By Senior Airman Kaylee Clark
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The 41st Airlift Squadron loaded four C-130Js with approximately 100 Team Little Rock Airmen, including pilots, loadmasters, maintainers, aircrew flight equipment and intelligence personnel for a week of deployment training at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
Not only does the 49th state offer beautiful landscapes but the mountainous terrain and challenging weather also creates a unique opportunity for Combat Airlift training missions much different than local training at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.
“In an effort to get a lot of our young crews trained and prepared for operations in Afghanistan we’ve come out to Alaska, where we can get into the mountains, face adverse weather conditions and operate with our Army partners as well,” said Lt. Col. Sarah Santoro, 41st Airlift Squadron commander.
Team Little Rock flying squadrons routinely support contingency operations in austere locations worldwide. Off-station training, such as the training the Black Cats conducted in Alaska, prepares members to execute and sustain rapid global mobility.
“It’s been busy,” said Capt. Jon Cordell, 41st AS mission planning chief and C-130J instructor pilot. “Getting the crews out here and challenged by everything from weather to traffic, that we’re not used to seeing, has been a great learning experience.”
Combatting the weather conditions and other variables, the mission planning cell worked behind the scenes to coordinate complex training strategies.
“Crews had to deal with real-time contingency situations,” said Santoro. “It was great to see the problem-solving that the crews could do on the fly and then take that feedback into the mission planning cell to make it better for the next day.”
The week encompassed training for all service members involved. The 41st AS C-130J loadmasters worked alongside Army units to load various assets such as Humvees, ambulatory vehicles and other support equipment to be transported for ground troops conducting Exercise Arctic Anvil 2016.
The aircrews performed low-level tactical flying, transported equipment and conducted personnel drops, landed on dirt and gravel airstrips while also navigating through the unique terrain.
“This opportunity allowed us to train like we are going to fight and ensure that crews get exposed to this type of operation before they are doing it for the first time in a combat zone,” said Santoro. “(This exercise enables) rapid global mobility and being able to support the spectrum of conflict from peace to wartime operations. (It) has helped sharpen our combat edge of delivering Combat Airlift and has made us better as a team.”