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AMC: Maintaining a Global Lifeline

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. Rick Martin
  • Headquarters AMC Director of Operations
More than a decade after the start of American involvement in Afghanistan, pilots and aircraft belonging to a global mobility enterprise headquartered amidst the cornfields of Illinois here continue to provide a lifeline for thousands of Americans overseas.

Each day, Air Force C-17 and C-130 aircrews provide critical resupply to U.S. troops deployed to isolated outposts, part of a counterinsurgency strategy that places them among the Afghan people.

Lt. Col. David Preston, commander of the 801st Brigade Support Battalion and 1st. Sgt. Brian Gemmill, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, recently described their experience to a group of Air Mobility leaders. Serving in an austere existence at combat outposts in Afghanistan's Paktika province, nearly 80 percent of the locations lacked running water and many had no sewage, a single hot meal a day was a luxury, and frequent showering was a logistical impossibility. In this environment, fuel and water were among the most important commodities and because of the terrain nearly three quarters of the outposts could only be resupplied via air, they added.

Most of the time, that resupply is part of a carefully orchestrated 96-hour air tasking order planning process that is based on forecasted, "regular" requirements. However, flexibility has and remains a key characteristic of the process. In practice, this means that high-priority or emergent requirements can be completed within a matter of hours through the dynamic re-tasking of regularly scheduled missions. This delicate ballet occurs every day in the Combined Air Operations Center in the Central Command Area of Responsibility where talented, professional Airmen ensure the warfighters requirements are met with allocated resources.

The benefits of that flexibility are clear. In one recent example, an Air Force C-130 delivered life-sustaining fuel to an isolated outpost in the mountains of Afghanistan within five hours of the initial notification of a shortage. In another example, soldiers at an isolated FOB had already identified wooden barracks that would be used as firewood - a course of action that did not have to be pursued thanks to responsive air drop. However, beyond that immediate impact, there's another compelling benefit. Airborne direct support aerial delivery saves lives by reducing the requirement for ground-based resupply convoys, denying the enemy the use of their weapon of choice: the improvised explosive device. That point was powerfully articulated by the soldiers at Rally who noted that every air drop of fuel keeps two fuel trucks and four gun trucks off of the road and that "soldiers on the ground know they can always count on effective and timely Air Force support".

Based on all of this, it is far from surprising that there is a near-insatiable desire for air drop: on average, 6.7 million pounds of cargo were dropped each month in 2011, peaking a historic trend that saw a doubling in demand every year since 2005. While there's little doubt that the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan will have an impact on that demand, in the near term, air drop remains the essential, sole means of resupply for thousands of Americans: approximately 27,000 Americans at 43 hard to reach FOBs in 2012.

Because of that incredible demand, maintaining a robust tactical resupply capability remains a top priority for the Air Force - even in the midst of an operating environment characterized by increasingly constrained resources. Recently, after conducting a rigorous analysis, the Air Force came to the conclusion that the C-130 fleet was able to meet the demanding direct ground support requirements for our joint and coalition partners.

Operating the dynamic and proven C-130 Hercules, the Air Force will continue to support time-sensitive direct airlift support to our warfighters.

With the C-130H able to drop up to 16 Container Delivery System bundles of cargo, and the C-17 able to carry up to 40 CDS bundles, along with accuracy enhanced through technologies like the Joint Precision Airdrop System, the nation's mobility forces are well-positioned to continue meeting the needs of our most valued customers - our warfighters.

The bottom line is that AMC and our mobility partners have been and will remain committed to providing food, water, ammunition and supplies to our troops wherever and whenever needed. They continue to deliver hope, fuel the fight, and save lives every day.