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AMC commander cites successes, needed upgrades

by Staff Sgt. Kelly White
Global Air Chiefs Conference Public Affairs

9/26/2007 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- The commander of Air Mobility Command briefed attendees from across the globe Sept. 26 on the command's past, present and future contributions to the nation's defense during the Air Force Association's Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition here.

"It takes bravery and courage to do our mission today," Gen. Arthur Lichte said. "We put tankers over hostile territory. We go in and save people's lives with aeromedical evacuation. We deliver cargo. We do air drop, and we're always in harm's way... and we're doing it around the clock."

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, AMC has transfered 1.1 billion gallons of fuel during air refueling operations. To get an idea of how much this is, imagine watching Niagra Falls, in the summertime, for 25 minutes, he said.

"AMC delivers troops to the fight and keeps convoys off the ground," General Lichte said, and since operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the survival rate of injured troops has improved from 10 days to three, from theater to home.

"We do this (mission) as a total force," he said. To explain the total force attributes of AMC, General Lichte told a story about Sgt. Dan Powers that happened this year.

In the early morning hours of July 3, Sergeant Powers became the victim of an enemy attack in Iraq, having a knife lodged in his brain.

As a C-17 Globemaster III Expeditionary Airlift Squadron and a critical care unit prepared to take the sergeant to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., another call came in to provide transport for a second patient, an Army specialist with a gunshot wound to the neck, the general explained.

Due to the nature of the patients' wounds, the aircraft needed to maintain consistent air pressure, he said. The C-17 used extended-range fuel tanks and was air-refueled once before delivering both patients to Andrews AFB in the early morning of July 4.

Both patients survived, said General Lichte, and this miracle was pulled off because of AMC's total force. It was an aircraft from McChord AFB, Wash. The crew was active-duty from Charleston AFB, S.C. The doctor was a reservist from Langley AFB, Va. The nurse was a reservist from MacDill AFB, Fla., and the rest of that team was Air National Guard, the general added.

"There's no better definition of total force than this," he said. "And I don't think there's another nation in the world that can do this, or that would do this for one Soldier. We were able to do this because the C-17 was reliable and on time. The KC-135 (Stratotanker) was reliable, and they had a tremendous, total force crew," he said.

But what could affect AMC's ability to do this kind of mission in the future is the age and wear of its aircraft.

"We have a lot of problems with the C-130 (Hercules)," General Lichte said. They need to be modernized, or AMC needs to move on to another aircraft.

"We've got a lot of sustainment issues with the C-5 (Galaxy)," said General Lichte, and the KC-135s are about 50 years old and need to be modernized as well.

Looking forward, the addition of the KC-X is one of the Air Force's top priorities, the general said. If everything goes smoothly, the first delivery of this aircraft will be 2011, he said.

"Assuming a delivery rate of 15 per year, the last KC-135 will retire in 2048. That's getting out there a way," he said. "And, if delivery of the KC-X slips, we're set back further retiring old aircraft."

Moving forward with the Joint Cargo Aircraft is another high priority, he said. AMC is committed to acquiring this, because it's important for homeland defense, the government, FEMA and all of our international partners, General Lichte said. 

"This is a way of bringing the world together," he said.

While there is plenty on the scope, the general said he's happy with where AMC is today because of the people in the command.

"We have fantastic people in AMC," General Lichte said. "They have raised the bar higher and higher and higher, and the future of AMC is bright.

"But we have to help them...we have to get new equipment," he said. "We have to modernize things for them, so they can be ready to accomplish this mission 10, 20, 30 years down the road." 

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