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Tail swap enables Afghan mission support and humanitarian effort

by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

10/10/2012 - Dyess Air Force Base, Texas (AFNS) -- A 317th Airlift Group C-130J and aircrew already assigned to deploy to Afghanistan on a tail-swap mission were given the perfect opportunity to conduct their mission and help the people of Afghanistan as well by participating in the Denton Program and transporting school supplies to students and teachers in Afghanistan Sept. 18.

What's a tail-swap?

"When an aircraft needs to come home for maintenance, we send another to take its place. It happens all the time," said Capt. Daniel Oldham, 317th Operations Support Squadron. "Through the Denton Program we were able to move humanitarian cargo to Afghanistan while doing our mission at the same time."

Under the Denton Program, the Secretary of Defense may transport to any country, without charge, supplies that have been furnished by a non-governmental source and are intended for humanitarian assistance. Such supplies may be transported only on a space available basis.

The aircrew stopped at Charleston AFB, S.C., to pick up school supplies from Denton Program offices before continuing to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan where the supplies were dispersed.

"There was no group that asked 'hey can you take these text books to Afghanistan?," said Oldham. "We saw what supplies were going where, realized we had a C-130 going to the same place, and figured this would be a great opportunity to participate in the Denton Program for the first time."

At Charleston AFB, the crew loaded pallets of humanitarian cargo destined for two elementary schools in Kabul, Afghanistan. A private organization in Wisconsin organized the collection of over 11,000 pounds of books and expects that some 3,000 children and teachers will benefit from the donations.

"For as long as I have been a pilot in the Air Force I have loved the missions that we do," said Maj. Patrick Sims, 39th Airlift Squadron. "But having the opportunity to take humanitarian cargo to the underprivileged, that's something that cannot be expressed with words."

Throughout his career, Sims has had the opportunity to transport humanitarian cargo two other times via the Denton Program and admitted that knowing he has helped someone never grows old.

"To be able to participate in missions like this gives me great pride, not only as a pilot, but as an Airman," Sims said. "We are taking on these missions to deliver donations to the people of Afghanistan, we are affecting lives there. Being able to directly affect someone's well-being is always a pleasure to do."

Although this is the first time Dyess has participated in the the Denton Program, Airmen from the 317th AG are no stranger to humanitarian efforts and have donated supplies throughout the years.

"This is not something we have to do, we want to do this," Sims said. "I have been stationed at Dyess for four years and in that time I have known a lot of deployments where individuals within the squadron will get together and collect clothing or any other supplies to donate. The people who receive the donations may never see who gave it to them, but they know someone out there cares."

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