NOVEMBER 1, 2016, NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AFNS) – The Air Mobility Command commander showcased the impact of mobility Airmen on current global operations while highlighting ways in which partnership and technology will shape the future, in a presentation during the 48th annual AMC and Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium here, Oct. 29.
In a nod to the symposium’s theme, “Strengthening Our Bonds,” Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, the AMC commander, said sharing relevant information and leveraging the strength of total force and industry partners is critical to the command’s ability to successfully execute airlift, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation and mobility support missions.
Before a packed auditorium with more than 1,600 total force Airmen, family members, and industry partners in attendance, Everhart focused on personal stories that highlight the real-world impact of successful air mobility. He linked those successes to the extensive contributions of Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard members, along with crucial partnerships with civilian industry. Finally, the commander presented AMC’s vision for maintaining air superiority into the future – a vision which will rely heavily on leveraging technology, modernizing the fleet, and gaining efficiencies in maintenance and other processes critical to mission accomplishment.
The Heart of the mission
“Make no mistake: people are our asymmetric advantage,” Everhart said, “and people will lead us to the future.”
The commander illustrated where the true heart of air mobility resides, as he presented the stories of retired Marine Corps Sgt. Carlos Evans and the family of Tech. Sgts. Brianna and Dorian McNab.
Evans was critically wounded in an improvised explosive device attack May 17, 2010. Everhart told the crowd how a total of 22 total force mobility Airmen were directly involved in transporting Evans from the battle field to the theater hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, and then to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to his waiting wife, Rosemary.
Evans lost both legs and one of his hands as a result of the attack, but he survived and has continued to thrive despite years of recovery, follow-on procedures, and being medically retired from active-duty service. Everhart said this was possible due to the diligent en route critical care, timely and necessary communication between aircrew and waiting medical professionals, and professional Airmanship of the aircrew who cared for Evans and delivered him home to his wife and the care of doctors at Walter Reed.
In one of the biggest surprises of the symposium, Everhart brought the four-person aircrew onto the stage. He then paused to gather his emotions before telling the aircrew and those in attendance that Evans was unable to attend the symposium due to some health complications — but he had sent a video recording from his cell phone that very day. As the video played over the audiovisual system, Evans thanked the crew by name in an emotional tribute to those who helped bring him home alive. He stated it would be a goal of his to one day meet the Airmen who helped him, and shake their hands.
Evans’ story brought a standing ovation, but as it turned out, it would not be the only time the crowd stood up to cheer.
Earlier this year, mobility Airmen had to implement an evacuation of military families from Turkey due to increased threat levels in that location. Among the more than 700 people evacuated was Amelia McNab, a preschool-aged girl and her infant brother, Kaison, children of Tech. Sgts. Dorian and Brianna McNab, assigned at the time to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.
Everhart showed a photo of Amelia taken during the evacuation — curled up, asleep on one of AMC’s transport aircraft. He explained how Brianna McNab evacuated with the children while Dorian stayed behind with the mission in Turkey, and how after many hours in transit with an infant and toddler, Brianna was exhausted and struggled to get off the aircraft while holding the baby and pulling luggage. He then displayed the image of Staff Sgt. Jon Akers, a member of the aircrew, who scooped up the little girl, cradled her in his arms, and brought her off the plane.
“Sometimes, it’s those little actions, loving your job and doing it to the absolute best of your ability that makes all the difference,” Everhart said. “What a great story about the dedication of our military families, the challenges they face, and the commitment of Airmen and commercial partners to take care of them!”
And to thunderous applause in another standing ovation, he brought the McNabs on stage and reunited them with the aircrew – including Akers – who brought them home with such care and compassion.
In addition to those personal stories, Everhart spoke about the need for effective communication and evolving partnerships with the Reserve, the Guard, and civilian industry.
Whether it’s an aeromedical, airlift or air refueling mission, the mobility mission isn’t possible without a total force effort, said the commander.
“We all benefit from a long line of senior leaders who nurtured the bond between military and industry to drive innovation and prepare for the future,” said Everhart.
