Flexing muscles, spreading wings: 726th AMS braces, builds for expanded mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Marcus Hardy-Bannerman
  • 52nd Fighter Wing

“Flexibility is the key to airpower.” It’s a phrase heard often around the Air Force, and it’s a key concept in Air Mobility Command’s mission to support the Department of Defense’s global reach. As priorities evolve and global events unfold, AMC units positioned around the world enable airlift and aeromedical evacuation capabilities within the U.S. Transportation Command’s global mobility network. AMC’s mission rapidly adapts to the changing needs and circumstances of the joint force and partner nations.

It’s a calling and mindset the Air Force’s mobility arm must not only apply amid change, but the ability of AMC units to anticipate future challenges is critical to execute the missions of tomorrow.

The 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing’s 726th Air Mobility Squadron provides command and control, en-route aircraft maintenance and air transportation services for AMC aircraft on missions through the European theater. The squadron adapted and grew for the present and future in 2023, breaking ground on an $11-million two-year passenger terminal expansion in December, expertly handling a 1,740% surge of AMC aircraft traffic in October and deploying Air Mobility teams to enable AMC missions in austere locations.

“Last year, the Airmen of the 726 AMS demonstrated their ability to handle an increased airlift workload to set the theater for AMC. Now we owe them a bigger, better facility to execute the mission for the MAJCOM, the Joint Force, and our mission partners,” said Col. Dan Cooley, 521st AMOW commander. “We are building a premier combat power projection platform … a gateway to Europe running multiple, concurrent missions with more passengers.”

This large-scale project will increase the number of inbound and outbound passengers the terminal can process, while also making the facilities handicap accessible. The terminal expansion marks an important milestone in the evolution of the 726th AMS, allowing them to reinforce global mobility operations that move through the European theater in support of the 52nd Fighter Wing, AMC and USTRANSCOM.

“It is an investment that is increasing the capabilities of Spangdahlem and how we can move personnel through this location in support of the Global Air Mobility Support System,” said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Link, 726th AMS senior enlisted leader.

Currently, the passenger terminal can process 40 inbound personnel at a time, which is incommensurate with the passenger capabilities of the C-17 Globemaster III, a cargo aircraft commonly used for transporting passengers worldwide. The 726th AMS has found ways to overcome this limiting factor, expertly fulfilling passenger requirements as needed. The expansion will remove this limiting factor, creating a dedicated facility for handling inbound personnel, allowing nearly five times as many people to be in-processed than before.

The 726th AMS acts as a hub for maintenance operations, refueling and global mobility missions spanning a wide area of responsibility, including the U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command. With Spangdahlem AB and the 726th AMS playing such a strategic role in the movement of aircraft through the region, only the most highly trained and experienced maintenance Airmen are assigned to the unit.

“If there’s a problem with the aircraft, obviously our maintainers will be out there working the line to get that mission airborne as soon as possible,” said Lt. Col. Jamie Adams, 726th AMS commander. “Our role to support USTRANSCOM ensures that nodal capacity stays open, and we are basically an open pipeline to help them get their equipment where it needs to go.”

When the mission surges surpass the current facility capabilities, the 726th AMS Airmen adapt to face the challenge head-on. Surge operations have become more common in recent years as adversarial forces act across the EUCOM and CENTCOM theaters. The 726th AMS and 52nd FW have flexed as needed in these moments to serve their strategic purposes in the power projection mission.

The shift from an employed-in-place model to an agile combat employment model has allowed the 726th AMS to operationalize austere locations.

“The role of the 726th AMS is kind of shifting,” said Adams. “We’re now putting together small teams that set up a small AMC presence at X location anywhere. In that way, our role is changing, but our primary mission is and will remain the AMC ramp here at Spangdahlem.”

The expansion of the 726th AMS’s capabilities will open new avenues for their use in AMC and USTRANSCOM missions going forward. This growth will be essential for supporting higher headquarters as adversarial operations arise throughout EUCOM and CENTCOM locations. The Airmen of the 726th AMS have shown they are ready to take on this responsibility.

“We have proven you can call on Spangdahlem, and we’re going to make it happen,” said Link. “This is just giving our Airmen more tools to make it happen.”