By Master Sgt. Peter Borys, 379 AEW Public Affairs
/ Published February 14, 2006
IRAQ THEATER --
Every military member in every branch of service plays an intricate and integral part in the war on terriorism. Members of the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron stationed here who fly C-130 Channel Missions are an important part of that. The Reserve crew of this Niagara Falls C-130H aircraft consisted of, Lt.Col. Thomas Casey, Aircraft Commander, Lt.Col. Pete Straight, Pilot, Lt.Col. Glenn Moore, Navigator, Senior Master Sergeant Eugene Busch, Flight Engineer, Master Sergeant Richard Coseglia, and Technical Sergeant John Mangefrida, Loadmasters. They’ve been in the Area of Responsibility for approximately 30 days. For some, this was their third rotation.
Scheduled flights or Channel missions are their main focus. “It’s kind of like the Airlines,” said Senior Master Sgt. Busch. “In that way Air Mobility Command people can make sure they get cargo and passengers to different points.” On a given month “C-130s routinely transport an average of 7,700 short tons of cargo a month around the U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND area of responsibility,” according to U.S. Central Command Air Forces Combined Air operations Center air mobility division officials. The crews routinely fly together. “It makes more sense to do it that way because we get to know each others idiosyncrasies,” said the seasoned fulltime Air Reserve Flight Engineer.
This crew’s duty day usually starts with an early morning alert call. The men get themselves together and board a bus to work. Lt.Col. Pete Straight, a civilian in charge of the readiness section at Niagara Falls, ARS explained, “It’s the race, the hubbub, from alert, get in the bus, get some food in your belly, get all the briefs done, collect all your equipment get out to the airplane, push out to the center line, get the engines started. That whole dance is a fairly complex affair. Straight added, “Processing out, getting into the airplane, take off, fly through the AOR, figuring out what the specific procedures are. The first mission is probably the most difficult one. It takes extreme attention to detail. They get a little easier after that.”
On this particular channel mission the aircraft was loaded up with cargo and Army personnel. It’s never routine. Tech. Sgt. John Mangefrida a High School teacher from Batavia, New York had to use his skills in first aid on a colonel who had received a head injury while boarding the aircraft. The injury wasn’t serious.
The crew stopped in Baghdad, where troops and cargo were unloaded, and other cargo was up loaded bound for Balad Air Base, Iraq further north.
Lt.Col. Glenn Moore, a fulltime navigator with the 914th Airlift Wing at Niagara said, a typical mission lasts approximately 15 hours. “The average mission usually consists of three stops where we on load and off load passengers and take them from one location to another.”
Balad Air Base was the location every member paid particular attention to. All eyes were fixed on the windows for any ground fire that may be aimed at them. Balad Air Base is known to receive mortar fire at least 3 to 4 times a week according to members stationed there. The crew accomplished their mission safely. The C-130 was down loaded and uploaded with different cargo and Army and Marine personnel again for the journey south.
Cargo consists of all kinds of items: food, medical supplies, equipment and troops. All the areas are very dependant on these channel missions. “We provide a bus route for people and things that need to go from point A to B to C. With out it, it would be extremely difficult to get things done,” said Lt.Col. Mark Ables, 746th EAS Director of Operations.
The crew has been all over “The Box” (the immediate combat zone) Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Romania to name a few.
Lt. Col. Thomas Casey, a 16-year commercial airline pilot said, “All the missions are very challenging and rewarding. Almost all of them are different. It’s not the same day to day stuff which is kind of nice.”
According to Lt.Col. Straight, things are changing in Iraq for the better. Northern Iraq reminded him of west Texas with little pockets of green vegetation, mostly semi-arid. “We saw herds of sheep out there. It looked like they were enjoying prosperity for a while. One town of about 65,000 looked like they had been doing a lot of construction work for a long time, he said. “When I was here two years ago, the only green you could see was around the canal where the weeds were overgrown and the fields were empty. Now when we come down there it’s actually green in the fields and a lot of the canals are cleaned out.” Straight added,” its subtle things like that that you can say that Iraq has come a long way.”
One of the most adventurous missions happened during another channel mission for Master Sgt. Rich Coseglia. It happened a couple of years ago when flying out of Baghdad. His aircraft was fired upon by a Rocket Propelled Grenade. Coseglia said, “I just thank god that I was part of the professional crew members we have in the Air Force. I probably wouldn’t be here today! They are worth their weight in gold.”