NEWS | Oct. 11, 2011

Team Charleston Airman reaches new APEX milestone

By Staff Sgt. Kali Gradishar 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In August 2009, Staff Sgt. Nathan Dunn hit a major milestone as the first C-17 Globemaster III aerial port expeditor to reach 500 cargo loads. Dunn reached another landmark as he doubled that figure Oct. 3 with his 1,000th load under the APEX program.

"Today I loaded my 1,000th C-17 as an APEX director ... I wanted to get to 1,000; and I wanted to do that here," said Dunn, who volunteered to deploy to the 728th Air Mobility Squadron from the 437th Aerial Port Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

To increase productivity time, the APEX program was launched in October 2006 as an initiative to allow aircraft to be loaded and unloaded without the supervision of the loadmaster.

"APEX is a program we have in the Air Force that helps aircrew get to crew rest quicker while we load and unload aircraft without a loadmaster," said Master Sgt. Mark Lee, 728th AMS superintendent of air freight. "As long as we have an APEX person on site, we can unload and load an aircraft."

APEX directors are in demand. APEX Airmen are spread between four major commands and 11 locations worldwide, noted the master sergeant.

Dunn was one of the first Airmen to enter the APEX program, graduating from the training program in May 2007. Training consists of two weeks in the classroom reviewing operational risk management, aircraft characteristics, load planning, weight balance, aircraft limitations and winching procedures. The final week entailed hands-on training on the aircraft.

The Charleston Port Dawgs were the first personnel to test the "Deployed APEX" at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey in 2007. Dunn, then a Senior Airman, was one of the four individuals chosen for the test. Since then he has deployed to Incirlik three more times. His achievement of 1,000 APEX loads is a significant milestone not only for the Air Mobility Command, but also for the 437th ALW.

"It doesn't surprise me at all that Dunn accomplished this incredible feat," said 1st Lt. Edward Yearage, 437th APS Ramp Operations flight commander. "He is a hard charger and understands the importance of mission accomplishment. This is just another example of the importance of what Port Dawgs contribute to the mission and what kind of impact our Airmen have on this war and global mobility support."

Approximately four years after graduating from the program, Dunn is now an instructor for the hands-on portion when in-garrison- which is a rarity for the sergeant as he's on his fourth six-month rotation here since August 2007, he said.

"I'm here out of cycle. There was another person who was supposed to come here but had an assignment and would have missed his (report for duty date). So I raised my hand to volunteer to go in his place," said Dunn. "I also knew that if I didn't come here, I wouldn't reach 1,000.

"Work ebbs and flows. The first time I was here, we were doing 12 launches a day during the surge in Iraq," Dunn recalled. "Since that's died down, we're still supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, but we're (doing less)."

"This is an ongoing mission to support Afghanistan. A lot of times you only hear 'Afghanistan, Afghanistan, Afghanistan,'" said Lee. "Incirlik is in it, too. We're getting the warfighter material to the warfighter downrange."

Lee credited Dunn for being a hard-charging APEX Airman and jeered his insistence on being humble.

"What's fun about our career field is we can be pretty gung-ho ... We like our jobs. (Dunn) likes doing his job - 100 degree heat and he doesn't care," Lee said. "He's great at what he does. He's got so many coins, he'd beep going through a metal detector."