Military News

Friday, January 22, 2016

MAF efforts translate to mission success in USCENTCOM AOR

by Master Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher
18th Air Force Public Affairs

1/22/2016 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- Lt. Gen. Sam Cox, 18th Air Force commander, returned from a week-long trip to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility Jan. 5.

The trip was his first chance to meet with mobility Airmen and see the mission first-hand since he assumed command of the service's largest Numbered Air Force in October.

Flying with a C-17 crew from the 437th Airlift Wing out of Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, Cox executed a standard cargo mission to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, where he met with mobility Airmen and discussed 18th AF's contributions with commanders.  The general's goal was to reintegrate himself into the global mobility enterprise and experience the en route system first-hand after serving at the Pentagon for two years.  The visit also offered him a chance to get feedback directly from the Airmen performing operational missions.

"Without mobility Airmen, there is no mission. Bottom line," Cox said. "They're a huge part of a very important operation. So it's wonderful to see for myself what an incredible job our Airmen are doing and hear from their commanders just how much of an impact they're making."

While at Al Udeid Air Base, the commander took the opportunity discuss operations with the USCENTCOM Director of Mobility Forces, Brig. Gen. Karl McGregor. The "DIRMOBFOR" is the senior mobility officer in USCENTCOM's area of responsibility and advises the Combined Forces Air Component Commander on mobility issues.

Characterizing Mobility Air Forces as "the backbone of the AOR," McGregor said the mission couldn't happen without mobility Airmen.

"Strike does not happen without air refueling , and the theater does not function without its Air Lines of Communication supported by airlift," he said. "Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan has the ground transportation network that allows safe travel across much of the country, so both sustainment of forward forces and the movement of those forces generally involve air transportation.  Given the dynamic nature of the battle space, there's a constant need to move assets rapidly and then to supply them.  Airlift provides that capability."

McGregor said mobility Airmen really shine when a flexible approach is required.

"When there's an aircraft accident or tragic event, mobility aircraft and crews directly support those high priority Air Evac or Human Remains flights at a moment's notice and do whatever it takes to get the job done," he said. "The air refueling crews extend their track times and cover the battle space for troops in contact or changes to strike packages.  From ammunition airdrops in Syria to delivering force protection assets to the Sinai, users invariably tell us of the professionalism and consistently excellent level of service they receive from our Airman."

Cox said he insisted on hearing what Airmen thought of the support they received, good and bad. The Airmen took him up on it.

"Before the mission, I talked to my crew and told them to be up-front with Lt. Gen. Cox with whatever questions were asked so that he could get an accurate sense of the mindset of the typical aircrew member," said Maj. Jake Parker, an instructor pilot from the 14th Airlift Squadron.

Cox said he takes their feedback to heart.

"We continually work with the DIRMOBFOR and our AFCENT counterparts to set the requirements for airlift and air refueling," Cox said. "We must balance the demands of readiness for joint forces at home with the combat requirements in theater, and this requires continuous analysis and revision in order for us to get it right and keep it right."

McGregor said the unique nature of the USCENTCOM AOR requires that special attention be paid to that balance.

"This theater is both expeditionary and enduring, requiring a different mindset and construct than what we use at home station or for short duration contingencies," he said.

McGregor compared the Mobility Air Forces to iceberg, noting that most of the mission is done "quietly below the waterline." In the end, however, the success of the MAF impacts the success of the mission.

"There are a multitude of metrics that can be used to measure success, from meeting Latest Delivery Dates to percentage of on time takeoffs, but really the measure of success I would embrace is feedback from our customers," McGregor said. "In the final tally, how we support the Task Force, Special Ops and our many other users defines their success and by definition our success and that of the theater."

Cox said the best indicator of how well mobility Airmen are accomplishing the mission is that mission partners never have to worry about it.

"To them the fact that airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation happen consistently and effectively is simply the way things are," Cox said. "It's like turning on a light switch.  It's automatic, because our mobility Airmen make magic happen every day."

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