Wednesday, November 13, 2013

TOP STORY >> Base trains Israelis to fly new C-130Js

By 19th Airlift Wing
Public Affairs

The 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base is famous for its C-130 training program, which instructs airmen from the United States and 46 allied nations around the globe.

In true international partnership, three Israeli Air Force students graduated from the J-model course on Oct. 29 and returned home to train Israelis for their first C-130J flying squadron. Israel is buying three C-130Js from the U.S.

“The relationships we’ve made here will help our country greatly,” said Lt. Col. Uri Shaki, commander of the Israeli Air Force’s 103rd Airlift Squadron. “We’re grateful for the training and friendships we’ve made here. We know this will be a long-lasting relationship.”

Israel’s decision to upgrade its C-130s from the older E and H “legacy” models to the newer J models is what brought the 314th AW’s newest training partners here, said Shaki.

Israel will use the C-130J — which it calls “Samson” — the same way as the United States.

A two-man crew from Afghanistan also trained here last summer for the nation’s only C-130 cargo plane.

“Our mission back home will be similar to the ones here,” said Capt. Itamar Lavi, pilot for the Israeli Air Force’s 103rd flying squadron. “Our main mission will be airdrop support and delivering supplies.”

The three-person crew spent more than four months at The Rock for their training, which included three phases: basic qualification, tactical employment and flightline training. This tiered approach enabled the crew to learn the basic flight characteristics of the C-130J while training in world-class simulators.

The final phase culminated in hands-on flight training at the 48th Airlift Squadron, where the students practiced each procedure and maneuver.

The training was terrific, the visiting crew said, noting that the simulators could be vexing at times.

Lavi said the simulator is a good thing because it builds confidence and helps you correct mistakes before flying an actual C-130.

Both the Israeli crew and the local instructors agreed the training was beneficial to members of both nations.

“I’ve flown with Israelis previously,” said Maj. Jeremy Wagner, 314th Airlift Wing pilot instructor. “There was never a question of whether these guys could fly. It’s been great to help equip these guys with a program to train others.”

“The opportunity to share what we know and give them the tools to teach has been amazing,” Wagner added.

Lavi said his crew appreciated the benefits of training at the base, which is known as the Center of Excellence for C-130s.

“Everything we learned here from American instructors has been great,” the captain said.

“Training here, we feel that we are amongst friends,” said Shaki. “We learned a lot professionally of course, but we also learned a lot from the people here and about the Air Force. There was always something to learn; high- and low-level things. We built a strong relationship. We feel the people here want us to succeed.”

“By inviting aircrew members from countries like Israel to train with us, not only do we develop rapport with peers from other nations, but we are building a partnership capacity that allows us to develop, guide and sustain relationships for mutual benefit and security,” said Maj. Eric McEwen, 714th Training Squadron international military student training officer.

McEwen said the mission of building international partnerships involves a lot of teamwork, highlighted by the many airmen it takes to keep the C-130 mission flying.

“We couldn’t do it without our civilian employees here in the 714th Training Squadron, our contracted partners who work for Lockheed Martin at JMATS (C-130J Maintenance and Aircrew Training System), as well our flight instructors in the 48th Airlift Squadron and our maintenance troops from the 314th AMXS (Aircraft Maintenance Squadron) that keep the planes in the air,” he said.

The crew stated that it is an honor to be the first fully trained and qualified C-130J crew in Israel. Each of them are proud of the opportunity they’ve been given.

“This is a big challenge,” said Maj. Royi Day, commander of navigators for the 103rd Flying Squadron. “Changes like these can take dozens of years. It’s a special feeling to be the first ones to learn this skill and teach our countrymen. This has a once-in-a-lifetime feel to it.”

The Israelis enjoyed their time at the base and in the local community, which they had a chance to explore, even seeing a Razorbacks game several weeks ago.

“I love it here,” said Lavi. “It’s so relaxed and the nature is beautiful. We honestly didn’t know what to expect. We had traveled to the United States before, but only in better-known places on the East and West Coast. We were surprised in a good way here.”

“Our stay has been great here,” said Shaki. “It’s a great place for families for those of us, like me, who’ve had their wife and kids here. The people are warm and friendly. We have to thank the base for their hospitality and warmth.”

After their evaluation flight, the fully qualified C-130J pilots and navigator have returned to Israel and begun the task of building their own training program for future Israeli C-130J crew members.

The relationship between the IAF and the USAF is poised to continue, with Israeli loadmasters beginning C-130J training here soon and their country scheduled to receive its first J models next April. It’s a relationship that both the Israeli crew and the instructors at the 314th hope to continue.

“We’ve enjoyed it so much, having them here,” said Wagner. “The training is mutually beneficial.”

“We look forward to working with the people here in the future, as we continue to develop our C-130J squadron,” said Shaki. “The people here have helped us so much, not just professionally but personally. We have learned so much and can’t wait to come back.”