Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Total force keeps air mobility in the fight

by 1st Lt. Justin Brockhoff, 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center Public Affairs

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- Airmen of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve have sustained the hub for directing global airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation operations since the onset of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom here.

The 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center manages a daily average of 900 point-to-point flights, called sorties, in support of worldwide mobility operations ranging from humanitarian assistance to combat airdrops.

Approximately 20 percent of the center's 700 personnel that work to fulfill the planning, scheduling and management of those missions come from Guard or Reserve backgrounds.

"Guardsmen and reservists are a vital part of the mobility air force, including here in the TACC," said Col. Steve Goodwin, the senior Air National Guard member in the 618th TACC, and Guard adviser to Maj. Gen. Mark S. Solo, the 618th TACC commander. "We're all part of the same team, working on the same mission, and we're proud to do it."

Many of those missions include direct support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, supplying U.S. and coalition troops with the food, equipment and supplies required to sustain military presence in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Other operations supported by the 618th TACC staff include providing command and control oversight for humanitarian missions, such as in mid-January when 618th TACC personnel managed missions that moved equipment into the Darfur region of Sudan in support of United Nations and African Union peacekeeping missions.

"The person that planned the C-17 (Globemaster III) missions that supported the Darfur movements is a guardsman on voluntary orders with the 618th TACC," Colonel Goodwin said. "Our (Air Reserve Component) integration here is seamless."

While a limited number of guardsmen and reservists worked in the 618th TACC prior to Sept. 11, 2001, their presence as volunteers has significantly increased to support the significant requirements for airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation missions needed to execute Air Mobility Command's current global operations.

The high level of global movement coordinated by the 618th TACC means that a sortie is scheduled to takeoff or land somewhere around the world every 90 seconds. This fact drives the need for the 618th TACC staff to operate 24 hours a day, which places an even greater emphasis on the requirement for experienced aircrew members, maintainers, and transporters to manage those missions from the ground.

"The experience that guardsmen and reservists bring to the table is invaluable," said Col. Kurt Peterson, the Reserve adviser to the 618th TACC commander, who has worked in the 618th TACC since its activation in 1992. "A typical active-duty member will move every three or four years, while reservists and guardsmen can remain associated with a unit for 10 years or longer. This long-term investment creates unparalleled continuity within an organization and pays huge dividends in retaining the expertise needed to execute the mission."

In fact, when you walk throughout the 618th TACC, many times it's the Guard and Reserve personnel demonstrating a practice or procedure to the active-duty members new to the TACC, because of that expertise and knowledge they've developed over their career.

"The most remarkable thing about the Guard and Reserve members in the 618th TACC is that each one is a volunteer, who has sought out the opportunity to serve," Colonel Peterson said. "Looking back on my 27 years with the Air Force, I couldn't be more honored to be part of this team."