601st AOC Earns AF-level Award for Haiti Relief Operations

By Lt. Col. Susan A. Romano, AFNORTH Public Affairs

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Forces from the 601st Air & Space Operations Center here earned the highest praise from the Air Force Chief of Staff for their contributions to Haiti after the island nation was rocked by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake Jan. 12, 2010.

Air Forces Northern’s 601st Air Mobility Team, made up of airlift experts from the 601st AOC, McGuire AFB, N.J., Travis AFB, Calif., Canadian airmen from the 1st Canadian Air Division, and members of the United Nations World Food Programme, was awarded the Air Force Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award at a ceremony Sept. 14 at Gaylord National Harbor Convention Center in Alexandria, Va.

The innovations and business solutions the competing Air Force teams developed to improve processes and conserve resources were outstanding, said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.

"These award winners truly exemplify our core values," General Schwartz said. "They are dedicated to making us more effective and more efficient, both of which are critical for the Air Force in today's challenging strategic environment."

The 601st Air Mobility Division temporarily transformed its Regional Air Movement Control Center, better known as RAMCC, into the Haiti Flight Operations Control Center in the wake of the devastating quake that virtually rendered the Port-au-Prince International Airport inoperable. The HFOCC worked around the clock for two months to coordinate all fixed wing air traffic into Haiti’s international airport.

The HFOCC’s primary ‘charter’ was to coordinate all U.S. military, commercial, governmental and non-governmental aircraft that flowed in and out of the airport, assigning ‘slot times’ to maximize the efficiency of ramp operations for all incoming and outgoing flights.

“We essentially provided two distinct and much-needed capabilities at the time – airspace management and airflow management,” said Lt. Col. Brad Graff, 601st Air Mobility Division chief and officer-in-charge of the HFOCC during relief operations. “Haiti’s main seaport was completely unusable because of the widespread damage, so relief operations had to be funneled through the single operational runway at the international airport – all on a single cul-de-sac ramp with only 10 parking spots.”

Within 24 hours of establishing the HFOCC, more than 1,000 slot times were assigned, with a reservation being issued every two minutes. The biggest challenge the HFOCC team faced was prioritizing which relief aircraft would be given access, and which would be delayed.

“It wasn’t easy – we knew the Haitians needed doctors and shelter and clothing, but we also knew they needed food and clean, potable water,” Colonel Graff continued. “The HFOCC team strove to produce a constant and predictable flow while at the same time ensuring the flexibility to accommodate high priority cargo.”

In two months of operation, the HFOCC processed nearly 6,000 slot time requests, coordinated the air movement of 18,000 short tons of cargo, evacuated more than 29,000 passengers, and transformed an airport accustomed to channeling a mere 20 flights per day into an operation accepting nearly 178 flights per day.

The Air Force Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award recognizes groups that use a systematic approach to enhance mission capability, improve operational performance and create sustained results.

“Words cannot express the deep pride I have for these extraordinary men and women who rightfully deserved accolades from our senior Air Force leader,” said Maj. Gen. Garry C. Dean, Air Forces Northern commander. “The HFOCC team personified the Air Force Core Value of ‘Service Before Self’ while playing a critical role in the largest natural disaster relief effort ever undertaken by the United States of America, and it is an honor to serve with these superior officers, NCOs and civilians.”

Team members who earned the award are as follows:

From the 601st AOC, Tyndall AFB, Fla.:

Lt. Col. Brad Graff (601 AOC)

Lt. Col. David Peterson (601 AOC)

Lt. Col. Stephen Davidson (601 AOC)

Lt. Col. Michael Vanzo (601 AOC)

Mr. Phillipe Martou (UN-WFP)

Mr. Albert Rieger (UN-WFP)

Mr. Mike Whiting (UN-WFP)

Maj. Joseph Grindrod (601 AOC)

Maj. David Smith (601 AOC)

Maj. Tony Jones (601 AOC)

Maj. Steven Kozielecki (601 AOC)

Maj. James S. Fell (CAN AF)

Maj. Matthew Schnell (621 CRW)

Capt. Richard W. Gough (CAN AF)

Capt. Frank Rovello (621 CRW)

Capt. Joseph Wall (621 CRW)

Master Sgt. Gerald Cote (601 AOC)

Tech. Sgt. Alex Calderon (349 AMOS)

Tech. Sgt. Lenora Gallegos (349 AMOS)

Tech. Sgt. Tristina Senter (349 AMOS)

Staff Sgt. Jonathan A. White (621 CRW)

From the 612th AOC, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.:

Capt. Justin A. Longmire (615 CRW)

Capt. Nicholas A. Torres (615 CRW)

Capt. Wendy J. Farnsworth (621 CRW)

Tech. Sgt. Scott A. Teague (615 CRW)

Staff Sgt. Melissa L. Cone (AFSOUTH)

Staff Sgt. Krystal A. Justice (612 AOC)

Staff Sgt. Dennis E. Patterson (612 AOC)

Staff Sgt. Matt M. Yatsko (612 AOC)

Airman 1st Class Andrea K. Schams (612 AOC)

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100116-F-5196D-089 – Members of the international aid community work alongside a large joint U.S. military presence during Operation Unified Response at the Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Dustin Doyle)

100914-F-8801M-435 – Members of the Haiti Flight Operations Coordination Center pose with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, after receiving the Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award Sept. 14, 2010. From left to right: Staff Sgt. Dennis Patterson, Airman 1st Class Andrea Schams, Maj. James Fell, Capt. Richard Gough, Maj. David Smith, Gen. Norton Schwartz, Lt. Col. Bradley Graff, Capt. Justin Longmire, Maj. Joseph Grindrod, Staff Sgt. Jonathan White, and Tech. Sgt. Alex Calderon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andy Morataya)

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