Business Leaders Learn About Air Force Mission in Southwest Asia
By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
SOUTHWEST ASIA, April 29, 2007 Participants of the Defense Department’s Joint Civilian Orientation Conference yesterday met some of the men and women of U.S. Central Command Air Forces who serve here as “guardian angels” for troops deployed to this region.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Shugg told the group of 45 business and civic leaders, who were on a whirlwind tour of the Central Command area of responsibility, that the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing has planes in air around the clock to support operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Horn of Africa.
The expeditionary wing includes more than 8,000 active duty, Guard and Reserve members, as well as joint and coalition forces, and more than nine different Air Force airframes. The command has more than 100 different types of aircraft that conduct more than 160 take offs and landings every nine minutes, 24 hours a day, Shugg said.
The unit serves as a hub for humanitarian airlift activities while providing mission-essential combat power, aero-medical evacuation and intelligence support for its three theaters of operations.
Pilots typically conduct eight- to 12-hour-long missions and have conducted 274 raids, 413 shows of force, 1,543 air supply requests and 146 high value target eliminations within the past four months, Shugg said.
More than 319,120 sorties have been flown by the 379th AEW during Operation Iraqi Freedom, while 209,372 have been flown for Operation Enduring Freedom.
The JCOC members had the opportunity to see some of $9 billion worth of equipment and the men and women operating it when they went on a tour of the flight line to see KC-135 air refuelers, C-130 cargo planes, E-BC Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar Systems, RC-135 intelligence system aircraft, and B-1 bombers.
They also met medical teams who man C-130s on emergency missions and the base’s mobile forward surgical team. The C-130 the group toured was prepared for medical evacuations and can assist in getting wounded or sick troops out of the combat zone and to stateside hospitals within 24 hours.
Air Force First Lt. John Shafeshaft, who has served on five deployments with the medical team to the region, said the unit has a very tough mission, but he found it extremely rewarding.
The group also had the opportunity to meet with airmen who conduct safety inspections on aircraft, who perform explosive ordinance disposal and those who build and maintain the wing’s engines.
“It’s nice that people are interested is learning about what we are doing here,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Clint Conrad. “It means a lot that they are willing to come out here and visit us.”
The participants also had the chance to visit the bases’ Combined Air and Space Operations Center where they watched as joint and coalition troops execute the day-to-day air operations for the region.
The $60 billion facility serves as the primary theater command and control facility responsible for orchestrating the air campaign throughout the region. Troops at the center plan, monitor and direct sortie execution, time sensitive targeting, battlefield coordination, theater missile defense and countless other activities.
“What amazed me about the Air Force is the tremendous amount of logistics work that goes on,” said JCOC participant Denis McFarlane, who is the chief executive officer of the Infinitive consulting firm based in McLean, Va. “I am incredibly impressed by the amount of supplies that comes through here.”