Airmen ready Romanian airport for U.S. multi-modal shipments

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Laura K. Deckman
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing
Members of the 621st Contingency Response Wing from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., arrived here May 9 to extend the airfield's capability to support "multi-modal operations" during a U.S. Transportation Command proof-of-principle evaluation.

USTRANSCOM applies the term "multi-modal" to the movement of passengers and cargo by more than one mode of transportation. In this case, the evaluation is intended to demonstrate the feasibility of using the air base as a hub for equipment flowing into and out of Afghanistan. The evaluation process begins with the basing of four C-17 Globemaster III's temporarily deployed from another base in the region that is closed for routine runway repairs.

"Our goal is to determine if (Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base) is a viable, multi-modal airport that can support moving personnel and equipment to and from the U.S. Central Command's theater," said Lt. Col. Lee Wingfield, the 621st Contingency Response Element commander. "Our main role while here in Romania will be to facilitate the trans-load of cargo from aircraft to ground-and sea-shipment systems."

The 621st CRW is one of only two contingency response wings in the Air Force and is prepared to deploy at a moment's notice. The CRWs combine unique skill sets with the ability to tailor teams of mobility Airmen to carry out a variety of missions ranging from humanitarian assistance to air base opening. In this case, the mission required a team of experts knowledgeable in setting up an air base and conducting air mobility operations.

Approximately 50 Airmen assigned to the contingency response element started processing aircraft the moment they arrived and prepared the airfield for follow-on personnel.

"One of the great advantages of (contingency response) forces is that we can arrive on station and immediately start to receive aircraft," Colonel Wingfield said. "We had an inbound aircraft about an hour after we arrived so we went to work straight away integrating with the host base to get the planes off-loaded and aerial port operations established."

The team deployed with air mobility personnel specializing in air transportation, command and control, communications, maintenance and airfield operations.

"Our team is made up of Airmen who are skilled in their particular career fields, but who are also contingency response experts," said Maj. Matthew Schnell, the contingency response element director of operations. "We train in various disciplines in order to augment each other and increase cross-functionality so we are ready when a mission like this is tasked."

Contingency response element Airmen expect to process aircraft loaded with cargo and personnel essential to Operation Enduring Freedom daily. American forces from bases in the U.S. and overseas will join the contingency response element over the next week to continue with the evaluation.

According to USTRANSCOM, if the test does not reveal any major problems, the program here could become permanent and expand to make Mihail Kogalniceanu AB a major logistics hub for the U.S. and its allies.