Integrated Fly-In: Reserve Aircrew Leads the Pack

  • Published
  • By Capt. Ashley Walker
  • 913th Airlift Group

A 327th Airlift Squadron Reserve aircrew led a C-130J 3-ship formation involving active-duty crews from various units on Mar. 13, 2019, during a week-long flying exercise held at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.

“This type of flying exercise exposes crews to many challenges faced in contingency operations abroad. By involving various units, crews, and total force components we can ensure the Air Force C-130J enterprise is training to the same standard,” said Maj. Steve Freeman, 913th Operations Support Squadron Chief of Weapons and Tactics. “Theoretically, the Air Force can select different personnel to build qualified crews and ensure mission success without sacrificing safety.”

More than five C-130J units based across the globe, from Ramstein Air Base to Yokota Air Base, participated in the exercise. Aircrews performed a variety of tactical airlift techniques such as low-cost, low altitude airdrops, combat offload method-A, and properly loading oversized cargo.  

“The LCLA airdrop has been utilized for more than 10 years,” said Freeman. “This form of aerial delivery is ideal for small ground teams, such as Special Operations Forces.  We are able to execute these drops rapidly and with great precision on smaller drop zones in a dynamic environment, which ultimately minimizes the user’s exposure to hostile fire.”

A low-cost, low altitude combat airdrop is accomplished by dropping bundles weighing 80 to 500 pounds, with pre-packed expendable parachutes. The low-altitude delivery is more accurate than traditional, higher-altitude airdrop methods and cuts down on stray bundles than can land away from the drop zone. LCLA drops require no specialized training for parachute riggers and can be dropped from a variety of aircraft.

“I’ve been in the Air Force for 26 years,” said Senior Master Sgt. John Shirey, 327th AS loadmaster. “Even though I have experience, I recognize the need for our folks to practice beyond our typical cargo bundles. Loading a fuel truck is a convenient way to challenge our skills.”

Traditional Reservists are required to maintain deployment readiness through monthly drill weekends in addition to two weeks of annual training.  

“This exercise exemplifies Total Force Integration,” said Freeman. “While I fly full time for a major parcel service, I enjoy the opportunity to train with Active Duty aircrew members to collectively hone our tactical airlift capabilities. On a personal level, as a former Formal Training Unit Instructor Pilot in the C-130J school house, it is awesome to see my former students and colleagues grow, succeed, and continually push the mission of the C-130J forward.”

For many military members, the Air Force Reserve is a career extension opportunity for Airmen leaving active duty and is focused on preserving an agile and resilient military force ready for the fight.