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Missouri Air Guard C-130H Maintainers Learn J-model Systems

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Patrick Evenson,
  • 139th Airlift Wing

LOUISVILLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ky. - Maintenance Airmen with the Missouri Air National Guard’s Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center traveled to Kentucky for aircraft conversion training from an old sister unit.

Over the first two decades of the 21st century, the 123rd Airlift Wing and 139th Airlift Wing, from the Kentucky and Missouri Air National Guard, forged a strong bond as sister units due to both operating the C-130H Hercules aircraft during Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. This brotherhood included the aircrew and maintenance Airmen.

However, in 2021 the 123rd upgraded to the C-130J, resulting in the two units no longer being compatible to deploy together.

But this didn’t spell the end of the two units’ relationship with each other. Through the AATTC in St. Joseph, Missouri, the units still had a way to participate with each other in training and exercises.

Established in 1982, the AATTC aimed to provide advanced training to mobility aircrew members, enhancing their skills and readiness. Over the years, the AATTC has become a vital training hub, serving over 600 students annually. Its staff comprises members from the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserves and Active-Duty Air Force, all united in their mission to ensure the survival and effectiveness of aircrews through their training.

Initially focusing on the C-130H model, the AATTC expanded its curriculum to many other mobility aircraft, including the C-130J in 2002. Since then, J-model units have become the schoolhouse’s largest customer, requiring additional training for the historically C-130H-centric maintenance crews.

This led to Senior Master Sgt. Ryan Breyfogle, aircraft maintenance superintendent, and Staff Sgt. Tristan Grigsby to travel to the 123rd AW in Louisville for two weeks of intensive C-130J training.

For two weeks, the maintenance Airmen of the 123rd AW dedicated themselves to teaching Grigsby and Breyfogle the intricacies of the J-model. They shared their experiences, lessons learned and best practices.

The plane may look the same from the outside, but the upgrades on the inside make it impossible for maintainers to work on the aircraft without training.

“The H and J are completely different animals,” Breyfogle said. “Maintainers must get qualified on all J systems due to computer upgrades that make the simplest tasks such as turning on power challenging.”

The entire aircraft has been upgraded from the old analog gauges and manual mechanical switches that were on the H model to digital screens and touchscreen switches.

Since the H-model is so different from the J-model, the AATTC team needed to learn the fundamentals such as power on checklists, fueling operations, aircraft towing, operating radios, and general troubleshooting.

“These tasks set the foundation for what our team needs to support the AATTC courses,” Breyfogle said. “Each year, our AATTC maintenance team will return to Kentucky for recertifications on key tasks, as well as continuing building what has already been learned.”

The maintainers with the AATTC are a small and unique team exposed to nearly every mobility airframe participating in AATTC courses. They do not have the time or manpower to be qualified on every airframe. However, their goal is to be proficient on the three most common aircraft that come through the schoolhouse — the C130H, C130J and the C17 Globemaster III. Initial training for the C17 will begin in 2024. 

“This program will take years to accomplish, but the end result will be greatly beneficial to the Mobility Air Force fleet as a whole,” Breyfogle said. “We must self-support as much as possible. The more knowledge our team has reduces the chances of students missing vital training.”

Maintenance conversion training is vital to help train the MAF community. Having C-130J training, AATTC maintainers can now efficiently support and serve the J-model community better, allowing more aircrew members to navigate through the AATTC’s simulated hostile environment, producing more graduates and ultimately allowing an increase in warfighting effectiveness and survivability of mobility forces.