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Air Guard, Active AF team up to give NY Air Guard's 106th Rescue Wing a new gate guardian

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  • By Senior Airman Kevin Donaldson,

WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y. – The New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing has a new “gate guardian” at the entrance to F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base.

An HC-130 Hercules search and rescue aircraft, tail number 0222, was placed at the front gate on Old Riverhead Road in Westhampton Beach, on August 17, alongside an HH-3E “Jolly Green Giant” rescue helicopter.

Gate guardians are decommissioned aircraft or equipment which tell the story of that unit or that base.

Fifteen Airmen from the Air Guard and the Active-Duty Air Force moved number 0222-- better known as "Triple Deuce" and also named “The Spirit of Long Island” -- from the flight line to its static display site.

“The decorative history of Triple Deuce, the conflicts and the different missions it's been on and for it to be coined ‘The Spirit of Long Island,’ there's no better place for it to be but on Long Island at the 106th Rescue Wing,” said Master Sgt. Jonathan Mazura, 106th HC-130 flight chief.

Mazura, whose name is on the aircraft, was the dedicated Triple Deuce crew chief from 2015 to its decommissioning in 2019.

Triple Deuce, a legacy model HC-130, was in service from 1966 until decommissioning in 2019. It was assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing in 1997, and was used in rescues at home and overseas.

The historic aircraft played a significant role in troop and cargo movement in the Vietnam War and was one of four aircraft that survived an attack in Vietnam, Mazura explained.

The process of making the aircraft a static display required approvals from the Air Force Museum, National Guard Bureau, and other federal agencies. Chief Master Sgt. Edward Rittberg, the 106th Maintenance Group superintendent, said his team worked on this process for two years.

"Master Sgt. Mazura, Master Sgt. Andrew Duerwald and I worked on this for two years to get Triple Deuce decommissioned and to the front gate," Rittberg said. “I went to an Air Force Museum course and worked with the museum and other agencies to start the demilitarization process.”

The National Guard Bureau brought in a Crash Damaged Disabled Aircraft Recovery team, known as CDDAR for short, to help transition the aircraft, he explained.

CDDAR experts are trained to use special equipment to disassemble, move and reassemble aircraft, including setting up static displays.

According to Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Bennett, who headed the CDDAR team brought Airmen from four different Air Guard bases and Active-Duty Air Force to help move Triple Deuce.

“Fifteen Airmen completed the move within eight days; they took off the wings and engines, towed the aircraft across the base, and put it all back together, and here it sits today,” Bennett said.

The most challenging part of the move was teetering the aircraft throughout the base, Bennett said.

“We had to take down pieces of the fences and maneuver between light posts to get the plane to its final resting place,” Rittberg explained. “The 106th Civil Engineering Squadron members cleared a path which included creating ramps, the tie-down points, removing gates, and just assisting us overall.”

Keeping Triple Deuce in service for 50 years was an impressive accomplishment, Mazura said.

A long line of maintainers and crew chiefs that put their hands on it, and all other active units on the flight line throughout the aircraft’s life have played an essential role in its longevity, he added.

“What we see now is phenomenal,” Bennett said about the wing’s new gate guardian.

. “I’ve driven into this base several times, and to see this big aircraft out front is awesome,” he said.