Military News

Thursday, January 21, 2016

CRW Airmen reflect synergy of West Africa mission

by Master Sgt. Russ Martin
621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

1/21/2016 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- A contingent of Airmen supporting three unique mission sets from the 621st Contingency Response Wing recently returned from Gabon after stepping up to facilitate the delivery of more than 450,000 pounds of vital equipment to the African partner nation.

When the West African nation of Gabon's military was charged with delivering resources and equipment to the Central African Republic of Bangui as part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission, the Gabonese government reached out to the U.S. defense attaché for assistance, which called upon the unique capabilities provided by the 621st Contingency Response Wing's rapid global mobility experts and advisors.

Lt. Col. Michael Sheldon, a 621st CRW Air Mobility Liaison Officer attached to U.S Army Africa/Southern European Task Force, provided his perspective on the coordination involved during the multinational interoperability effort that wrapped up in December.

"I met with personnel from the U.S. Embassy Gabon, Gabonese Military Forces, Gabonese Republican Guards, French contractors, and French Forces stationed in Libreville supporting the movement," Sheldon said. "We discussed the movement and support requirements necessary to assist Gabon in accomplishing its UN peacekeeping mission. "

As an AMLO, Sheldon was keenly aware of U.S. air transportation safety requirements , contingency response capabilities and procedures, as well as the processes involved with requesting and delivering strategic airlift support.

"I visually inspected the proposed material to be moved, performed the necessary measurements to submit an Air Transportation Test Load Agency Certification so the various vehicles could gain approval for transportation on U.S. aircraft, and designated the areas to be used for aircraft parking and where cargo preparation would take place," Sheldon said. "Additionally, I accomplished the final coordination with Tanker Airlift Control Center and Air Mobility Command to schedule the C-17 aircraft and arrange for the proper mix of CR Forces to mission."

As the logistical requirements unfolded, Capt. Philippe Caraghiaur, an air advisor with the 621st CRW's 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, was already in Libreville, Gabon attending a planning conference for Central Accord slated for the summer of 2016. When the request for assistance came in, he and his team diverted their attention to assisting Sheldon with inspecting Gabon's aerial port capabilities and coordinating the delivery of materials from Libreville to Bangui.

"The MSAS team was integral to the assessment, providing interpretation and facilitating conversations between U.S. forces and the Gabonese aviators," Caraghiaur said.

Once the plan was in place, Master Sgt. Darrell Layne, 621st Contingency Response Squadron operations flight chief, and a contingent of six CR Airmen were up to the task at hand.

"Our team was there to help build, inspect and make sure the cargo was airworthy to fly on the C-17. We moved 235 short tons of cargo which consisted of 29 pallets, 1 T-2 and 18 rolling stock," said Layne. "We helped build, net, weigh and placard the cargo and conducted the Joint Inspection. We worked hand and hand with the Gabonese military to complete the tasks."

The opportunity to work with the Gabonese military early on was not lost on Layne, seeing as how the summer will bring U.S. involvement to the planned Exercise Central Accord 2016 in the country.

"I truly believe we were able to pass off a lot of knowledge on what the CRW does and I am sure we will be requested to come back at a later date," Layne said. "It was great working with the U.S. Army, AMLO, Attache', Gabonese and French military--it was a really great experience and we look forward to continuing this type of training.

As America's only contingency response wing, 621st CRW is highly-specialized in training and rapidly deploying personnel to quickly open airfields and establish, expand, sustain, and coordinate air mobility operations. With bicoastal units at both Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. and Travis Air Force Base, Calif., the 621st consists of approximately 1500 Airmen in three groups, eleven squadrons and more than 20 geographically separated operating locations aligned with major Army and Marine Corps combat units. The wing maintains a ready corps of light, lean and agile mobility support forces able to respond as directed by the 18th Air Force in order to meet Combatant Command contingency requirements.

The 621st CRW accomplishes its mission through four distinct and integrated lines of effort: theater-wide command and control executed by its Air Mobility Operations Squadrons, building partner capacity through engagements performed by its Mobility Support Advisory Squadrons, providing mobility expertise directly at the point of need via embedded Air Mobility Liaison Officers, and Contingency Response Forces who open, operate and close airfields for mobility operations around the world.

Beyond the teamwork and integration between multinational forces, the U.S. Army, AMLO, CR Forces, MSAS advisors, and U.S. Embassy personnel, more important to Sheldon was the projection of goodwill and partnership with Gabon in assisting with their delivery of equipment.

U.S. involvement in Central African Republic stability efforts began in 2014 and has included enabling logistics for troop contributing countries like Gabon, which currently supports MINUSCA with a partially-equipped Gabonese Rapid Reaction Battalion.  Strategic lift was required in order to equip the battalion to fulfill an important UN mandate prior to presidential elections planned for December 2016.

"The mission was important in our ability to make an outsized contribution to the larger goals of the U.S. Government in Africa," Sheldon said. "Besides helping a partner nation contribute to an important peacekeeping mission, we helped elevate an important African ally."

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