A new chapter begins for Connecticut Air Guard's Flying Yankees

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead
  • 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
"There it is," said Staff Sgt. Dustin Wonoski as he pointed out over the tree line northeast of Bradley International Airport. The Airman from the 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron was not wrong. Way out there in the clear blue sky was the future of the 103rd Airlift Wing, the new ride of the Flying Yankees on approach for runway 24.

The first of eight C-130 H models expected to be assigned to the 103rd touched down here around 1:55 p.m. Tuesday, September 24, marking a new era as its tires billowed smoke on the runway. Complete with the traditional black and yellow thunderbolt of the 118th Airlift Squadron, the C-130 taxied onto Bradley Air National Guard Base with a bit of fanfare and into the maintenance squadron's care.

"We're very excited. Excited about joining the community and excited about finally seeing the aircraft on the ramp," said Col. Jerry McDonald, commander of the 103rd Maintenance Group. "I mean, watching the aircraft roll in with Flying Yankees on the back made all of the hard work over the last year worth it."

Now that the aircraft has arrived, the main focus is on converting the 103rd over to the C-130 mission set. Not only does the maintenance squadron have their hands full, but other organizations on base have to train to operate the C-130.

"It's definitely going to be a change from what we're used to," said Maj. Chris Papa, a pilot with the 118th Airlift Squadron. "We just got to get some guys hired, we got to get some crew over here--some load masters and engineers and navigators; guys that we certainly didn't have in the past."

According to McDonald, the next big step for them is to get everybody trained because right now they know little about the C-130.

"We need to know enough by January in order to start a flying mission here, and that's an extremely large hill to climb," said McDonald.

This is something that the 103rd does not have to do alone though. Right now, Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard are assisting the maintenance group in getting their maintainers up to speed and ready to work on the aircraft.

"It's almost like going back to the community with the A-10's," said McDonald. "The C-130 community is a very tight community and they've been extremely helpful."

In addition to bringing in experts in the field to help get these C-130s in the air, a whole team or "school house" is moving to Bradley to train the Flying Yankee maintainers to work on the aircraft--minus the brick and mortar, of course.

Getting all the necessary personnel trained and ready for a flying mission in January may be tough, but it's not like the Airmen of the 103rd Airlift Wing are strangers to this hard work.

"The arrival of the C-130 mission finally brings some much needed stability to the men and women of the Connecticut Air National Guard after many years of change and uncertainty," said Maj. Gen. Thaddeus J. Martin, The Adjutant General and commander of the Connecticut National Guard. "This would not have been possible without the personal engagement and effort of the Governor, Congressman Courtney, Senator Blumenthal and the members of the Connecticut delegation. We believe their work has given the 103rd Airlift Wing an enduring mission that will remain viable for the next 25 years."

The Connecticut Air Guard unit officially celebrated the arrival of the new airframe with a roll-out ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. The ceremony culminated with the unveiling of a C-130H rear stabilizer mock up emblazoned with the Flying Yankees thunderbolt tail flash. Distinguished guests including Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman were then escorted to the newly-assigned Hercules for a personal tour.

"The realization of this next step really did take a lot of hard work from us. We had to maintain our inspection readiness; we had to maintain our mission focus; we had to maintain our focus on safety. Throughout the wing, everybody continued to deliver and left the Air Force with no other option than to give us the iron [aircraft] that we so richly deserve here at Bradley," said Col. Frank Detorie, commander, 103rd Airlift Wing.