by Maj Michael Meridith
2/18/2014 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Nearly
a year of intense planning among a global group of stakeholders came to
fruition with the recent transition of the Air Force's main Afghanistan
air transportation hub from Kyrgystan to a new temporary location in
The transition comes in the wake of the transition of operations from
Manas, Kyrgystan. For more than a decade, the Manas Transit Center
oversaw the movement of much of the U.S. military's passengers and cargo
into and out of Afghanistan. On Feb. 1, that changed as Romania's
Mihail Kogalniceanu (MK) Air Base reached initial operational capability
as the new air hub.
"The process [for the transition] began in March 2013," said Chris
Rosenthal of the 18th Air Force, and a key planner in a global group
that grew to include stakeholders from the Department of State, Joint
Staff, U.S. European Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. Transportation
Command, U.S. Air Forces Europe, U.S. Army Europe, Air Mobility Command,
the 18th Air Force, and the 618th Air and Space Operations Center
(Tanker Airlift Control Center), as well as Romanian military and
civilian government officials.
According to Rosenthal, the complex planning process began with the
development of a timeline to ensure the transition was complete well
before the expiration of the Manas lease in July 2014. With the timeline
set by July 2013, the team developed an initial concept of operations,
supported by a site visit to meet with local authorities.
"In the next several months we wrote and coordinated orders, submitted
requests for forces, and held numerous meetings. All of this culminated
in a rehearsal of our concept, which we presented in January to Lt. Gen.
Donald Campbell, the commanding general of U.S. Army Europe in
January," said Rosenthal.
Rosenthal noted that the rehearsal was a success, validating months of
collaborative effort by team, and laying the foundation for the February
start of operations in MK. He added that despite the challenges
presented by the planning and execution of the effort, those involved
were gratified by what it has meant for their ultimate customers ... the
men and women of the U.S. military.
Those points were echoed by Lt. Col. Todd McCoy, commander of the 780th
Expeditionary Airlift Squadron based out of MK, who has responsibility
for ensuring the safe transportation of passengers to and from
"It's the passengers that really benefit from what is a classic example
of great partnership," he said. "From planning to the point of
execution, where we faced challenging weather and infrastructure issues,
success was guaranteed by a group of dedicated joint professionals
McCoy added that the fruits of the partnership were not only the
establishment of an essential strategic hub in support of the
Presidentially-directed Afghanistan drawdown but also cost savings for
the American taxpayer.
"Thanks to our partnership with the Romanian authorities, we negotiated
an increase in the airport's weight-bearing capacity that allowed us to
add additional fuel at MK at a fuel cost half that in the AOR. Now, we
save over $20 thousand each mission," said McCoy.
"By standing up MK we are able to continue to support the movement of
our troops without missing a beat," Rosenthal said. "This really is a
testament to having the right people in place to perform a challenging
task with leadership and ingenuity."