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Andrews aerial porters load American buses on Russian-made transport bound for Afghanistan

by Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

1/4/2010 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Air transportation Airmen from the 380th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron here are trained in loading all types of airlift aircraft in the Air Force fleet. C-17 Globemaster III -- no problem. C-5 Galaxy -- no problem. C-130 Hercules -- no problem.

But what do they do when a Russian-built Ilyushin IL-76 needs loading? The answer to that is simple as well -- no problem.

On Dec. 30, six air transportation Airmen, all deployed from the 89th Aerial Port Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. to the 380th ELRS Air Terminal Operations Center, loaded two 44-passenger buses, totaling more than 20,000 pounds each, into an IL-76.

In preparing the two-bus load for the Russian-made plane, Tech. Sgt. Andrew McMahon, NCO in charge of the ATOC, said he and his fellow aerial porters were as ready as they could be.

"With a plane like this, we're never certain exactly how it's going to go on the plane," said Sergeant McMahon. "But, we always work through the problems and end up with a successful loading. Up to this point not only have I not loaded a bus, I've also never loaded a bus on Russian-built plane."

Each bus is the equivalent of five pallet positions on the plane. Staff Sgt. Derrick Chandler, also an aerial porter deployed to this Southwest Asia base, said going in to the loading process that it was going to be a tight squeeze.

"It's going to be interesting to see these buses go on the Russian bird," said Sergeant Chandler.

Sergeant McMahon said the only challenge they had in loading a Russian-built plane versus an Air Force airlifter was the language barrier was different with the crews.

"The crews spoke very little English, which made communication during loading an obstacle to overcome," Sergeant McMahon said.

In the end, the six aerial porters completed the task in just a few hours. Minutes after loading, the plane was on its way to Afghanistan.

Capt. Thomas Olander Jr., the 380th ELRS' Deployment and Distribution Flight commander, said this movement highlights the expertise his unit brings to the fight.

"It shows the synergies that exist between the various elements of the squadron, the vehicle operations section, vehicle maintenance section and the aerial port," Captain Olander said. "All worked together seamlessly to move these assets down range. It's truly a team effort the entire squadron can take pride in."

They were confident their aircraft could carry both buses and together we got the buses safely loaded and on their way to Afghanistan," Sergeant McMahon said. "Another job well done -- no problem."

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