Effective May 16, 2022, Patriot Express flights to Japan will operate out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
The Patriot Express is a Department of Defense contracted commercial charter mission, which provides support for official-duty travelers and their family members to overseas locations.
PE usually operates out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. However, Team McChord will manage the overflow flights due to the high number of service members PCSing this year.
“At this time, SEA-TAC is significantly impacted with flights, especially when it comes to PCS season,” said 2nd Lt. Spencer White, deputy flight commander of passenger and fleet services with the 62nd Aerial Port Squadron. “As a means to help relieve the stress over at SEA-TAC, they are coming to us at the McChord Passenger Terminal to relieve some of that burden.”
To make this transition possible, the 62nd APS is working with the 627th Logistic Readiness Squadron to work through logistical challenges, such as transportation.
“Transportation for members coming in from SEA-TAC was not something ground transportation here was able to support due to lack of manpower and vehicles,” White said. “We found our solution in contracting out buses to pick up individuals and bring them back down here.”
Preparing 62nd APS Airmen for a significant uptick in workload was the next step in attacking this maiden voyage head on.
“Passenger service attendants have sharpened the spear on all their general and specified skills the last two years,” White said. “Airmen are going through training rotations, such as the magnetometer on the X-Ray machine, passenger check-in procedures and especially the foreign clearance guide.”
The foreign clearance guide is an online tool for individuals to check and see if all their information and documentation is in order to get cleared into a country.
“If we put them on a plane and they don’t meet all those requirements, and we haven’t vetted that, all of a sudden they cannot be there and they would get put back on a plane to the U.S.,” White said.
This is an ever-changing document that various countries are constantly updating their laws and travel requirements, especially considering COVID-19.
“It’s something that we really have to pay attention to, so our Airmen are really going into detail with training on the foreign clearance guide,” White said.
The PE mission is not to be confused with Space-Available travel, which is designated for emergency and ordinary leave, retirees, dependents, 100 percent disabled veterans and military reserve.
Space-A recently began operating again out of JBLM after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. Therefore, this is the first time many new Airmen to JBLM are getting to put their training to the test in Space-A travel.
“We don’t have a lot of real-life missions under our belt yet due to a slow workload, but we try to simulate the best we can and create mock trials and training specifically for PE,” said Airman 1st Class Alexander Rivera-Otero, 62nd APS passenger service agent.
Fortunately, 62nd APS Airmen are constantly honing their skills and staying current in their Air Force specialty codes, so the new influx of training is a smooth transition.
“We stay up to date in all the training we have, whether it’s signing up the passengers, putting them through the TSA guidelines, or loading them onto the planes,” Rivera-Otero said. “It’s been very helpful and we’re ready; the PE mission couldn’t have opened back up at a better time.”
Airmen who work at the PAX Terminal are going to experience a rise in workload heading into PCS season.
“We’re looking at anywhere from 180-240 people per plane,” White said. “One flight per week is going to be our starting out point and when PCS season hits around June to July, it’s going to bump up to three flights a week that we’re going to be pushing out.”
For many Airmen, JBLM is their first duty station, and they have yet to have the opportunity to participate in the Patriot Express mission.
“A lot of folks here haven’t had the chance to do a Space-A roll call other than in training not much in regards to general passenger service aside from working next door with the Army and their Troop Holding Facility due to a slow workload,” White said. “So our folks are super excited, eager and ready to finally put their skills to the test.”
For more information about Space-A Travel or more information about the McChord Patriot Express, please visit the McChord Passenger Terminal Website: https://www.mcchord.af.mil/About-Us/McChord-AMC-Passenger-Terminal/