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107th/914th unite for Operation Unified Response

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Peter Dean
  • 107th AW/PA
Continuing their support of Operation Unified Response, members of the New York Air National Guard's 107th Airlift Wing and members of the Air Force Reserve's 914 Airlift Wing, Niagara Falls, N.Y. have joined together once again. During the mid morning hours of Jan. 21, a C-130 with 16 personnel departed Niagara for Pope Air Force Base, N. C. where they will relieve the existing aircrews that are now in place. The on-going effort began Saturday for the 107th and the 914th when two C-130 cargo planes loaded with full aircrews left Niagara in response to the critical need for transportation of much needed supplies, equipment and personnel to the earthquake ravished region of Haiti. The Niagara aircrews, a combination of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve have been flying missions from Pope AFB en route to Port-Au-Prince throughout the week. While at Pope AFB the planes were loaded with fresh supplies such as pallets of water, food and basic necessities. After the several hour flight to Haiti, cargo is unloaded and Haitians are loaded into the C-130 destine for Homestead Air Reserve Station, Fla. Upon arrival at Homestead ARS, the Haitians were evaluated, given nourishment and medical care. Homestead ARS, has converted its base gym into a medical center to accommodate the influx of victims. "We delivered medical and relief supplies down and returned with evacuees," said Capt. Richard Konopczynsky, 914th C-130 pilot. "We brought them back to the United States for medical care," he added. "Seeing the despair in the faces of the victims, it's hard not to think of your own family," said Capt. Konopczynsky. "They were devastated, but were very thankful for what we were doing," he added. According to the captain he flew twenty plus hour and flew six sorties. Transporting thousands of tons of supplies into Haiti and airlifted more than 100 Haitians to Homestead ARS, for medical treatment. The Niagara crews were flying around the clock; day and night. The locality of this mission to Niagara enables for frequent crew swaps, ensuring the crews remain fresh and able to respond at a moment's notice. "An experience I'll never forget," said Capt. Justin Pautler, 107th C-130 pilot. "Whenever you can utilize your training for the benefit of others, it's a good thing," he added. In the short time that the crews spent there, a noticeable change had become apparent. "The first night we got there it was total chaos," said Capt. Pautler. "But as the week rolled on, a sense of control had been established," he added. "Initially there were so many different planes coming in, that a rhythm had not been established," said Tech Sgt. Rick Ackley, 914th C-130 Flight Engineer. "By the second night time slots were in place and it was a little easier getting in and out," he added. Answering humanitarian missions is not unique to Niagara, but this mission is. With this being the first AFRC/ANG association of its kind, the collocated units now fly and maintain the same C-130 aircraft, sharing the same tail flashes. In the past the 107th as well as the 914th would each be tasked and respond to their own missions. In response to the BRAC decision of 2005 the 107th converted from a refueling wing and flying KC-135s to an airlift wing, flying the C-130. The 914th has been flying the C-130 since the early sixties and is well versed in the use and capabilities of the C-130. Still under conversion status from the KC-135 the 107th AW is on track to be a proven leader in the airlift community. Together the 107th and the 914th will be an airlifting force second to none. Whether it is a humanitarian mission, an in-country disaster or a world contingency the 107th and the 914th will be ready and able to answer the call. The C-130 has been around since the Korean War, answering the call for a highly versatile cargo plane. The four prop aircraft has the ability to carry an internal payload of more than 42,000 pounds of supplies or equipment. It also is able to be configured to carry up to 92 passengers and has a range of more than 2,200 miles flying at a maximum airspeed of 386mph. The C-130s ability to land and take-off from undeveloped runways makes it ideal to fly into locations that may have less than desirable landing strips. With all of its capabilities it's easy to see why it's the future of Niagara. When asked do you think your making a difference, Capt. Konopczynsky responded "The fact that those little kids aren't going to be spending the night there makes it all worth it, yes we're doing good"