SOUTHWEST ASIA – Aerial porters can often appear to be flightline fortune tellers. They can gauge the intensity of ongoing war efforts through the amount and types of items that come across their cargo yard, everything from vehicles to missiles. As the battle against ISIL continues to heat up, aerial porters work hard to keep supplies moving downrange, especially munitions such as rockets for High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems – also known as HiMARS.
Recently, aerial porters with the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron prepared, transported and loaded a pallet of rockets requested by forward-deployed units to engage enemy targets.
“Daily operations here can get pretty hectic and busy,” said Staff Sgt. David Babcock, a 386th ELRS aerial porter. “There are some days where it is so busy that it is hard to stay organized.”
They overcome this challenge by enlisting the help of augmentee Airmen from the 387th Air Expeditionary Squadron and by examining their processes to find better ways of getting these vital supplies downrange, Babcock said.
Getting HiMARS down the supply chain begins with the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Air Mobility Division receiving a request from the end user. Aerial porters then create a load plan that accounts for the cargo weight. This ensures the weight is evenly distributed and won’t interfere with the flight of the aircraft used to transport the cargo downrange.
Next, the load team is assigned the mission and begins working to assemble the load at munitions storage area. Once it’s assembled, the team returns with the load plan and a K-loader to retrieve the cargo and transport it to the flightline. There the aerial porters coordinate with the Air Terminal Operations Center, which acts as a liaison between the aerial porters and the loadmasters assigned to the aircraft, explained Babcock.
Once the necessary logistics are coordinated, the aerial porters line the K-loader up with the aircraft to begin the upload process, which involves pushing the cargo from the loader onto the aircraft. The loadmasters and aerial porters finish the upload by securing the munitions pallet in the aircraft’s cargo area.
The aircraft then takes off with the cargo and once it lands downrange, it is offloaded from the aircraft and taken to its final destination where it can be used to engage targets.
“Being able to actually put hands on and physically load and see everything that’s going downrange to really support the war effort is great,” said Babcock.