RNZAF leadership get first-hand look at team’s training

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sarah Ortega Corona
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Herk Nation welcomed leadership from the Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130J Transition Unit at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, March 18, 2024.

Led by RNZAF Wing Commander Gareth Russell, commanding officer of the C-130J Transition Unit, the visiting party included key personnel such as WGCDR Wayne Morris, the Foreign Liaison Officer for the NZ C-130J project, and other executives from the operations and maintenance teams.

During their visit they aimed to engage with the New Zealand team currently undergoing training and seasoning with the 314th and 19th Airlift Wings at Little Rock AFB. This engagement underscores the collaborative efforts between the two air forces in training and operational readiness.

“It was eye opening and positive for our future command to see the high-level training and resources used to produce a qualified loadmaster,” said RNZAF Flight Sgt. Callie Lucas, 61st Airlift Squadron, loadmaster. “The leadership team now has a better understanding of how roles have developed and changed from the C-130H to the new C-130J aircraft.”

The visit took the leadership team to numerous locations including the Virtual Reality Center. Master Sgt. Sean Evans, 19th Maintenance Group section chief of development and instructor, stated the significance of this exchange in advancing training capabilities and fostering stronger ties between allies allowing for continued growth in this program together.

“All the success that I have had personally, directly comes from my team,” Evans said. “I am only successful because of the support and hard work the members of the Maintenance Training Section have contributed.  This is not just my recognition, but a recognition of all of us and how well we work together to accomplish any task asked of us.”

The visit also included tours of the Joint Military Air Transport Simulator facility, training facilities, maintenance training centers, and operational squadrons.

"Our experience at Little Rock AFB has been incredibly successful, largely thanks to the warm hospitality and support of the personnel at Little Rock AFB," remarked RNZAF Flight Sgt. Andy Fieldes, Lead for Future Air Mobility Capability C-130J unit maintenance. "This visit provided us with the opportunity to demonstrate the elite training and expertise we've acquired during our training and seasoning with the U.S. Air Force, which left a strong impression on the command team. It was also great to be able to recognize the units and individuals who have played a part in our success and highlight the invaluable relationships we've built with our U.S. Air Force counterparts."

Fieldes also stated, over the coming months, the team of skilled aviators will be heading back to New Zealand to commence preparations for the arrival of their own fleet of C-130J aircraft later this year.

“The work ethic and attention to detail shown on the part of the Kiwis was nothing less than impressive,” stated Staff Sgt. Joseph Elrey, 373rd Training Squadron Detachment 4, aircraft maintenance and avionics instructor. “They were focused and determined. There was no challenge placed before them that they did not overcome with the quiet grace and professionalism that defines them so well.”

Additionally, Elrey emphasized, they never tired, they never wavered, they made it look easy. This is a squadron of professionals who performs amongst the world’s elite in the arena of combat airlift. They will maintain that tradition of excellence with a modern weapon system to suit their skills and expertise.

“This was a chance for our Squadron command to visit all of the New Zealand crew in Little Rock AFB, to witness where we train and inform us face to face how the new squadron formation is going back home,” said RNZAF Sgt. Hoby Finch, Future Air Mobility Capability C-130J unit aircraft technician and maintenance supervisor.

For the many Kiwi Air Force personnel stationed here in Little Rock AFB, Finch stresses it was a great opportunity to speak to his future commanding officer and demonstrate what they’ve been up to over the past 14 months.

“We cannot wait to begin operating and maintaining our own aircraft later this year,” Finch expressed.

As the RNZAF and Team Little Rock continue to work closely together, they are not just building aircraft proficiency but also strengthening global security and readiness efforts in the aerospace domain.