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NEWS | July 29, 2008

CAFB Airman part of 8 EAMS, invaluable to movement in AOR

By Senior Airman Carolyn Viss 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

A squadron of 255 Air Mobility Command Airmen in Southwest Asia works around the clock to ensure passengers and cargo move in and out of the U.S. Air Forces Central area of responsibility, proudly proclaiming, "You need it, we move it."

The 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron, a tenant unit of one of the largest, most diverse expeditionary wings in the Air Force, is composed of a group of Airmen from 13 career fields who do everything from tracking missions and communicating with aircrew to cleaning the bathrooms in the passenger terminal.

"Last year, we transported 270,000 passengers and 94,000 tons of cargo," said Capt. Robert Corley, director of operations.

Earlier this year, the runway at Incirlik AB, Turkey, was shut down for repairs for 30 days, and the 8 EAMS team here readily stepped in to take on all of the Operation Iraqi Freedom workload Incirlik passed on.

"All of their normal sorties were flying out of here," Captain Corley said. "We took 4,600 pallets of cargo into Iraq that month."

The team of C-17 maintainers, aerial port Airmen, command and control specialists, communications and navigation and mission systems journeymen, and supply professionals work together as one squadron, to take on a work load comparable to that at Ramstein AB, Germany, but with one-third the number of Airmen Ramstein's squadron has.

"It's been rewarding to get to work as a team and learn each other's jobs," said Senior Airman Jon Houghton, a communication and navigation journeyman deployed from Charleston AFB.

"The crew here is very capable," he said. "Pretty much everyone has the attitude, 'send it our way, we'll get the job done.'"

From every noncommissioned officer to every Airman, "they accomplish the mission and accomplish it well."

Even though he's only been in the Air Force for two years, Airman Houghton is responsible for maintaining all the radios and navigation equipment aboard the C-17s here. The equipment allows pilots to speak to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

"I like the complexity of the job," he said. "It always makes me feel like I just did something worthwhile."

Earlier this year, Airman Houghton deployed to Africa to provide presidential support for Air Force One and Air Force Two.

But not everyone in the squadron has a "glamorous" job that gets a lot of recognition.

Airman 1st Class Veasna Suong is an air transportation specialist who works with the passengers who flow in and out of the terminal here every day. His job includes taking passenger accountability, building and palletizing baggage and even cleaning the bathrooms.

"Sometimes people are a bit irritable," he admitted, "but I always try to have a positive attitude. They don't always realize it's not my fault when a plane is late or has to skip a leg, so I put on a smile and try to explain as best I can."

Airman Suong joined the Air Force to see the world and said what he likes most about interacting with all the passengers is hearing the stories of what they've done and where they've been.

Palletizing bags isn't quite as much fun.

"We're in the sun all the time," Airman Suong said. "It takes a lot of time and effort because each person brings two to three bags each."

Also combating the heat and sun are the air transportation specialists in charge of air freight on the ramp. Staging and uploading cargo, stock and anything that has to go into the area of responsibility and ensuring it's tied down properly for airlift and airdrop is backbreaking work, but Airman 1st Class Zachary Weakley is happy to do it.

"I've always liked using 'top heavy' equipment like K-loaders and forklifts," he said. "At the end of the day, I'm tired but relieved. If we didn't move this cargo, troops downrange couldn't stay safe and do their job, so my job is very important."

Eighth EAMS controllers also stay busy, constantly monitoring radio calls, sometimes on as many as three to four missions at a time. Each mission is tracked to ensure everyone who needs to meet the incoming aircraft is in place when it lands. Last year alone, the squadron handled 15,000 missions.

As the director of operations, Captain Corley sees these career fields work together daily and never miss a beat.

"This is one of the best jobs I've ever had and one of the best deployments I've ever been on," he said. "It's unique because I get to see the full spectrum of operations -- from maintainers fixing aircraft to aerial port specialists loading them to controllers launching and receiving them. Everyone has a vital role, and each piece affects the others. It's a superior squadron of highly-motivated, professional Airmen who get the job done from start to finish."