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Airmen put C-130 back in the fight

by Capt. Teresa Sullivan
379th Air Expeditionary Wing

5/30/2007 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- A C-130 Hercules team flying a mission over Afghanistan had problems with engine No. 2 and was forced to land at an abandoned air strip in May outside Shindand, Afghanistan, but they were not left alone for long.

In less than 50 hours, maintenance repair teams from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing from Southwest Asia changed the engine under harsh conditions as security forces Airmen stood watch keeping the aircraft and crew safe from harm while at the deserted strip.

The C-130 was en route to Shindand on a combat mission when they began having engine trouble. The crew decided the safe thing to do would be to land and try to troubleshoot the issue.

"The No. 2 engine bogged down so it was determined that we needed to have a maintenance repair team change it out. Everyone showed extraordinary determination and ingenuity to overcome every obstacle considering the circumstances," said Lt. Col. Kalen Jeffers, the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron assistant deputy commander from Rayne, La. "Our Airmen are capable of anything."

Shindand is in a remote area of the Herat Province in western Afghanistan, 70 miles from the Iranian border, and a long way from the support the Airmen are accustomed to. The Airmen had their work cut out for them at the abandoned air strip with no logistical or administrative support, billeting or other facilities.

"We knew this was going to be tough. Austere doesn't even begin to describe this place," the colonel said.

Despite the obstacles, the team came up with a plan to have a maintenance repair team from nearby Bagram AB deliver a new engine, power cart, engine stands and a light cart to help fix the aircraft. The maintainers from Bagram AB were able to troubleshoot the problem and relay the information back to the aircraft maintenance unit back at the wing.

What they found was a cracked tail pipe and a damaged fire wall around the engine diffuser, which was allowing compressed air taken from the engine to leak out. The Bagram AB maintenance team began preparations for repair until the 379th AEW maintenance team arrived on site.

"Once our maintainers arrived, they all worked together to replace the engine," Colonel Jeffers said. "They re-hung the prop, ran the engines, packed everything up, loaded the Bagram team's equipment onto their C-130 and our equipment onto the repaired C-130, and we all departed about an hour before sunset."

Not only did the maintenance repair teams from Bagram AB and the 379th AEW contribute to the effort, forward-deployed security forces members were on hand providing aircraft security.

"My job was to protect personnel and resources on the ground to generate a safe and secure environment," said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Elder, the 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron installation response force leader, from Moultrie, Ga. "It makes me proud when I get back from a mission like this one to be a part of security forces and this great Air Force.

The C-130 and its team has returned to flying airlift sorties daily.

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