Busy Afghan mission leads to recognition
From left: Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., commander of the Air Force Reserve Command and chief of the Air Force Reserve, is shown with “Daddy 05” aircrew members: Maj. Michael Black; Tech. Sgt. Ronald Bacon; Chief Master Sgt. Michael Klausutis; Senior Master Sgt. Keith Poole; Lt. Cols. Thomas Mims and Christopher Snider; Maj. John Stone II; along with Joseph Sutter, Air Force Association chairman of the board at the annual AFA awards ceremony at National Harbor, Md. in September. The Duke Field reservist aircrew members were presented the AFA's 2009 Brig. Gen. Ross G. Hoyt Award for the Air Force’s most outstanding air refueling crew. The winning crew also included Col. Bruce Taylor and 1st Lt. Patrick Hobgood (not shown). (U.S. Air Force photo/Dan Neely)
by Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.
919th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
10/5/2010 - DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- The 919th Special Operations Wing aircrew of "Daddy 05" was recently selected for the Air Force Association's Brig. Gen. Ross Hoyt Award for their efforts on a mission over Afghanistan in 2009.
At that time, the 10-man C-130E Combat Talon aircrew led by pilot Maj. Michael Black, 711th Special Operations Squadron, took off from Bagram Air Base just after sunset for what turned out to be a very long and busy flight just after sunset.
"Typically a flight mission lasts five to six hours," said Major Black, currently with the 5th Special Operation Squadron, who served as the aircraft commander for the mission.
Sometimes an aircrew may participate in four events during a mission. On this mission they were involved in nine different events over the 10-hour flight.
Their first assignment was to refuel two MH-60s at 1,000 feet in one of the many mountainous valleys of Afghanistan.
Next, the aircrew had to pick up 64 Special Operations Command assault members and equipment from Jalalabad and inserted them into a forwarding operation base.
"This was not our typical mission, but similar to what we train for at home station," said the major.
The aircrew moved back to refueling duties, taking in 25,000 pounds of fuel through limited visibility and deteriorating weather conditions. The C-130 had to maintain maximum power with the tanker to stay connected due to heavy gross weight and high density altitude.
"Because of weather and threats we were not able to "toboggan," (shallow descent while connected to the tanker) said the major. "If we are unable to maintain contact with full power, then we would have used the toboggan maneuver to get the required fuel."
The next few missions were refueling missions and an on-call orbit over the mountains as day began to break. For first time deployer, Staff. Sgt. Ronald Bacon, it was a chance to finally see their constant training put into action.
"We train, so our procedures are second nature," he said. "So when the time came, we were able to rely on what we knew. It gave me a new perspective though, to see those different training scenarios put into practice in the real world in this one mission."
Then the 711th aircrew was called in to pick up the assault forces that were dropped off earlier, this time with detainees. With the pick-up, the aircraft was at its max weight of 155,000 pounds.
On their return to Bagram Air Base, the C-130 offloaded 10,000 pounds of fuel to two MH-47s under an AC-130 gunship escort due to daylight conditions. All passengers and cargo were still aboard.
"Due to operational hazards of being in a combat environment, daylight operations puts SOF assets at a much higher risk," explained the major. "Being low to the ground and slow airspeed for helicopter refueling, we were extremely vulnerable to attack."
After more than 10 hours in the air, the C-130 touched down back at Bagram with the mission completed.
"When an operation happens, everything is time sensitive," said the major, thinking back on that night. "We have to be flexible and prepared. That night was about both flexibility and preparation. The crew had to work together and be 'on top of their game.'"
Communication was also a key to success. We had to get accurate information from all players to be able to execute our mission successfully."
According to the awards package, the mission was recorded as the highest risk MC-130 mission of the 5,400 hours flown by the platform for Operation Enduring Freedom in 2009.
Maj. Michael B. Black, aircraft commander
Maj. John P. Stone II, pilot
Col. Bruce R. Taylor, airborne mission commander
Lt. Col. Thomas D. Mims, right navigator
1st Lt. Patrick A Hobgood, left navigator
Lt. Col. Christopher E. Snider, electronic warfare officer
Staff Sgt. Ronald D. Bacon, flight engineer
Chief Master Sgt. Michael A. Klausutis, airborne communication electronic system
Senior Master Sgt. Keith M. Poole, left loadmaster