MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
On April 8, 2022, the 908th Airlift Wing at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, said goodbye to its aging C-130H aircraft. Now the wing is working to transition to providing MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter training, bringing together Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Global Strike Command and Air Force Reserve Command for the first time.
To accomplish this task, Col. Craig Drescher, 908 AW commander, created a Program Integration Office to facilitate the details of the transition.
Mr. Anthony "Todd" Taylor, a former Air Force helicopter pilot, serves as the director of the PIO team.
"The PIO has been in existence for over a year," said Taylor. "We are responsible for working with other leaders to ensure the 908 AW safely and efficiently converts from a tactical C-130 mission to the Air Force's Formal Training Unit for the MH-139A helicopter."
According to Senior Master Sgt. Adam Childers, a flight engineer with the 357th Airlift Squadron, the PIO are the “boots on the ground” for the potential remission.
"We are more of a touch point that can get answers to questions and provide information to help guide and potentially influence the decision makers in this process,” he said.
What started as a two-person team more than a year ago grew into a group of AETC and 908 AW members working together on everything from maintenance and finance to facilities and courseware.
A mission change of this scale means that the 908 AW will be transitioning from its long heritage of operating a fixed-wing airframe to a rotary-wing aircraft.
"Here's the 30,000-foot view," said Master Sgt. Joel May, PIO maintenance integration lead, "We are getting rid of widget A, the C-130H, and replacing it with widget B, the MH-139A helicopter and all the logistics involved, be it facilities or finances."
According to the PIO, this will require many changes within the wing.
"It's not necessarily going to be an easy transition and it is not going to happen overnight," said Taylor. "It's a completely different type of airframe, a different type of flying and maintenance."
Though the change will not be simple, the PIO wants the 908 AW members to know that the wing is more than capable of handling the task.
"This is probably going to be the hardest transition in the history of the Air Force," said May. "But, I have no doubt that we're up to the challenge. We have maintainers, for instance, that have an average of 10 to 12 years of experience, we have very decorated and accomplished maintainers."
Lt. Col. Jay Ference, the PIO deputy director, hopes that 908 AW members will embrace the future and enjoy the present, using the time of transition for personal and professional development.
"From a commander's point of view, I'm taking this opportunity to develop my Airmen," Ference said. "If they want to start school, finish some career development courses, or go to the Community College of the Air Force, this is the time to do it."
As questions arise throughout this process, the PIO wants members of the 908 AW to be encouraged to ask them.
"It's okay to talk to us," said Childers. "We might be there to ask questions, but anyone can ask us questions. We are always going to be honest and tell you what we know. We might not know the exact answer to your question because that decision might not have been made yet, but we will tell you what we know."
Taylor wants the 908th to be enthusiastic about the future and according to him, by everyone in the wing operating at their best, they are contributing to the transition.
"The rotary-wing mission is tremendously exciting," said Taylor. "I hope that our members can do some research on the helicopters and help us build on that excitement and spread it throughout the 908th. Every member of the wing is now part of the PIO."
The members of the PIO include Mr. Anthony "Todd" Taylor, director; Lt. Col. Jay Ference, commander of 357th Airlift Squadron and the PIO deputy director; Lt. Col. Frank "Derek" Cumbie, AETC liaison; Chief Master Sgt. James Rickels, chief finance and manpower integration lead; Chief Master Sgt. Quincey Hester, maintenance integration director; Senior Master Sgt. Adam Childers, facilities director; Master Sgt. Joel May, maintenance integration lead; Staff Sgt. Troy Smith, courseware and training lead; and Senior Airman Bryce Mayer, AETC liaison.