From Ice to Fire for 109th Airwing Lift

Thursday afternoon, air force personnel bused members of the press out to the airfield for a tour of a LC-130 Hercules, similar to the craft Steindl will fly with another pilot, a flight engineer and a navigator. Steindl declined to name any other members of the flight crew, nor did he say how many personnel or what type of equipment he would be transporting.

The cavernous, stripped-down craft is lined with canvas seats, and has space to carry up to 50,000 pounds of cargo or pick up a Humvee through a back hatch. The craft can fly about 6-8 hours fully fueled, but the flight pattern to Southwest Asia will not be released. However, the voluminous aircraft will undergo its own wartime regimen before taking flight to Afghanistan.

"We need to strip off all the orange paint used to identify the plane as it flew on arctic missions," said Steindl. "It's going to be given a camouflage paint job. We don't want it to be identified from the ground."

Within a month, those involved in the mission will head to the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center in Missouri, considered the premiere facility for combat training. In the coming weeks, personnel will also practice nighttime and low-ground maneuvers in the local skies. Officials ask that residents near the county airport be aware of the unusual training schedule and not be alarmed by low-flying planes.

The crew will also be practicing landing aircraft on non-runway conditions.

"This will be an uncontrolled airfield, like landing in Louisiana when we went for hurricane clean-up," said German. "We'll be looking for a lot of debris. There won't necessarily be a clean spot to land."

German also declined to give any information about the length of the unit's mission.

"Our job is to be deployed until we're told to go home," said German. "This is our job. It's not that we enjoy going into combat, but this is what we do."

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