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39th Rescue Squadron Makes History

First HC-130J Delivered

The 39th Rescue Squadron crew posed for the traditional crew photo but this time with social distancing in mind on April 2, 2020 at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. (courtesy photo Gwen Kurzen)

Test Flight

Test flight of the first HC-130J in February 2020. (Courtesy photo by Mandie Harwell)

HC-130J Combat King II

The 39th Rescue Squadron's first HC-130J Combat King II arrived April 2, 2020 at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. According to Lockheed Martin, the 920th RQW has the distinction of being the Air Force Reserve’s only HC-130J operators and will eventually have several HC-130J in fleet to support mission requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)


The 39th Rescue Squadron took possession of their first, brand new HC-130J Combat King II aircraft April 2.  920th Rescue Wing maintenance and aircrew brought the aircraft home to Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, while making history in their efforts.


“This is an exciting time for the men and women of the 39th RQS, the 920th RQW, and the Air Force Reserve Command,” said Lt. Col. Ellis, 39th RQS commander. “The delivery of the first HC-130J represents a major milestone in our unit’s transition. The new aircraft will enable enhanced mission capabilities and ensure the successful execution of future combat search and rescue operations.”


However, because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Airmen, as well as Lockheed Martin personnel, took several precautionary measures to ensure their health and the health of those they may come in contact with.


“We eliminated the customary factory tour, team introductions as well as the ‘Key Ceremony’, in which Lockheed Martin gives the gaining unit a symbolic key to the aircraft.” said Lt. Col. Rich, 920th Operations Group HC-130J Conversion Officer. “In fact, our 920th maintenance experts limited their interaction with Lockheed Martin personnel to an absolute minimum prior to releasing the aircraft to the aircrew.”


The 920th maintenance personnel were able to expedite the acceptance and pre-flight checks of the first AFRC HC-130J, accomplishing all required tasks in nearly half the normally allotted time.


To stop the spread of COVID-19, health and government officials have recommended avoiding large gatherings and maintaining a distance of 6 feet from other people. This reduces the chance of contact with those knowingly or unknowingly carrying the infection.


“The aircrew avoided local contact entirely with assistance from the 71st Rescue Squadron out of Moody Air Force Base, Georgia,” said Lt. Col. Rich. “The 71st provided a pilot and loadmaster to round out our aircrew from the 39th RQS in addition to flying us all from Patrick to the Lockheed factory.”


One of the most unique situations that presented itself during this historical moment was another, never ever seen before, safety measure.


“We executed the first ever ‘Engine Running Offload’ on the Lockheed Martin ramp and proceeded directly to the aircraft,” said Lt. Col. Rich. “This has never been done before and the aircrew was able to avoid the Lockheed facilities altogether. It was a truly unique and exceptionally well thought out plan to limit our exposure to the current threat.”


Once the power-up and preflight checks were complete, the combined team from the 920th and 71st departed the airfield in Georgia, without incident.


“The day was complete when the 71st RQS crewmembers, who assisted us, were picked up from Patrick AFB and returned safely to Moody AFB.” said Lt. Col. Rich. “Despite all that is going on in world today, I am proud to have been a small part of the great effort by the Total Force working together to overcome seemingly unlimited obstacles.  It was inspiring to witness the priority placed on the protection of each Airman while still focusing on mission accomplishment.”