Passenger processing ensures 100 percent accountability while traveling via military aircraft. It also guarantees all necessary documentation has been accomplished and is in accordance with the foreign clearance guide to ensure worldwide mobility.
The small air terminal operations center has myriad responsibilities. “Our primary mission is to support the 56th Fighter Wing dissimilar air combat training missions,” said Master Sgt. Kim Mitchell, 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron small air terminal operations center NCO-in-charge. “We also provide technical training in general cargo build-up and hazardous material preparer courses. Even though our primary responsibility is to the fighter wing, we are prepared to support any passenger or cargo air movements arriving or departing our station.”
Load planning, aircraft loading and passenger processing are pertinent aspects in preparing for a mission, and when done properly, these critical duties ensure safety and significant savings.
“Our load planning is a bit different than at a full-scale aerial port because at Luke Air Force Base we do all aspects of air terminal operations beginning with acquiring training aircraft to moving fighter squadrons to and from the home station,” Mitchell said. “Acquiring these training missions can save the fighter squadrons up to $600,000 per deployment. We work closely with the Air Mobility Command schedulers to ensure availability, dates and times.”
Load planning ensures that the cargo is air worthy for travel on aircraft without mishaps. It also ensures the proper weight and balance is correct for the aircraft to fly safely and successfully to down-range stations.” In fact, these training missions have saved the 56th FW more than $7.5 million in transportation costs over the last two years.
To ensure safety and efficiency, everything loaded on an aircraft must go through a rigorous process without shortcuts.
“We conduct a joint cargo inspection to ensure all cargo, including hazardous materials, is in compliance with Defense Department regulations and applicable directives prior to aircraft loading,” Mitchell said. “After completion of the joint inspection, cargo is prepared for aircraft loading. We use three 25,000-pound capacity next-generation side loaders and a standard 10,000-pound capacity forklift for the upload. Air transporters are qualified to operate this heavy equipment. Loading consists of cargo transport, upload and proper restraint to prevent shifting in flight.”
The small air terminal operations center has the capability to handle any military or commercial aircraft transiting Luke such as the C-17, C-130 or DC-8. However, due to the Dissimilar Air Combat Training mission requirements, the center relies heavily on the KC-10 for aerial refueling, passenger and cargo purposes.
With all of the work involved in preparing for a deployment or mission, it would seem as if a sizeable notice would be required to execute these missions, but time is often not a luxury for the small air terminal operation personnel.
“It would be great to have a week to coordinate with other logistics agencies,” Mitchell said. “However, we can process a full cargo or passenger movement at a moment’s notice, as well as quick-turn aircraft within a matter of hours depending on the amount of cargo and passengers to be processed.”
Every fighter squadron at Luke has had the opportunity to experience the professionalism of the air terminal personnel. All fighter squadrons assigned at Luke have participated in DACT exercises, and we are here to help make these exercises successful.