July 17, 2016 (by A1C Elizabeth Baker) - The 374th Airlift Wing is the last active duty wing in the Air Force to operate the reliable and versatile work horse of airlift: the C-130 Hercules. Recently, the 374 AW received the U.S. Air Force’s last active duty loadmaster trained on the C-130H.
A!C Stephen Clark, 36th AS C-130 Hercules loadmaster, stands inside a C-130H at Yokota AB on July 13, 2016. Yokota AB is the last active duty installation to operate the C-130H, and Clark is the last active duty loadmaster trained on the H model. [USAF illustration by A1C Elizabeth Baker]
Airman 1st Class Stephen Clark, 36th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, will soon begin contributing to the last chapters of the H-model’s 40-year airlift story
“It’s good to be here,” Clark said. “I’m excited to do my job and I’m looking forward to working.”
Yokota Air Base has hosted C-130s since 1975, when they were assigned to the 345th Tactical Airlift Squadron. Clark, as one of the last parts of that legacy, said that his fellow airlifters assigned to the 36 AS have taken to jokingly calling him “The Last Samurai.”
In technical school, Clark was the only active duty member in class. He was surrounded by the National Guard and Reserve members who continue to work on H models.
Clark admitted to feeling a little sad that so much history is being retired from active duty and he’s sure he’ll miss the H models. Despite this, he also stated that the change will be a good one.
Yokota’s aircraft are scheduled to be replaced by the upgraded C-130J Super Hercules which features more automated functions, superior performance and new capabilities. It performs a diverse number of roles, including aerial firefighting, special operations, aerial delivery, hurricane hunting, search and rescue and personnel transport. As Yokota progresses to the latest technological developments in its mission to move cargo through the skies, it is receiving the world’s most advanced tactical airlifter.
The 374 AW projects that the last of the H models will leave Yokota within three years to go to National Guard and Reserve bases. The first J model is due to arrive in late fall this year.
Many H model loadmasters will be retrained to the J model, as Clark may be. Until then, he said, he takes pride in working on the H models.
“The J model will be easier, which is nice, but I enjoy getting my hands dirty,” Clark said.
The Super Hercules performs part of a loadmaster’s work with automated components. The advanced technology present in the J models eliminates the need for navigators and flight engineers, reducing the aircrew to the pilot, copilot and loadmasters. Yokota recently received its last C-130 H navigator as well.
This newest C-130 model has already proven its reliability with more than 1.2 million flight hours logged. It is operated by 16 countries and has been used to set 54 world records.
Lockheed Martin, producer of the C-130s, describes the newest model on its website.
“There is no aircraft in aviation history, either developed or under development, which can match the flexibility, versatility and relevance of the C-130J Super Hercules,” the website states. “In continuous production longer than any other military aircraft, the C-130 has earned a reputation as a workhorse ready for any mission, anywhere, anytime.”
Reflecting on the next stage of Yokota’s airlift, Clark said that change is good and he’s excited to learn more about a sophisticated new aircraft and its capabilities.