September 9, 2015 (by SrA Cierra Presentado) - C-130J Super Hercules pilots are a proven, important asset to the Bagram mission. Whether it’s supporting medical evacuation missions or transporting mission essential assets and passengers, the pilots impact daily missions in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
Capt.’s Boston McClain and Matt Buchholtz, 774th EAS C-130J Super Hercules pilots, pose for a photo on September 4, 2015, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. [USAF photo by SrA Cierra Presentado]
Capts. Boston McClain III and Matt Buchholtz, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules pilots both deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, and have flown combat missions for the past four months.
“We’re here on a four month tour, and we’re actually deployed with our whole squadron,” said Buchholtz. “We were fortunate to be able to deploy with our guys from back home, our loadmasters, crew chiefs; all of the guys are here with us.”
While here, the pilots are assigned a hard crew meaning the same crew members and pilots fly together on each mission. This way the team knows each other individually, and it creates cohesiveness and increases mission effectiveness.
“Being able to fly with the same crew each time is awesome. We know each other and we know our routine,” McClain said. “Flying alongside Capt. Buchholtz is pretty cool. We see each other every day and when we fly we know what each other are thinking and that just makes flying a lot more fun…being able to fly with your buddies.”
The team’s mission here is different than the missions they fly back at Little Rock. While they do more air drops back at home, here they are more focused on moving supplies and passengers from one forward operating base to another.
“We have a very diverse job here; whether it’s the movement of troops and supplies or equipment, we work with a lot of joint operations that support Afghanistan in the overall area of responsibility.” Buchholtz said. “Back at Little Rock we do a lot of airdrops when we are training and doing daily missions, in theater we don’t do as many airdrops.”
The C-130J plays an important role here. They’re able to land on most runways at the various FOBs throughout Afghanistan that C-17s and other aircraft cannot land at.
“Without the C-130J here the mission would be impacted quite a bit due to the fact that we’re one of the main intra-theater airlift and troop supply movement assets out here. There’s so much this aircraft is capable of that other aircraft may not be able to support. We’re able to get into a lot of locations that other aircraft like the C-17 can’t get into,” McClain said. “It may take us a little longer to get there, but there aren’t too many places we can’t go or equipment we can’t carry.”
When it comes to completing the mission, the pilots express how being able to put their training and hard work to the test is the ultimate success.
“Being able to see how grateful these guys are after we’ve taken them home or after we’ve taken them out of a bad spot is truly a great feeling. The thankfulness you see on their faces really makes me appreciate my job even more,” Buchholtz said.
The C-130J pilots and crew members are scheduled to redeploy to Little Rock AFB in the near future. The team will be replaced by a team from Dyess AFB, Texas.