314th AW showcases its heritage across the western U.S. while conducting essential off-station training

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  • By Staff Reports
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- The 62d Airlift Squadron, alongside members from the 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, recently concluded the 314th Airlift Wing’s first multi-state, off-station trainer (OST) since the on-set of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year.

Throughout the training, the 62d AS was able to focus on operating in high-pressure altitude environments — an important proficiency training due to the various required altitudes of the environments in which the C-130J Super Hercules frequently operates worldwide.

“Whether Colorado, Montana, or Bagram, significant differences in performance and handling exist at higher pressure altitudes,” said Maj. Ben Schimelfening, 62d AS OST mission commander. “Equipping 314th AW instructors with this proficiency improves the quality of instruction in preparing C-130J students for worldwide mission sets.”

In addition to high-altitude training, aircrews also engaged in low-level mountain training, a rare occurrence for 314th AW pilots on local training profiles.

“Only one of the pilot syllabus flights affords the opportunity to conduct this training – and the distance to reach either the Appalachians or the Rockies makes this nearly prohibitive,” Schimelfening said. “It is important to train outside of Arkansas to neutralize the complacency that sets in when flying similar profiles daily.”

Moreover, because the new C-130J Block 8.1 upgrade operates differently in high pressure altitude environments, the OST enabled Block 8.1 proficiency for the pilot and loadmaster cadre as well as the 314th AMXS maintainers.

Block 8.1 is a relatively new upgrade to the C-130’s GPS and navigation capabilities, communications systems, friend-or-foe identification and allows the C-130J to comply with worldwide air traffic management regulations.

“The predominance of 314th AW instructors have never operated this airplane outside of the state,” said Lt. Col. Matt Wunderlich, 62d AS commander. “Understanding the differences associated with the new aircraft will help equip instructors to teach the first wave of Block 8.1 initial qualification pilots who begin training in January 2021.”

The 314th AW also utilized the OST to engage in community outreach events in the various states they trained. This included an aerial review formation flight over the U.S. Air Force Academy campus as well as hosting Montana State University’s ROTC cadets for an immersion day.

This training cycle also featured the off-station debut of the 62d AS’s new GOONEY call sign, a nod to the squadron’s heritage aircraft, the C-47 Skytrain, affectionately nicknamed the “Gooney Bird.”

For the Airmen of the 62d AS, the nickname “Gooney Bird,” which comes from the albatross, a seabird known for its endurance and ability to fly great distances, represents a linkage to the squadron’s 80-year history of airlift.

“Major John Rebolledo, [62d AS pilot], drove the change of the 314th Airlift Wing’s off-station callsign previously called IVORY,” said Wunderlich. “He began coordination with Headquarters Air Force and Air Education and Training Command and the callsign change was approved in July 2020.”

The 314th AW has flown with the callsign for AETC emergency airlift out-and-back missions ever since. But being the first OST since the COVID-19 pandemic began, this was the squadron’s first opportunity to employ the name across a multi-day experience.

“This callsign is here to stay for all off-station 314th AW missions,” said Wunderlich.

Maintaining the squadron’s rich heritage helps bridge the sacrifices made by the tactical airlift pathfinders to the 62d AS’s ongoing efforts in building combat-minded C-130J aviators.

“Honoring the genesis of air mobility by the 62nd Troop Squadron to liberate Europe in World War II, informs and guides the squadron’s current mission, training the next generation of tactical airlift aviators,” said Wunderlich.