Reserve lieutenant colonel pilots C-130 for combat, humanitarian airlift missions

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Scott Sturkol
  • Headquarters Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
Reserve lieutenant colonel pilots C-130 for combat, humanitarian airlift missionsLt. Col. Steve Catchings is a C-130H Hercules pilot deployed with the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia.

Catchings is deployed from the Air Force Reserve's 908th Operations Group, 908th Airlift Wing, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. The 908th Airlift Wing in Montgomery, Ala., is Alabama's only Air Force Reserve unit, the wing's Web site states. The 908th AW "contributes to the nation's defense by providing airlift and related services through the efforts of more than 1,200 Reservists and eight C-130 Hercules aircraft."

As a C-130 pilot with the 746th EAS, Catchings regularly flies combat airlift missions in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility supporting Operation New Dawn, Operation Enduring Freedom and the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. More recently, Catchings has been flying relief missions supporting the Pakistan flood relief effort.

Whether flying relief airlift missions to Pakistan or supporting OEF, Catchings is doing exactly what he was trained to do. According to his official Air Force job description for an airlift pilot, he is required to "pilot airlift aircraft and command crews to accomplish airlift, training and other missions."

To fulfill his work as an airlift pilot, Catchings reviews mission tasking, intelligence and weather information, the job description states. He supervises mission planning, preparation, filing a flight plan and crew briefings and ensures the aircraft is pre-flighted, inspected, loaded, equipped and manned for each mission.

Airmen like Catchings also pilot aircraft and command crews. They are trained to operate aircraft controls and equipment and perform, supervise, or direct navigation, in-flight refueling, and cargo and passenger delivery. They also ensure the operational readiness of the crew by conducting or supervising mission specific training and they develop plans and policies, monitor operations and assist commanders with functions related to airlift operations, the job descript shows.

Airmen like Catchings also have to maintain mandatory job knowledge in the theory of flight, air navigation, meteorology, flying directives, aircraft operating procedures and mission tactics.

Catchings' service on deployment is consistent with the Air Force's history of a Total Force team -- active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard -- working together to complete the mission at home or while deployed, officials said. According to the Air Force Reserve Command Web site, the command provides the Air Force about 20 percent of its capability "with only about four percent of the total Air Force budget." Air Force Reserve Command supports space, flight test, special operations, aerial port operations, civil engineer, security forces, intelligence, military training, communications, mobility support, transportation and services missions. The command is also administratively responsible for all the Air Force's individual mobilization augmentees.