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Four-day Airlift/Tanker convention enlightens BLAZE Team pilots

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss -- Almost two dozen BLAZE Team members traveled to Orlando, Fla., Oct. 29 through Nov. 1 to attend the 38th Annual Airlift Tanker Association Convention -- whose mission is to promote the mobility capability of the nation's military.

Col. Mark Baker, 14th Flying Training Wing vice commander, Lt. Col. David Hammack, 48th Flying Training Squadron commander, and Lt. Col. Mark Austin, 14th Operations Support Squadron director of operations, were among the 22 Columbus AFB participants.

Membership to the private, international ATA organization is open to officer and enlisted active-duty, reserve and retired military personnel, as well as civilian and industrial supporters of the air mobility mission.

Each year, thousands of mobility warriors and supporters convene to discuss the past, present and future of air mobility.

Of particular interest to the future mobility pilots Columbus AFB trains was an address by Col. John Millander, 97th Operations Group commander at Altus AFB, Okla.

Colonel Millander discussed future plans for Altus AFB; the school houses of C-5, C-17 and KC-135 aircraft; the transition of C-5 training to the reserve unit at Kelly AFB, Texas; the inclusion of night vision goggle training in the C-17 syllabus; and adapting the KC-135 syllabus to flow much like the C-17 syllabus in an effort to expedite pilot production.

Closing remarks from Gen. Duncan McNabb, commander of Air Mobility Command, tied together all the themes and topics discussed during the convention. He proudly called AMC the "crown jewel" of the nation's defense, outlined the achievements from his command during the last year, gave a perspective of AMC future and praised each Airman who dedicates him or herself to executing the mission.

This year's convention had record-breaking attendance with many distinguished visitors, including Army Gen. Bryan Brown, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command; Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz, commander of U.S. Transportation Command; Navy Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command; Air Force Gen. William Looney, commander of Air Education and Training Command; and Air Force Gen. Ronald E. Keys, commander of Air Combat Command, as well as several more commanders from bases all over the globe.