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Warrior Airmen heart of contingency response force

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. John Platte
  • 571st Global Mobility Squadron commander
As I near the end of my tour as a squadron commander, I can't help but feel a little misty-eyed thinking about the amazing Airmen in my unit. I often tell them how proud I am of their efforts, of all they've accomplished, but words seem inadequate. Therefore, I'd like to share a day in the life of an Airman serving in my unit, as an expression of my admiration and gratitude.

The phone rings at 3 a.m. You've just been recalled. You grab your mobility gear, bid a hasty but tender farewell to your family, then jump in the car and head to base. On the way, you hear on the radio about a developing crisis -- somewhere in the world, someone needs our help.

Maybe it's a family in some far-away land whose city was just devastated by an earthquake or tsunami. Maybe it's a brigade of Soldiers or Marines who desperately need ammunition and supplies to continue the fight. Either way, you're getting on a plane in 12 hours, unsure where you're headed or for how long. But you're confident in your abilities and in your team, because you've trained together to prepare for contingencies like this.

As a contingency response force, you are warrior Airmen, postured for immediate response.

Walking through the door, the squadron is a beehive of activity. You sign in, do some last-minute checks of your personal gear, then head off to inspect your vehicles and equipment, making sure they're ready to load on the next plane out. Mission planners are hard at work, preparing briefings for leadership and making sure everyone's on the same sheet of music. Then it's off to a pre-deployment briefing followed by the deployment line, where they check your mobility folder and gear one last time then provide you an intelligence briefing about the mission.

Before you know it, you're in the back of a C-17 Globemaster III headed across the pond along with dozens of your teammates. You try to sleep because you know once you hit the ground, it's going to get crazy. Sure enough, hours later you're awakened by the thud of landing gear impacting soft earth.
Blinding sunlight and dust pour in as the cargo ramp lowers, and you make your way off the aircraft into the heat and noise of jet engines. A few other C-17s have already landed. Your team's forklift drivers are already offloading equipment as Humvees and other vehicles are driven off. Your security forces defenders establish a perimeter. Then it's all hands on deck as camp setup gets underway.

A few hours later, you gaze with satisfaction at the tents and command and control shelter your team just built. But now's not the time to celebrate, because the first convoy of Army infantry vehicles and paratroopers has just arrived and it looks like a Boeing 747 filled with relief supplies is about to land.

Night falls, and the wind is bitterly cold. You've been awake for who knows how long, but it's time to subordinate your personal concerns to a higher cause. The Port Dawgs Aerial Porters have just finished loading the next Army infantry platoon onto C-130 Hercules', engines running; looks like two more on-time takeoffs.
Meanwhile, three more Army trucks filled with relief supplies just departed for the refugee camp five miles down the road. It's truly a joint and combined effort, working side-by-side with Army logisticians and developing strong relations with host nation representatives are strong.

The media is eager to hear about what's going on and it looks like a reporter is headed your way.

Sometimes logistics can be a thankless job. As Gen. Raymond Johns Jr., Air Mobility Command commander, says, you'll never see us on the marquee. We're always supporting someone else, never supported. It's hard to step back, in the thick of it, and realize that we've just accomplished some pretty amazing things. But because of you, the infantry was able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Because of you, hundreds of people have food and shelter tonight amid the ruins of their city. That's because, as Johns puts it, we will always say, "Yes, we can."

My squadron -- the 571st Global Mobility Squadron Dragons -- delivers hope and saves lives.

It's true what they say, that being a squadron commander is the toughest job -- and the best job -- you'll ever have. I'm so humbled to have been given the opportunity to lead such an extraordinary team, an amazing experience I'll always remember. I am incredibly proud of our warrior Airmen.