RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – Some Airmen from the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Airlift Wing returned home this month from Ramstein Air Base, where they supported European Command’s area of responsibility.
The Airmen, primarily aircrew and maintainers, were part of a short-notice deployment in response to the Ukrainian conflict. Their mission has been to provide C-130 Hercules airlift throughout the region.
“The fact that we’re here is a show of presence,” said Lt. Col. James Pate, commander of Task Force Iron Herk II. “That demonstrates to the world that we can rapidly deploy and execute mobility airlift missions on short notice around the world.”
The 139th is the task force’s lead unit, which comprises Guard and Reserve Airmen.
Pate says they have transported everything from food and water to explosives and weapons. They have also transported personnel, including high-priority aeromedical evacuations.
So far, the 139th has flown over 58 sorties and logged more than 163 flight hours. Members have transported 244 passengers and airlifted 477 tons of cargo.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our maintenance personnel. They’re supporting a contingency … supporting 24-hour operations,” said Pate. “They’ve done a great job of maintaining the aircraft and getting them back on mission-ready status.”
Maintainers have been launching and recovering aircraft covering day and night shifts with a 99% mission effectiveness rate, said Chief Master Sgt. Kelly Kunkel, chief of maintenance for TFIH II, who has deployed a dozen times in his career.
When the 139th maintainers arrived in the spring, the workspace was bare. The previous group worked in another facility, said Kunkel. They used whatever office furniture they could find to create a makeshift workspace.
Kunkel says that despite challenges, “The 139th has never had an issue … of making the mission happen. Anytime we go anywhere, we shine.
“We’ve taken four different units in maintenance and come together like this, and I cannot tell the difference between the 139th and [the Reservists]. Everyone has an attitude of getting this mission done,” he said. “I would take them anywhere in the world.”
The Guard and Reserve Airmen are from five wings. Master Sgt. Dustin Smisson, assigned to the 700th Airlift Squadron, is a Reservist serving as the unit’s first sergeant.
“I’ve never seen a more professional group of people in my life,” Smisson said, referring to crew chiefs and maintainers.
Although some Airmen were able to return home, the wing still has people deployed in support of TFIH II.
“That’s a testament to our guys wanting to support the mission and taking an intrinsic attitude toward preserving our way of life,” said Pate.