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Team Little Rock Squadron earns top marks

Loadmasters from the 61st Airlift Squadron load a fuels truck into the back of a C-130J, Feb. 19, 2016 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The training exercise ensured that loadmaster and pilots are capable of loading a variety of assets onto a Hercules. (U.S. Air Force photo/SSgt Jeremy McGuffin)

Loadmasters from the 61st Airlift Squadron load a fuels truck into the back of a C-130J, Feb. 19, 2016 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The training exercise ensured that loadmaster and pilots are capable of loading a variety of assets onto a Hercules. (U.S. Air Force photo/SSgt Jeremy McGuffin)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark -- The 61st Airlift Squadron was awarded the 2015 General Joseph Smith Trophy for being the most outstanding Airlift Squadron in Air Mobility Command.

The 61st AS distinguished itself as the only C-130J squadron with at least nine crews, consisting of 85 percent of their work force, deployed throughout the year. The squadron, also known as the Green Hornets, safely executed 2,605 tactical airlift sorties, transported 9 million tons of cargo and 19,000 passengers in support of seven combatant commanders.

"We were able to prepare ourselves for deployments despite the shortage in aircraft that we had available; for a great part of 2015 we had not even half of our allocated aircraft," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Westby, 61st AS commander. "We cultivated the partnerships with other wings on base in order for us to prepare to go out the door and be successful."

The preparation paid off as the squadron set tonnage records for personnel and cargo drops while deployed in the Horn of Africa. The Green Hornets airdropped thousands of tons of supplies, including fuel, to joint partners in the area of responsibility. Fuel was dropped on water drop zones to naval vessels off the African coast. This enabled the U.S. Navy to patrol longer without docking to port for fuel. It also ensured security for ships so they can continue to counter piracy and terror operations off the African coast.

During the 61st AS' deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, the Hornets set a precedent by executing the first hot defueling mission using a non-special operations C-130J. The hot defueling consisted of loading and offloading R-11 fuel trucks into austere landing zones to establish and sustain forward area refueling points as part of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force missions.

"We defined the C-130J in Afghanistan, we found a way to enable our special operations partners there, allowing them to do their job," Westby said.

Not only that, the squadron completed both their contingency objectives and annual training requirements despite the shortage of aircraft and personnel.

"This wasn't a 61st Airlift Squadron win, this was a 19th Airlift Wing win because nothing this squadron does happens without all the rest of Team Little Rock," Westby said.

Since earning this award, the 61st AS has not let up and will deploy again this coming month, showing their dedication to the AMC's combat airlift mission.
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