News: 8th EAMS transports Burundi soldiers, equipment to CAR
Story by Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - Six aerial porters from the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron forward deployed from the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, in Southwest Asia, to Uganda in support of peace-keeping operations in the Central African Republic, Dec. 11, 2013.
The members of the 8th EAMS air transported nearly 855,000 pounds of cargo and more than 500 Burundi soldiers in eight days in coordination with the French military and the African Union.
“The tasking came as quite a surprise,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jerry Miller, 8th EAMS air terminal manager from Atoka, Okla. “We were ordered to move a Burundi light infantry battalion from South Africa to the Central African Republic. We were given a short notice tasking and loaded up two C-17s (Globemaster III) with a couple of fork lifts and some empty pallets and were on our way to Uganda.”
When the group of aerial porters landed in the Central African Republic they were the only U.S. personnel on the ground, said Miller, who is a permanent party member at the 379th AEW.
"French troops provided security while we unloaded the Burundi soldiers and equipment,” Miller said. “It was a unique experience to see more than 10,000 refugees within 50 yards of the flightline. When the Burundi soldiers offloaded the crowd of refugees erupted and were cheering and clapping. They were excited to see people from Africa trying to help them.”
The 8th EAMS crew flew missions in and out of the Central African Republic for more than six days and were replaced by Airmen from the 615th Contingency Response Wing from Travis Air Force Base, Calif.
The biggest challenged faced by the group of air transportation specialist was to transport armored personnel vehicles which belonged to the Burundi soldiers, Miller said.
“We had to coordinate with our headquarters to certify transporting armored vehicles, belonging to the Burundi soldiers, because they required a special airlift certification,” Miller said. “The vehicles posed a challenge due to their unique build and lack of tie-down locations. Our team had to adjust and spent a lot of time crawling underneath the vehicles to ensure they were safe to fly.”
A typical day for the aerial porters began at 3 a.m. and ended at 10 p.m. and included two flying missions, Miller said.
Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Graham, 379th AEW permanent party member and 8th EAMS NCO in charge of cargo operations from Brunswick, Ga. said, “The trip was quite the experience. It was my first time in Africa and I won’t forget the child I saw waving an American flag and the Central African Republic flag. It’s rewarding to know our mission and work is going to make a difference in people’s lives and hopefully it will help stop the bloodshed.”
Two of the airmen who were sent on the deployment, were getting ready to redeploy to their home duty station, Miller said. They had the specialties needed on the deployment and volunteered to stay a few days later to help support the mission, he added.
“The mission was a great success,” Miller said. “The team did an excellent job of getting aircraft in and out in an expeditious manner. We were deployed with six maintainers, six security forces Ravens and four sets of aircrews. Everyone came together and accomplished the mission. It was a unique mission and I was glad to be a part of it.”