By Airman 1st Class Regina Agoha
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base has a strong history with the government of Poland and their air force. Almost every year since 2008, Polish students come here to study both flying and maintenance of the C-130H at the “Center of Excellence”.
“The 314th mission pertaining to the Polish students is to train them as combat aviators/maintainers in the C-130H,” said Maj. Jason Oatley, International Military Student officer, C-130H instructor pilot. “Currently we have nine students, three pilots, four loadmasters, and two maintainers.”
“In general, the U.S. has an Office of Defense Cooperation located in each of our ally’s country,” said Oatley. “Depending on the needs of the country, the U.S. offers weapon systems and training to meet the needs of said country. In this case, Poland wanted an aircraft that allowed tactical airlift of troops and supplies as well as the ability to support humanitarian objectives. Countries set up visits with Little Rock Air Force Base if they are interested in purchasing the C-130 and training their aircrew and maintainers. We host visits regularly which allow countries to see the training available as well as the chance to talk with subject matter experts who can suggest specific syllabi that would best meet the needs of the country.”
Oatley said Poland started training aircrews at Little Rock AFB in 2008 in preparation for the delivery of their first C-130E in 2009.
“We have trained 111 students total, which allows Poland to autonomously maintain and operate their fleet of C-130s,” said Oatley.
Before the students make it to Little Rock AFB to train, they have to go through an English Comprehension Level course and are tested to make sure the language barrier is not a problem. Even if they do well in the course, they are sent to Lackland AFB, Texas for a nine week specialized English course. Depending on how well they did on the ECL, the course at Lackland can be expanded or shortened.
“That’s an agreement between the U.S. and Poland,” said Oatley. “In order for the student to be trained here, they have to obtain a certain level of English.”
Once the students are here, there are a range of courses they can take. The courses have to match what their country needs. Some of the courses that Polish students attend while here are: C-130E BASIC Navigator, C-130E/H Pilot, C-130E/H Flight Engineer and C-130E BASIC Loadmaster. Depending on the training program, Oatley said a student can be here anywhere from two weeks to six months.
2nd Lt. Lukasz Tylski, a Polish student pilot, is a part of the Pilot Initial Qualification course.
“He will be trained on visual formation, which is learning how to be a wingman and staying in position while flying with other aircraft, landing, airdrop and unaided night formation training,” said Oatley.
Tylski said his course is six months long. “I arrived here May 25. My graduation is Nov. 6, but it can change.
Factors that could change the date are weather and the holiday schedule.
So far Tylski said he has been having a good time during his training here.
“The first phase was academics,” said Tylski, “and I had a good time. There was a little language barrier because it’s easy to read something, but it’s difficult to learn to fly in a different language. The second phase was good, and I liked it. Now that I’m finished with the second phase I’m waiting for flying.”
When Tylski goes back to his country, he said he will be a copilot.
“Since this is my first time flying on the C-130 in the PIQ, I will be a copilot for some time,” he said. “I’ll have to get more experience, and then I can go to the left seat as an aircraft commander, which takes three to four years. After aircraft commander, you can become an instructor but it depends on what your base needs.”
To become an aircraft commander, the Polish students would come back here for that training as well, said Oatley.
The schedule for a student pilot fluctuates quite a bit, Oatley said. For Tylski’s simulator courses, he could have a simulator that starts at midnight and ends in the early morning. His daytime flight line schedule will beMonday through Friday from the morning to the midafternoon. If he does nights, he could start at in the afternoon and end sometime in the morning. Their schedule changes as they go through, but they’re given recuperation days.
The Polish students are given the same training as the American students and are held to same standards, said Oatley, but English is not their first language. Something that would take an American student one hour would take the Polish students two hours because they have to translate everything, so they don’t have a lot of time to do other things.
Though Tylski stays busy most of the time with his training, he said he does find leisure time now to relax and do things he enjoys like fishing and going to Graceland in Memphis.
Not only have the Polish students gained training from the 314th, but Oatley said each country they’ve interacted with in some way has taught them something in return.
“It would be foolish to say we haven’t learned anything from our international partners, including Poland,” said Oatley. “Each country brings a rich history with them to training and the 314th AW embraces each country for its uniqueness. Since the Polish are new to the C-130, it’s our job to expose them to all facets of operating it. The Polish brought a strong work ethic and willingness to learn. This work ethic has left a definite imprint on our instructors.”
This training is important, said Oatley, to build and strengthen partnerships both personally and professionally.
“By training the Polish Air Force we enable them to be a strong coalition partner as well as a key nation in responding to humanitarian crises worldwide,” he said. “Additionally, by training our partner nations we strengthen our ties by building both personal and professional relationships during the training process.”