Tuesday, February 12, 2008

C-130J deploys to Southwest Asia

by 2nd Lt. Tania Bryan, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
A C-130J Hercules arrives to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Feb. 8 at a Southwest Asia air base. The C-130J is from the 41st Airlift Squadron from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Domonique Simmons)

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing here welcomed the newest member of its fleet Feb. 8 as a C-130J Hercules landed in Southwest Asia.

"We're not only the first active duty, C-130J deployment, it's also a record-setting event," said Lt. Col. Dan Tulley, the 41st Airlift Squadron commander.

"We stood up two squadrons, people and airplanes, and deployed in 10 months," the colonel said.

The 41st AS moved in 2007 to Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., from Pope AFB, N.C. The new unit stood up and converted to a new weapon system at the same time, starting April 5, 2007, and now are deployed, Colonel Tulley said.

The C-130Js from the 41st AS will combine with C-130Es from both the 61st Airlift Squadron from Little Rock AFB and the 2nd Airlift Squadron from Pope AFB, as well as C-130Hs from the Air Force Reserve Command's 357th Airlift Squadron at Maxwell AFB, Ala., to form the 746th AS here. The squadron will reactivate in mid-February.

Combining the Reserve and active-duty squadrons into one cohesive unit creates a unique opportunity for the crews to learn from one another. Taking four distinct squadrons that don't normally work together at their home stations, and uniting them in a deployed environment, may seem like a daunting task, but Colonel Tulley said the strengths each of them bring to the fight far surpasses any challenges they will have to overcome.

The C-130J began to replace the aging C-130E in 1999. Although the J model has deployed to the area of responsibility before, this deployment is significant because it's a total force effort, the colonel said.

"AFRC brings a lot of experience, and between the different units -- Maxwell, Pope and Little Rock (Air Force bases) -- (working together) should be a great opportunity to share knowledge and expertise on handling a C-130 in combat," he said.

We have already seen what the J model's capabilities are through defense training over the past 10 months and now we are looking forward to testing the aircraft in combat, Colonel Tulley said.

"The J model has much longer legs and a much greater lift capacity because of the extra two pallet positions. It's also very reliable because it is brand new," Colonel Tulley said. "(The C-130J model) has been lucky enough to be among the first to get the benefit of being recapitalized."