COMAMC: “We Will Not Go Back” AMC’s Top 23 of ’23

  • Published
  • By Gen. Mike Minihan and Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

Last year, I released The Mobility Manifesto, which asked our Airmen to go faster – Expect and Demand Victory!

You responded...and much more! In fact, I am overwhelmed by the response of our Total Force. You showed the world courage, tenacity, and an aggressive will to win. The command showcased to our adversaries the Joint Force maneuver at speed, breadth, and depth. The Joint Force exudes strength because of you.

Your skills as warriors, leaders, and innovators are unmatched. Your actions spoke loud and clear. You are the magic, and it is an honor to lead this incredible team.

Now, with 2023 soon behind us, we must debrief and celebrate our victories as we prepare to go even faster, create irreversible momentum, and cement a Warfighter’s mindset.

Without further ado, my top 23 of ‘23...

#1 Mobility Guardian 23 – The Proving Ground

You broke the myth that the Pacific was too big, too far, and too vast. Our Allies are in step, and our potential adversaries are on notice.

Mobility Guardian 23, the largest iteration of the Air Force’s premier multinational mobility exercise to date, saw 70 mobility aircraft and 3,000 participants from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States surge across 13 million square miles in the Indo-Pacific region. The goal: validate identified capability gaps, experiment with new tactics, techniques and procedures, and expand comfort with risk at the unit level.

  • Refuel tanks with C-130s. 
  • Determine how long crews can fly under the safe conditions of peacetime operations.
  • Air drop supplies to a U.S. Navy submarine.
  • Rapidly shift Contingency Response forces from the opposite side of the planet.
  • Sustain forces in theater to show adversary the U.S. can play an away game and the long game.

 #2 Mobility Global Operations Reach New Heights

 With AMC in the lead, the Joint Force can act now – not tomorrow!

Over the course of 2023, the Mobility Air Forces flew more than 23 thousand global missions and nearly 58 thousand sorties, transporting more than 283 thousand tons of cargo and more than 705,360 passengers.

The end of the year saw a sharp increase in tempo as AMC balanced its global commitments with the large-scale posturing of forces and equipment to help demonstrate the United States’ commitment to regional stability and deterrence in the Central Command area of responsibility. Between Oct. 1, 2023 and Dec. 1, 2023, the Mobility Air Forces flew 4,103 global missions, transporting 54,726 tons of cargo and 115,620 passengers. At one point in early November, AMC had 101 C-17s tasked for global operations; that is more C-17s tasked on a single day than at any point during the Afghanistan evacuation. C-5s were tasked at an approximately 250 percent higher rate in October and November than previous months in 2023. C-5s reached its high-point of 21 tasked in a single day.

#3 AMC Embraces Warrior Heart! Mind. Body. Craft.

Understand who you are and arm yourself with the tools to remain resilient in the face of combat stress that is sure to come. Prepare yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually to do your job in the most demanding environments.

Phoenix Rally 2023 launched Warrior Heart as AMC’s mantra for a culture focused on fine tuning the mind, body, and craft to fortify the will to win. Units became focused on initiatives to ‘fortify the force,’ increasing awareness of the command’s goal to eliminate stigma, lower barriers, and increase access to care. Initiatives include Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst’s Sean’s Room, also highlighted separately in this list, and the BetterUp coaching program, allowing leaders to work with a civilian coach to get after problem areas.

#4 Historic C-17 Globemaster III Mission Generation Support Joint Warfighter

AMC provides time and space to the Joint Force—preventing the most dangerous courses of action from evolving into the most likely courses of action.

Joint Base Charleston launched 24 C-17 Globemaster IIIs to conduct a mission generation exercise that integrated Air Force, Army, and Marine forces across five operating locations in January. This exercise marked the largest C-17 launch ever from a single base and demonstrated the wing’s ability to rapidly generate and project overwhelming airpower alongside joint partners.

