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AF's first active associate unit deploying to Balad

by Staff Sgt. LuCelia Ball
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

10/10/2007 - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- The Air Force's first active associate unit is preparing to deploy here this month to support the war on terrorism.

Activated in July 2006, the 30th Airlift Squadron is the first active duty Air Mobility Command squadron to operationally report to an Air National Guard unit, the 153rd Airlift Wing in Wyoming.

The unit will deploy with two C-130 Hercules aircraft, three aircrews and maintainers to support the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing's intra- and intertheater airlift mission.

"We are fully air-land and airdrop capable," said Lt. Col. Steven Hopkins, 30th AS commander, currently deployed as the 777th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander here. "We will do exactly what the active duty does here. We will be the hub and spoke of air-land delivery and anything else that's required."

The unit faced several challenges during its preparation for the deployment, namely that upon activation, its active-duty aircrews were not qualified to fly the Guard's C-130 H3 airframe, having flown other design series of the C-130 in their careers.

"I've been flying as much as possible," said Capt. Christopher Schultz, 30th AS navigator. "I've been deployed four times before, but never to Balad and I know the location is closer to everything, so I'm excited. I just want to be as proficient as possible before I head out."

A second challenge was to establish a new mobility process for the unit.

"Because this unit had never existed before, we were a thousand miles away from our administrative control, and we didn't have a process in place for actually deploying members out of our unit," Colonel Hopkins said. "The entire process had to be developed, and it was extensive."

Though this is the first time the 30th AS has been tasked to deploy, the unit has combat experience.

"We've already been deploying," he said. "When I took command in July, AMC told me the first time I would deploy would be October 2007, which is this current deployment. But this past March, I had eight aircrews ready to deploy. That's seven months ahead of schedule. In April, we were out the door and fighting in Operation Enduring Freedom, supporting the Guard."

When the Air Mobility Command unit activated, the active-duty members were moved to the Air National Guard base at Cheyenne, which provided aircraft, equipment and infrastructure to share with the active-duty personnel.

"I supply the manpower," the colonel said. "We share everything -- the guard sponsors everything. We provide the flying hours and the operations and management money to support what we need. But the infrastructure and equipment is supplied by the Guard."

The reason for the activation was to embody the idea of the total force concept.

"Future total force was developed as early as 2005," he said. "That's when we were developing a way, with all the C-130 issues, to access more of the Air National Guard and Reserve's C-130s. They had flyable, reliable airplanes, and the active-duty planes were getting old and needed to be replaced. This concept was conceived because of the need to have the additional capability."

One of the organization's senior enlisted members said the advantages of the total force package have already been realized.

"It's been a great learning experience on the maintenance side because the cultures are so different," said Master Sgt. Rick Johnson, 30th AS maintenance production superintendent. "The Guard maintainers have so much knowledge and experience to share. Most of these guys have been with their aircraft since it rolled off the assembly line, and they have so much pride and ownership in their work. Our active-duty Airmen have embraced this concept."

The general feeling for the deployment is one of excitement, said the commander, and will ensure mission success in the combat zone.

"I've got guys here who are from everywhere in the world. All of the C-130 bases contributed to the manpower in my unit. Almost every single one of these guys has deployed to either OEF or OIF in their past. A lot of them have already been out here and performed this mission. And I would give my unit an 'A plus' so far."

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