CRW’s legacy of Afghanistan Operations

  • Published
  • By Jamien Parks, 621st Contingency Response Wing Historian
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing

With the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, it is fitting to reflect on the contributions of Devil Raiders who supported combat operations in Afghanistan.

Within hours of the attacks, a mission support team on an exercise in Florida redeployed to assist aircraft tasked to patrol the skies above the Eastern United States, in what would become Operation Noble Eagle. Before Operation Enduring Freedom began on Oct. 7, 2001, 621st and 615th Air Mobility Operations Group Airmen served as the tip of the U.S. Air Force spear in Afghanistan.

From Sept. 20, 2001, 621st and 615th AMOG Tanker Airlift Control Element teams deployed to bases in the Middle East to establish ground communications and manage the influx of troops, supplies and equipment required for OEF.

On Dec. 21, the 615th AMOG opened the airfield at Mazar-E-Sharif, Afghanistan, and began to process passengers and cargo. A few days later, Dec. 24, the 621st AMOG opened Kandahar Airfield, and then Bagram Airfield on Jan. 1, 2002. Many of the aircraft that flew into Afghanistan executed missions planned by 621st and 615th Air Mobility Operations Squadron Airmen who augmented air mobility divisions throughout Europe. Air Mobility Liaison Officers assessed airfields that the TALCE teams deployed to Afghanistan to operate.

The 1st Combat Camera Squadron Airmen, assigned to the 621st AMOG, documented events in New York City and covered the progress of the OEF campaign to liaise with the Pentagon and media outlets such as CNN, FOX and C-SPAN. By October 2002, the AMOGs enabled 7,400 tanker missions for 27,737 aircraft; moved 23,900 troops and 80 million pounds of equipment; provided 2 million daily humanitarian rations for Afghan civilians; snapped 16,000 photos and 6,500 minutes of video for OEF. As operations in Afghanistan evolved, so did the 621st AMOG. When the 621st AMOG expanded to become the 621st Contingency Response Wing on March 1, 2005, participation in OEF remained a focus for the new wing.

On Dec. 1, 2009, President Barack Obama committed to a troop increase of 30,000 personnel, and Air Mobility Command called on the 621st CRW to support the movement. From June 2 to Aug. 1, 2010, the 621st and 615th CRWs joined forces to deploy a contingency response element to Mazar-e-Sharif. The rainbowed team facilitated the movement of the U.S. Army 4th Combat Aviation Brigade helicopters, personnel and equipment.

When major combat operations in Afghanistan ceased on Dec. 31, 2014, OEF transitioned to Operation Resolute Support. Just as the 621st AMOG/CRW brought forces into the area of operations, the wing received orders to send the troops and their equipment home. Two AMLOs contributed to plans for the closure of Camps Leatherneck and Bastion. Between August and October 2014, the AMLOs revised plans for the redeployment of more than 9,000 troops and 16,000 short tons of equipment. They strategically utilized 128 C-17 Globemaster III and 55 C-5 Galaxy aircraft missions to accomplish the task four days prior to the U.S. Central Command deadline.

Although world events often drew the attention of the 621st CRW away from Afghanistan, Airmen frequently assisted in the gradual reduction of forces in the country. Now, we witness the end of ORS and major military involvement in Afghanistan. Just as Devil Raiders led the thrust into Afghanistan the 621st CRW remained the best option to conclude operations there. The wing can celebrate the unique blend of talent, capability, professionalism and dedication that made the retrograde in Afghanistan successful and keeps the 621st CRW Air Mobility Command’s 9-1-1 force.