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Predictability added to deployed travel

by Tech. Sgt. J. LaVoie
506th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

7/27/2005 - KIRKUK AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- Most deployed Airmen know how far along they are in their rotation and when they expect to return home.

Until recently, that date was mostly speculation, but, thanks to aggregation, Airmen will know exactly when their replacement is coming and when they will leave.

U.S. Central Command Air Forces officials have implemented this new program providing visibility on when incoming Airmen are supposed to arrive and, therefore, when departing Airmen should leave. Because these dates are set well in advance, there is no more guessing as to when a replacement should arrive or if they are on a certain plane. This program is not completely new. It was used to schedule Airmen arriving in theater during the past few rotations.

“They did such a great job of getting people over here during the last (air and space expeditionary force,) they are taking it one step further,” said Col. Scott Mason, 506th Air Expeditionary Group commander here. “This adds predictability for Airmen so they can let families and loved ones back in the United States know when they are getting home.”

Once the time phase force deployment data sheet is confirmed and unit deployment managers start giving Airmen the dates they are going home, those dates are unlikely to change.

“We don’t want Airmen making life-altering decisions based on the dates, but short of an aircraft breaking, they will move out of here in a two-day window and then leave the hub within two days,” said Tech. Sgt. Lois Harm, 506th Expeditionary Logistics Squadron. “There will be a seat out of here, and out of the hub, with (their) name on it.”

This means Airmen should return home within five days from the date they are given by their unit deployment managers.

“What’s great about this plan is the wait time (at the hub) will be measured in hours, not days,” Colonel Mason said.

CENTAF’s first full aggregation plan will also prevent hundreds of Airmen from landing at Baltimore/Washington International Airport at the same time, all looking for a commercial seat. The plan will allow Airmen to fly back to their original point in a chartered aircraft.

“If you flew all the way from Texas on a military aircraft, we are going to get you all the way back to Texas on a military aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Shawn Smallwood. “There will be less confusion, and Airmen won’t have to book their own travel.”

Airmen will also know further out when their replacements will arrive. This will allow more time for outprocessing and better turnover.

“During the last rotation some people didn’t find out their replacement was on a plane until a few hours out,” Sergeant Harm said. “That won’t happen this rotation.”

The new plan not only benefits deployed Airmen, but the Air Force as a whole. Because officials know when Airmen are arriving and departing, they can schedule airlift accordingly.

“Before, there was wasted airlift because seats were empty and folks could wait at the hub for up to a week,” Sergeant Harm said. “Now they know how many seats Kirkuk needs on a particular day, so they will book that many seats. Airlift is at a premium, so we are utilizing the planes more effectively.”

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