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Air mobility operations Airmen keep cargo aircraft moving

by Staff Sgt. Tammie Moore
332nd Expeditionary Airlift Wing Public Affairs

1/9/2006 - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- Airmen deployed to the Detachment 5, 721st Air Mobility Operations Group, traveled thousands of miles to help the Air Force enable the global aspect of "global vigilance, reach and power."

The 35 Airmen who work at the detachment are responsible for the maintenance, launch and recovery of all strategic Air Mobility Command C-5 Galaxy aircraft and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft transitioning through this busy base.

"Our reason for being here is to provide maintenance support for strategic airlift at Balad," said detachment commander Capt. Ken King. "The aircraft we support transport everything from bullets to blankets into the theater. Everything the warfighter needs comes through this detachment."

Deployed from Ramstein AB, Germany, the detachment receives all military cargo planes landing at Balad that are not assigned here. The Airmen work alongside the aircraft's crew chiefs to ensure as quick a turn around as possible.

"We want the transient aircraft landing on our airfield to be here for as short a period of time as possible," said Master Sgt. Roland Ireland, the production supervisor and detachment first sergeant. "It is our goal to turn around these aircraft in 30 minutes to four hours, depending on maintenance needed. The planes will not remain here overnight, unless they are broken."

In a typical day, the detachment Airmen service and launch about a dozen transient aircraft. Over the last six months, they have been busy servicing more than 1,300 C-17 and C-5 cargo aircraft moving approximately 27,000 tons of cargo. The Airmen have achieved a maintenance departure reliability rate of 99 percent.

In addition to assisting in the movement of cargo into the Iraqi theater, the aircraft serviced by the unit have transported almost 60,000 passengers, of which more than 1,800 were medical evacuations.

"We take great pride in knowing that several of the C-17 sorties we launch from here every week are transporting our wounded heroes out of harm’s way and into a safer place for them to receive the medical treatment they need," Captain King said.

The Airmen also take pride in knowing their job helps save lives in other ways. Every C-17 and C-5 that goes through Balad means one less convoy required in Iraq.

"We are decreasing the number of convoys that need to travel when C-17s are able to perform air drops -- getting parts and supplies where they are needed," Sergeant Ireland said.

Additionally, planes continuing on from Balad have provided humanitarian support to the Pakistani people affected by the October earthquake.

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