By Senior Airman Bahja J. Jones
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
SOUTHWEST ASIA — Versatile and resilient best describe the C-130 Hercules and its crews who coordinate, maintain and fly its robust mission capability at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing here.
The Hercules primarily performs a tactical airlift mission with the capability to operate from rough dirt strips, serving as the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas. The flexible design of the Hercules gives it a diverse mission set, from providing airlift support and aeromedical missions to weather reconnaissance and other specialized missions.
Four decades strong, C-130s continue to support Air Force flying operations.
At the backbone of the Hercules operations here, the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron Intel and tactics Airmen work together to ensure the safety of the flight crews through effective mission planning and data collection, giving the crews foresight and peace of mind before taking to the skies.
“Intel provides all-source thread analysis and force protection information for the aircrew,” said Maj. Michael Korb, the former 746th EAS Intel chief who was deployed from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. “We spend a lot of time reviewing intelligence products and combing for relevant threat information pertinent to the missions we fly.”
Each day, Intel and tactics receive the flight schedules for outgoing missions and Intel looks at those locations to overlay the current threat picture, Korb said. Intel helps prepare the battle space by assessing enemy capabilities. Relevant data is then routed to tactics Airmen who use the information to plan a mission profile that poses the least threat to crews and highest probability of mission success.
“The core function of tactics is to serve as the mission planning cell,” said Richard Pantusa, the 746th EAS tactics chief also deployed from Peterson AFB. “The MPC does all the work that can be done by someone outside of the crew, researching airfields, routes, threats, etc., so when the crew is alerted they can minimize the amount of time spent in briefings and get the plane in the air. “
Strategically located under the same roof, the two sections work to make informed decisions to effectively execute the mission.
“They [Intel] bring a lot of research to the table about what’s going on at the tactical, operational and even strategic level that could impact our mission,” Pantusa said. “We [tactics] take that information and apply it to employing the aircraft in the safest way possible.”
All tacticians are rated flyers within the squadron, and bring the crew member perspective to the information that Intel provides, Pantusa explained. Intel Airmen serve in many other capacities throughout the Air Force and are not always assigned to support an airframe.
“They come from varied backgrounds, so we learn so much from them,” said Pantusa. “At the same time, we are able to teach them the intricacies of the C-130 mission crucial to the success of our missions.”
Together, the duo ensures aircrews are informed of all potential threats and can focus on the task they set out to perform.
“Aircrews have quite a bit on their plate from the time that they are alerted to the time they take off,” said Pantusa. “We take a lot of pride in ensuring all the little details have been taken care of so they don’t need to spend time chasing down information. We know when the crews make it back safely, they were well informed.”
[Editor’s note: This article is part one of a four part series highlighting the Airmen essential to the C-130 Hercules’ deployed mission here.]