While the troops on the front lines in Afghanistan deserve all the praise and kudos for putting it on the line against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the bullets, grenades, and firepower needed have to get to them. At Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, seventeen Airmen have been aiding the troops on the front lines. – Ed.
AT THE “FAR END” OF EARTH
Many Airmen deployed to Manas often comment how their deployment to Kyrgyzstan has taken them to the “far end” of Earth. In a place where mail can take weeks to reach recipients and unique mission purchases sometimes arrive after the requester has left, one might wonder how the mission continues with such a logistics challenge.
The answer can be found in a tent warehouse diligently managed by a small but dedicated group of Airmen that proudly make up the 376th Expeditionary Logistics Squadron’s Supply Flight.
The 17-person shop, composed of 11Active Duty Airmen and six Guardsmen, is responsible for keeping the Manas mission and its thousand coalition personnel well stocked with a wide variety of things, including aircraft tires, fan belts and uniform items.
ONE TECH SERGEANT DOING THE WORK OF FOUR MASTER SERGEANTS
“A lot of people don’t realize that the activities in this tent help keep the mission moving with critical spare parts and supplies,” said Tech. Sgt. William Velsor, outgoing supply warehouse supervisor. The Kadena
Air Base, Japan, Airman, who deployed to Manas in late September, is wrapping up a four-month tour that provided him an opportunity to supervise Airmen responsible for a critical mission.
“Typically a supply flight has four master sergeants running the four warehouse sections; but here, it’s one technical sergeant running the mall,” said Velsor. “It’s been a lot of responsibility, but the mission is a little less intense than what I was used to in Kadena’s 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron. Fortunately we had some great people with strong backgrounds that helped offset weaknesses some of us had in certain areas.”
ITEMS COME AND GO
To accomplish this all-encompassing mission, the flight is made up of customer service, equipment accountability office, and warehouse operations. The warehouse is composed of four sections: receiving, individual equipment, turn-in, and storage and issue.
As items on order arrive at the base, the receiving section documents what has arrived and where it needs to go. If an item is critical to the mission, such as a part that might keep an aircraft from flying, it is often accounted for first and the waiting customer quickly contacted.
For Airmen whose jobs require working in the sometimes frigid Kyrgyz weather, the individual equipment section often makes their job a bit more pleasant by issuing thermal undergarments, Gortex liners and gloves. If a uniform blouse gets stained or boot ruined, Airmen can get replacement items as well.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR NEW ARRIVALS
“We’ve been making a difference for a lot of newly arrived Airmen who might be missing some cold weather or uniform items,” said Airman 1st Class Albert Galvan, a supply warehouse technician who deployed in mid-January from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “Pretty much every day we get several Airmen stopping in to get gear and it’s good to be able to help them out.”
The turn-in section is just that, a location in which Airmen can turn in a variety of items that are good, bad or repairable.
“If a shop ordered three tires, but only needed two and they don’t want to store the third in their area, they can return it to the warehouse,” said Senior Master Sgt. James Wong, supply flight superintendent and a recently deployed Airman from the U.S. Air Forces in Europe headquarters staff at Ramstein AB, Germany.
“Turn-in also accepts components that repair depots back in the U.S. refurbish and rebuild. They even take non-serviceable items that can be sent to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office.”
STORAGE AND ISSUE
The final section is what Airmen see when they’re standing at the customer service counter in the supply warehouse—storage and issue.
“Many of the things we keep stocked on our shelves are items that we use up frequently, such as tires, engine belts and batteries,” said Tech. Sgt. Edward Logan, newly arrived warehouse supervisor and Ramstein AB Airman. “Storage and issue maintains a reserve stockpile of items based on how often Airmen come in to get them. The more something gets used, the more of it we need to keep on hand.”
The warehouse on this particular day is a flurry of activity as Logan directs his Airmen in their efforts to reorganize the warehouse and move high-demand items to the front to improve efficiency.
“I’ve got a bit of experience managing warehouse operations,” said Logan. “We’ve got a good crew in with this new rotation so this is going to be a good deployment. Toughest part will be spending time apart from my family for what is now my fifth deployment.”
Just outside the warehouse sit several storage containers that house the offices of the flight’s customer service section and equipment accountability office.
“Here in customer service, a big part of my job is form-nine purchase requests,” said Tech. Sgt. Roydrick
Frazier, non-commissioned officer in charge of customer service. “I’m the first stop for these requests and try to make sure they represent the best use of taxpayer dollars. With a little research, I’m often able to find an alternative solution to a customer’s needs that not only meets their objective, but often is a lot cheaper than what was originally requested. It’s about preventing waste and finding the most economical solution.”
When asked about the toughest part of the job, Frazier’s response closely mirrors several of the other veteran deployers’ responses – family separation. “I can’t ask for a better place to serve than Manas,” said the Ramstein Airman. “But I already miss my wife Tarsha and son Johari. Last night was his first dance – those are tough memories to miss out on.”
ROUNDING UP THE BEST OF THE BEST
Logan, Frazier and Galvan are just three of the more than 30Airmen who recently deployed to Kyrgyzstan from Ramstein AB’s 86th LRS. Along with two Guardsmen, their mission is to serve roughly our months managing the Supply Flight and Expeditionary Theater Distribution Center, both critical to the 376thAir Expeditionary Wing’s mission to move cargo and people in support of operations in Afghanistan.
“We rounded up the best of the best for this deployment,” said Wong. “To run these missions, we needed people with strengths across the board. You name it—warehouse stocking, forklift experience, data base management, approving official experience—it’s all critical to what we do. Deployments like this provide us an opportunity to work on weak areas and build teamwork skills.”
Just outside the tent, Staff Sgt. Marie Lee, also from Ramstein AB, gingerly steers a forklift load of oil absorbency pads as Galvin guides her into the warehouse. Within hours of arriving in a CVAN shipping container, another load of diverse cargo is parceled out to eager customers or moved to warehouse shelves by the energetic Airmen of the Supply Flight.
“We’re all very passionate about this job,” said Frazier. “What we do really helps keep this place in motion.”