By Staff Sgt. Alice Moore
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFNEWS) — Whether it’s operating from rough dirt strips or dropping off troops and equipment into hostile areas, C-130 Hercules keep convoys off the road in Iraq through airpower.
Members of the 777th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., fly C-130 hub-and-spoke missions daily to ensure cargo and passengers are delivered in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Each pallet contains something different. We’ve delivered anything from MREs (meals ready to eat) and water to tires and ammo,” said Capt. Matt Reece, aircraft commander.
The missions are based on needs of various locations throughout the area of responsibility and provide supplies to all branches of the military.
“We ensure bases have what they need. The most important impact of our mission is that people stay off the roads here,” Captain Reece said. He also said the tactical airlift saves time and additional effort. For instance, in one week, C-130 operations can reduce convoy requirements by airlifting the equivalent of cargo carried by more than 22 buses and 42 trucks.
“If we can take two or three trucks off the road each time, then it’s worth it. There’s definitely less risk with flying,” said Senior Airman Michael Buzbee, loadmaster.
One particular mission included transporting members of the 524th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit to Kirkuk Regional Air Base, so maintainers could provide support for fighter operations there.
“This is our only mode of transportation. This helps keep the aircraft operational. The sheer number of hub-and-spoke missions enable us to get there on time,” said 1st Lt. Kate Stowe, assistant AMU officer in charge deployed from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
The challenge with the hub-and-spoke missions has to do with the amount of time the crew has from start to finish, said Capt. Kenny Bierman, navigator.
“The time we take off to the time we land is usually around 12 hours,” Captain Bierman said. “That’s how much time we have to get everything done. We have to be flexible with all the different possibilities of delays.”
The delays can be caused by anything from maintenance issues to weather. “There’s no room for errors,” Captain Reece said. “For example, if weather delays our operations in one location, we have to find a way to cut time somewhere else to keep us within the amount of time we’re given for the mission.”
At the end of the day, crew members know that what they do plays a direct role in helping to transition Iraq to democracy, and there comes a deep sense of job satisfaction.
“It’s a good feeling to know every day that you’re actually accomplishing something,” Captain Reece said. “What we’re doing here is critical.”