JB Charleston paved the way for other mobility wings to take on similar challenges with their units.

#5 Additional Awards Presented for Operation Allies Refuge

After Operation Allies Refuge (OAR) we took a different view…Mobility has the final say. The Joint Force wins or loses on AMC’s back.

AMC announced this year that an additional 20 Distinguished Flying Crosses, six Bronze Star Medals, 437 Air Medals and 171 Meritorious Service Medals were awarded for actions taken during Operation Allies Refuge. Most of the decorations were awarded with combat devices and seven of the Air Medals and one Bronze Star Medal include valor devices.

Those awarded include maintainers, loadmasters, Raven-trained security forces, aeromedical evacuation personnel, pilots, and tanker crews across the Total Force, multiple major commands and services. Last year, in a historic announcement, AMC leadership announced 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 12 Bronze Star Medals, and a Gallant Unit Citation for those who supported the operation in 2021.

#6 Aid for Türkiye Earthquake Relief

Through the bulwark of maintainers, port dogs, Contingency Response Airmen, airfield operators, fuel troops, and aviators we have secured our proud legacy.

Mobility Airmen rapidly responded with humanitarian assistance after two devastating earthquakes that hit Türkiye in early February. The Defense Department’s largest aerial port, the 436th Aerial Port Squadron “Super Port,” at Dover Air Force Base processed and loaded 83 passengers and 58,000 pounds of cargo from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) onto an Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III. Across the world, the 728th Air Mobility Squadron at Incirlik Air Base offloaded more than 5,700 tons of equipment and supplies, including a 52-bed emergency field hospital tent.

#7 Operation Centennial Contact: 100 Years of Air Refueling

Air Mobility Command is THE Joint Force maneuver. We give the Joint Force an unparalleled advantage.

The Air Force celebrated 100 years of aerial refueling excellence with Operation Centennial Contact on June 27. The operation involved 152 aircraft, 82 tankers, 70 receivers and 26 Total Force installations across all 50 states.

Today’s U.S. Air Force air refueling capabilities deliver unrivaled rapid global reach for U.S. forces and our Allies and partners throughout the globe. Aerial refueling serves as a force multiplier, increasing the speed, range, lethality, flexibility and versatility of combat aircraft. Tankers also carry cargo and passengers, perform aeromedical evacuations, and enable strategic deterrence for the United States.

#8 Ukraine Support Continues

AMC has always been subject to the needs of the warfighter and the challenges of operations across the globe – from bad weather and elevated threat levels to procuring diplomatic clearances and navigating around closed air space.

Airlift and contingency response crews have continued to deliver security assistance cargo to Ukraine and are innovating in the process. When AMC received a tasking to move 160 155 mm howitzers to Ukraine, an Airman proposed elevating the barrel of the gun, freeing up cargo space to fit an additional row of howitzers inside the aircraft, allowing for the transport of six howitzers per flight instead of four. After contacting the agency responsible for designing load procedures and confirming the feasibility of the proposal, the teams at the aerial ports built sawhorses that were designed to support the gun barrel, creating more floor space on the C-17. This solution was adopted across five locations worldwide, expediting U.S. government support to Ukraine.

More recently, a U.S. Air Force Aerial Port Director of Operations, through coordination with a U.S. Army Sustainment Command pallet build up team, reconstructed the standard munition pallet arrangement to include 50 percent more artillery propelling charges on each pallet to expedite the transport of rounds to Ukraine. This effort resulted in a savings of 14 million dollars in transportation costs and ensured faster delivery to the front lines.

 #9 New Aircraft in Development: Next-Generation Aircraft at the Forefront of Future Force

Avoid the tendency to think in single mission or stove-piped mission sets. Our air mobility platforms must have the speed, range, and mission payload the Joint Force needs to win the future fight.

The Air Force is recapitalizing the aging tanker fleet and accelerating Next-Generation Air-Refueling Systems to meet the future needs of the Joint force as a top priority. NGAS will deliver a next generation family of systems to allow air refueling in the future contested environments. First delivery is expected in mid/late 2030s.

