VOLK FIELD, Wisconsin (NEWS RELEASE) - For close to 10 years, Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center served as the gateway to neighboring Fort McCoy or field bases overseas for more than 170,000 Soldiers and 60 million pounds of cargo, ferried by more than 430 flights.
That joint partnership reached a milestone when the last troop mobilization flight, carrying more than 150 Soldiers of the Texas Army National Guard's 236th Engineer Company, left the Wisconsin Air National Guard base for Afghanistan earlier this month. Their departure marked the end of what is officially referred to as the Aerial Port of Embarkation (APOE) mission. Fort McCoy also ended its mobilization mission in September.
Soldiers departing and arriving at Volk Field had become commonplace in the years following the 9/11 attacks - it wasn't uncommon for six or seven planes to be on the ground at one time. At one point, Fort McCoy was the largest mobilization and demobilization station for the Army Reserve entity, according to Chief Master Sgt. Greg Cullen, Volk's airfield manger since 2004.
"The Volk Field-Fort McCoy partnership is a tremendous success story and a great source of pride for all involved," said Col. Gary Ebben, Volk Field commander. "For nearly a decade, we have maintained our focus on the deploying or returning service member."
The sentiment from Fort McCoy is much the same.
D.J. Eckland, supervisor of Fort McCoy's movement branch, once deployed from and returned to Volk Field as a Soldier in the Wisconsin National Guard.
"Volk Field has been very accommodating and supportive of Fort McCoy and the service members deployed as a result of our mobilization mission," Eckland said. "Regardless of mission requirements, they were there every step of the way, always providing exceptional support and never complaining. The partnership has been and will continue to be excellent between us."
Although the APOE mission directly or indirectly affected almost every Airman on base, and accumulated an extra 2,000 hours of work for Volk Airmen, complaints were few and far between, Cullen said.
"Although we - airfield management, weather, air traffic control, fire department, security, fuels, etc. - had to work weekends, late hours, holidays and all times of the night, seldom did you ever hear a complaint because we were supporting a valid mission," he said. "The mission has been very rewarding over the years.
"When you look out on the flight line and see families waving flags, holding signs, waiting for their loved ones on the flightline ... I don't think there's any of us that haven't gotten choked up at some point," he continued.
Although the APOE mission has concluded, Fort McCoy will continue to operate other flights to Volk to keep the working relationship going. After all, Volk Field Airmen have gotten good at it.
"As an airfield manager, I'm really proud of our staff for supporting a global effort in the safe and efficient movement of our troops," Cullen said. "We didn't always like to see them leaving, but we liked seeing them come home."