Air Force Airmen load a C-17 Globemaster III Jan. 23, 2013 in Istres, France, with French soldiers and cargo in support of France's efforts to increase their presence in Mali where their fighting Islamic extremists who have taken control of much of northern Mali. The United States has agreed to help France airlift troops and equipment into Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman James Richardson)
Lt. Col. Benjamin Morley (center), operations mission commander assigned to the 446th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, provides a tour of an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III to French Air Force Academy students Feb. 1, 2013, in Istres, France. The tour was provided to the students to showcase the Air Force's airlift capability as well as our partnerships with the French for current operations. The US military efforts are in support of France and Economic Community of West African States military operations in Mali. (U.S Air Force photo/1st Lt. Sara Harper)
U.S. Airmen load French military vehicles into an. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft in Istres, France, Jan. 23, 2013. The Air Force aircraft are transporting French troops and equipment to Mali in support of French operations in the country. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon)
French soldiers load an. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in Istres, France, Jan. 23, 2013, as they prepare to fly to Mali to fight off Islamic extremists that have taken control of a large part of northern Mali. The United States has agreed to help France airlift troops and equipment into Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman James Richardson)
by Airman 1st Class Madelyn McCullough
446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
2/5/2013 - MCCHORD FIELD, Wash. -- A simple phone call can change everything.
Less than eight hours after receiving the call to manage U.S. airlift operations in support of French efforts against extremist forces in Mali, Lt. Col. Ben Morley was on the road.
On Jan. 20, mere hours after the call, he landed in Istres, France, where he began a whirlwind series of up to 20-hour days managing the complicated logistics of transporting French troops and equipment to the war-torn African nation.
"As an operations mission commander, my team and I routinely work complex logistics issues," said Morley, an Air Reserve technician with the 446th Airlift Wing and assistant operations manager for the 313th Airlift Squadron here. "That includes hotels, transportation, communication, meals; all the things aircrews need when they get to a location."
Setting up for the operation wasn't easy and Morley's small team had its work cut out for it. Early on, many people on the team had to take on multiple roles to get the job done. One challenge in particular illustrates the importance of teamwork in accomplishing the mission.
"We had to divert a crew to an alternate airfield when they came back from their mission due to high winds," said Morley, who has been a member of the 446th AW since 2000. "During their crew rest at the alternate location our team prepped a jet here with cargo and fuel. We coordinated crew paperwork, meals, et cetera. so when they finally returned they simply transferred over to the new jet and completed the mission."
Morley, a 23-year veteran with more than 4,000 flying hours said that for him, the most challenging aspect of the mission was the short-notice tasks driven by real-world necessity.
"As operations mission commander, I take the best strategic level planning from Air Force and joint headquarters, then execute the plan," Morley said. "We match up the aircrews and jets that are on station and we press the button."
The operation, which began Jan. 21, is part of a U.S. Africa Command effort to help France and other partner nations resolve the security situation in Mali. U.S. aircraft are airlifting French army personnel into Mali at the request of the French government. To date, those efforts have so far resulted in nearly 50 missions transporting more than 1,100 tons of cargo and more than 900 passengers.