UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - Unique to the C-130 Hercules, its capability to operate from rough dirt strips makes it the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas. Its multifunctional design enables configuration for many different missions, allowing a single aircraft to perform the role of many, thus requiring flexible operators trained to fly and execute the C-130’s varying mission sets.
The dedicated members of the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, deployed from Peterson Air Force Base Colo., execute the U.S. Air Forces Central Command air tasking order in support of deployed operations at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing here.
“Typically, a C-130 unit operating downrange will play a significant role in the everyday movement of troops and supplies throughout the battle space,” said Capt. Joe Demonte, a 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron aircraft commander and Dix Hills, N.Y., native. “This makes our mission very crucial to the ‘fight’ on a tactical level.”
Operating out of this location, however, our missions tend to have a greater impact on the strategic level of theater operations, he explained. One focused on the movement of distinguished visitors throughout the AFCENT area of responsibility, as well as the movement of equipment and munitions out of theater to support the ongoing drawdown of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The C-130 teams executing these missions consist of two pilots, two loadmasters, a navigator and a flight engineer.
Loadmasters configure the aircraft for each mission; pilots get it off the ground; the navigator shows them where to go and the flight engineer “keeps them in the air,” explained Tech. Sgt. Rob Watkins, a C-130 flight engineer and Denver, Colo., native.
In their short tenure here, the current Herk operators have flown more than 950 hours, 410 sorties, 141 missions, and carried more than 1,300 tons of cargo and nearly 3,500 passengers.
“It’s rewarding just seeing the faces of the troops as we airlift them into and out of remote forward operating bases with small, rugged, dirt runways in high threat environments,” said Capt. Phillip Chapman, also a 746th EAS C-130 aircraft commander.
“Forward deploying to support OEF provides us the opportunity to put the skills and knowledge acquired back home to good use over the battlefield,” added Demonte. “ When operating in this manner, we know the ‘bullets and beans’ being airdropped or flown into FOBs are going to have a direct impact supporting the men and women who bring the fight to the enemy every day and night.”
Within just a few hours of alert, aircrews grab their equipment, are briefed, processed through customs and prepped for takeoff. But a successful, on-time departure is not attributed to aircrews alone, Chapman said.
“The relationship between operators and support personnel has a tremendous impact on how we conduct the mission,” Demonte said. “A good relationship, built on understanding and respect, is vital to the success of any given mission. It is critical to realize that one side does not successfully conduct business without the other.”
The current mission effectiveness rate of the 746th EAS is 98.9 percent, which speaks volumes to the proficiency of the teams who support Herk ops here, said Chapman.
“The professionalism and teamwork between the 746th EAS and the 746th AMU directly contributes to our outstanding C-130 ME rates delivering decisive combat airpower to the AOR,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Clay, the 746th EAS commander and Des Moines, Iowa native. “Our squadron is a Total Force Integration unit with deployed reservists and active duty Airmen who work, exercise and train together at home station, and now deploy together while executing the daily ATO — one team, one fight.”
[Editor's note: This article is part four in a four part series highlighting the Airmen essential to the C-130 Hercules' deployed mission here.]