Herk family ties

1st Lt. Tracy Giles
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***(Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a three-part series highlighting the 50th Anniversary of the C-130 Hercules.)
During the 50 years of its existence, the C-130 Hercules “Herk” has been associated with numerous family ties and generations of stories.
One such tie and continuing story exists today with Ramstein’s own Capt. Abigail Albert, C-130 pilot, and her father, retired Col. John Albert, former C-130 navigator.
And it doesn’t end there. Captain Albert is currently a member of the 37th Airlift Squadron “Blue Tail Flies” here while her father started his flying career nearly 30 years ago as a member of the very same squadron; which back then resided at Langley Air Force Base, Va.
As a child, Captain Albert always enjoyed listening to stories from her father and often talked with him about his flying adventures in the Pacific, South America and Europe.
“I wanted to fly the Herk to see the world,” she said. “So far that is working out very well as I have only been flying with my squadron for six months, and already I have had a chance to explore Italy, Romania, Estonia, England and Portugal.”
In 1974, her father graduated from navigator school and was very much the same, saying that he also ended up in the Herk because he “wanted to fly transports and see the world.”
After his brief stint at Langley, he was transferred to the 36th Tactical Airlift Squadron at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., in 1975. During his five years at McChord he said he participated on three rotational deployments to South America and one to Europe.
“I loved the Pacific Northwest, and I loved the C-130 mission,” he said. “Because we deployed together, there was great camaraderie in a 130 squadron.”
In fact, the colonel said while he was at McChord, his Herk squadron shared the base with two C-141 squadrons, and the pride he and his crews had in their Herks was plainly evident.
“Several times the C-141 model in front of wing headquarters mysteriously acquired props overnight,” he said. “We were also very proud of our camouflage (dark green and brown) paint job as opposed to the silver C-141s.”
This pride and fondness for the Herk shared by Colonel Albert also made an impression on Captain Albert’s career decision. She said she distinctly remembered the camaraderie her father had with his “crew dogs” (crew members) and his airdrop experiences.
“The versatility of the Herk also really appealed to me,” she said. “Not only can we haul cargo long distances, we can fly low level in formation and conduct airdrop missions.”
Some of Colonel Albert’s stories include his missions supporting the U.S. State Department in South America, NATO exercises and missions in Europe and 45-day deployments to Alaska and Panama.
Expanding on his time in Alaska during 1975, the colonel said, “The barges did not get through to the radar sites on Alaska’s north slope that year (the coastal ice shelf never melted), and C-130s had to fly the heating oil for the winter to the sites.”
Today, Herks continue to fly numerous humanitarian relief missions much like they did all those years ago during Colonel Albert’s beginning days of service.
And while Captain Albert’s experience in the Herk has only just begun, she is “looking forward to collecting stories about adventures in the C-130” and will surely pass them on to her family and friends.
“It is funny to hear Abigail talk about flying “old” C-130s. We thought they were old in the late 1970s,” said Colonel Albert. “We thought of them in the same way that I imagine classic car owners think about their cars. They deserved respect for years of faithful service, and we figured that they would still be flying for a long time. I guess that we were right.”