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Congressional delegation observes enemy fire from C-130

9/5/2007 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Four congressional delegates observed live, enemy fire from a C-130 Hercules Aug. 30 that had just departed Baghdad International Airport enroute to Jordan.

"They witnessed firsthand our Air Force's Airmen in combat," said Lt. Gen. Gary L. North, the U.S. Central Command Air Forces commander.

On average, 108 C-130 missions are flown each day over Iraq and Afghanistan. On any given day in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, C-130s move approximately 163 short tons of supplies and equipment and more than 1,800 people throughout the combat zone.

The C-130 on which the congressional delegates were flying has been in service for 44 years and has flown approximately 6 million miles -- the equivalent of 14 round-trips from the earth to the moon and back. 

"Our aircraft maintenance professionals are truly some of America's unsung heroes," said Chief Master Sgt. Richard Small, the CENTAF command chief. In contrast to the 44-year-old aircraft, the oldest crewmember -- praised by the congressional delegates for their calm and professional actions under fire -- was 38 years old.

"I am convinced we must continue to make America and her leadership aware of the health of America's airpower fleet," General North said. "Like the congressional delegation who personally witnessed our aircrews and their aging equipment in action, our nation realizes Airmen are engaged every single day in Iraq and Afghanistan, from Kyrgyzstan to the Horn of Africa." 

The daily CENTAF schedule of C-130s, C-17 Globemaster IIIs and tendered commercial aircraft in theater move more than 3,400 people and approximately 814 pallets -- 1,200 short tons or approximately 2.4 million pounds of equipment -- throughout the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

"Airmen synchronize and integrate with the entire coalition efforts -- defending our homeland, providing strategic deterrence and giving our nation unparalleled global vigilance, reach and power," the general said. "This is the reason the recapitalization of our Air Force's fleet is so important and that 44-year-old C-130 our congressional delegation saw combat in is part of Gen. (T. Michael) Moseley's (the Air Force chief of staff) and our Air Force's aging fleet and recapitalization strategy."

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