621st CRW responds with seamless air mobility command and control operations

  • Published
  • By Story by Master Sgt. Charles Larkin Sr.
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing

For the first time, Airmen from the 321st, 514th and  621st Air Mobility Operations Squadrons provided temporary remote Command and Control functions for the Hurricane Michael relief effort.  

This total force team stood up an Air Mobility Division for the 601st Air Operations Center during its re-location from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., after Hurricane Michael destroyed their facilities.

“This critical reach-back support for the 601st is yet another example of the irreplaceable expertise within the Expeditionary Center portfolio,” said Maj. Gen. John Gordy, Expeditionary Center commander. “In a climate where multi-domain command and control is essential to the execution of airpower, these subject matter experts embody what it means to be Expeditionary Airmen: they provide agile command and control flexibility at the drop of a hat.”

Hurricane Michael reached category four status with wind speeds of nearly 150 mph as it reached Tyndall AFB where the 601st AOC provides U.S. Northern Command the ability to plan, direct and assess air and space operations. 

“The hardest thing about Air Mobility operations is anticipating requirements long before anyone makes a request. This is particularly important for life saving services, Search and Rescue as well as Aeromedical Evacuation,” said Col. David Smith, 601st Air Mobility Division chief. 

“The window of need opens and closes in the blink of an eye. If you wait for someone to ask, the timeline to mobilize, position, load aircraft and fly to the affected area would have resources arriving late to need. Mobility Airmen constantly must think three or four moves ahead and react to dynamic, evolving situations to accurately forecast Air Mobility effects to bring relief,” Smith added.

The men and women of the 601st AOC AMD encountered their own window of need following the third largest hurricane to hit Florida’s panhandle in recent history.  

Air mobility command and control professionals integrate with the 601st and other Falconer AOCs throughout the year, enabling continuity of mission after the natural disaster. The AMOS enterprise, which includes the 183rd, 321st, 349th, 514th and 621st AMOS participate in two major exercises with the 601st AOC annually, ensuring the ability to provide necessary support when required. 

“We routinely train and participate in exercises with the 601st Air Operations Center, our folks were just there to assist with Hurricane Florence,” said Master Sgt. Rigoberto Ruiz, 621st Air Mobility Operations Squadron operations superintendent.

Air Mobility Command professionals came to the aid of the 601st, ensuring uninterrupted mission support. 

"The Air Mobility Operations Squadron Enterprise is happy to support the 601st Air Mobility Division team so they can focus on their families and take care of their immediate needs. We have their mission and look forward to handing it back off once they are ready," said Lt. Col. Robert Cureton, 621st Air Mobility Operations Squadron commander.

According to Cureton, the Air Operations Center Weapons System Suite, originally built as a training facility, today empowers these air mobility command and control experts to execute air operations from a distributed location in support of geographically separated AOCs at a moment’s notice.  

“I appreciate the rapid response and reach back capability the 621st AMOS provided during Hurricane Michael operations,” said Brig. Gen. Barry A. Blanchard, Director of Mobility Forces for Hurricane Michael. “As you know, Tyndall sustained significant damage during this event which disrupted our normal coordination team from responding and coordinating mobility needs during this event. The ability [of the AMOS enterprise] to provide this coverage in such a seamless manner on short notice speaks volumes of their professionalism and dedication to the mission.”

The 321st and 621st AMOS fall under the 621st Contingency Response Wing and are part of the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, which not only commands contingency response forces but also oversees the entire global air mobility support system.  

Natural disasters can effect personal lives, damage property and force organizations or people to refocus their priorities. The men and women of the 601st AMD remain focused on the mission but with the AMOS enterprise answering the call, the men and women of the 601st are able to focus on taking care of each other and their families during this crisis.  

“We are very familiar with the 601st processes, how they operate and what they do. That’s why this was such a smooth transition,” said Cureton. 

Airmen involved in the mission’s success, reflected on how teamwork and training resulted in demonstrating this capability under difficult, real-world circumstances. 

“This is the first time we were able to use our system in a real world event,” said Master Sgt. Michael Russell, Weapons Systems Suite flight chief. “Finally a tested concept and vision has come to fruition.” 

U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center leadership highlighted the importance of readiness and skilled Airmen, delivering critical capability to those in need. 

“I could not be prouder of our total force Airmen and the support they are providing, especially the 321st and 621st AMOS Airmen who maintain a steady state readiness that enables seamless execution of key command and control functions for AOCs around the globe,” said Gordy.