JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq: After 47 years of service, a C-130E Hercules completed its last combat mission March 6 here.

Upon reaching its total aircraft hours of more than 33,220, the Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. aircraft was retired.

“It’s a very sad day when an aircraft retires,” said Capt. Bradley Allen, the 777th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge. “A lot of people over many years have put in hard work and countless hours to maintain the aircraft. To see this one go, especially since it is a good flyer, it is a sad day.”

Tail number9813 remained vital to the mission as its last few hours of flight were spent over Iraq on an air drop mission. As the C-130 soared over Iraq, cargo pallets of supplies were pushed out the aircraft to aid servicemembers across the area of responsibility.

The aircraft has served in many different roles such as humanitarian missions, airlift transport of troops and equipment, and operations during Desert Storm.

“Some aircraft are old, and they have done their job and have done it well,” said Capt. Bradley Buinicky, a 777th Expeditionary Aircraft Squadron C-130 co-pilot. “Most of them are from 1962 to 1972 and flew in the Vietnam War. There is a lot of heritage involved in each airframe and each tail specifically.”

Despite the aircraft’s age and even though it was heavily flown, tail number 9813 was able to achieve a milestone in the maintenance arena by earning a “black letter initial” in 2007. The aircraft went with no open maintenance issues that entire year and was rated a perfect aircraft; ready for flight.

Such an honor is a reflection on every crew member who turned a wrench or inspected tail number 9813, Captain Allen said.

Tail number 9813 will now join more than 4,000 other aircraft at the aerospace maintenance and regeneration center, otherwise known as “the boneyard,” at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.