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New location, same C-130 airlift mission

by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan
314th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

1/30/2006 - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- Airmen and aircraft have relocated and the name of the squadron has changed. But, the mission of Airmen deployed here from the 463rd Airlift Group at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., has not.

These Airmen deliver cargo in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility and are now flying their missions out of Balad Air Base, Iraq.

“It just makes sense to move our mission here,” said Lt. Col. Steve Stater who organized the move of the unit. “Because of the shorter distance, we can make more flights and haul more cargo than anyone else in theater.”

The move was made official Jan. 26. The deployed unit’s name also changed from Detachment 1, 336th Expeditionary Operations Group to the 777th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. The squadron will be part of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing whose legacy is tied to the Tuskegee Airmen.

The new squadron moves everything from helicopter blades to medical supplies in their C-130 Hercules aircraft and they do it quickly.

On a typical 12-hour day here, a C-130 and its crew can fly one sortie with seven stops, delivering around 45 tons and many passengers. While the missions can get repetitive, crews said they enjoy seeing firsthand how they are helping save lives by reducing the numbers of road convoys in Iraq.

“I feel like were doing more here,” said Capt. Delvin Genenbacher, a C-130 pilot deployed from Little Rock. “We are doing what the C-130 was made for … intratheatre airlift.”

The maintainers keep those life-saving missions in the air and take pride in their job.

“A maintainer’s job can sometimes be a thankless job but they are the unsung heroes,” said Senior Master Sgt. Brent Williams, the squadron first sergeant. “They may be tired, dirty, cold or hot, but they get the job done.”

The maintainers know the Hercules inside and out. Some maintainers had to work on the planes with only one tool kit do to limitations during the move. The maintenance team has had difficulty finding parts and often they are flown in.

“It’s tough being the first ones at a unit, said Staff Sgt. Marcus Pullium, a C-130 maintainer deployed from the 463rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

The C-130s take a lot of abuse in the desert, Airman 1st Class Sean Staple said. The sand can create problems and the constant landing and unloading in the AOR pays a toll on the fleet, he said.

But whether they are flying or maintaining the C-130, nearly everyone in this new unit admires the slow “ugly” cargo aircraft.

“It’s the most versatile, adaptable airplane -- no plane can do what the Herc does,” Captain Genenbacher said. 

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