The KC-46A Pegasus is the first step. To date, 75 KC-46As have been delivered to warfighters. The tanker has been cleared to carry out operation refueling on nearly all required aircraft. The new Remote Vision System (RVS) 2.0 will feature a new full-color, high resolution display, improved cameras, redesigned operator console, and improved image processing. RVS 2.0 is expected in 2025.

#10 PAUSE EX for Real-World Distress: Humanitarian Call During MG23

Becoming vital elements for victory and delivering on our promise to our Nation and Allies… Check.

A combined rescue effort comprised of French, Canadian and U.S. Forces participating in Mobility Guardian 23, paused exercise operations on July 10 to respond to U.S. Coast Guard call for support. A 21-foot vessel was disabled and adrift in 6-foot waves and 12 mph winds northwest off the coast of Rota, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. A French A400 Atlas military transport aircraft and its crew responded first, maintaining visuals on the passengers until relieved by a Royal Canadian Air Force C-130J Hercules until a U.S. Navy MH-60 Nighthawk helicopter arrived and commenced rescue operations, hoisting all 11 Chinese citizens to safety.

“This is the perfect example of why interoperability matters,” said Maj. Gen. Darren Cole, Director of Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, Headquarters Air Mobility Command. “A 7-nation integrated planning cell led to rapid response amongst multiple nations utilizing standard procedures to save lives. It allowed us to quickly pivot our focus and resources. There is nothing more rewarding, and our global partners allow us to do this around the world, anytime, anywhere.”

Eight days later, U.S. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 crew diverted from a multinational Maritime Personnel Recovery training event to rescue a hiker who had fallen off a mountainside, arriving less than 20 minutes after initial notification.

#11 Gender Bias R “G-Code” Removed from AMC Flight Authorization:

Avoid the tendency to overcontrol more policies, more rules, and more requirements…It is the success of Squadron and Airmen that ensures ours. We must focus all our energy on supporting them.

After almost two years of research and planning, AMC Squadron Aviation Resource Management offices have successfully removed the legacy gender-identifying code from all flight authorizations. The process required a waiver to eliminate the Air Force-mandated marker deemed to have no bearing on a crew member’s experience, qualification, or currency in the aircraft.

#12 Find Hope in Sean’s Room: Warrior Heart Embodied

Understand who you are and arm yourselves with the tools to remain resilient in the face of combat stress that is sure to come.

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst celebrated the official opening of Sean’s Room in the McGuire Passenger Terminal on October 10. This new service is modeled off Sean’s House, a program based out of Newark, Delaware, Sean’s Room provides a safe peer-to-peer environment for JB MDL personnel to receive mental health support and confidentiality in accordance with the law.

#13 Revolutionary AEROMED Excels in D-DIL Environment

Don’t wait for the perfect instruction or wiring diagram to figure out what to do. I would rather have a force chomping at the bit who needs to be reined in than one we must prod into action.

In a groundbreaking demonstration of Joint Force Aeromedical Evacuation capabilities at MG 23, two specialized teams effectively moved 48 patients on six unregulated missions, demonstrating a revolutionary capability for the movement of unregulated patients in a Denied, Degraded, Intermittent, and Limited (D-DIL) environment using existing theater airflow. The AE teams were not assigned a dedicated line or aircraft for patient movement, but were deployed in smaller, modular force elements attached to an Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. This updated arrangement places the MEDEVAC at or near the Point of Injury (POI) where capabilities can be provided immediately rather than waiting for a crew to be tasked and aircraft to be found to support the mission request.

#14 Innovative Airmen Develop Creative Solutions

AMC Airmen proved that their training, and tenacity, and “mission hacking” go a long way toward advancing Joint Force lethality. New technology is great. Well-trained Airmen are better. Well-led Airmen are unstoppable!

