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
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
"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."