By Story by Sgt. Sydney Mariette
34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade
IRAQ – “ ‘You Call, We Haul.’ That was our call sign at Fort Hood,” said Spc. Kenyon Santomango, lead planner of the Air Mission Requests (AMR) cell for an undisclosed location in Iraq while deployed with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade.
Trained as an Aviation Operations Specialist, Santomango works as part of a three-man team to process, schedule, and coordinate all requested flights at the brigade level for his area of responsibility. With only two brigade level AMR cells for the 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade’s area of operations – serving 21 locations, over 1,900 service members assigned to the unit and supporting their higher headquarters Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) – this is no simple task.
“We track how to get people [and equipment] from point A, to point B, to point C,” said Santomango. “We’re the ones who plan all the flight routes, all the stops for fuel, all the cargo space. The biggest part is just the planning aspect of it.”
And like all plans, they are fluid until the aircraft takes off. Santomango says that last minute changes to flight missions are the most challenging part of his job. However, he and his fellow AMR Soldiers strive to adapt and accommodate as best they can, while still ensuring that the flight missions are an efficient use of resources and time.
“It’s a lot of coordination with the flight companies,” explained Santomango. “We take all the requests, make the flight manifest and route of flight, pick a specific aircraft depending on the cargo load, keeping in mind the space for cargo and the amount of trips it takes to complete the mission. [But] it’s the flight crew that take our plans and execute the actual mission of getting people from point A to point B.”
The AMR cell receives numerous transportation requests daily, either internally from the 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade or externally from CJTF-OIR. Upon receiving those requests, Santomango and his non-commissioned officer-in-charge, Spc. Erik Flannery, coordinate requests efficiently to fully maximize the aircraft’s space and flight hours for every mission.
“We’re big picture,” said Flannery. “The flight crews are more precise.”
As an aviation brigade deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield, the movement of troops and equipment throughout the theater is a main line of effort for Soldiers of the 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade.
“I think it’s imperative that as an aviation brigade, we get people across the battlefield. So us being actually the ones who make that happen, [our job is] imperative to any success that may happen,” said Santomango.
However, while the AMR cell is focused on mission-essential flights, they also had the opportunity to spread a little holiday cheer when they supported a very unique mission in December 2019.
“When the new Star Wars movie came out there was a person from Disney who came out with the reel,” said Santomango. “We’d circulate him around to different locations every day so all the people there could see the movie. We got Star Wars out to all the bases.”
Being able to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker helped to boost troop morale when the brigade first arrived to the Middle East, and provided a little taste of home during the holiday season. Since then, Santomango and the rest of the AMR Soldiers have ensured that the 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade provide efficient plans for flight missions that maximize aviation resources throughout the area of operations. (U.S. Army story by Sgt. Sydney Mariette)
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