Air Mobility Liaison Officers: Closing the Gap
By Capt. Amber Balken , Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
/ Published June 14, 2010
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Today's world is dependent on rapid global mobility; it has been required in nearly every military and humanitarian operation this nation has undertaken in recent history. On a moment's notice, the U.S. military must not only be able to move forces or supplies around the world, but accurately deliver them. For our ground forces operating in Afghanistan, airdrop is critical for delivering vital supplies to their remote locations with its inadequate or nonexistent roadways, treacherous terrain and constant threat of insurgent activity.
The demand for air drop is continuing to rise. On June 10, two C-17s airdropped 292 thousand pounds of combat sustainment supplies to friendly forces in Afghanistan. Additionally, the projected number of airdrops for 2010 is anticipated to total approximately 27,000 tons (54 million pounds) of supplies. This is nearly doubling the 15,000 tons airdropped in 2009.
Air Mobility Command, with its unique airlift capability is the first to be tapped to provide that rapid, global mobility. One of the tools in AMCs arsenal used to ensure the right supplies dropped are on time and on target is the Air Mobility Liaison Officer. These individuals provide the critical link of communication between the airlift and the ground forces, greatly improving the effectiveness and efficiency to the equation.
The AMLO positions are filled by pilots and navigators who are trained in airlift movements. Their primary role is to advise the Army and Marine Units to which they are assigned.
Prior to deploying with ground units, AMLOs go through training where they are exposed to scenarios very similar to the missions they will find themselves accomplishing while deployed.
The training goes into great detail to prepare the AMLOs and includes mission rehearsal exercises to educate them on the airlift systems they'll be using in theater, such as Intratheater Airlift Request System and Single Mobility Systems. The AMLOs then train their respective Army and Marine counterparts to become familiar with these crucial information systems to properly request and secure the right type airlift their unit will need.
Once in theater, AMLOs bring their expertise in landing zone and drop zone operations to assess its existing capabilities and the potential ability to open a safe and sustainable landing zone. Critical to the supply of the ground forces, these landing zone operations are a top priority of the AMLOs. While deployed, it was not unusual for the CENTCOM Air Mobility Division and the Director of Mobility Forces to request assistance from the AMLOs.
When additional or unique assessments of airfields/landing zones need to be accomplished, AMLOs are the likely choice. "It was not uncommon to assess the crash fire rescue capability, load planning/pallet building, and runway conditions in an effort to improve airlift operations," said Captain Tom Leyden, former AMLO supporting the 101st Airborne Division. "Our ground units relied heavily upon us to assess the continued workability of the remote landing zones throughout Afghanistan."
AMLOs are granted a lot of latitude in the AOR to minimize time requirements and the overall process in which the airlift is requested and delivered. Having Direct Liaison Authorized means they can go directly to the airlift planners at the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center located at Scott AFB, Illinois as well as the Combined Air Operations Center located in Southwest Asia.
This direct authority also affords the AMLOs, the Army/Marine units, and the Air Mobility Division the timely ability to identify any potential movement issues. Working with the appropriate players and decision makes, AMLOs help to resolve these issues which could include needing to conduct initial or follow-up airfield surveys, resolve port issues, and Landing Zone Safety Operations training for Army and Marine units.
"AMLOs are trained to identify a potential airlift issue and work with the supported unit and airlift community to find a solution that meets the requirements of both," said Lt. Col. John Bockhold, AMLO with the Army's III Corps. "The AMLOs are engaged with resolving an issue before it becomes a crisis ensuring the mission goes off smoothly and successfully."
Additional capabilities AMLO's bring to the frontlines include identifying airlift shortfalls and back haul opportunities to maximize efficiency. Where possible they identify empty planes and work to fill them with additional cargo. In doing so, AMLOs maximize effectiveness and save the government precious time and money by ensuring planes are utilized to their capacity.
"Bottom line: Our goal is to support the war-fighter by continually improving on airlift efficiency, airdrop accuracy and aircrew safety," said Captain Leyden.
The need for AMLOs is constant. Since the attacks on Sept 11, 2001, the warfighter and our nation have become increasingly dependent upon rapid, global mobility to meet our needs. With airdrop at an all-time high, the demand for AMLOs is too.