87th APS takes over Joint Base Andrews port ops

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Charlie Miller
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The 87th Aerial Port Squadron, part of the 445th Airlift Wing, deployed 37 Airmen to Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 6 to 17, to take over port operations.

While in Maryland, the reservists were responsible for running the air terminal operations center, cargo processing, ramp, fleet, passenger services, passport processing and administrative duties.

"It's really total force training," said Lt. Col. Dale Reed, 89th APS commander. "We are building a relationship with the 87th. They were here last year and found out that our mission here at Andrews is unique to any other aerial port in the Air Force."

The special air missions section is the highest profile section in the passenger terminal. With Andrews' close proximity to Washington D.C., U.S and world leaders fly in and out of this base on a daily basis, and it is SAM PAX who greets arriving aircraft and sends off departing ones. A two- or three-airman team in dress blues approaches each aircraft and renders salutes to the dignitaries.

"It's not uncommon to see the President, the First Lady, the Vice President or Secretary Clinton," said Senior Master Sgt. Helen Redwine-Smith , 87th APS who served as superintendant of passenger services for the annual tour.

While the passenger terminal is the main focus of operations for the APS at Andrews, it's not the usual passenger processing mission. More than one hundred passengers arrive and depart daily, but the SAM PAX garners the spotlight.

"This is the first time we have had reservists work with SAM PAX," Reed said. "The mission is very, very, very high visibility."

Lt. Col. John Marang, 87th APS commander echoed Reed. "With this mission, there is no room for errors, no time for do-overs."

Last year, the 87th augmented the active duty. This year it's the other way around, with just a few members of the 89th in place.

"There have been no issues, no training gaps," Reed said. He also said many of his airmen were taking required classes, enjoying time with their families or took leave.

For a few of the 87th members, this was their very first annual tour since joining the military. Senior Airman Tony Eubanks, was assigned to SAM PAX the day President Obama departed Andrews on Air Force One. While the Secret Service does not let SAM PAX stand at the steps of the presidential plane, Airman Eubanks did get within 100 feet of Air Force One and Mr. Obama and rendered a salute to the departing commander-in-chief.

"A once in a lifetime experience," Airman Eubanks said with a huge smile. "An opportunity I may never have again."

Senior Airman Leah Rhodes was also enjoying her first annual tour at Andrews working with the SAM PAX.

"At tech school we had a practice passenger gate for processing customers and their baggage but I've never really done the job before," Rhodes said.

Senior Airman Melanie Pritzkau, 89th APS, was part of a skeleton crew of active duty airmen from the 89th. She said the work done by the 87th was appreciated.

"We pretty much let them run the port by themselves. The 87th airmen were very motivated, very helpful and their work was much, much appreciated," Pritzkau said.

According to the airman, it's been a very busy early summer for the 89th. This is the most popular time of the year for airmen to take leave so having the 87th here gives the active duty the chance to enjoy a well deserved vacation. And it gives the 87th a chance to shine while tackling a very important real-world mission.

"In the first week alone, I worked on 12 different types of planes and a helicopter," said Senior Airman Matthew White of the 87th.

For all the 87th members, annual tour at Andrews is an educational experience with its unique mission and visibility to the world.