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The end of an era

Airmen from the 317th Airlift Group salute the last departing C-130 Hercules Sept. 26, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko/ Released)

Airmen from the 317th Airlift Group salute the last departing C-130 Hercules Sept. 26, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko/ Released)

The last C-130 Hercules prepares to take off Sept. 26, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko/ Released)

The last C-130 Hercules prepares to take off Sept. 26, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko/ Released)

The last C-130 Hercules stationed at Dyess pass a C-130J model before takeoff Sept. 26, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko/ Released)

The last C-130 Hercules stationed at Dyess pass a C-130J model before takeoff Sept. 26, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko/ Released)

Two C-130 Hercules sit on the flight line as the Texas sun sets behind them for the last time Sept. 25, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130 H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg/ Released)

Two C-130 Hercules sit on the flight line as the Texas sun sets behind them for the last time Sept. 25, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130 H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg/ Released)

The last C-130 Hercules takes off from the runway Sept. 26, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130 H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg/ Released)

The last C-130 Hercules takes off from the runway Sept. 26, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130 H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg/ Released)

The last C-130 Hercules stationed at Dyess fly past the air traffic control tower Sept. 26, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130 H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg/ Released)

The last C-130 Hercules stationed at Dyess fly past the air traffic control tower Sept. 26, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130 H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg/ Released)

Members of the 317th Airlift Group gather up equipment Sept. 25, 2012, as the sun sets behind one of the last two C-130 Hercules at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130 H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg/ Released)

Members of the 317th Airlift Group gather up equipment Sept. 25, 2012, as the sun sets behind one of the last two C-130 Hercules at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. For 37 years Dyess’ C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130 H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg/ Released)

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- For 37 years Dyess' C-130 Hercules and its Airmen have built a legacy in the Air Force. That legacy came to end Sept. 26 as the last two C-130 H models, tail numbers 1667 and 2063, departed for Little Rock AFB, Ark.

"It's a bitter sweet day," said Col. Walter H. Ward, 317th Airlift Group commander. "We're not only saying goodbye to the H models that have had a great history here for 37 years, but we are losing flight engineers and navigators who are not a part of the C-130J crew compliment."

On March 31, 1975, the H model era began when Dyess received the very first C-130H to roll off the Lockheed Martin assembly line. Over the next two years Dyess would eventually attain 52 more H models.

Throughout the next four decades of service, Dyess' H models have left their mark on almost every corner of the earth. From performing humanitarian support missions in Haiti and Pakistan to combat support in nearly every U.S. operation since 1983, the Hercules built a reputation for being the nation's airlift workhorse.

Although the 317th AG is losing a workhorse from their fleet, Ward feels as though it's the attack airlifter spirit of his Airmen that makes the 317th AG a premier airlift unit.

"Even though we are transitioning models of the airplane, the spirit of an 'attack airlifter' is eternal and will always be here in the 317th Airlift Group from now until ever more," he said. "The C-130 has always had a reputation for being a workhorse. Whether it be the E, H or J model, that workhorse attitude reflects the spirit of our Airmen. Attack airlifters are a special breed of person. They're somebody who, if you tell them to quit, they don't know how. They crave being dirty, blue collar and smash mouth in your face. And with a cow brand, they have 'find a way' emblazed on their souls."

During the farewell ceremony, proud H model Airmen from past and present generations flooded the 317th AG auditorium sharing memories and stories of the Hercules' legacy they helped build.

Capt. Christopher Dorough, 317th AG, whose father flew the very first C-130H to Dyess in 1975, commanded the final Hercules to depart the Dyess runway, bridging the gap between generations and closing the book on the H model at Dyess.

"As we're flying to Little Rock, we're going to fly over my dad's house," he said. "I'm going to look down and say, 'Hey, you brought them in, and I'm taking them out.'"

While the H models are departing Dyess to make room for the newer J model, the Hercules' mission is far from over as it will continue to support humanitarian and combat missions around the world.

"The C-130H is still a vital part of America's tactical airlift capability," Ward said. "They will be going to other units where they will fall in and fight just as proudly as they did here at the 317th."

Prior to delivering the last C-130H to Little Rock AFB, Ward admitted what we have learned from this journey is change will always happen, but the spirit of attack airlifters is who we are, it's what we do and it will never leave us.

"When people tell you they are a C-130 Airman, you notice them stand a little straighter, their chest bows out," Ward said. "It's a blue collar, down-in-the-weeds type mission we have here. When you can look back at the end of the day and say we did something that really mattered, whether it be inserting ground forces to secure territory or delivering hope to places seemingly out of reach, we can look back and know we held the pen in our hands that helped write the pages of history."

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