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One decade later: Black Cats’s humble beginnings

A Brief history of the 41st Airlift Squadron (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Mercedes Taylor)

A Brief history of the 41st Airlift Squadron (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Mercedes Taylor)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

The 41st Airlift Squadron has been an integral part of the Combat Airlift mission at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, for a decade. However, before the Black Cats flew the central Arkansas skies, they had humble beginnings here.

In 2007, the 41st AS moved to Little Rock AFB after a realignment ceremony at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina.

Prior to the squadron moving to its new installation, an advanced echelon team of Airmen departed in order to set up a new home for the Black Cats.

“To stand up a squadron is an overwhelming task and takes an enormous amount of work,” said Jon Ratz, former 41st AS stand-up crew member. “Each member wanted to make the squadron the best it could be.”

A squadron stand-up involves getting every necessity ready to maintain an operational building. From aircraft and training plans, to pens and paper; a small team of 10 were in charge of it all.

“Many man hours were needed to do this and the key to it all was planning and organization,” Ratz said. “Normal work days averaged 10-12 hours but they were always thinking of what needed to be done next.”

One of the biggest challenges the team faced was setting up an operational unit to ensure the future success of all Black Cats to follow.

“The most challenging thing was to get it right,” Ratz, a retired major, said. “We had seen programs implemented poorly in other squadrons and we wanted the best for ours; we were not only trying to get things done to become operational, but also (be) the best squadron.”

Since becoming part of Team Little Rock, the 41st AS has become a vital part of the Combat Airlift mission. The Black Cats have gone on a variety of missions, from deployments to humanitarian efforts.

“Seeing what the squadron is now, it makes me very proud to be a part of the stand-up crew,” said Scott Sindle, former 41st AS stand-up crew member.

When the 19th Airlift Wing became the host unit in 2008, the 41st Airlift Squadron continued their mission as the former ADVON team eventually moved on.

Whether they separated or retired, a few members of the crew continue the mission here at the C-130J Maintenance and Aircrew Training System, a program in the 314th Airlift Wing’s Center of Excellence. The Center of Excellence trains approximately 1,800 students on base.

 “The C-130J community is small,” Sindle, a former chief master sergeant, said. “As people retired or separated, they eventually came here to train students.”

From loading and flying C-130s to instructing the leaders of tomorrow, the 41st AS stand-up crew’s former mission comes full circle as they continue to help the Black Cats fly in the Natural State and beyond.