TRANSCOM commander visits Air Mobility Warfare Center

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Paula A. Paige
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
Saying he was impressed by the remarkable people and their wide-ranging missions, the commander of the U.S. Transportation Command wrapped up a two-day tour Dec. 14 of units at McGuire Air Force Base, nearby Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, the Air Mobility Warfare Center here, as well as some of the center's operations farther afield.

Gen. Norton A. Schwartz traveled across the South Jersey Pine Barrens on his first official visit to the region since taking the reins as the TRANSCOM leader more than a year ago.

For General Schwartz, who oversees more than 155,000 people and more than $50 billion in assets, the visit was a chance to get a microscopic view of the some of the assets employed by the command, which provides air, land and sea transportation for the Department of Defense.

"He's the first combatant commander to visit the organization during my tenure," said Maj. Gen. David S. Gray, who runs the Air Mobility Warfare Center, the Air Mobility Command's institution for Airmen's advanced education, training and testing. "We were able to show off what we do to support him, and we were able to highlight our people and the great things they have been doing."

Beyond show and tell, however, the transportation commander's visit had broader significance.

"We were able to discuss future opportunities for joint and coalition training that should save manpower and dollars and provide better trained warriors to the warfighter," General Gray said. "I'm hoping he has a better awareness of what a diverse and dynamic organization the Air Mobility Warfare Center is. If expeditionary combat support is involved, we are involved in the training."

The Warfare Center's commander also got feedback on the Joint Precision Airdrop System, the system that uses almost-pinpoint accuracy to drop cargo bundles from airplanes at altitudes up to 25,000 feet. The Warfare Center is the lead agency for accelerated development and fielding of the system.

"We should be able to apply the same concept of precision that we have for attack missions to airdrops," General Schwartz said. "What it means is that airplanes and aircrew will be less vulnerable. It means troops on the ground will be less vulnerable, in terms of recovering the material that is dropped. It means we'll have fewer lost articles dropped and damaged. At the moment, we're seeing accuracy within 150 to 200 meters; in the end we'll see less than a hundred meters. For an old guy who started out doing this over 30 years ago, that's pretty remarkable."

Of particular interest to Maj. Gen. Kathleen M. Gainey, commanding general of the Army's Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command based in Alexandria, Va., were the briefings and discussions on Joint Task Force Port Opening. JTF-PO is a TRANSCOM initiative to rapidly establish an initial theater aerial port of debarkation combining both Air Force and Army expertise to aid deployment and distribution operations supporting military contingencies, humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations, such as the 2004 tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.

"The bottom line is there are relatively few places we will go that we won't go by air," General Schwartz said of the new program. "Who knows where the next contingency will occur, where the next earthquake will occur; where's the next typhoon, where's the next terrorist attack? Undoubtedly, there will be a piece of concrete. We will find it, we will get there and we will open up a distribution node that is quickly operational."

While he was clearly impressed with the mission of McGuire AFB and its Army and Navy partners, calling them pioneers and a powerful combination of forces, it was the people the general said he'll remember most.

"The lieutenant colonel (Lisa Richter) who ran Eagle Flag, what an inspirational leader she is," General Schwartz said, as he reflected on his visit to NAS Lakehurst after observing Eagle Flag, an exercise that tests Airmen's combat expeditionary skills. "The two NCOs involved in the training at Eagle Flag: very impressive."

He praised Tech. Sgt. Vandiver Hood, telling the recent Bronze Star recipient that his work identifying and disabling explosive devices, "takes not a trivial amount of courage to do what you do."

"It was much more comprehensive than I imagined," General Schwartz said at the end of his tour of Eagle Flag. "Not that long ago, you wouldn't expect to see public affairs, an attorney, and some of those other folks in an expeditionary world. How far we've come. What remarkable people. You have to be thrilled with their passion and professionalism."

The rank and file had warm words for the general.

"It was a really rewarding feeling, a privilege, to look him in the eye and shake his hand," said Airman 1st Class Amy Tilbury, a C-5 Galazy and C-17 Globemaster III crew chief from the 573rd Global Support Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. The Airman had been participating in Eagle Flag for eight days, working the night shift, and said this was her first time seeing sunlight for days.

"After all the work we've done out here, it means a lot that he took the time to come see us and what we are doing," Airman Tilbury said.

For others, the transportation commander's presence at the exercise was fraught with more than just the heightened tension of being in the presence of general officers.

"His visit really speaks to the magnitude of this exercise when a four star comes out here to see what we are doing," said Senior Airman Daniel Griffin with the 735th Civil Engineer Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

"His visit really put it into perspective why we are out here," said Staff Sgt. Matt Lauzon from the 431st Civil Engineer Squadron at Ramstein AB, a participant in Eagle Flag who was playing the role of a Muslim villager in the imaginary village of Chimera. "We can see the significance of the training and the realism of having to interact with the local nations."

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