Friday, February 04, 2011

TOP STORY > >Big Reserve unit coming to base

19th Airlifit Wing Public Affairs

Air Force Reserve Command is assigning a new unit to Little Rock Air Force Base to augment the older C-130 training mission with an additional 700 reservists and support staff in the next few years.

The new Reserve unit commander, Col. Archie Frye, huddled recently with Col. Mark Czelusta, 314th Airlift Wing commander, and Col. Jim Summers, 189th Airlift Wing commander — the two commanders he will work most closely with — to discuss plans for the new unit and its impact on their missions and the base.

The training unit for the aging C-130s will grow to its projected full strength of 706 Air Reserve technicians, traditional reservists and civilians. The 19th and 314th Airlift Wings will then have almost all-new C-130Js.

The unit, most likely to be designated a group, is expected to grow to approximately 75 people this year, including roughly 40 full-time jobs.

This year, the unit and its personnel director will target hiring for its supervisory and leadership package in all of its functions. Next year, it plans to add an additional206 people, and then approximately 200 people a year until it reaches full strength.

As active-duty C-130E models are retired, borrowed Guard and Reserve C-130Hs are arriving at the base from around the Air Force. The C-130H fleet will be upgraded as active-duty units transition to an all J-model fleet.

The Reserves provide the legacy C-130-training community with flexible capability while shoring up active-duty aircrews to deploy and fight the nation’s wars.

This change may have gone unnoticed because the unit currently employs only two people — the unit commander and the director of personnel — but the unit expects to grow to 706 reservists over the next few years.

The new reservists will work primarily with the 314th Airlift Wing over the next two to three years as the 314th maintains the lead for legacy C-130 training and the reserve unit grows. The reserve unit, expected to be a group, plans to grow 18 full-time crews and 18 part-time crews, all of them instructor-qualified.

Their manning numbers, which will be reconsidered yearly, are driven by the needs of the 189th Airlift Wing, which will lead the legacy training on base. The Reserves are flexible, designed to serve as the mission’s “shock absorber,” Frye said.

The new Reserve unit will ultimately be associated with Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing. In fiscal year 2013, when the Reserve unit is at or near full strength, the 314th will “hand the baton” to the 189th as the lead wing for C-130 legacy training, alongside the Reserve unit.

The 189th will primarily train students in the C-130H-AMP variants — C-130s upgraded by Boeing’s avionic modernization program, which includes the installation of a modern digital glass cockpit akin to that found in a commercial Boeing 737-800 — while the Reserves will primarily handle training in the legacy models that haven’t been modified.

The 314th AW has seven C-130Hs, and the 10 Reserve and eight Guard planes are arriving the wing’s E model sare retired, Czelusta said. By October, there will be 18 older C-130Hs with the 314th but still owned by their respective home Reserve or Guard units. These 18 planes will continue to transfer between Little Rock and their home bases according to maintenance schedules and operational needs.

Mixed Guard and Reserve instructor crews will be a common sight, Summers said. By 2020, all 221 legacy combat-coded C-130s will be modified.

Beginning last October, the 314th Airlift Wing began retiring its aging C-130E fleet. In its place, the reserve-component training unit will stand up to train legacy C-130 aircrews, provide flightline maintenance and internal support functions.

As part of the total-force integration plan, Air Force Reserve Command will bring in 10 C-130Hs and the Air National Guard will add an additional eight C-130Hs to meet programmed flight-training requirements.

The 314th Airlift Wing has 14 E models remaining in its inventory and plans to retire approximately one and a half per month until they’re gone. The planes are flown to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, the aircraft retirement “bone yard,” in Arizona, where they are resold, stored or scrapped.

The 314th AW’s remaining C-130Es are assigned to the 62nd Airlift Squadron, whose heritage dates back to World War II. There are no plans to deactivate the 62nd, Czelusta said. Air Force leaders have not yet determined what the squadron’s role will be after its E models are retired.

The active duty will no longer have the manning to staff the schoolhouse, so standing up the Reserve unit and transferring the legacy training to the Guard and Reserve was a “common- sense solution” as they “gracefully degrade the active-duty presence in the legacy schoolhouse” said Czelusta.

The active-duty airmen aren’t out of the legacy business yet; in fact, the 314th is still hiring legacy crews for the next several months.

The active-duty force will go to “almost a pure J-model operation,” said Czelusta.

The Guard and Reserve would then be the only components flying the legacy aircraft, and since their manpower pool is more stable than the active duty, fewer crews will need to be trained and fewer instructor crews will be needed to train them.

Therefore, the long-term solution is to give the eight Guard planes back to their units and the 189th and Reserve unit will operate the 19 remaining legacy aircraft here.

The 314th AW will still have a hand in training the legacy aircrews that are getting their initial qualification, as they will start at the wing’s 714th Training Squadron for classroom instruction and simulator training.

All three commanders agreed that the impact of these changes to the students for whom all three units exist will be negligible.

“The bottom line is that if we do this right, it’s totally transparent to the student,” said Summers. It won’t make a difference to the student whether the student is flying with an active-duty, Guard or Reserve instructor, because all three components train to the same high standards.

“We are going to have a seamless presentation of C-130 Combat capability to the war-fighting units in the shape of combat-ready crews,” said Czelusta.