End of an era
By Maj. Barb Denny, 139th AW
/ Published November 04, 2009
Rosecrans, St. Joseph Missouri -- Not many Air National Guard units can say they were able to fly brand new aircraft home from the factory. But for the past 22 years the 139th Airlift Wing could do just that; brag about getting to watch their aircraft being built on the assembly line.
On October 9th the wing held an Aircraft Departure Ceremony. The ceremony, in front of nearly 300 current and former personnel, marked the first original aircraft to leave St. Joseph. "Today marks a new chapter in our unit history," said Col. Mike McEnulty, 139th Airlift Wing commander. "Just like in life-change is natural."
The 139th will be giving up its 1986 factory- fresh C-130 H2 model aircraft to the 189th Airlift Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard. The exchange means 1990-model C-130 H2.5 aircraft from the 179th Airlift Wing, Ohio Air National Guard will replace the older H2 models.
Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) action increased the number of aircraft assigned to the 139th AW to ten from the original eight. The upgrade in aircraft not only gives the 139th AW aircraft more technology, it will also lower the amount of flight hours on the fleet. "Once we get all of the new airplanes our total flying hours on our fleet will drop by more than 25,000 hours," said Col. Andy Halter, 139th Maintenance Group commander.
The first original aircraft to leave will be 86-1396. When the aircraft arrived at Rosecrans in June 1987 it had a total of 8.2 hours flying hours. When it leaves it will have nearly 11,000 hours of flying time and will have flown around the world several times.
"I have mixed feelings today," said Col. (Ret.) Ken Gabriel, former 139th commander from 1978-1989. "I remember going to the factory to watch them being built in 1985. And I brought the first one back in March of 1987."
Though the new airplane smell has worn off, the dependability of these work horses has not. The eight original aircraft have supported every major U.S. military operation since Desert Storm in 1991, flown humanitarian missions around the world, and transported comrades home who paid the ultimate price for freedom.