By Airman 1st Class Mercedes Muro
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force has depended on the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base to produce combat airlift with the C-130H3 model, since the mid-90’s.
The members of 50th AS have used the H3s to accomplish a variety of missions together, such as missions to Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Due to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, the 50th AS will no longer be executing combat airlift with the H3 models. The 50th AS is losing the C-130H3 models and integrating with the 913th Airlift Group to become a total force association.
“Plane 0554 is the last active-duty C-130H3 across the entire Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Michael Fellona, 50th AS commander. “It’s set to go to the Reno Air National Guard Base on Sept. 12.”
Even though the 50th AS will no longer have their H3s to fly, some pilots will still remember how the H3 models executed the mission with effectiveness.
“In the 90s, when they delivered the H3s, they were immediately put into use,” said Fellona. “They were deployed to Bosnia for support operations and performed high altitude airdrops. They had a part in Kosovo operations. Shortly after 9/11, they were among the first ones to be deployed in support of Afghanistan operations.”
For some pilots, they will remember the influence the H3 models had on their career.
“It’s the first plane you’re ever qualified in; it’s the first major weapons system that you’re qualified in, that you own and took to combat,” said Major Justin Kershaw, 50th AS director of operations. “Since then, we’ve changed it around a few times and maybe left it and come back to it. But you always remember your first major weapons system.”
As the 50th AS gets ready to become a total force association, the H3s will be dispersed to various Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units across the U.S.
“They will change the tail flash, fix them up, and fly with their own squadrons,” said Fellona. “The planes will continue to fly. They’ll just be under the care of both Guard and Reserve units.”
Although Little Rock’s C-130H3 mission objective has changed, the 50th AS will continue to execute the mission effectively.
“The biggest change for Little Rock AFB is that there are no more H3 models,” said Fellona. “We will still work for the 19th Airlift Wing because we’re active duty but our operational direction will come from the 913th.”
As the 50th AS says its goodbyes to the H3 model and integrates with the units at the 913th AG, they progress towards the future with hope.
“The 50th has a long and proud heritage of flying combat airlift,” said Fellona. “We are excited for the opportunity to work with the 913th AG moving forward.”