An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Pope navigator helps provide cargo to ground forces at forward operating bases

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Adam Crown
  • 43rd Airlift Group Public Affairs
The Air Force's mission is to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace. One of the core competencies of the Air Force's six distinctive capabilities is being able to respond quickly and decisively anywhere mobility airlift is needed.

Captain Michael Welch, 2nd Airlift Squadron, was ensuring the Air Force was meeting that capability every time while deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. He is a navigator on the C-130 Hercules aircraft and supplied forward operating bases and transported passengers throughout the area of responsibility.

"My main mission there was mobility airlift," said Captain Welch. "We supported the ground forces and transport passengers or cargo. In order to expedite the mission, or if troops were in an area where the aircraft couldn't land, we would airdrop the cargo."
Some of the supplies that the aircrew airdropped included ammunition, fuel, food, and water. If a FOB needed anything delivered, the aircrew could get it there.

"We had flights all over Afghanistan," said Captain Welch. "Usually we would just do a quick turn, where we drop off the supplies or personnel and takeoff as soon as everything was unloaded, then do it all over again."

When aircraft have maintenance problems, it can delay other missions or service members from completing objectives. With so many missions in a day, maintainers have the crucial role of keeping the aircraft flying in order to meet the high demands in the AOR for mobility aircraft.

"The maintainers did a great job," said Captain Welch. "There were very few issues with the aircraft. If anything ever did come up, they were all over it and had us back in the air. The mission was never delayed while I was there due to maintenance. They performed outstandingly."

However, weather played a large role in delaying flights for Captain Welch and the aircrew.

"There were quite a few delays for weather," said Captain Welch. "The biggest delay was due to snow. It defiantly snowed more than what I expected. If the snow starts coming down too hard, you can't take off. The snow would accumulate on the wings and we couldn't clear it off fast enough."

This was Captain Welch's eleventh deployment. He has been to Iraq three times and this was his first to Afghanistan. Before Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom started, he deployed in support of Operations Northern and Southern Watch.
"The deployments didn't really differ all that much," said Captain Welch. "I was flying the same mission. It was just the location and weather that was different."

The preparation for each deployment is relatively the same when conducting airdrops, or transporting personnel and cargo. Each sortie the aircrew flies stateside is like a dry run for missions flown in the AOR, according to Captain Welch. When an aircrew deploys they are ready to complete the mission without error.

"Everything we do prior to deploying is preparing the entire aircrew for that mission," said Captain Welch. "We definitely leave maybe not knowing exactly what we are going to see, but what to expect. You are in a combat environment and situations are bound to come up that you have never seen before."

There was an airdrop where troops were in contact nearby and Captain Welch airdropped supplies into the FOB that directly supported their fight against the enemy. The Soldiers were able to resupply and continue to fight. Without the supplies provided by the airdrop there was the chance that lives could be lost.

"It can be a tense environment," said Captain Welch. "Be flexible and expect to work a lot."

Captain Welch took on his job with a sense of pride and worked hard every day according to Lt. Col. Kevin Newberry, 152 Airlift Wing Chief of Safety.

"He was a tremendous asset to the crew and to the Nevada Air National Guard during our recent OEF deployment," said Colonel Newberry. "He conducted his day-to-day business with professionalism and always showed up to work with a smile on his face. Always willing to work and be a part of the crew, I would love for him to fly with us again sometime very soon."