Alaska National Guardsmen mingle and check out the first of four C-130 Hercules aircraft they will receive from the Tennessee Air National Guard on March 24 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The 144th Airlift Squadron is scheduled to receive four C-130's by September bringing their fleet number up to 12.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Karima Turner
As more than 20 Alaska National Guardsmen looked on, the first of four new iron birds coming to Alaska touched down on the blacktop at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on March 24.
The Alaska Air National Guard's 144th Airlift Squadron will receive four C-130 Hercules' aircraft from the Tennessee National Guard by September as part of the 2005 Defense Base Realignment and Closure.
The squadron, which is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan later this year, will use the new aircraft to ramp up training but also to partner with a new U.S. Air Force unit, military officials said.
The 144th will go from eight aircraft to 12 and add an associate active-duty Air Force unit, according to squadron commander Lt. Col. Rich Adams. The Air Force will bring in about 12 crews of personnel, plus some command staff as part of the "total-force initiative," Adams said.
While the Alaska Air National Guard will own the aircraft, part of the initiative is to allow the Air Force access the aircraft as well, he said.
"What they use them for, whether it's the long-range radar sites here in Alaska or to fly in the desert in a deployed status or in the Pacific Command area of responsibility will be up to the active-duty."
Adams said the 144th Airlift Squadron will also be able to fly about 50 percent more missions, offering up more hours flown. That means more flexible flying hours that will help the traditional Guardsman mail carriers, teachers, airline pilots who make up about 80 percent of the Alaska Air Guard.
The addition of the C-130s also means that the 144th might be able to deploy with the new active-duty associate unit, the 537th Airlift Squadron, set to assume command on April 29, be at initial operational capability this fall and full operational capability within two years.
"The possibility of deploying together is still something we're working out," Adams said. "We are deploying to Afghanistan this summer, so not this deployment, but potentially future deployments we'll all deploy together."
This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, April 6, 2011.