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June 22, 2012—
The Air Force is no longer operating C-27J Spartan airlifters in Afghanistan and currently has no plans to return them to that theater, according to service officials.

Earlier this week, officials at Kandahar AB, Afghanistan, inactivated the 702nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron that had operated two C-27Js from there since last August.

The mini airlifters provided direct support to Army units in southern Afghanistan, earning high marks from the operators and the soldiers whom they supported.

During that span, they flew 3,200 sorties, ferrying 1,400 tons of cargo and 25,000 passengers, and executing 71 airdrops, stated Kandahar officials in a June 20 release.

"We feel like we've made a difference for the young troops on the tip of the spear," said Lt. Col. Michael Lunt, 702nd EAS commander at the time of the unit's inactivation.

C-130 transports are now executing the direct-support mission in their place.

Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy told the Daily Report June 21 that the Air Force leadership decided to pull the C-27Js at this time, following the release of the service's Fiscal 2013 budget proposal, to avoid having to spend another $20 million to $25 million on L-3 contractor support for another year in Afghanistan.

The budget proposal included the service's plan to divest the C-27J fleet in Fiscal 2013 to save money for higher priorities.

However, lawmakers have thus far put the kibosh on that move in their budget mark-ups for next fiscal year.

During its tenure, the 702nd EAS comprised airmen from the Ohio Air National Guard's 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield and the Maryland ANG's 175th Wing in Baltimore, along with Air Guardsmen from other stateside units and some Army soldiers.

The 179th AW supplied the two C-27Js that served during the entire 10-month period.

From the stand up of the unit on July 31, 2011, through April 27, the Ohio Air Guard led the unit. From that point until the unit's inactivation on June 18, the Maryland Air Guard was in the lead.

Lt. Col. Todd Thomas, 179th Operational Support Flight commander in Mansfield, confirmed to the Daily Report on June 21 that overseas C-27J operations are on hold. However, C-27J stateside operations are continuing, including training flights, airlift sorties, and participation in airborne exercises, he said.

(Includes Kandahar report by Capt. Frank Hartnett)