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Reserve mobility aircrew impacts mission in Baltic region

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- The Air Force Reserve’s 433rd Airlift Wing C-5M Super Galaxy delivered 207,000 pounds of cargo comprised of three Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, four Army vehicles, and 39 10th Combat Aviation Brigade Soldiers to Latvia Feb. 28 and March 3, in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Tasked by Air Mobility Command, the C-5M made two trips from Fort Drum, New York, to Latvia, before returning to its duty station at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Operation Atlantic Resolve is a nine-month deployment that demonstrates the United States’ commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the Baltic region, while providing reassurance to NATO allies and regional partners. Through multinational training and exercises, OAR highlights the flexibility of U.S. ground and air forces to rapidly respond to contingencies alongside regional partners.

“It is critical, one thing we are trying to demonstrate is speed of assembly,” said Army Maj. Nathan Colvin, the officer in charge of Task Force Baltic Phoenix officer in charge. “From the time the first C-5 left Fort Drum, we were able to rapidly assemble our helicopters and conduct an air assault training mission with Latvian forces on the ground.”

The Air Force’s strategic airlift capability, enabled by AMC, provides global air transportation and enables the U.S. European Command to move the helicopters from their home stations rapidly.

On such a long mission, a good attitude is key, said Master Sgt. Eric Mungia, a 68th Airlift Squadron loadmaster.

“Flying these missions is very diverse,” Mungia said. “What I tell new (Airmen) is stay flexible, expect the unexpected and keep a positive attitude. Sometimes you work in cold or hot weather, sandstorms, or humidity like Hawaii. You just have to stay flexible. That’s just the way it works flying on the C-5.”

The worldwide mission and the Airmen’s capabilities were enhanced during this mission, said Capt. Michael Raggio, a 68th AS C-5M pilot and aircraft commander.

“It has been a very demanding mission as far as the uploads and odd hours of the mission,” he said.

The aircrew received an additional mission after making two round-trips between Fort Drum and Latvia. The third mission involved taking Air Force personnel and their vehicle from Riga to their home base at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

“It was an add-on mission, it was a good opportunity to pick up some cargo and bolster our (relationship) in Europe,” Raggio said. “This mission has been very rewarding (because we were able) to help out and reaffirm our NATO allies and work with our Army partners.”

U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Force Reserve Command and AMC directly support the joint and multi-national warfighting environment with air superiority, direct air operations, global air transportation and capabilities that are essential to supporting the warfighters on the ground.

“The (air crew) have been nothing but great to work with,” Colvin said. “Despite any kind of adversity thrown their way, whether it be maintenance or the weather or uncertainty with an airfield they may be unfamiliar with, they have responded by making sure everything is taken care of to meet mission and make sure we are successful as a joint partner.”

OAR will include medical transport missions, training, exercise support and various aviation operations throughout Europe to improve interoperability and strengthen relationships with NATO allies, EUCOM officials said.

“This airlift improved our interoperability and readiness with our host nation and other NATO partners,” Colvin said. “When the mission happens in real life, we are not going to be able to choose the time and the place. It is good to know we can count on our Air Force partners to be there with us anytime, anywhere to get the job done.”

More training opportunities are slated in 2017 as Operation Atlantic Resolve will remain in place as long as the need exists to reassure U.S. allies and deter Russia from regional aggression.