Wednesday, January 20, 2010

612th Air Operations Center manages, improves air traffic flow into Haiti

by Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS) -- Air Mobility Division experts at the 612th Air Operations Center here have been working around the clock to improve the air traffic flow into the international airport at Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

A massive global influx of humanitarian aid, including food, water, rescue equipment and crews, and medical supplies, initially caused a logjam of air traffic at the already-crippled airport. At the request of Haitian government officials, Air Force units sprung into action to streamline the delivery process, establish air traffic control, and receive the most important supplies first.

Airmen from the 612th AOC Air Mobility Division now provide command and control for more than 120 flights a day into the airport which handled an average of only 15 flights a day before the earthquake.

"The humanitarian aid and disaster relief mission is truly the bread and butter of this air operations center," said Col. John Romero, the AMD chief. "Our biggest success story so far has been installing the Haiti Flight Operations Control Center at the 601st AOC Tyndall AFB, Fla., to maximize the amount of aircraft able to land and deliver relief supplies every day. Now, instead of having chaos and confusion, airlift is prioritized according to what the government of Haiti requests. Airplanes are efficiently unloaded for a quick departure to make room for more."

The 621st Contingency Response Wing from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., has been expediting airfield operations on the ground almost since the disaster struck. The 621st CRW, one of two in the United States, specializes in quickly deploying anywhere in the world to rapidly establish, expand, sustain and coordinate air mobility operations. The 615th CRW from Travis AFB, Calif., deployed more than 30 people here to augment the air mobility division.

"We make airlift as efficient as possible, to get vital resources where they are needed most," said Lt. Col. Jay Junkins, the 15th Air Mobility Operations Squadron commander, part of the 615th CRW. "Our biggest challenge was only having one operational airfield. Almost everywhere else the Air Force operates has more capability than that."

Flexibility has been the watchword of the AMD, because priorities in Haiti change as the situation on the ground progresses. Sometimes this requires quick replacement of cargo to meet current needs, which poses problems for an aircraft arrival schedule filed more than a week ahead of time.

So far, the AMD has been able to coordinate with Air Mobility Command, the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center and a myriad other agencies to get the right supplies to Haiti at the right time. More than 2,000 short tons of cargo and more than 2,000 passengers have arrived since airlift began, and the rates of delivery continue to climb.

The AMD is currently tracking 15 times the amount of air traffic it typically sees, said Col. Mark Koechle, the 612th AOC commander. Operations include military and civilian airlift, imagery from the RQ-4 Global Hawk, and rotary wing missions. In addition to the CRW crews augmenting the mobility division, liaison officers from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Federal Aviation Administration have arrived to make inter-agency coordination more effective.

"I'm tremendously proud of the effort and ingenuity of the air operations center Airmen," Colonel Koechle said. "There's a lot going on, but they continuously show that great American spirit and desire to help. What we are doing is making a difference for the people of Haiti, and that makes it all worthwhile."