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NEWS | Sept. 24, 2009

Airlift mission: from the top down

By Staff Sgt. Daniel Bowles 437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Global strategic airlift, air drop, humanitarian aid, aeromedical evacuation and the War on Terror.

The words are household terminology for those in the 437th Airlift Wing, but what about the name "U.S. Transportation Command?"

As one of the 10 combatant commands under the Department of Defense, commanded by Gen. Duncan McNabb, the name is of particular importance in the DOD's Unified Command Plan, a classified document which establishes the combatant commands, identifies areas of responsibility, assigns primary tasks and defines authority of each combatant commander answering directly to the Secretary of Defense.

Ask the question to group of fresh-faced Airmen at the First Term Airmen Center here, and it may be followed with a few sharply raised hands, but a few raised brows as well.

"I heard about it at the Commander's Call this morning, but I don't remember everything," said Airman Paul Pearson, a measurement and diagnostic equipment apprentice with the 437th Maintenance Squadron.

Despite current mixed familiarity, the new Charleston Airmen will be all too well acquainted with the mission of USTRANSCOM firsthand, sooner, rather than later.

Every Airman will have a crucial role in Charleston AFB's support of the USTRANSCOM mission, said Col. Scott Shapiro, 437th Operations Group deputy commander.

After all, support is precisely what USTRANSCOM was founded on, he said.

"[One] reason USTRANSCOM came into being and what makes it so important is there is not enough airlift, or just lift in general, to support all the supported commands," Colonel Shapiro said. "European Command has a huge thirst for lift. Central Command ... humongous. Pacific Command ... humongous. They all want lift."

How USTRANSCOM addresses the need is by managing all DOD air, land and sea transportation assets, many times in combination. The three-dimensional mobility force provides solutions for the nine other combatant commands, which include all branches of the military. 

The Charleston AFB connection to USTRANSCOM is formed by the chain of command through 18th Air Force, commanded by Lt. Gen. Robert Allardice, and Air Mobility Command, commanded by Gen. Arthur Lichte - one of USTRANSCOM's three component commands.

To execute combatant command objectives, AMC provides strategic and tactical airlift, air refueling, and aeromedical evacuation services for deploying, sustaining and redeploying U.S. forces wherever they are needed.

USTRANSCOM's two other component commands include the Navy's Military Sealift Command, Washington; and the Army's Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, Alexandria, Va.

Charleston Airmen along with USTRANSCOM's force of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, DOD civilians and commercial partners accomplish a wide array of joint mobility missions.

"Charleston AFB has a very unique role in USTRANSCOM's overall mission. Charleston's Airmen are at the pointy edge of the global mobility spear in that we execute USTRANSCOM's and AMC's highest priority missions, and we do so on a daily basis," said Maj. Adam Tufts, chief of Standardization and Evaluation with the 14th Airlift Squadron.

During an average week, USTRANSCOM conducts more than 1,900 air missions, with more than 25 ships underway and more than 10,000 ground shipments operating in 75 percent of the world's countries.

"C-17s can move virtually anything to anywhere in the world and, with the help of our air refueling brethren, we can get it there faster than any other organization in the world. The men and women of Charleston AFB provide USTRANSCOM a very powerful weapon, and we are at the forefront of the rapid global mobility arsenal," said Major Tufts.

"Every one of us should be very proud of what we do and how important each of us is to USTRANSCOM's mission."