War on Terrorism

Friday, January 29, 2016

C-130 Reservists train Afghans for the first time

by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly
911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

1/29/2016 -  PITTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AIR RESERVE STATION, Pa. -- Approximately three dozen Reservists from several different C-130 airlift wings deployed to Afghanistan where they became the first members of Air Force Reserve Command to perform the mission as air advisors to their Afghan counterparts on C-130 Hercules maintenance, flight and operations procedures.

From April through October 2015, 12 members of the 911th AW joined with other Reservists to train and advise their Afghan counterparts to help ensure their mission readiness.

All of the Reservists involved in the mission deployed in support of Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul. The unit is comprised of U.S. active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Airmen working hand-in-hand with Afghans to build a self-sustaining and operationally capable air force.

"This was the first time the rotation called for anyone from AFRC to take on the major tasking of the C-130 air advisor mission in Afghanistan," said Maj. Wesley E. Cranmer Jr., an instructor navigator from Pittsburgh's 758th Airlift Squadron. "There was nothing routine about this operation. Our Reservists had done nothing like this before."

911th instructor navigators and maintenance specialists assisted the Afghans as they prepared for and flew military transport and casualty evacuation missions using the AAF's four C-130 Hercules aircraft.

"What we were doing was eye-opening," said Master Sgt. Antonio Policicchio, 911th Maintenance Squadron aircraft engine mechanic. "They were flying actual combat support missions, and everything we did had direct impact. It was very rewarding."

Cranmer spoke with excitement about a mission in which the 911th AW Reservists assisted Afghan commandos on their way to fight the Afghan Taliban in Kunduz.

"It was a high-intensity mission," Cranmer said. "We were working hand in hand with our Afghan brethren to deliver planeloads of commandos, ready to fight to save their country, to their destination."

It is the end goal of TAAC-Air to create self-sufficiency of the Afghan Air Force to keep it in the fight. The training of aviators, mechanics and loadmasters in the United States, combined with the air advisor missions in Afghanistan, prepare the AAF to conduct regular maintenance and self-sustainment training in their country.

For Cranmer, his involvement with the AAF didn't stop at the self-sustainment training of pilots and navigators on how to fly or run an operations squadron. The instructor navigator also helped the Afghan military members with communication and language skills, conducting English language instruction several times a week. Cranmer said he has a lot of respect for the AAF and really enjoyed interacting with its members throughout his time in Afghanistan.

"The best experience I had in my Air Force career was working with the AAF," he said. "We have a lot more in common than you might think. You just have to engage."

Editors note: The first operations air advisor package from the C-130 Reserve community included members of the 911th Airlift Wing from Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania; the 302nd AW from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; the 94th AW from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia; and the 908th AW from Maxwell AFB, Alabama. At the conclusion of their deployment, they were replaced by a contingent from the 934th AW, Minneapolis-St. Paul IAP ARS, Minnesota; the 910th AW, Youngstown ARS, Ohio; and the 914th AW, Niagara Falls IAP ARS, New York. In addition to the operators, the deployment packages also included maintenance personnel from the 911th and 908th.

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