RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The United States’ ability to project air power and humanitarian relief throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa is made possible by the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing here.
On any given day, U.S. warfighting forces arrive and depart various hot spots within Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Lifesaving relief supplies float down on parachutes to people in need on the ground below and warfighting supplies descend from the sky to friendly or allied forces in the fight. When every passing minute could be the difference between life and death, aeromedical evacuation aircraft and teams race to provide critical care and transport for the wounded.
All of these daily activities, people, and situations have something in common besides the nation providing the forces, supplies, and care. The common link is that they all got to where they needed to be, when they needed to be there, due to the Rapid Global Mobility enabled by Air Mobility Command and Airmen such as those assigned to the 521st AMOW.
“The 521st AMOW’s efforts regularly enable the timely movement, positioning, and sustainment of joint forces necessary for the success of joint operations,” said Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, Air Mobility Command commander. “Whether it is aircraft, necessary supplies, Airmen or the joint team, we’ll get you there and ensure the desired effects for the combatant commanders.”
In supporting five combatant commands, the 521st AMOW’s area of responsibility spans three continents, six time zones and more than 5,100 miles. The wing is comprised of 22 units in 17 different locations, moving passengers and cargo in support of United States European Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Transportation Command, and U.S. Central Command.
Additionally, the Airmen assigned to the AMOW provide all command and control, en route maintenance support and air transportation services for theater and strategic air mobility missions in Europe and Southwest Asia.
The wing headquarters is co-located here with the 721st Air Mobility Operations Group, and also encompasses the 521st AMOG, located at Naval Station Rota, Spain.
“The Airmen of this wing enable Global Reach through our posture and the access that posture provides,” said Col. Thomas Cooper, 521st AMOW commander, adding that the posturing enables better support of transiting C-5 and C-17 aircraft.
To support these airframes, specialized maintenance personnel provide en route maintenance support through aircraft maintenance units, maintenance operations centers, quality assurance, fuel cell, aerospace ground equipment, forward supply location, and maintenance recovery teams.
To provide this posture, the wing’s 10 squadrons are geographically diverse. A few are co-located here, but most are located throughout Europe and the Middle East, from Italy to Qatar. Additionally, several squadrons oversee detachments and operating locations in countries such as Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region.
“The Airmen in this unit ensure the Air Mobility system has the reach and flexibility to move quickly in support of national security objectives,” said Cooper. “Each squadron is important in its location and manpower for how the United States will respond to crisis.”
Communication is vital for the wing’s geographically separated units.
“While our units in Europe are geographically separated, we do a great job of maintaining unity of command,” said Chief Master Sgt. Shelina Frey, AMC command chief, during her visit to the wing this week. “Thanks to the technology we have today, we maintain critical connections with units around the world. These connections enable us to support worldwide operations 24/7.”
One of the geographically separated squadrons, the 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Operations Squadron, which aligns under the 521st AMOG, is geographically divided between two locations in the Middle East.
“My squadron is like the gas station on your long trip,” said Lt. Col. Adeleke Ekundayo, 5th EAMS commander. “While people don’t often notice the gas station along the trip, if it were to one day disappear they wouldn’t have a way to continue.”
The 721st AMOG commander provided a similar comparison to illustrate the support his group provides.
“For every C-5 transiting Ramstein, there are nearly 300 Airmen working behind the scenes providing aerial port, maintenance and command and control support,” said Col. Ryan Marshall, 721st AMOG commander. “This support makes sure aircraft get from Point A to Point B. In doing so, my Airmen put the ‘reach’ in Global Reach.”
To enable Global Reach, the 521st AMOW is made up of nearly 1,800 permanently assigned Airmen and a sizable deployed contingent that augments the 5th and 8th EAMS and the 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron.
An essential part of Global Reach is moving the warfighter, a core mission of the unit.
“We are here to enable speed, range, precision and flexibility,” Cooper said. “If it’s going to the fight, it gets there because of us. The joint force gets delivered by us. We are the most forward-reaching arm of USTRANSCOM.”
“We move the warfighter through the European (area of responsibility) on a daily basis,” said Col. Eric Hook, 521st AMOG commander. “From loading and fixing the aircraft, our Airmen keep C-5s and C-17s moving to where they need to go. They catch and push the mission into the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, and beyond, on a daily basis.”
The wing also provides vital aeromedical evacuation and mission support through stage, intelligence, tactics, Aircrew Flight Equipment, flying crew chiefs and Security Forces Ravens.
“The en route support provides flexibility and speed of response for aeromedical evacuation missions,” said Cooper. “Having a team ready enables patients to get to critical care faster.”
While enabling Rapid Global Mobility for U.S. and coalition forces throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa for the past nine years, the 521st AMOW also accelerated delivery of warfighting and humanitarian effects on behalf of the U.S.
The wing’s Airmen also help ensure safety for fellow service members and their families. One recent example was orchestrating the safe evacuation of more than 700 family members and pets from Turkey during the March 2016 ordered departure.
The wing’s workload is challenging, but the collective efforts of its Airmen truly enable Global Reach, according to the AMC commander.
“The United States Air Force's Global Reach capability is driven by dedicated Mobility Airmen like those assigned to the 521st AMOW,” said Everhart. “Their efforts connect continents, provide relief to those in need and enable the joint team to execute anytime, anywhere. Without their actions our nation would not be able to achieve its national defense requirements during peacetime or war. The AMOW is achieving truly global effects.”
In concluding her visit to the 521st AMOW, the AMC command chief reinforced the importance of the mission performed by the Airmen.
“As the singular AMC wing in Europe, its presence is far-reaching,” said Frey. “The 521st AMOW expedites maximum warfighting and humanitarian effects for America through rapid and precise global air mobility.”