By Senior Airman Kaylee Clark
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The 61st Airlift Squadron was filled with Airmen cherishing their final moments with their children, parents, spouses and friends before deploying to Southwest Asia May 4 at Little Rock Air Force Base.
More than 70 Airmen from the 61st AS were apart of nearly 100 who headed downrange in support of combat airlift missions. Airmen from the 19th Operation Support Squadron, 50th Airlift Squadron and 19th Medical Group were also part of this deployment rotation.
With the help of a number of Team Little Rock units, the 61st AS was able to focus their pre-deployment training for the challenges of flying in Afghanistan. The 19th Logistic Readiness Squadron helped provide engine offload training and also training with loading and unloading fuel trucks onto the aircraft which are common tasks downrange.
“The home station training prepares us to help out our brothers and sisters that are on the ground,” said Lt. Col. Eric Westby, 61st AS commander.
The revolving door of deployments for the 61st AS will continue with another rotation slated to deploy later this year.
“One of the things I mentioned in the commander’s call is just having pride in this squadron,” said Westby. “This is one of the oldest airlift squadrons in the Air Force.”
Westby spoke of the history of the 61st AS explaining that the squadron dropped troops on the beach on D-day, it dropped a bridge to the Marines in the Korean War, it was involved in the Vietnam War and the squadron continues to make history making its first C-130J deployment.
With deployments constantly recurring, the squadron’s key spouse program is essential in reaching out to the loved ones that are left behind. The program has enough involvement that one key spouse is assigned to three spouses.
“This is a very family-oriented squadron,” said Westby. “And one of my emphasis points is to take care of the spouses.”
TLR leadership lined the way to the aircraft with handshakes, fist-bumps and high-fives. In true family-oriented fashion, Westby was at the end of the line waiting for all of his Airmen to pass through before boarding the rotator himself to join his Airmen for this deployment.