JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Throughout the last 10 years, the C-17 community has seen many changes to its deployment schedule and the pattern continues. The departure of crews from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., on July 29, 2015 ushered in a new way to successfully deploy in support of combat operations.
Currently, the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron is comprised of members from nine out of 10 active duty Air Mobility Command C-17 squadrons.
In 2006, the 17th Airlift Squadron assigned to JB Charleston revolutionized the way C-17 squadrons deployed to support combat operations. They were the first squadron to deploy under the two-EAS system. This meant an entire flying squadron would deploy as a unit for a 120 days.
According to Lt. Col. Sam Todd, 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander, prior to the two-EAS system, one squadron would deploy to the area of responsibility and their primary function would be to "conduct ground duties managing the planning, scheduling and support functions allowing stage-crews from other squadrons to fly the missions. We used one organic squadron to enable the remaining squadrons to provide flight crews to accomplish the mission.
Typically one squadron deployed for around 90 days and the stage crews would be TDY for less than a month," said Todd. "Now, [under the new system] our EAS will use flying crews from each AMC C-17 squadron to accomplish both flying the missions and conducting squadron support duties over their two and-a-half to four month deployment."
Todd, who took over as 816th EAS commander on July 2, 2015 is excited about the new deployment construct and what it brings to the C-17 community.
"This change offers the chance to integrate our C-17 community in a completely new way," he said. "As we do this, we will gain expertise and commonalities to further improve C-17 operations and advance our employment capabilities. Our team is designed quite differently and I look forward to the cross-talk and conversations that we will have--relationships across our community will be strengthened."
Until this most recent deployment cycle, the two-EAS concept was how flying squadrons in the AMC C-17 community deployed. But what does this new deployment construct mean for commanders back at their home stations who now have to find a balance between providing crews to support both combat operations and higher headquarters tasking's?
"This new construct will allow the aircrew and the squadrons a great deal of flexibility as they satisfy their portion of the EAS manning on a continual basis," said Todd. "Any given Charleston squadron will have an ongoing deployment contribution to make, which will be predictable at the squadron level. The squadron can plan for the right aircrew to deploy at the right time, allowing everyone the opportunity to schedule according to significant life events, training and progression requirements as well as other activities that sustain our Airmen and squadrons."
Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Farrell, 16th Airlift Squadron commander at Joint Base Charleston echoed Todd's sentiments.
"Now we're receiving credit against the normal number of crews we have operating in the system for the deployed crews," said Farrell. "As long as that construct remains, we'll be able to support the deployment with minimal impact to the squadron, although it does mean less crews flying traditional mission sets."
The new deployment construct will also take some getting used to by the families left behind during deployments. However, Farrell believes this will lead to those families being better supported.
"In some ways, we're better able to support the families of deployed members because it's a much smaller number," he said. "As a result, there are more members and spouses with the bandwidth to provide support and outreach. What we lose is the camaraderie of all of the spouses being in the same situation at the same time but I hope the additional support mitigates that aspect of it."
Todd also feels this deployment schedule will benefit the families as well.
"Communication and expectation management are key, especially when we are dealing with the families who serve alongside our Airmen," he said. "I haven't seen any studies that determine if this new EAS construct results in more time at home but, if we can offer some additional stability and negotiate timelines to include the consideration of important family events, I think this is valuable."