Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Historic 'surge' exercises airlift crisis, contingency response

by Maj. Michael Meridith, 18th Air Force Public Affairs

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- A surge of C-5 Galaxies, slated to take place Oct. 17 - 21, will bring together 18 active-duty and 23 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command crews and aircraft to fly cargo in support of combatant commanders across the globe.

The assembly of the nation's largest military airlifters will more than double its normal day-to-day workload, exercising the ability of U.S. Transportation Command and its air component, Air Forces Transportation, to rapidly provide strategic airlift in response to large-scale crises and contingencies, officials said.

The missions will be in accordance with priorities set by the joint chiefs of staff and are expected to have no impact on the operations of civilian contract carriers.

"The 41 daily missions will more than double the 18 we normally execute on a typical day," said Maj. Sandy Thompson, the AFTRANS lead planner. "To put it in a historical context, the best C-5 daily achievement since 2007 was 33 C-5s flown."

With its ability to carry more than any other U.S. military aircraft and to fly 6,000 miles without refueling, the C-5 has been a "workhorse" for the Air Force since the 1970s, according to the Air Force fact sheet. In addition, the C-5 can transport fully equipped combat units rapidly anywhere in the world and then provide the support needed to sustain them.

In total, six total force units will provide aircraft and crews for the surge, illustrating what officials here describe as a "seamless integration of active-duty and reserve component forces."

"This surge is possible because we have a joint forces team that works every day to ensure rapid global mobility for America," said Marine Corps Maj. Sidney Welch, the leader of the joint planning team for the surge from TRANSCOM. "We have total force crews, planners of all services at TRANSCOM and AFTRANS, and experts providing command and control through the 618th Air Operations Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center) here. Their collective efforts help us identify the requirements for surging our air mobility forces to support the strategic maneuver capability our nation needs."

According to planners, an operational assessment team will evaluate the results of the surge and develop a set of "lessons learned" to help determine ways to more effectively and efficiently support rapid global mobility in response to crisis and contingency situations. They said regardless of the results, the surge will provide a valuable opportunity to exercise and evaluate the global mobility enterprise.

"We have a responsibility to ensure the readiness of our mobility forces are able to respond rapidly across the world," said Lt. Gen. Mark Ramsay, the commander of the 18th Air Force, who is responsible for directing AFTRANS' day-to-day operations. "This surge not only exercises that responsibility, but demonstrates our readiness even in times of intense demand on our capacity."

Gen. Ray Johns, the commander of Air Mobility Command and AFTRANS, echoed those sentiments, adding, "Whether supporting contingency or humanitarian missions, mobility forces stand ready to answer the call. This surge is about continuing to enhance our readiness and strategic agility to better support our national policy."