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Puerto Rico Air National Guard provides airlift to U.S. Air Force Academy hockey team

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Claudia Villasenor
  • 156th Airlift Wing

Aircrew members of the 156th Operations Group, Puerto Rico Air National Guard provide airlift transport on a WC-130 Hercules to the U.S. Air Force Academy ice hockey team from Rochester, N.Y. to Colorado Springs, Colo., Mar 19.

The 156th Airlift Wing deployed one of its WC-130 Hercules aircraft March 18 from Muñiz Air National Guard Base, Carolina, Puerto Rico to Rochester, N.Y. in support of the Air National Guard weekend dedicated airlift mission.  The ANG dedicated airlift mission acts as an available "stand-by" aircraft that is prepositioned in the continental U.S. and tasked to provide airlift support in case a prior scheduled aircraft malfunctions or an unscheduled mission requires airlift support.

Due to the "stand-by" nature of the ANG dedicated airlift missions, the PRANG aircrew were not expecting to provide airlift support to the Air Force Falcons Men's Ice Hockey team. Let alone receive courtesy tickets to see them play in the Atlantic Hockey Conference semifinals from the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y.  

"This mission was very interesting for me because I am an avid [Air Force Falcon] fan that follows the team during the entire season," said Maj. Luis Martinez, WC-130 navigator of the 156th Operations Support Squadron. "It made me feel very proud to be part of a unique experience that not many get a chance to do."

Coming from a Caribbean island, a majority of Puerto Ricans have never experienced snow or cold weather related sports. For this particular PRANG aircrew, the March 18 game between the Air Force Falcons and the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers was the first live hockey game they had experienced. 

"It was great to have been provided tickets to attend their game before we provided support," said Staff Sgt. Rivera-Saez, WC-130 flight engineer of the 198th Airlift Squadron. "Being from Puerto Rico, I have never seen a game. After going to see a live game, I would go again! It was a great opportunity. Being a traditional guardsman has afforded me tremendous life experiences, from visiting the North Pole to Iraq...and now, hockey!"

The following day, the PRANG aircrew prepared the WC-130 Hercules aircraft for their mission. PRANG aircrew provided a familiarization walk around of the aircraft and explained the general flight procedures of the WC-130. As a unified team, the PRANG aircrew along with 47 Air Force Falcons team players and team personnel jointly loaded 3,000 pounds of hockey team equipment on the WC-130 for their 4 hours and 25 minutes flight to Colorado Springs.

"The coach and the equipment manager were very thankful for the airlift support we provided," said Martinez. "It was the first time that some of the players got to fly with PRANG. It was great to have the opportunity to fly with our future Air Force leaders and show them who we [the PRANG] are. Who knows, I might have transported a future NHL player."

"Being invited to attend the hockey game and working closely with the team makes me feel like we are one Air Force team working together towards the same mission," said Rivera-Saez. "Let all active duty [Tanker Airlift Control Center] components know, that the PRANG is here to provide support. They can count on us to get the mission done."

The PRANG proudly contributes to the total force concept by providing airlift missions with their WC-130 Hercules capabilities both domestically and aboard.