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    Iron Eagle Express Delivers Everything but Kitchen Sinks



    Courtesy Story

    1-230th Cavalry Regiment

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Sailer

    BAGHDAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Iraq -- Medical supplies, Meals-Ready-to-Eat and mail are now easier to get a hold of thanks to a transportation program that uses helicopters to rapidly re-supply forward-based troops.

    Dubbed the "Iron Eagle Express," Division Support Command, Task Force 1st Armored Division, has arranged for a pair of 4th Brigade UH-60s to make daily re-supply runs.

    The choppers deliver a variety supply to the outlying camps and Forward Operating Bases located south of Baghdad. "As of May 7th, IEX has completed 16 missions, carrying 193 passengers and delivering 15 short tons of cargo," said Maj. Martha Granger, DISCOM assistant division Material Management.

    "We have hauled passengers that have included doctors, interpreters, and chaplains, and cargo of various classes [of supplies] such as mail, uniforms, body armor plates and medical supplies." IEX took wing, April 27. The seats and cargo space are in such high demand that getting a seat usually means booking a few days out. "Our fear at first was that [this program] wouldn't catch on, but now we are overwhelmed with customers," Granger said. "Most people think of using helicopters for emergency re-supply, so for a heavy division, this is a new way of thinking about routine re-supply."

    "Flights are full most nights and a few potential passengers have been turned away or asked to fly the next night," said Sgt. Maj. Edward Massey, IEX flight organizer and DISCOM Support, Plans and Operations sergeant major. This program is in high demand because "it uses fewer resources to move troops and supplies from point A to point B," Massey said.

    Granger, Massey and two other DISCOM Soldiers coordinate the re-supply effort. They receive movement requests, post flight manifests on the 1AD tactical Website and making hourly adjustments to the flight plan.

    At each of route's six stops, the helicopter's contents change. To help orchestrate the complicated maneuver, Massey or one of the other DISCOM staff members flies the round trip each night. As a regular on the flight, Massey coordinates the pickup and drop-off passengers or "pax" and also organizes the bags and boxes that are constantly rotating on and off the aircraft throughout the trip. Massey said coordinating the loads is challenging and requires patience and persistence.

    "The other night there were some x-rays that had to be delivered to [Forward Operating Base] Lima," he said. "When I got there, I couldn't just drop them off. I had to hook up with a responsible party," Massey said. Sometimes waiting for those connections throws off the schedule but the delivery takes place regardless of any problems, he said.

    After the 1AD's recent change of mission, the size of its area of operations multiplied and is now roughly 9,100 square kilometers. This growth strained the supply convoy capacity, Granger said.

    "Previously, we used ground convoys to shuttle stuff around which worked out fine due to closeness," Granger said. "But now in the newly extended battlespace, it would take more than eight hours to cover by ground." The use of helicopters in place of trucks to move supplies has brought a new set of challenges to light. "The heavier use brings higher maintenance cycles for the birds and sometimes weather hampers the trips," Granger said. Also, arrival and departure times are frequently unpredictable, she said.

    "But the flexibility and patience of our pilots and passengers has made all the difference."



    Date Taken: 07.06.2004
    Date Posted: 07.06.2004 14:14
    Story ID: 80
    Location: BAGHDAD, IQ

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