139th News

Missouri Airmen lead Task Force Iron Herk II

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Michael Crane
  • 139th Airlift Wing

Some Airmen from the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Airlift Wing returned home on July 1, 2022 from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where they were deployed supporting European Command’s area of responsibility.

The Airmen, primarily made up of aircrew and maintainers, were part of a short notice deployment in response to the Ukrainian conflict. Their mission has been to provide C-130 Hercules airlift throughout the region.

“The fact that we’re here is a show of presence,” said Lt. Col. James Pate, commander of Task Force Iron Herk II, who also said his group arrived in the Spring time. “That demonstrates to the world that we can rapidly deploy and execute mobility airlift missions on short notice around the world.”

The 139th is serving as the lead unit for the task force, which is made up of Guard and Reserve Airmen.

Pate says they have transported everything from food and water to explosives and weapons. They have even transported personnel including high priority aeromedical evacuations.

So far, the 139th has flown over 58 sorties and logged over 163 flight hours. They have transported 244 passengers and airlifted 477 tons of cargo.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our maintenance personnel. They’re supporting a contingency…supporting a 24-hour operations,” said Pate. “They’ve done a great job of maintaining the aircraft and getting them back on mission-ready status.”

Maintainers have been launching and recovering aircraft covering day and night shifts with a 99% mission effectiveness rate, said Chief Master Sgt. Kelly Kunkel, chief of maintenance for TFIH II, who has deployed a dozen times in his career. 

When the 139th maintainers first arrived, the workspace was bare. The previous group worked in another facility, said Kunkel. They used whatever office furniture they could find and to create a makeshift workspace.

Kunkel says that despite all challenges, “The 139th has never had an issue…of making the mission happen. Anytime we go anywhere, we shine.”

“We’ve taken four different units in maintenance and come together like this and I cannot tell the difference between the 139th and [the Reservists]. Everyone has an attitude of ‘getting this mission done’,” he said. “I would take them anywhere in the world.” 

The Guard and Reserve Airmen are from five different wings. Master Sgt. Dustin Smisson, who is assigned to the 700th Airlift Squadron, is a reservist serving as the unit’s first sergeant. 

“I’ve never seen a more professional group of people in my life,” Smisson said referring to crew chiefs and maintainers.

As a first sergeant, part of his job includes focusing on quality of life and morale, but he also takes time to visit with his Airmen. He has witnessed maintenance and operations work hand-in-hand and credits their success to everyone taking ownership of the processes they work with, said Smisson.

Although some Airmen were able to return home, the wing still has people deployed in support of TFIH II.

“That’s a testament to our guys wanting to support the mission and taking an intrinsic attitude toward preserving our way of life,” said Pate.