A joint medical team from the Mississippi Air National Guard’s 183rd Air Evacuation Squadron and Joint Base San Antonio, TX, prepares a C-17 Globemaster III to receive patients, June 6, 2018. USAF photo by MSgt Keyonna Fennell
By MS. JEN YATES, 618 AOC Chief of Safety
For an aircrew member, transporting personnel or cargo to far reaches of the globe is a normal event. The understanding of what goes on behind the scenes before receiving a mission packet varies with the level of experience that an aircrew member has. Air Mobility Command hosts a short familiarization course for aircraft commanders and aircrew instructors. During that time, aircrew members get a broad overview of the roles and how they affect crew members during missions at the 618th Air Operations Center (AOC), Scott Air Force Base (AFB), IL. One of the planning divisions that affects aircrew the most is the Global Readiness Directorate (XOP).
XOP is the 618 AOC focal point for U.S. Transportation Command’s (USTRANSCOM) validated Aeromedical Evacuation (AE), Time Phased Force Deployment Data, and Contingency Response force requirements. The directorate verifies the feasibility of the USTRANSCOM requirements and plans accurate, executable contingency airlift, AE, and Global Air Mobility Support System resources to project mobility forces around the globe. XOP has three subdivisions: Airlift Plans, AE, and Mission Support.
Maj Jason Taylor is assigned to the Contingency Plans division as part of the career-broadening Phoenix Torch program, which was established to develop officers. Before arriving at the 618 AOC, Taylor was a C-17 Instructor Pilot assigned to Joint Base Charleston, SC, and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, HI. To become an XOP planner, Taylor attended three weeks of Basic and Intermediate Global Mobility Operations Training and had approximately two weeks of in-house, hands-on training.
XOP planners coordinate with multiple agencies, especially for more remote and complex locations. A planner works with USTRANSCOM on questions or needed clarifications regarding mission requirements and then reaches out to Defense Attaché Offices, Airfield Managers, or base operations to ensure that all the essentials are met for a crew to fly to a specific location.
According to Taylor, on average, the office plans five to ten missions a day, and that does not include the “re-cuts,” which refers to replanning a mission due to changes. Planners are available 24/7, as needed, during large contingency operations and are always on call for requirement/mission changes. Surges occur during hurricane season, humanitarian events, or global conflicts.
Mission planning can be an arduous process for more complex locations. In general, missions into Africa present the greatest challenges due to language barriers, little enroute support, working with the Defense Attaché Office, or long diplomatic clearance lead times—to provide just a few examples. In addition, the planners usually prepare before having all the details by basing their plan on decisions that were made on similar missions. Taylor said, “It is fitting the puzzle together,” and unfortunately, sometimes the last piece of the puzzle comes in, and the entire process must start over again. Planners often rework the same mission repeatedly due to frequent changes in requirements. They are constantly balancing users’ requirements with crew rest, determining which assets will be available to fly the mission, and identifying any possible threat for the mission location.
Taylor will soon be finishing up his time as a Phoenix Torch and will return to flying. He plans to share the knowledge he gained at the 618 AOC because he now has a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes before he receives a mission packet.
He also said that knowing who to call is essential; he now has a deep understanding of the various roles within the 618 AOC.
His parting advice: “If you see a better way, tell the TACC [Tanker Airlift Control Center, Scott AFB, IL] sooner rather than later. We will try to work with you to make the mission better.”