87th Port Dawgs keep mission moving in rain, sleet, snow

Senior Airman Michael Thompson, left, part of the air transportation crew securing an air transportable galley-lavatory on a 25K Halvorsen Loader bound for Hickam Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, in support of exercise Sentry Aloha

Senior Airman Michael Thompson, left, part of the air transportation crew securing an air transportable galley-lavatory on a 25K Halvorsen Loader bound for Hickam Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, in support of exercise Sentry Aloha. To secure the pallet, Senior Airman Ryan Hood, ramp operations specialist, must maneuver the interior cab controls of the vehicle to operate the mechanized rollers and align the pallet with the steel locking system. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Rachel N. Ingram)

Senior Airman Ryan Hood, 25K Halvorsen Loader driver, looks on as Senior Airman Jacob Dietz, ramp operations journeyman, stands atop the K-Loader to direct the loading of an air transportable galley-lavatory in transit to a C-17 Globemaster III.

Senior Airman Ryan Hood, 25K Halvorsen Loader driver, looks on as Senior Airman Jacob Dietz, ramp operations journeyman, stands atop the K-Loader to direct the loading of an air transportable galley-lavatory in transit to a C-17 Globemaster III that will be traveling to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii to support the exercise Sentry Aloha. The ATGL is used to increase the comfort of those passengers by providing additional kitchen and restroom resources. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Rachel N. Ingram)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

Both in triple-digit weather and the dead of winter, Port Dawgs prepare, inspect, transport and load cargo and passengers bound for military airlift. At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Citizen Airmen of the 87th Aerial Port Squadron shoulder this responsibility alone, as no active duty squadron exists on the installation.

 

In 2017, the 190 assigned Citizen Airmen moved 267 tons of cargo and more than 600 passengers during unit training assemblies alone.

 

“Our focus is training our Airmen, so we use the big-scale Air Force missions as an opportunity to do just that,” said Chief Master Sgt. Sean Storms, aerial port manager. “We’re also responsible for some missions that come in during the week, and we have a dedicated team of folks here every Tuesday for combat operations support.”

 

On an average UTA weekend, the squadron supports three to four real-world missions, in addition to participating in training exercises and completing other duties.

 

During last month’s UTA, a team of exclusively junior enlisted Airmen braved below-freezing temperatures to load a C-17 Globemaster III in direct support of fighter exercise, Sentry Aloha.

 

“This career field requires expertise in a number of areas,” said Senior Airman Dakota Coniglio, team chief for the Sentry Aloha upload. “Some days, you’re working closely with the flight crew to ensure proper documentation, and other days, you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle carrying thousands of pounds of expensive equipment. We have to be flexible and ready.”

 

Individuals in the air transportation career field are eligible for a number of special certifications, like hazmat inspector and joint inspector.

 

“The special handling section of an aerial port squadron clears and certifies hazardous material for military airlift,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Potter, special handling journeyman and newcomer to the 445th Airlift Wing. 

 

As an active-duty Port Dawg in late 2016, Potter deployed to Iraq.

 

“I was one of only two certified joint inspectors on day shift,” Potter said. “I worked 12-hour- shifts, seven-days-a-week, for the duration of the six-month deployment.”

 

At times, the two-person team inspected more than a dozen vehicles in one day, he said, and the temperatures soared to 120 degrees.

 

“Anything that was going to be put on a military plane had to go through us first, regardless of the destination,” Potter said. “One day, I inspected the ammunition, baggage and gear for the Navy SEAL team that ended up infiltrating Mosul once we cleared them for departure.”

 

In preparation for the intense demands of deployment tempo, the 87th APS trains in a variety of locations across the globe each year.