Saturday, November 03, 2007

TOP STORY >>Air base assigned expanded training

IN SHORT: Gen. Schatz is pleased LRAFB has been given more duties to prepare flight crews on both the C-130J and C-130H models, adding at least six more planes and 200 more personnel in the next three years here.

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base will add more feathers to its training hat as the 314th Airlift Wing will begin training crews on the C-130H model and will also expand its J-model training to include training international partners, Air Force officials announced Wednesday.

These expansions, expected to begin in 2010, will increase the numbers at the C-130 Airlift Center of Excellence by an expected nine aircraft and about 200 additional airmen over the next three years.

Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz, 314th AW commander, said the partnership made sense for the future of the Air Force.

“Our combat airlifters are known throughout the world for their excellence,” Schatz said. “Expanding our operations is the next logical step in allowing us to share our expertise with airlift communities in the U.S. and across the globe.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley announced three other proposed initiatives concerning C-130 Hercules tactical airlift that affect Guard and Reserve units in Tennessee, New York and Georgia. Each initiative furthers the service’s vision for “a seamless total force” among the Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve components.

The 314th AW’s Air Education and Training Command (AETC) currently trains with the E and J models and will be the unit tasked with the H model training.

According to Lt. Col. Alexander Blanton, 314th AW chief of plans, Little Rock already trains a significant portion of the H model students.

“From a training perspective, the C-130H is similar to the C-130E, so H model training will occur on the 62nd Airlift Squadron’s E models at Little Rock,” Blanton said.

The base’s 463rd Airlift Group, part of Air Mobility Command, uses the base’s only H models, a total of 14, as some of its primary aircraft. H models have been in service since the 1970s.

The 62nd AS will add three C-130 Es to train all C-130 E and H model students within the Air Force.

“The idea when H model training was started at Dobbins (Air Reserve Base, Ga.) several years ago was a smoother transition for students that would end up in an H model squadron,” Blanton said.

“Students that train in an E model and then transition to an H model have to go through a short upgrade program at their unit. But it has been determined that it is more cost-effective to conduct all H model training on E models at Little Rock and then perform an in-unit H model upgrade,” he said.

The Air Force Reserve’s 94th AW at Dobbins ARB was the C-130H training unit. It will now convert from a formal training unit to a combat unit, transitioning its C-130 crews into the air expeditionary force rotation, meaning they will now provide airlift support overseas during deployments.

Blanton compared the conversion from E to H model as learning to drive a car with an automatic transition and then transitioning to a newer car with a manual transmission.

“You already knew how to drive, but some additional training is required,” he said.

The E models, often called the battle-tested workhorses of combat airlift, have been around since the 60s. Little Rock has been the C-130E training center for international partners (air forces from other nations) for years, but with the J model training expansion, it will also become home to foreign student training on the new J models.

The 48th Airlift Squadron, the J model school, will grow by three aircraft to allow for this training.

Adding six C-130s at Little Rock means a required manpower increase of about 150 people, but it’s still not clear where those people will come from.

“It’s hard to tell at the moment if these will be new personnel to the base or a reshuffling of personnel currently at Little Rock,” Blanton said.

It was also announced that, as directed by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), the Tennessee Air National Guard’s 118th Airlift Wing will acquire WC-130Hs – Herks used for weather reconnaissance missions – for their new training mission. Their current C-130Hs will be sent elsewhere.

Moseley also announced that the New York Air National Guard’s 107th Air Refueling Wing will partner with the Air Force Reserve Command’s 914th Airlift Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, as directed by BRAC.

The 914th AW will continue to have primary responsibility for the unit’s C-130H airlifters, but will partner with the 107th ARW airmen in using the aircraft.

“Because today’s strategic landscape is dynamic and threatening, we have to ensure that, as a total Air Force, we continuously search for and find innovative ways to leverage the limited resources we have available to increase our combat and homeland defense capabilities,” Moseley said.

“These initiatives will strengthen an already powerful partnership, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of our collective efforts.”