CELEBRATING 15 YEARS OF EXCELLENCE: THE 521AMOW

By MRS. LAUREN FOSNOT, STAFF WRITER

Few phrases capture the essence of the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing (AMOW) better than its motto, “DEPEND ON US.” The statement rings true as Air Mobility Command (AMC) has officially been able to count on the 521 AMOW for 15 years as of 2023. Since its activation in 2008, the AMOW has been at the forefront of AMC’s global mobility mission and has hit the ground running as the enroute support system for Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia.

To effectively cover this expansive area, the wing’s nearly 2,000 personnel are divided into two Air Mobility Operations Groups (AMOGs) and nine squadrons in 19 locations in 14 countries. This structural arrangement enables the unit to provide command and control, enroute aircraft maintenance, air transportation services, expeditionary aircrew support, and intra-theater aeromedical evacuation—all to ultimately keep the global mobility mission moving.

To commemorate the wing’s 15th anniversary, 1st Lt Cameron Silver, the public affairs advisor for the 521 AMOW, presented an overview of the various wins of the AMOW, delved into its core values, and shed light on the wing’s unwavering commitment to avoid complacency in the face of its victories.

KEY ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE 521 AMOW

This dependable unit serves as the linchpin of enroute support. Among its many achievements, some key ones include:

Overseas Operations

The wing has been an integral part of overseas operations. The AMOW supported Operation Enduring Freedom, in which the United States—following the terrorist attacks of 9/11—launched military operations in Afghanistan and sustained operations for more than a decade to fight widespread insurgency and establish a viable government. In addition, the AMOW is involved in ongoing overseas efforts, such as Operation Inherent Resolve, in which the United States and regional partners aim to militarily defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to increase regional security and stability.

Humanitarian Relief

The 521 AMOW has not only excelled in military operations but also in humanitarian efforts. The wing frequently provides rapid and effective aid during natural disasters. Two notable examples are the volcanic eruption in Iceland in 2010 and the earthquake in Turkey in early 2023. The wing also played a vital role in responding to global health crises, including the Ebola epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Operation Allies Refuge

During Operation Allies Refuge (OAR), the United States supported the movement of more than 124,000 people, making this mission the largest noncombatant evacuation in U.S. history. During OAR, the 521 AMOW was also tasked with the tremendous effort of providing critical enroute support for forces and evacuees. Nearly 85 percent of all Department of Defense aircraft departing from Kabul passed through a 521 AMOW station, according to Silver. The AMOW provided safe passage as well as logistical and maintenance support—meaning the mission had all hands on deck. The wing’s pivotal role in this operation demonstrated its unmatched capabilities in times of crisis.

Support for Ukraine

The 521 AMOW has been instrumental in providing material support to Ukraine by processing and enabling the transport of various security assistance cargo. By bolstering AMC and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) efforts, the wing has contributed to Ukraine’s defense against Russia. This commitment underscores the AMOW’s long dedication to offering the support and hope needed in times of suffering and when rapid action is needed.

Additional Achievements

  • Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (September 2008 – September 2010)
  • Operation NEW DAWN (September 2010 – December 2011)
  • Operation FREEDOM SENTINEL (1 January 2015 – August 2021)
  • Operation ATLANTIC RESOLVE (April 2014 – 24 February 2022)
  • Incirlik Air Base Evacuation (March 2016)
  • Cyclone Idai Response (March – April 2019)
  • Operation FLY FORMULA (May 2022)
  • Meritorious Unit Award recipients from 2010-2021
  • Air and Space Outstanding Unit Award recipient in 2022

CORE VALUES GUIDING SUCCESS

According to Silver, the AMOW has several foundational components, in addition to its motto, that have guided its success during the past 15 years, including families, a Warrior Heart culture, mission partners, innovation, and safety. These components create a web that enables the AMOW to achieve success in every mission.

Silver explained that families form an integral support network, nurturing the well-being and triumph of every Airman. With a strong foundation, Airmen embrace readiness, both physically and mentally, to excel in their roles and “win now.” This Warrior Heart culture is fostered by AMOW leadership.

The mission partners “fuel this joint force lethality in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East,” according to Silver. The AMOW is thankful for its partnerships, even having Airmen stationed at joint and international host installations.

The wing’s leadership has a legacy of fostering an environment conducive to experimentation and innovative problem-solving. Silver explained that the AMOW has always prided itself on “empowering untethered problem solvers” and that “leadership creates an environment that provides resources to experiment with new ideas and then to distribute successful ideas as far and wide as possible.”

Finally, the “5-2-1” places a huge emphasis on safety. “Because we’re entrusted with the well-being of countless passengers and crews and work with heavy equipment, [and] cargo, our Airmen’s adherence to safety standards could be the difference between a successful mission and a failed mission,” Silver commented. “If the 521 fails, AMC fails. If AMC fails, everybody fails. The stakes could not be higher when it comes to safety.”

THE FUTURE OF THE AMOW

Although Silver gave an overarching view of the history of the AMOW and its many achievements, he also stated that “the 521st AMOW is not content resting on past success.” Further, the lieutenant explained that “even though we have had lots of past successes, and we’re very proud of that, we are committed to accelerating transformation and executing our missions both faster and more agile than ever before. As future challenges await, and they surely do, we have no doubt that the 521st AMOW will meet them head-on and uphold our ‘DEPEND ON US’ legacy.”

The future starts now with the AMOW. In an ever-evolving global security landscape, the 521 AMOW has adapted its strategies and capabilities to remain effective in its mission. The wing recognizes that logistics will be a target in future conflicts and has positioned itself to excel in this environment. Through initiatives such as Mobility Guardian 23 (MG23), which is AMC’s largest full-spectrum exercise built to test the limits of their capabilities and build stronger joint and international relationships, the wing has demonstrated its ability to operate rapidly and flexibly across different theaters, showcasing its commitment to readiness and adaptability.

One remarkable innovation highlighted during MG23 is the Halolens, a virtual reality headset that enables real-time audio and visual technical assistance worldwide. This device enhances operational expeditionary capabilities and exemplifies the wing’s dedication to innovation for the future fight.

Looking ahead, the 521 AMOW has set ambitious goals and priorities to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world. Those priorities include war-ready Airmen, deliberate transformation, and rapid global mobility.

“This [emphasis] is what will help us bridge the gap between the AMOW as it is now and the next-gen AMOW that we want and need to be,” Silver stated.

As global access becomes increasingly contested, the wing seeks to excel in providing rapid global mobility, ensuring it can deliver combat power wherever and whenever needed.

CONCLUSION

As it aspires to be the next-generation AMOW, its enduring legacy of excellence and the resounding motto “DEPEND ON US” leave no doubt that the wing will remain an indispensable force in AMC’s global mobility reach for years to come. A look at its history and its goals for the future for the wing’s 15-year anniversary suggests that the 521 AMOW is clearly primed to confront future challenges.