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Milwaukee C-130 crew earns flying award

7/19/2005 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFPN) -- Six reservists earned the 2004 Air Force Association Outstanding Reserve Aircrew Award for safely landing their C-130 Hercules after it was damaged by enemy ground fire, officials announced July 13.

Maj. Rolf Breen and his crew from Milwaukee's 440th Airlift Wing saved not only themselves and their multimillion dollar airplane, but also 57 Soldiers on board.

It was a routine mission Oct. 26, 2004, to a forward-deployed location in northern Iraq for the reservists assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron -- until the aircraft commander heard what sounded like a thud.

"I suddenly had a fire-warning light staring me in the face," said the major.

The aircraft had been hit by ground fire and was in trouble. The No. 1 engine was a "fireball," said Master Sgt. James Grigsby, one of the loadmasters.

The crew from Gen. Mitchell International Airport Air Reserve Station quickly assessed the damage. They lost fuel, oil, electrical power and structural components in the blast. Fire had spread from the engine, enveloped the wing and extended beyond the wing itself.

Major Breen guided the plane away from populated areas and toward an emergency airfield located by the navigator, Lt. Col. John Loranger.

Meanwhile, co-pilot Capt. Jason Schroeder and flight engineer Staff Sgt. Daniel Hayes shut down the affected engine while completing emergency checklists and notifying the air traffic control tower of the situation.

In the back of the plane, Sergeant Grigsby and the other loadmaster, Tech. Sgt. Robert Sczesny, kept the rest of the crew informed about the damage, briefed the passengers and prepared the aircraft cabin for emergency landing.

However, landing safely was not the only problem; the aircraft was still on fire.

"The fire didn't go out for (most of) the flight," Sergeant Hayes said.

Once the crewmembers completed the initial emergency procedures, they continued battling the blaze, he said.

"Because the fire was still going, we continued to keep an eye out for places to set the aircraft down if needed," Colonel Loranger said. He said it seemed like an eternity before they reached the airfield.

"It only took us about 10 minutes from start to finish, but it seemed like 45." (Courtesy of Air Force Reserve Command News Service)

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