By Col. Stephen Hodge, 314th Airlift Wing commander
/ Published February 20, 2019
This February marks 20 years since the C-130J entered the United States Air Force and began service to our nation. As the latest iteration of the mighty Herk, with a history of 65 years providing combat airlift to joint warfighters, the J-model heralded a transformation in the way we deliver beans, bullets, and troops on time, on target. While technological advances permitted reduction of the crew complement from five to three aviators, the tactical airlift mindset long admired by our allies and feared by our adversaries remains unchanged. We remain a world-renowned team of adaptable, forward-looking, problem solvers who fully integrate into global operations. With more than 300 C‑130Js delivered over the past 20 years to our Air Force, sister services, and partner nations, the ethos of Herk Nation spans the globe and gets its start right here at Little Rock Air Force Base.
The C-130J’s story reflects how the ‘Home of Combat Airlift’ works as an integrated team. Our first two C-130Js arrived on-loan from the Reserves at Keesler AFB in the summer of 2003. With support all across Little Rock AFB, Airmen activated the 48th Airlift Squadron and began formal C-130J training shortly thereafter. These stalwart tactical airlifters designed and rapidly implemented a training program to harness the full capabilities of this new and highly capable weapon system. In March 2004, Little Rock AFB received its first permanently assigned C-130J with tail #314 (02-314) as a fitting tribute to the then-host wing. The 314th Airlift Wing has since shifted to be a mission partner while the 48th AS merged its heritage and cutting-edge reputation into the 62nd AS’s long success training future Herk teammates. As the Department of Defense’s first and largest C-130J schoolhouse, the 314th AW has produced just over 6,000 aviators from the U.S. and 11 partner nations over the past 15 years. As mission partners, Team Little Rock forged and deployed dedicated professionals who pressed ahead of our adversaries to find novel ways to defeat evolving tactical and operational challenges.
Today, Little Rock AFB Airmen partner from all components, Air Mobility Command, Air Education and Training Command, and Air Combat Command, to fly, maintain and support the C-130J. Our training spans the full continuum of training from day-one students, to daily training sorties, through advanced combat employment exercises, and on to the USAF premier leadership experience disguised as a tactics school – the C-130 Weapons Instructor Course. Together, Team Little Rock’s combat airlifters continue to push the envelope by harnessing lessons gleaned from integrated training, joint exercises, and worldwide contingency operations as they fight for the win.
Two decades into its service, the C-130J has become a venerable workhorse in the proudest tradition of combat airlift. Happy birthday, C-130J! We wish you many, many more!