Monday, June 8, 2009

US Air Force Moving Strykers Into Afghanistan

Air Mobility Command officials plan to move 300-plus Stryker vehicles and support equipment into Afghanistan over the next two months on Air Force C-17 Globemaster IIIs (shown above) flown by military crews, and AN-124s, operated by commercial partners. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brett Clashman.)

Focus on Defense:

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., June 8, 2009 -- Members of Air Mobility Command's hub for global airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation here are "all in" with its commitment to support joint worldwide operations, kicking off efforts this week to airlift more than 300 Stryker vehicles to military forces in Afghanistan.

The term Stryker applies to a family of armored troop-transport vehicles used by the Army for ground operations.

One vehicle can carry up to 11 troops and weighs approximately 19 tons, depending on the variation, according to an Army fact sheet.

Moving the Strykers, which are assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Lewis, Wash., is being accomplished by a combination of sealift and airlift assets. The vehicles and equipment are being taken by ship for the majority of the trip around the world, and then Air Force assets take over to fly the last portion of the journey into land-locked Afghanistan.

Air Mobility Command officials plan to move the 300-plus vehicles and support equipment, totaling nearly 9,500 tons, into Afghanistan over the next two months on C-17 Globemaster IIIs flown by military crews, and AN-124s, operated by commercial partners.

All efforts for the move are being closely coordinated by officials from the U.S. Transportation Command, headquartered at Scott Air Force Base. The 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center staff, also at Scott AFB, is responsible for planning and executing the airlift missions.

"When requirements are identified to move large vehicles by air, the 618th TACC schedules those missions, tasks aircraft and aircrews to fly the missions, and obtains permission from other governments to overfly their countries while executing the missions," said Maj. Gen. Mark S. Solo, 618th TACC commander. "And once those missions are airborne, our 24-hour operations floor acts as 'virtual crewmember,' fulfilling any mission needs for that aircrew to make things go as smoothly as possible."

The 618th TACC staff has been the lead for centralized control of AMC airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation operations worldwide since its activation April 1, 1992. That coordination in recent years has included hundreds of thousands of point-to-point flights, called sorties, in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

In fact, for OIF and OEF alone, AMC aircrews have flown more than 363,000 sorties, which includes transportation of more than 5 million passengers and 2.6 million tons of supplies since the operations began.

"We work very hard to meet the needs of our U.S. forces all around the world," said Maj. Charlie Velino, the 618th TACC division chief who planned the Stryker airlift missions. "As combatant commands [such as U.S. Central Command, responsible for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan] identify new airlift requirements, we're continually working to plan new missions to meet their needs, in this case the need for Strykers, as fast and as efficiently as possible."

(Report by by Capt. Justin Brockhoff, 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center Public Affairs.)

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