Flying Vikings head south for winter

  • Published
  • By Capt. Greg Baur
  • 934th Airlift Wing
In the early morning of January 14, members of the 934th Airlift Wing demonstrated what they are best at: deploying to and operating C-130 Airlift Support out of a Forward Deployed Base. This time it was in support of the long standing “CORONET OAK” mission now based out of Muniz Air National Guard Base, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Coronet Oak is the name for the operation in which Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard C-130 aircraft, aircrews and support personnel deploy from their home stations to Puerto Rico to provide theater airlift support for the U.S. Southern Command. Coronet Oak, once known as the “Panama Rotation” based at Howard AFB in Panama, was moved to Muniz ANGB, PR in February 1999 where AFRC & ANG units rotate in & out every two weeks. 

After an extremely early morning deployment brief and personnel baggage drop off, crew chiefs from the 934thth Aircraft Maintenance Squadron readied the two aircraft to be flown by our aircrews of the 96th Airlift Squadron.
Since the operation is continuous, the 934 AW, as assigned, comprised the “B” package of the mission, working along side the Puerto Rican Air National Guard. Upon arrival in Puerto Rico, both aircrew and support personnel, deplaned and were briefed on operational control, mission readiness and expectations of our rotation. Rest was short as several crew and maintenance personnel were out to the airfield early the next morning to ready both aircraft for alert status and pre-mission planning. 

The “Oak” guidelines are set that aircraft and crew are available in an extreme short notice (within 30 minutes) 24 hours a day, thus at least one crew and maintenance support personnel pull “Alert” status a couple of times during the rotation.
Our crews this rotation, supported several missions, in support of the U.S. Southern Command. Missions were dispatched to Jamaica, Guantanimo Bay, Cuba, and other points of landing in Central and South America. In addition, as one of the 440thtAirlift Wing aircraft became stranded due to an engine problem in Columbia, a Maintenance Recovery Team (MRT), consisting of Senior Airman Zac Nelson and his required maintenance equipment, was loaded onto one of our aircraft to recover the aircraft. Airman Nelson quickly troubleshot and fixed the problem in order to continue a mission that was already delayed the previous three days in Pope AFB, North Carolina. 

Mission Commander Lt. Col. Robert Ross (former commander of the 96thtAirlift Squadron) stated, “Our aircrew, maintenance personnel and support staff performed in an outstanding manner. We always had at least two aircraft and one crew ready for alert watch at all times. Carribean tropical thunder storms aren’t our usual January weather threat, but everyone did a fantastic job getting the mission accomplished.” 

After turning over the reigns for this mission to our sister unit from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the 440th Airlift Wing, the crews and aircraft departed on another early flight on January 28, redeploying back to Minnapolis and the cold of a Minnesota winter.
In the tradition of “CORONET OAK,” the 934th will again rotate into Muniz ANGB in March to continue this much needed mission supporting warmer climates to the south.