By Senior Airman Harry Brexel
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Capt. Peter Gac, a 48th Airlift Squadron C-130J pilot instructor/evaluator, has deployed multiple times throughout his Air Force career. His most recent assignment to Iraq, however, was unlike any other previous experience.
“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect,” Gac said. “But I knew it would be a unique training opportunity.”
Gac is assigned to the 314th Airlift Wing here at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, and helps support the mission of the C-130 formal training unit – the largest C-130 FTU in the Department of Defense. This C-130 Center of Excellence routinely trains students from 47 partner nations as well as sister services of the U.S. military.
The combat airlift training by Air Force C-130 experts doesn’t always end for partner nations in the Formal Training Unit at Little Rock AFB. Last March, Gac applied his training and skills Baghdad, helping to aid in the instruction of Iraqi Air Force members.
Gac made the best use of his time. With only 30 days at Al Muthana Air Base, near the Baghdad International Airport, his contributions aided in the standing up of Iraq’s first airdrop capability.
The Iraqi Air Force has nine C-130 cargo planes in its fleet. However, none of the aircrews had been trained to perform combat airdrop functions. That changed at the end of 2014 when U.S. forces began an airdrop training program.
“Prior to the training initiative, supplies and passengers were delivered by traveling from one air base to another or by using remote dirt runways,” Gac said. “Our goal was to continue training pilots, loadmasters, riggers and joint airdrop inspectors to create a new self-sustaining aerial ability.”
Gac became part of a small mobile training team made up of U.S. Airmen and soldiers. The team worked together to teach, reinforce and certify functions that are necessary in performing C-130 airdrops.
“It was great working with Iraqi Airmen,” said Gac. “I had experience working with them before and even recognized guys who I had trained at Little Rock AFB.”
Iraqi Airmen received the same training at Little Rock’s C-130 Center of Excellence as U.S. Airmen. However, they did not intend to perform airdrops until mid-2014. As a result, there was no training programs or infrastructure in place to support the capability.
While assigned to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, Gac trained Airmen from the Iraqi Air Force 23rd Squadron.
“Our team helped in providing tools that enabled them to properly load and drop cargo. The pilots were already very experienced, so through hands-on training and instruction they were able to execute multiple air drops.”
Gac was able to witness the Iraqi Airmen reach one of the maximum capabilities that C-130 cargo planes are equipped to perform.
“They were very eager to learn, so it was exciting to see them perform these elaborate airdrops,” said Gac.
With help from the U.S. mobile training teams, the Iraqi combat airlifters reached a pinnacle in their aviation history. Iraqi Airmen have now dropped training pallets, food, water, medicine and a variety of other supplies from their C-130s.
“Though my job there is done, the aircrews there will continue to train, adhere to standards and appreciate the complexity of their new aerial ability,” said Gac. “After several months of training, Iraq is now among the advanced nations in the world that have combat airdrop capabilities.”