- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An Arkansas Air National Guard official said a new mission to train more crew members on the C-130H aircraft has “completely changed” how the 189th Airlift Wing operates.

The 189th wing has trained instructors on the plane designed to airdrop troops and equipment into hostile areas since 1986, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1fkzI70 ) reported. The U.S. Air Force added to the unit’s responsibilities in 2013, tasking it with training all C-130H flight crews and increasing the number of airmen it trains yearly from about 350 to about 800.

Col. Dom Sarnataro, the commander of the 189th Operations Group, said the new mission has “changed almost everything we do.”

“We had been taking on very experienced crew members and making them an instructor. You have a very knowledgeable person to teach,” Sarnataro said. “Now we’re opening it up to everybody, so we’re taking a wide range of students, from folks who really have never even seen a C-130 to folks who have been flying for quite a while.”

To handle the increase, a spokesman for the 189th said the state’s Air National Guard gained 150 personnel last year.

The number of C-130s the unit flew has increased from 9 to 12, according to Sarnataro. The heavy workload caused the unit to borrow six more aircraft from other units, doubling what its total had been before 2013.

The 189th is facing its busiest year in fiscal 2016, after the Air Force asked it to train 900 C-130H crew members.

The unit still has the help of the 314th Airlift Wing, an active-duty unit at the Little Rock Air Force Base. Sarnataro said the airmen who augment the 189th’s training are still “vital” as the number of crew members the unit is expected to train remains high.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” Sarnataro said. “They are flying with us; they are instructors; they are training in every crew position we have.”


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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