If you looked in the skies overhead at Fort Meade Sept. 12 at around 1:45 p.m., you might have spotted something much larger than the normal aircraft that flies over the installation — and closer, too.
For the second time in 10 years, a C-130 Hercules landed at Tipton Airport.
An EC-130H, tail number 65-0989 — the U.S. Air Force’s oldest of its kind and recently decommissioned after 53 years of service — flew into Tipton on its last flight.
The plane flew in from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, and will now take its place as a centerpiece of the new National Vigilance Park and the National Cryptologic Museum.
The EC-130H aircraft is a modified version of the Air Force’s venerable C-130 Hercules. It’s an electronic reconnaissance and attack aircraft modified to disrupt enemy command-and-control communications, and perform counter-information operations and other types of electronic attack.
“It’s an aircraft that’s been doing good work for the United States and U.S. Air Force,” said Patrick Weadon, National Cryptologic Museum curator. “It’s actually performed missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s not something that’s been sitting in the boneyard.
“It’s been doing actual missions — and that makes it all the more special.”
The EC-130H will now serve as a symbol and memorial, said Weadon.
“The plane is meant to memorialize the shoot-down of a similar aircraft over Soviet Armenia in 1958,” he said. “It symbolizes the service and sacrifice of those who served in the aerial reconnaissance program during the Cold War, and actually for anybody that goes off on dangerous but important aerial reconnaissance missions in this day and time.”
But you won’t be able to view the plane just yet, said Weadon.
“The plane is going to replace the original C-130 and again, it’s going to take its place in the newly configured National Vigilance Park, which will come to fruition sometime in the future,” Weadon said. “It’s going to be part of the new Cyber Center for Excellence and Innovation, which will be located very close to the present National Cryptologic Museum.”
The National Vigilance Park is closed as construction continues on the new National Security Agency visitor control center.
NSA said the park will be re-established near the National Cryptologic Museum in the near future. No firm date has been announced.
Meanwhile, for Weadon, the plane is like living history.
“It’s a great day,” he said. “This is the second time that a C-130 has flown in this facility [Tipton Airport] since it [became] a civilian airport, I believe,” he said.
“And again, I was here on the day the first C-130 flew in. So this is like history coming alive again.”
Meade’s soccer club brings home gold
Meade United Football Club, the post’s official soccer club, won the 2018 Defender’s Cup tournament held last month at the South Texas Area Regional Soccer Complex, sponsored by Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.
The Defender’s Cup is the only military open soccer tournament. The tournament attracted 37 soccer teams from installations across the country, all of which included a majority of active-duty service members.
This was the third time Meade United competed in the tournament, but its only first-place win after placing third in 2016 and eighth last year.
Meade United was established in 2015 by Army Col. Bernie Koelsch, the director of the Defense Media Activity headquartered at Fort Meade. Koelsch is also an assistant coach for the All-Army soccer team.
“Most of the playing I did for the Army was in Germany as a captain,” Koelsch said. “I began coaching five or six years ago when I became too old to play.”
Listening to his players, however, one wouldn’t guess Koelsch is being honest about his age slowing him down on the field.
Army 1st Lt. Antoine Akinbinu started playing under Koelsch in 2016. As an intelligence officer at Andrews Air Force Base, the drive to Fort Meade for practice three times a week can be grueling, and in 2017, Akinbinu chose to play with the Andrews team.
However, he’s back on the Meade fields this year for one main reason that he said makes the drive worth it — Coach Koelsch.
“I came back purely because of Bernie as a coach,” Akinbinu said at a Wednesday night practice on Rosie’s Field. “I like the camaraderie he brings. This year was really something. By the second game, I knew we had something special.”
Navy Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Jose Reyna, who plays midfield for Meade United, agreed.
“Without coach, we wouldn’t have done so well,” he said. “He’s very strategic. He did his research (for the tournament). He knew about every player — their strength, their weaknesses.”
The event has World Cup-type tournament play. Teams play a round-robin style first round, and are then placed into either an upper or lower bracket depending on their performance.
Coming off such a big win, the players and Koelsch don’t have any intention of slowing down. They are part of the Capital Military Soccer League that includes 10 area installations and the British Embassy.
They also play in an indoor league in the winter to keep their skills sharp.
Compiled by staff of the Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs office. For more information about what is happening on Fort Meade, visit www.ftmeade.army.mil and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ftmeade.