News: 551st moves goods to Al Asad Airfield
Sgt. Jason Mikeworth
Successfully running an airfield Arrival Departure and Control Group (A/DACG) is vital to getting supplies and equipment to troops that need them on the battlefield.
"Our main mission in garrison or here is to move cargo," said 1st Lt. Allison Mason, the commander for the 551st Cargo Transfer Company Detachment which operates the A/DACG at Camp Al Asad. "We're responsible for all Army cargo that leaves Al Asad or arrives at Al Asad via air."
When cargo arrives at Al Asad, it's up to the 551st to make sure it gets to the intended unit.
"When cargo comes in, we ID it and facilitate the customer unit coming up to pick it up," Mason said.
Tracking where the cargo is at all times is an important aspect of the job, and one that the 551st has steadily improved since arriving in theater in September.
"We've implemented six new computer database systems to help track cargo since we've been here," said Sgt. Adam Elkins, the A/DACG NCOIC. "Since we've implemented the new systems, it's enabled us to better serve our customer units."
Mason said the new tracking software has greatly increased the efficiency of the A/DACG by eliminating the need to rely on their Air Force companions or an Army movement control team.
"We've cut out the middle-man," Mason said. "We're a lot more self-sustaining now."
One of the biggest challenges for the 551st has been running a 24 hour operation with a minimum amount of personnel.
"We have to keep the [team] motivated," Ekins said. "We have to keep them trained on their mission and train them to do my mission, too. This stuff has to get out in a timely manner. It could be medical supplies or other things that are needed on the battlefield."
Spc. Eddie Ramos, a heavy equipment operator with the 551st who is on his third tour in Iraq, said the work can be exciting sometimes.
"You push yourself to get it done," Ramos said. "You feel pretty good about yourself, you feel important because you're helping the whole post."
Ramos also said that working along side the Air Force and Marines has been a good experience.
"It's amazing how the branches work together," Ramos said.
Elkins echoed that sentiment.
"Working with the Air Force, this is their bread and butter," Elkins said. "It's like working with the masters of the trade."
Mason said the relationship with the Marines has been equally good.
"They treat us like family. They treat us just as well as they treat their own," Mason said. "They've done everything we could ask to make our job smoother."
Another aspect of the 551st's mission is heavy material handling support for Camp Al Asad and the surrounding area.
"I've got to do a lot that others didn't get to do," said Pfc. Fierran Watts, a cargo specialist with the 551st. "I got to sight-see a little when I went with the Marines to Camp Korean Village."
Watts said his job can be demanding, comparing it to creating a work of art.
"You try to paint a perfect picture, and maybe it's not, but you try to make it real sweet and move forward," Watts said.
Elkins said he's very impressed with the performance of his team and their flexibility with an unpredictable day-to-day work load.
"I can't say enough about them. They make it happen, the work can't be done without them," Elkins said. "They've made me shine. Most definitely, I'm very proud of them."