Airmen use C-130 as training device
By Staff Sgt. Sherree Grebenstein, 167th Airlift Wing
/ Published August 11, 2009
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- While the 167th Airlift Wing is officially home to the C-5 Galaxy now, another aircraft can be found parked on the flight line too.
And while the aircraft will never fly on another mission, it may just save lives.
A C-130E Hercules destined for retirement to what is also known as the "bone yard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Ariz., was diverted from Ramstein Air Base in Germany last month for use by Airmen at the base in Martinsburg.
"That airplane will never fly again, but will continue to serve a purpose," said Col. Richard M. Robichaud, operations group commander for the 167th Airlift Wing.
Airmen with the base's aeromedical evacuation squadron have already begun using the decommissioned aircraft for egress training, which is designed to get Airmen out of the C-130 as quickly as possible in case of an emergency.
Airmen Joseph Robert recently underwent egress training on the C-130 to familiarize himself with the exit points of the aircraft which include three overhead hatches and three side doors. The young Berryville, Va., Airman found the hands-on training of learning how to open the Aircraft's doors more beneficial then if he had to simulate the procedure in a classroom environment.
"Once we get it (the C-130) all squared away, we'll be able to use it on base for training," said Tech Sgt. Will Stuller, a flight instructor for the aeromedical evacuation squadron.
Not having to simulate the inside of a C-130 inside a classroom or warehouse will provide more realistic training for the medics, Stuller said.
Robichaud said the 1968 aircraft will be converted into a permanent training simulator after having its wings and tail removed. He said it's projected to be moved to the old engine area near Building 134 which is home to the unit's aeromedical evacuation squadron.
The 167th Airlift Wing was able to secure $70,000 from the National Guard Bureau to have the aircraft reconfigured for training use, Robichaud said.
Active duty Air Force C-130 depot maintenance workers from Robins Air Force Base near Macon. Ga., are expected to spend four to six weeks starting at the end of September removing the aircraft's wings and tail for conversion into the simulator.
In the past, Robichaud said C-130 aircraft from the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston, W.Va., would fly on missions to the Martinsburg base and be used for training by the aeromedical evacuation squadron. However, limited time on the ground meant the medics had to fit their training in on the aircraft crew's schedule.
Now with a permanent C-130 simulator at the base, medics as well as other units can schedule training to fit around their own timeframe.
Robichaud said those assigned to the aeromedical evacuation squadron do over 50 percent of their annual requirement training on a static trainer such as a C-130.
"This is the ideal training device for them," he said.
The operations group commander called the addition of the C-130 "a huge benefit" for not only the aeromedical evacuation squadron, but any unit on base that seeks training from it. Robichaud pointed out that recently the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms used the aircraft for training.
Lt. Col. Laurence Symenow, the aeromedical evacuation squadron's senior health technician, spent the past two and a half years trying to secure a C-130 for training purposes at the airbase. He said his efforts culminated at the Pentagon level.
"Most (medical) training requirements can be simulated on the ground," Symenow explained.
Once fully configured, the medics will use the C-130 for various training to include everything from learning where equipment can be plugged into on the aircraft to how to configure it for patients that are transporting. A surround-sound system will provide realistic aircraft noise as the simulator's electrical system will be fully operational.
Symenow said egress training and aircraft familiarization are also essential for the Airmen and will be addressed when they climb aboard the C-130.
He pointed out that the base's aerial port and fire department have already expressed interest in training on the C-130.
Symenow said it's a win-win situation having the C-130 permanently available for training at the 167th Airlift Wing.
He said the money saved by not requiring a C-130 to fly from Charleston specifically for medics to train on is incentive enough.
"It will definitely be invaluable once we get it ready," said Master Sgt. L.T. "Peppy" Smith, a flight examiner for the aeromedical evacuation squadron.