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Contingency response team stands down after last shuttle support alert

by Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres
621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

7/13/2011 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. (AFNS) -- An audience of millions watched the last launch of the space shuttle Atlantis from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., July 8.

The nearly 650 mobility Airmen of the 621st Contingency Response Wing here, however, saw a different finale -- an end to years of waiting for a call they thankfully never received.

During every one of the 135 shuttle launches, air mobility specialists assigned to a contingency response team, or CRT, waited to deploy in the event an orbiter failed to reach orbit and landed at an emergency overseas location.

If tasked, 621st CRW Airmen were prepared to immediately step into a waiting aircraft and deploy to Kennedy Space Center, said Lt. Col. John Krystyniak, the 818th Global Mobility Squadron commander. There they would assist with handling the specialized equipment required by NASA's Rapid Response Team to secure and prepare the stranded orbiter for a safe return to Florida. A few members of the CRT would then leave the space center with the NASA team to assist with logistical and air mobility specific requirements at the shuttle's landing site.

"Our Airmen are prepared to deploy at a moment's notice," Krystyniak said. "In this business, no news is good news, and we were honored to have played a small part in this historic event."

As Atlantis blasted into overcast skies for the last time, it became clear no space shuttle would ever abort a launch and land overseas. The CRT was able to just sit back and enjoy the moment.

"Being associated with any shuttle support mission is an honor," said Tech. Sgt. David Schroeder, the 817th Contingency Response Group team chief instructor, as he watched the historic shuttle launch in his squadron's conference room with the team. "But to have participated in the last mission is something very special to me and the professionals with whom I work."

On its final voyage, Atlantis is carrying a year's worth of supplies to the International Space Station. The mission also includes a robotic refueling mission, an experiment designed to test tools and technologies to robotically refuel satellites in space, NASA said.

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