By Stephen BakerJune 23, 2011
FORT LEE, Va. (June 23, 2011) -- A C-130A Hercules joined Fort Lee's tiny Air Force fleet Saturday when it arrived by truck from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The 116-foot-long aircraft no longer has wings and was transported without its tail during a 12-day journey that spanned more than 1,500 miles.
The aircraft belongs to the Air Force's 345th Training Squadron, which will use it to help train Airmen in its Traffic Management and Air Transportation courses here. The 345th TRS moved its personnel and operations to Fort Lee from Lackland last year, where the C-130A was used for that same purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. Jon Hanson, the 345th TRS project manager for the C-130A move, said bringing the aircraft to Fort Lee was no easy task.
"If we were at an Air Force base, we'd land the aircraft we were using, pull the wings off and bring it into one of our hangars," he said. That wasn't an option this time, given the lack of a runway at Fort Lee and the fact that the training aircraft wasn't airworthy before the move.
Two other flightless Air Force planes on post include a C-130E and the fuselage of a C-17 Globemaster used to train Soldiers enrolled in courses at the Army's Transportation School, just across the street from the High Bay where the Air Force is keeping its newly arrived C-130A.
Air Force Lt. Col Debbie Kent, commander of the 345th TRS, said an area of the High Bay is already mocked up with pallets and risers to simulate the inside of a C-17. But she added that it just isn't the same as training inside a real aircraft.
"First off, when you look at the C-17 mock-up as a brand new Airman, it doesn't look like an airplane," Kent said. "By putting a C-130 in there, you get the visual of exactly what it looks like when you're inside and are better able to relate to exactly what you have to do. So it offers much more realistic training."
Hanson said the aircraft offers students a "real world" feel. "They're able to get in, build up those aircraft pallets, process that cargo, put it on the aircraft loaders, put those pallets onto that aircraft, lock them into that aircraft, pull those loaders back from the aircraft and get that feel for what the real world presents."
In fiscal 2011, 983 students will attend the Air Transportation course and 229 will attend the Traffic Management course. Hanson said training them in a realistic environment positively impacts operations on Air Force runways.
"Once the students get to their next duty assignment, they'll know what they're getting into," he said. "They're familiar now with what it's like to bring loaders up to the aircraft, so there's less training time to get these students spun-up on getting the vehicles to the aircraft, or understanding what it takes to lock or tie-down vehicles, because we train them on vehicle tie-downs in the aircraft, too."
Kent said the 105 personnel in her squadron have a mission to "train the best transportation service professionals in the Air Force." With Fort Lee leading the way for military logistics, it's a "phenomenal" place to work toward that end.
"The leadership here has been really gracious and accommodating for all of our needs," she said. "Everyone is very interested in learning about the other service and trying to capitalize on any opportunities to train together in the future."