by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
5/15/2013 – SOUTHWEST ASIA — A vehicle operator from the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing returns home and as he makes his way to the gym, he notices several Airmen at the bus stop waiting for their ride to work. He feels a sense of pride, for it is this bus and many like it across the wing, that provide Airmen a cool ride 24/7 to and from their work centers.
“Logistics is the real key to air power,” said Chief Master Sgt. David Belcher, the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operations manager deployed here from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. “Whether it’s cargo, crews or passengers, we move it.”
Vehicle operations provides shuttle service to the aircraft for aircrew on their way to either “put bombs on target or perform aerial reconnaissance and refueling as well as other missions at the wing,” said Staff Sgt. Roque Solis, 379th ELRS vehicle operator deployed here from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.
“We’re constantly doing something to support the flying squadrons on base, that’s our primary mission,” Solis added. “We’re also in charge of providing transportation for transient aircrews either on their way deeper into the area of responsibility or coming home to their family and friends.”
Showing support for these family and friends stateside, many distinguished visitors passing through the region also require transportation to and from the airport.
“We’re their first impression of the wing,” Solis said. “It’s important to me to be able to provide this service to the DVs as it not only makes the wing commander look good, but what we do directly reflects everyone’s image of us. So we’re always ready for the call.”
The chief and his team operate, clean and service motor vehicles; plan and schedule vehicle operation activities and transportation support requirements; maintain records and logs; perform fleet management functions; negotiate support agreements and manage the Air Force On-Line Vehicle Interactive Management System program for the installation’s vehicle fleet.
“The thing I love most about my job is that we’ve come 360 degrees from the convoy days to now,” said Senior Airman Carlos Cassano, 379th ELRS vehicle operator deployed here from Luke AFB. “When I deployed deeper in theater, I was the guy receiving the supplies and thankful when they showed up. Now, I’m the one making sure our troops downrange receive the supplies they need to complete the mission.”
With some of the wing’s largest vehicles, these Airmen sure can move a ‘ton’ of cargo and supplies and, according to Solis, their favorite piece of equipment is the 50K Rough Terrain Container Handler.
“The RTCH is pretty much our moneymaker,” said Solis. “With the capacity to move 50 tons and Conex boxes stretching 40 feet, there’s little we can’t move.”
Per their regulations, Solis said they’re required to have vehicles capable of towing the largest vehicle assigned to the wing. Massive “moneymakers” aside, these Airmen also ensure servicemembers going home on emergency leave depart the AOR safely and securely.
“With our leased vehicles, we drive individuals going home on emergency with transportation from the wing to the local airport,” Solis said. “Whatever the mission calls for, our vehicles are equipped to support.”