by Maj. John Hutcheson
18th Wing Public Affairs
5/19/2010 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- As a result of continued volcanic activity in Iceland, some Air Mobility Command aircraft are being re-routed through the Pacific on their way to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the keystone of the Pacific, Kadena Air Base is one of the bases providing en route support for C-5 Galaxies and C-17 Globemasters III delivering materiel for U.S. operations downrange.
"This posturing allows us to continue moving troops and cargo when the ash cloud limits the number of missions we can operate over the Atlantic and through Europe," said Capt. Justin Brockhoff from the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. "(Although re-routing) takes 15.6 flight hours longer for a C-5 and 15.5 flight hours longer for a C-17, it's a calculated measure to ensure the needs of our troops in operations enduring and Iraqi freedom continue to be met without fail."
Leading the support effort at Kadena AB are members of the 733rd Air Mobility Squadron, which is part of the 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing, headquartered at Joiunt Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The 733rd AMS Airmen provide a range of services to aircraft transiting through the Pacific region, including command and control, maintenance, fleet services, and cargo and passenger handling.
"We expect to see the same amount of heavy lift (C-5s and C-17s) over the next 72 hours that we would normally see over several weeks," said Lt. Col. Ryan Marshall, the 733rd AMS commander.
AMC aircraft transiting through Kadena AB are stopping to refuel, conduct necessary maintenance and to ensure aircrews get proper crew rest.
"We've had to shuffle manning here, but right now we're managing the mission very well," said Master Sgt. Adam Lewis, the 733rd AMS air mobility control center superintendent.
Sergeant Lewis said his unit has already deployed one of its senior NCOs forward to another Pacific staging point on the way to Southwest Asia to provide operations support for the additional aircraft flowing through.
"This is the strength of AMC," Colonel Marshall said. "We can go anywhere, anytime to deliver cargo and people where they need to go. When Mother Nature intervenes, we have the flexibility to rapidly adjust our operations to continue supporting the warfighters downrange."
Officials are unsure how long AMC aircraft bound for Southwest Asia will continue to flow through Kadena AB and other Pacific Air Forces bases.
"We continue to monitor the weather conditions and are meeting twice daily to discuss when and if our operations require further adjustments," Captain Brockhoff said.
Colonel Marshall said the 733rd AMS members are coordinating closely with the 18th Wing, Kadena AB's host unit, to ensure the influx of additional aircraft don't disrupt Kadena AB's day-to-day airfield operations.
"It really is a partnership," the colonel said. "We rely on the 18th Wing to enable us to operate effectively. We have a great relationship with the wing, and that will pay big dividends as we work together to keep these aircraft flowing to their destinations."
Since April 15, more than 620 AMC missions have been re-routed worldwide due to the volcanic ash cloud in Iceland. More than 37,000 passengers and nearly 13,000 tons of cargo have been re-routed in order to meet worldwide commitments, including support to operations enduring and Iraqi freedom.
(Staff Sgt. Jason Lake of the 18th Wing Public Affairs office contributed to this story)