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AETC Heritage: Celebrating 50 years of C-130 training at LRAFB

  • Published
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- On Jan. 23, 2022, Air Education and Training Command will celebrate 80 years of recruiting, training and educating the men and women of the United States Air Force.

Since 1997, the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base has served under AETC as the nation’s tactical airlift “Center of Excellence,” focusing squarely on the C-130 training mission.

For the 314th AW, it is often said that “Herk Nation starts here.” After all, every C-130J Super Hercules pilot and crew member receives training here. Wherever they go, if they’re flying or working in a C-130, they first learned how to do it at Little Rock AFB.

But when did Herk Nation start here?

It started 50 years ago this year—in 1971—when Little Rock AFB first received its mission to train students from across the DoD and from select allied partners in the C-130 Hercules.

Little Rock AFB actually received its very first C-130 airplane in March 1970, which was named the “City of Jacksonville.” This occurred when the 64th Tactical Airlift Wing moved in as the base’s host unit and the first C-130s began arriving that spring, but their mission at this time was purely operational.

Barely a year later, the 314th Tactical Airlift Wing, known today as the 314th Airlift Wing, transferred into Little Rock AFB from its mission in Taiwan and took over as Little Rock AFB’s host unit. This occurred on May 31, 1971.

A few short months after establishing the 314th TAW at Little Rock AFB, the Air Force next transferred responsibility for all DoD Lockheed C-130 Hercules formal flying training from the 464th Tactical Airlift Wing, stationed at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., to the 314th TAW at Little Rock AFB. This happened in August 1971, and Little Rock AFB has owned this training mission ever since.

With the reorganization of tactical airlift training at Little Rock AFB, the 314th TAW ended up with three flying squadrons, each equipped with C-130 aircraft:  the 16th Tactical Airlift Squadron, which provided Phase I training for entry-level qualified C-130 pilots and flight engineers;  the 61st Tactical Airlift Squadron, which carried forward the operational mission begun in 1970, providing airlift capability around the world; and the 62nd Tactical Airlift Squadron, which was made responsible for the Replacement Training Unit training that had previously been accomplished by the 464th TAW at Pope AFB.

The first C-130 students at Little Rock AFB were two navigators, who entered Phase I training on Aug. 5, 1971. In October 1971, the base began training its first international students as well, when on Oct. 9, 1971, Italian air force crews initiated their C-130 training at Little Rock.

Altogether, thousands of C-130 pilots and crew members have been trained at Little Rock AFB over the past 50 years.

Today, the wing is responsible for training more than 1,200 students, including more than 150 international students, making it the DoD’s largest international flight training program.

As we carry out into the future, our Herk missions at Little Rock AFB will carry upwards and onwards for many years to come!