JBLM Airmen maintain airpower for area of responsibility

By Air Force News on January 18, 2012

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Just like most other Southwest Asia locations, C-17 Globemaster IIIs and C-5 Galaxies bring a continuous flow of U.S. service members and supplies in and out of the area of responsibility every day. In order to keep this process going, these aircraft must be maintained and mission capable.

"That's where we come in," said Master Sgt. Brian Mason, 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron Detachment 1 superintendent.

According to its fact sheet, the 8th EAMS provides expeditionary mobility to the warfighter in four locations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

"Locally, our primary role is maintenance and launching and recovering the aircraft," said Mason.

The 8th EAMS is part of the 521st Air Mobility Operations Group, which provides en route support for air mobility command missions at multiple locations throughout southern Europe and the CENTCOM area of responsibility. The group is part of the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing which is currently responsible for 50 percent of the cargo moved by air mobility command.

The detachment includes fewer than 20 airmen, primarily C-5 and C-17 maintainers from Dover Air Force Base, Del., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., respectively. But despite their manpower, they sustain a large role here, said Mason.

In December, the unit recovered nearly 260 aircraft that transported more than 11,000 passengers and nearly 8,300 tons of cargo.

The unit's workload varies depending on the day.

"We average about 13 flights per day," said Mason. "But sometimes we can have as few as 7 and have as many as 20."

Detachment leaders track inbound flights with a command and control system called Global Decision Support System 2. GDSS2 provides unit-level and force-level mission planning, scheduling and tracking of all mobility airlift and air refueling missions.

"Tracking the flights is the easy part," said Mason. "The challenging part is fixing the aircraft if it's broken."

As Mason describes, the unit has thousands of aircraft parts on hand, but if the unit doesn't have a part needed to fix the aircraft, they have to borrow parts from other units around KAF.

"We do what we have to to make sure these aircraft can take off," said Mason.

Another daily challenge the unit has to overcome is the geographically separated ramps that their aircraft have to park at.

"It's a 25-minute drive to the ramp where some of our C-17s and C-5s park," said Mason. This makes for a logistical hardship if maintainers need items or tools from their buildings.

In spite of the unit's challenges, Detachment 1 leadership applauds their Airmen for their production.

"Many times, our transiting aircraft are only on the ground for a couple of hours," said Capt. Russell Whitlock, 8th EAMS officer in charge. "These guys manage to get the job done no matter the circumstances."