Enhancing aviation excellence: 357th Airlift Squadron SARM trains at Kirtland for 908th FTU

  • Published
  • By Britianie Teston
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Kirtland Air Force Base has served as a hub for aviation excellence for decades, which is what brought members of the 357th Airlift Squadron to New Mexico. The 357th Airlift Squadron, the flying unit of the 908th Airlift Wing at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, recently dispatched six of their members for specialized training under Kirtland’s 512th Rescue Squadron in preparation for the arrival of their new aircraft.

In 2022, Maxwell was officially selected to standup the first Formal Training Unit for the new MH-139A Grey Wolf Helicopter. The MH-139 is designed to replace the current UH-1N Huey by providing an increase in speed, range, payload, and survivability, as well as other improved mission capabilities.

While on Kirtland, Airmen of the 357th trained with Squadron Aviation Resource Managers (SARM) on topics ranging from student management, scheduling, and data systems to flight training. Master Sgt. Larry Williams, 357th Airlift Squadron Aviation Resource Manager, shared the contrast between tactical airlift operations and the unique challenges of establishing and operating a rotary wing FTU, and what it’s been like training at Kirtland.

“There is a lot they can provide for us, and we can take back home to stand up our schoolhouse,” Williams said. “For us, going from tactical to converting to a schoolhouse are two totally different worlds, so we wanted to see how they do what they do and learn their processes.”

The primary objective of the new MH-139 FTU is to train pilots and Special Mission Aviators who will be responsible for ensuring security and provide support to the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile fields. The effects of this change will ripple well beyond the 908th, as Maxwell has been tasked with not only transitioning to an FTU, but also creating the first MH-139 training program largely from scratch.

“There are many reasons why this mission change is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, transitions the Air Force has ever undertaken.  Foremost, this is a brand-new aircraft. The MH-139 is the military variant of the Leonardo AW139 used in the public sector for Emergency Medical Services and Search and Rescue missions. Therefore, a training platform for the helicopter does not currently exist within the Department of Defense,” said Maj. John T. Stamm, 908th Chief of Public Affairs.

The new MH-139’s are scheduled to arrive at Maxwell AFB in the Spring of 2024.