By Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce, 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
/ Published July 01, 2014
GULFPORT, Miss. -- Airmen from the 103rd Airlift Wing, Connecticut Air National Guard, and 123rd Airlift Wing, Kentucky ANG, deployed to the Combat Readiness Training Center here to participate in cooperative Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft maintenance training June 23 through June 27.
This training deployment also marked the first opportunity to conduct an organic airlift-mission with the C-130H for the men and women of the 103rd Airlift Wing.
"An organic mission means it's completely from start to finish a locally generated mission," said Lt. Col. Gregory Behr, commander of the 103rd Maintenance Squadron.
"It was a great opportunity," Behr said. "We had everybody including maintenance, operations, and support involved to get us down here."
The intensive local planning involved in flying one of the 103rd Airlift Wing's C-130Hs down to Gulfport, however, was just one small fraction of the overall mission.
"Training is the goal for the mission, particularly, training alongside our sister wing with the Kentucky Air National Guard," said Behr. "We want to benefit from the knowledge, training, and experience from our Kentucky counterparts because they've been doing this mission for a long time."
The ANG has been conducting the in the C-130 mission for more than 30 years.
"The good thing about the C-130 mission is that it's been around for a long time," said Behr. "There's very little out there that our sister wings in the guard haven't seen or learned already, so I always think it's better to learn from other people's experience, than it is by yourself."
That's one of the benefits we have by being with the 123rd Maintenance Group. They've been doing this a long time, they bring our people out on the aircraft, in the classrooms, and go through systems and talk about different capabilities of the aircraft, what the aircraft can and can't do, and a variety of things we wouldn't know without help, said Behr. We'd have to learn it the hard way, but instead, we are benefitting from the knowledge, training, and experience that they've had for the last 30 years.
"We brought everybody down here to get as valuable of training as possible," said Master Sgt. Joshua Marks, non-commissioned officer-in-charge with the 103rd Maintenance Squadron during this training mission. "This is our second transition in the last seven years, we've done it once before but it's a lot easier with someone guiding you along the way."
Though this mission transition has been more difficult than the last when considering the age of the aircraft and specialized equipment, we are making great strides due to the 123rd's assistance, said Marks. When comparing the fact that we flew only one or two flights in January to now, when we are up to approximately 20 flights a month, we can definitely see where we, as a wing, and a squadron, have excelled.
While Marks believes training together with another unit has been beneficial, he also sees the value in training away from home.
"It's nice get away from home-station and focus on training where Airmen aren't dealing with the hectic flying schedule they'd be dealing with back home," said Marks. "It's beneficial to conduct training in a different environment so when time comes to deploy, the Airmen are better equipped to adapt to the constantly changing situations during a deployment."
With the specialized and focused C-130 maintenance experience earned through this weeklong training mission in Gulfport, comes expectations of increased proficiency.
"My Airmen's biggest gripe is that they never get to work on the planes as much as they like during drill weekends," said Col. Ken Dale, commander of the 123rd Maintenance Group. "In between retirements, promotions, and ancillary training, my Airmen get maybe two or three hours a drill to actually turn a wrench. With this training program, we let the Airmen tell us what they wanted for training, and that is how we came up with a syllabus."
All the Airmen who have come back from this training have had great things to say about it, said Dale. They say they feel more proficient on the airplane. For example, take a hydraulic guy who never gets to change a hydraulic boost pack. Here, he is able to perform this task and get it signed off whereas it would probably take a couple years just to get it signed off at home. We have crew chiefs who hardly ever get to do a full (basic post flight operations inspection) on their own, and they get to do it all here, hands-on.
"Our benefit is that we get more proficient, highly trained individuals we are able to send all over the world," said Dale. "Ultimately, the purpose of all this training is to build proficiency and confidence so I can send my Airmen, unescorted to Bagram (Afghanistan) to go and handle their maintenance jobs all on their own."
The Airmen, themselves, realize how valuable this training mission is and have been taking full advantage of the program.
In one of our training classes, we were able to practice a theoretical prop change during an engine run, said Senior Airman Steven Maniscalco, aircraft maintainer in the 103rd Maintenance Squadron.
Being able to do it here theoretically has been extremely beneficial, I'm not as nervous and the whole experience isn't as nerve wracking as if it were a real life prop change. I feel more confident and know that I'm becoming more proficient during this training, said Maniscalco.
According to Behr, the training in Gulfport appears to be another successful mission the 103rd Airlift Wing can add to its record.
"It's great to see the whole organization come together; support group, maintenance, operations," said Behr. "It took everybody to get us here, including our friends in Kentucky. The maintenance group leadership in Kentucky has just been outstanding. There's nothing they've not helped us with, a lot of times it's without us even asking. It's just been terrific; I look forward to this relationship continuing."