CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan – At a place where Operation Moshtarek, a NATO-Afghan joint offensive involving 15,000 Afghan, Canadian, American and British troops is still in full swing, military aircraft come in like clockwork.
Airmen from across the force are showing the power of combat airlift and delivering supplies to warfighters on the frontlines of freedom in Afghanistan.
"MATVs are one of the most common things we deliver here," said Lt. Col. Melissa Coburm, a C-17 Globemaster III pilot from the 732nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. "I feel important bringing better technology to our troops on the ground. It is good to know that we're making a difference," added the Colonel who is a reservist deployed from McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
Airlift keeps Airmen from the 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron's Detachment 1 here busy. The unit's air traffic operations center and ramp operations have uploaded and downloaded more than 40,000 short-tons of cargo from almost 3,000 aircraft moving in and out of the airfield here since January 1. Moving cargo off of airframes such as C-17 Globemaster IIIs, C-130 Hercules, Russian-made IL-76s and DC-8s, aerial port Airmen are ensuring Coalition Forces get equipment and supplies they need.
"Every time we land here we see the Aerial Porters and they're on it; we are able to get our cargo offloaded fast," said Senior Airman Glenn Bernier II, a C-17 loadmaster with the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at the Transit Center at Manas, and deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "It's impressive to see and it makes you proud to see your fellow Airmen on the ground when you land. It makes you feel a part of something bigger than yourself. With every delivery we are helping our coalition partners on the ground and Afghan citizens."
While Airmen are aiding in delivering 30,000 troops into the region as part of the plus-up throughout Afghanistan; since Jan. 1, airlifters have ensured more than 25,000 customers got on their way to their various destinations throughout Southwest Asia.
"If we can get people home or to their duty station, we are proud to do it," said Capt. Dominic Conlan, a C-17 pilot with the 817th Expeditionary Airlift squadron at the Transit Center at Manas, and deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "It's an honor to be serving with these Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, fellow Airmen and coalition forces at this time. We are all a part of a team making history at this time in this place."
Airlift doesn't just involve moving passengers and cargo, but at times human remains.
"We hang the flag and carry human remains home with the ultimate respect," said Staff Sgt. Derek Clemons, a loadmaster with the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at location in Southwest Asia and deployed from Charleston AFB, S.C. "It is not a mission we enjoy doing at all, but we are honored when we get the chance to take patriots who paid the ultimate sacrifice back to their families. These people served their country with valor and it is a pleasure to part of an airlift operation that remembers and takes care of our fallen warriors."
One of the most vital airlift missions here is aero-medical evacuation. AE teams carry equipment for nearly every scenario: stretchers, stretcher racks, defibrillators, suction machines, IVs, oxygen tanks … ect.; helping to save lives and move war-fighters to higher medical care.
"I love my job, because the bottom line is we get to help people," said Master Sgt. Marc Maxwell, a C-130 Hercules loadmaster with the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. He is deployed from the California Air National Guard's 115th Airlift Squadron at Channel Island Air National Guard Station in Port Hueneme, Calif. "Getting people to the medical care they need is a great example of airlift. Being a part of this mission in this region is awesome. I get to assist the guys on the frontlines. I may have a small role but I am happy to play it."
As operations continue here, there is no doubt the power of airlift will continue to be felt throughout Afghanistan.
"We are all joint personnel in a worldwide fight," said 1st Lt. Danielle Varwig, a C-17 pilot with the 817th EAS at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, and deployed from Travis. "Together we will move the mission on the air and ground for the security of Afghanistan and our coalition partners."