By MS. KIM KNIGHT, Staff Writer
The 51st Airlift/Tanker Association (A/TA) Convention was held October 23–26 in Orlando, Florida, with the 2019 theme “Compete-Deter-Win, Delivered and Fueled Today, Tomorrow, Together.” Nearly 2,000 Mobility Airmen from across the world gathered to engage in this professional development event.
In true A/TA tradition, the 23 seminar opportunities provided Mobility Airmen a diverse selection of informative presentations. In support of this year’s theme, several seminars focused on the transformation of Air Mobility Command (AMC) into a warfighting command able to compete, deter, and win against future threats outlined in the National Defense Strategy. In contrast, retired Col Gail Halvorsen, the Berlin Candy Bomber who recently turned 99 years old, conducted a fascinating seminar on his humanitarian missions over Berlin following WWII. Another workshop provided an opportunity for innovative Airmen from across the command to pitch ideas for the Phoenix Spark Tank Competition and earn a chance to represent AMC at the Air Force contest.
Throughout the event, the convention recognized outstanding Airmen with achievements such as the Air Transportation Specialists, also known as the Port Dawgs, who received the honor of becoming the A/TA 31st Hall of Fame inductees. As a vital part of AMC’s commitment to Rapid Global Mobility, the Aerial Port community ensures supplies are loaded and off-loaded in times of crisis and for those in need during humanitarian efforts. In addition, Port Dawgs facilitate loading passengers, including critically wounded patients, political leaders, and warriors returning home from deployment.
At the closing ceremony, Gen Maryanne Miller, Commander of Air Mobility Command, praised the loyalty and dedication of AMC personnel. “Since the last A/TA, you have relentlessly pursued the mission all around the world. We have flown 30,000 missions, aerial ports worldwide have carried one million passengers, Port Dawgs have loaded 700 million pounds of cargo for our Joint Force, and boom operators passed one billion pounds of fuel.”
The incredible feats of Mobility Airmen in the last year was the focus as Gen Miller reflected on extraordinary examples of humanitarian efforts, an airdrop over a contested environment in support of an international partner, life-saving aeromedical evacuations (AEs), and numerous others.
“Our airdrop crews, from the skies above, deliver the supplies to sustain and maintain the fight at all the hotspots around the world,” Gen Miller said. “Over the dark skies of Afghanistan, you were there when our partners were pinned in by the Taliban and out of options.”
After receiving a short notice airdrop request from the Afghan National Army, AMC was there to deliver combat airpower for our partners. In an extremely compressed timeline, the team worked to coordinate the effort with our Afghan partners and reconnaissance aircraft to clear and secure the drop zone and complete the mission undetected. With a first-pass success mentality, our Airmen helped keep the fight at the enemy’s doorstep.
In October 2018, when Hurricane Michael unleashed its fury on Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, the catastrophic 150 mile per hour winds brought down power lines and trees and ripped the roofs off hangars and other buildings on the base. Only hours after the storm passed, a contingency response team was there to assist in reopening the base in the wake of the natural disaster. Their priority was reopening the airbase as quickly as possible to ensure incoming aircraft could offload the much-needed supplies.
“Mobility professionals are highly-trained, prepared, and ready to offer support whenever and wherever required,” Gen Miller said. “By connecting command post controllers, leveraging the maintainers, and establishing operations, the cross-functional teams come together and bring order from absolute chaos, and our AE crews are always poised and ready to care for fellow citizens in harm’s way.”
Gen Miller emphasized that AMC shrinks the globe, and no expense is spared to save a life. As the wings of hope, the inspirational AE journey of Reach 797 recently made national headlines to save the life of a critically wounded Special Operations soldier. It took 4 days, three aircraft, 18 medical personnel, and 24,000 gallons of fuel for non-stop transport for the soldier. The 618th Air Operations Center planned every detail of the highly complex 8,000 mile flight from Afghanistan to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, which required two nighttime aerial refuelings to complete the mission.
Standing before the packed auditorium of Mobility Airmen, Gen Miller said, “We believe in and know the power of serving others, no matter the cost. As Airmen, we succeed and invest our skills, our talents, and our lives in this country and each other. As Airmen, we are never alone.”