Supervisors and trainers in the Air National Guard are often faced with a challenge when trying to ensure their Airmen are receiving the right training at the right time. Our time with our Airmen is limited and the inaccessibility of equipment to conduct training can make the task even more difficult.
Airmen from the Fuel Cell in the 143d Maintenance Group understand this challenge all too well. Their upgrade and sustainment training requires these Airmen to operate inside the fuel cells of the C-130J wing to become qualified. However, due to mission requirements for the C-130J aircraft assigned to the 143d Airlift Wing, it became increasingly difficult to pull a plane from the daily flight schedule to accomplish this training. Senior Master Sgt. Richard Tuttle of the 143d Maintenance Squadron saw the issue and decided to do something about it.
More than eight years ago, Sgt. Tuttle began his search for a detached C-130 wing to use specifically for training. After several close calls over the years, he was finally able to obtain one this year from the Air Logistics Complex at Warner Robbins Air Force Base, Georgia. Coordination began immediately for transportation back to Quonset Air National Guard Base.
Members from Maintenance, Operations, and Air Terminal came together to figure out how to properly fit this large wing in the back of one of our aircraft, load it at Warner Robbins and offload it at Quonset. The wing was cut down to remove the leading edge and other outer portions and tubing unnecessary for the training purposes in order to properly fit into the cargo compartment. Members of the Air Terminal prepared the six pallet loading configuration in minimal time allowing the wing to be lifted via crane onto the pallets, secured, and loaded using a 60K “Tunner” K Loader onto the airplane. But, the coordination had only just begun.
The use of the 60K K Loader, typically used to load larger planes such as C-5 Galaxies and C-17 Globemasters, was available at Warner Robbins but the 143d Airlift Wing does not have one, nor access to one. The only way to offload the large wing was to use the Combat Offload Method B technique. This technique has not been used at the 143d in as long as most can remember and requires a lot of coordination and teamwork.
For this offload method, Airmen from Air Terminal and Operations lined up barrels and dunnage in back of the C-130. The pallets securing the wing were chained to a forklift which would help pull the equipment off the C-130 as it slowly taxied forward. As the wing was carefully removed, the Air Terminal personnel and Loadmasters from each side slid a barrel underneath the pallets and topped them with dunnage, creating a solid foundation for it to rest upon. This process continued until all six pallets were completely removed from the aircraft.
This process must be perfectly synchronized. Constant communication from the loadmasters on and off the airplane and the pilots was essential. This method was performed, with the engines running in order for the pilots to slowly taxi to release the equipment.
Once the equipment transfer was complete, the Maintenance team went to work to transfer the wing from the pallets, to a flatbed truck and to its temporary location to prepare it to be used for training. The Airmen from the Maintenance Group used methods learned during Crash Damaged or Disabled Aircraft Recovery (CDDAR) training to safely lift the wing off of the pallets, onto the truck, and then off of the truck again.
According to Senior Master Sgt. Tuttle this wing will, “significantly reduce training time for Fuel Cell Airmen,” possibly reducing the upgrade training time from five years to one year. He also mentioned that the procurement of this wing was the effort of many and could not have been done without the Airmen from the Maintenance Group, Airlift Squadron, Air Terminal and Supply working together as a cohesive team.