during a Operation Surge Capacity on April, 5, 2014. Aircraft from the 815th and 345th AS's and 53rd WRS participated in Operation Surge Capacity, a large scale training exercise designed to test the 403rd Wing's ability to launch and recover a large formation of aircraft and to execute airdrops. [USAF photo by SrA Nicholas Monteleone]
Retaining the aircraft at Keesler will provide the efficiency of operating two squadrons together under a single wing overhead, according to the report.
The 815th AS, referred to as the "Flying Jennies," is a tactical airlift unit in the Air Force Reserve Command's 403rd Wing. The unit, which flies the C-130Js, transports supplies, equipment and personnel in a theater of operation. The unit, which dates back to World War II, has been at Keesler since 1973. The wing's second flying squadron is the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, the famed "Hurricane Hunters."
"We received the Secretary of the Air Force report this afternoon," said Col. Frank L. Amodeo, 403rd Wing commander. "We are still reviewing the report and as we learn the implications of this amendment, its impact to the wing, and receive guidance from Air Force Reserve Command, we will provide that information to our Airmen, their families, and the community."
Plans to close the 815th Airlift Squadron and move the aircraft to another base were announced in 2012. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 called for the transfer of 10 C-130J aircraft to Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina. With the transfer of those aircraft, plans also included closing the 815th AS.
"Our plan moving forward is to continue to care for our Citizen Airmen at the 403rd Wing," said Amodeo. "As we learn more about how the new force structure announcement will be implemented, we will continue to operate openly and transparently with our Airmen, their families and the community."