JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
From coordinating aircraft load plans to refueling jets, the 628th Logistics Readiness Squadron played a multi-faceted role during Joint Base Charleston and Air Mobility Command’s hurricane relief efforts in 2017.
During the months of September and October the squadron flexed schedules and processes to meet the demands of required support. The 628th LRS is prepared to adapt to whatever is required if further support is needed.
"Our ability to adapt to a spike in operational tempo is grounded in our training and experience to support these types of emergency scenarios,” said Lt. Col. Abbillyn Johnson, 628th LRS commander. “Recent disaster preparation and recovery efforts for Hurricane's Matthew and Irma were great opportunities for us to learn how to adapt to ensure we provided the operational support our mission partners require. Without our assets and manpower, aircraft would be without fuel or cargo and other agencies would be without the materiel support they need to operate. So we provide a critical piece of the puzzle ensuring the steady flow of cargo and material.”
The 628th LRS transported approximately 38 pallets weighing roughly 130 short tons and issued about 2 million gallons of fuel for aircraft and ground vehicles. The squadron adapted to the operational tempo increase to meet the mission’s demands.
“We began with 12 hour shifts and ended up getting nine additional reservists,” said Tech. Sgt. Paul Freebern, 628th LRS ground transportation. “Later we were able to go back to eight-hour shifts, performing the mission as needed.”
Cargo transported for the relief effort included medical supplies from the Air Force Medical Operations Agency. Although the 628th LRS moved these supplies from AFMOA to the 437th Aerial Port Squadron and Charleston seaports, they had a larger role than just moving the goods.
Staff Sgt. Katey Neal, 628th LRS logistics planner NCO in charge for deployments, helped orchestrate these movements from the squadron’s Installation Deployment Readiness Cell.
“In the IDRC we receive tasks from AMC. With this particular movement and with this particular relief effort for Puerto Rico, we also worked a lot with Air Combat Command and Air Force Northern Command,” said Neal. “We work with the 437th APS load planners who plan for C-17s and C-130s. We send the plans up to the 618th Air Operations Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center) and they create missions to pick up the personnel and cargo tasked to help with the relief missions.”
The 628th LRS also provided support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA helped in the hurricane effort here by documenting goods and commodities arriving at Joint Base Charleston’s Weapons Station installation support base.
“We provided ground support to the Navy and coordinated with FEMA,” said Tech Sgt. Mark Heitkamp, 628 LRS fuels distribution flight NCO in charge. “They have a trailer for which we provide fuel for. We provide electricity to the building so they can do their part of the operation. They hooked up a generator and we provided 24-hour fuel support to them.”
Johnson credits the mission’s success to the adaptability, readiness and resilience of the squadron’s Airmen and civilians.
“As they always do, our Airmen rose to the occasion and navigated through some unique support requirements under less than ideal conditions,” said Johnson. “They give testament to our Squadron motto ‘We will find a way or make one.’”