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Black Knights move at speed of war

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Team Little Rock will have nearly 500 Airmen deployed around the world by the end of January 2019 from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.

While Little Rock Airmen deploy as full units containing hundreds of personnel on a regular basis in support of various missions overseas, they also go downrange as individuals or small groups on short notice deployments. Many of these Airmen perform duties in line with their Air Force Specialty Code, much as they would home at LRAFB.

“I will support comptroller operations for regulating and dispersing money to our service members who conduct business with local nationals,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tyler Debonee, 19th Comptroller Squadron financial operations technician “This supports the financial piece of the mission downrange.”

These deployers compliment contingency operations around the globe in addition to the large groups of Airmen who depart supporting combatant commanders.

“Our Airmen are scattered throughout the globe supporting numerous missions,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Jennifer Allee, 19th Mission Support Group commander, speaking about the men and women of the 19th MSG who are among those deploying in January. “This requires them to build new teams with service members from other installations across multiple domains to accomplish the mission. In the process, they become ambassadors for Little Rock Air Force Base as a part of the joint fight.”

A large contingent of those deployed from LRAFB are supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support, including Airmen from the 19th AW who deployed earlier in January alongside reservists from the 913th Airlift Group.

Although deploying overseas may seem like a daunting endeavor, Black Knights remain prepared through rigorous base-wide readiness training and large-scale exercises.  

“We have collectively been developing our readiness over the last year, which has improved those skills our deploying Airmen will need downrange,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Gerald Donohue, 19th AW commander. “Our Airmen are unmatched in their training and execution of the mission, and they will be ready for the challenges to come in supporting our nation’s defense abroad.”

These sustained efforts help promote a warfighting mentality, while developing and honing those skills that make Airmen more agile and lethal. As a result, approximately 94 percent of 19th AW Airmen are prepared to deploy at a moment’s notice.

“All my training has prepared me for this,” Debonee said. “But I look forward to seeing what else I can learn from this experience.”

A sustained focus on deployments has highlighted the unique nature of Team Little Rock’s singular focus on the combat airlift enterprise. One key element of this focus was called to action when a maintenance team was dispatched to Canada to make rapid, necessary repairs to a departed C-130J Hercules full of Little Rock Airmen en route to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

“The aircraft maintenance business is very dynamic and fast-paced. We perform scheduled and unscheduled maintenance so that our airlift squadrons can execute their primary mission,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Richardson, 19th Maintenance Group superintendent. “We are also postured to quickly handle any unforeseen aircraft discrepancies away from Little Rock AFB. Recently we sent out a team to repair an aircraft which was en route to its deployed location. Our technicians ensured the aircrew was able to arrive in the AOR and conduct operations downrange.”

Black Knights never leave a Wingman behind, including Airmen’s families. Over the course of a deployment, the Airman & Family Readiness Center will have numerous events and amenities available for deployed members’ dependents.

A few of the support systems for dependents of deployed members include: the Deployed Family Dinner hosted once per quarter; a free oil change voucher; and ‘Give Parents a Break,’ a program through the Child Development Center that offers a Saturday of free childcare to families of deployed Airmen.

“Assisting loved ones left behind is crucial for the readiness of LRAFB and associated deployed locations,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Wellborn, 19th Force Support Squadron NCO in charge of readiness. “A deployed service member can provide the lethal airpower needed when they are content knowing their loved ones back home are being taken care of.”

In the meantime, Little Rock’s combat airlift mission will carry on with Airmen working each day to sustain the nation’s capability of rapid global mobility.

“Our Airmen find innovative ways to fill in to ensure the installation does not miss a beat,” Allee said.