The 621st Contingency Response Wing applied their motto of “multi-capable” Airmen to their 60K Loaders in 2023.

Travis Airmen faced the challenge of aging Tunner 60K Loaders and scarcity of the critical omni-roller part. If an omni-roller lost functionality, maintainers had to rebuild the roller assembly with existing parts found on hand or scrap the roller entirely. Senior Airman Kyle Sunderman, 60th Aerial Port Squadron ramp operations journeyman, noticed rollers on the KC-10 appeared to be identical. Knowing the KC-10 was being divested, he saw an opportunity to recycle the part. This not only solved the Tunner problem at hand, but re-purposed items that were no longer going to be in use, saving the Air Force $38,383 in costs for replacement rollers at Travis AFB alone.

On the other side of the country, the wing is scheduled to retrofit 48 trucks with several additional components to make them universally deployable for multiple career-fields and CR missions. The truck has new features for command and control, aircraft maintenance, ramp coordinators, aerial porters, aerospace ground equipment and power production Airmen.

#15 What the future looks like: 10-Line Initiatives and the AMC Shot Clock

Our force requires connectivity, survivability, and agility. Close those gaps so that we can meet the tempo and mass of combat.

In a panel titled, “Ready to Compete, Fight, and Win in the Indo-Pacific” with the Pacific Air Forces commander, Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, and the Air Force Special Operations Command commander, Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, Sept. 13, Minihan acknowledged reality, “If this goes down in the Pacific theater, AMC will be the most relied upon force in the history of warfare.”

AMC revealed just how challenging conducting sustained mobility operations is in the Pacific is. Using the lessons learned during MG23, Minihan charged the command with cultivating quick and comprehensive solutions to the challenges faced through 10 lines of effort, including connecting 25 percent of the mobility fleet—both in the air and on the ground—via upgraded communication equipment by the year 2025. Minihan set a new shot clock, set to expire on June 30, 2024. On that day, the Command aims to have the 10 lines of effort completed or moved into regular governance with irreversible momentum. 

#16 Industry Proposes Solution to Mobility Problems at the Airlift Tanker Association Symposium

Airmen ARE the nation’s strategic advantage; they are the magic. The solutions industry provides to maximize our Airmen’s warfighting capabilities will ensure that our Joint Force maintains the strategic advantage.

Nearly 70 industry partners proposed 89 solutions during the Fall Industry Panel at the November Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium. Solutions focused on mobility operations 500 feet and below that advance the agility, integration, and readiness of the Joint Force and continue to enable its ability to fight and win inside the first island chain. This included recommendations for cargo loading equipment, virtual reality training. and next generation network equipment solutions. 

#17 Keep the Engines Running: Introducing the Hot-Integrated Combat Turn

Across the force, our team found innovative methods to make do with what we already own.

This year, Mobility Airmen integrated a new concept of operations into Mobility Guardian 23, Hot-Integrated Combat Turn, focusing on minimum turnaround of aircraft and recovery launch times. Airmen executed simultaneous fueling and loading/unloading of cargo, aircraft reconfiguration and other servicing while aircraft engines are running. The technique was debuted by 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.

#18 Human Performance Industry Day: Innovation Meets Excellence

We must embrace the mindset of a warrior, trained to a peak, ready to find and lead in the arena at a moment’s notice.

AMC hosted the first-ever Human Performance Industry Days in December, showcasing the latest and greatest solutions for human performance. The intent of the event was to share and develop solutions in the human performance space to maximize physical and mental performance for Airmen. A cross-functional team from academia, the Air Force, and industry collaborated and shared insights and developments across the human performance spectrum.

HPID topics derived from lessons learned during Mobility Guardian 2023 showed max endurance operations were needed to operate at the pace and scale required in the Pacific theater. To combat the strain on those who fly, fix and support these missions, AMC is researching human performance tools and concepts which could be adopted to optimize performance in the event of sustained operations.

