Wing supports two exercises in Africa
By Tech. Sgt. Michael Crane, 139th Airlift Wing
/ Published April 04, 2014
NIGER, Africa -- A C-130 Hercules aircraft sits on a runway in the desert in the African country of Niger. The props have a red tint caused by the dusty climate. There's no fence or gate surrounding the airstrip. The only thing between the aircraft and airfield are a couple of Phoenix Ravens: a team of two specially trained security forces Airmen tasked with protecting the aircraft and its crew.
These Airmen were among 21 Airmen from the 139th Airlift Wing who participated in two exercises in Africa spanning the month of March.
Exercise Flintlock is an annual African-led military exercise. This year, 18 countries participated in the exercise which took place in Niger. Three U.S. Air National Guard units provided airlift support for the exercise including the 139th Airlift Wing from St. Joseph, Mo., the 130th Airlift Wing from Charleston, W. Va., and the 152nd Airlift Wing from Reno, Nev.
Their mission included airdrops and troop movement.
"One particular day we dropped 250 paratroopers," said Lt. Col. Chuck Newton, a pilot assigned to the 180th Airlift Squadron, Missouri Air National Guard, who was the aircraft commander in charge of the St. Joseph aircraft. "We were taking 50 up at a time and dropping 25 at a time."
After the two week exercise in Niger was complete, their mission wasn't done. From here, they flew south to Cameroon for a completely different exercise: Central Accord 2014.
"We went from a desert climate to a tropical one," said Tech. Sgt. Chris Black, who is assigned to the 139th Security Forces Squadron (SFS), Missouri Air National Guard, who provided security for the aircraft and crew as a Phoenix Raven trained Airman.
Black was wearing a tan flight suit, something most security forces Airmen don't wear unless their mission is to provide security and control while flying on a military aircraft.
"We provided flight deck denial," said Black. "We sit at the front of the aircraft to ensure no one attempts to access the flight deck without aircraft commander approval."
The Ravens also guard the aircraft when it's parked on the runway.
"A lot of these airfields, there's no security or fence," said Staff Sgt. Greg Haynes, who is also assigned to the 139th SFS.
In addition to the aircrew and security forces, maintenance Airmen and a flight surgeon were part of the exercise.
"The maintainers did a wonderful job of maintaining the airplane," said Newton. "We had 100% mission accomplishment. We didn't cancel anything."