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144 Airlift Squadron gets new brothers-in-arms

A C-130 Hercules from the Tennessee Air National Guard taxis at Joint base Elmendorf-Richardson, March 24.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Karima Turner)

A C-130 Hercules from the Tennessee Air National Guard taxis at Joint base Elmendorf-Richardson, March 24. This cargo plane was one of four recieved by the 144th Airlift Squadron here as part of the Federal 2005 Base Realignment and Closure agreement. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Karima Turner.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The Alaska Air National Guard's 144th Airlift Squadron here is scheduled to get an active-duty associate squadron April 29.

     Part of the Air Force's 3rd Wing, the 537th Airlift Squadron will be activated at the end of the month. Its members will work side by side with members of the 144th to help support the Guard unit's expanding mission. 

     The 144th received from the Tennessee Air National Guard four C-130 "Hercules" tactical transport aircraft in March 2011 as a part of the Federal 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) agreement. These extra planes require extra crews.

     The two squadrons will both operate out of Hangar 18 here. They will be highly integrated, coordinating flying schedules and sharing time on the 144th's cargo planes.

     "We both have separate, but compatible missions," said Lt. Col. Rich Adams, commander of the 144th. "We'll work to maximize the training time we have."

     By sharing aircraft, the squadrons will create more training opportunities and exercises, according to Adams. 

     "It's the best use of our taxpayer dollars to most effectively use the aircraft that we have," he said.

     In addition to flying hours, the guard and active-duty members get a unique exposure to various experiences. 

     This is good for the Guard, Adams said, because active duty personnel bring a wide range of experience from various assignments. It's also good for the active duty, he said, because Guardsmen have a deeper experience -- working for 20 to 30 years in one location, something rarely if ever seen in active duty.

     In addition to the 537th's hand in the 144th AS mission, the 3rd Wing's 537th Aircraft Maintenance Unit will help maintain the Guard's C-130s. 

     The 176th Wing's expansion comes at a time when other guard units are losing their planes and their missions. This is good for the health of the 144th and for the wing, Adams said.
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