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LRAFB surges airlift operations in the face of COVID-19 constraints

With an unwavering focus on the ability to rapidly project and sustain agile combat airlift in any contested environment, 19th Airlift Wing aircrews and maintenance personnel surged flight operations. Across a four day period, from May 18-21, 2020, they executed 155 percent of normal weekly training sorties for a single airlift squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jayden Ford)

With an unwavering focus on the ability to rapidly project and sustain agile combat airlift in any contested environment, 19th Airlift Wing aircrews and maintenance personnel surged flight operations. Across a four day period, from May 18-21, 2020, they executed 155 percent of normal weekly training sorties for a single airlift squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jayden Ford)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- As the Air Force continues to set a new operating rhythm under COVID-19 restrictions, the 19th Airlift Wing has showcased its ability to not only survive but to thrive in this new operational environment. 

With an unwavering focus on the ability to rapidly project and sustain agile combat airlift in any contested environment, 19th AW aircrews and maintenance personnel surged flight operations. Across a four day period, from May 18-21, they executed 155 percent of normal weekly training sorties for a single airlift squadron.

The successful surge in sorties also came despite a concerted effort to preserve the force by “binning” maintenance personnel and flying in “hard crews” to the maximum extent possible. 

“Our Airmen continue to redefine operational excellence as they seek innovative solutions to mitigate risk to both force and to mission,” said Col. John Schutte, 19th Airlift Wing commander. “This approach has enabled our team to thrive in the new abnormal.”

The COVID environment complicates training, but it hasn’t stopped us from meeting, and ultimately exceeding, our training requirements, said Maj. Michael Elliott, 41st Airlift Squadron assistant operations officer.

“Last week’s surge in operations was a pivot from the squadron’s full-spectrum readiness focus over the last year to more of a deep dive into deployment specific skills,” Elliott said. “Combat operations require a wide range of skills and certifications and our crews were able to execute missions commonly employed in the Central Command area of responsibility.”

Elliott said the airlift squadron designed a simulated AOR with cargo movement requirements in order to train on mission-sets such as dirt landing zone operations and Lost Cost Low Altitude airdrop methods.

The 41st Airlift Squadron is currently preparing for a four-month deployment to support contingency operations by providing combat airlift to remote, austere locations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility later this year.