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Aerial porters in constant motion

By SSgt. Stefanie Torres , Task Force Cincinnatus Public Affairs

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Nov. 29, 2010 — CENTCOM

Aerial port Airmen from the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron roll a pallet of cargo into a C-17 Globemaster III Nov. 3, 2010, at an air base in Southwest Asia. The Airmen inspect and palletize all cargo before shipment. They also work closely with aircraft loadmasters to carefully position the cargo inside aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Laura Turner)

Southwest Asia (Nov. 29, 2010) — Airmen within the U.S. Central Command support more than 150,000 coalition forces in two theaters of operations: Iraq and Afghanistan.

Working nonstop to meet the logistical needs of these operations are the aerial port Airmen of the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, who stay in constant motion to support coalition forces across Southwest Asia.

“We basically move the mission,” said Airman 1st Class Jonathan Hammond, an aerial porter with the 386th ELRS. “It’s our job to move the passengers and cargo through airlift. We make sure things are getting where they need to go inside the (area of responsibility).”

Airlifting everything from passengers and ammo to duffel bags and mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, these Airmen inventory, inspect and palletize every piece of cargo before shipping it out to supply the fight. They reached a benchmark in November, by helping to transport a half-million servicemembers and civilians across Southwest Asia, so far, this year.

“That was a pretty big milestone for us,” said Senior Airman Mitchell Drummer, an aerial porter with the 386th ELRS. “We move passengers in and out of here all the time, so for our leadership to come down and let us know how we’ve made a difference was really great. We’re working to make a big contribution.”

Airmen from the 386th ELRS move approximately 3,000 tons of cargo and more than 39,000 people a month. Working in concert with the aircraft loadmasters assigned to each flight, they load cargo pallets weighing up to 7,000 pounds into the cargo bays of C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster IIIs, using massive forklifts and specialized flatbed trucks called K-loaders.

The hours are long and flightline temperatures can reach 140 degrees during the summer months, but Airman Drummer says it’s all worth it.

“This is a job with a lot of self-gratification,” he said. “It’s also a 24/7 job. Even when others are asleep, we’re still out here working, moving things and getting it all taken care of.”