We do it better than anybody

  • Published
  • By Maj. Michael Meridith
  • 18th Air Force
"We bring the word 'rapid' to rapid global mobility. We do it for allies, we do it for partners, and we do it for friends. We do it because we have to, because it is what Americans do, and we do it better than anybody," said Lt. Gen. Mark F. Ramsay when he assumed command of the 18th Air Force here Sept. 23, 2011. Since that time the command's Airmen have continued to embody that creed, answering the call to help others prevail in an often challenging operational environment.

During Ramsay's command, the Airmen of the Air Force's largest Numbered Air Force (and Air Mobility Command's only NAF) have excelled in their global mission of strategic airlift and air refueling, flying more than 87,000 airlift sorties; transporting more than 1.5 million passengers, approximately 10,500 patients, and 500,000 tons of cargo; and offloading more than 297 million pounds of fuel in support of commanders worldwide. But these numbers only tell part of the story.

"The most important parts of the story of our global mobility enterprise are represented in the lives of the aeromedical evacuation patients that are alive today because of our Airmen, or the troops at remote bases in Afghanistan that were able to accomplish their mission after we airdropped critical supplies, or the air crews that were able to continue and complete their critical missions when we were there to refuel them. We live by a simple premise: nothing happens unless something moves. It is why we exist," Ramsay said.

A potent example of the power of that enterprise came early in Ramsay's tenure as he oversaw AMC's efforts to finish support of NATO's Operation Unified Protector over Libya. Through a total force effort of active duty, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard Airmen, 18th Air Force tankers flew nearly 4,700 sorties offloading more than 173 million lbs. of fuel to 12,000 aircraft - by far, the majority of fuel provided for the operation. However, according to Ramsay those numbers pale in comparison to their impact: thousands of innocent civilian lives saved from former Gadhafi regime attrocities.

Ramsay's time as commander was also characterized by fiscal uncertainty for the military and the Nation. In the midst of those uncertainties, 18th Air Force Airmen once again "did it better", with innovative planning efforts that opened a historic new non-stop northern polar overflight route from the U.S. to Afghanistan last September. By cutting time off of traditional routing the new route not only enhances the ability of air mobility forces to rapidly respond worldwide but supports ongoing Department of Defense efficiency initiatives by providing both an increase in airlift velocity along with a reduction in fuel consumption and our mobility footprint.

Another effort enhancing the mobility air forces capability to respond rapidly across the globe was the October 2011 surge of AMC's C-5 Galaxy fleet. This historic "surge" of the nation's largest military airlifters was a total force effort that more than doubled the fleet's normal day-to-day workload, demonstrating the global mobility enterprise's flexibility and readiness in times of very high demand on its capacity.

The flexibility demonstrated by the surge was an important key to the success of other major accomplishments of the mobility enterprise, including last year's massive effort returning more than 34,000 tons of equipment and 95,000 personnel from Iraq at the end of Operation New Dawn; multimodal operations worldwide which partnered air mobility forces with their sea and land counterparts to efficiently and rapidly move Army Combat Aviation Brigades in and out of Afghanistan; and Mobility Support Advisory missions in South America and Africa that enhanced U.S. relations with partner nations by enhancing those partner's own mobility capabilities.

"In what we do, you have to be able to move quickly and adapt to rapidly changing requirements. We can do that thanks to a team of amazing innovative Airmen who look around corners, analyze what they see on the horizon, and set our mobility enterprise for success," said Ramsay.

The success of the 18th Air Force team is in part a result of the strength that comes from its diversity, said the General, who praised the command's seamless integration of Air Reserve Component and active duty Airmen. Enhancing that integration has been a continuing focus under Ramsay's tenure, highlighted by a Total Force Integration Summit in April, in which General Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force noted, "Total Force Integration allows us to leverage Air Reserve Component experience, improve access to aircraft, encourage retention, and increase total force effectiveness."

When General Ramsay departs the command on August 6 bound for his next assignment as Director, Joint Staff Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment Directorate, he will take with him a feeling of accomplishment and a great deal of pride in the men and women he says he has been honored to serve with here.

"It was a humbling privilege to serve with the amazing Airmen of this command. I am very proud of what we accomplished together - and what the Airmen of the 18th Air Force will continue to do for our nation, Allies and partners. There is nothing more rewarding than answering the call to help others, and by so doing we make America stronger and our fellow citizens safer," Ramsay said.