by Tech. Sgt. Oshawn J. Jefferson
U.S. Air Forces Central Command combat camera team
4/19/2010 - CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- A team of 28 aerial port and vehicle maintenance Airmen from the 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Det. 1 here are moving the mission in Afghanistan.
The unit's air traffic operations center and ramp operations have uploaded and downloaded more than 40,000 short tons of cargo from almost 3,000 aircraft moving in and out of the airfield here since Jan. 1.
"We are a small group of guys doing a big mission out here," said 1st Lt. Josh Meyer, the 451st ELRS Det. 1 commander deployed from Pope Air Force Base, N.C. "Seven days a week our Airmen have a hand in moving cargo or people essential to our operations in this region. We have an important role and our Airmen are proving why they are the best at what they do daily."
Aerial port Airmen ensure coalition forces get the equipment and supplies they need by moving cargo off of airframes such as C-17 Globemaster IIIs, C-130 Hercules and Russian-made IL-76s and DC-8s.
"Sometimes we have three aircraft on the ground at a time and our guys are on it," said Staff Sgt. Patrick Raible, the detachment's (air traffic operations center) shift supervisor deployed from Pope AFB. "Even though we have a lot of aircraft come through, it's fun. The more work we get the more proficient our Airmen get and our guys get better every day. Our guys enjoy the challenge, because when it comes to getting the job done, we always get the job done."
Moving all that cargo requires approximately 40 fork lifts, loaders and other vehicles. To keep the Airmen "who move the mission" going, a four-man vehicle maintenance team keeps their cargo vehicle fleet on the go.
"We know we have to keep these vehicles operational or the mission cannot get done," said Staff Sgt. Vanny Vang, a 451st ELRS vehicle maintainer deployed from Shaw AFB, S.C. "We have to stay on top of our job, and we certainly do. Our guys are at the top of their game out here. We have a big job. With the right tools and the right attitude, we get it done."
With the responsibility of processing coalition forces coming in and out of the base, the squadron's passenger services aerial porters have ensured more than 25,000 customers have departed to various destinations throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility this year.
"We see 200 to 300 customers a day, from Americans and Afghans going to forward locations, to British and Danish servicemembers heading home," said Staff Sgt. John Fitzgerald, a 451st ELRS Det. 1 passenger-services agent deployed from Pope AFB. "We move the people who affect missions all over Afghanistan. It's an awesome sight to witness and lets us know how much our job impacts the full spectrum of our operations over here."
A fully-manned aerial port squadron has more than 280 people making the mission a success. At Camp Bastion, the detachment has roughly 10 percent of a fully-manned squadron.
"Without question we have some of the sharpest Airmen in the Air Force out here at (Camp) Bastion," said Master Sgt. Jeff Powell, the 451st ELRS superintendent deployed from Pope AFB. "They are excited about doing their job every day and they are learning about being hands-on leaders. They are as good as it gets."