Deployment, distribution unit uses diversity for mission readiness
By Senior Airman Holly Mansfield, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 25, 2014
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
Packing equipment, weighing shipments and inspecting cargo chutes is all in a day's work for members of 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron's Deployment and Distribution Flight.
The D-Flight consists of Airmen from the aerial delivery department and distribution division who help deliver cargo to and from locations around the globe.
The "Port Dawgs" of the aerial delivery department are taken out of their normal element of being an aerial porter and are placed in a role that requires them to learn a completely different aspect of their job: folding, building and inspecting cargo chutes.
According to Master Sgt. Ira Hearen, 86th LRS combat readiness section chief, these Airmen, who are made up of multiple career fields, get an experience of a life-time.
"Roughly 10 percent of [aerial port Airmen] become rigger qualified and have a chance to work aerial delivery and around five percent of those will become certified on all tasks," said Hearen. "I tell the Airmen in my section to enjoy this job while you can because you may not be assigned to an LRS unit again."
Being in a section that not many "Port Dawgs" get to be in, means they learn new tasks from start to finish.
Hearen explained that within their department they have Airmen who build pallets for cargo drops. The Airmen build crates painted with designs honoring prisoners of war, past aerial port Airmen and more intricate graphics like foosball tables to complete the mission
Some Airmen are even taken straight out of technical training and are pushed into a unfamiliar territory to learn skills they may not be prepared for, said Airman 1st Class Kyle Taylor, 86th LRS aerial delivery specialist. He said his first nine months in the operational Air Force challenged his work performance.
"My time in the Air Force has been rewarding because there is a lot on the line; but this job helps build confidence," said Taylor. "We do rigger checks where someone else has to [inspect cargo chutes] (to ensure they are folded correctly). After a while, you learn what to look for and make sure it's right."
The 86th LRS has the only aerial delivery section in U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, which means the 19-member crew supports not only missions at Ramstein but also in deployed locations.
"My Airmen are the best," said Hearen. "They take great pride in doing this job and knowing that things won't go wrong with their equipment."
Airmen in the distribution division part of D-Flight take care of the largest and busiest traffic management office in USAFE-AFAFRICA. The Airmen directly affect the overall Air Force mission by shipping goods that range from equipment repair to rations for deployed military.
The 34 members of the distribution division deliver approximately 120,000 cargo shipments from Ramstein, 26 geographically separated units, Stuttgart and Weisbaden to destinations around the globe.
"Everything that comes through here can directly affect [Department of Defense] missions around the world," said Hollingsworth. "We aid missions like special operations, support with high priority and broken down maintenance repair; and all of it can come through our office."
Airmen of the 86th LRS D-Flight are using the diversity of career fields to become a stronger unit. Whether it's packing cargo chutes or shipping equipment, the Airmen are completing the job one mission at a time.