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COMMENTARY: People are at the heart of accolades for AMC

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (USTCNS) --- Each day I'm impressed with the tremendous number of accolades I hear for the work of U.S. Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command. There have been countless stories on television and in newspapers and trade magazines on the accomplishments of our airlifters and tankers.

As wonderful as this is, the most important aspect of our success in Air Mobility Command is often overlooked. The focus shouldn't be on the aircraft, the "cold steel" that so often gets the limelight in the news. I want the world to understand the depth and breadth of the efforts by you, the airmen, NCOs, young officers, as well as senior officers and decision makers who pull together as an unrivaled professional team. You are responsible for the accolades.

I was recently at a White House luncheon sitting with a member of National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleeza Rice's staff. We talked about the impact of AMC on the Global War on Terrorism. The recognition of the significance of what we in AMC were able to do certainly gave me a sense of awe and made my chest swell with pride. I've talked face to face with U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Tommy Franks before he retired, about the value of AMC. You know, we never let him down! We never failed to support his efforts.

I've talked with the current commander, Gen. John Abizaid, and heard his perceptions as the deputy commander (forward) for Combined Forces Command for CENTCOM during the conflict. He has accolades for what our command does. Truly, I am overwhelmed with compliments -- and I can't adequately convey the deep admiration and gratitude I hear in the words from our admirers every single day.

It's healthy for all of us - active duty, Guard, Reserve, civilian and our families - to step back and look at what we've done together. Success is not just measured by the tons of cargo, numbers of troops or gallons of gas we've brought to the battle. We know these are remarkable numbers.

Success is measured by the dedication of our security forces at the main gates, guarding the perimeter and flight line through rain, sleet, heat and snow from Force Protection Condition Bravo through Delta. It's the X-ray tech at the hospital or dental clinic, the chaplain, the food services workers, the maintainers, everyone and their families who are part of our team.

When you see a C-5 or C-17 land at Baghdad International Airport, it's a team effort that brings that aircraft in. That's the full story. In addition to great aircraft and talented aircrews, someone had to get the airplane fixed, fueled, loaded and ready to take care of the people on board. Somebody had to pay the travel vouchers or maintain the records. It's all of us together.

It's a total team effort from office to aircraft, kitchen to flight line. It's our civilian workers who are our "Rocks of Gibraltar." The military rotate in and out, but the civilians give us stability, the touchstones for tough questions. They are quick to tell us what works or doesn't, and have a calming affect on raging waters.

It's our Guard and Reserve teammates, who hold the vast majority of our command's capabilities. As an active duty commander, I am actually a minority stockholder in AMC. The Guard and Reserve give us instant capabilities equal or greater than active duty capabilities. They are ready, as ready as anyone, to execute our mission, and it's not just the aircrews. It's the total Expeditionary Combat Support package. We are blessed to have them on our team.

Our total force team has enabled us to succeed at what I consider the most important accomplishments since the Global War on Terrorism began - airlift and air refueling into Afghanistan and Iraq. It wasn't until we were well into the conflict that we were able to open seaports and landlines of communication into Afghanistan, a totally landlocked country. Using night vision equipment under a blanket of darkness, we brought forces into Southern Afghanistan and airdropped soldiers to open Iraq's northern front. Both Afghanistan and Iraq were air mobility wars. And every single flight into these areas of operation needed some kind of air refueling - fighters, bombers, lifters and even other tankers needed air refueling. Navy carrier-based fighters need dramatic air refueling to get them the "legs" they needed.

Another essentially untold story is aeromedical evacuation. We've transported more than 11,000 patients, about 1,500 of them wounded in battle. Without missing a beat, for every patient in our care, we provided incredible medical capability on the ground up close to the battle, all the way through the AE system, to safe and secure hospitals for continued treatment. It's a remarkable story that continues today.

If you look at the total of air refueling, airlift and aeromedical evacuation, no command has ever done what we do together in prosecuting the Global War on Terrorism. It's the number one history-making air mobility accomplishment of all time.

And while we continue to make history, I am concerned about the impact of our high operations tempo, not only on our people, but also on our families. I will do all I can to mitigate that impact. We will continue our mission, but if we can find an opportunity for rest, recuperation and recovery, the time to take a breath, we will do that.

I know you are tired and stressed. Your families are tired, and they want you home with them. But they also have a deep appreciation for the job on our hands. We will remember Sept. 11, 2001, and we will remember all the occasions Americans have died on behalf of our great country.

This is not a never-ending story or a never-ending battle. This is air mobility. We will continue to raise the bar, to get better, more efficient and effective. We won't rest on our laurels. We'll continue to acquire more aircraft and to refresh our fleet. We will continue to work to get the right people in the right places to do the job we need to do.

We will get there, we will prevail. Americans are tough people. Air mobility people are tough people. Your spirit, your dedication are awe-inspiring. I am proud to be your commander.
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