Reservists support air bridge

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Lance Patterson
  • Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs
More than half of Air Force Reserve Command's 10,000 mobilized reservists are helping to move troops, equipment and cargo to the Middle East as America prepares for possible war with Iraq.

But every aspect of the Reserves is being used to support Operation Enduring Freedom, according to Lt. Col. John Metz, chief of the war and mobilizations plans branch at the command's headquarters here.

"Air Force Reserve Command provides mission-capable assets and personnel to meet warfighter mission objectives by supporting gaining major commands," Metz said. "Orders for reservists are cut for a year; however, there is an option for the secretary of defense to extend those orders an additional year.

"Everyone from personnelists, services, maintenance, security forces, medical, special forces, cargo and civil engineering units are being utilized," he said. "No Air Force specialty code is out of reach to be called to active duty and mobilized at this point."

Reservists from every major AFRC unit have been activated to support the war on terrorism. Seventy percent of Air Force reservists are sent to work under Air Mobility Command, and AMC officials oversee the staging points for receiving cargo and people.

A long-anticipated message from AMC officials came in early February announcing a surge of aircraft to land at Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass. During the Gulf War, the base was also a beehive of activity with aerial porters loading C-5 Galaxys with equipment and troops in desert camouflage filling the passenger terminal.

"An air bridge is a tremendous job for everyone involved," said Brig. Gen. Martin M. Mazick, commander of Westover's 439th Airlift Wing. "To be a success, everyone has to pitch in together. That's what is happening here. People know that what they are doing is important. Everyone is coming together."

AMC planners at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., are channeling aircraft through Westover. Typically, planes arrive at Westover and are on the ground for four hours for maintenance inspections and refueling.

Besides Westover, 10 Reserve units have hundreds of reservists mobilized to support the air bridge. These include C-5 crews from the 512th AW at Dover AFB, Del.; 433rd AW at Lackland AFB, Texas; and 349th Air Mobility Wing at Travis AFB, Calif. It also includes C-17 Globemaster III crews from the 315th AW at Charleston AFB, S.C., and 446th AW at McChord AFB, Wash.

Reserve units with C-141 Starlifters are also flying long-range missions supporting the efforts. The 445th AW from Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, is the current staging point for Reserve C-141 missions supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and the global war on terrorism. The operation involves more than 20 aircraft and dozens of crews from Wright-Patterson, the 459th AW at Andrews AFB, Md., and the 452nd AMW from March Air Reserve Base, Calif.

"Westover acts as an air bridge," Metz said. "After aircraft leave the base, the air bridge continues basically as a group of tankers or 'flying gas stations' in the Atlantic .... We're using the KC-10 (Extenders) and KC-135 (Statotankers) for refueling purposes."

KC-135 crews from the 434th Air Refueling Wing at Grissom ARB, Ind., and March's 452nd AMW; and KC-10 crews from the 514th AMW at McGuire AFB, N.J., and Travis' 349th AMW have been mobilized.

Two units that have been called upon before to support Operation Enduring Freedom are the 920th Rescue Group from Patrick AFB, Fla., and the 917th Wing from Barksdale AFB, La. The 920th RQG flies combat search and rescue missions on HC-130 refueling aircraft and HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters, and the 917th Wing is equipped with B-52 Stratofortress bombers and A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support aircraft. Both units recently had 100 more reservists activated to support the war on terror.

"We have prepared for this challenge," said Col. Timothy Tarchick, 920th RQG commander. "Once again, our troops are ready to answer the call of duty -- to go wherever we are needed and do whatever is necessary to get our mission done."

Other units with more than a hundred reservists called to active duty include the following:

-- A-10s from the 442nd Fighter Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo.

-- C-130 Hercules from the 94th AW at Dobbins ARB, Ga.; 440th AW at Gen. Mitchell International Airport Air Reserve Station, Wis.; and 910th AW at Youngstown ARS, Ohio.

-- E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft from the 513th Air Control Group at Tinker AFB, Okla.

-- F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 482nd Fighter Wing at Homestead ARB, Fla.

-- HH-60s from the 305th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.

-- MC-130s from the 919th Special Operations Wing at Eglin AFB Field 3, Fla. (Courtesy of AFRC News Service)