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American Forces Press Service

Element Keeps Cargo, Personnel Moving Into Indonesia

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

UTAPAO, Thailand, Jan. 21, 2005 - Since Jan. 1, the U.S. Air Force's Tanker Airlift Control Element here has been making sure that what comes into the Royal Thai Navy Airfield gets out.

The TALCE in Utapao is composed of personnel from elements of the 615th Air Mobility Squadron out of Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

In one of two buildings it uses here, the unit schedules planes in and out of Utapao. In the other, the cargo and personnel aboard the planes are tracked.

So far, the unit has moved well over 1,000 tons of humanitarian aid and cargo to Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The supplies are being sent into Indonesia as part of the disaster relief efforts to assist the victims of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunamis that hit Southeast Asia.

"In the beginning it (the pace of planes in and out of Utapao) was very fast," said Air Force Maj. Jaye Gandy, TALCE operations chief at Utapao.

The cargo includes mostly humanitarian supplies: food, water, blankets, tents and hygiene kits. The TALCE also handles gear for troops in the field.

Gandy said the supplies usually come in on larger aircraft -- C-5 Galaxys or C- 17 Globemaster IIIs -- and are repackaged for shipping on smaller aircraft such as C-130 Hercules transports. This is in large part because the Banda Aceh airfield was not equipped to handle the large craft in the beginning of the operations, Gandy explained.

Since the air traffic has been so heavy in and out of Banda Aceh, efforts have been made to improve the airfield there. It is now possible to get C-17s in to deliver supplies and personnel, he noted.

The Thais have relinquished two of their three parking aprons to the aircraft flying in and out of Utapao in support of Operation Unified Assistance, Gandy said.

The other responsibility of TALCE is to send out small assessment teams to determine whether an airfield can handle operations. Once they assess the proposed area for operations, they determine what is needed to make that happen. Each aircraft has specific minimum requirements for landing, Gandy explained.

"If you can put a C-5 in there, you can pretty much put anything in there," Air Force Maj. Michael Thomas said. Thomas is part of a TALCE assessment team.

The team can be as small as a handful of people and as large as 300. The team at Utapao is a medium-size team, according to Gandy. They've been "plussed-up," he said, to include a contractor, someone from finance, some security and a four-man medical team.

As is becoming more and more the case, the effort is joint, Gandy said. The TALCE team is working closely with the Marines to process the shipments. "It's worked out pretty good so far," Gandy said.

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