Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

TOP STORY >> 463rd: Inside look at war on terror

Leader staff writer

Besides being a schoolhouse for all things related to the C-130 cargo plane, Little Rock Air Force Base houses the 463rd Airlift Group, which transports “beans and bullets” as well as troops, all over the world.

“Airlift is one of the most vital part of the war on terror,” said Col. Scott Lockard, deputy commander of the 463rd, which was established at Little Rock Air Force Base in 1997.

“We’re using it to get over some of those areas that are hazardous to military convoys,” Lockard said, adding that this year the 463rd helped train the first all-Iraqi C-130 Hercules crew.

The 463rd has about 1,200 airmen under its command divided up among an aircraft maintenance squadron, maintenance operations squadron and an operations support squadron, as well as two airlift squadrons, the 50th and the 61st.

The 61st Airlift Squadron flies 12 of the older C-130E aircraft and the 50th Airlift Squadron flies 14 of the C-130H3 aircraft.
Currently about 20 percent of the 463rd is constantly leaving or arriving on rotating de-ployments that typically last 180 days.
“They’re ours in our hearts, but while they’re in the theater (of war) they belong to the commander over there. As a commander, you have to trust them to take care of your troops,” Lockard said.

“It’s tough on a commander to not have that day-to-day involvement with your airmen.”

“The personnel are performing magnificently across the board in the AOR (Area of Responsibility). The personnel are coming back feeling fulfilled because they understand the importance of what they’re doing over there. They’re fired up when they get back,” Lockard said.
Currently, there are five C-130s from the 463rd in South-east Asia which includes Iraq and Afghanistan.
Like personnel, the aircraft are rotated back to Little Rock Air Force Base regularly.

“We fly the aircraft hard and we land in austere conditions. It’s hard on the tires and brakes,” Lockard said. “We bring them back for the maintenance we can’t perform in the desert.”

Originally stationed at Ard-more Air Force Base in Okla-homa as the 463rd Troop Carrier Wing, the Wing received the first C-130A from Lockheed Aircraft Corpo-ration on Dec. 9, 1956.

To celebrate the 50th anni-versary of the first C-130, Lockard said the 463rd is planning a variety of events to make 2006 “The Year of the Herk,” referring to the Hercules.