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Flying Jennies, wing members return from deployment

  • Published
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs
Air Force Reserve Citizen Airmen and several C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 403rd Wing have returned from a deployment to Southwest Asia in support of Operations Freedom Sentinel and Inherent Resolve.

Aircrew from the 815th Airlift Squadron, maintainers from the 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and support personnel from the 403rd Wing were assigned to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

The 815th AS, better known as the Flying Jennies, provided combat airdrop and airlift and aeromedical evacuation support to operations throughout the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility.

"In all the deployments I've been on with the 815th, we went more places in the area of responsibility than we ever have before," said Lt. Col. Keith Gibson, who commanded the 746th Air Expeditionary Squadron there. "It was good for our young Airmen to see such a variety of airfields and different tactical situations. They did an outstanding job."

The 746th AES made Air Force history during the event when they did a two-ship formation airdrop with the 774th EAS, an active duty squadron at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, providing supplies to a Resolute Support Expeditionary Advisory Package in Afghanistan earlier this month.

This was the first time two separate units in two countries came together for a single combat airdrop mission, said Gibson.

He added that the squadron delivered about 35 percent more cargo and passengers based on the C-130 historical averages at AUAB than what's typically done in a deployment, providing 7 million pounds of cargo to the warfighter, said Gibson.

The return from this deployment was vastly different from when the Flying Jennies returned from their deployment in 2014. The unit was scheduled to close at the end of that year. However, the Secretary of the Air Force reversed that recommendation in 2015.

"From the time we got the news that the 815th was staying open to declaring fully operational capable in November of 2017 was only 18 months," said Gibson. "Rebuilding the 815th in such a short time was a Herculean effort by the entire squadron, and is simply amazing. These guys have absolutely rocked it and done a terrific job. We have shown that the 815th is back in business."

This deployment was the first for the 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, which was activated in October 2016 to support the 815th AS.

"It was a huge learning opportunity," said Maj. Brian Horton, 803rd AMXS commander and the deployed officer in charge of the 746th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit. "We certainly learned what our shortfalls were, honed our skills, and improved our process. Now we are going to bring what we learned here and get ready for the next deployment, which will be here in the blink of an eye."

Until then, deployers such as Horton are taking some time to spend with their families.

"I'm glad to be home," he said.