August 28, 2015 (by Eric M. White) - Residents of Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania had the chance to see a rare formation of nine C-130 aircraft as the culminating event of a week-long C-130 Round-Up skills competition and training event held Aug. 23-28.
A cargo pallet is dropped from C-130H #90-9108 from 757 AS over Camp Ravenna, Ohio on August. 27, 2015. The aircraft was taking part in a nine C-130 formation training mission. [USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Rick Lisum]
Aircrews and Aerial Porters from Youngstown Air Reserve Station (YARS); Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base, Ohio; Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia; Bradley Air National Guard Base, Connecticut and Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, New York, participated in the event.
Planning for the C-130 Round-Up began after a similar annual competition, Air Mobility Command’s C-130 Rodeo, was cancelled due to budgetary restraints. Planners from YARS wanted to create a similar event on a smaller scale that would allow personnel from the 910th and other Guard and Reserve units the chance to accomplish training requirements while engaging in a fun and friendly competition.
Maj. Ryan Cooley, a pilot with the 757th Airlift Squadron, was the event coordinator.
“When (the Rodeo) got cancelled, we said ‘hey why not invite some of these other units to come up to our (tactical training) week and get some good training here, since they’re not going to be participating in the AMC Rodeo,’” said Cooley.
The training sorties for aircrews during the event included low-level flying, threat reaction training, large formation flying, cargo drops, assault landings and night vision goggle flying. Many of the events were scored, challenging the aircrews to outperform one another.
Training is the main purpose of the event, but adding a competitive factor motivates participants to strive for improvement.
“We always shoot for the best in (these training maneuvers),” said Cooley, “but to get them in as graded events builds a little competition, bragging rights if you will, kind of makes everyone step up their game.”
Cooley said it’s nice to see aircrew members come in in the morning to check how they performed in the previous day’s events and consider how they can improve.
Aerial Porters, known as Port Dawgs, were busy leading up to and during the competition, palletizing cargo and packing parachutes for multiple air drops. They also participated in the competition, loading and unloading pallets as quickly as possible to secure the fastest time. The Aerial Porters went to the 910th Airlift Wing’s drop zone at Camp Ravenna to recover cargo air dropped during the nine-ship sortie.
Beyond the participation of aircrew members and Aerial Porters, other organizations provided essential contributions. Maintainers from the 910th Maintenance Group ensure the aircraft were operable and safe. Current Ops helped with the logistics of hosting so many aircrews. The Force Support Squadron provided lodging and extended dining hours for participants.
Col. James Dignan, commander of the 910th Airlift Wing, spoke of YARS’ ability to host such an event.
“For Youngstown Air Reserve Station, it’s important to demonstrate that we have the capabilities, the air space, and the facilities to pull something like this off. And it’s a value to our nation and to the U.S. Air Force because we bring together these folks from around the country and other Air Force bases to practice their training.”
Maj. Gen. Stayce D. Harris, commander of the 22nd Air Force, came to YARS Thursday to observe the nine-ship formation and award ceremony.
“We’re our nation’s defense,” said Harris. “We’re here to protect and defend and serve, and so these types of exercises allow us to remain mission ready.”