WASHINGTON -- Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, U.S. Transportation Command commander, said our allies and commercial partners are key to the U.S. maintaining its capability to move troops and supplies around the globe at a moment's notice.
From undertaking the historic noncombatant evacuation of refugees from Afghanistan to fielding a steady flow of military aid to Ukraine, Van Ovost said Transcom's mission is constantly enabled by a global web of freight carriers, civilian port operators and international logistics partners.
"We affectionately refer to them as our 'fourth component command' because they are a force multiplier for us in competition and in conflict," Van Ovost said during a Brookings Institution webinar on global mobility.
Tasked with moving soldiers and supplies into any theater and ensuring U.S. forces are capable of maneuvering during any fight, Van Ovost oversees 120,000 military members, civilians and contractors and three service component commands that fulfill Transcom's joint mobility mission by air, sea and land.
She says "people and partnerships" are key to accomplishing the mission day in, day out.
By combining the global access to air and seaports, the capabilities offered by commercial transportation partners, and the reach of allies, Van Ovost says Transcom is able to leverage a "formidable web" of enablers to accomplish the mission.
That web is not an abstract concept.
Spotlight: Support for Ukraine
Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine, Transcom began moving supplies into the region at lightning speed.
Van Ovost said commercial partners completed almost 1,200 flights and moved approximately 73 vessels of equipment into the theater, saving critical military capacity.
U.S. investments in infrastructure, propositioned assets and interoperability with allies through the European Deterrence Initiative — a U.S. program initiated in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 — were also critical to the Defense Department's ability to quickly aid Ukrainian forces, she said.
Weeks after Russia crossed into Ukraine in February of last year, the U.S. was able to deploy thousands of troops to the region to provide humanitarian support and has since sustained a steady flow of military aid to Ukraine thanks to preparations made in advance of the invasion.
Those preparations included the prepositioning of U.S. equipment in the region so that it could be quickly fielded in the event of a crisis.
That prepositioned equipment, she said, shortened the timeline for effectively fielding troops and equipment in the region by about two weeks she said.
The pre-staging of equipment in the region was done as part of the European Deterrence Initiative.
More recently, the Pacific Deterrence Initiative has paved the way for the U.S. to strengthen its ties with regional partners through exercises and logistics agreements — a move Van Ovost said will be critical for competing effectively with China.
"That's how we build that interoperability and the relationships, the deep relationships we need," she said. "Our allies and partners are absolutely an asymmetric advantage that we have that not many do."