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Changing the way deployments flow

by Senior Airman Shawn Clements
U.S. Central Command Air Forces-Forward Public Affairs

1/12/2005 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Airmen deploying to the U.S. Central Command theater in the past knew where they were going to land when boarding Air Mobility Command rotator flights in the United States, but what most of them did not know was exactly how they were going to be routed to their final destination.

Recently, AMC officials briefly froze the rotator system to implement several new processes to increase predictability, efficiency and stability in travel to and from the area. While frozen, the system was temporarily unavailable for travel booking but did not cause anybody to miss needed flights.

The old process did not provide travelers advanced booking from the main transit hub in theater to their final destinations. Airmen reaching the hub were essentially responsible for working with travel planners there to book their own intratheater travel. Since the planners also had limited visibility on Airmen flowing into theater, Airmen often spent days at the hub awaiting transportation.

Additional time en route delayed arrivals at final destinations and in turn held homeward-bound Airmen in place longer. To allow for unpredictable travel time, officials at home station began sending people sooner to ensure they arrived on time.

The resulting backlog of people at the hub stressed support services there and created frustration for individual Airmen. Travel time does not "count" toward a person's 120-day deployment clock that begins when he or she arrives at the deployed location.

To improve the transportation system for the current rotation, planners made major changes to ensure deployments flow well.

The first step was changing the process so transportation schedulers, rather than individual Airmen, are responsible for requesting the most efficient travel arrangements. Similar to booking travel in the civilian world, logistics planners are working toward a "single ticket" system where each Airman will be given full travel routing before he or she departs from home station.

The second step was providing schedulers better visibility on each person moving through the system. To do that required a major change in airlift scheduling processes. Each airman is assigned against an individual unit line number that can be assigned to a specific airframe.

Now, many Airmen will know their full travel plans before leaving home stations. They will be met in an upgraded passenger terminal at the transit hub where they will be provided with their follow-on travel arrangements.

"The main goal of this new plan is to be able to get transient people out to their final deployed location within 12 to 24 hours of landing in theater," said Lt. Col. Robyn Burk, CENTAF deputy chief of logistics.

To aid in this effort, Air Force officials will designate additional stateside deployment departure terminals each rotation. Added to the existing hubs of Baltimore and Atlanta are Hurlburt Field, Fla.; Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Travis AFB, Calif.; Whiteman AFB, Mo.; and Lackland AFB, Texas.

The additional departure locations shorten travel time for passengers in other parts of the United States as well as delays that result when heavy baggage must be shipped separately, officials said. It also provides air mobility division officials in theater better advance notice of requirements for intratheater airlift movements.

This additional movement visibility will also make life better for Airmen flowing through the transit hub, officials said. Officials with the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron have created a system that accounts for each Airman and more smoothly transitions him or her onward.

"When transient people get off the rotator, they now come into a reception control center where we tell them everything they need to know," said Maj. Max Massey, 379th ELRS commander.

Passengers should hand carry a uniform and overnight items for their stays at the hub, officials said.

Arriving Airmen will be required to leave their bags in a secured area of the reception center while they await their connections, officials said.

Under the improved system, some Airmen will not be routed through the transit hub. Logistics planners have arranged for several rotator flights to go directly from stateside departure points into final locations.

The new initiatives should make the current rotation smoother for most of the nearly 18,000 affected Airmen, Colonel Burk said.

"The process isn't going to be 100 percent effective in the beginning, but we hope that this will help alleviate the problems," she said. By the next rotation, she said, the system should work even better.

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