Tuesday, January 10, 2017

TOP STORY >> Brown: Ready for many new base missions

Leader senior staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base, now known as the center of excellence for all things C-130, has not always been devoted to that workhorse air transport, nor will it always be in the future, according to Col. Charles E. Brown, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing and of Little Rock Air Force Base.

“We don’t want to sit back and just say we’re the home of the C-130. We’re very good at what we do, but we see potential for growth in another area that’s synergistic with what we do here,” Brown said.

A look at the static display at Little Rock Air Force Base shows some of the various missions with which the base has been tasked for over the past 61 years, including jets, Titan ICBM missiles, bombers of the Strategic Air Command and, of course, the C-130 Airlifter, Brown said.


Now, LRAFB is one of eight installations under consideration to house the Battlefield Airman program. Whoever gets the new tasking would train airmen to be combat controllers, rescue officers and joint terminal air controllers who call in air strikes from fighters and bombers on behalf of the Army, Marines and Navy.

Whoever gets that training mission will add 200 instructors and train about 1,200 airmen a year, said Brown, who will be reassigned this summer.


Brown said a move to end state income tax on retired military could be beneficial eventually to state revenues by encouraging more to retire here, to local communities that could use people with their skills and to military retirees already in the state.

It’s reportedly in its final form, and could be filed as early as this week.

Two current tasks assigned tenants of the base include helping Air Mobility Command carry U.S. military deploy 10,000 parachutes a month.

Brown said inspectors recently carried out the first cyber inspection in five years at the base.

“The story to be told is that Little Rock will not always be the home of the C-130,” Brown said. “Eventually it will do something else. The caveat is have we done everything we can for laying out the bedrock for what the next mission will be. The National Guard has brought in a cyber mission, we’re looking to do the mission growth on the active duty side for the battlefield airmen—if at some point the C-130 is no longer at Little Rock, it still contributes to national defense.”


Col. Gerald Donohue, 86th Operations Group commander at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, will replace Brown this summer as base commander and commander of the 19th Airlift Wing.

And speaking about the base’s future, Brown said he hadn’t heard any talk about another round of BRAC—base realignment and closure—nor about the future of sequestration, which cut money, and some say readiness, from the nation’s military. A new round of BRAC would strike fear into the hearts of military communities throughout the country, and frequently military druthers fall at the feet of political realities, with final decisions made by congressmen and senators who don’t want bases in their districts cut back or closed.

“We were the only unit in Air Mobility Command to get an ‘excellent’ in our cyber inspection,” Brown added.

ALL C-130Js

“We are finally a C-130J Wing,” he said. While there are legacy-model C-130H aircraft on the base, the 19th is now all C-130J, all of the time.

It has 28 C-130J tails—lingo for aircraft—that satisfies the need for support around the world in military missions, humanitarian missions and training.

The C-130J is the state-of- the-art mid-sized military air transport.

“The H model is no longer in our portfolio,” Brown said.

Looking forward to 2017, Little Rock Air Force Base can expect runway construction for at least another year. In addition to possibly expanding the mission to include the battlefield airman training, new dorms will be opening up, Brown said.

The $117 million runway construction was among the reasons that the base opted to host the Arkansas Military Expo last year, rather than the usual biennial air show.

It was an opportunity to inform Arkansans about all the military installations and components.


“We’ve built that connection with Camp Robinson, Camp Chaffee, the Pine Bluff Arsenal and Guard and Reserve partners in the state,” Brown said. “That’s probably what I’ll leave here happiest (about.)”

The base would like to book the Air Force’s precision flying team, the Thunderbirds, Brown said, for the 2018 air show.

“Our airmen feel the pride of Combat Airlift, and they do their job better day to day,” Brown said. “They connect to the mission. Fighting on behalf of our nation’s defense and other nations’ defense that don’t have the ability to do so themselves.”


Afghanistan’s first female air force pilot, who trained on the C-130H at Little Rock Air Force Base, graduated recently and is now seeking asylum in the U.S.

Capt. Niloofar Rahmani be-came the first woman to earn her wings in Afghanistan’s air force, but repressive forces make it dangerous for her to return to her homeland, she says.

The State Department is her host until the matter of asylum is settled, Brown said.

“She graduated here,” Brown said. “She is a fully qualified C-130-H pilot. The 314th and the 189th trained her,” Brown said. “I believe she is with the State Department.”


Brown said he was proud of the Little Rock airmen. “We care about the airmen and their families,” he said.

“Our airmen feel the pride of combat airlift and they do their job better day to day.

“All you have to do look at the static displays in the airpark to see the history of the base and diverse missions it’s hosted.

“The base has laid a great foundation for a new team to come in and really take Combat Airlift to the next level.”

Although voters approved the Medical Marijuana Act in Arkansas’ November General Election, it won’t affect airmen or other military installations in Arkansas.

“Nothing has been implemented federally, and we are a federal installation,” he said. State level law doesn’t even apply to us. It’s not even a talking point now.”