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Mobility forces support USTRANSCOM air bridge

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Story by SSgt Amber Carter on 04/09/2019
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. Airmen from the 22nd Airlift Squadron returned Feb. 25, 2019, to Travis Air Force Base from a deployment supporting a joint operation transportation of a multimodal stage from Rota, Spain, to Afghanistan.

U.S. Transportation Command conducts this multimodal mission twice a year. Using multiple modes of transportation, such as the Navy's Military Sealift Command and the Air Force's Air Mobility Command, saves time and money versus preforming the task with airlift support alone.

The U.S. Army's equipment, consisting of mostly helicopters, and personnel were first transported via a Navy vessel to Naval Air Station Rota, Spain, where they were then picked up by a C-5M Super Galaxy and transported to the area of responsibility. The C-5M can, then, pick up cargo and return it to the Naval Air Station in what is known as an air bridge.

"In this case, the purpose of this mission was to create a massive 24/7 air bridge of C-5Ms, demonstrating the power projection capability that the U.S. brings to bear," said Lt. Col. Paul Pawluk, 22nd AS commander. "What this elite team did was airlift an incredibly capable combat aviation brigade of tactical helicopters to the fight. It demonstrates the U.S. asymmetric advantage of maneuvering the joint force in an uncertain and unforgiving environment."

USTRANSCOM's role in the operation was to provide staging and forward movement support for the U.S. Army helicopters and supporting equipment until it was delivered downrange. The 22nd AS assisted in switching out a U.S. Army Combat Aviation Brigade, which was deployed for more than 10 months in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, for a newly deployed group of CAB Soldiers.

"The importance of this mission is more than just training for us in moving a lot of helicopters," said Maj. Thomas Neveu, 22nd AS C-5M pilot and multimodal stage manager. "We focused on getting the Army home since they have been deployed for almost a year and that was our motivation."

Active duty, Reserves, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, as well as the Spanish navy, and contractors, all seamlessly work together to complete this mission and demonstrate the USTRANSCOM warfighting readiness capabilities.

"By completing the multimodal instead of moving the helicopters solely by strategic airlift, we were able to save close to $50 million," said Neveu. "We moved 112 helicopters and more than 3.5 million pounds of total cargo."

Travis provided teams from the 22nd and 312th AS as well as the 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The other AMC crews were from the 9th and 709th AS out of Dover AFB, Delaware. The combined teams accrued more than 500 flight hours over the duration of the stage. The mission was scheduled to end in March, but the team was able to complete the mission and return in February.

"The high-performing team that we have, the people that were out there, they really contributed to the agility and speed of the mission," said Pawluk. "We had three crews from the (22nd AS) operating at their best and they were able to finish the mission ahead of schedule."

The key to their success is teamwork, said Pawluk.

"We have a unique culture in the Double Deuce' and it's unlike any other squadron I've ever been a part of because of our team's genuine belief and unyielding pursuit of our squadron's vision: operate the best, care the most and have fun along the way," he said. "Everyone on this team believes in our vision, its simplicity and what we're trying to accomplish together. We go out there, hack the mish' as we say, and we do it with a quiet professionalism and humility, all while looking out for one another. We're incredibility fortunate to have such a fulfilling and fun purpose."

For the 22nd AS, mission support begins at home.

"My role is to empower the crews and be supportive of what they need," said Pawluk. "We take care of the families and loved ones so they can focus on the task at hand and take care of the mission downrange. The day the missions departed, we held a town hall in the squadron to answer any questions and help alleviate potential issues proactively. In the military, we all know that life happens,' typically, at the most inopportune times, and we felt we owed it to our loved ones to clarify communication and stay ahead of concerns - as best we can."

After the two-month deployment, families of the deployed greeted the Airmen upon their return.

"I am always excited to see my family," said Neveu. "There is nothing better than having my boys run up to jump in my arms and seeing my wife again. I grew up watching my dad come home from deployments flying the KC-10 (Extender) and it's a memory I have from my childhood. I am glad I am able to give that memory to my kids as well."

The 22nd AS is a prime example of what it means to fly, fight and win.

"For our adversaries watching, the credibility of our commitment and capability is crystal clear - the U.S. military can and will project power whenever called upon," said Pawluk. "I take great pride in knowing that the men and women of the 22nd team play a vital role in bolstering U.S. conventional deterrence and our ability to win decisively in conflict should it come to that."

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