Thursday, February 22, 2007

TOP STORY >>41st AS under new management

Pope AFB Public Affairs

POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. – For 36 years, the 41st Airlift Squadron “Blackcats” have called Pope AFB home, but Friday’s realignment ceremony marked a new beginning as the unit heads to Little Rock AFB, Ark. The 41st AS will stand up in Little Rock on April 5, under the command of Lt. Col. Dan Tulley. The current 41st AS commander, Lt. Col. Thomas Crimmins, noted that the realignment is the first tangible Base Realignment And Closure move for Pope.

“This is just the first of many, and it should hit home that the moves are happening now,” he said. He added that this realignment was originally scheduled to take place at a later date, but he received the call in August from Air Mobility Command, and the timeline was shortened.

The guidon transfer from Pope to Little Rock will not signal an immediate mass exodus of personnel. About 90 of the current 41st AS personnel are deployed for a scheduled rotation as new members of the 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. The remainder have been transferred to the 2nd Airlift Squadron here, awaiting their next assignment.

Colonel Crimmins said that when the time comes, most will probably receive orders to go somewhere other than Little Rock AFB. He is among those deploying and said when his deployment ends, he will return to Pope and await Air Force instructions. He took command less than a year ago with the assumption he would be in command for two years.
“This is bittersweet. The time has been too short, but I understand the need of the Air Force to move [the squadron] to Little Rock to pick up a new mission and new airplane,” said Colonel Crimmins.

He said that although his command has been brief, he is happy he will get to stay with his troops and command for another 120 days during the deployment. During the ceremony, Col. Daryl Blan, 43rd Operations Group acting commander, briefly relayed some of the unit’s accomplishments. He said the 41st AS has a proud history as the third oldest Air Force squadron, having been involved in every major campaign since its inception Feb. 18, 1942, and as one of the most highly decorated airlift squadrons in U.S. military history. The unit began as a transport squadron, but soon became a troop carrier squadron, flying the C-47. The squadron later flew the C-119 Boxcar, and made the transition to the C-130 Hercules in 1957.

Col. Timothy Zadalis, 43rd Airlift Wing Commander, also addressed the crowd of about 200 veterans, family members, distinguished guests and the 41st navigators, pilots, copilots, load masters and crew chiefs, during a short speech at the ceremony. Several of the 41st AS prior commanders were in attendance.

“The previous commanders have built a legacy for the 41st...and their spirit lives on with the Blackcats,” he said during his speech. That “spirit” will also physically live on, as each 41st AS commander’s names were painted on a Pope C-130E that will soon be retired to the boneyard in Ariz. Colonel Blan said the 41st will add another chapter to its history by being the first Air Mobility Command active duty C-130J squadron. The C-130J was added to the inventory in 1999, and is noticeably different than its precursors.

“There is fundamentally some-thing wrong with six blades on a prop,” joked Colonel Blan. According to the BRAC Realignment Ceremony brochure, the C-130J was designed to outperform the subsequent models and boasts a Rolls Royce engine and six-bladed propellers. Colonel Zadalis insisted, “It’s not the aircraft that’s the future, it’s the people. They will turn [the C-130J] into another air mobility legend.”

The climax happened toward the end of the ceremony as the personnel in formation were told to remove their Blackcat patches and replace them with their gaining unit patch; however, for a group photo with a C-130 as a backdrop, the Airmen were able to put the 41st AS patch back on.


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