AUGUST 4, 2022 – Soldiers with U.S. Army Garrison Benelux and Airmen with 424th Air Base Squadron partook in a joint C-130J Super Hercules aircraft orientation flight Aug. 2, at Chièvres Air Base, Belgium.
On a clear day, the 37th Airlift Squadron out of Ramstein Air Base touched down on Chièvres Air Base with their C-130.
The operation was twofold: to offer a joint C-130 orientation flight for Benelux service members, as well as conduct tactical training for the U.S. Air Force.
“The 424th Air Base Squadron enables Ramstein’s ability to train real-world operations with their C-130s right here at Chièvres,” said Maj. Derek R. Rodgerson, director of Operations, 424th Airbase Squadron. “The operations include low-level flights, wet-wing defueling, combat offloads, drop zone and landing zone operations.”
During the day’s mission, the 37th Airlift Squadron performed wet-wing defueling, combat offloads, pallet uploads, and passenger uploading training.
“When we conduct these operations with the U.S. and other NATO partners, it highlights how our Airmen are able to complete tasks in areas outside of their normal duties,” said Rodgerson. “This makes our Air Force more agile and allows units to be more efficient but have the same effectiveness.”
After completing tactical training exercises, the 37th Airlift Squadron loaded Benelux service members onboard the aircraft for a 30 to 45 minute incentive flight.
“The whole point of this is we get to go up, obviously we get to enjoy it, but we also get to fly around and see everything, our whole base from above,” said Staff Sgt. Sean A. Montoya, a fire protection Airman with the 424th Airbase Squadron.
For many service members, this was their first time flying on a military aircraft.
“It was my first time being on the C-130,” said Sgt. Arnando Smith, military police Soldier at Chièvres Air Base. “These are the planes that we usually use to deploy with, not a lot of people know that. Overall, 10 out of 10, I’d definitely recommend everyone try it.”
Not all service members had such an easy flight.
“It was an experience,” said Spc. Nhat Tran, military police Soldier at Chièvres Air Base. “Would I do it again? No, I would not.”
Although Tran struggled with the turbulence of takeoff, he nevertheless recommended others try the flight: “If this is your first time ever going – if you ever get asked to do it, I would one hundred percent do it.”
For one dual-military couple, the orientation flight provided an opportunity to share an experience with their spouse.
“What made it memorable for me was that I got to do it with my wife,” said Staff Sgt. Shawn M. Winegardner, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, USAG Benelux.
Being in two different units at different locations, the Winegardners do not often get a chance to share experiences like this together.
“I would say it’s probably one of the most memorable things I’ve done in the military,” said Sgt. Cassidy L. Winegardner, SHAPE Allied Forces North military police Soldier. “I’m not familiar with aircraft at all so to be able to have this experience and have it in a safe and memorable way was awesome for me.”
Due to real-world operations and the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been a couple of years since the last orientation flight at Chièvres Air Base.
“It’s something that we’ve tried to do for the last year, year and a half,” said Rodgerson.
Having more regular orientation flights for service members and civilians, according to Rodgerson, is something everyone is working towards in the future.
“We are looking at eventually maybe doing some reenlistments on here for Soldiers that would like to reenlist,” said USAG Benelux Command Sgt. Maj. Gary E. Yurgans. “This is a great opportunity right now to get some Soldiers some experience in flying on an aircraft like this.”
By Libby Weiler