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167th AW flying operations diverse and unpredictable in 2021

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle
  • 167th Airlift Wing

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- With a fleet of eight C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, the 167th Operations Group supported a wide range of airlift missions, stateside and abroad, in 2021.

The unit flew more than 900 sorties, transported approximately 6,000 passengers and hauled nearly 4,800 tons of cargo.

“This year highlighted the diverse and often unpredictable nature of the missions that the 167th Operations Group must be prepared to support. We had crews on alert,  supported domestic operations, had up to three aircraft simultaneously dedicated to Air Mobility Command missions,  while also navigating the challenges of a world-wide pandemic,” said Col. Christopher Sigler, 167th OG commander. “Total wing support was crucial and I appreciate everything our unit members did to make these missions successful.”

Last year some training requirements were temporarily waived for aircrew due to COVID-19 restrictions. Normal flight training schedules resumed, however, in 2021 and 268 local training sorties were conducted restoring aircrew readiness.

The 167th had crews and aircraft on alert to support the National Guard Bureau for domestic operations starting last September and concluded the mission in February.

In January the 167th OG flew four missions transporting 279 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from around the country to the National Capitol Region to assist law enforcement with the presidential inauguration.

The 167th had one aircraft dedicated to Tanker Airlift Control Center missions throughout the year and at times three 167th aircraft were supporting TACC missions. TACC plans, schedules and directs U.S. Air Force mobility aircraft in support of combat delivery and strategic airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation operations around the world.

As part of these TACC missions, 167th aircraft and crews supported the U.S. military’s drawdown and eventually the final withdrawal efforts of Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Bagram Air Base was turned over to the Afghanistan forces July 2.

In mid-August, the 167th flew four sorties in support of Operation Allies Refuge, the mass evacuation efforts out of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. One crew transported 250 Marines into the airport and then evacuated 289 passengers. A second short-notice volunteer crew staged at Al Udeid Air Base and flew three missions in and out of Kabul, transporting nearly 1,100 evacuees out of Afghanistan.

This year 167th aircrew participated in operational training exercises focused on Agile Combat Employment, or ACE. In February, the wing partnered with the 175th Wing to practice this new concept of warfighting which relies less on large overseas hubs and more on smaller networks of dispersed locations. The West Virginia National Guard exercise Sentry Storm and the Mississippi Air National Guard exercise Southern Strike provided additional ACE concept training for the group.

Aircraft and crews also participated in Patriot North in June at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center, Wisconsin. Patriot is a domestic operations training exercise and aircrews were able to practice semi-prepared, meaning dirt or crushed gravel, runway operations.

Since August, 167th aircraft and crews have supported routinely scheduled aeromedical evacuation missions, transporting sick or wounded personnel from treatment facilities overseas to stateside facilities. Another Air National Guard unit will pick up those missions beginning in January and the 167th will resume other TACC missions.