Unit relays cargo across globe

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman William A. O'Brien
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The 728th Air Mobility Squadron is at the frontline of efforts to deliver lifesaving cargo to several key locations across Eastern Europe, Southwest and Central Asia, and Northern Africa.

The 728th AMS is a tenant unit to the 39th Air Base Wing and is comprised of about 300 permanent-party Airmen, deployed Airmen and Turkish nationals, as well as an additional 50 Airmen at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. Together, they have flown more than 1,000 missions and moved approximately 32,000 tons of cargo and 13,000 passengers in and out of Incirlik since January.

The squadron is broken down into three core competencies: air mobility control center, maintenance and aerial port.

The AMCC's role is done behind the scenes as the command and control function for air mobility mission tracking and information conveyance. The AMCC is made of three parts: maintenance controllers, air mobility controllers and air terminal controllers. Each group has an inbound and outbound controller who deals with the particulars of every mission.

"All the teams have to work together each day to make the missions happen," said Staff Sgt. Scott Petty, 728th AMS AMCC controller. "There are so many flights in and out of here each week, and our job is to consolidate all the information from each flight and communicate it to the aerial port staff. The information we gather and distribute is used to determine how to load the planes and what goes on the planes first based on priority."

Maintainers work to keep the aircraft operational and ready for missions through regular maintenance and tracking of an aircraft's past problems.

"Our maintenance and aerial port personnel are actively engaged with all aircraft that come through," said Lt. Col. Brian Lindsey, 728th AMS commander. "Maintenance is exactly what it sounds like. They're out there turning the wrenches, making sure all the aircraft are in flyable condition."

"Maintenance is all about getting the planes flying and making sure they work correctly," added Senior Airman William Hunt, 728th AMS aircraft maintainer. "We make sure they get off the ground safely to keep the crews safe, so it's important we get the job done right. We maintain forms to let the crew know of any discrepancies the airplane has been having or has had over time or that may be wrong with the aircraft.

"During launch procedures we get the plane ready to go and get it out. That includes getting it gassed up for the trip, making sure all the forms are filled out correctly and making sure the aircraft is in good shape so we can get it off the ground," Hunt said.

The aerial port serves a vital role supporting Operation Enduring Freedom by moving troops and equipment in and out of Afghanistan. It also supports the base by being the location of entry for anything moved here through the air.

"The aerial port here performs three primary functions," explained Lindsay. "They're handling passengers, they do cargo handling for the cargo hub, and they serve as the port for the base so everything that comes in and out of the base via air comes through our warehouse, supporting all other agencies on base."

Handling cargo requires coordination with the Turkish air force to ensure proper customs procedures are followed. One such requirement is ensuring no organic cargo, cargo originating from Incirlik Air Base, is sent downrange.

"The (cargo) hub operation is an agreement between the U.S. and Turkey; and as part of the agreement, we cannot have originating cargo coming from Turkey go to U.S. Central Command. So when the 39th Air Base Wing deploys personnel or cargo, it cannot come directly from here. We also cannot have any weaponized cargo, so if a Humvee was coming through here the weapons turret would have to be removed," said Capt. Christopher Jacobson, 728th AMS Aerial Port Flight commander.

"To ensure compliance, the Turkish air force works side by side with us, and we keep organic and hub cargo as separate operations to show that no organic cargo is getting mixed in with the hub cargo," said Jacobson. "We keep them separated and Turkish customs monitors everything we do."

Just as at any overseas location, Airmen meet challenges as they adjust to the rules and regulations of the host nation. With effort, though, Airmen can overcome those challenges with a professionalism and efficiency.

"There are unique challenges with host-nation customs. It's just a fact of life, and you accept it and work within the parameters given," the 728th AMS commander said.

He said he is lucky to command a squadron that has such a good working relationship with both the host wing and host nation because through those relationships his squadron's operations run smoothly.

"As with almost anything, relationships are important; but because I'm geographically separated from my commander, the relationships with the local hosts take on a much greater importance," said Lindsay. "We are able to work hand and hand with (the host wing and host nation) each day, and because of that great relationship we are able to accomplish our mission."

The 728th AMS is part of the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, which is comprised of 10 different squadrons in areas around the world. The squadron's vision is to support the delivery of lifesaving cargo with excellence, passion and balance, safely, efficiently and effectively.

"Supporting the delivery of lifesaving cargo is all about the primary mission our squadron does here, which is the cargo hub," said Lindsay. "I think it it's important to continually emphasize to the squadron that what we're doing here is supporting the warfighter and help bring them back alive. Excellence, passion and balance is my personal moniker."