Breathing Life into Mobility Operations: The 618th Air Operations Center


If Maslow had created a hierarchy of needs for the U.S. Air Force, the 618th Air Operations Center (618 AOC) would arguably be positioned at the top.

In fact, the 618 AOC‘s constant presence is so vital to everyday operations that its commander, Col Corey A. Simmons, compares the organization to oxygen, necessary for the survival of the global mobility mission.

“We’re oxygen. It’s just supposed to be there. All of us breathe in and breathe out this element that allows us to enable our day,” Simmons explained. “But if we turn the oxygen down, or God forbid we turn it off, it’s the only thing you can think about: ‘How do I get it back?’ That’s what the AOC brings to the fight.”

Simmons stated this analogy is applicable to Air Mobility Command (AMC) in general, but especially to the 618 AOC, being the execution arm of operations.

Situated at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, the 618 AOC earns the execution arm title by providing the critical command and control and support necessary for approximately 100 to 150 missions daily. These missions include responding rapidly to crises, executing humanitarian efforts, and maintaining readiness around the globe.

“You pick your natural disaster or man-made operation, and we are going to have a touchpoint,” Simmons remarked.

To accomplish this wide reach, the 618 AOC operates around the clock, every single day of the year. This constant support sustains and bolsters the countless endeavors of AMC.

“I would argue that if we shut down for a day, every combatant commander would be on the phone with U.S. Transportation Command asking what’s going on,” Simmons said.

Ensuring seamless execution of a multitude of complex missions takes experience and excellence in leadership, both elements that Simmons possesses. Taking the reins as Commander of the 618 AOC has been a culmination of the colonel’s distinguished career.

“I have been serving for about 25 years, and it probably took all 25 of them to be prepared to fulfill this role,” Simmons said.

Simmons’s path to command at the 618 AOC has been shaped by his time as a trainer pilot and an AMC pilot, which he commented gave him the appreciation of “what we do and how we do it.” His various leadership roles, particularly as Wing Commander of Travis Air Force Base, CA, and as Chief of Staff at Air Mobility Command, provided him with a deep appreciation for the “how” of AMC operations.

AOC stands for more than air operations center, according to Col Simmons:

Airmen are the magic.
Operations run 24/7, 365 days a year.
Competence and credibility must be sustained.

Simmons noted that the Chief of Staff position honed in on the “why,” deepening his knowledge of AMC’s shift toward a more postured stance and what the 618 AOC does to enable that.

“I am very blessed to have experiences that have enabled me to sit in this chair at this very unique time,” Simmons said.

To further illustrate how his vantage point supports AMC’s objectives, Simmons drew an analogy from the world of sports. He compared his time at Travis to being the head football coach of his beloved Chicago Bears and likened his role as the 618 AOC commander to being the Commissioner of the National Football League (NFL). In this capacity, his responsibility is not just coaching a single team, but overseeing multiple teams’ operations, ensuring they are strategically positioned for triumph.

“Even the most diehard football fans may not know who the NFL Commissioner is, but they know he is good at his job,” Simmons remarked. “The NFL has a brand that most people enjoy, and so does the 618 AOC; I plan to uphold that brand’s reputation.”

The colonel’s extensive background has certainly prepared him for leading a pivotal organization; equally crucial are his adept leadership abilities.

While overseeing the 618 AOC, Simmons says he asks his teammates to consider three things:

  1. “No one knows how to do your job better than you; take ownership of your role.”
  2. “Be credible. It is each of our duties to uphold the credibility of the 618 AOC.”
  3. “Be accountable. Mistakes happen—never on purpose. The teammates that I want to be around are ones that own their mistakes and develop courses of action to mitigate and correct them. If we don’t spend time pointing fingers, we can get back on track faster.”

The colonel noted that to keep collective readiness a goal, it is paramount that Airmen put safety at the forefront of their efforts. As commander, he charges the 618 AOC to act as an extension of the crew, ensuring that they have every opportunity to be safe while executing the mission.

“Impossible is just a barrier,” Simmons says. He hopes empowering the individuals within the 618 AOC will further the success that has been set by previous 618 AOC leaders.

“The previous commanders of this organization built it into the preeminent air operations center on the planet,” Simmons stated. “My intention is to follow the legacy of giants that have sat in the seat before me.”

There is no doubt Simmons will keep that momentum going. As AMC prepares for the future fight, the 618 AOC will continue to fly under the radar, breathing life into today’s ready and lethal mobility forces.