Alamo Wing supports NATO mission

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Carlos J. Trevino
  • 433rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A trio of Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, four Army vehicles, support equipment and 39 Army Soldiers from the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, Ft. Drum, N.Y., were delivered Feb. 28, 2017- and March 3, 2017, by an Air Mobility Command tasked C-5M Super Galaxy flown by the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command’s 68th Airlift Squadron to Riga, Latvia in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. 

Operation Atlantic Resolve demonstrates the United States’ commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the Baltic region, while providing reassurance to NATO allies and regional partners. Through multinational training and exercises, OAR highlights the flexibility of U.S. ground and air forces to rapidly respond to contingencies alongside regional partners.

One of the largest aircraft in the world and the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory, the C-5M is capable of carrying six Apache helicopters, two M1A Abrams tanks or 250,000 pounds of relief supplies. The 433rd Airlift Wing assigned C-5M Super Galaxy moved 167 tons of cargo and 63 passengers to Latvia.

The C-5M’s ability to airlift Army assets is important to mission success.

“It is critical, one thing we are trying to demonstrate is speed of assembly,” said Army Maj. Nathan Colvin, officer in charge of Task Force Baltic Phoenix.

“From the time the first C-5 (M) left Ft. Drum, we were able to rapidly assemble our helicopters and conduct an air assault training mission with Latvian forces on the ground,” he said. 

On such a long mission, where the aircrew amassed 46 flight hours, a good attitude is key. 

“Flying these missions is very diverse. What I tell new guys is stay flexible, expect the unexpected and keep a positive attitude,” Master Sgt. Eric Mungia, a 68th Airlift Squadron loadmaster said. “Sometimes you work in cold or hot weather, sandstorms, or humidity like Hawaii. You just have to stay flexible.”

“That’s just the way it works flying on the C-5,” Mungia said.

 The worldwide mission and the Airmen’s capabilities were enhanced according to Capt. Michael Raggio, 68th AS pilot and aircraft commander for the mission. “It has been a very demanding mission as far as the uploads and odd hours of the mission,” he said.

Flexibility is a key trait for airlift crews, as the Reservists were tasked with an additional mission after making two round-trips between Ft. Drum and Latvia. The second mission involved taking Air Force personnel and a vehicle from Riga to their home base in Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

“It was an add-on mission, it was a good opportunity to pick up some cargo and bolster our presence in Europe,” Raggio said.

The extra mission was an opportunity to excel for the San Antonio-based Reservists. “The extra mission to Ramstein was something we learned from, and it makes you better as an aircrew member dealing with those differences. It makes you better as an individual and aircrew member,” Mungia said.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Force Reserve Command and Air Mobility Command directly support the joint and multi-national warfighting environment with air superiority, direct air operations, global air transportation and capabilities that are essential to supporting the warfighters on the ground.

“This mission has been very rewarding at the same time being to help out and reaffirm our NATO allies and work with our Army partners,” Raggio said. 

The Air Force’s strategic airlift capability provides global air transportation and enables Eucom to move the helicopters from their home stations rapidly.

“They (Reserve air crew) have been nothing but great to work with,” Colvin said. “Despite any kind of adversity thrown their way, whether it be maintenance or the weather or uncertainty with an airfield they may unfamiliar with, they have responded by making sure everything is taken care of to meet mission and make sure we are successful as a joint partner”

Portions of the brigade arrived in Europe via ship at Bremerhaven, Germany, in mid-January. Its operations will include medical transport missions, training, exercise support and various aviation operations throughout Europe to improve interoperability and strengthen relationships with NATO allies, Eucom officials said.

“When the mission happens in real life, we are not going to be able to choose the time and the place. It is good to know we can count on our Air Force partners to be there with us anytime, anywhere to get the job done,” Colvin said.

Working in below freezing weather on an unfamiliar airfield is a skill building opportunity. “It makes you better because you always learn from it, it is always an experience from the pilots to the crew chiefs on how you could do things better,” Mungia said.

Overall the mission was a success. “We got the cargo there in a timely manner, and we were able to support Operation Atlantic Resolve,” he said. 

“This airlift improved our interoperability and readiness with our host nation and other NATO partners,” Colvin said.

More training opportunities are slated in 2017 as Operation Atlantic Resolve will remain in place as long as the need exists to reassure U.S. allies and deter Russia from regional aggression.