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Air Guard, Reserves Support Balkans Peace (Apr. 19)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany---Although the United States is heavily involved in Operation Enduring Freedom, it continues to provide about 6,900 military people to support peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans.

About half of the C-130 Hercules missions from here supporting Operation Joint Forge are flown by airmen from Air Force Reserve Command and the Air National Guard.

"The Guard and Reserve are vital to accomplishing the United States Air Forces in Europe theater airlift mission," said Col. Brad Pray, operations group commander for the 86th Airlift Wing here.

"Two-thirds of the C-130 force structure consists of Guard and Reserve," Pray said. "The high experience levels of both maintenance and the crews bring an absolute first-rate capability to the theater."

The reservists are from the 302nd AW at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and have been called to active duty for one year. They are augmented by a variety of National Guard units on a voluntary basis.

While deployed, they belong to the 38th Airlift Squadron (Provisional), known locally as Delta Squadron, and work with the active force's 37th AS here. Four Reserve C-130s and two Guard C-130s are assigned to the 38th AS (P).

Guard and Reserve crews fly about half of the daily missions, said Lt. Col. Mark, 38th AS (P) deployment commander (the last names of called-up reservists have been omitted for security reasons). Between Oct. 1 and April 1, they have moved about 15,000 passengers and 3,800 tons of cargo.

""The group over here is becoming tighter and tighter, getting more and more done,"" said Mark, a pilot for commercial mail company. ""Since we are all now full time, the aircrews are really getting to know their maintainers.""

Delta Squadron people took part in the 86th AW's recent operational readiness inspection and aircrew standardization and evaluation visit here.

""We're very proud of the job we did in the both the ASEV and the ORI,"" Mark said. ""We got lots of kudos from active-duty folks.""

His civilian career as a commercial airline pilot was drastically changed by his activation, Mark said. Another airline bought the airline he works for, and he is missing the transition period and learning the other airline's systems.

""It will be like going to work at a new job when I return,"" Mark said. ""But most of us wouldn't be in the airline industry anyway if it weren't for the military giving us flight experience.""

Many of the activated pilots were released or furloughed by the airlines because of the reduced volume of air travelers following the Sept. 11 attacks. For those pilots, being called to active duty has been a safety net.

""It's one of the advantages to keeping your military service going,"" he said.

Several pilots said they know what they are doing is important, but they would rather be flying combat missions in the war on terrorism.

""Sure I would rather be directly supporting combat operations in the theater,"" said Maj. Bob, a commercial airline pilot back on active duty. ""But the current mission is also one we are trained for, and I'm glad to lend a hand any way I can.

""When you're activated, you go where they send you,"" he said. ""We'll probably be down there too before it's all over.""

The Delta Squadron has flown several missions for purposes other than Operation Joint Forge. For example, one mission went to Africa for space shuttle support and to the Middle East to pick up the remains of a deceased service member


" Delta Squadron Crews Help Keep Peace In The Balkans