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Small unit, big job

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kristine Legate
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing

U.S. Army fixed-wing aircraft detachments are small communities spread throughout the United States. In these communities, it’s likely for everyone to cross paths at one point or another due to the nature of their missions.

Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, is home to the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade’s fixed-wing C-12 Regional Flight Center, currently operated by Washington and Montana Army National Guardsmen, and the UC-35 RFC, operated by U.S. Army Reservists from Fort Worth, Texas, and Los Alamitos, California.

The C-12 RFC is comprised of 12 Guardsmen whose mission isn’t typical of a flying unit.

“We provide flexible movement capabilities for distinguished visitors, command teams and supplies in theater,” said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Tony Dohse, C-12 RFC commander.

ARNG fixed-wing units are established as state flight detachments. Due to the limited number of Soldiers, SDFs often reach beyond state borders to accomplish the mission, which helps prepare for duties downrange.

“The partnerships between states greatly enhance completing our operational mission back home,” said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 David Bebich, C-12 RFC standardization officer. “Since there are not enough soldiers in an SFD to meet the operational role overseas, we came together for this assignment. Prior to deploying, we were in constant communication to coordinate our training for deployment.”

Coming from smaller detachments back home, these units often rely on each other. Downrange they continue carrying on that work relationship.

“We have the greatest team here, with how we put things together and how we work together,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Chris Barnes, C-12 RFC aviation operations specialist. “We’re all very detail oriented.”

Working as a team and being detail-oriented is exceptionally important, especially when the team is so small.

Six pilots and three enlisted Soldiers make up the UC-35 RFC. Just like their C-12 RFC counterparts, they all carry on multiple additional duties to keep daily operations going.

“A lot of us have additional duties. Besides being a pilot, you might be the safety and/or the assistant operations officer,” said Dohse. “We fill in where needed to make ensure the mission gets done.”

Each flight requires significant planning and coordination, from working with receiving airfields and obtaining proper clearances to ensuring cargo doesn’t exceed allowable weight. Accomplishing all these tasks while providing quick transport at flexible hours for senior leaders is all in a day’s work for the teams.

“They’re the ones that make the decisions of troop movements. We provide support for leadership so that they can get eyes on all of their assets to see how they can distribute them as needed within the theater.” said U.S. Army Capt. Jason Clarry, UC-35 RFC commander. “It’s important to keep the movement going so they can be effective and efficient.”

Beyond informing senior leaders for key decisions, the teams also work to deliver high-priority cargo. Throughout the region, logistics can be challenging, and so it’s not uncommon for C-12 and UC-35 flights to deliver items like mission-critical parts and equipment to U.S. Army and other coalition forces. From providing senior leaders in-person situational awareness to high priority cargo delivery, the C-12 RFC and UC-35 RFC continue to tackle the mission, keeping our Joint and Coalition forces ready for anything.