News>Dispatch from the Front: 455th EAPS busiest port in the DoD
A view of the new cargo yard at the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Future construction projects to improve the squadron include a new passenger terminal and cargo facility. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard)
Senior Airman Jason Hafley, 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron ramp services load technician, helps load generator on a B747 aircraft. The 455th EAPS has a hand in most of the passengers, cargo and mail that comes through Afghanistan. Airman Hafley is deployed from Rosecrans Air National Guard Base, Mo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard)
A member of the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron moves a pallet from the cargo yard to be placed on a plane. The 455th EAPS is the busiest aerial port in the Department of Defense. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard)
by Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
3/24/2011 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Most of the passengers, cargo or mail in Afghanistan has been touched in some way by one squadron.
The 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron handles 75 percent all cargo that goes in and out of Afghanistan making it the busiest aerial port in the Department of Defense.
"We handle more passengers, cargo and mail than Ramstein Air Base, Travis Air Force Base and Dover AFB combined," said Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Edwards, 455th EAPS superintendent. "They have 1,500 people and we only have 158, but we are able to do more in theater with less because we work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week."
Last year, 43 percent of cargo was at its destination within 72 hours. Since June of 2010 when current leadership came arrived, they were able to increase that to 87 percent.
"When my replacement told me it was busy, I did not believe that it would be this busy.
Once I saw the flightline I knew I was wrong. If it's a bomb, bullet or pencil, we push it out for the mission, and at the end of the day, we feel good," said Sergeant Edwards, deployed from McGuire AFB, N.J. "This is the most exciting place I have been in 24 years."
One way of speeding up transportation is working with the Army.
"We work with the Army to do multimodal moves with their movement control team to get things out instead of waiting for a plane," said Sergeant Edwards.
"The squadron also works with commercial carriers who place bids to move cargo," added Sergeant Edwards. "By using the commercial carrier program, the government saves $24 million a year.
The squadron is divided into five parts.
The Air Terminal Operations Center is the nerve center of the 455th EAPS.
"The ATOC is essential to the management of cargo and passengers," said Capt. Charles Marquez, ATOC OIC, deployed from Travis AFB, Calif. "We work with different agencies to coordinate movement, it feels great knowing I am such a critical component to the mission."
Another portion of the squadron is passenger terminal.
"We handle 1,500 passengers a day moving personnel to FOBs as quickly as possible," said Senior Master Sgt. Anne Vilagut, passenger terminal superintendent, deployed from March Air Reserve Base, Calif.
Another section is special handling.
"We handle hazardous material, rolling stock, medical supplies and items that require a signature when delivered," said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Reynoso, special handling superintendent, also deployed from Travis.
Ramps services is another section to the squadron.
"My section is in charge of loading and unloading the aircraft which can mean an mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, cargo pallet, weapon system or anything in between," said Master Sgt. Jason Farris, ramp services superintendent, deployed from Charleston AFB, S.C.
Also all the mail in Afghanistan goes through Bagram.
"We handle about 40,000 pounds of mall a day," said Senior Master Sgt. David Vasquez, short take off and landing office superintendent, also deployed from March ARB. "We know they are looking forward to receiving items from their families and also sending things to them, so it feels great to make that happen."
The 455th EAPS is a total force squadron composed of active duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian employees.
The Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Air Force authorized several construction projects to help the 455th EAPS to help them do their job.
"In July, we will open a $22 million passenger terminal and in October, we will open an $18 million cargo facility," said Sergeant Edwards.
"Our job is to supply the fight and win and we do this safely and on time," said Lt. Col. Kirk Peterson, 455th EAPS commander, deployed from the Pentagon.