Hercules takes another step into history

by Tech. Sgt. Michael Voss
Ramstein Public Affairs

After a pre-flight briefing, a ride from the 37th Airlift Squadron to the flight line, firing up four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines and a short flight from Ramstein to Grafenwöhr Army Airfield, the mighty C-130 Hercules and the 86th Airlift Wing took another step into history.

For the last time, seven C-130Es lifted off from Ramstein April 22 to complete a mission they have done for years: dropping Army equipment and paratroopers over the fields of Eastern Germany to complete their quarterly jump

But, the next time these pilots, loadmasters and paratroopers take off on this mission, they will be on a new C-130J Super Hercules.

“There is some nostalgia in flying the last C-130E Grafenwöhr mission. We’ve been flying this mission for a long time now,” said Staff Sgt. Victor Reynosa, 37th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. “Some of these aircraft have been in the Air Force inventory for 50 years.”

Throughout the day, the planes’ performance lived up to their legendary reputation – dropping howitzers, humvees and more than 450 Army paratroopers without any delays or problems.

 “This training is a core competency of ours,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class William Terry, 173rd Airborne Brigade jump master proficiency instructor. “It is invaluable. It builds not only unit cohesion but it builds the team. We can’t win this fight without each other.”

When all the paratroopers had completed their required jumps and the C-130Es were refueled for the flight home to Ramstein, the crew took time to not only reflect on another successful mission but to look forward to the new C-130J.

“You kind of get used to the E-model. There’s a lot of history there, but it is time to move on. The new J-model is much more capable, it is larger, faster and many of the manual things on the E-model are computerized on the J,” Sergeant Reynosa said.

“We rely solely on the 37th to provide us this capability,” said Army Capt. Sean Chang, 173rd Airborne Brigade air officer. “And while we appreciate the C-130E, the new aircraft will help not only the Air Force but us as well. It is larger and can carry more, which means we can move more equipment and paratroopers.”

As the day came to a close and the seven Hercs landed back at Ramstein, members of the unit that stood up and adapted since the early 1990s face yet another adaptation – a new aircraft. But the change brings a new horizon with more history.

“I think what the E-model has accomplished over the last 40 years is remarkable,” said Senior Airman Ashley Hunt, 37th Airlift Squadron load master. “But I think the J-model is going to be an asset and I look forward to making history
with it.”