A group of true heavyweights visited Casper/Natrona County International Airport on Saturday.

All eight of the C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft assigned to the 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard, took to the air for an historic event May 14. The mission was designed to validate the standards tactical airlift units are required to maintain for mass airdrop capabilities.

The timing of event was also important.

"We only have all of our (aircraft) here from temporary duty and deployments for about two weeks out of the year," said Col. Paul Lyman, 153rd Airlift Wing commander, adding that the event was historic and very much a team effort."

"Every member of the 153rd Airlift Wing played a part," he said.

Wyoming Air National Guard

Aside from the obvious participants, due to the sheer numbers of aircrew and maintenance personnel required to complete the mission that day, there was additional planning involved.

"Planning began months prior to execution," said Lt. Col. Ryan Scofield, mission commander and lead pilot.

Planning a large formation requires careful coordination with multiple parties, he said. This involved meetings with Air Traffic Control to clear air space, working with the Small Air Terminal for the loading and recovery of 16 airdrop platforms and parachutes and coordinating with Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants for 224,000 pounds of fuel. Additionally, military leadership provided guidance and approvals.

Casper/Natrona International Airport

"Having buy-in from maintenance and their tireless efforts was the lynchpin in this operation," said Scofield, adding also that the medical group performed superbly in processing more than 20 medical clearance forms required for additional passengers outside of crew members.

Lt. Col. Todd Davis, 153rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, said maintenance crews played a crucial part in the event, staying late into the evening prior to the exercise to ensure a flawless execution.

"Several factors went into making this a commendable feat. We recently transitioned from an active associate to a guard-only unit, which meant losing some critical maintenance manning," he said. "Couple that with the fact that we started planning this over two months ago, the aircraft are 25 years old, all heavy maintenance inspections had to be completed prior to the event and our operational tempo being through the roof. It's easy to see why getting all aircraft in the air is such a rare occurrence and a huge accomplishment for all involved personnel."

For a wing that is primarily comprised of drill-status guard members who work at the Air Guard one weekend a month, some of the biggest challenges of event coordination were long-range scheduling of heavy aircraft maintenance and available aircrew and flight line personnel.

"Scheduling enough current and qualified aircrews - many of them DSGs - required months of planning and de-confliction with not only military obligations, but civilian life and employment as well," said Scofield. "As mission commander for this historic event, I can say without reservation that this operation highlighted the absolute highest caliber of teamwork, cohesion, effort and professionalism in the 153d Airlift Wing.”