Air Force conducting monthly training at Arkansas Aeroplex
The C-130s buzzing over Blytheville Monday were part of what will be monthly training exercises at the old Eaker Air Force Base, according Colonel Gerald “Gyro” Donohue, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, Little Rock Air Force Base.
Crews were in Blytheville this week for tactical airdrop and air land training at the Arkansas Aeroplex.
During the airdrop training, heavy equipment platforms parachuted to the target area in a field near the runway.
Donohue said the heavy equipment platforms, which range from a few thousand to 40,000 pounds, resupply the Army during battle.
“Practicing in peace time is one of the things that we are doing,” he said.
“Our training platforms are roughly 2,500 pounds apiece and we were able to drop a couple of those on the drop zone here today. The second method we did was container delivery system, which are little more compact bundles — range in weight from 500 to 2,000 pounds. Really the big difference for us is the procedural difference and how we do it. And then to the Army, what type of equipment can be contained in the bundles themselves.”
Crews were also challenged with air land training.
“One of the things that they have here is a narrow taxiway — it’s about 70 feet wide — that we can land on,” Donohue said. “The C-130 is renowned the world over for being able to land on short, narrow strips. Right now the landing zone over at Little Rock Air Force Base is under construction and has been for some time and so having this alternative is very, very important for our folks to be able to maintain that combat edge.”
There are three flying organizations on the Little Rock Air Force Base — 19th LF wing, which is operational, active duty C-130s; the 314th LF wing, which is active duty but a training wing; and the 189th LF wing, which is international guard training wing.
All three will be in Blytheville at some point each month for training.
“At least once throughout that week, when we’ve got the assets out here to control it, I’ll send folks out from all three wings,” Donohue said. “We will routinely, at least once a month for about a week’s time, send our folks out. The reason why we try to do that in about a week’s timeframe very specifically is we send a ground component out here to control the activity, to control the drop zone and help to recover and regenerate the loads. We kind of rotate different objective areas. Having a different objective area than we normally train at — so Blytheville versus some of our other popular ones are Black Jack and All American closer to the base— we’ve got to continue to challenge our aviators. Seeing just the one training location all the time doesn’t keep their skills sharp. Being able to come here and have another objective area, another place to operate is exceptionally important.”
Donohue added the narrow Arkansas Aeroplex runway is “more akin to what our folks would see in combat.”
“The ability to have a co-located drop zone,” he said. “So from a ground support agency perspective, we’ve got one agency that can support both. Having crash fire and rescue here is incredibly important as well. Using a commercial airfield with an organic crash fire and rescue is great for us as opposed to having to deploy our own crash fire and rescue to the airfield. And then frankly, there are times that Little Rock gets pretty overwhelmed with those three flying organizations flying simultaneously. To be able to separate away from that and to be able to do a little bit more open airspace is absolutely phenomenal.”
The Blytheville Fire Department’s Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (AARF) team was on hand during the training.
“I want to thank Blytheville, the airfield and the community for being willing to welcome us for the training,” Donohue said. “It’s a hugely important capability for us. As an Air Force, you’ve heard in the news and a lot of other places how we are really focusing on restoring readiness and being prepared for the challenges that may or may not come. We act everyday to try and be the very best deterrent to conflict that we can be but in the face of conflict we want to make sure we prevail. So having the ability to train and train aggressively is something that we need to be able to do and we just want to thank you for your willingness to support that.”