By Senior Airman Stephanie Serrano
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
As a C-130 departed Little Rock Air Force Base June 9 destined for Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, members from the 61st Airlift Squadron, 41st AS and 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron began the third iron swap mission this year.
“An iron swap is taking a plane from down range that is experiencing maintenance issues and swapping it out with a plane that is maintenance-ready and air-worthy,” said Capt. Derek Moser, 61st Airlift Squadron pilot.
Every aircraft is unique and its use down range determines whether it needs to be swapped out or not.
The iron-swap mission gives home-base Airmen a unique opportunity to contribute to the base’s global missions.
“I was ecstatic to find out I was able to participate in this mission,” said Airman 1st Class Jacob Miltner, 61st Airlift Squadron loadmaster. “Being able to help the troops accomplish the mission down range is pretty cool.”
Iron swap missions can take up to 10 days or more to complete. However, the planning for these missions can take months. A lot of team effort goes into coordinating missions, Moser said.
In addition to normal preparations and maintenance checks for the aircraft, members must also ensure the departing aircraft is working properly and outfitted with all the defense components needed downrange such as flares.
Aircrew members must check all of their international clearances, diplomatic clearances and route of flight.
“It’s great to see all those pieces come together to execute the mission,” said Moser. “It’s important to swap out planes which are having maintenance issues in order to provide a high level of airlift support for the Central Command commander, and have the planes and the capability to air land or airdrop supplies and personnel in remote locations within the area of responsibility.”