Story by A1C Aaron Irvin on 09/20/2019The 19th Airlift Wing from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, partnered with the 317th AW from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, to create the 4/12 deployment initiative, signifying the first time since September 11, 2001, that entire units from these wings will be home together.
Through fulfilling this joint partnership between the four flying squadrons, it has provided stability, training opportunities, and ensures one cohesive fighting team.
"Like many other organizations since September 11, 2001, the C-130J community has been constantly deployed to fulfill mission requirements, and for many years we deployed entire units at a time," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Andrew "Bull" Miller, 61st Airlift Squadron director of operations. "As requirements have changed overseas over the past several years, we've deployed smaller segments of the organization to different places at different times, and we stopped deploying together."
While upholding the standards to deliver the nation's effective airlift support at the right place and the right time, the squadrons didn't always have adequate time to focus on readiness and development of capabilities for uncertain future requirements.
"That striation of deployments impacted the way we organize, train and equip at the wing level, and it's also effected the squadrons because with 30 percent of our crews deployed in chunks, it's difficult to maintain squadron integrity, perspective, and unity of command," Miller said. "Our people get to the point where they don't know each other very well. That deployment structure was denying us unit integrity."
Executing the Combat Airlift mission has taken Team Little Rock and Dyess AFB Airmen around the world, although not always together, from the Pacific to Europe to Africa to the Middle East and everywhere in between, showcasing a truly global footprint.
"Between the 39th, 40th, 41st, and 61st Airlift Squadrons', we own all the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command deployment taskings for Combat Airlift," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brandon Shroyer, 40th AS commander. "Without working together between both wings, we wouldn't be able to realign these deployments. Gen. Goldfein has said that The squadron is the beating heart of the U.S. Air Force; our most essential team.' We wanted to make sure we worked together so all our squadrons could deploy together as one cohesive fighting team."
This is where the new deployment initiative comes into play. The 39th and 40th Airlift Squadrons from DAFB, and the 41st and 61st Airlift Squadrons from LRAFB, will now coordinate together ensuring each squadron rotates deployments for four months followed by 12 months of dwell time. While one squadron is fulfilling their rotational deployment, the other three will be focused on sharpening readiness allowing more time to train for tomorrow's fight.
"This adds squadron continuity, unit integrity and allows everyone to focus on the same requirements at the same time," Miller said. "Because of that, we can better prepare for future requirements instead of constant focus on counter terrorism."
The 61st AS from the 19th AW returned in May, marking the first C-130J squadron in the past 18 years to have an entire year of dwell time, beginning the cycle for the four squadrons. The 41st AS has recently returned to begin their rotation of dwell time and training.
The 12 months of dwell time allows for three quarters to focus on core mission objectives, and one quarter of deployment specific training.
"The new setup allows me more time at home with my squadron to train for specific objectives," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Cason Soat, 61st AS pilot. "It also allows for continuity and to build cohesiveness and camaraderie as a squadron so that when we go to deploy, we know the guys we're deploying with, and we've been training with them for a year."
Not only did the initiative benefit Airmen by providing a strict timeline of when they deploy, but guarantees more time training at home station.
"In the 317th AW, we see the squadron as the binding element between Airmen, families and the mission," Shroyer said. "We have lived through several years of constant deployments and tasking's and the squadrons have never felt whole because someone is always deployed. This allows us the time to train together, build relationships and be ready for the next time our nation calls upon us."
The 4/12 initiative ensures all four squadrons are prepared in their critical role in enabling agile Combat Airlift in our nation's defense.
"Most importantly, this provides us the white space to ensure today's readiness and advocate for tomorrows capabilities," Miller said.