By Senior Airman Harry Brexel
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The largest C-130 base in the world recently marked the end of a transition that first began 13 years ago. The 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base received its final, new C-130J aircraft from a Lockheed Martin facility, Feb. 27, 2017. The 19th Air Force commander delivered the C-130J; and spoke about the future of the 314th AW and its international C-130 Center of Excellence training school. The 19th Air Force executes operational-level command and control of all formal aircrew flying training missions within the Air Education and Training Command.
1. You mention that Airpower starts in the First Command. What does that phrase mean and how does the 314th Airlift Wing play a part in it?
The First Command is what we call AETC because our command is the first that many encounter when entering the Air Force, the first command to touch the lives of our newest Airmen. From the moment they work with recruiters, head to basic and then to tech school, our Airmen are interacting and part of the First Command, literally, their first command within the Air Force.
But beyond the literal definition, we are their gateway to the Air Force. We mold them and develop them into the Airmen they will become and we instill in them the values as well as provide them the tools and skills for success.
Here at the 314th AW, you train and prepare Airmen for their first duty. You instill in them the values of the Air Force, the skills to be a pilot and the heart and drive of a Combat Airlifter. When they leave this unit and head into the operational force, they are well-trained, well-prepared and ready to complete their mission and provide combat airlift anywhere we ask them to go.
2. With this C-130J, the 314th AW now has its full complement of C-130Js. How will this help the 314th AW train to better prepare U.S. and coalition forces?
Now that we have 30 C-130Js in AETC, with 14 of them in the 314th AW, the 314th AW will continue to play a large role in training and educating not only our Airmen but our coalition partners and allied nations to deliver airpower across the globe. The ability to provide interoperability between partner nations has been a key aspect to success in our missions across the world and the unique ability of the 314th to train these partners as well as our own Airmen together. With the full complement of aircraft along with the extensive simulator program, the 314th is able to train students more efficiently than ever before and will continue to produce qualified and committed Combat Airlifters.
3. Why it is so important that the Center of Excellence is co-located with operational C-130J squadrons/mission?
By having both the training and operational arms of Combat Airlift located in one location, we are able to partner and better strengthen our capabilities to provide Combat Airlift across the world. When our Airmen training within AETC are able to look across the street or even the room and see the application of the training they are currently receiving, they are able to better understand the lessons taught and how they will apply them once they enter the operational side of things.
The fact that the operational arm is co-located also allows our Airmen to network and find mentors within the operational units that can help tie the lessons and real world applications together. When there are examples of Combat Airlift surrounding our Airmen, their ability to connect the two aspects of Combat Airlift increases and the lightbulb goes off above their head.
4. The 314th AW operates the DoD’s largest international flying training program; how does the academic partnership with other countries strengthen operational partnerships?
When students are able to train together and learn the functionality of the aircraft from the same source, they are better able to understand how each other thinks as well as speak in the same technical language. In addition, when students return to their home countries, they have networked and know many of the individuals they may work with in the future during coalition exercises or missions. These personal ties and partnerships allow a freer flow of communication when it really counts.
Improving these partnerships through the international training program truly does improve interoperability during exercises, and more importantly, during missions. The 314th AW enables combat airlifters from over 45 different countries to come together as a team and complete the mission efficiently and effectively not only in training but in real life as well.
5. One of AETC’s strategic vectors is “Motivational Mission Accomplishment,” what does this mean to the units and for the students who might go on to another MAJCOM after tech school?
Although our students may leave AETC, they don’t leave behind the ideals we uphold. We not only train our Airmen, but instill within them a sense of duty, a yearning for a challenge, the understanding that each day brings new learning and that if they push themselves, they are capable of so much. These values are more than just the skill to fly the aircraft; they are the driving force behind why our Airmen continue to soar both in the sky and on the ground.
When Airmen leave AETC and head to another command, they bring with them these values and live them out each and every day. In doing so, they contribute not only to our Air Force as they challenge themselves but as they challenge those around them to strive for more and to push to accomplish the mission. Although they are no longer in AETC, they motivate and challenge those around them to take it to the next level and in doing so, improve our Air Force and our nation.
6. What advice would you give to the C-130 aircrew and maintenance students going through the programs offered by the 314th?
Don’t lose focus. Our Air Force is made great by the hardworking, dedicated individuals like yourself. This constantly and rapidly changing world demands we find innovative ways to meet our mission. We need you.
7. How will the new T-X requirements potentially change undergraduate pilot training process and ultimately the follow-on formal training units such as the 314th AW?
There are a number of possibilities. The Air Force could stick to two aircraft training tracks, cargo and fighters, or try something entirely different. The real goal is to leverage the fourth and fifth generation technology in our newest aircraft and introduce it earlier in training.
No matter what aircraft is chosen for the T-X trainer, AETC has full confidence the 314th AW will adapt the training to produce world-class aviators who can meet our Nation’s future challenges.
8. How will you take the lessons learned here as a numbered Air Force commander and bring them to your next command?
If you never try something new, you will never improve your unit. In my next job, I will make sure to delegate authority to wing commanders. If you have a good wing commander, let them be commanders and don’t micromanage. As Gen. Goldfein said, to revitalize a squadron you must empower commanders to take risks and let them do what they think is right. If they fail, at least they tried something new. Give guidance, have them keep you informed, but let them do their job. Most squadron commanders know what’s going on in their squadron better than a wing or numbered air force commander.