Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein recently referred to squadrons as the beating heart of the Air Force. Judging by recent accomplishments, there can be no doubt that blood is pumping at the 721st Aerial Port Squadron.
The squadron, which is part of the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, set a record July 27 for the heaviest cargo loaded onto a commercial aircraft in support of a channel mission.
To achieve the record, the aerial porters planned and packed 120 tons construction material onto 31 single pallets and five two-pallet trains, and then loaded the pallets onto a 747 cargo plane bound for Afghanistan.
To give this feat context, the typical maximum load for a 747 is 100 tons, and the maximum peacetime load for a C-5 Galaxy, the largest military cargo plane, is 75 tons.
“This efficient use of airlift saved the need for additional assets to support cargo requirements, a cost savings to the Defense Transportation System as a whole,” said Paulette Pardue, the director of Global Channel Operations with the 618th Air Operations Center at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
The record-setting effort was part of a busy week for the aerial porters.
From July 25-30, the 721st APS successfully planned a collective 240 tons net weight of channel cargo using one C-17 Globemaster III and two 747s. At the same time, the port moved 275 net tons of concertina wire and defensive barriers to Kuwait to support customers across U.S. Central Command.
And the busy week was part of busy month.
In July, the squadron effectively moved 655 net tons to Kuwait and when combined with retrograde movement requirements of 614 tons to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J, a total of 1,269 net tons were moved.
"The 618th AOC is very aware of how busy the 721st APS Airmen are, and they leave no doubt they are masters at their craft," Pardue said. "We couldn't be more appreciative to work with such a wonderful group of passionate and professional transporters."
521st AMOW commander Col. Thomas Cooper said he knows how his aerial porters are able to contribute so much to the global airlift mission.
“The pride they show in the mission, from passengers, to cargo, to the ramp is amazing,” he said. “They attack every problem with innovation and a passion to serve the customer. “
Cooper said he was fortunate to have great Airmen led by a great group commander, Col. Ryan Marshall, and a great squadron commander in Lt. Col. Howard Vandevere.
The wing, which consists of over 2,700 personnel divided across 24 sites in 16 countries, provides all command and control, en route maintenance support and air transportation services for air mobility missions in Europe and Southwest Asia.
"While the aerial porters did much of the heavy lifting, Cooper said they couldn't have done it without the support of their fellow Airmen in the 721st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and throughout the rest of the wing and their teammates at installations across Europe and the Middle East."
“I'm the lucky one who gets to watch them get better every day,” Cooper said.