By Staff Sgt. Mike R. Smith, Guard Times Staff

SCOTIA, N.Y. — Wind gusts blast several Airmen as they load medical gear aboard a C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft at Stratton Air National Guard Base, here, in May. They make several trips to a nearby military pickup truck. Finally, it’s all aboard.

Eyes adjust to the lighting. Attention shifts to a new task: preparing for combat wounded. They connect and climb litters to create a puzzling mix of aluminum posts and nylon fabric, aligned bunk-bed style, along with the cargo cabin.

By Staff Sgt. Mike R. Smith, Guard Times Staff

STRATTON ANGB, Scotia, N.Y. — The 109th Airlift Wing’s C-130 Hercules are noted for their good looks. In fact, they win top international honors.

“This is the best-looking aircraft I have ever seen,” remarked a competition judge in 2000, just before the Wing won its third of four “Best Kept Aircraft in Show” titles at the Royal International Air Tattoo in England, beating out more than 150 aircraft, from over 30 countries.

Now, adding style to looks, the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the Multimedia Flight here started personalizing the Wing’s aircraft with nose-art in November 2004.

By Staff Sgt. Mike R. Smith, Guard Times Staff

ALPLAUS, N.Y. —Take a small-town firehouse, add colored thread and fabric, pour in various amounts of love and caring, mix thoroughly with a strong sense of community and country and you have what might be the warmest recipe to comfort wounded Soldiers.

To recognize New York’s wounded Soldiers, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Alplaus Fire Company, Alplaus, crafted 26 lap-size quilts for the New York Army National Guard.

By Staff Sgt. Mike R. Smith, Guard Times Staff

SCOTIA N.Y. — A group of Airmen organized at the Stratton Air National Guard Base recently to push thousands of pounds of gear and equipment off the back of a C-130 cargo aircraft, and it might have made quite a drop, but they never got off the ground. They were too focused on “important” stuff: straps, skid-boards, parachutes and the “unquestionable certainty” of their career field: Aerial Port.

By Staff Sgt. Mike R. Smith, Guard Times Staff

LATHAM, N.Y. – It was a mournful gathering.

At the podium, New York Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Van Pelt spoke the name of each Soldier three times consecutively, a brass Navy bell clanged, and a white candle was lit upon the final echo of each. When all names were read, 11 flames were aglow — illuminating the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq.