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A Sentimental Send-off: 165th Airlift Wing Bids Farewell to its Final C-130H Hercules Aircraft After 41 Years

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Caila Arahood
  • 165th Airlift Wing

SAVANNAH AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ga.-- On August 18th, the flight line of the 165th Airlift Wing witnessed a bittersweet moment in its history as the wing bid farewell to a longstanding companion, the C-130H Hercules aircraft, which served dutifully for an impressive 41 years.

Past and present Airmen of the wing gathered to share stories and memories of the aircraft's history. For many, the C-130H Hercules was more than just an airplane; it was a vessel of shared experiences, missions, and challenges that forged lasting connections among those who had the privilege of working with it.

The day held a mix of emotions, especially for crew members who had occupied two roles - weapons system operators (navigators) and flight engineers, said U.S. Air Force Col. Jonathan Drew, the 165th Operations Group commander. These positions have been essential to the Hercules’ operations, and will not be carried forward with the new C-130J Super Hercules fleet.

Maintenance personnel, including crew chiefs, who have been responsible for the aircraft's upkeep throughout the entirety of their careers, bid their final farewells in a manner uniquely their own. Some offered a gentle pat on the aircraft, while others planted a farewell kiss on the aircraft's nose, symbolizing their deep connection with the aircraft and the role it played in their lives.

Prior to the plane’s departure, retired Brig. Gen. Steven Westgate, a previous 165 AW wing commander, shared personal insight and reflection of the C-130H in a send-off ceremony held in the 165th Maintenance hangar.

The final C-130H Hercules, tail number 31562, started its engines and attendees gathered on the flight line to give a final salute. The aircraft will continue its tenure at the 166th Airlift Wing of the Delaware Air National Guard, the newest owners of the 165th's former 7-fleet Hercules aircraft.

At 10:20 a.m. local time, viewers watched the aircraft lift-off the runway at Savannah/Hilton-head International Airport for the last time with tears in their eyes. The sight held both sorrow and pride, encapsulating the deep bond between the Airmen and the aircraft.

Though an aircraft to some, the C-130H Hercules is a part of the 165th Airlift Wing's identity. Its departure marks the end of an era, yet its legacy of service, dedication, and camaraderie will continue to shape the wing's future as it embraces new horizons with the C-130J Super Hercules. Thus, continuing on the Savannah way, as “America’s Best Team, World’s Best Airlift.”