SOUTHWEST ASIA - U.S. Central Command has a big job here, supporting more than 150,000 coalition forces in two theaters of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those troops require a tremendous amount of logistical support, including around-the clock airlift sorties to move personnel and cargo throughout the area of responsibility, said Lt. Col. Gerald Clouse, commander of the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron.
Troops need to get to forward operating bases, Colonel Clouse noted, and once there, "they require a steady flow of supplies and equipment for combat operations or mission sustainment," he said.
Working non-stop to meet those critical needs are the Airmen of the 386th ELRS Aerial Port, who stay in constant motion to support coalition forces across Southwest Asia.
"We basically move the mission," said Airman 1st Class Jonathan Hammond, a "port dog" who is deployed here from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "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 AOR."
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.
Their dedication and teamwork helped the Aerial Port reach a significant benchmark here in early November -- transporting 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, who also is deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "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 Aerial Port move approximately 3,000 tons of cargo and more than 39,000 personnel a month, making them no stranger to heavy lifting.
Working in concert with the aircraft loadmasters who are assigned to each flight, they load cargo pallets weighing up to 7,000 pounds into the cargo bays of C-130s and C-17s using massive forklifts and specialized flatbed trucks called K-loaders. The hours are long and the environment can be challenging, with flightline temperatures reaching 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."
Airman Hammond agreed.
"It's pretty self-assuring to know that when we load up an aircraft full of ammo going to Afghanistan, we know where it's going and what it's in support of," he said. "Some of the things we carry are time-critical so we have to work fast while keeping safety as a top priority. We never stop."
This work, ‘Port Dogs’ in constant motion at 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, by SSgt Stefanie Torres, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.