JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Thousands of miles from home, Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing work day and night around the globe to establish a runway to support supplies and passengers. Operating under some of the most austere conditions, Air Mobility Liaison Officers from the 621st Mobility Support Operations Squadron are strategically placed to train, advise, and educate joint forces on every facet of mobility support operations.
An AMLO from the 621st MSOS, aligned with the 82nd Airborne Division, recently found himself in Syria working to provide expertise in multiple areas and maintain a runway under harsh conditions.
Maj. Thomas Weber, 621st MSOS AMLO, spent the last four months working in the Middle East with a mix of joint and host nation forces ensuring safe airfield operations for Air Mobility forces.
“It was uncomfortable at times, especially since the base was closing,” Weber said. “Things like no dining facility, light discipline and an outdoor gym with cement weights take some getting used to.”
Weber’s mission consisted of day and night operations to train military members to perform dirt runway inspection, communicating with aircraft in flight, reporting and forecasting weather conditions, marshalling aircraft, and setting up mission-specific dirt runway lights.
“Our mission was to turn a small, dirt runway into a field capable of moving a million pounds of cargo, thousands of passengers and some Islamic State group detainees,” Weber said. “Doing this safely is the hard part since most of the flights are in complete darkness, and many personnel are working outside of their career fields. Balancing attitudes of adapt and overcome versus regulation compliance and risk avoidance is the challenge.”
AMLOs are considered coaches and problem solvers for mobility operations, Weber said. The Airmen are able to teach, advise and do everything from cargo load plans to airdropping equipment and passengers.
“Air Mobility Liaison Officers are U.S. Transportation Command’s most forward echelon, the connective tissue for Rapid Global Mobility,” said Lt. Col. Curt Haase, 621st MSOS commander. “[They are] a sensor for the Air Mobility Command network and key leaders. No single person in the AMC network is better postured to close the joint operational gap than the AMLO.
This most recent mission was challenging for Weber. However, he was able to adapt and overcome, and coordinated air mobility command and control, and drop landing zone operations.
“The landing zone was a success; we pushed huge amounts of cargo and passengers without incident in the worst conditions,” Weber said. “It sounds cliché' to say things like ‘safety first’, but both risks to the aircraft, crews and ground personnel were high.”
AMLO’s operate under the 621st Contingency Response Wing, and are embedded with Army, Marine and special operations units, in-garrison and deployed to locations around the United States, Asia, and the Middle East.
“Operating max weight C-17's at night into a small dirt runway, there is little tolerance for error by the crews or ground personnel,” he said. “My focus was to keep pilots aware of exact field conditions and where the aircraft needed to be.”
Weber is a trained KC-135 Stratotanker instructor pilot, aircraft mishap investigator, and is airborne jump qualified. Throughout this mission, he said his motivation to work through the hardship was knowing his role in defending against hostile forces in the region.
“Serving in Syria [was] critically important as the coalition destroyed ISIS and took back the land,” Weber said. “The mission is my motivation: to rid the world of ISIS.”
Haase feels lucky to have talented AMLOs such as Weber on his team and in the Air Force.
“I feel extremely honored to have members like Maj. Weber in my unit and in Air Mobility Command’s ranks,” Haase said. “Maj. Weber demonstrated both service and warrior ethos during his time in Syria and continues to do so while embedded with the 82nd Airborne Division. He displays confidence and maintains high fitness standards as one of AMC’s airborne qualified AMLOs, and used his vast experience as a rated aviator to solve problems and mitigate risk for air mobility forces and joint ground forces in a fluid combat environment.”
The 621st MSOS provide essential tactical support operations for U.S. Army and Marine Corps personnel in the field. They expedite movement of Joint personnel and equipment aboard Air Force assets and continue to be one of AMC’s most forward elements in providing Joint mobility expertise.