200th Airlift Squadron Supports CENTCOM Operations

  • Published
  • By By Lt. Col. Joe Miller
  • 200th Airlift Squadron
In February, volunteers from the 200th Airlift Squadron (AS), 140th Wing Colorado Air National Guard, replaced scheduled pilot deployments from three active duty flying units; Peterson's 311th AS, as well as units from Scott and Andrews AFB.

Air National Guard C-21 units, until recently, have been primarily a home-based presence while active -duty units have shared rotations to U.S. Central Command's Area of Responsibility in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lieutenant Col. Brent Mesquit, acting commander of the 311th AS said, "It's an incredible help--our guys are running pretty hard. Not having to give up pilots for rotation was a gigantic morale booster for us."

The 200th AS has been preparing for the deployment since late in 2008, when they were initially notified of a unit mobilization. The mobilization was subsequently cancelled, but the squadron still spent the year getting qualified in tactical flying techniques. Flying in hostile areas where rocket propelled grenades and shoulder-launched surface-to-air-missiles are prevalent requires different techniques from everyday flying in the continental United States. Maj. Al Pichon, 200th AS tactics officer, says he feels that "the training in tactics will definitely make us fly safer in theater."

In 2006, a trailblazing Memorandum of Understanding allowed the 200th AS to inter-fly with Peterson's active duty C-21 squadron, the 311th AS. This agreement is the ultimate in the Total Force concept as the two units can "borrow" each other's aircraft and/or crew to complete missions or training. Stepping up to fill deployment slots furthers the concept of Total Force.

The 200th AS has been a part of Peterson AFB since 1999. A geographically separated unit (GSU) from Buckley AFB's 140th Wing, the 200th relocated to Peterson when their flying mission converted from T-43 to C-21 aircraft. The squadron's aircraft are expertly maintained by DynCorp, the same contractors who maintain the active duty C-21 aircraft of the 311th AS. For nearly a decade, the 200th was the only Air National Guard C-21 Learjet squadron in the country consisting of 2 aircraft, 18 pilots and 4 support staff with the most experienced C-21 pilots averaging flying times exceeding 4600 hours.

The 200th AS performs operational support airlift for the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center (JOSAC). Missions are assigned to the squadron to transport high-profile, high-priority military, DoD and government passengers. In addition, the squadron assists NORAD in conducting exercises to assess responses to airborne threats. In many cases, the C-21 is used to simulate hijacked or intruder aircraft. Recently the squadron supported US NORTHCOM relief efforts in Haiti by transporting command post personnel to staging locations.