Airmen wait for a pallet of equipment to load on a C-17 Globemaster III Jan. 30 at Sather Air Base, Iraq. Sather AB is located on the west side of Baghdad International Airport and base Airmen move 6,200 passengers weekly and more than 1,700 tons of cargo weekly. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
SATHER AIR BASE, Iraq -- A C-17 Globemaster III taxis through a mild evening dust storm here March 11. Since the start of 2008, Sather personnel are responsible for the movement and coordination of over 116,000 passengers and 11,000 tons of baggage on 5,700 missions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
Vice President Dick Cheney talks with Army Gen. David Petraeus March 17 at Sather Air Base, Iraq. General Petraeus is the commanding general of the Multi-National Force - Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
by Tech. Sgt. Amanda Callahan
447th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
3/18/2008 - SATHER AIR BASE, Iraq -- Nestled southwest of Camp Victory, adjacent to Baghdad International Airport, sits the gateway to Iraq for many servicemembers, civilians, cargo and equipment. Sather Air Base (pronounced like "laser") is often confused with BIAP, but the air base is its own entity, serving the Victory Base Complex and Operation Iraqi Freedom as the number one mover of passengers and the number two mover of cargo in Iraq.
Sather is home to the 447th Air Expeditionary Group. The 447th AEG was activated at BIAP in April 2003, after elements of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division captured the airport April 4 of the same year. The base was named Sather Air Base April 8, 2005, in honor of Air Force Staff Sgt. Scott D. Sather, who was killed two years prior in combat during OIF.
"The Sather mission is to maintain and operate the airfield and aerial port; that's what everything is centered around," said Col. Fred Cheney, 447th AEG commander. "In the past four months, we've brought 142,000 people through here, plus 39,000 tons of cargo, and that's what the whole mission of Sather revolves around - getting people and equipment through here and out to the field where it's needed."
Maintaining the operations tempo here is no small feat. It requires squadrons filled with professionals in their crafts. Many units support Sather's assiduous airfield operation, from the 447th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron repairing runway spalls and maintaining the base as a whole, to the 447th Operations Support Squadron, managing the airfield and its traffic. There are seven squadrons in the 447th AEG and several tenant units, including Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Coalition Air Force Training Team units.
The 447th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron is responsible for moving an average of 1,700 tons of cargo weekly. The ELRS doesn't stop there, though. They process personnel arriving and departing the deployed area of responsibility and the VBC, not to mention provide logistics support to the 447th AEG and associated VBC units, including vehicle maintenance and operations, supply and logistics planning support.
"The 447th ELRS is critical to supporting the OIF effort by ensuring all associated units have fuel, supplies, vehicles and the equipment required to ensure mission accomplishment," added Lt. Col. Dana Pelletier, the 447th ELRS commander. "In the last four months, the unit supported 5,700 aircraft missions, moved 116,000 passengers and 43,000 tons of equipment into and out of the VBC. Without this support, Airmen, Soldiers, Marines and Sailors would be forced to wait days or weeks longer to receive the required logistical support. Through our convoy mitigation efforts, we have successfully kept over 900 trucks and 7,000 personnel off Iraq's dangerous roads."
That kind of record isn't done by amateurs, and Colonel Pelletier can only sing the praises of the professionals that make up his unit.
"I have the honor of commanding highly motivated logistics professionals representing the total force of active, Guard, Reserve and contract civilians from around the world, brought together as a cohesive team with the single purpose of providing unmatched support."
Sending and receiving cargo is only half the battle. Moving people coming in and leaving out of Sather falls on the shoulders of the 447th Personnel Support for Contingency Operations section.
"The PERSCO team ensures the accountability for more than 1,000 Air Force personnel, plus our Army and coalition counterparts, ensuring every aspect of the Sather mission is accomplished effectively and safely," said Capt. Alex Rangel, the PERSCO commander.
In and out-processing hoards of servicemembers requires a team effort, and according to Captain Rangel, his team has exactly what it takes to get it done right the first time, every time.
"My PERSCO team -- or as I call them my PERSCO Warriors -- are some of the best [noncommissioned officers] and Airmen I have had the honor of serving with. We are a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation, and my team continues to do it with the same energy they had when they first arrived in Baghdad. It doesn't matter if we in-process five people or 100 people, we will always do it with a smile," he exclaimed.
Despite the number of units, Sather's population pales in comparison to other camps on the VBC.
"The people of Sather are a combination of active duty Air Force, Guard, Reserve, Army, coalition - the entire range of people who are participating in the conflict here. We all work together to get the mission done," added Colonel Cheney.
Sather also supports the many distinguished visitors that enter Iraq. For many, it is the first stop on their way to a palace, into the international zone or for a tour of surrounding camps.
"There are so many DVs who come through here, it's amazing," Colonel Cheney said. "I think that we treat them really well; they have a smile on their face, although they're usually pretty busy and they're off to some place else. I think they understand and appreciate where they are, and the environment we operate in. I think they're very pleased with the professionalism and the service they get to get them out to where they need to go to do their jobs. "
The 447th AEG traces its lineage back to the 447th Bombardment Group, which was established April 6, 1943, and activated May 1, 1943, at Ephrata Army Air Base, Wash. With the 65th anniversary lingering, Team Sather is continuing the long-standing 447th BG's tradition of professionalism and determined spirit that has spanned the decades, overcame challenges and participated in many wars and conflicts. The group is part of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing out of Balad Air Base, Iraq.