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Celebrating 50 years of C-130 training at LRAFB

  • Published
  • By Robert Marcell
  • 314th Airlift Wing Historian Office

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- It is often said that “Herk Nation starts here” at Little Rock Air Force Base. After all, every C-130J Super Hercules pilot and crew member receives training here. Wherever they go, if they’re flying or working in a C-130, they first learned how to do it at Little Rock AFB.

But when did Herk Nation start here?

It started 50 years ago this year—in 1971—when Little Rock AFB first received its mission to train students from across the Department of Defense and from select allied partners in the C-130 Hercules.

Little Rock AFB actually received its very first C-130 airplane in March 1970, which was named the “City of Jacksonville”. This occurred when the 64th Tactical Airlift Wing moved in as the base’s host unit and the first C-130s began arriving that spring, but their mission at this time was purely operational.

Barely a year later, the 314th Tactical Airlift Wing, known today as the 314th Airlift Wing, transferred into Little Rock AFB from its mission in Taiwan and took over as Little Rock AFB’s host unit. This occurred on May 31, 1971.

A few short months after establishing the 314th TAW at Little Rock AFB, the Air Force next transferred responsibility for all Department of Defense Lockheed C-130 Hercules formal flying training from the 464th Tactical Airlift Wing, stationed at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., to the 314th TAW at Little Rock AFB. This happened in August 1971, and Little Rock AFB has owned this training mission ever since.

With the reorganization of tactical airlift training at Little Rock AFB, the 314th TAW ended up with three flying squadrons, each equipped with C-130 aircraft:  the 16th Tactical Airlift Squadron, which provided Phase I training for entry-level qualified C-130 pilots and flight engineers;  the 61st Tactical Airlift Squadron, which carried forward the operational mission begun in 1970, providing airlift capability around the world; and the 62nd Tactical Airlift Squadron, which was made responsible for the Replacement Training Unit training that had previously been accomplished by the 464th TAW at Pope AFB.

The first C-130 students at Little Rock AFB were two navigators, who entered Phase I training on Aug. 5, 1971. This month, in October 1971, the base began training its first international students as well, when on  Oct. 9, 1971, Italian air force crews initiated their C-130 training at Little Rock.

Altogether, thousands of C-130 pilots and crew members have been trained at Little Rock AFB over the past 50 years.

Today, Little Rock AFB serves as the center of the C-130 enterprise – “The Home of Herk Nation.”

From the operational mission of the 19th AW, which provides the DoD undaunted tactical airlift and agile combat support; to the 314th AW’s mission to train the next generation of DoD and international C-130 aircrew members; to the Total Force support of the Air National Guard’s 189th AW and Air Force Reserve’s 913th Airlift Group; to the 29th Weapons Squadron’s graduate-level instruction in weapons and tactics employment to train and develop C-130 Weapons Officers; each unit seamlessly puts forth their strengths in order to support and sustain rapid global mobility.

As we carry out into the future, our Herk missions at Little Rock AFB will carry upwards and onwards for many years to come!