News>Dispatch from the Front: 774th EAS provides airlift, airdrop to Afghanistan
Pallets made by the Army 101 Sustainment Brigade Riggers await to be airdropped by the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. The 774th EAS performs 14 missions a day to provide necessities to bases around Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard)
Capt. James Portale, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron director of operations, works in what is referred to as the heart of the squadron because he tracks missions and talks to the pilots. Captain Portale is deployed from the 166th Airlift Wing, Delaware Air National Guard. (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 -- The 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, a C-130 unit, is continuously busy performing several missions a day.
With missions flown 24 hours a day, the squadron has a 100 percent commit rate with little room for mistake.
"Our job is to supply different locations with the supplies they need to keep their bases operating," said Lt. Col. Karl Stark, 774th EAS commander.
The weasel is the squadron's mascot.
On an average month, the 774th EAS flies about 1,500 to 1,750 hours and 1,600 to 1,800 sorties.
Since December, the squadron has flown 1,202 missions, 8,121 pallets, 1,764 bundles and 180 airdrops. They have also supported 248 distinguished visitor missions.
The 774th EAS is a total force integration unit with active duty, Guard and Reserve crews working together.
"Guard members come with their plane, but the other units rotate planes," said Colonel Stark, deployed from Reno Air National Guard Base, Nev. "It's a big change for guard members because we have all known each other for a while, so we have to get to know the active duty and Reserve members."
Colonel Stark explained that when scheduling crews, Airmen are chosen based on what they bring to the table, meaning the crews are blended with Airmen from different places.
"It is an amazing thing in the Air Force now, because you can no longer tell active duty, Guard and Reserve apart," he said. "They all put in an unbelievable amount of work and they deliver each day."
The squadron has about 220 members, with two administrative technicians to handle paperwork. There is also one director of operations per shift, which is the heart of the operation and tracks all members.
Additionally there are intelligence Airmen who help plan the missions and tactics Airmen who build the missions. The squadron also has life support crew which handles all the gear needed for the squadron.
With a full schedule, there is no slack time. Challenges the squadron faces include Afghanistan's unique terrain and climate.
"I enjoy it, it's rewarding to come here and put our years of training and hard work that we do at home in action," said Maj. Steve Mills, Reno Air National Guard Base pilot. "We get to used all aspects of our job."
Five months ago, the C-130s started a new method, the low cost, low altitude way of air dropping items, which saves fuel.
"It's a precision drop done with a smaller drop zone," said the colonel.
Colonel Stark is also a commander at Reno, so being a commander here has been a valuable experience for him.
"Being a commander at both places has given me a chance to validate our training program at home and compare it to their peers," he said. "I can see that we are well prepared, and the most valuable thing you can give a commander is to show how good their crews are."
The commander was also able to learn a lot from commanding a total force unity.
"I came here well prepare, but I will leave even better prepared," he said. "I have learned how to better utilize time and how to balance priorities."