FORT CARSON, Colo. - Fort Carson is hosting a unique training this week, but it's not for the Army.
It's for a select group of Air Force pilots and navigators.
They are learning a skill you probably never thought about, but one that members of all military branches can appreciate, and only NewsChannel 13 was allowed on Post to witness it firsthand.
"Air Mobility" is the term the Air Force uses to describe the movement and sustainment of America's armed forces, whether that's transporting troops or supplies.
It's a critical asset, especially when troops are stationed in areas where it's too remote or too dangerous to reach them by road.
Whatever the mission, someone on the ground has to help coordinate the flight. They are called "Air Mobility Liaison Officers" or AMLO's. It's an exclusive title carried by only a few dozen members of the Air Force.
"There's really only around 65 AMLO's that are active duty in the world," explains course director Lt. Col. Margaret Casteel, "but we are all over the world, and supporting every large Army and Marine unit that is in the world."
AMLO's are essentially translators that speak both Army and Air Force, which can be a difficult language to learn.
Capt. Keri Morris, a certified AMLO assigned to the 4th ID at Fort Carson, says, "It is a complicated system, so we're able to bring that knowledge and that experience, and help our Army users and associated units work with that system."
"We embed with them, to help them accomplish their mission," adds Casteel.
Lt. Col. Brian Broekmeier oversees the program from the USAF Mobility Command Headquarters at Scott AFB.
"They build that relationship, they build that trust between the two services, so when the army and the Marines need something, they know the air force mobility command is there for them," he said.
Along with monitoring wind speed and direction, the AMLO trainees also learned to inspect runways for trouble spots that could cause a crash or injure soldiers on the ground.
Identifying and securing drop zones are also skills they must have, so that soldiers, civilians, or structures on the ground are not harmed by the object parachuting from hundreds of feet in the air.
However, helping to execute a landing or an airdrop is only part of an AMLO's job.
Helping the Army and the Marines plan the best way to get troops and/or equipment to the battlefield is a big part of their job.
Unfortunately, an aircraft is often unavailable or not cost-effective, and they have to explain why Air Mobility is unable to help.
"The expectation for some units is 'I want all my stuff in theater tomorrow', and the answer to do that is via air. Well, we don't have assets to support every unit that wants to do that," says Casteel.
Morris explains it's all about priorities at the time.
"Do you want to prioritize the mattresses or the bullets?" she says, "So you have to just help them understand the limitations so that Army users can prioritize and make sure the right stuff is getting downrange or the right stuff is getting to the training environment."
All the AMLO's are already pilots or navigators.
This new course teaches them to be the Air Force's eyes and ears on the ground while serving alongside soldiers or marines.
The training happens three times a year, exclusively at Fort Carson.
Instructors like the area because it's the only clay runway available in the country at this altitude, and the overall environment is not that different than what pilots and AMLO's would find overseas.
"The fact that it's short and it's dirt, and it's up in the mountains, gives them a better training," says Casteel.
The training here is only a 10-day component of the 6-week course, but it is by far the most enjoyable for the students and instructors.
The operation this week used a C-130 from the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, and also a C-130 from the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base.
The strong relationship between the instructors and Peterson AFB is part of the reason they come back to the mountain post every year to train.