RFC Ft Belvoir—Army’s largest provider of on-demand regional lift
National Guard unit flies Beechcraft C12s, Cessna UC35 Citation Ultras in priority air transport role.
By Phil Rose
An RFC Fort Belvoir C12U departs DAA. All US Army C12s are configured for 2-pilot operation, and most of the fleet has been brought up to C12U standard with the Rockwell Collins FMS3000 and TCAS II. In contrast, the C12V is equipped with the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21.
DAA (Davison AAF, Fort Belvoir VA) is a subordinate installation of the Military District of Washington (MDW). Among the more visible aviation activities at DAA is the provision of priority air transport (PAT) to senior Army, Dept of Defense (DOD) and government officials and foreign dignitaries.
In addition to being home base for several Army flying units, DAA is HQ for the Operational Support Airlift Agency (OSAA) and its subsidiary Operational Support Airlift Command (OSACOM). OSAA is a Dept of the Army field operation agency and falls under the National Guard Bureau.
It is staffed by active duty Army and National Guard soldiers and civilians. OSACOM operates 4 Regional Flight Centers (RFCs) to fulfill the PAT mission. The largest of these is the RFC at Fort Belvoir. Others are located at FRN (Bryant AAF, Fort Richardson AK), GRF (Gray AAF, Fort Lewis WA) and GRK (Robert Gray AAF, Fort Hood TX).
In addition to managing and controlling the 4 RFCs, OSACOM oversees all National Guard state flight department fixed-wing passenger aircraft. Types operated are the Beechcraft C12 Huron, Shorts C23 Sherpa, Fairchild C26 Metroliner and Cessna UC35 Citation Ultra. OSAA standardization officers for all 4 RFCs are based at DAA.
They carry out standardization inspections for OSAA (ie, for all the states under OSACOM), whether stateside or outside the continental US (OCONUS). RFC Fort Belvoir has the largest aircraft complement of any RFC, with 3 C12s and 2 UC35s allocated. Formerly an all-C12 operation, it acquired its UC35s in 2002. OSACOM’s other 2 UC35s are allocated to FRN (which, unlike the other RFCs, does not operate C12s).
Structure and organization
CO Capt John Dzieciolowski took command in May 2009 when he transferred to the RFC after 3 years with OSAA. He is also commander of the Aircrew Training Program (ATP). A National Guard soldier on active duty, Dzieciolowski has been in the Army for 12 years, and in Army aviation for 9 of those years, including a tour in Iraq.
(L–R) RFC Fort Belvoir Commander Capt John Dzieciolowski, C12 Standardization Officer CW4 Tim O’Sullivan, Tactical Ops Officer CW4 Craig Ryan, OSAA Exec Officer Capt Noel Thomas, UC35 Standardization Officer CW4 Scott Kelly and Safety Officer CW4 James Toler with one of the unit’s 2 Cessna UC35A Citation Ultras.
He has 1200 hrs TT (470 in C12s, 730 in OH58s and UH60s). Dzieciolowski direct-reports to OSACOM Commander Lt Col Laurence Howl, who reports to OSAA Commander Col Michael Bobeck. Howl is also OSAA Deputy Commander. Bobeck in turn reports to National Guard Bureau (NGB) Acting Dir Maj Gen Raymond Carpenter.
RFC Fort Belvoir itself consists of 14 personnel including Dzieciolowski—10 pilots, 3 enlisted men and 1 Dept of the Army civilian (DAC). It is unique among RFCs in having a large ATP, which currently stands at 30 pilots plus OSAA staff workers.
The program’s function is to train and season new Army aviators. Dzieciolowski notes here that, while regular Army aircrew may already be fixed-wing qualified, National Guard fliers are more likely not. A tour of duty, whether active or National Guard, is about 3 years but can be as short as 18 months.
Dzieciolowski lists typical priorities for RFC Fort Belvoir, starting with a regular shuttle between DAA and LFI (Langley AFB, Hampton VA)–DAA which operates 3 days a week—the so-called “Tidewater Shuttle.”
There are also frequent high-profile PAT missions. A 24/7 operation, the RFC’s on-call mission requires aircraft (of either type) to be on standby for departure within 30 min of receiving the mission. The RFC “advertises” aircraft availability online and through the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center (JOSAC) at BLV (Scott AFB, Belleville IL), which allocates missions accordingly. As with PAT operations, details and profiles are classified.
In addition, says Dzieciolowski, RFC Fort Belvoir provides OSAA support—which includes “Wounded Warrior” transport and the shipment of blood and medical supplies—as well as training for RFC pilots under OSAA. The RFC is also tasked with providing operational support and humanitarian relief in the event of emergencies and natural disasters. RFC Fort Belvoir uses both types in its inventory equally, with the C12s typically handling shorter trips. Non-shuttle missions may be compound or single-purpose. Dzieciolowski jokes, “We’re the military NetJets.”
(L–R) Administrative Assistant Unsok Worder, Flight Ops NCOIC Staff Sgt Jonathan Hipp and Aviation Ops Specialist Sgt Alberto Mootoo.
Staff Sgt Jonathan Hipp is Flight Ops NCOIC and Aviation Ops Specialist. Enlisting in 2000, he deployed to Iraq from Dec 2006– Nov 2007 and has been with RFC Fort Belvoir since his return to the US. Hipp reports to Operations Officer CW3 Charles Ciccarelli.
In common with other enlisted personnel, Hipp doesn’t fly. As Flight Ops NCOIC he receives, coordinates and executes PAT missions. His work includes creating flight books and crewing RFC missions.
Hipp explains that, while JOSAC acts as a scheduling agency for missions within the continental US (CONUS), OSAA performs the same function for OCONUS missions. Already notified of aircraft availability, either agency contacts RFC as it “plugs” missions in. Most missions are planned at least a week out, says Hipp.
The “pop-up” type of mission is often medical or compassionate, he notes, meaning that RFC passengers may be generals or they may be combat soldiers. The job brings rewards, says Hipp, such as “when customers call up and say how much they appreciate the job we did.” He adds, “As little as my job appears, I’ve helped my nation in some form.”
CW4 Scott Kelly is a standardization pilot with 26 years’ Army service. He has been with RFC Fort Belvoir for 3 years and conducts UC35 pilot training and evaluation. His 6000 hrs TT include 1500 rotary-wing. At present Kelly flies an average of 45–50 hrs per month, much of it training-related.