Mobility Forces Busy Supporting War on Terrorism
“Since Sept. 11, USTRANSCOM and Air Mobility Command have been on a high pace of operations for an incredible period of time,” said Handy, also commander, AMC. “No matter who you are, or what your job title is, you are more engaged today because of the war on terrorism.
“When our people are deployed, they are never sure when they might be coming home, and when they get home, they don’t know how long they will be home until the next thing happens, calling them back to duty,” said Handy. “This applies to everyone in our commands. We could not do this without the support of our families.”
“As I look to the future, the pace of operations doesn’t cease. I remain very concerned about the welfare of our team,” he said. “It’s not the C-17s and KC-10s we are concerned about, it’s the people. Sustaining this fight is a remarkable challenge to us all. There is no easy answer.”
From a USTRANSCOM perspective, the command plans to divert as much as possible into sealift so that our organic sealift fleet can transport much more of the cargo and equipment. Each one of those ships carries anywhere from 300 to 350 C-17 equivalent loads, making this mode of lift extremely efficient and cost effective.
“We are working with the U.S. Central Command staff to plan at least 50 days in advance of deployments to allow us to load large volumes of equipment via sealift, thus, saving airlift for the more critical items,” Handy said. “This is a huge boost in our ability to deploy forward. We have been able to do that into the Port of Karachi, Pakistan. There is a lot of capability that we have reserved for our airlift and tankers by using sealift.”
For example, everyone remembers the 2.4 million humanitarian daily rations that were dropped in Afghanistan by airlift. Aside from the purchase price of the HDRs, delivering them by airlift cost $7.34 for each HDR, just in transportation costs. If the HDRs had been shipped by sea, then used ground transportation from there, it would have cost 15 cents per HDR.
“We’ve achieved a greater balance between airlift and sealift,” the general said. “One reason that this is so important is the impact this has on our people in AMC -- especially aircrews and support personnel. It depresses the operations tempo for our mobility fleet to the extent that if you go to McChord AFB, Fairchild AFB or Charleston AFB, you will see a lot more aircraft parked on the ramps, which means a lot more people are able to recover and recuperate.”
Handy said the operations tempo level is not yet down to ‘normal,’ and that the commands are still in a higher surge level than before 9/11 of a year ago.
As the single manager of America’s Defense Transportation System, USTRANSCOM coordinates the aircraft, ships, trains and trucks that allow America to project power and sustain forces worldwide, for as long as they are needed.