RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
For two weeks in July 2017, Citizen Airmen from Joint Base Charleston’s 81st Aerial Port Squadron served to help operate the Aerial Port at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, as part of annual tour training requirements.
The 18-Airman team trained on aircraft cargo handling and ramp operations, load planning and special handling, and passenger terminal operations in one of the Air Force’s highest-volume installations. Doing so ensures that the Reservists can seamlessly contribute to aerial port operation in the event of a deployment.
Aerial porters are responsible for loading and unloading cargo and people on and off of aircraft. Sections at aerial ports vary depending on the mission, but usually include cargo handling, passenger terminal services, and aircraft fleet services, as well as administrative functions such as load planning and forecasting.
Training at Ramstein offers some unique benefits to the Charleston-based Reserve unit, because its Airmen are expected to be able to serve in a variety of Aerial Port conditions in the event of a deployment. Ramstein is one of the busiest military cargo hubs in the world, handling multiple aircraft daily and moving cargo bound for bases throughout Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia, and the United States, and so its high volume serves to challenge the Reservists.
"As Reservists, there are a lot of times when we don't get out to the planes on Reserve weekends," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Pokorny, Air Transportation Journeyman with the 81st APS. "Here, it's constant, it's every day."
To train at Ramstein, the 81st APS was hosted by the active duty 721st APS, with which Reservists integrated for the two-week training. Additionally, the 81st trained in sync with Citizen Airmen from the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 128th Logistics Readiness Squadron from Milwaukee, whose aerial porters also accomplished their annual tour.
“At Ramstein, the Reserve Airmen get a lot of hands-on, more so than a lot of stateside bases,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Culver, who serves as a Reserve Coordinator with the 721st. Staff Sgt. Culver was a linchpin to connecting Guard and Reserve Aerial Port units with the active duty.
To be proficient at all tasks, it’s common for Aerial Porters to travel to other locations, because often different locations have different equipment and missions.
“The career field requires you to be proficient in a number of different areas,” said Chief Master Sgt. Lisa Buth, 128th Logistics Readiness Squadron. “You can’t possibly get all your training at one station, so you have to go elsewhere on annual tour. We have to go places because we don’t have access to vehicles that we’re required to be trained on, airframes, handling, and materials.”
Several airmen also trained on the 60K cargo loader, or “Tunner,” a key piece of equipment used for moving pallets weighing up to five tons each to and from aircraft. Drill weekends at Charleston are often not sufficient to get the skills to drive the million-dollar vehicle.
While Joint Base Charleston has a full-service Aerial Port that Reservists help to operate during drill weekends, they seldom get an opportunity to train alongside their active counterparts in a busy port like Ramstein. For the Reservists, there’s value in ensuring that all Airmen are trained at the same level.
"There's a lot in it for the Air Force,” said Lt. Col. George Vandevere, commander of the active duty 721st APS at Ramstein. “It's about making sure that global mobility is truly global. Our guys do really care about when they go downrange that everybody knows how to do their job they're fully qualified. They do everything they can to make sure they are trained correctly so that when we deploy, it's fluid."
In total, Charleston's Airmen completed 92 training tasks, which is 100 percent of those planned for the training event.