200th Airlift Squadron Adds to Experience

  • Published
  • By Capt. Kristin Haley
  • 140th Wing Public Affairs
For the first time ever, the 200th Airlift Squadron (AS), a unit under the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, located at Peterson Air Force Base, is preparing to deploy 35 percent of its pilots to the United States Central Command Area of Operations. The C-21 pilots preparing to leave volunteered to go to alleviate some of the deployment strain on the three CONUS-based active-duty C-21 units.

"Over the past couple of years, we've really become more integrated with the active-duty Air Force," said Lt. Col. Paul Follett, 200th Airlift Squadron commander. In 2006, the unit established an Inter-fly Agreement with the 311th AS, a C-21 active-duty squadron, which is also a tenant unit located at Peterson Air Force Base. "We want to fully support the C-21 mission, and part of that full support includes deploying," he added.

Although the 200th AS is the smallest C-21 unit in both the active-duty and guard, it has the most experienced pilots! The average C-21 experience level is over nine years and almost 3,000 hours per pilot. Two 200 AS pilots, Lt. Col. Lance McDowell and Lt. Col. Jim Lawrence, have over 5,000 C-21 hours each, the only two pilots to ever cross the 5,000 hour threshold in the C-21. Active-duty pilots generally leave their three-year C-21 assignment with an average of 1100 flying hours per pilot. In addition, throughout its history, the unit has accumulated over 67,462 mishap free flying hours, that's over seven and a half years of non-stop flying.

Lieutenant Col. Dave Smallidge has the most total flying hours in the unit with over 7500. He joined the Colorado Air National Guard in 1999 after spending time in both the active-duty and the reserves, flying the C-5. "My career started out good, got better and now it's the best," he said.

Day-to-day, the squadron flies distinguished visitor (DV) airlift and time critical cargo missions for Transportation Command's (TRANSCOM) Joint Operational Support Airlift Center (JOSAC), but also flies air defense operational training sorties and Other than Continental United States (OCONUS) airlift missions for the National Guard Bureau. "Although many of our flights are to the same places such as Andrews Air Force Base, what makes our job so great is that we still get to go to places we've never been; places like Manhattan, Kansas and small airports all over the U.S.," said Follett.

With so much experience in one squadron, they are known as the go-to place for corporate knowledge. "We like to think of ourselves as the safe hold of knowledge in the C-21 community," said Major Joel Miller, 200th AS pilot. They have supplemented a number of Inspector General teams, administered standardization and evaluation check rides to units in Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and multiple Continental United States (CONUS) locations such as Andrews Air Force Base, MD and Offutt Air Force Base, NE over the years. In addition, they've helped with flight reviews at the Air Force level as well as checked out initial cadre when new C-21 units stood up in Fargo, N.D. and Bradley, CT. The squadron also advises in C-21 contract training conducted in Dallas, Texas.

The Inter-Fly Agreement has allowed the pilots of the 200th AS to spend a lot of time flying with many of the young pilots assigned to the 311th AS. "It's mutually beneficial for us, too. We like to share our experience and use our instructor skills. However when we deploy, although we've done a lot of training recently to address the threats in theater, we're definitely going to be learning from them. We're excited about this opportunity and know it's going to be a great experience for us," said Follett.