521st AMOW celebrates 10th anniversary

by Airman 1st Class Kristof J. Rixmann
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Air Mobility Command C-5’s and C-17’s sit on the flight line at Naval Station Rota, Spain, April 17, 2010. Naval Station Rota, Spain and Moron Air Base absorbed many U.S. military flights that were diverted from Northern European Routes due to ash being spewed from the Iceland volcanic eruption. Rota typically averages about eight to 13 flights a day but saw double that amount over the weekend. Moron Air Base, which is about an hours drive north of NAVSTA Rota, averages one or two flights a day. Over the weekend, it had about 10 times that amount. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Keith Meyers/Released)

The 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing celebrated its tenth anniversary and long history of safely expediting maximum war-fighting and humanitarian effects through rapid and precise global air mobility across a more than 5000 mile area of responsibility Sept. 4 on Ramstein Air Base.

The 521st AMOW finds success by remaining true to their core functions: providing all command and control capability, en route maintenance support, and air transportation services for theater and strategic air mobility missions, said John M. Lacomia, 521st AMOW historian.

Though just ten years old, the wing played pivotal roles in some of America’s greatest conflicts in the last 75 years. The 521st AMOW was initially established in 1942 as the 555th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion in the midst of World War II.

The 555th enabled critical communication support during the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France, and the occupation of Germany from 1944 to 1945. In addition, the battalion provided radar coverage and navigational aid to allied aircraft flying over the U.S. Zone of Occupied Europe during the Berlin Airlift. Following the birth of the U.S. Air Force on Sept. 18, 1947, the battalion became known as the 501st Tactical Control Group.

From 1949 to 1960, the unit provided tactical control systems, including aircraft control and warning facilities, passive detection devices and guidance units in central Europe. The group was inactivated on Nov. 18, 1960.

On Sept. 4, 2008, the unit was redesignated and then activated as the 521st AMOW. With areas of responsibility in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and Southwest Asia, the formation of the wing ensured rapid and precise global air mobility. Headquartered at Ramstein Air Base, the wing commands two groups: the 521st Air Mobility Operations Group and the 721st AMOG.

Currently, the 521st AMOW consists of more than 2,100 personnel divided into two groups and 10 squadrons, with 21 geographically separated units located in 12 countries.

“The 521st AMOW is the linchpin in every operation, 27 years ago we had twice the amount of resources we have today, and yet, we’re accomplishing more than we ever have,” said Lacomia. “In fact, the 521st AMOW has the only maintenance squadron in Air Mobility Command that works on two different air frames. The 521st AMOW’s ability to run diagnostic procedures and perform maintenance on both the C-5 (Galaxy) and C-17 (Globemaster III) gives us great utility wherever we’re needed. This knowledge and expertise makes the Air Force more successful.”

The personnel within the 521st AMOW are responsible for a wide range of roles that collectively play an important part in achieving their core functions.

The 521st AMOW command and control teams execute global command and control for Air Mobility Command transient aircraft and flight following AMC missions. The wing’s command and control teams also coordinate ground support requirements.

The specialized maintenance personnel of the 521st AMOW provide en route maintenance support through aircraft maintenance units, maintenance operations centers, quality assurance, a regional training center, fuel cell, aerospace ground equipment, forward supply location, and maintenance recovery teams.

The wing’s air transportation professionals operate air terminal operations centers, providing passenger and fleet services, cargo processing, special handling, ramp services, load planning and data records.

The wing supports a deployed contingent of approximately 1,000 Airmen. These Airmen augment two Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadrons and the Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron, providing aeromedical evacuation and mission support through stage, intel, tactics, aircrew flight equipment, flying crew chiefs, and Ravens.

Since the wing’s inception in 2008, it participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Freedom Sentinel providing strategic, theater, and commercial air mobility. When a rapid response is required the 521st AMOW consistently delivers, said Lacomia.

Achievements and honors bestowed on the 521st AMOW are numerous. With the honors of the 555th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion presented to the wing, the 521st AMOW proudly carries the service streamer for World War II: American Theater, as well as World War II campaign streamers for Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, central Europe and Rhineland.

The wing earned seven Meritorious Unit Awards since 2010 and received two Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards for the work accomplished from 2008-2010.

Since the wing was first activated in 1942, as the 555th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion, the unit headquarters has seen 16 assignments, 30 stations, and 22 commanders.

Despite frequent changes and relocations the wing experiences sustained success and epitomizes their motto “flexibility, tenacity, velocity… depend on us.”