Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium highlights expeditionary capabilities enabling joint-service success

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Military leaders highlighted the force’s expeditionary response capabilities that enable joint integration in global operations during the Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium held here Oct. 26 to Oct. 29.

As global operations become more complex, it requires AMC to be more joint–oriented and to adapt to the needs of a changing environment.

“There is no room for error in our missions and we, as soldiers, know that when the chips are down, our Air Force will be there with us,” said Gen. Robert B. Abrams, U.S. Army Forces Command commander. “Together we are the best in the world at what we do.”

Units like the 821st Contingency Response Group have become the heart of expeditionary response. Lt. Col. Pat Rayner, 921st Critical Response Squadron, commanded one of those teams whose responsibility was opening a C-17 Globemaster III air field in Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

“We rapidly deploy elite mobility Airmen to open air bases, expand the enroute systems, and sustain global operations anywhere in the world,” said Rayner during an A/TA briefing describing the mission of the 821st CRG.

Contingency Response Group Airmen deploy in one-deep slot positions, making these Airmen some of the most highly trained in the field. Their job is to enable airpower from the ground by building an airfield from scratch. Some of these specialties include expeditionary command and control, airfield operations, security, communications, aerial port, and aircraft maintenance.

“Our idea is not to stay there forever,” said Rayner. “The idea is to hand it over to follow on forces. This is where we determine if we are successful or not, and the airfield is still in use today, so we were successful.”

The 821st CRG was also responsible for the Qayyarah-West airfield repair operation in Iraq. The Qayyarah-West mission was one of the largest and most expeditious airfield repair operations in modern U.S. military history and enabled military operations out of northern Iraq in the effort to liberate Mosul.

During the ending speech of A/TA, Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, Air Mobility Command commander, revealed those critical to the success of this operation would receive Bronze Stars the following week.

In addition to CRGs, the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, was formed to help expedite the creation of a joint task force for all combatant commands and not just a single service.

Sub-commanded to the United States Transportation Command, the JECC stands up a joint task force within hours of notification, including planning, communications, and public affairs support. The teams are on location for up to 120 days.

Having the JECC under a global command like USTRANSCOM allows for the expeditionary capability to be delivered to all combatant commands as they need it, said Brig. Gen. Lenny Richoux, JECC commander.

When combatant commands request support from the JECC, the unit offers a tailored joint task force according to that mission’s needs. To remain prepared to stand up a joint task force, the JECC focuses on top-priority concerns from a new combatant command each quarter.

“My J3 goes to their J3 and asks, ‘What’s the next problem that needs to be solved?’” said Richoux. “We develop a scenario and come up with a plan, and by creating that plan, we develop that relationship so that when something happens, they know what the JECC can do and they also already have a plan on the shelf.”

The JECC was directly involved in Haiti’s relief support after Hurricane Matthew and was also a driving force behind the relief response of 2017’s heavy hurricane season. The JECC has supported over 153,000 operational days to joint operations and at any given time, 110-160 personnel are deployed in support of the expeditionary mission.

As the world changes, the military is changing with it by integrating as a joint force. For Abrams, this is the key to America’s success.

“In 35 plus years of service, I have never been on a mission with Army forces alone. I’ve never executed a mission without the United States Air Force,” said Gen. Robert B. Abrams, U.S. Army Forces Command commander. “We train and we fight as a joint team and that’s what makes us the best military on the planet.”