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Air Guard, Reserve set to participate in total force “surge” exercise

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A historic "surge" of military airlifters scheduled Oct. 17-21 will exercise the ability of U.S. Transportation Command and its air component, Air Forces Transportation, to rapidly provide strategic airlift in response to large-scale crises and contingencies, said officials here.

The surge will more than double day-to-day workloads, and will bring together 23 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command crews, and 18 active duty crews and 41 total force C-5 Galaxy aircraft to fly cargo in support of combatant commanders across the globe, according to Air Force Maj. Sandy Thompson, AFTRANS' lead planner.

The missions will be in accordance with priorities set by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and are expected to have no impact on the operations of civilian contract carriers.

"The 41 daily missions will more than double the 18 we normally execute on a typical day," Thompson said. "To put in a historical context, the best C-5 daily achievement since 2007 was 33 C-5s flown."

With its ability to carry more than any other U.S. military aircraft and to fly 6,000 miles without refueling, the C-5 has been a "workhorse" for the Air Force since the 1970s, according to the Air Force fact sheet. In addition, the C-5 can transport fully equipped combat units rapidly anywhere in the world and then provide the support needed to sustain them. While all four models of the C-5 fleet will be involved in the surge, the newest model, the C-5M Super Galaxy, will play a particularly important role.

First flown in late 2002, the Super Galaxy is a product of both an Avionics Modernization Program, or AMP, and a Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining program, or RERP.

The AMP and RERP upgrades, which AMC officials plan to extend to more than 50 aircraft by the end of 2016, provide upgraded avionics, communications and navigation equipment as well as new engines, pylons, auxiliary power units and upgrades to the aircraft skin, frame, landing gear, cockpit, and pressurization system.

In total, six total force units will provide aircraft and crews for the surge, illustrating what officials here describe as a "seamless integration of active duty and reserve component forces".

"This surge is possible because we have a joint forces team that works every day to ensure rapid global mobility for America," said TRANSCOM's Marine Corps Maj. Sidney Welch, leader of the joint planning team for the surge.
"We have total force crews, planners of all services at TRANSCOM and AFTRANS, and experts providing command and control through the 618th Air Operations Center [Tanker Airlift Control Center] here. Their collective efforts help us identify the requirements for surging our air mobility forces to support the strategic maneuver capability our nation needs."

According to planners, an operational assessment team will evaluate the results of the surge and develop a set of "lessons learned" to help determine ways to more effectively and efficiently support rapid global mobility in response to crisis and contingency situations. They add that regardless of the results, the surge will provide a valuable opportunity to exercise and evaluate the global mobility enterprise.

"We have a responsibility to ensure the readiness of our mobility forces are able to respond rapidly across the world," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Mark Ramsay, commander of the 18th Air Force, responsible for directing AFTRANS' day-to-day operations. "This surge not only exercises that responsibility, but demonstrates our readiness even in times of intense demand on our capacity."

Air Force Gen. Ray Johns, commander of Air Mobility Command and AFTRANS, echoed those sentiments, adding, "Whether supporting contingency or humanitarian missions, mobility forces stand ready to answer the call. This surge is about continuing to enhance our readiness and strategic agility to better support our national policy."

Article by Maj. Michael Meridith, 18th Air Force