News: Aerial porters: Moving passengers, cargo
Story by Senior Airman Amber Kelly-Herard
By Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
SALAH AD DIN, Iraq - As the drawdown of Joint Base Balad continues, there are many passengers and cargo that need to get to Joint Base Balad, as well as, out.
The 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Aerial Porter Flight is busy taking care of most of the passengers and cargo going in and out of JBB.
“We support the mission by bringing things such as ammunition, vehicles and personnel,” said Senior Master Sgt. Craig Okazaki, 332nd ELRS Air Freight superintendent, who is deployed from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. “Right now we are handling the last wave of replacements and getting others home or to other locations down range and we are doing the same with cargo.”
The flight is broken down into five sections: Passengers, Ramp, Cargo, Special Handling, Load Planners and the Air Terminal Operations Center.
The passenger section is what most people on JBB experience as they arrive and depart.
“My job is awesome because I help people get home or sustain the mission by getting other people where they need to be,” said Senior Airman Ashley Michels, 332nd ELRS passenger representative, who is deployed from Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station, Minn. “I was supposed to leave in September, and I extended until the end of mission to help out.”
“The most rewarding part of my job is helping people on emergency leave get home by the quickest means possible during the saddest part of their life,” continued the Grand Forks, N.D., native.
Working at the Cargo section provides more than what most aerial porters see at their home stations.
“We see a lot more equipment that we never see back home like [Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles],” said Okazaki. “We also deal with different aircraft, but loadmasters help guide us.”
“Every load is different and has a different shape, plus we are pushing thousands of pounds in the heat, but it is rewarding to know we are supporting the needs of the mission,” added Senior Airman Steve Nieminski, 332nd ELRS air transportation specialist, who is also deployed from Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station, Minn., and a native of Green Bay, Wis.
Okazaki explained that 90 percent of JBB’s cargo goes on aircraft.
The Special Handling section works with hazardous materials and rolling stock. Load planners help balance the aircraft to make sure it is safe to fly.
“The ATOC is the heart the flight, they receive all the information and disseminate information about each mission and what will be on each aircraft,” said Okazaki, who is originally from Honolulu, Hawaii.
The 332nd ELRS Aerial Porters Flight is preparing for the final days before the transition of JBB when they will be responsible for getting the remaining passengers and cargo to their destinations.