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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — The Air Mobility Command’s workload probably won’t be getting any lighter, but some of the places it’s done are changing.

That’s a quick version of a key message Col. Tim Grosz, commander of the 721st Air Mobility Operations Group, delivered this week to senior leaders from more than a dozen remote sites — known as geographically separated units.

“Our biggest issue is the Rhein-Main [Air Base] transformation project,” Grosz said Thursday in Aviano on the final day of the group’s annual gathering.

The 726th Air Mobility Squadron that’s stationed at the military base adjoining Frankfurt International Airport will relocate to Spangdahlem Air Base at the start of October — just a few months before Rhein-Main closes. Much of the 726th’s workload will follow the squadron from Rhein-Main to Spangdahlem. Ramstein Air Base, where the group is headquartered, will also see increased action.

After Rhein-Main closes by December this year, the base will revert to the Frankfurt airport.

Grosz said the move to Spangdahlem is critical because after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the Air Mobility Command has seen a “huge increase” in its workload. For the 721st, that means about 2,000 airmen spread out in 11 countries from Portugal to Qatar are kept busy ferrying personnel and supplies to places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

“You name it, we’re bringing it,” Grosz said when asked what types of cargo were being shipped. A combination of military aircraft and leased commercial jets are used to handle the mission.

Many of those flights have been passing through Rhein-Main. Grosz estimated that Rhein-Main and Ramstein each handle 7,000 flights a year under 721st auspices.

But there are changes outside Germany, as well. Naval Station Rota in Spain and Aviano Air Base in Italy are both building new parking areas for cargo aircraft. Aviano’s Detachment 3 will evolve into the 724th Air Mobility Squadron in March, though officials say that doesn’t necessarily mean the base will see an increase in cargo aircraft.

The Aviano detachment, which hosted the annual gathering for the first time, also learned it had recently won an Air Force-level honor. It was named best small air terminal, which includes cargo and personnel categories. Ramstein’s 723rd Air Mobility Squadron won for best large air terminal.

Grosz said the annual meeting is important because it gives the geographically separated units time to discuss issues.

“It’s nice to have some face-to-face time with everyone,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean the group has stopped its mission for three days.

“We work 365 days a year,” he said. “We don’t have a break.”

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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