Command lauds 452nd Current Ops, fliers

FORT IRWIN, Calif. (AFPN) -- A C-17 Globemaster III turns around at the end of a dirt runway after landing Feb. 10.   The aircraft is from March Air Reserve Base, Calif.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Zuccaro)

FORT IRWIN, Calif. (AFPN) -- A C-17 Globemaster III turns around at the end of a dirt runway after landing Feb. 10. The aircraft is from March Air Reserve Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Zuccaro)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- Vehicles from the Army Reserve's 304th Sustainment Brigade, based in West Los Angeles, line up to be loaded onto an Air Force Reserve Command C-17 from the 452nd Air Mobility Wing from here July 15, 2006.  Since the brigade was relocating to March ARB anyway, the Soldiers and Airmen of the respective units used the move to train in responding to a simulated disaster. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe Davidson)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- Vehicles from the Army Reserve's 304th Sustainment Brigade, based in West Los Angeles, line up to be loaded onto an Air Force Reserve Command C-17 from the 452nd Air Mobility Wing from here July 15, 2006. Since the brigade was relocating to March ARB anyway, the Soldiers and Airmen of the respective units used the move to train in responding to a simulated disaster. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe Davidson)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- The 452nd Air Mobility Wing is using its fleet of eight C-17 Globemaster airlift aircraft more than projected and routinely flying missions in support of U.S. warfighting efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

"This is not your mama's airplane. It's getting used hard," said Lt. Col. Keith Guillotte, chief of current operations for the 452nd Operations Group. "The Air Force doesn't want them sitting around doing nothing." 

Crews here are flying the aircraft at a higher rate than planned, said the colonel, who has worked at March Field since September 2005, a month after the wing received its first Globemaster. He previously worked in C-17 operations for 10 years at Charleston AFB, S.C. 

Colonel Guillotte and other current operations representatives flew to Scott AFB, Ill., in March 2006 of the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center, Air Mobility Command's hub for planning and directing tanker and transport aircraft operations around the world. 

The March staff pitched the idea of the 452nd flying a regular schedule of repeating missions instead of crews leaving on trips for destinations that could change after they departed. 

"It's easier on the brain as reservist to know what you are going to do," said Colonel
Guillotte. "It's difficult when a schedule is all over the place. Predictability is extremely
important to a reservist who has a civilian job and family." 

The initial meeting lasted just an hour and both sides left happy, he said. 

"We had a vision of what we wanted to do (and) TACC knew what they wanted us to do. We melded so both came out on top." 

Lt. Col. Ken Norris, deputy chief for airlift allocation at the aircraft control center, drafted a memorandum of understanding detailing the pact, which allows the wing to retain better control of its schedule. AMC planners benefit by not having to look elsewhere to fill mission requirements. 

"March does very well for us," said Colonel Norris. "They've not once dropped a mission. It's all applause (from us). They are always giving over and above, and nine times out of 10, when we ask them to do something else, they say 'Sure, no problem.'" 

The 452nd is the only Air Force Reserve wing that operates its own C-17s. They are flown by members of the 729th Airlift Squadron. Several others fly Globemasters as associate units, using aircraft owned by active-duty wings. 

The unit started flying a set schedule of three repeating AMC missions in May 2006, which amounted to about 60 percent of the wing's airlift flights in the past year. The balance of missions is done for Air Force Reserve Command, which benefits by having dedicated aircraft not being usurped for AMC work.

 For AMC, March aircrews go to Charleston AFB to take on cargo and passengers before continuing to Ramstein AB, Germany. Upon arrival, they are placed on alert status, relieving a 452nd crew which has pulled that duty for the previous week, flying medical evacuation missions from Iraq to Europe for AMC. The crew that has already been in place in Germany takes the newly arrived aircraft and completes a mission to Iraq and back before continuing to Charleston AFB and then home after being gone from home about 10 days. 

The wing's third AMC mission is flying wounded troops from Andrews AFB, Md., to their home units around the country. 

The system works well because of the agreement that airlift schedulers rarely task March crews to add missions once they are out in the system, said Colonel Norris. 

"So far there have been very few attempts (from schedulers) tinkering with their missions. We've kept our mitts off of them." 

Colonel Guillotte said the program allows March reservists to fly often in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom without them being called onto active duty for extended periods. 

"We run almost autonomously. We're like a clownfish that swims through a sea anemone without being stung." 

Wing Commander Brig. Gen. James Melin said 452nd C-17 operations in support of
Operation Iraqi Freedom are an example of how the unit answers the nation's call daily. 

"(We) should feel proud of the logistical support we are able to provide U.S. personnel
in the (area of responsibility) and the tremendous opportunity we have to provide medical care to our wounded service members and bring them home to their loved ones," General C-17 crews busy in war fight Melin said. 

Current Operations staff members deal specifically with the AMC schedulers to bid on
other assignments. 

"It's like being a broker on Wall Street," said Colonel Guillotte. "We buy and sell missions like commodities." 

The wing has landed diverse taskings on a regular basis through AFRC because it has its own aircraft, said Colonel Guillotte. A March ARB crew will soon fly Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of AFRC, on a tour of Middle East bases. Another crew will participate in D-Day anniversary observances in France and an air show in Denmark in June. 

A year into the repeating AMC schedule, Colonel Guillotte said the system is running smoothly. 

"It's a perfect situation. We formulated our own destiny. It would not be an understatement to say we've operated it flawlessly. These (aircrews) are all heroes."