At Ramstein Air Base, a promise was made. It was a powerful vow comprising three simple words capable of impacting the lives of countless men, women and children around the world: “Depend on us.”
This short phrase, ingrained in the hearts and minds of 521st Air Mobility Wing Airmen, pushed them to overcome any obstacle in their way.
“Our job is to make sure the United States can respond to anything at anytime, anywhere in the world,” said Col. Randall Reed, 521st AMOW commander.
“Take Afghanistan for instance — a landlocked country where the roads aren’t always accessible. How would you provide beans, bandages, bullets or even toilet paper to the people out there?
“There needs to be some means of sustaining the folks and a way to bring them home when it’s time to rotate them or if they are injured or sick,” Reeds continued. “That is what we are here for — to guarantee access to remote areas for troops and supplies, which in turn preserves the United States of America as a global super power.”
Organized into several groups, squadrons and detachments across more than 4,000 miles, the 521st AMOW is strategically located to provide aid to Europe, Southwest Asia and Northern America at a moment’s notice.
“We have Airmen from Lajes, Portugal, all the way to Bagram, Afghanistan,” said Lt. Col. Chad Scholes, 521st AMOW deputy of operations. “That’s Airmen in six time zones that can be depended on to complete the mission at a moment’s notice.”
The 521st AMOW has created a symbiotic relationship with 17 countries, working closely with their host-nation counterparts to provide a wide variety of passenger, cargo, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation missions.
“We all work together to accomplish our core competencies of command and control, aerial port operations, aircraft maintenance and aeromedical evacuation,” Scholes said. “By accomplishing that standard with the help of our host nations and sister services, we are able to support the global mission of U.S. Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command, making us AMC’s ‘Eastern Enterprise.’”
Though younger than 7 years old, the 521st has already left its mark in Air Force history with achievements ranging from evacuating various personnel from an American Embassy during an attack in Yemen to continually supplying troops the supplies they need to fight.
“Throughout the years we have achieved some amazing feats,” Reed said. “But I must say nothing makes me prouder than knowing we are successful because of the dedicated Airmen I have the pleasure to work with every day.
One night, an Airman volunteered to stay late to help his fellow wingman, Reed said. And though they were up late at night going through the space-available flight emails, they noticed something odd: a message that looked like a cry for help.
After realizing someone’s life could be on the line, the 521st Airmen involved their supervisor, who was able to locate the individual and their leadership and provide the necessary help.
“By and large what they did had nothing to do with providing global access for America or our core competencies, but it did have everything to do with the mission of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States and having respect and dignity for life,” Reed said. “In the end, a group of three Airmen doing their job, paying attention to it and having the moral courage and leadership skills saved a life, and it’s these type of stories I get to hear every day that make me love my job.”
From providing space-available flights to delivering aid for humanitarian missions, every section of the 521st has played a role in someone’s life, sometimes never even knowing it.
“We as a wing have directly impacted countries, coalitions even down to single individuals,” Reed said. “There isn’t a single person in our organization that hasn’t done something incredible, even after knowing they may never see the results of their work or the people they have affected. They are dedicated to be depended on for the ones they swore to protect.
“I can’t get enough of being around my Airmen,” Reed continued.” They are absolutely phenomenal, and I enjoy every minute with them. While it saddens me that my uniform will be hung for good one day, I will be happy to know the 521st Airmen will continue to do great things. To know that some infant somewhere has the chance to grow because we played a small part in proving medicine or food or that we were able to bring home a wounded Soldier to their family is really gratifying. There’s nothing I would rather be doing.”