Written by Tech. Sgt. Gustavo Gonzalez
621st Contingency Response Wing
Trenton, NJ – As he grew frustrated that one of his team members was not following his orders, he yelled, “Don’t you know what the sign for stop is!? What is this, your first day in the Army!?”
The members of the 101st Airborne Division were working out their kinks as they were attempting to seize an airfield at Lakehurst Air Station here, during a mobility exercise called WAREX 78-17-01, March 13th-21st, 2017.
The exercise is conducted to identify and fix any issues the units may have before deploying in a real-world environment.Additionally, its a chance to validate a seamless Joint Task Force-Port Opening hand-off from airfield seizure forces and support the Army ground forces exercise tasks that are also being evaluated.
Accompanying the more than 100 member seizure force was one Airman, Maj. Ryan Schenk, an air mobility liaison officer from the 621st Mission Support Operations Squadron assigned to the 101st Abn. Div. at Fort Campbell, KY.
“My role is to help set up the airfield after the airfield seizure,” Schenk said. “Once the airfield is secure, I survey and open up the landing zone and make sure that it is C-17 and C-130 capable.”
After the seizure, forces hand over control of the airfield to the JTF-PO, they will then begin aerial port of debarkation operations to support follow-on forces.
Through their ability to translate and “speak Army,” AMLOs advise supported units on safe, effective use of air mobility assets from the tactical to strategic level. Additionally, they help bridge the communication gap between supported units and U.S. Air Force air mobility command and control agencies.
“Once the airfield is up and running, I can communicate with the Army and go through several checklists to get information I need to pass on to follow-on forces,” said Schenk. “I would be replaced by the JTF-PO and once they take over, I will be passing information to them so they can set the airfield up quicker.”
AMLOS are comprised of mobility pilots and navigators that work with mobility aircraft. They are highly experienced air mobility officers embedded with Army and Marine units, in-garrison and deployed. AMLOs are stationed at 20 operating locations in 18 time zones around the world.
“For there to only be 54 of us worldwide, and for us to handle the amount of information and responsibility required of us is amazing,” Schenk said. “Because we are all either deployed or in garrison and geographically separated from our counterparts, having the responsibility of being autonomous is a tough job. It’s an amazing responsibility to have one and two stars (generals) cite AMLOs in briefings and leverage the information we provide.”
As Schenk reviewed the airfield transfer of authority checklist with his Army counterparts, they patiently waited, camouflaged in the woods next to the airfield in silence. Once the airfield was cleared, they met with the joint assessment team to transfer airfield authority to the JTF-PO commander. The successful mission of the AMLO, along with the 101st Abn. Div., means the operation has just begun for the JTF-PO.