HomeMediaArticle Display

Master to the Combat King: Alaska Guard loadmaster supports rescue mission

HC-130J Combat King II loadmaster

Senior Airman Marcus Moloney, an HC-130J Combat King II loadmaster with the 211th Rescue Squadron, checks the cargo systems of an HC-130 Feb. 7, 2018, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The HC-130 can carry a combination of vehicles, cargo and passengers. (U.S. Air Force photo by David Bedard)

HC-130J Combat King II loadmaster

Senior Airman Marcus Moloney, an HC-130J Combat King II loadmaster with the 211th Rescue Squadron, conducts preflight checks Feb. 7, 2018, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Loadmasters of the Combat King II conduct the duties of legacy aircraft flight engineers. (U.S. Air Force photo by David Bedard)

With two days' supply of food and a few more days' supply of water, Japanese climber Masatoshi Kuriaki found himself in dire straits at 8,600 feet up Mount Hunter in Denali National Park.

He was 75 days into what was originally planned to be a 65-day expedition through the snowy slopes surrounding North America's highest peak. According to the National Park Service release detailing the incident, unseasonably warm and wet weather conditions combined with 30 inches of fresh snow to make for extreme avalanche conditions.

Facing the possibilities of starvation or being buried alive, Kuriaki made an emergency call using his GPS-tracking communication device. The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center responded, launching an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron and an HC-130J Combat King II from the 211th Rescue Squadron, both carrying pararescuemen of the 212th Rescue Squadron.

Flying above the situation in the HC-130 was Alaska Air National Guard Senior Airman Marcus Moloney, Combat King loadmaster. Despite the Pave Hawks not being able to get to Kuriaki due to marginal weather, Moloney's aircraft would provide the lifeline the climber needed to stay in touch with the efforts to find him. Two days into his ordeal, the weather improved and Kuriaki was rescued.

Moloney, a native of Anchorage, said he joined the Guard to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot. He is taking college classes in an effort to earn an officer's commission and his pilot wings.

“I've loved aviation since I was a little kid,” Moloney said. “I wanted to be a pilot someday, so I was looking around at different jobs I could do while I was going to college that I thought would be fun and keep me in the aviation field. I heard about being a loadmaster, so I looked into it.”

The young Airman enlisted as a loadmaster for the Combat King, which is a modified version of the “slick” C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft.

“The HC-130 is a specialized platform designed specifically for rescue,” said Senior Master Sgt. Marty Bellerive, 211th RQS A-Flight chief. “Some of the differences between an HC and a regular 'slick' is we have refueling pods, which is our bread-and-butter mission because we can aerial-refuel helicopters, giving them extended legs.”

In the case of the Kuriaki rescue mission, Moloney's Combat King flew with the HH-60 during the 200-plus mile journey from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Mount Hunter. Moloney controlled the two refueling pods, extending a drogue that interfaced with the refueling boom sticking out of the Pave Hawk like a giant Q-tip.

With the added fuel, the HH-60 had the endurance to push to the slope in an attempt to rescue the isolated climber. Once the helicopter was done with rescue operations, the refuel procedure was repeated for the journey to JBER.

As often as this drill is done to rescue hikers, hunters and other isolated outdoorsmen in Alaska, the process becomes even more critical in combat, Bellerive said, when their primary mission becomes combat search and rescue of U.S. and allied personnel isolated behind enemy lines.

In a scenario where a fighter pilot ejects in hostile airspace, Bellerive said the HC-130 crew's mission of supporting HH-60s remains primarily the same. The Combat King would refuel the Pave Hawks in friendly air space and then serve as a command-and-control platform that can fly high and relay radio signals if satellite communications fail on the helicopter.

Because the J-model HC-130 is new to the squadron and recently replaced legacy Combat Kings, Moloney said he had a somewhat circuitous route to qualifying for the new rescue bird. He learned general C-130 loadmaster operations at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, before attending the legacy Combat King course at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

Because of new J-model systems and the fact the legacy enlisted positions of flight engineer and radio operator were eliminated, Moloney had to return to Kirtland to learn the new aircraft and how to pick up some of the slack left by the eliminated aircrew positions.

“It's a little more responsibility,” Moloney said of taking on added crew duties. “But it's more fun.”
Before each sortie, Moloney said he is responsible for carrying out preflight checks, much as a flight engineer did in the past. He then transitions to his loadmaster duties, inspecting and loading cargo, and ensuring the weight of passengers and the load is centered in the HC-130's hold.

Moloney said his favorite part of the job is loadmaster-directed airdrops. The process involves flying at very low altitudes and kicking cargo out the airplane while hitting a target area to within 25 yards. Because of the distances involved and the fact Moloney can see things the pilots can't, it is one of the few occasions he is in charge of the aircraft.

“I'll stick my head out of the paratroop door and get my eyes on the target, and I'll direct the pilots to get the airplane lined up exactly on the target,” Moloney explained. “Then I will throw the load out at just the right time.”

Moloney said months of training and memorizing volumes of information on HC-130 flight operations came to fruition during his first mission rescuing a stroke victim in Port Graham, a small isolated community with no access to the state's road system. Though the Airman said it was a relatively routine mission, the implications for the saved victim could not be overestimated.

"It felt really good at the end of the day to help someone who really needed it," he said.
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.