News>Feature - 5th EAMS: 'we move the AOR one plane at a time'
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ryan Brown, member of the 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron, disconnects bonding wire and removes fuel servicing equipment from a C-17 Globemaster III at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, March 15, 2012. Brown and the 5th EAMS perform maintenance on C-17s transiting in and out of U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Lieth)
Hali Snuffin, CAV International employee, escorts U.S. Air Force Airmen off of a Boeing 747-400 freighter aircraft at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, March 11, 2012. Snuffin and other CAV International employees handle airfield services and logistics for the 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Lieth)
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Ryan Brown and Jordan Lavallee, members of the 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron, reference a technical manual for procedures during refueling operations on a C-17 Globemaster III at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, March 15, 2012. The 5th EAMS perform maintenance on C-17s transiting in and out of U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Lieth)
(From left), Brandon Tucker, Randy Bryant, and Benton Peeples, CAV International employees, unload baggage off of a Boeing 747-400 freighter aircraft at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, March 11, 2012. CAV International employees handle airfield services and logistics for the 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron and for U.S. Air Forces around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Lieth)
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Ryan Brown and Jordan Lavallee, members of the 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron, finish refueling operations on a C-17 Globemaster III at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, March 15, 2012. The 5th EAMS perform maintenance on C-17s transiting in and out of U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Lieth)
Linda Curetl, CAV International employee, hands out travel tickets to departing military members at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, March 11, 2012. CAV International employees handle airfield services and logistics for the 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron and for U.S. Air Forces around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Lieth)
by Tech. Sgt. Stacy Fowler
386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
4/10/2012 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- The 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron is considered by its Airmen to be a unique unit in different locations in Southwest Asia conducting a distinctive mission.
Military and civilian personnel in the 5th EAMS power a diverse entity who support cargo and personnel movement around the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, said Lt. Col. Colin Sindel, 5th EAMS commander.
"Our mission is to safely and effectively provide command and control, execute aerial port operations, and perform aircraft maintenance for all air mobility operational requirements supporting the defense transportation system in the AOR," said Sindel, a Richmond, Texas, native. "5th EAMS is a tenant unit, an Air Mobility Command asset, working alongside our U.S. Air Forces Central brethren here in the AOR to make the mission happen."
Tenant or not, there are two areas of the 5th EAMS's mission that closely connect with the mission of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing: supporting air expeditionary force deployers on rotators to and from homestations around the world, and sustaining the C-17 Globemaster III fleet stationed here, as well as those transitioning into and out of Afghanistan on "R & R" (rest and relaxation) leave.
Hello and goodbye
The 5th EAMS supports Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and civilian personnel deploying into locations throughout the AOR coming from hubs in the U.S. Additionally, the unit supports personnel returning home at the end their tour.
"Working with CAV International (contract aerial porters), we're the first people you see when you arrive in the AOR, and we're the ones who say the last goodbyes when you head home," said Staff Sgt. Tracy Frink, 5th EAMS contracting office representative. "We say a lot of 'hellos' and 'goodbyes' in one night. But a lot of people probably don't remember us, because they're exhausted when they get here and they're already thinking of home when they leave."
Personnel with CAV and the 5th EAMS have "caught" thousands of flights, transported tens of thousands passengers and tons of cargo through their passenger terminals since operations started 12 years ago, said Master Sgt. Sollars, 5th EAMS contracting office representative.
"I was here during operations in 2000," said Sollars, a self-identified military "brat" who calls both Washington D.C. and Great Falls, Mont., home. "You had seven people doing the aerial port mission. Today, it's grown and is contracted out with the 5th EAMS having oversight; now we have more people able to support the same mission. We work will all branches of the military, and not only catch the rotators, we assist with emergency leave travel, R & R travel and those one-shot travel requests that sometimes crop up."
To put those numbers into perspective, the 5th EAMS on average now gets approximately 30,000 to 35,000 passengers every month, with about 800 tons of cargo. If those numbers stayed relatively stable throughout 12 years, then there would have been more than 4,320,000 passengers and 115,200 tons of cargo going through the 5th EAMS terminals. These numbers don't include the transition of forces from Iraq in 2011, where 5th EAMS personnel moved almost 43,000 passengers and 10,588 tons of cargo before Christmas.
"It almost gives you a retroactive hernia if you think about it too hard," said Frink, a Carlsbad, N.M., native who, like Sollars, is permanently attached to the 5th EAMS. "After a while those numbers definitely start to add up! We have a great group of people out here, and every branch of service has a unique way of looking at things - and some of those ways might be something you have never thought of, and may in fact work better. We also have great contractors who are very knowledgeable, as many of them are retired military members themselves.
"We move the AOR one plane at a time," Frink said.
Globemasters and AOR masters
From two-legged or four-legged passengers, things that fly and things that go "boom," the C-17 is one of the biggest workhorses when it comes to transporting cargo and passengers to Afghanistan and other locations throughout the AOR. And the group responsible for keeping those aircraft flying is about 40 people in the 5th EAMS, located right next to their brothers and sisters of flight in the 386th Expeditionary Operations Group.
"These aircraft can carry just about anything; they've carried helicopters, tractor-trailers, military working dog teams and hundreds of people - and we're the ones who make sure these planes can take the sheer amount of wear and tear they undergo in theater," said Master Sgt. Sean Schesser, 5th EAMS production superintendent. "We're responsible for maintenance, refueling, inspections and scheduling the tails. We always work closely with the crews, and make sure they and their aircraft have what's needed for the mission."
With an average 95 percent mission capable rate, the Airmen of the 5th EAMS take "by-the-book" as their motto to make sure every mission is flown safely and effectively.
"We call in each step from refuels, crew show to final inspections - everything until it's wheels up - to make sure we get each step right," said Schesser, a Gouverneur, N.Y., native deployed from 860th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "If something's not going right, you make the best decision you can using your tech orders and guidance. For every red mark on the inspection sheet, we ask ourselves: what does the MESL (mission essential systems list) say? When it comes to missions and marks, you have to go by the book. Sometimes that means you have to scrub the mission, or try a tail swap to get the planes out in their window."
Sometimes that window can be also in the middle of a dust storm or rain. As long as there are no lightening warnings, the missions occur in almost every kind of weather.
"There are days where you can't see 10 feet in front of you, but you prep the jets just in case the weather clears up and your window comes open," said Senior Airman Jordan Lavallee, 5th EAMS maintainer. "It's a lot of work getting a C-17 ready to go, and you have to make sure you do everything right."
There is also the added benefit of working with the same Airmen from the units here, which can be fun and help keep things smooth, said Lavallee, a Springfield, Mo., deployed from the 60th Maintenance Squadron at Travis.
"We see the same aircrews on these aircraft, and we have a great relationship with the [386th AEW] units because we know each other and we all want to get that plane up and out," he said. "We work together to get the mission done quickly, safely and smartly. If there are issues, we all work together to get them fixed because that's our mission."
Getting the mission done: for the members of the 5th EAMS, that is the bottom line. After all, they help move the AOR -- one plane at a time.