JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
One of the most stressful tasks for any squadron is preparing for a combat deployment. For the 16th Airlift Squadron, 437th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., this task was complicated as Air Mobility Command shortened deployment cycles, moving the deployment two months ahead of schedule.
With the help of numerous agencies from the 437th AW and 628th Air Base Wing, the 16th AS was able to deploy this past April to locations in Southwest Asia and is now assigned to the 816th Air Expeditionary Squadron providing combat airlift and airdrop in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
A remarkable effort was given from all members of Team Charleston to prepare the squadron. Members of the 16th AS operations and training flights worked together with contractors from L3 Communications and the 437th AW Training Office in the 437th Operations Support Squadron to ensure flying currency for each of the 114 deploying aircrew would be current and proficient throughout the deployment. The shortened deployment length would also remove any training waivers, presenting quite a challenge for each crewmember to stay current.
"Part of the difficulty changing from a 120 to a 60-day deployment was that all of the required quarterly currency, normally accomplished over a three month period, would have to be completed in only one month," said 1st Lt. Zachary White, from the 16th AS Training Flight.
Working in conjunction with the operations flight, the training flight helped develop a plan to maximize the use the local flight and simulator training available to ensure full combat proficiency for all deploying members.
To prepare the aircrew for the rigors of combat flying, the 16th AS Tactics Shop came up with flight profiles based on actual combat missions for simulator training. In addition to accomplishing emergency procedures and quarterly currency items, each squadron member took a portion of their allotted simulator time to train to fly in the austere operational environments they would soon face. The flight profiles used actual missions from deployed locations to simulate the difficulties of airfields in Afghanistan, communication with tactical controllers, combat operations in poor weather conditions, and combat airdrops.
"The intent of these profiles was to enable the crews to step right into their deployed location and be immediately familiar with the required procedures and operations," said Capt. Jim McCormick, 16th AS chief of tactics.
The final piece to the deployment preparation was the deployment line. With a little innovation from Capt. C.J. Burdon, 16th AS Readiness Flight commander, and help from all base agencies, the 16th AS streamlined the deployment line. Burdon refined the process by bringing the base agencies to the squadron, to both sign the member's deployment checklist, and brief pertinent information during the same visit.
"Such a drastic process change is only worth undertaking if it benefits every agency involved," said Burdon. "The bridges we've built with our base agencies while organizing for this deployment have gone a long way toward instilling an attitude of partnership and process improvement."
The new process condensed the deployment line from four hours to two and a half. It also reduced the mobility folder discrepancies by 66 percent from the previous deployment.
Although the 16th AS is just beginning their deployment, it has already started off on the right foot. The entire squadron was able to complete all the items for deployment while facing a shortened preparation cycle, a reduced number of available training lines, and an increasing number of requirements. Through the entire process, the ingenuity and forethought of the members of the 16th AS led the way in creating a new model for the 437th AW to follow.