Leader Blues

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Air strategy saving lives

Brig. Gen. (Select) Rowayne Schatz is in his office at the headquarters of the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, where he’s the commander, and he reaches for a dagger he’d brought back from Qatar a couple of years ago, when he was in charge of running airlifts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The dagger is a reward for a job well done back in the summer and fall of 2005, when Schatz helped devise a plan to phase out dangerous convoys on the ground and instead use cargo planes to deliver supplies and personnel, especially in Iraq, where trucks were blown up by roadside bombs almost every day.

“The chief of staff said we want to use our air assets to take as many trucks off the roads as we could,” Schatz recalled during an interview last week.

Schatz, who was deputy director of mobility forces based in Qatar, came up with a plan that virtually eliminated the convoys, substituting an armada of planes that the insurgents couldn’t easily attack.

The airlift has replaced more than 6,300 convoys in the last two years.

“We worked to maximize utilization of C-130s we had in theater,” Schatz explained. “We used to bring cargo to two locations, Baghdad and Balad. We expanded that to eight different airfields.”

In addition to the C130s, he said, “We worked to improve utilization of C-17s. We used commercial-type aircraft to fly supplies to Kuwait, Turkey and Kazakhstan. It was a more efficient, effective system.”

The airlift has been a huge undertaking. U.S. forces drop as many as 600 pallets a day and deliver some 300 passengers — soldiers, sailors, Marines and others — in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Schatz said.

“My job was to provide the best support for our troops, and help make Gen. Patreus successful,” the commander explained, referring to the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Schatz knows how to move supplies and people, which is why his next assignment was at U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., where he oversaw all land and sea transport worldwide before taking on his assignment as commander at LRAFB.

He’s been here before as commander of the 50th Airlift Squadron, which was named tops in Air Mobility Command.
While commanding the squadron, he’d overseen several innovative programs, such as “building adverse-weather delivery capability — we were the first in the Air Force,” Schatz said.

That advanced delivery system allows the release of pallets from the air even when crews cannot see the ground below.
That capability comes handy in Afghanistan and Iraq, where planes want to get in and out of a hot spot as quickly as possible and stay high in the air to avoid enemy fire.

It’s not easy moving thousands of people and pallets around the globe, but Schatz can’t think of doing anything else.
He said he acquired his work ethic from his middle-class family in California, where he grew up, and studied hard and later graduated from the Air Force Academy with honors.

He’s also been a Kennedy Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

“I didn’t come from a wealthy family,” he says. “I’m a believer if you apply yourself and work hard, you will be rewarded.”
Schatz succeeded Brig. Gen. Kip Self as wing commander here in May.

Self now commands the Air Force Expeditionary Center, Fort Dix, N.J., and has been promoted to major general. (See story this page.) Schatz himself is being promoted to brigadier general, but he’s not one to brag about his accomplishments.
“I’m primarily a C-130 pilot,” he says modestly, crediting the people who serve with him for his success.

“You don’t get here by yourself,” he says. “You have mentors, people who give you great advice, great co-workers. I’ve had fantastic people who’ve worked for me and made me look good.”

(This is the last of a three-part series of articles about Col. Schatz.)