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Deployed Reserve unit sets benchmark for airlift

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Spencer Gallien
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
With more than 1,300 sorties flown, around 13.2 million pounds of cargo delivered, more than 500 medical evacuees escorted and roughly 23,000 passengers transported across the AOR, the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron executed more than 2,700 flight hours and has set a new benchmark for future airlift squadrons stationed in Southwest Asia.

Lt. Col. Don Buckley, squadron commander, said that during the unit's time with the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, it has maintained a 99.7 percent mission success rate.

"A lot of factors went into our success here," said Colonel Buckley, a C-130J Hercules pilot. "The superior Airmanship, professionalism and sense of duty of our squadron members was paramount to our success."

At home station, the Reserve unit is known as the 815th Airlift Squadron "Flying Jennies." The unit travelled, as a team, from the 403rd Wing at their home-station, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.

The "Flying Jennies" have supported operations since World War II, when their mission was transporting redeploying servicemembers in B-17 Flying Fortresses.

"It's incredibly difficult to achieve a 99.7 percent success rate with airdrops," said Capt. Elissa Granderson, a 746th EAS pilot. "So many things can go wrong during an airdrop, including weather, the drop zone being under fire or even losing cargo during transfer."

The group of reservist maintainers, pilots, planners and loadmasters also achieved another milestone. According to the Combined Air and Space Operation Center's Air Mobility Division records, the unit, along with the 816th EAS, set an AOR record by distributing more than 800 Container Delivery System bundles across Afghanistan during a one-week period.

"The CDS bundles we dropped contained everything from water and food to help sustain our fighting forces on the ground, to munitions and fuel to keep the mission moving," said Captain Granderson. "We take a lot of pride in providing ground troops these types of force-enabling bundles. Sometimes they may be cut off from supply routes, or unable to get water by conventional means, and our resupply efforts are what is fueling their survival."

By airdropping supplies to ground forces, the unit also keeps vehicle convoys off the road, said Col. David Been, 379th Expeditionary Operations Group commander. "Through resupply airdrops, we avoid the single greatest risk in the AOR--Improvised Explosive Devices, and through that, save lives."

The 746th Airlift Squadron also conducts mercy missions, through the pick-up and transfer of medical patients to larger medical facilities throughout the AOR.

The C-130 crews worked in conjunction with the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron's medical teams to provide safe transport for servicemembers injured while supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, or efforts in the Horn of Africa.

"They provided MEDEVAC for everything from routine medical patients to serious battle injuries," said Colonel Been. "With the C-130s flying medical evacuation, we quickly transport patients from small field hospitals to larger theater hospitals in the AOR."

The squadron also supports the dignified transfer of Fallen Warriors. A job not relished, although equally important to any mission they've supported, said Captain Granderson.

"Supporting our Fallen Warriors is an incredibly important job," she added. "However difficult it may be, we provide our heroes the proper respect, as they're sent home."

Throughout all of the missions the "Flying Jennies" have supported during their time in Southwest Asia, they have performed superbly, said Colonel Been.

"They're a testament to Air Force successes that come from a total force of active-duty, Guard and Reserve," he added. "Their reliability, experience and professionalism are phenomenal. I was given the opportunity to go out on a few missions with the 'Jennies,' and I was thoroughly impressed by their commitment and expertise."