37th AS Hercs train at Pope AFB, N.C.

Monica Mendoza
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***The world looks different from 500 feet than from 2,000 feet. And the C-130 Hercules pilots and navigators of the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein needed to see it.

Ninety-eight crewmembers from the 37th recently packed up their planes and headed to the states, where they could spend some quality time with their aircraft.

Newly published C-130 Tactics, Techniques and Procedures changed the tactical employment of the C-130 to include flying lower than ever before at night using night vision goggles. There is also a change in flying formations from three-ship flights to the fighting two-ship formation.

“This seemingly small adjustment changes many aspects of airdrop operations and tactical formation maneuvering,” said Capt. Alexandra Winkler, 37th AS instructor pilot. “It must be learned and practiced in the air and close to the ground.”

But in host nation Germany, flying low is restricted –  most daytime low-level flying is no lower than 1,000 feet.

There are also restrictions on the amount of flying per day, making it a challenge to train the entire squadron on new Air Force procedures, Captain Winkler said.

Recently, the team at the 37th AS took their training mission to Pope Air Force Base, N.C., home to the 43rd Airlift Wing, where one of the largest military installations in America is specially equipped for the training missions of the Herc.

“This is the first time in recent history that we’ve gone to the U.S. for training,” Captain Winkler said.

In three short weeks, 52 crewmembers had the chance to fly and learn the new tactics outlined by the Air Force.

“The challenge was completing a lot of training in as little time as possible,” said Lt. Col. William Ward, 37th AS commander.

Crewmembers worked long days and nights to maximize the training and time at Pope, Colonel Ward said.

“We were able to accomplish things there that we can’t do in Germany,” he said. “It was refreshing to be able to fly the tactics as they were written.”

The Ramstein crews flew lower to the ground and did their legendary short field landings while wearing night vision goggles, something new for the C-130 community, Captain Winkler said.

The training deployment to the states was especially important for crewmembers just returning from downrange.  

“Every year is broken into two semiannual periods with required training in each period,” Captain Winkler said. “If we do not get the required training during the semiannual period, due to deployments or otherwise, we become non-mission ready.”

The training mission in the states was successful, Colonel Ward said.
The 37th AS returned 10 crewmembers back to mission-ready status and it qualfied aircrew in new tactics and night vision goggles short field landings.

Also, it upgraded crew members to lead the formations and prepared them for instructor school.

“We will probably try to do one per semiannual period,” said Colonel Ward. “The crews did great while we were there.”