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442nd AES aerial porters 'move the fight'

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Airmen from the 442nd Air Expeditionary Squadron, located at Camp Taji, manage one of the aerial ports-of-entry for assets in Iraq. This port directly supports a multi-national coalition conducting missions for Operation Inherent Resolve.

Falling under the air transportation career field, these aerial porters are responsible for coordinating the transportation of assets on military aircraft across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The 442nd AES supports the fight against the Islamic State group by moving U.S. and coalition assets to and from the battlefield.

In the month of May alone, these Airmen helped distribute more than 117 tons of cargo. In addition to the vital resources they sent directly to the front lines, they also help transport an average of 600 personnel per month.

Tech. Sgt. Clifford Barsabal, 442nd AES aerial port flight chief, said they move more than just supplies and people – they move the mission.

“I try to get my guys to understand that the pallet they are securing is more than just a box of supplies,” Barsabal said. “That pallet you helped secure is going directly to the front lines. That food you just secured is feeding your brothers and sisters in arms. Those weapons you added to the manifest just helped liberate a village from the Islamic State group.”

While the team is used to the idea of sending things off through the air, they have also continued Central Command’s mission of building relationships with coalition partners here on the ground. Whether it is adding an international ally to the flight manifest on short notice, or transporting their gear when others cannot, Barsabal said a simple act goes a long way.

“Our team serves as a multi-national liaison of sorts,” said Barsabal. “We engage with our international counterparts daily to just make the mission happen. They do so much for us, and it is only fair we return the favor. I know if the time ever comes, they will have our six because our team always has theirs.”

Furthering these partnerships is just one of the ways Capt. Tucker Sears, 442nd AES aerial port officer-in-charge, said his team is making the aerial port at Camp Taji a better place. He said he does not just want to make it better in the present, but in the future as well.

“We recently completed a basic, but much needed project,” said Sears. “The mission included moving a series of items to organize our cargo yard. Now while reorganizing an area may not seem like much, it is helping us save dozen of hours each week.”

Sears, who hails from the 7th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, said these hours add up, meaning time is saved in three major areas; loading and offloading an aircraft, moving and securing equipment, and passenger dwell time at the PAX terminal.

This opportunity affords the team much-needed time to identify additional process improvements, and gives the small team of 12 a chance to take a breather, something Sears said they very much deserve.

While the breaks are appreciated, they are also short lived, as the mission never ends at Camp Taji. Barsabal, who is deployed from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California, said he can catch up on rest when the rotation is over.

“Yes, the mission can be tiring, but that is the cost of protecting freedom,” Barbasal said. “Who can say they directly assisted with the removal of the Islamic State Group in Syria? This team can. I have peace of mind knowing we helped create a better future not only for my daughter – but our nation’s sons and daughters as well.”