ALI AL SALEM AIR BASE, Kuwait –
The 779th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron was redesignated as the 61st EAS this week, ushering in the C-130J Super Hercules to replace the legacy H models that have operated at Ali Al Salem Air Base.
The arrival of the C-130J, the latest addition to the C-130 fleet, will promote flexibility from its ability to perform more than one role in the tactical portion of airlift missions. The J model includes advances in technology that reduce manpower requirements, current operating and support costs, and provides future cost savings when upgrades become available.
“The Airmen of the 61st EAS spent the past 4 months preparing for this deployment and I know they are ready to take on the responsibility of being the primary source for Air Force Central Command’s tactical airlift in the area of responsibility.” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Nicholas Redenius, 61st EAS commander. “We are committed to continuing the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing’s legacy as the premier Tactical Airlift Wing while executing missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.”
The long-standing legacy of tactical airlift transitioning from the H to the J model brings more capabilities and capacity to the AOR.
“The J flies faster, requires two fewer aircrew personnel, has two more pallet positions, and comes with upgraded avionics,” Redenius said. “These improvements provide our supported forces additional flexibility and capability when requesting cargo movement.”
The C-130 is able to land and operate in the most austere, bare-bones environment, bringing with it a wide array of equipment from helicopters, armored vehicles, standard palletized cargo and service members.
Currently the 779th EAS is comprised of the 908th Airlift Wing from Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, as the Reserve component and the 166th Airlift Wing from Wilmington, Delaware, as the Air National Guard component.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Bryan Powell, 779th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron assistant director of operations, said that many members of the 779th EAS have years of experience within the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility, as the C-130H has operated in this theater for the past 20 years.
“While the 166th AW is continuing its C-130 operations, the 908th AW will be transitioning away from the tactical airlift world and re-missioning in April of next year,” said Powell. “As such, this is the last C-130 deployment for the 908th AW, and for many of our members, the last C-130 deployment they will ever do.”
Powell said the 908th AW has completed deployments since 1983. So, this being a possible last deployment moves many members.
“To be involved in the final deployment of the unit leaves me both incredibly proud and also incredibly sad,” Powell stated. “As you can see, the redesignation of the 779th carries with it several significant moments in our time.”