When some people think of warfighting, they often think about the battle itself. But as the saying goes, “getting there is half the battle.”
This is why leaders of the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing take their mission of providing air mobility to combat zones very seriously.
“We continue to play a critical role in moving munitions, troops, and equipment in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Operation Inherent Resolve,” said Col. Thomas Cooper, 521st AMOW commander. “From delivering attack helicopters and ammunition, to evacuating wounded from the Middle East, our awesome Airmen continue to ensure rapid global mobility supporting our nation’s interests nonstop.”
As a wing commander, Cooper’s monumental task of leading more than 2,000 Airmen requires a constant state of readiness. Most of the Airmen he leads aren’t even here at Ramstein.
The 521st AMOW includes two groups, 10 squadrons, and a myriad of Airmen scattered across Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia. The wing’s Area of Responsibility spans more than 5,000 miles and encompasses more than 10 countries.
“It is vital that we as Airmen build our readiness to meet any challenges anywhere and anytime,” said Cooper, who just concluded a conference involving leaders from across his wing. “Air Force leadership asked the force to achieve full spectrum readiness, and during our commander’s conference, our leadership teams discussed ways to work toward this. We also recently produced our wing readiness roadmap, which highlights ways we will work with our Airmen, units, and higher headquarters to be ever more lethal, resilient, agile, and ready, so that the joint force and our nation can depend on us.”
In addition to readiness and lethality, topics at the conference included mission efficiency, unit effectiveness, morale, and innovation.
The 521st AMOW stays ready through exercises, physical fitness, and special training days.
The 721st Air Mobility Operations Group, one of the 521st AMOW’s groups, recently conducted a training day in which Airmen refreshed warfighting skills such as first aid, donning chemical warfare gear, and safety and risk management. Leadership deemed the training so important, that they coordinated with the 618th Air Operations Center, located at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, to deconflict real-world mission responsibilities with additional training opportunities, said Capt. Mallory Malda, 721st AMOG director of staff.
“We collectively handle many, many aircraft arriving or departing Ramstein each and every day,” she said. “The air mobility mission never completely stops, thus we still support several high priority missions to include urgent aeromedical evacuation missions. Still, through the support of our higher headquarters we were able to reduce our airflow enough to allow the focus on training while still meeting the mission demand.”
The training gave 721st AMOG Airmen an opportunity to reflect upon the magnitude of their mission and the importance of resilience.
“This day served as a means to allow our Airmen to take pause, reflect upon the incredible mission they support every day, and ready themselves to support any future challenges that await,” said Malda.
Malda said the 721st AMOG’s mission supported more than 4,000 aircraft, over 120,000 passengers, transported approximately 1 million pounds of cargo, and supported more than 2,000 aeromedical evacuations during the past year.
“We serve as the primary strategic air mobility hub for peacetime and wartime operations, rapidly projecting continental U.S.-based resources into and throughout the U.S. European Command, Africa Command, and Central Command AORs,” she added. “Our Air Mobility Command Airmen are ready to support any mission, anywhere, at any time.”
Cooper expressed pride in his Airmen, saying he is optimistic about the future of the 521st AMOW and the missions his wing will execute.
“As a leader of the 521st AMOW I am constantly impressed by the younger Airmen,” he said. “As thinkers, leaders, and technicians they are way ahead of where I was as an Airman 30 years ago. The attitude and skills they bring to mission accomplishment ensure we will succeed in the future. My confidence in the state of the Air Force is high because of what I see the amazing 521st AMOW Airmen do.”