AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar—“You need it, we move it.”
That is the saying of Airmen with the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron who enable rapid global mobility every day here at one of U.S. Central Command’s busiest en route stations.
“We are the middle man for the area of responsibility, and everything goes through this port,” said Master Sgt. Kelly Lemke, air freight superintendent with the 8th EAMS. “Rapid movement is what keeps us in the fight. Without us, cargo doesn’t move and personnel can’t travel.”
Lemke explained the 8th EAMS’ primary mission here is to load cargo onto the C-17 Globemaster III, but because of their expertise in transportation and logistics, they have become more and more involved in supporting the majority of aircraft here.
The 8th EAMS knowledge in transportation and logistics enable their ability to inspect, temporarily store and load cargo such as munitions, blood, special operations cargo, hazardous materials, vehicles and medical supplies. Their ability to also rapidly move cargo has given them a larger tie to theater operations impacting battlefield personnel.
“As a tenant unit, we mostly maintain ourselves operation-wise,” said Lemke, “but with our specialized skills we hope to establish ourselves as a partner [in wing operations] rather than just a tenant.”
Those same skills have allowed the 8th EAMS to also support coalition partners with their air missions. Recently, they worked together with other agencies on base supporting missions critical to Mosul operations, including those impacting the posture of ground forces.
During November of this year, Airmen of the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron were tasked with supporting Mosul operations by expeditiously gathering, organizing and palletizing more than 19 tons of fire retardant foam and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense equipment.
“There are always surprises in the military,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Majack, sealift coordinator with the 379th ELRS. “I went from my daily routine to leading a team into palletizing almost 45,000 lbs. of fire extinguishing foam and 1,000 gas masks.”
With the support of the 8th EAMS, the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing was able to expedite those 19 tons of equipment in support of Operation Conquest. That same partnership backed the Mosul offensive by also quickly shipping 11,000 lbs. of special operations equipment and more than 19,000 blood units, saving 107 patients. The cargo supporting U.S. and coalition forces was on its way only 12 hours after the initial tasking, a showcase of 8th EAMS mantras of velocity and tenacity.
“It is all just a matter of knowing what is coming in to the port, knowing what needs to go out and then matching that all up,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Sanders, a capability forecaster with the 8th EAMS. “If things get hung up in one spot, it creates a ripple effect.”
To prevent such hang ups, the diverse Airmen of the squadron do everything from tier two aircraft maintenance, command and control of Air Mobility Command aircraft, and mission tracking, to loading and unloading equipment, and even servicing aircraft washrooms.
With a steady focus on tenacity, flexibility and tenacity, Airmen of the 8th EAMS work around the clock to bolster the U.S. Air Forces Central Command and AMC missions.
“We will continually strive to maintain a free flow of cargo movement,” added Sanders.