The C-130 is the workhorse of the Middle East Theater of Operations, officials say.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
VIENNA -- "The Iraqi war is a C-130 conflict," said Air Force Reserve Col. Daryl Hartman, a pilot and commander of the 910th Airlift Wing's Operations Group at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station here.
The C-130 is the workhorse of the Middle East Theater of Operations, Hartman said Friday during a briefing of press representatives before they accompanied a flight crew on a training/demonstration flight from Vienna to Niagara Falls, N.Y., and back.
"We're the local delivery truck, not the big rig," said Hartman, illustrating the value of the C-130 compared with some other larger cargo planes and the reason he thinks the plane continues to be manufactured and used by the military.
Air Force Reserve Master Sgt. Timothy Franken, load master on the flight, expanded on Hartman's comments.
Because of its relatively small size, the C-130 can take off and land on shorter runways and can do shorter strategic missions delivering supplies and troops more economically, he explained.
Also, and more important, it can keep troops off the ground, where there is more danger, by flying them to locations, Franken said.
While in the Middle East, 910th crews have flown dignitaries in and out of Baghdad, including Colin Powell, former secretary of state, and U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain. "We're humbled by their trust in us," said Maj. John Boccieri, pilot for Friday's flight.
Hartman said cargo planes from all over the country come to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station to practice landing and taking off on its assault runway, which is short and narrow, to simulate the kind of runways they could encounter in a war zone, including night landings.
The C-130 is relatively small, as cargo planes go, but costs 45 million fully equipped and can carry 94 regular troops and 62 paratroopers.
While the C-130 may be well-suited for the type of warfare going on in the Middle East, or the "sandbox," as the reservists call it, Friday's flight, even with relatively calm weather, brought to mind the 1950s rock tune "Shake, Rattle 'n' Roll."
Passengers sit on canvas benches and lean back against nylon webbing. Earplugs are dispensed to keep out some of the noise from the engines, and creaks and groans of the fuselage. It has all the necessities, but it does not have the creature comforts of a commercial passenger plane.
A great view
The highlight of the day was when the cargo ramp and door were opened during flight, which to first-timers is novel in itself, to reveal a panoramic view of Niagara Falls from an altitude of about 1,000 feet.
The 910th, in addition to the Operations Group, which includes the 757th and 773rd Airlift Squadrons and its Operations Support Squadron, consists of the 910th Maintenance Group and the 910th Mission Support Group.
Also, the Youngstown Air Reserve Station is home to the only full-time fixed-wing aerial spray unit in the Department of Defense, in the form of specially outfitted C-130s, that has both military and health applications.
For instance, the 910th aerial spray unit sprayed 2.8 million acres for mosquitoes, flies and other disease-carrying insects after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
The 910th also has participated in numerous humanitarian missions, including in Beslan, Russia; and Darfur, Sudan, in 2004.
Also housed at the reserve station are Navy and Marine Corps reserve units, which also had representatives on Friday's flight.