#19 Mobility Airmen Celebrate Warfighter Legacy with Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Nation

Airmen connected to their combat roots are the key to irreversible momentum.

More than 600 Total Force Airmen, U.S. Air Force Academy cadets, and Air Force ROTC cadets gathered for a three-day Black History Month aviation heritage event at Joint Base Charleston in February. ‘Accelerating the Legacy’ is an annual event honoring the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen by developing today’s aviators and empowering the next generation of Airmen and aviators. This year’s guests of honor included original Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. James Harvey and the former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.

In June, AMC organized a meet and greet event in Page, Ariz., where Air Force representatives and local Navajo veterans and community members came together to honor the past, develop the present, and promote the future. The community event brought together approximately 30 AMC representatives and 50 Navajo veterans and community members. The Navajo community shared stories of their ancestors' invaluable contributions during WWII, efforts that proved the Navajo Nation’s dedication, courage, and resourcefulness during the war.

#20 Operation Homecoming – 50 Years Later

Our job is dangerous—you are putting your life on the line. Read about war and the stress of those who have gone into combat before you.

Airmen from Travis AFB commemorated the 50th anniversary of Operation Homecoming March 30 through March 31, 2023. Operation Homecoming saw the repatriation of 591 American prisoners of war from Vietnam. 258 of these individuals passed through Travis AFB to return to their homes of record.

“You have to be strong; you have to have courage. This POW stuff is not for the faint of heart,” said Navy Capt. Charlie Plumb, fighter pilot and former Vietnam POW, who was held captive for 2,103 days. “Return with honor. Every decision you make has to be filtered through those three words.”

#21 FVEY nations partner during aeromedical evac mission

The more integrated we are across Nations, service, platform, AFSC or rank, the better our ability to provide maneuver for the Joint Force becomes.

The air forces from Five Eyes nations, consisting of the United States Air Force, Royal Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and Canadian Air Force, assembled highly-skilled medical professionals and aircraft crews in July to execute a complex patient transfer scenario. Emphasizing the paramount importance of rapid and efficient inter-air force coordination during life-saving operations, the scenario simulated the transport of 10 critical and urgent care patients from a remote location to a more advanced medical facility.

#22 MG23 Hosts Historic Jumbo-Sized Elephant Walk

I can confidently say we are ready to fight and win inside the First Island Chain, and the Joint force is more ready, more integrated and more agile than it was a year ago.

U.S. and Allied aircraft made history as they conducted an elephant walk on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, during Exercise Mobility Guardian in July. Aircraft and crews from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States participated in event.

#23 KC-10 completes last CENTCOM deployment

Invest in our tenacity, agility, and Airmen to finish the job and Win!

In a ceremony on October 4, 2023, history was made as the KC-10 aerial refueling aircraft, assigned to the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron (EARS), was officially deactivated. The event marked the end of an era in military aviation and highlighted the changing landscape of air power in the 21st century.

“It’s been a bittersweet deployment,” said Maj. Joseph Rush, 908th EARS commander. “The KC-10 will continue to fly for the next year until all the tails have retired and crews have cross-trained into the KC-46. It’s exciting for our community, as we get to take a lot of the best parts of the KC-10 culture we’ve built over the last 42 years and bring those best practices and experiences to a brand new weapons system.”

We will not go back!

AMC is the Joint Force maneuver – The command sprinted in 2023, 2024 will continue the irreversible momentum and capitalize on the lessons learned during Mobility Guardian 2023.

AMC achieved incredible things in 2023. The command embodied unparalleled American airpower and provided the joint force with the critical ability to move anytime, anywhere. Through the command’s work this year, we have thought boldly, experimented, taken risk, and learned the limits of what we can, and cannot do. The new year will be just as demanding as AMC continues the irreversible momentum to achieve victory. AMC will be bolder, innovate faster, and prepare harder for anything that the country asks of it. We must never go back, generate your courage, and Let’s Go!