by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
8/23/2013 – SOUTHWEST ASIA — In nearly 70 years, airlift operations have come a long way since the early days of the Military Airlift Transport Service and mobility pioneer, Lt. Gen. William Tunner, but one thing has remained the same — Mobility Airmen are dedicated to answering the call whether at home or deployed to the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron here.
“Our Airmen know they aren’t simply building and moving cargo, sometimes they are ensuring supplies like the blood used in transfusions to save sons or daughters, fathers and mothers, gets downrange to where it’s needed most,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Purath, the 8th EAMS commander. “They are readying the very basics of our current conflict that will signal to our enemies they can go no further.”
Keeping with tradition, these mobility Airmen are following in Tunner’s footsteps. The general invented many of the air mobility systems, standards and maintenance processes used today. While the technologies aren’t quite the same, mobility Airmen continue paving the way for those who will come after them, just as Tunner did. Likewise, Purath said he refers to the general regularly as the original “Ocho.”
“His work marked the beginning of the air mobility system,” the colonel said. “And the Mighty Ocho is the continuation and fulfillment of many of Tunner’s aspirations.”
But in the end, as Tunner said and Purath echoes, it’s all about their “amazing Airmen” who support a variety of missions and units in the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility.
“We’re not flying supplies to just the big, established bases; we also fly to the really forward deployed guys at FOBs way out in the middle of nowhere,” said Tech. Sgt. David Young, the 8th EAMS Air Mobility Control Center flight chief deployed from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. “The supplies we provide them are their lifeline.”
On average, 8th EAMS handles more than 7,000 tons of cargo, 6,600 passengers with 250 tons of baggage and more than 725 aircraft each month making them the busiest mobility hub in the AOR.
“Coordination is our game,” said Staff Sgt. John Hubicsak, an 8th EAMS air terminal operations center information controller deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “We have the most diverse mission sets transit through here every day.”
From personnel and heavy cargo transports to air drops and combat cargo sorties, the 8th EAMS in some fashion supports every Operation Enduring Freedom mission across the AOR.
“We’re extremely vital; without air transportation, who knows how long it would take to convoy all this cargo to these remote locations,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Jweinat, an 8th EAMS ramp services technician deployed from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. “We can have it [the cargo] there in a moment’s notice and we’re responsible for making sure it gets on the plane.”
Whether it’s hazardous cargo, blood shipments, ammo and explosives, the 8th EAMS ensures life-sustaining materials make it to their destinations on-time. And while combat cargo is an important aspect their mission here, processing passengers is equally critical.
Passengers process through the 8th EAMS passenger services section at the Air Mobility Command passenger terminal here. The passenger terminal averages more than 85,000 passengers with 3,200 tons of accompanying baggage and nearly 1,000 distinguished visitors annually.
“What we do is vital as far as getting passengers in and out of the country,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Deckert, the 8th EAMS passenger services supervisor deployed from Pope Army Airfield, Fort Bragg, N.C. “We are one of the largest hubs for personnel transiting in and out of U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility. When we do our job right, people get to where they need to go, whether that is downrange or home to family and friends.”
However, as with every Air Force mission, jets would not fly without the hard-working maintainers who ensure these airframes last for many generations to come. One of the largest career fields in the Air Force, maintenance include crew chiefs and engine mechanics to the consolidated tool kit and parts suppliers. Together, Ocho maintainers keep nearly $1.5 billion of strategic airlifters flying while sustaining a 90 percent departure reliability rate.
The 8th EAMS’ heritage as Airmen, maintainers, porters and controllers is an unbroken chain binding those who have come before and stirs the unit to build on what they’ve achieved, said Purath.
“With great tenacity and skill our Airmen are ensuring there are many more tomorrows to come for their brothers and sisters in arms even further downrange,” Purath continued. “They know what they do matters; they know it’s much bigger than themselves.”
The Mighty Ocho is AMC’s first expeditionary air mobility squadron and according to their commander, they couldn’t be happier to be here providing support to all service members in this AOR.
“We’re humbled to be a mission partner with the Grand Slam Wing,” the colonel said. “That’s nearly 330 Airmen who in unison will always tell you, ‘You need it, we move it!'”
[Editor’s note: This article is part eight of an eight part series highlighting the unique missions accomplished by the Airmen of 8th EAMS.]