CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. –
When Team Charleston aircrews depart the base, how do they know what their scheduled takeoff time is? How do they know what cargo they'll be taking? How do they know where and when the KC-10 will meet them over the Atlantic for refueling?
They know these things, and much more about their mission, because the Airmen and civilians of the 437th Operations Support Squadron Current Operations provide it.
"Our mission is to coordinate and plan all C-17 flight operations for the 437th and 315th Airlift Wings," said Capt. Jim Mach, 437 OSS chief of current operations.
To accomplish this mission, Current Operations staff members bring together information from dozens of different units, agencies and even governments from around the world.
Deconflicting aerial refueling tracks, acquiring diplomatic clearances to fly over or land in foreign countries and coordinating with aerial ports across the nation to get the right cargo on the right plane at the right time are all in a day's work for Current Ops.
Current Operations receives regular mission requirements from the Tanker/Airlift Control Center. They match available crews with aircraft and plan each mission.
Sometimes it will be a standard channel mission resupplying warfighters downrange; other times a special operation mission or contingency mission.
Also, all training missions are generated by current operations. They work closely with the 437 OSS Training Flight to create missions to fulfill the training needs for aircrews.
The air operation specialists who work on training missions are called "training bookies" because they spend so much time on the phone organizing missions. One of their big jobs is handling North Auxiliary Field. They schedule training time for Charleston aircrews at the training air field and also work with the Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force Special Operations Command, the Air National Guard and other military units for their use of the field.
Current Operations also handles planning for air shows that Charleston AFB sends a C-17 to, all incentive and orientation flights, distinguished visitor flights, humanitarian relief missions and even plans flights supporting President Bush.
Recently, the commander-in-chief visited five South American countries. The 437th Airlift Wing provided airlift support throughout his trip with all flights planned by the Current Operations Flight.
"If you're looking for the one location where all C-17 missions begin, this is it," said Captain Mach.
The flight keeps all this information current with other base agencies by holding a daily air order of the day meeting. The AOD brings together the active duty and reserve flying squadrons, the 437th Maintenance Group, the 437th Aerial Port Squadron and the 437 OSS Combat Tactics Flight and Training Flight. The purpose of the meeting is to finalize the mission schedule for three days.
Before Sept. 11, Current Operations was staffed primarily by pilots who would work on planning flights one week and then be out flying them the next. When the Global War on Terrorism began, the 437 OSS needed a staff to coordinate missions who would provide stability.
"Our job couldn't be done without the civilian retiree employees we have," said Captain Mach referring to the retired loadmasters and flight engineers who now work in current ops. "The continuity they provide is what makes this office run so smoothly."