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Ali Base Airmen help U.S. forces transit Iraq

by Senior Airman Chuck Broadway
9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force/Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq Public Affairs

9/21/2011 - ALI BASE, Iraq (AFNS) -- Aerial porters and Airmen from the 407th Air Expeditionary Group's passenger terminal at Ali Base are preparing for an increase in passengers and cargo during the final months of Operation New Dawn.

As the main aerial hub in southern Iraq, the terminal has processed approximately 5,000 passengers and more than 850,000 pounds of cargo each month since June 2011.

"We try to keep the process streamlined and get guys in and out because we're pushing record numbers of troops through here," said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Fisher, a 407th AEG aerial transporter, who is from Appleton, Wis. "We keep cargo and passengers moving and sometimes re-deploy personnel from entire forward operating bases. It really contributes to the big picture in Iraq."

Fisher, said his team of air transportation Airmen, also known in the career field as "port dogs," set a goal of 30 minutes to unload, reload and have the aircraft taxiing out to the runway.

Once a plane lands, Fisher said pallets of cargo aboard the aircraft are unloaded by a team of Airmen and are placed into holding areas for passenger pickup. A passenger terminal representative then guides the incoming personnel safely off the aircraft and into the terminal. The process is then reversed to quickly load the plane and get it flying.

With the entire process down to an exact science, the 407th AEG Airmen have the first passenger loaded onto the plane seconds after the last passenger exits.

Working efficiently not only allows passengers a quick departure, it keeps everyone out of the intense heat.

According to Fisher, temperatures often reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit. During an "engines on" load, when the aircraft engines are still running, temperatures can approach 200 degrees behind the aircraft.

"Safety is our number one concern," Fisher said. "We have to ensure passengers are following a safe route on and off the plane. (Safety) is important aspect of our mission because we're moving valuable cargo and passengers in and out of theater."

When their mission is complete, Fisher and his team will board a final aircraft, strap in and say goodbye to Iraq.

"I feel proud that I had an impact in sending people back home," said Staff Sgt. William Travis, a 407th AEG aerial porter. "It's important to me that we help out the Army. When I see them smile as they get on a plane to go home it makes me feel better about what I do."

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