News>NJ Airmen among first on ground, supporting French operations in Africa
An Airman from the 621st Contingency Response Wing looks on as a C-17 Globemaster III taxis onto a loading ramp in Istres, France, Jan. 22, 2013. The U.S. pledged support to the French military for their operations in Mali, and provided C-17s and Airmen for logistical support. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon)
Lt. Col. Shawn Underwood speaks to press about the U.S. mission in Istres, France, Jan. 24, 2013. The U.S. has agreed to help France airlift troops and equipment into Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon)
by Capt. Brooke Brzozowske
621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs
2/5/2013 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. (AFNS) -- More than 100 Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing, located here and at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., are currently supporting airlift missions transporting French soldiers and military equipment from Istres, France, to Bamako, Mali.
The 621st CRW, often the first on the ground, is designated to extend Air Mobility Command's ability to deploy people and equipment around the globe in a matter of hours. The wing is responsible for the training of contingency response forces and specializes in the rapid opening of airfields in remote locations.
"Our mobility Airmen were 'bags packed' and ready on the flightline within a few short hours of notification from AMC," said Col. Martin Chapin, the 621st CRW commander. "We continue to work in conjunction with U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Transportation Command and AMC making sure we quickly provide the right support to our French partners. Our Airmen have directly contributed, aiding with the airlift of military personnel, supplies and equipment to locations designated by the French."
Members of the CRW attribute their recent and successful rapid response to expert logistics support, diligent planning, and their committed joint base partners.
"While we are a mobile capability, we don't have our own aircraft, so we work hand in hand with the 87th Air Base Wing and 305th Air Mobility Wing to facilitate the deployment process," said Capt. Matt Shaw, the chief of the 621st CRW Wing operations center. "Everything we do in this wing is logistics heavy. When we were requested to support, our expertly planned response was accomplished in large part because of our fine logistics planners."
The wing also specializes in airfield assessments and aerial transportation, making them invaluable to the operations.
Maj. David Gaulin, a 621st CRW contingency response element commander, was among the first on the ground to assess the airfield and define the requirements needed to operate out of Istres.
"We were able to show up here, set up communications with the (chain of command) and provided an initial assessment of what capabilities the French had and what we could bring to the operation within an hour of landing," Gaulin said.
The strategic airlift of supplies and personnel to the region is one of several mission sets the U.S. is supporting. The 621st is also assisting with coordinated airlift for African nations and liaison teams.
"Our aerial porters, transportation experts, civil engineers and air mobility planners are crucial in accelerating the U.S. Air Force's response," Shaw said. "It is our people who are out there right now, moving passengers and equipment."
The 621st remains on alert to provide any further requested support, and their Airmen continue to support airlift missions in Europe and Africa.
"I couldn't be more proud of our Airmen," Chapin said. "We've repeatedly asked them to keep their bags packed, ready to go at any time. When we get the call, they answer it without hesitation and are ready to solve problems in complex environments."