Whatever the Cargo

Airmen deployed to the 380th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, part of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia, support the wing’s air operations, but they also have been handling on and off-loading for all of the helium trailers for the Army’s Tactical Aerostats—17-meter-long blimps that hover for a week at about 1,000 feet up, providing tactical surveillance. The enterprise accounts for an additional 10-12 C-17s transiting the 380th AEW base of operations each month. According to Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Tate, aerostat liaison, the 12 airmen deployed to the 380th ELRS’s Air Terminal Operations Center have cut the turnaround time on the trailers in half. The airmen unload the helium-filled trailers as they come in, ready for transport to a forward operating location, and, when they return empty, load them back on C-17s for transport back to be refilled; then the process starts over. “The undertaking for the 380th to support this was immense,” said Tate, adding, “The original requirement a few years ago was limited to Iraq. Then, as of this last fall, the mission kind of exploded” as operations picked up again in Afghanistan. (380th AEW report by SrA. Ross Twenten)