By Master Sgt. Phil Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 05, 2018
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Global Mobility Squadron has been named Air Mobility Command’s Contingency Response Unit of the Year for 2017.
The Guard squadron was chosen over multiple active-duty and Reserve contingency response units, said Lt. Col. Steve Campbell, commander of the 123rd GMS, which is part of the larger 123rd Contingency Response Group here.
During 2017, the unit was tasked to operate Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, serving as the most forward-deployed U.S. Air Force unit during the West Mosul offensive, moving 674 short tons of cargo and 2,000 personnel closer to the fight with ISIS.
“This mission was very important to us, because after many exercises, Ebola relief support and humanitarian missions, it was the first time our CRG operated in a combat zone,” Campbell said.
While in Iraq, the unit de-conflicted 4,500 air operations across 2,800 square miles of combat airspace, he added.
The unit also provided humanitarian relief following Hurricane Harvey, establishing a Disaster Aeromedical Staging Facility in Houston; and was instrumental in response to Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, evacuating 3,887 passengers, moving 3,617 short tons of cargo and providing ramp operations to 268 aircraft.
“We went to Puerto Rico for six weeks following Hurricane Maria, opened San Juan International Airport and started receiving Guard, active-duty, international and commercial aircraft facilitating the forward deployment of humanitarian supplies,” Campbell said. “We also supported the president, vice-president and multiple distinguished visitors while simultaneously conducting relief operations.”
Campbell said the unit maintained a high operations tempo and supported double the number of aircraft typical for contingency operations.
Unit members also supported several other operations in 2017, including U.S. Air Forces in Europe missions moving more than 240 troops and 95 tons of cargo.
“We routinely send aerial porters and maintenance personnel to augment deployed active-duty units in Europe,” Campbell explained. “We send out teams two to three at a time to get good experience supporting U.S. Transportation Command.”
In addition to the real-world operations the unit supported last year, its Airmen also participated in multiple domestic exercises including Vigilant Guard and Mobility Guardian to keep troops trained and prepared for rapid response.
The squadron and its parent group are often described as an "airbase in a box.” Their mission is to assess, establish and operate contingency airfields in response to combat operations, natural disasters, terrorists attacks or humanitarian emergencies.
They have all the personnel, training and equipment needed to deploy to a remote location, open a runway and establish airfield operations enabling the arrival of supplies, equipment and personnel.
The 123rd CRG, which stood up in 2007, is comprised of the 123rd Global Mobility Squadron and the 123rd Global Mobility Readiness Squadron. It provides personnel trained in command and control, aerial port, maintenance, security, logistics, fuels, intelligence, civil engineering, medical and multiple mission support elements.
“Last year put us on the map, from completing a combat mission, rolling right into sitting alert for three hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — and responding to two — Harvey and Maria,” Campbell said. “We had many traditional Guardsmen performing up to 220 days of active duty, which is unheard of. The accolades really speak for themselves. It really was a remarkable year for us.”
“The 123rd CRG has achieved a number of accomplishments in the last two years,” added Col. Bruce Bancroft, commander of the 123rd Contingency Response Group. “It is a true testament to the incredible caliber of Airmen we have in this unit.
“Many of our troops have been serving in the CRG for over 10 years,” he continued. “This long-term continuity and high level of experience is simply unmatched across the contingency response enterprise. The volunteerism and dedication to mission is unlike anything I’ve seen in 23 years of service, and I couldn’t be prouder.”