521st AMOW Airman demonstrate Nodal ACE capability

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Alexander L. Hubbert
  • 721st Aerial Port Squadron

Since the beginning of March 2021, Airmen from the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing have been demonstrating the Wing’s Nodal Agile Combat Employment capability at Morón Air Base, Spain.

Nodal ACE is the 521st AMOW’s resilient response to a wide spectrum of dynamic environments including, but not limited to, peacetime, contingency, permissive, and low-end non-permissive operations.

This tailorable, flexible option executes Aircraft Maintenance, Aerial Port, and Command and Control capabilities on already established airfields to reinforce the en route structure for short periods of time while leveraging Multi-Capable Airmen.

In February, due to ongoing COVID-19 challenges in the European theater, Air Mobility Command examined options to shift some of its airflow through alternate locations.

Morón Air Base, with significant ramp space and ample lodging accommodations, became a critical shock absorber for strategic airlift operations. This increased workload at Morón prompted the 521st AMOW’s first real-world, multiple Air Force Specialty Code, integrated Nodal ACE deployment.

The Nodal ACE team is comprised of 21 Airmen from seven Air Force Specialty Codes, and two Air Mobility Operations Groups. They originated from the 725th Air Mobility Squadron at Naval Station Rota, Spain, the 721st Aerial Port Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and the 726th Air Mobility Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

“Our team was tasked with supporting a considerable surge here at Morón AB, and their efforts have been nothing short of incredible,” said Maj. Carlos Mateo, 725th AMS, Detachment 1 and Nodal ACE commander. “During the same period last year, we received seven AMC aircraft at Morón, and this year, thanks to the efforts of the Nodal ACE team, we have been able to support nearly 12 times as many.” Mateo emphasized that, “this is no exercise; these are real missions delivering critical cargo and personnel around the globe.”

Working in conjunction with the 496th Air Base Squadron at Morón, these Airmen showcased the inherent flexibility and strategic value of the Nodal ACE concept, collectively moving more than 1,602 passengers, 609 aircrew, and 817 short tons of cargo in more than 80 missions in only a month. Additionally, Aircraft Maintenance professionals were able to respond to every aircraft requirement, preventing the need to call in seven maintenance recovery teams, and preserving AMC sortie generation.

“I believe the biggest advantage of ACE is to set up an operation quickly with expert individuals who can accomplish the mission,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Casper, 469th ABS, Small Air Terminal supervisor.  “ACE is a great operating process to have for world altering events in locations that do not have the necessary capabilities. By bringing the ACE package to these locations, it allows the Air Force to generate sorties, execute the mission, and operate in contingency environments.”

In addition to supporting airlift operations, the Nodal ACE team supported CORONET EAST missions, creating a vital air refueling corridor for fighter jets flying to and from the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The team also demonstrated joint capabilities by supporting U.S. Marine Corps deployments to Spain and Italy. 

The Nodal ACE team embraced the AMC Commander, Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost’s, vision of adaptive and agile Airmen, challenging themselves to learn and perform duties well outside of their traditional Air Force Specialty Code.

“I am energized by how well the team embraced the Multi-Capable Airmen concept,” said Mateo. “My challenge to them was fairly simple, teach each other as many skills as you can as long as the training is conducted safely, by the book, and it’s documented. In less than 48-hours, they developed three separate training plans, and within a week, they were conducting hands-on cross-functional training.”

Air Transportation Specialists learned how to marshal and park aircraft, Aircraft Maintainers are now qualified to load and unload aircraft, and Force Support Airmen are executing Command Post functions. This type of cross-utilization not only adds to each individual’s skillset, but also brings increased flexibility and lethality to the joint force. 

“Getting the team out of their comfort zones and adding to their skillset has been an exciting challenge for them, with some even competing to see who can get signed off on the most tasks,” said Mateo.

Senior Airman Tashana Fustino, 725th AMS, Command Post specialist, who was part of the Nodal ACE team, stated, “The biggest thing that MCA brings to the fight is the speeding up of processes, filling different jobs when there are gaps, and being able to execute in any contingency environment.”

Speaking on the impact of the MCA concept, Tech. Sgt. Timothy Geary, 725th AMS, Aircraft Maintenance Unit and Nodal ACE team member, noted that the training conducted was building “bonds outside of our organizations along with building the familiarity of something outside of your realm. Since training the air transportation folks, I got to meet new people and understand their AFSC.”

Geary added, “Long term, it is providing the Air Force better qualified Airmen while also building cross-functional relationships”

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Vanga, an Air Transportation specialist from the 721st APS, also feels that the ACE concept and MCA are having positive impacts on the mission. There is now the ability for smaller AMC operated locations, like at Morón, to reach out to and receive assistance from Airmen outside of specific Air Force career fields without the worry of not being able to successfully execute the task at hand, Vanga explained. He also noted that “with a successfully trained team of MCA personnel, the capabilities are almost limitless.”  

“Nodal ACE represents a new way of thinking, one that is necessary to ensure our Wing’s lean, mean, mobility machine can overcome any environment,” said Mateo.  He added that he is “excited to see how the lessons we learn at Morón will improve the capabilities that Nodal ACE brings to AMC and the U.S. Air Force as a whole.”

The efforts of these Airmen in Morón demonstrate the 521 AMOW’s ability to project Rapid Global Mobility anytime and anywhere, and exemplifies the wing’s motto, “Depend on us!”