521st AMOW AMTs maneuver forces during DE23

  • Published
  • By Capt. Emma Quirk
  • 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing
The 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing deployed three Air Mobility Teams and augmentation in support of Exercise Defender Europe in May 2023.
An AMT delivers a Demand Force Team of aerial port, aircraft maintenance, and command and control capabilities to a point of need outside of the fixed en route structure. This is a new concept the wing validated during the exercise.
Augmentation forces are 521st AMOW Airmen who shift from one node to another fixed node within the en route structure in response to a surge in operations.
DEFENDER 23 is a U.S. European Command-directed multinational joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between the U.S., NATO Allies, and partners. The exercise series consists of three separate but related exercises: Swift Response, Immediate Response, and Saber Guardian.
Eight geographically separated 521st AMOW squadrons contributed members to support the exercise.
The first AMT deployed to Zaragoza Air Base, Spain, on May 1, 2023. They provided aerial port and aircraft maintenance capabilities in support of a Joint Forcible Entry event and enabled the deployment and onward movement of participating A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. The team included 19 personnel from the 725th Air Mobility Squadron and 728th Air Mobility Squadron.

“The Air Mobility Team has proven indispensable in enabling interoperability between the Joint Force and our international partners by providing logistical and air transportation expertise, maintenance expertise, and translation support,” said Maj. William Stephenson, 728th Air Mobility Squadron director of operations and AMT lead in Spain.
After 20 days, the AMT at Zaragoza AB launched and recovered 25 multinational aircraft carrying 529 passengers and 80 tons of cargo. The AMT enabled a successful Joint Forcible Entry of 942 American, Spanish, and Italian Airborne soldiers.
On May 11, 2023, the 521st AMOW deployed two AMTs totaling 31 personnel to Larissa Air Base, Greece. The team consisted of Airmen from the 721st Aerial Port Squadron, 721st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 721st Mobility Support Squadron, 727th Air Mobility Squadron, and the 726th Air Mobility Squadron.

“It’s been impressive to observe our experts across several [Air Force Specialty Codes] integrate to establish a fully operational airfield within a matter of hours of arriving,” said Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Javier, 721st APS operations superintendent and AMT enlisted lead in Greece. “While their core competencies provide us the expertise and capacity to operate, it’s been their can-do, positive attitude and willingness to come together as a team that truly maximizes our ability as an AMT to flex and provide mobility solutions in a new location.”

These AMTs received and launched 13 multinational aircraft, 122.1 tons of cargo, and 620 passengers in nine days.

“Their adaptability and professionalism were instrumental in building a solid rapport with our multinational partners, and it’s been an absolute honor to be a part of this team to exercise and showcase our wing’s ability to find a way, or make a way to accomplish SWIFT RESPONSE objectives.” Javier said. “The team is proud to codify this new concept and be a part of the Next Generation AMOW.”
During the exercise, the aircraft were primarily based at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
The wing deployed members from the 725th AMS, 726th AMS, and 728th AMS to augment existing aerial port operations and add C-17 Globemaster III aircraft maintenance capabilities to the 724th Air Mobility Squadron, located on Aviano AB.
“Swift Response 23 has shown how Rapid Global Mobility enables NATO and the Joint Force,” said Maj. Phillip Kapets, 724th AMS commander. “As Aviano served as the Intermediate Support Base for this exercise, we integrated Active Duty and National Guard Airmen from four separate bases to create a multinational mobility hub in Northern Italy. The teams of Air Force logistics professionals worked tirelessly to plan, synchronize, and execute safe, effective Joint Forceable Entry operations into both Spain and Greece.”
The squadron moved 76 aircraft, 194.5 tons, and 1,491 passengers including U.S. C-17 and C-130J Super Hercules, as well as German A-400M Atlus mobility aircraft carrying Dutch and American soldiers and cargo.
“I am extremely impressed with how the Total Force team came together to meet and exceed expectations to support the exercise,” said Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Okkerse, 724th AMS senior enlisted leader. “The integration of C-17 aircraft maintenance was seamless and critical, and I was impressed with how easily they fit into our mission set.”
The team launched missions 24 hours a day to multiple forward operating locations, allowing them to simulate seizing airfields and achieve exercise objectives. The squadron also assumed the role as a command and control hub communicating airflow with forward-positioned AMTs.
“Ultimately, this was an elaborate but successful exercise showing the solidarity and interoperability of NATO partners in its mission to provide a safe and secure Europe,” Kapets concluded.
Maintaining a capable U.S. presence in Europe strengthens national security by encouraging peace, unity, and cohesion between Europe's individual nations. U.S. service members in Europe continue to generate global peace alongside our Allies and partners.
This summer, the 521st AMOW will deploy an AMT to the Indo-Pacific to further demonstrate the concept during Exercise Mobility Guardian 2023, U.S. Air Mobility Command’s premier biennial exercise.
“After nearly 15 years of running en route support through fixed locations, the wing successfully demonstrated the first mass maneuver of AMT forces to offer increased flexibility and agility for our Joint and multinational partners,” said Col. Dan Cooley, 521st AMOW commander. “From the planning to the tasking, execution, documentation, and redeployment, the 521st AMOW Airmen knocked it out of the park. Our overall readiness and posture are at an all-time high. We’re ready to take it up a notch and showcase the maneuverability offered by the AMOWs in the Pacific theater during MG23 this summer.”