May 12, 2016 (by SSgt. Richard Mekkri) - May 9, 2016 marked the first time since Desert Storm, more than 25 years ago, that a four-ship fly away of C-130 Hercules aircraft took place at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. It was also the last, as members of the 914th Airlift Wing deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
A C-130 Hercules flies over Niagara Falls ARS on May 9, 2016 as part of a final 4-ship C-130 mission for the 914 AW. The Aircraft are flying deployers to Qatar in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. [USAF photo by TSgt. Stephanie Sawyer]
As the base and personnel prepare to transition to the KC-135 Stratotanker refueling mission, this will be the final time that a group of C130s flies from NFARS, leaving behind a legacy of more than 40 years of service.
One base member who was excited to be part of this historic deployment was Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Canfield, loadmaster, 328th Aerial Port Squadron.
“I volunteered as soon as I found out about it,” said Canfield of her first deployment with the C-130. “It’s why I enlisted.”
The C-130 Hercules has a long history with the installation, beginning its mission in 1971.
“The C-130s have served this unit well,” said 914 AW Commander, Col. Brian Bowman. “Many changes and innovations will affect this installation in the future, and these types of occasions allow personnel to chance to look back on the past while focusing on the future.”
This experience not only serves as an opportunity to recognize the unit members who are deploying to support the global mission, but to reflect on the memories and importance of the airlift mission.
“It’s going to be a little difficult for me to say ‘goodbye’,” Said Chief Master Sgt. Mike Zimmerman, Aerial Port Squadron Loadmaster Superintendent. “It’s a great aircraft-- the best aircraft ever build,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman has spent the last 29 years working on the C-130. Although he admits that he thinks it’s the best aircraft ever built, he is also looking forward to the new mission.
“We’ll give it our best,” Zimmerman said. “I’m sure we’re going to do a great job.”
Base members are deployed to Qatar as part of the 379th Air Expeditionary Squadron and are scheduled to return later this fall.