C-21 mission departs AUAB

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt. Devin Boyer
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Marking the end of 32 years of operations in the Middle East, the C-21A Learjet took its last flight out of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 30, 2023, setting course for its new home at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

The primary mission of the C-21 was to provide transportation for distinguished visitors throughout the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR), as well as support aeromedical evacuation operations by transporting life-saving medical supplies.

“Able to carry up to eight passengers, the C-21 is the U.S. Air Force’s quickest and easiest option for moving small groups of distinguished visitors in the Middle East,” said Maj. Jonathan Daniels, 912th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron C-21 Detachment director of operations.

In addition to U.S. passengers, C-21s transported joint and coalition-distinguished visitors to important meetings with world leaders.

“Tactically efficient travel for the Combined Forces Air Component Commander to highly important meetings was a primary mission for the past decade; we even operated in combat zones where defensive systems were required,” Daniels said. “This is where the famous combat Learjet rhetoric ‘unaware, unafraid’ came from.”

The C-21 has deployed to Southwest Asia, providing time-sensitive movement of people and cargo in support of operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, NEW DAWN, ENDURING FREEDOM, FREEDOM'S SENTINEL, INHERENT RESOLVE, RESOLUTE SUPPORT, NORTHERN WATCH, and SOUTHERN WATCH. During operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, C-21s even delivered the classified air tasking orders to units lacking the ability to receive these daily orders electronically, including U-2 photos for intelligence analysis and spare parts for disabled aircraft.

The achievements of the C-21 mission out of AUAB could not have been possible without its crew who had much to say about their experiences and the significance of bringing the aircraft home.

1st Lt. Naomi Shaak, 912th EARS C-21 Detachment pilot
“It feels surreal to be part of the crew that ends the C-21 mission in the AOR,” Shaak said. “There has been a lot of talk for many years about bringing the jet home, and to be part of the crew that finally makes it a reality will be something we always remember.”

1st Lt. Payton Lafrentz, 912th EARS C-21 Detachment pilot
“My experience flying the C-21 in the AOR has been enjoyable due to our ability to work with our partner nations,” Lafrentz said. “As a younger pilot on my first deployment, it was exciting to see the capability we had to deliver our passengers into allied nations, knowing those passengers were there to do important work on behalf of the United States.”

Capt. David Kocher, 912th EARS C-21 Detachment pilot
“Flying the C-21A during the summer is the hottest thing you can experience, but overall a great time transporting distinguished visitors, cargo, and aeromedical evacuation patients around the AOR,” Kocher said. “Being the crew that gets to fly it home after a 32-year mission is simply amazing. I feel very fortunate to fly the jet home and put a stamp on the historic C-21 mission.”

The C-21A aircraft will continue its legacy with the 375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott AFB, providing first-class operational support and aeromedical evacuation airlift.