1855: A special "tale"

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Mallory Glass
  • 19 Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Chief Master Sgt. Mark Marson, 314th Airlift Wing command chief, wrote in permanent marker, "she is an Airman," on the 47-year-old skin of aircraft C-130E 62-1855 at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group here. The Vietnam-Era C-130E was delivered to AMARG, commonly known as the "bone yard," following its retirement and change of the 314th AW flagship ceremony at a Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., Sept. 20. The event marked the end of a 47-year relationship between the 314th AW and the C-130E.

Tail 62-1855 not only tells her own C-130E combat and training story but also represents the closing of an era for the wing. The retirement of 62-1855 to AMARG marked the departure of the C-130E model from the 314th AW's inventory.

As the flagship, 62-1855 embodied not only the other 314th C-130s, but more importantly, the Airmen who maintain, fly and support the combat airlift training mission. Col. Mark Czelusta, 314th AW commander, stated during the retirement ceremony, "This airplane is as much of an Airman as I am. She has seen it all. Yet, as special as 1855 is, she is not unique for she actually represents the entire C-130 fleet old and new."

At the retirement ceremony on Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., retired Airmen who were crew members or maintainers for 62-1855, the 314th AW or other C-130Es were in attendance. Several are Sliver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross recipients. "Their presence really shows the impact the C-130E model had and has on United States Airmen," said Senior Airman Blake Lyles, a 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief.

The wing's new flagship, C-130J 98-1358, was unveiled at the ceremony and toured by 314th Airmen, civic leaders, retirees and base leaders. The C-130J represents a new era for combat airlift; however, at the same time the Air Force never forgets its legacy.

The 314th AW has been flying C-130s since 1957 and C-130Es since 1964. When the wing was mobilized for service in Vietnam in 1966, C-130E 62-1855 began its years in combat operations, training missions, and Air Force competitions. During Rodeo 2011 at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Wash., the 314th AW won Best Air Mobility Wing in the world with 62-1855, the oldest C-130 in the competition. "Everyone agrees that 1855 is a special tail ... Team Little Rock and, indeed, the entire nation watched with pride as she earned a perfect maintenance inspection (during RODEO 2011), one of only two planes to do so," said the colonel.

Tail 62-1855 didn't receive a grand welcome when it landed smoothly at AMARG. It joined the scores of other C-130s that had been delivered to the desert to be preserved in the nearly perfect conservation climate. As the crew looked out of the cockpit Staff Sgt. Sean Ryan, a 62nd Squadron flight engineer, observed, "I thought Little Rock had a lot of C-130s."

Staff Sgt. Shawn Larson, a 314th AMXS crew chief, added as he looked out at the retired fleet of C-130s, "If it has a blue tail and has been through Little Rock in the past 10 years, I've probably seen it or worked on it."

AMARG is 1,400 acres and hosts more than 5,000 government aircraft, including planes from all branches of the military. These aircraft remain an important part of the U.S. arsenal. About 1,000 can be returned to service, while the rest are on stand-by for parts, propped on pieces of wood or others even completely cut in half.

All Team Little Rock wings continue to fly legacy C-130Hs, and the 314th AW and 19th Airlift Wing also operate J-models. The 19th AW still utilizes a dozen C-130E models, which they will be gradually retiring to AMARG in the coming year. "So why do we feel nostalgic as if we are saying goodbye to an old friend?" the colonel asked. "Tail 1855 is a reflection of our ideals and the very best attributes we know are in each of us. She is a great tail, but only because her crews, maintainers and support teams made her so ... [she] shares the same source of greatness as our Air Force--its Airmen."

Every crew member of 62-1855s retirement flight had a special tale about how she impacted his career as an Airman. The retirement flight was crewed by:
Pilot- Col. Mark Czelusta, 314th AW commander
Co-pilot- Lt. Col. James Schartz, 62nd Airlift Squadron director of operations
Navigator- Capt. Chris Stapenhorst, a 314th Operations Group evaluation navigator
Loadmaster- Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mackey, a 62nd AS loadmaster
Flight Engineer- Staff Sgt. Sean Ryan, a 62nd AS flight engineer
Crew Chiefs- Staff Sgt. Shawn Larson, a 314th Maintenance Squadron crew chief, and
Senior Airman Blake Lyles, a 314th Maintenance Squadron crew chief.
Chief Master Sgt. Mark Marson, 314th AW command chief, also attended 62-1855's retirement ceremony and delivery to AMARG.