Photo Information

CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Airman Michael Mitchem checks a cargo list to ensure equipment is delivered to the appropriate aircraft. This pallet, bound for Iraq, contains an armor kits for military trucks. Airman Mitchem is a 437th Aerial Port Squadron air transportation apprentice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Gonzales)

Photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Gonzales

Airmen move crucial cargo for warfighters

16 Dec 2004 | Tech. Sgt. Ben Gonzales

Airmen of the 437th Aerial Port Squadron here are packaging and delivering critical supplies, including vehicle armor, to American warfighters in Iraq.

Charleston Air Force Base, the hub for shipping supplies supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom has seen a 71 percent increase in operations.

Since Dec. 1, the 437th APS has moved an average of 310 tons of material per day. This includes tires, tents and battle armor for Army convoy trucks.

“Essential equipment, including armor, has been coming into Charleston since before the war in Iraq,” said Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Halpin, the superintendent of air freight for the 437th APS. “It takes the entire squadron to process and move all this cargo, with 90 percent of everything we move destined for Iraq.”

The 24-hour operation is run by active-duty, Guard and reserve Airmen and civilians.

“This unit defines the total-force concept at its best,” said Lt. Col. Chris Pike, 437th APS commander. “We could never put up the kind of numbers we have in support of the warfighter without the assistance of the air reserve components. They came here ready and willing to do their part for the war effort, and we have completely integrated these folks into our operations.”

The entire process starts when cargo arrives at the base on commercial trucks. Traffic management specialists check in, inspect and label all cargo before cargo processors palletize the equipment for flights. In December, the squadron has built an average of 131 pallets a day, with each pallet weighing about 3,600 pounds.

The Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott AFB, Ill. Arranges the missions, with most cargo being flown by C-17 Globemaster III’s, C-5 Galaxy’s and contracted civilian aircraft. When the aircraft arrive at Charleston, cargo is loaded and sent to the warfighter. The entire processing cycle for cargo here can take as little as two days.

“We have about 667 tons of cargo in the squadron … of which 520 tons are ready to go,” said Staff Sgt. Ricky Govin, a 437th APS capability forecaster. “The warfighters order what they need, and we move the boots, rations, armor and everything else. Once we have an aircraft on station, we load it almost immediately.”

“The people in this squadron understand how critical we are to the troops on the frontlines,” Colonel Pike said. “In fact, the squadron’s motto is ‘We get the stuff to the fight!’, and that is the focus for everything we do.” (Courtesy of AMC News Service)


31st Marine Expeditionary Unit