Small jets, small crew, big mission
By Senior Airman Bahja J. Jones, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 26, 2013
SOUTHWEST ASIA --
Editor's note: Maj. Erik Todoroff and 1st Lt. Daniel Workman, featured in this story, are deployed from Joint Base Andrews, Md.
When many people think of deployed aircraft, fighter jets and large cargo jets may come to mind. But amidst the more combat oriented aircraft at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing here, is a small executive jet used to transport distinguished visitors throughout the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility.
The C-21 Firebass is a twin turbofan-engine aircraft used for cargo and passenger airlift. Differentiating them from other passenger transport capable jets here, the Firebass' primary mission is DV airlift.
"Although DVs will fly with other platforms out here, whether it's a C-17 or C-130, those platforms have other primary missions they are executing whereas our focus is on DV transport," said Maj. Erik Todoroff, the 379th Expeditionary Operations Group C-21 commander deployed from Joint Base Andrews, Md., and a Jackson, Mich. native. "Not only can we tailor our services a little better to them, but we are also significantly less expensive to operate than any of the larger aircraft they are going to fly on. As far as dollar per mile traveled, we are one of the cheapest alternatives in the AOR."
DV transport is a key resource in a deployed location for a number of reasons, explained 1st Lt. Daniel Workman, a 379th EOG C-21 pilot also deployed from Joint Base Andrews and hails from Chapel Hill, N.C.
"They [DVs] want to be as close to the front as they possibly can be," he said. "We'll fly a lot of missions [into the theater] so they know exactly what's going on from as close a perspective as they can get."
For example, if there is a new base being set up, a civil engineer commander may want to go out and see what is needed to get the base up and running and figure out what he or she can do to help.
"I think it really helps them to make decisions when they are able to see it in person." Workman said.
Todoroff also added how the DV transport mission falls directly in-line with the 379th AEW commander's priorities: Mission, Airmen, and Partners.
"We are giving an opportunity for decision makers to have face-to-face contacts with key people on the other side of the fence," he said. "Building those partnerships is absolutely crucial to the mission here, and we are a large enabler of that."
Initial request for DV transport go through the Distinguished Visitor Plans Agency in the Combined Air and Space Operations Center. Afterward, they send the specific missions to the C-21 team where they start the planning process.
"We do a lot of the mission planning ourselves and we have to work with a lot of different agencies at different bases to make sure everything goes flawlessly," said Workman.
The "duty bass," or mission planner for the day, is responsible for coordinating all the details for the flight and organizing support from the protocol offices here and the point of destination. They ensure the timing is as solid as possible for the arrival and departure and there is someone there to greet the DV.
With only eight Airmen, the squadron has three aircrews, an aviation resource manager and a contracting officer representative ensuring fluid C-21 operations.
Having such a small unit has its advantages and disadvantages, Todoroff said. There are only eight people to keep eyes on and communicate with regarding mission or morale.
"On the downside, we still have all of the additional duties a normal size squadron would have," he added.
Beside every functional ops team, is a maintenance team ensuring the birds are in top shape to get the mission done. Uniquely, the C-21 operators have a 10-man, civilian contracted maintenance team by their side.
"They are phenomenal," Todoroff said. "They do an outstanding job getting our jets ready and dealing with all the regular maintenance schedules on top of generating ATO sorties."
Though the C-21s are small jets operated by a small squadron, they have a big mission supporting DV airlift through the AOR