A group of 19 Aerial Port personnel from the 38th Aerial Port Squadron board a C-17 on cool brisk morning at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. The destination is a short flight to Dobbins Air Reserve Base, home of the Air Transportation Proficiency Center and Deployment Readiness Training. The ATPC’s goal is to train Reserve Airman in the Air Transportation career field to be proficient in their career field.
Since the Air Transportation field contains many smaller jobs, it is the job of the instructors to break up the field into its smaller sections and focus on the Airman in each of these sections for them to get the best training. After a couple days of classroom training, the instructors reassemble the aerial port and run the personnel through training scenarios. One section cannot operate without the other so it is very important at this stage of the training that members in each part of the job know how to communicate with one another. Normally ATPC trains one squadron at a time but since this was a DRT, two other squadrons were included: the 48 APS from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii and the 39 APS from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. For all 3 of these squadrons, this training is a “graduation” exercise before deploying to Southwest Asia.
Aerial Port Squadrons have several different sections. Some of the major sections include: Ramp Services, Passenger Services, the Air Terminal Operations Center, and Cargo Processing. The instructors at TPC are among the best in the Air Force Reserve for the Air Transportation field. Their knowledge of the career field is unprecedented. The scenarios and resources provided at TPC often cannot be duplicated at home stations. The base also includes mock ups of a C-130 and a C-5 aircraft for Ramp Services to allow Ramp personnel practice loading and unloading aircraft.
The Ramp section is responsible for taking cargo to and from the aircraft and making sure it is tied down and secured once on board. Ramp instructors utilize repetition to get Airman to understand the concept of how the ramp portion should operate. Safety is the most important factor instructors try to instill to Airman since the ramp section is one of the more dangerous parts of the Aerial Port. Spotting, Chalking, and driving Material Handling Equipment are practiced for Airman to be more comfortable.
Passenger Services provides movement of Department of Defense personnel and their dependents. Passenger Services instructors at TPC provide a review and explain complex scenarios and the myriad of regulations governing passenger travel. Training for security checkpoints is also provided and is similar to a civilian airport with TSA regulations. The Global Air Transportation Execution System training is also reviewed so personnel are refreshed on how to check-in and process passengers for travel on military aircraft.
ATOC and Cargo are the last major sections of an Aerial Port. Cargo is responsible for processing shipments through an Aerial Port. GATES is also used by Cargo to keep track of shipments in a warehouse. Instructors also review building up cargo for shipments going out utilizing nets to secure it. ATOC is the heart of any aerial port and is responsible for the command and control to ensure operations run smoothly. Communication skills are very important in this section and instructors expose the students to high levels of stress to ensure they are prepared to handle high operation tempos. They also provide tools on how to recover when and if the C2 functions begin to falter.
This was the first time Air Force Reserve Command conducted a joint DRT for three squadrons. This training was very beneficial for all involved, not only because it allowed our Airmen to refresh their wartime skills, but because it allowed them the opportunity to train with their deployed counterparts. This is something that almost never happens and it often takes several weeks for personnel from other units to blend in a deployed environment. The Airmen from these three squadrons now have a jump on the integration process and this will lead to enhanced mission readiness at the deployed location. The camaraderie and friendships established at DRT are vital for expeditionary units to be mission effective as soon as boots hit the ground at a deployed location.