By Senior Airman Zachary Cacicia, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 25, 2017
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. --
Team Dover active duty and Reserve Airmen accomplished a joint U.S. Transportation Command multimodal operation that supported the deployment swap of two Army Combat Aviation Brigades in and out of Afghanistan March 21 to April 6, 2017.
The operation included aircrews from the 9th and 709th Airlift Squadrons, who staged C-5M Super Galaxy operations out of Naval Station Rota, Spain, and flew in and out of several locations in Afghanistan.
“To avoid the cargo from stopping, we set up a stage,” said Col. Doug Hall, 436th Operations Group commander. “A stage is all about velocity of cargo. What it does is it keeps the mission moving, and the airplanes and cargo moving.”
According to Hall, the most expensive, but fastest, mode of transportation is air. In order to maximize the velocity of cargo, yet minimize the overall cost, USTRANSCOM conducts multimodal operations that combine the Navy’s Military Sealift Command and the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command. Using multiple modes of transportation is known as multimodal.
“The Army's equipment, consisting of Apache, Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters, departed the U.S. mainland in early March on a massive Navy container ship,” said Maj. James Shepard, 436th Operations Support Squadron wing airlift operations chief and the multimodal director of operations. “It was then unloaded in Spain and finally delivered by C-5M to several locations in Afghanistan.”
According to Shepard, sending the helicopters and equipment by ship to Spain, not airlift, saved more than $50 million.
“We have better access at Rota for the C-5s, opposed to airfields closer to Afghanistan in the Middle East,” said Hall. “We have better maintenance facilities there; there’s a seaport there. It’s sort of the best for both worlds.”
The combined active duty and Reserve force used four Dover C-5Ms, flying more than 450 hours to transport 82 helicopters, 46 passengers, and support equipment totaling 2.6 million pounds over the duration of the mission. In total, more than 180,000 nautical miles were flown, enough to circle the globe seven times, or make it three quarters of the way to the moon.
“As the Multimodal’ s Director of Operations, I was truly honored to lead a team that maintained professionalism and positive attitudes despite long hours, hard work and challenging conditions,” said Shepard. “Supporting the Army was a rewarding and educational experience that would not have been possible without the fantastic Airmen from Team Dover.”
In all, Shepard stated that he was impressed with the blistering operations tempo and long hours. He was happy to say that there were zero mishaps, no damaged equipment and no injuries.
Both Hall and Shepard agreed that the success of the mission would not have been possible without the support received from the 436th Maintenance Group and Dover’s Reserve 512th Airlift Wing.
“None of our C-5s are without the occasional maintenance,” said Hall. “We have some awesome maintenance, who had the right people with the right skillsets.”
The 436th MXG split its operations by staging maintenance teams out of both Rota and Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
“We had six Airmen to Rota and 11 in Bagram from Dover,” said 2nd Lt. Sophia Rizzo, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant aircraft maintenance unit officer in charge and the maintenance OIC for the whole multimodal operation. “Our job was to quick turn the jets. They were scheduled to be on the ground for five hours or less for off loading and on loading of cargo. We had to sustain those C-5s while they were on the ground.”
Rizzo, who was one of the Airmen who staged out of Bagram, stated that the in-place ground maintenance at Bagram was good, but not fully C-5M qualified. In normal operations, if a C-5 had maintenance issues on the ground in Bagram, a maintenance recovery team would have to be sent out to fix the jet, sometimes taking days. This is why maintenance from Dover was sent.
“Having us there skipped that middleman,” Rizzo said. “If a C-5 broke or anything happened, we were already there to fix it quickly. The whole multimodal operation was on a very short, very high-speed timeline. So we didn’t have a lot of room for delays.”
Furthermore, Team Dover’s Reserve aircrews from the 709th AS worked hand-in-hand with their active duty counterparts.
“The beautiful thing about our 512th partners is they operate the C-5 and C-17 in the exact manner we do,” said Hall. “They have so much more experience than we’ve, [active duty], got. A good number of the folks who are in the 512th, both 709th and 326th Airlift Squadrons, used to be on active duty and have continued their service. We’ve got young and motivated folks who don’t have the same hours, the same amount of experience. So anytime we can fly with our 512th partners, we jump on the opportunity, because they’ve got thousands of more hours, and when I say hours, that equates to experience, that experience, I just don’t have that. That experience is just so valuable.”
This was the fourth time Team Dover conducted a C-5 stage operation.
“Once again, we did it right,” said Hall. “The C-5M is a weapon of mass delivery. If you need a lot of cargo moved, in strategic distance, the C-5M is the weapon system of choice.”