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C-130 aircrew students' on-time graduation rate back on track

Maj. Nathan Tracy looks on as Maj. Pat Menaire, both C-130 aircrew students at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., points out a route during their flight planning training at the 714th Training Squadron.

Maj. Nathan Tracy looks on as Maj. Pat Menaire, both C-130 aircrew students at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., points out a route during their flight planning training at the 714th Training Squadron.

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. (AETCNS) -- Timing is everything, especially when it comes to making sure C-130 aircrews get warfighters the "beans and bullets" they need to fight the Global War On Terrorism.

But supplying these aircrews to the fight has been a challenge until recent changes to how Little Rock Air Force Base trains them.

With a little ingenuity and a lot of teamwork, the 314th Airlift Wing went from a 73 percent on-time graduation rate in February to 97 percent as of June 1.

With 1,800 students a year to train and fewer aircraft to train, them on due to the C-130 center wing crack problems, the 314th AW faced a backlog of students that seemed to be growing bigger and bigger.

"At the end of fiscal year 2005 we were 321 (training) events behind," said. Lt. Col. David Kasberg, 314th Operations Group deputy commander. "But you can't just start over, the students are still here and still need the training."

Training events are the required items a student must accomplish during training, such as low-level flying or doing an assault landing.

For a while the 314th OG tried to fly more missions - to include weekend flying -- but this was only a temporary solution.

The unit kept flying the aircraft, which in turned caused the maintainers to work longer and harder, but also reduced the number of unrestricted aircraft, the colonel said.

"For six months we didn't have the minimum number of unrestricted aircraft we needed to accomplish our goal," and the unit was beginning to see the result of overtasking the aircraft they did have, Colonel Kasberg said.

Things were not going well. That's when the unit called for help.

With the support of Air Mobility Command and Air Education and Training Command, C-130 aircraft from throughout the Air Force were brought in to get the training back on track.

"The U.S. Air Force's tactical airlift capabilities are fundamental in supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. Gene Richardson, 19th Air Force Current Operations chief. "As the tactical airlift schoolhouse, the 314th Airlift Wing is the key part in maintaining this capability."

That's when the schoolhouse soared into action.

"On March 1 we stopped the bleeding, and now we are making up the (deficit)," Colonel Kasberg said. "We have gone from being 607 events behind schedule to today being 50 events behind, and we continue to improve."

This feat hasn't been overlooked by leadership either.

"Our amazing Airmen have done it! We have corrected a slide that took us to approximately 70 percent 10 months ago, to a 97 percent on time rate today," said Brig. Gen. Kip Self, 314th Airlift Wing commander. "How did we do this? Hard work and dedication helped, but it was the team approach that turned the tide. We can all take pride in this turn around. This increase ensures combat capability to the warfighter. I'm very impressed and proud of all of you."

"Most everyone at this headquarters (19th AF) is aware the challenges the 314th Airlift Wing has faced for more than a year due to the C-130E fleet's center wing spar issue," Colonel Richardson said. "Anyone that's looked at how the 314th Airlift Wing has met the challenge can't help but admire how the (wing) has maintained their student training timeline, as well as their flying hour program, in spite of the severe problems they faced."

But the battle to graduate C-130 aircrews on time isn't over yet.

"I'm hoping by the end of the fiscal year we will be where we need to be. That's our goal," Colonel Kasberg said, "and we think we can do it. We're looking right on target."
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