By Sgt. Salvador R. Moreno , Marine Forces Command
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command strives to move troops and supplies around the world where needed to answer the nation’s call. MARSOC utilizes its U.S. Air Force counterparts from the Air Mobility Command to expedite the process of quickly and efficiently getting those troops and supplies to areas of interest.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Robert Riggs, MARSOC’s air mobility liaison officer, recently conducted a flight in support of the U.S. Africa Command area of operations. AFRICOM is one of six U.S. Defense Department geographic combatant commands and is responsible for military relations with African nations, the African Union and African regional security organizations.
As MARSOC’s AMLO, Riggs provides a critical communication and coordination link between the airlift and ground forces in the area of operations. He facilitates the timely flow of critical information between the air mobility network and MARSOC units that are frequently deployed in support of isolated, dangerous or politically sensitive operations in dozens of countries around the world.
A recent deployment of MARSOC personnel and equipment required a large military transport aircraft to support their deployment of cargo and troops. Riggs, a C-17 pilot, planned and coordinated the movement before taking his job one step further -- piloting the aircraft during the mission. The opportunity gave him the chance to work intimately with the Marines he was supporting and gave them the benefit of reduced deployment friction.
“It just so happens Major Riggs is a C-17 pilot and MARSOC’s general airframe of choice is a C-17,” said Capt. Rich Charest, MARSOC’s assistant strategic mobility officer. The C-17 commonly performs tactical and strategic airlift missions, transports troops and cargo and performs airdrops.
Riggs’ mission required movement of the aircraft from its home base, embarkation of the Marines and their equipment, deployment to theater and the re-deployment of another MARSOC company following the end of their mission. The total flight took several days and spanned multiple continents.
Liaison officers serve a behind the scenes but critical role within their host commands.
“We have a dedicated Air Force pilot who understands the Air Force process and U.S. Transportation Command process,” said Donald Johnson, mobility specialist with MARSOC G-4.
Riggs’ perspective and experiences means he can reduce friction points along the process and can keep the MARSOC staff informed as the mission progresses. This real-time information flow is vital when it comes to the nature, value and sensitivities involved with special operations forces and their missions. According to Charest, Riggs’ eyes on the ground gave them first-hand feedback to fix problems due to air transportation delays and aircraft ground support processes and help plan for mitigation in future operations. He added, it greatly benefits MARSOC and the Air Force’s ability to work together by giving an unbiased view during these critical movements of forces.