National Guard pulls their weight

Story and photos by Master Sgt. Scott Wagers
Air Force News Agency

***image1***Unbeknownst to most of Team Ramstein, a tri-state contingent of nearly 60 Air National Guardsmen finished a 10-week tour of duty Jan. 11, with the 38th Airlift Squadron where they’d collectively hauled cargo throughout Europe before picking up their J-model C-130 Hercules and leaving just as quietly as they came.

The lack of fanfare was not that their contributions weren’t appreciated, but more a comment on how seamlessly guard, reserve and active- duty members have learned to work together as a total force to get the mission done.

“Active, guard and reserve Airmen in this day and age can’t do anything without each other and have no other choice but to work together − and here at Ramstein you have the perfect example of that total force,” said Col. Larry Gallogly, a Rhode Island Air National Guardsman, who was the acting 38th AS commander during the final two weeks of that rotation.

***image2***With the dedicated support provided by the squadron’s all-guard and reserve team, the colonel said Ramstein’s active-duty 37th Airlift Squadron doesn’t have to shoulder U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s airlift mission all by themselves.

“Covering missions throughout Europe and to the desert while performing local training missions is a tremendous burden on them and so the guard and reserve can come over here and relieve some of that burden,” he said.

“The real benefit, however, is all of us working together, getting to know each other building relationships and building up that level of trust because we’re going to run into each other all around the world and it should be a very seamless operation,” Colonel Gallogly said.

Colonel Gallogly, who at his home station of Quanset State Airport in Rhode Island, serves as the commander of the 143rd Airlift Wing.

***image3***“I’m here as a squadron commander working for the 86th Airlift Wing right now and some day down the road they could be deployed working for my wing somewhere,” he said.

The roughly 40-member Air National Guard team from California, Maryland and Rhode Island are no strangers to one another. Representing three of the only four guard units in possession of the new J-model C-130 Hercules, the teams continually cross paths.

One of the last missions of the team’s tour in Germany required the transfer of cargo from Aviano Air Base, Italy, to Zaragoza Air Base, Spain.

The payload will help sustain more than a dozen fighter aircraft and their support personnel conducting training over the next month.

The six-member Rhode Island-based crew had made an identical run earlier in the week. Some of the crew had worked together for several years sharing deployments to different countries.

Co-pilot Capt. Kevin McDonnell, whose father was Active Guard Reserve for 32 years, remembers growing up around a flight line. He enlisted at age 18.

 “I knew exactly what I was getting into,” he said.

After enlisting for six years, he got his commission and has been flying for the last 10. The captain said the guard’s role in the total force concept has evolved in recent years.

“Prior to 9-11, (life in the Guard) seemed more at ease,” he said. “I remember champing at the bit to really get in the game. I felt like I was a pro ball player practicing my whole life to go fly a mission but having to sit on the bench. But now it feels as if we’re no longer benchwarmers – we’re starters and we’re playing in the game.”

On the return leg from Spain, the mood among the Rhode Island crew was light as there was talk of seeing family soon and the prospect of catching a New England Patriot’s game. 

After landing and parking an empty J-model on the Ramstein tarmac, the crew was met by new faces and uniforms bearing the Kentucky and Idaho state colors.

There were no flowery welcomes or cheerful exchanges between the incoming and outgoing crews – just unspoken nods of mutual understanding and matter-of-fact exchanges of need-to-know information.

It was time to pass the baton and it was as though they’d all done this before at another time in another place. It was exactly the way it was supposed to be.