BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
Utilizing the C-130J Super Hercules powerful performance and tactical abilities, the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron continuously accomplishes its mission in an austere environment where other airframes have fallen short.
Since being redesignated the 774th EAS on Dec. 4, 2001 and activated at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 6, 2006, the Weasel Squadron has been the only tactical airlift squadron currently deployed to this area of responsibility.
“Our mission is to provide and sustain the logistical bridge for Operation's Freedom's Sentinel and Resolute Support through combat airlift, airdrop, and aeromedical evacuation,” said Lt. Col Angela Ochoa, 774th EAS commander. “With the assistance we provide, our coalition partners are able to continue the train, advise, and assist campaign.”
The 774th EAS operates the C-130J, which is capable of taking off and landing from austere, unimproved dirt strips and is the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas.
“Our crews perform wet wing defuel operations at austere airfields (downloading fuel from internal fuel tanks with engines running) in order to keep forward operating bases operational,” said Maj. Danny Bellissimo, 774th EAS deputy officer. “In addition to air land and airdrop, the 774th, in conjunction with 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, executes aeromedical evacuation of routine patients and battlefield injured troops. “
Ochoa stressed the importance in teamwork in order to continue mission success for the squadron.
“Teamwork is absolutely critical to the ‘tactical airlift’ mission,” said Ochoa. “Tac airlift has been a vital component of every major campaign since our roots in the Army Air Corps, but it is more than what we do. What makes an Airman a tac airlifter is the mindset that we bring to the fight--whatever or wherever the mission is, we will find a way to yes and make it happen. Tac airlift doesn’t happen because of one person, but because the entire team comes together with their own unique talents and ideas to make it happen, whatever ‘it’ is.”
Even though the 774th EAS has been providing successful critical airlift operations for the AOR for more than 11 years, it still faces some challenges in this austere environment.
“The most challenging aspect of our mission is communication across all our partners,” said Ochoa. “We provide combat airlift for a variety of customers across the country, with a controlling agency over 1,000 miles away, and report to a local chain of command,” referring to the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid, Air Base, Qatar.
“Our mission is executed alongside professionals from the maintenance, aeromedical evacuation, logistics, and security forces squadrons,“ she added.
According to Ochoa, the 774th EAS is the central node to deliver 24/7 combat airlift.
“Since our rotation’s arrival to Afghanistan in Sept., the 774th EAS has flown 355 missions, amounting to 1,655 combat sorties, and over 1,800 hours flown,” said Bellissimo. “During that time, the Weasel Squadron has airlifted 8,800 cargo tons, 14,400 passengers, 102 Distinguish Visitors, 30 patients, and de-fueled over 300,000lbs of fuel. In addition, the 774 completed two paratroop High Altitude Low Opening airdrops.”
Bellissimo added that since being at BAF, the squadron have seen an increase of over 350% of the wet-wing defuel capability employed in comparison to this time last year and 46% more than the previous rotation.
“Also, we have seen an increase of 18% of the missions supported from the previous rotation, resulting in an increase of 30% of cargo and passengers delivered in the same amount of time,” said Bellissimo. “We are doing so with the same amount of aircraft and people. We’re just working more efficiently and effectively to maximize our limited resources.”
The Weasel Squadron is a close knit family and is expected to take care of one another, which in return will take of the mission.
“The Weasels deliver unrivaled combat airlift, no matter who, what, when or where, we will find a way to get it there,” said Ochoa. “I expect precise and professional mission execution. I demand that we take care of each other and make our mark to make the team and each other better. I ask everyone to critically think about and modernize how we deliver combat airlift so that we can continue to create and grow. The final ingredient to our success is that we have fun, because if you aren’t having fun then you are doing it wrong.”