July 26, 2017 (by TSgt. Jonathan Hehnly) - Air National Guardsmen and their aircraft, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, execute daily airlift missions out of one of the busiest air bases in the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility.
C-130H Hercules aircraft deployed from the 130th AW of Charleston, West Virginia and the 133rd AW of St. Paul, Minnesota sit on the flightline prior to departing on a combat mission at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia on July 14, 2017. [USAF photo by TSgt. Jonathan Hehnly]
With the operations tempo high as ever, the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing recently completed a near seamless change out of its C-130H Hercules aircraft and air crews.
“The outgoing units, from the North Carolina and Connecticut Air National Guard, set up a great in-processing system to get us from the airplane upon first landing to our first combat mission in only 2 days,” said Capt. Carl B. Benson, a pilot with the 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. “The transition was smooth and easy. We were guided through the entire process from start to finish by the departing units to ensure we completed the required items before our first flight.”
In less than two days from their arrival, Air National Guardsmen deployed from the 130th Airlift Squadron of Charleston, West Virginia and the 109th Airlift Squadron of St. Paul, Minnesota, were ready to fly their first combat mission.
In addition to reading flight crew information files, local flying publications and special instructions, each air crew member received an over-the-shoulder ride on their first mission from a seasoned air crew member of the outgoing units.
The deployed West Virginia and Minnesota air crews currently share the 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron’s mission to execute intra-theater tactical airlift in support of CJTF-OIR, the global coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“Mostly we provide an air-land capability to get troops and materiel down range,” said Benson. “However, if we need to get troops and materiel to an area without a suitable runway or landing zone, all our crews are proficient in the airdrop capability. Whether it's air-land or airdrop, if you can put it in the back of a C-130, we can get it down range to troops in need.”
“Airdrop capability allows us to get much needed supplies to forward deployed troops that are located in austere locations,” said Lt. Col. Richard Switzer, the 737th EAS director of operations. “In some instances, airdrop is the only method of aerial delivery and is a lifeline for troops on the ground.”
Whether they are dropping beans, bullets, or water, the 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron provides the sustenance the troops on the frontlines need to win the fight.
“The two units work well together and much of that is aided by the fact that we have deployed together on previous rotations and had plenty of crosstalk prior to deployment,” said Switzer. “The blend is very good for our crew and maintainers, as it provides us with the opportunity to learn from each other.”
Working as a cohesive team, the interoperability of the two units’ operations and maintenance personnel kept the C-130’s flying and the warfighters supplied without delay as the North Carolina and Connecticut Air National Guardsmen rotated home.
“With this turnover the transition was near seamless,” said Switzer. “There will always be some bumps in the road and obstacles to overcome, but our maintainers and aircrews are seasoned professionals and the best at what they do.”