June 8, 2017 (by Sgt. Zach Sheely) - The maximum allowable payload of the C-130 Hercules aircraft is approximately 42,000 pounds in a cargo hold that measures some nine feet high.
Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 130th Field Artillery, participated in a rapid infiltration simulated fire exercise with Airmen from the 139th AW, out of St. Joseph, Missouri, at Fort Riley, Kansas, June 7, 2017. The Soldiers loaded and downloaded a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System onto a C-130 Hercules after conducting low-altitude manuevers. [Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Zachary Sheely]
On June 6-7, those limits were tested as Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 130th Field Artillery loaded a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System into a C-130H at Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, Missouri. Airmen assigned to the 139th Airlift Wing of the Missouri Air National Guard then transported the HIMARS to Fort Riley, Kansas, where it was unloaded in a rapid infiltration simulated fire exercise.
This joint exercise was a first for both units.
"We've been told that these HIMARS are transportable in an aircraft since we fielded them in 2011," said Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Cairo, section chief, Battery B, 2-130 FA. "I was skeptical because of the weight and size, but now we've done it."
The HIMARS stands more than 10 feet tall at its highest elevation, and though it weighs approximately 32,000 pounds without rockets loaded, it's considered a "light" multiple rocket launcher. Mounted on an Army Medium Tactical Vehicle frame, it can carry six rockets in a pod and is operated by a crew of three Soldiers. It was designed to be airlifted into hostile areas for swift fire support, with the rocket pod ready to fire within a matter of minutes after the aircraft lands.
Fitting it aboard the C-130H is an exercise in precision. The Soldiers had to reduce air pressure in all six of the HIMARS tires, to, in the words of Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Rhys Wilson, "stuff" it into the aircraft.
"This was two months of planning to bear fruition for about six minutes on the ground," said Wilson, an aerial port superintendent with the 139th Aerial Port Squadron.
The rapid infiltration simulated fire exercise is a drill of expeditionary accuracy, and it is something that each component would expect to conduct in realistic operations. With the 1st Infantry Division coordinating the air space and landing zone, the exercise gave both the Air and Army Guard, and active-duty Army, the chance build on partnerships.
"The partnerships have been great," said Cairo. "We've done a few things over the last year with the 1st ID and now this with the Missouri National Guard and their C-130s. Having to do this downrange in a deployment would have been a lot tougher without this practice today."
"It's extremely important for us to all work together," said Wilson. "Every time we do joint training like this, people's networks get larger. Everyone did well. The aircrew did a great job; the Army did a fantastic job preparing their weapon for flight.
"One force is more than just a slogan."
Captain Matthew Zahler, an air mobility liaison officer with the 621st Mobility Support Operations Squadron, stationed at Fort Riley, said that it's more than just getting face time with other service members.
"This is the responsibility we have as air mobility liaison officers," said Zahler, "being able to translate the training objectives that the Army has into Air Force objectives where each side can benefit."
Cairo noted the experience and skill of the aircrew and HIMARS crew members and said that everyone who participated benefited from the experience.
"This is a confidence builder, getting to do it," Cairo said. "Now we know it will work going forward."