Airmen assigned to the 731st Air Mobility Squadron load cargo, including a Balangiga bell, into a C-130J Super Hercules at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. Two of the three bells were housed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, until Nov. 14, when the repatriation process began to return the bells to the Republic of the Philippines. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Raughton)
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea – Airmen assigned to the 51st Logistics Readiness Squadron and 731st Air Mobility Squadron assisted in the return of one of three Balangiga Bells the U.S. is returning to the Philippines after more than a century of absence.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis notified the U.S. Congress Aug. 9, 2018, of the Department of Defense’s intent to return the bells, which were originally taken by the U.S. Army as trophies during the Philippine-American war in 1901.
Two of the three bells were housed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, until Nov. 14, when the repatriation process began.
The Army’s 9th Infantry Regiment possessed the third bell and displayed it in the 2nd Infantry Division museum at Camp Red Cloud, Republic of Korea.
When the Army was tasked to begin the process of returning the bell, they knew they’d need the Air Force’s help to make it happen.
“The 51st LRS was called upon by Pacific Air Forces to create a special assignment airlift mission to support the Army’s shipment of the bell,” said Master Sgt. Christopher DiSanto, the airlift support function superintendent with the 51st LRS and native of Holbrook, New York.
Once the bell arrived at Osan via ground transportation, Airmen who are joint inspection qualified began the lengthy process of ensuring the bell and its crate were safe to fly.
DiSanto said attention to detail is critical when inspecting and transporting delicate cargo.
The bell was carefully loaded by Airmen from the 51st LRS and 731st AMS onto a C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 374th Airlift Wing from Yokota Air Base, Japan, and flown to Kadena Air Base, Japan, Dec. 7.
“Working in the Republic of Korea has its challenges, but it affords our air mobility team incredible opportunities to support unique and historic missions,” said Capt. Lindsey Bryant, air freight flight commander assigned to the 731st AMS and native of Granbury, Texas.
All three bells will be reunited in Japan before they’re airlifted to the Philippines on a date yet to be announced.
The event comes at the conclusion of a year marked by multiple historic repatriations made possible by the 51st LRS, 731st AMS, and hundreds of other Osan Airmen.
“It’s amazing to be a part of all the historical events that have taken place at Osan,” said DiSanto. “I hope to be part of more in the future as peace talks expand.”
While the geopolitical landscape in the region may be ever-changing, the mindset of logistics Airmen at Osan stays the same. Whether it's people, equipment, the remains of fallen heros, or items of historical significance, the 51st LRS and 731st AMS can move anything that comes their way.