Last flight for Kentucky’s Sherpas

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Sgt. 1st Class Troy Logsdon with Detachment 3, Company H, 171st Aviation walks toward a C-23 Sherpa for a final per-flight check at Capital City Airport in Frankfort, Ky., July 9, 2013. Logsdon and the crews of the two C-23s departed Kentucky for the last time as the aircraft were retired from service in the U.S. Military. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Current and retired Kentucky Guardsmen gathered to say farewell to one of the Guard’s long-standing aircraft at Capital City Airport in Frankfort, Ky., July 9, 2013.  The C-23 Sherpa has been in operation in the Kentucky National Guard since 1997, serving its Soldiers and Airmen as well as various active duty military units.

Soldiers of Detachment 3, Company H, 171st Aviation packed up the two Sherpas one final time for their last flight in the aircraft following the ceremony. The incomparable aircraft have had illustrious careers in Kentucky including three deployments to Iraq. Soldiers have called its tenure a unique experience and one they won’t soon forget. Det 3’s commander, Chief Warrant Officer Harold Grider couldn’t believe it was all over.

“The C-23 has been an uncommon experience for our Army aviators,” said Grider. “What we do is geared toward an air force mission, we fly cargo planes in the U.S. Army, and it has been a great experience. We’ve been flying for 12 years and it’s an unfortunate day for the crews and for the Guard.”

To see more photos from the farewell, click here.

The Sherpa has been flying in the U.S. Military since 1985, but the time had come to retire the aircraft from operation. Over the past few years, several other Guard units across the country have also retired their C-23s. It is expected that the mission of the planes will be handled by larger cargo planes and helicopters.

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Leon Replogle (left), Sgt. 1st Class (Ret) Lonnie Phillips (center) and Chief Warrant Officer (Ret) Edward Preston gather for a photo of the retirees at a farewell ceremony of the C-23 Sherpa at Capital City Airport in Frankfort, Ky., July 9, 2013. Preston served as the first commanding officer of Detachment 3, Co. H, 171st Aviation in 1997, Phillips the first NCOIC and Replogle the first mechanic on the C-23s in the Kentucky National Guard. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Following the last flight, the crews will return home to Kentucky with uncertain futures. Grider said a couple are close to retirement, while others could return to  the rotary aircraft side. Staff Sgt. William Pope has flown with the Sherpas for six years. He is one who expects to go back to flying UH-60 Blackhawks, albeit reluctantly.

“This has been a fun ride. I’m sorry to see it go,” he said. “I was very excited about going from Blackhawks to the Sherpa, but I don’t know how I feel about going back to the Blackhawk.”

The Soldiers aren’t the only ones that will miss the aircraft in Frankfort. Cheyenne Beatty and Charlie Quire are civilian contractors with M7 Aerospace, who work on the planes. Beatty has been with the unit for 13 years and had nothing but positive memories of his years working with the C-23s. Quire has only been on the job for a year, but the impact of his work will stick with him as the only job he enjoyed coming to every single day.

“It meant a lot to us to support this mission,” said Quire. “I like the crews, all the guys, the experience, I just wanted to support the military. And it’s a shame to see them to go, they are great aircraft.”

“It’s been a great adventure,” said Grider, “We’ve flown all over the globe in this thing, and again, it’s just an uncommon opportunity for our aviators to get this type of flying experience.”

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