TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, KYRGYZSTAN
TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, KYRGYZSTAN - The airmen of the Expeditionary Theater Distribution Center at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, ensure service members tasked to support Operation Enduring Freedom are properly equipped to deploy into a combat environment.
Each deploying service member requires a plethora of gear. A Kevlar helmet, individual first aid kit and individual body armor are only a few of the items issued to an airman or Air Force civilian as they process the ETDC facility.
The entire ETDC team, which has issued this gear to approximately 17,500 service members since October 2011, takes pride in not only their daily operations but their ability to ensure the right person has the right equipment in support of International Security Assistance Force efforts in Afghanistan.
Master Sgt. Lakeitha Smith, ETDC superintendent, recognizes the importance of supplying protective gear to deploying personnel.
"The most important aspect of my job is ensuring we provide serviceable, protective gear to our war fighters before they transition into the combat environment. We have a lot of work to do and at times it can be challenging," said Smith, a San Antonio native who is deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
"Since October 2011, [the ETDC team has] tested approximately 79,000 enhanced small arm protective inserts or armor plates," Smith said.
This process entails sending new plates, plates returning from theater and those that have not yet been tested to a non-destructive test equipment facility for inspection, she said. ETDC personnel utilize the Armor Inspection System, which scans each plate for defects that may weaken plate integrity.
Prior to the AIS screening, ETDC personnel conduct a visual inspection of each small arms protective insert and enhanced side ballistic insert for unreadable or missing manufacture labels, external damage to the fabric that encloses them and for any other additional signs of fragmentation.
"[The entire ETDC team] derives a great deal of satisfaction from a job well done," Smith said.
The commitment to the mission is evident among ETDC equipment technicians as they assist deployers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
"When service members come through, we not only provide the proper protective equipment but ensure that each individual is proficient in operating and maintaining it," said Tech. Sgt. Henry Martinez-Andino, ETDC non-commissioned officer in charge.
"If they are unclear on how a piece of equipment works, we provide a hands-on tutorial and work with them until they fully understand," said the Washington, D.C. native deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark..
ETDC equipment technicians strive to generate a seamless process when possible.
"Groups of service members are broken down into chalks to better expedite the process, which may take up to two hours. [ETDC personnel] ensure that all equipment is properly labeled as well. This provides the end user with a degree of convenience and reduces the need to sort through equipment of various sizes to locate a desired item," Smith said.
Bags are also prepositioned to enhance turnaround time, she said.
Airman 1st Class Natalia Barahona, an air transportation journeyman, found the process to be efficient.
"Everyone was very professional and helpful. The instruction was informative and it was all very organized," said Barahona, a native of San Francisco who is deployed from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. "I feel better prepared to go down range."
*Editor's Note: This part one in a two-part series chronicling the Expeditionary Theater Distribution Center, the airmen who work there and the facility's overall contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom.
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This work, ETDC prepares airmen to go downrange, by SSgt Matthew Benedetti, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.