GREAT FALLS – Dozens of airmen with the Montana Air National Guard are now back home with their loved ones after their first major deployment since the 120th Airlift Wing transitioned from fighter jets to C-130 cargo planes.

This was the airmen’s first large-scale deployment since completing the two and a half year conversion process in October.

During the deployment, the Guardsmen were assigned to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing and participated in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

MSgt Jason Caldwell of the 120th Maintenance Squadron said, “This deployment was the best deployment I have been on. As far as where we were at, it was probably the most any one of us had flown in that period of time. It was really busy, busy deployment.”

Story continues below

Flight crews delivered supplies and personnel throughout the region to military units fighting ISIS.

MSgt Caldwell said, “I told every one of our workers and everybody around you should not go home and feel like you didn’t do what you went here to do. We accomplished everything and then some.”

The mission often required the C-130 crews to operate in dangerous regions, but crew members said the airmen went above and beyond to successfully complete their mission.

CMSgt Steven Lynch, the 120th Airlift Wing Command Chief, explained that the MT ANG is flying one of the oldest versions of the C-130’s, and he is proud of what the men and women did on their first time on deployment with this mission.

Chief Lynch said, “We were able to provide every damned signal for our operation side. Delivering record amount of cargo, record amount of personnel, flew a record amount of hours, and our maintenance stats. The ability of our maintenance folks to provide the resources to our operations was outstanding.”

SMSgt Mike Donahue of the 120th Operational Support Squadron noted, “As Montanans, that’s what we do. We try to go and show who we are and what we are made of. To have a chip on our shoulder, go do the job, and do the best we can. This job, you are always learning, and we learned a ton. This is just going to compound for later. We are just going to keep getting better and better.”

Caldwell and Donahue have both been with the Montana Air National Guard as they have moved from F-16s, to the F-15s and now the C-130 Hercules.

“It was different for me because of my career field. I was a maintainer then and now I am actually overseeing. For me it was different to be at a lot of the meetings, answering a lot of questions and trying to relay everything down to the worker level,” Caldwell said.