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AMC leaders describe significance of CRWs

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SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, ILL. (USTCNS) --- According to the commander of Air Mobility Command, the recent standup of Contingency Response Wings at McGuire AFB, N.J., and Travis AFB, Calif., will help shape and manage AMC's contributions to the nation's future warfighting capabilities.

Gen. John W. Handy, commander of AMC and U.S. Transportation Command, said, "With the ever-increasing expeditionary nature of modern warfare, Air Mobility Command must be organized to quickly and effectively open airfields and conduct continuous air mobility operations anywhere in the world. The CRWs and their assigned forces will serve as the rapid response force that is critical to our success in today's very challenging international environment."

AMC stood up its first CRW March 1 at McGuire AFB. On April 11, a second CRW was activated on the West Coast at Travis AFB.

Each CRW is comprised of three Contingency Response Groups, or CRGs. As of April 22, AMC has stood up two CRGs at McGuire, and one CRG at Travis.

AMC officials say the CRW/CRG construct was developed from lessons learned during Operation Iraqi Freedom. During OIF, the Air Force relied on a variety of air-base-opening capabilities, including Global Assessment Teams, Tanker Airlift Control Elements, Air Mobility Elements, mission support teams, special tactics units, and others.

"During OIF, when a person who wasn't familiar with the mobility world asked for an air-base-opening capability, I'm not sure they really knew what they were going to get," said Lt. Gen. William Welser III, 18th Air Force commander. "There is no doubt that based on our air-base-opening experiences in Northern Iraq, we determined that we needed a specific force that could apply our [base-opening] capabilities in a certain way and that we needed to standardize that capability. And that's what we've done with the new Contingency Response Group construct."

General Welser said the CRW/CRG construct is an evolution of AMC's warfighting mission; an evolution that took a giant step forward with the creation of 18th AF on Oct. 1, 2003.

"Taking the command's combat forces and putting them under a single warfighter has allowed 18th Air Force to go in and standardize our practices, which has made us more efficient and, more importantly, more effective," the general said. "The CRG construct is one more opportunity to fine tune something that worked in the past, but was sometimes confusing to those unfamiliar with global mobility operations."

Colonel Frederick "Rick" H. Martin, now the 62nd Airlift Wing vice commander at McChord AFB, Wash., was selected to command one of four Global Assessment Teams formed prior to operations in Northern Iraq.

During an August 2003 interview with the AMC Office of History, the colonel said, "As we organize, train and equip our assessment teams for the future, each of these teams needs to be capable of satisfying the full spectrum of potential operational requirements."

According to AMC leaders, the CRW/CRG construct is the answer.

Each CRG is individually packaged with all the necessary components capable of opening and operating a fully functional air base anywhere on the globe.

"When the warfighter calls and says I need to move this type of aircraft, from this area, under these conditions, and at this time of the day, we will take those conditions and translate them into a package to accomplish that mission," said Col. John R. Ranck Jr., commander of the 621st CRW at McGuire AFB. "It's mobility control and mobility support to the warfighter."

The colonel said with the standup of the CRWs at Travis and McGuire, AMC is writing history.

"AMC is now the lead command responsible for defining and redefining the baseline open-the-air-base capability," he said. "It gives lead command responsibility to someone who wants the mission and can dedicate the manpower and training. This is historic. It's the first time we've made one person responsible for this capability."

General Welser added that the activation of CRWs at Travis and McGuire is not only historic, but clearly signals AMC's resolve to posture its mobility forces for rapid base-opening operations anywhere in the world.

"In today's dynamic environment, the ability to gain a foothold wherever there is a runway and almost immediately build up a military capability is critical for our Air Force and our nation. Contingency Response Groups are the units of action for this capability," added the general.

Although the Air Force chief of staff named AMC as the lead command responsible for defining and redefining the Air Force's base-opening capability, U.S Air Forces in Europe and Pacific Air Forces will each own a single CRG. General Welser said any one of the CRGs can do the job. "If you wanted to, you could open an air base with a PACAF CRG, a USAFE CRG or an AMC CRG," he said.

The general said combatant commanders gain the most from the new CRW/CRG construct. He said CRGs will further enhance global mobility operations whenever and wherever needed, with speed and precision.

"As combatant commanders uncover and seize new airfields, they will know they have the ability to open an air base quickly, which greatly enhances their options," said General Welser.

Colonel Ranck said CRGs have the ability to quickly secure, control and build an area in the manner necessary to ensure follow-on forces can come in and build the air base. "How long the CRG is there depends on the complexity of the operation and the sophistication of the area we're falling in on," he said.

Each CRG has two squadrons: a Global Mobility Squadron and a Global Mobility Readiness Squadron. The GMS possesses the command and control, aerial port, and maintenance skill sets, and the GMRS possesses air traffic control, security forces, and other critical enablers. AMC leaders said the combination of skill sets within these two squadrons creates the powerful synergy of a CRG.

Although the mission of the CRWs is similar to that of the Air Mobility Operations Groups they replaced at McGuire and Travis, AMC leaders emphasized that the change from AMOGs to CRWs is not a simple re-designation or re-naming, but rather a standup of an entirely new Air Force capability.

"[The CRW/CRG construct] is the first of its kind in the United States Air Force," said General Welser. "People in our Air Force should be very proud of themselves. You have a lot of people out there who are writing history, and you have a lot of people reading history. With the standup of the CRWs and CRGs, Air Mobility Command and our partners in USAFE and PACAF are making history. This is tomorrow's Air Force today."

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