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Shared Experiences | 379th ELRS | Russell Smith

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Brigette Waltermire
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing

Airman 1st Class Russell Smith is prepared. Showing up to an interview with public affairs, he already had a paper typed up with his “Thoughts and Ideas” about being a ground transportation supporter with the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. 

He knows the ins and outs of his craft. He can list equipment models, cite Air Force Instructions and explain every operation his function supports without hesitation. 

“I honestly enjoy it – when you walk into a job or shop, you never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Coworkers that had been deployed here were giving me tips and tricks. I knew it was going to be busy, but I did not think it was going to be this busy. And for my first deployment, I'm glad I studied because this is one of the busiest bases for ground transportation itself. I like that I got to experience being part of the gateway to the Middle East and see how the big picture happens.”

He is currently assigned to the night shift in the driver’s pool, transporting aircrew and shuttling personnel around base using the ground transportation vehicle fleet. He has worked on tractor trailers – his favorite to drive – and driven a manual bus for the first time. Having been in two years, he appreciates the knowledge gained on deployment. Learning to operate new vehicles from what is available at his home station allows Smith the chance to transfer that knowledge to his coworkers later down the line. 

“I’m not going to leave anyone behind by any means, whether they're my superiors or if they’re Airmen I’m leading,” he said. “I guess even before I joined the military I had a drive to want to do well, and I've had people around me that have set me up.”

And in the more literal sense of not leaving anyone behind, Smith is very aware of the great responsibility he has as part of the driver pool responsible for transporting air crew to and from the flightline, operating forklifts for material movement, operating the 24-hour base shuttle, taking arriving and departing Airmen to the airport for flights, as well as driving distinguished visitors on base tours. He was one of the drivers responsible for driving Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass around Al Udeid AB on a visit in December. But for him, the learning opportunities he takes back are just as impactful as his role in transporting people around the base.

“You're taught a certain way, and then of course learn later there's no incorrect way to do something,” Smith said. “When you collide together and interact with all these other people who are from different bases, then you get to see some of the tips and tricks that they've learned along the way and coincide and learn together. It's really been a good learning experience, not only for what we do here, but for my career field itself.”

And his “Thoughts and Ideas” paper sums up what that mission means to him: 

“Ground transportation as a whole is here to support the mission in any shape, way or form possible. Even if something is thrown at us last-minute, we will do everything we can to get it done. From many miles and hours on the road to many great laughs and shareable moments with aircrew, I’m personally glad to be here supporting the C-17 Globemaster cargo missions, the many different models of airframes refueled by the KC-135 Stratotanker, the C-130 Hercules, moving people and cargo back and forth to locations ... We have our hands in a lot of missions that extend beyond just Al Udeid, whether we know it or not.”