43d Air Mobility Squadron, Pope Army Airfield, Fort Bragg, NC: Willing, Able, Ready

By Ms. Kathy Alward, Staff Writer

The 43d Air Mobility Operations Group (AMOG) at Pope Army Airfield, Fort Bragg, NC, was recently recognized by Gen Maryanne Miller, Commander of the Air Mobility Command, for its work with the recent United States Immediate Response Force (IRF) deployment to the Middle East. Among those recognized was the 43d Air Mobility Squadron (AMS), a group that often works behind the scenes to assure mission capability.

According to Jim Bove, Chief of Public Affairs at Pope, they reflected the AMOG’s motto—Willing, Able, Ready—for the large-scale deployment. The squadron was notified on New Year’s Eve to respond within 30 minutes if called. The IRF was activated 18 hours after the notification, and the 43d AMS was ready.

“The AMS team is responsible for the safety of all cargo on flights. During the recent deployments, AMS loaded nearly 90 aircraft with close to 3,000 tons of cargo including medical equipment, Humvees, weapons and Meals Ready-to-Eat, ensuring they all met height and weight regulations,” said Bove.

MSgt Justin Davis and his team conduct preflight inspections that include fuel loads, cargo, and maintenance of all aircraft. They must give the approval before any aircraft departs. Davis explained that since the team normally operates 24/7, they already conduct numerous training exercises, which made it easier when the actual situation arose. They were notified of the imminent deployment on December 31, 2019, according to Davis, and the first aircraft arrived within 48 hours. Most of the air traffic was loaded and deployed within 3 or 4 days.

Davis’s team includes 88 mechanics with teams of 11 per shift. It requires 44 to 50 of them to prepare each aircraft, said Davis. They provide the maintenance required for any airframe that arrives at Pope. Upon arrival, the team conducts an inspection for damage or displaced panels and checks computer equipment for malfunctions. Davis said his team was well rehearsed and educated, so when a large number of aircraft appeared on short notice, it went smoothly.

TSgt Chad Dew-Williams, TSgt Ronald Blank, and SrA Kyle Aubin led the team of 50 joint inspectors that provides the safety of all cargo on flights, making sure packages are compatible with the aircraft. Dew-Williams explained that his job is to ensure his crew is fully trained to maintain and load aircraft. Additionally, all cargo, including hazardous materials, are jointly inspected, packaged correctly, and safe for travel. Dew-Williams said they exercise their capability of being able to conduct an IRF deployment regularly at Pope, but never on a scale comparable with this operation. “The Army relies on the Air Force for inspections that are done safely and correctly without delaying the mission,” he said. There is a 72-hour process in place that sometimes takes weeks in advance to plan; however, the 43d reduced the IRF process to a 3- or 4-hour process, according to Dew-Williams.

At Pope, there are close to 200 “Port Dawgs,” the aerial port Airmen who inspect and palletize cargo before shipment. “One thing ‘Port Dawgs’ don’t like to do is sit still,” Aubin explained. “Every one of them was willing and able, and they did their best and did it well.” Aubin said the maintenance and cargo deployment-ready exercises helped them prepare for this mission. Normal training includes the preparation, proficiency, planning, paperwork, inspections, and loading of aircraft. Two of the primary factors that led to a successful operation were communication and teamwork, according to Aubin.

Dew-Williams said they operated with 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day. Blank oversaw the day shift operations and Aubin oversaw the night shift. Dew-Williams emphasized that although it was a team effort, Blank was recognized by leadership for stepping up and assuming the role of manager for a couple of weeks. “He was a crucial piece of this operation and did an outstanding job,” Dew-Williams said. “We all had to work longer hours and be away from our families, even during the holidays, but everybody wanted to do it, everybody was ready to do it, and everybody saw how important it was.” He added that, when asked if they needed to bring others to assist, both cargo and maintenance leadership said, “No, we got it.”

They all agree that the weather definitely did not cooperate while working the long shifts, at times including heavy rain or below freezing temperatures. The team remained persistent and professional. According to Dew-Williams, when called to serve, everyone stepped up, nobody complained, and they accomplished the mission.

Indeed, the 43d AMS was Willing, Able, and Ready.