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Airmen work in concert to execute rapid global mobility

A KC-135 Stratotanker sits on the flightline at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., as the sun sets over St. Petersburg, Fla., Jan. 12, 2016. The 16 KC-135s currently assigned to MacDill AFB provide aerial refueling to nine combatant commands. (U.S. Air force photo/Airman 1st Class Mariette M. Adams)

A KC-135 Stratotanker sits on the flightline at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., as the sun sets over St. Petersburg, Fla., Jan. 12, 2016. The 16 KC-135s currently assigned to MacDill AFB provide aerial refueling to nine combatant commands. (U.S. Air force photo/Airman 1st Class Mariette M. Adams)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- It's been raining sideways for hours since he arrived for work on the flightline at 6 a.m.

Staff Sgt. Justin Worcester ignores his drenched uniform and plows ahead while inspecting every inch of the 53-year-old KC-135 Stratotanker, because he's a crew chief. His name is on it.

"We put everything on the line when we sign our name off," Worcester said. "The aircrew is trusting us to make sure this aircraft is safe to fly."

Airmen like Worcester defend their country by making sure the U.S. can quickly move people and equipment around the world at a moment's notice. This is executing rapid global mobility, Air Mobility Command's top priority.

Time can save lives in a humanitarian crisis. Alternately, surprise is a principle of war. Whether a KC-135 is creating an air bridge for a 32-hour bomber mission or a C-17 Globemaster III is air dropping pallets of food to earthquake victims, the U.S. can move a large force in a matter of hours, not days.

This is made possible by Worcester and a team of approximately 126,000 other mobility Airmen.

The best checklist

"Teamwork's crucial," said Worcester, who is assigned to the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

"If I come out here to do a tire change with a couple of Airmen, I expect them to have the knowledge of what to do, what tools they might need," he added. "If we come out here to do an inspection on the aircraft, I expect my other team members to know what they're looking for."

From the latest corporate knowledge in Worcester's checklists to his headset and gloves, AMC leaders make sure he has what he needs to do his job.

"Executing rapid global mobility is about moving missions, and 18th Air Force has the operational lead on that," said Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, the AMC commander. "But in order to move, you have to have a sufficiently organized, trained and equipped force."

Maintaining a sufficient force to execute rapid global mobility can be challenging with fewer personnel and older aircraft than ever before, but AMC works daily toward that goal. Due to its size, the Mobility Air Forces need to be more agile, or flexible and responsive, according to the 2015 Mobility Air Forces Strategic Vision.

Right time, right place

Aging tankers require excellent maintenance to be flexible and responsive. Back on the wet Florida flightline, Worcester inspects a KC-135 that was built in 1963. It has responded to conflicts around the world since the Vietnam War.

He walks under the wing and taps his knuckles all over the gray metal, making hollow sounds.

"You want to hit the diffuser here, because if mounted screws are broken, you'll hear a little jingle," he said. All screws were intact.

The aircraft spent most of last year at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom's Sentinel. The Airmen who deployed it to Al Udeid AB work at 18th Air Force, AMC's component numbered air force and the largest of its kind in the world.

Combined with the 618th Air Operations Center, the 18th Air Force executes assigned missions through the employment of airlift, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation, and tailored global air mobility support systems. It provides geographical combatant commanders a seamless and synchronized logistical capability to execute their mission.

"We turn the conceptual into air power," Lt. Gen. Samuel Cox, the 18th AF commander, said in a recent interview with The Mobility Forum. "Together, the pieces of the air mobility machine merge under the 18th Air Force umbrella to execute AMC's priority to execute rapid global mobility.”

To deploy forces effectively, the 18th Air Force commander entrusts tactical execution with the Airmen at the 618th Air Operations Center. Around the clock, they manage the complex sphere of theater clearances, flight planning, mission planning, weather and much more.

They make sure air mobility forces arrive on time in the right place for successful hand-off to overseas commanders.

In Airmen's hands

With every hand off of a KC-135 to an aircrew, Worcester said he gets a sense of satisfaction.

The rain is gone, but wind still whips his hair as he watches the KC-135's engines roar to life. He removes the yellow wooden chocks near the landing gear, checks panels near the flight deck, runs out of the way, turns and gives the pilot a thumbs-up as the plane rolls forward.

"We have a lot of pride when we've been out here all night; and, right before we leave in the morning, the jet that we've been working on 10 hours taxies out and we get to watch it take off," Worcester said.

"The landing gear goes up, and you know that plane made it and is going to come back safe,” he added. "If there were no crew chiefs, then the plane wouldn't get up off the ground.”

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