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5th EAMS Jokers are serious about rapid global mobility

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Daira Jackson
  • 386 AEW Public Affairs

If you’ve ever been to the flight line and wondered who the Airmen with Jokers written on fluorescent green belts are, they are members of the 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron.

Since 2011, the Jokers assigned to the 5th EAMS work with the host installation and Louis Berger Aircraft Services contract partners to provide en route C-17 Globemaster III aircraft maintenance at Ali Al Salem Air Base and aerial port operations, command and control and C-5 Galaxy and C-17 aircraft maintenance at Abdullah al Mubarak Air Base, also known as Cargo City.

“It's so fun to be a Joker,” said Senior Master Sgt. Theodore S. Holliger, senior enlisted leader, 5th EAMS. “It's important to keep spirits high, and the Joker from the Batman series is the perfect mascot that allows us to have fun, but also remember that there's a serious side to the Joker too, when it comes to rapid global mobility.”

The mission of the 5th EAMS is to enable inter- and intratheater operations, delivering joint combat capability and sustainment on demand.

Senior Airman Justice Gibson, an electrical and environmental systems journeyman assigned to the 5th EAMS, says that his job is important to any aircraft-related mission because almost everything on the aircraft runs on electrical power.

“This plane doesn't work on any level if you don't have electricians and environmental technicians, so it's pretty vital to the overall mission,” said Gibson, a Boston, Massachusetts native who deployed from the 305th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, in Trenton, New Jersey.

Tech. Sgt. Richard Shifflett, a C-17 avionics technician also assigned to the 5th EAMS, feels that he is making a difference.

“When you're at home station, you don't really get to see the mission,” said Shifflett, a native from Russellville, Kentucky, who also deployed from JBMDL. “But out here, you get to see what's happening in the news. You're seeing [different types of cargo] go through and it's pretty cool.”

Though located as a tenant unit on Ali Al Salem Air Base, the 5th EAMS falls under the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing headquartered at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

During day-to-day operations, the 5th EAMS sets out to tackle 521st AMOW lines of effort.

“First and foremost, we try to advance rapid global mobility,” said Holliger, a Louisville, Kentucky native. “We want to develop bold Airmen through culture, accountability, resilience and empowerment. We also want to shape tomorrow's en route stations. We don't know what the next conflict is going to bring, but we do know that we're going to have to be more agile. The current construct of en route stations are very static, and in the future we're going to have to react quickly to changing demands. Finally, we want to engage on all fronts.”

The 521st AMOW is an Air Mobility Command wing that has over 2,000 Airmen; two groups; ten squadrons in 15 countries operating out of 19 locations in the United States European Command, the United States Central Command and the United States Africa Command area of responsibilities.

The 5th EAMS is one of these ten squadrons, uniquely positioned overseas to enable theater and strategic air mobility operations in support of the United States Transportation Command taskings.

The 94-member versatile squadron shares an aircraft ramp with the Kuwaiti International Airport, Kuwait, at Cargo City. This design has enabled their unrivaled multi-capable Airmen to routinely cooperate with the U.S. Army, coalition forces and the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior to achieve the United States Air Forces Central, AMC and USTRANSCOM strategic objectives.

Holliger said that being stationed at two geographically separated units, Ali Al Salem and Cargo City, has been a great learning experience.

“It's been a fantastic experience learning how we play a strategic node in the network of the 521st AMOW and how our single node in the network can either propel or hinder cargo through the AOR based on how we are prepared as a maintenance [squadron] and a port,” said Holliger.

Coordinating aircraft maintenance in two separate locations can be challenging because every day brings a different experience.

“There’s a host of things that could happen in any given day from port stoppages to construction; to a broken aircraft to personnel issues; every day is completely different,” said Holliger. “I never completely know [what the day] is going to bring me, so being adaptable to the demands of our daily job helps. It's kind of a ripple effect of being adaptable en route.”

The 5th EAMS, in concert with 387th Air Expeditionary Group support agencies, completed an eight-month aerial passenger terminal construction project at Cargo City. The 5th EAMS led building design, furnishing and terminal layout. The new construction along with modified immigration procedures will improve the passenger experience of 61 distinguished travelers and 108,000 warfighters annually.

Prior to the modifications, the immigration process took five months, but has been reduced to three hours. The 5th EAMS played a crucial role in advising the Kuwait Ministry of Interior on new immigration procedures through the 386 Air Expeditionary Wing leadership team.

From May 2021 to May 2022, the 5th EAMS supported 1,300 missions, 19,600 cargo tons and 8,800 passengers at Ali Al Salem Air Base. In addition, the 5th EAMS supported 1,185 missions, 10,048 cargo tons, and 46,080 passengers at Cargo City.

“This is my fourth deployment,” said Shifflett. “It's the best group that I've had so far. It's a bunch of good [Airmen] that want to work hard and they're out here doing the right thing.”