“Today, the Guard and Reserve provide 65 percent of AMC’s capacity,” he continued. “The Civil Reserve Airlift Fleet program partners currently lift 40 percent of all passengers and cargo. So when AMC succeeds, we all succeed, and when AMC’s mission is exposed to risk, we all are exposed to risk.
“Industry, we need your help to make big aircraft less detectable, and to give us a little fire power to get out of dodge when necessary,” the general said. “When we drop supplies in contested airspace, we need the ability to drop in a single pass, accurately, and from all altitudes. When the difference between delivering the package to the good guys or the bad guys is one city block, precision matters.”
Another process that can be improved through collaboration of Airmen communicating their needs with industry partners, is a better information system to increase battle space awareness for aircrews, ground personnel and joint users.
“As we strive to integrate command, control and communications, we have to do it in a way that allows secure sharing with key partners,” the general continued. “Information sharing is not optional, it’s a key to mission success.”
He spoke of a case this year where an aeromedical evacuation crew saved a patient’s life because the aircrew was able to patch in through airborne command and control systems with waiting medical specialists to share critical information about medication, plasma and treatment requirements. The patient received open-chest surgery in-flight, and was safely passed on to medical staff on the ground upon landing.
To build on this success, AMC is currently working with the Air Force Research Laboratory and industry to create technology that will allow AE Airmen to not only discuss a patient’s condition and medical history, but to transmit and receive records of the patient while in the air.
The future: Modernization and partners for mission effectiveness
Everhart emphasized the importance of modernizing AMC’s fleet to minimize operational risk and boost mission capability.
“The KC-46 is the first step in answering these challenges,” Everhart said. “This new tanker will allow mobility Airmen to integrate with the joint fight, increase battle space awareness and enable operational agility.”
Everhart said he also believes AMC needs to consider new design concepts for air refueling, airlift airframes and develop ideas for affordable sustainment. One of those ideas involves working with partners to consider the hub-and-spoke model approach to aircraft maintenance, similar to practices by AMC’s commercial carrier partners.
This concept means that, instead of Airmen completing all aircraft maintenance at home station, aircraft would go to designated hubs for specific maintenance requirements that take longer, such as isochronical phase inspections. Routine maintenance would continue to be completed at the home station.
Expanding on this concept, the fleet will need self-monitoring systems which detect when it’s time to fly to the hub for big repairs or large maintenance requirements, like an engine change, said Everhart.
“Bottom line: we can increase our available capacity by improving maintenance efficiency,” he said. “We are also working with the Guard and Reserve to slow aircraft aging at the enterprise level. The estimate is approximately 15 C-17s will reach their service life by 2040 under the current fleet management process.”
But the future will have mobility aircraft like those C-17 Globemaster IIIs rotating bases on a forecasted timeline with respect to equivalent flight hours, said Everhart.
For example, if one base averages 100 flying hours per month on each aircraft, and another base averages only 50 hours, by rotating the aircraft between the bases, it would even the flying hours consumed by specific aircraft and help with maintenance requirements.
This process is expected to increase the C-17 lifespan by an additional 10 to 20 years. This hub-and-spoke model process is already planned for the upcoming KC-46A Pegasus, and the Air Force is extending the process to other airframes to increase the recapitalization trade space for the Air Force, Everhart said.
He also expects mobility Airmen to look to commercial carriers for ideas and areas of improvement.
For example, commercial carriers are using automation to load, store, track and manage cargo more efficiently, the general said.
This could be a process Airmen in logistics could adopt, Everhart noted.
“Information systems should connect aircraft, k-loaders and warehouses to increase throughput and better serve our customers,” said Everhart. “An automated flight line probably doesn’t make sense at every base, but I think there are applications at our busiest ports. We can use automation to do our mission better.”
Some might think that at the rate technology is developing, jobs could be at risk, but the AMC commander said he thinks otherwise.
“It’s not about replacing people,” he said. “It’s about using machines to do what machines do best, so we can let Airmen do what they do best.”