***image1***Members from the Puerto Rican Air National Guard, 156th Airlift Wing presently stationed at Ramstein as part of the 38th(Provisional) Airlift Squadron, pack their bags and wrap it up after a three-month deployment.
The unit, which is comprised of more than 140 members, to include aircrew and aircraft maintainers arrived at Ramstein Dec. 31 to assist in flying missions to support U. S. Air Forces in Europe, U.S. Army Europe and Navy Europe. The unit is scheduled to begin departure Saturday.
The 156th AW prides itself on being the only bilingual unit in the Air Force. The unit initially started as a fighter wing which then converted from F-16 aircraft to C-130 Hercules aircraft in 1998.
According to the 38th (Provisional) AS Commander, Lt. Col. Jorge Cantres, The unit’s primary mission responsibilities at Ramstein include approximately 18 sorties per week to areas such as Bosnia, Norway, Italy, Great Britain, Azerbaijan, Yugoslavia, Spain, Romania, Greece, Republic of Georgia, Israel and Kosovo.
“Transporting (members), injured members and equipment to and from various locations, providing embassy support and delivering needed supplies, using C-130 Hercules aircraft is a large part of our flying mission,” said, Lt. Col. Cantres, who is on his third-year deploying at Ramstein.
Combating the unusually cold temperatures this year posed little to no problem to members of this unit, who are most comfortable in the 80 degree weather of the more tropical island atmosphere of Puerto Rico.
“At first, the weather was a little bit of a shell shock because this is the first time a lot of us had to deal with temperatures this cold,” said Lt. Col. Cantres. “We have never had to de-ice an aircraft before, but we adapt (easily) as a unit, so we adapted and did it.”
The confidence of the entire unit is pretty solid, said 2nd Lt. Ivonne Montanez, 156th Airlift Wing, 38th AS, mechanical engineer. This unit is an especially unique “bilingual force” with an accent, she said. “We meet our goals regardless of what obstacles are in our way, unless it’s out of our control.”
“We’re the best unit,” she said. “We know our mission and we know what to do – We give 100 percent,” said Lt. Montanez.
According to Capt. Huberto Pabon Jr., aircraft commander, 156th AW, 38th AS, the liveliness of members of the unit makes dealing with the challenging elements easier for everyone involved.
“We come up here and it’s cold, but we make it like a little Puerto Rico,” said Captain Pabon. “We work hard and make everyone feel a part of the group.”
Enhancing combat readiness and supporting mission requirements is done with honor and pride in this unit, explained C-130 Hercules Loadmaster Tech. Sgt. Juan Ortiz, 156th AW.
“Being able to help out during important missions and having the opportunity to transport injured or deliver needed goods down range is always a rewarding experience,” he said.
The members of the 156th AW proudly displayed the heart and pride they each felt while supporting missions that set-off from Ramstein. All of the units members have hopes of returning next year. ***image2*** ***image3******image4******image5***