JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Despite the challenges brought about by COVID-19, the 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Deployment and Distribution Flight at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland is helping to provide safe and reliable transportation for Basic Military Training graduates transitioning to their technical school locations.
Since March 2020, the 502nd LRS has transported BMT graduates to their technical school destinations using the Group Operational Passenger System, or GOPAX. GOPAX is a process in which traffic managers have been able to work with the U.S. Transportation Command, or USTRANSCOM, to bid and award contracts for charter flights to transport the BMT graduates to their designated technical schools.
Before the pandemic, the graduates were transported by bus or commercial flight to the technical school they were going to. Graduates headed to technical school at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, were transported by bus.
Graduates going to technical school at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; Vandenberg Air Force Base, Port Hueneme, and Monterey, California; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Lee and Fort Eustis, both in Virginia, or Fort Meade, Maryland, were flown by commercial flight from San Antonio International Airport to the airports near their technical school locations.
Those procedures changed in March 2020, when the Air Education and Training Command decided to transport the graduates going to Sheppard and Keesler Air Force Bases by chartered planes from JBSA-Kelly Field, instead of by bus. This was done to follow safety and health protocols to reduce the number of stops during their trips, reducing the chances of a graduate getting COVID-19.
The graduates are now flown either directly to the base or to the local airport nearest the base where they will go to technical school, with a chartered bus picking them up, if required, from the aircraft so they do not have to go through the airport and possibly be exposed to COVID-19.
As for those graduates going to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Port Hueneme and Monterey, California, they are flown on a chartered flight from JBSA-Kelly Field to Vandenberg Air Force Base, where a chartered bus picks them up from the aircraft and transports them directly to the three California destinations.
A dedicated team of four traffic managers has adjusted well to the changes in transporting the graduates, ensuring the graduates get to their destinations on time and safely, said Stephen Hill, 502nd LRS JBSA supervisory transportation assistant.
“They have kept a great attitude, and they do an amazing job,” Hill said. “It’s great having a team like that. We’ve had zero mission failures since March 2020.”
The traffic managers are Paul Caviel, 502nd LRS supervisory transportation assistant at JBSA-Lackland; Raymond Griffith, 502nd LRS passenger travel assistant at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston; and Ofelia Warren and Linda McDaniel, 502nd LRS passenger transportation assistants at JBSA-Lackland.
Hill said every Thursday, 502nd LRS members through GOPAX and work with USTRANSCOM to solicit bids for charter flights to transport graduates for the following week, the day after BMT graduation.
Utilizing the GOPAX system, the 502nd LRS team has arranged commercial chartered air movement of over 21,000 BMT graduates, along with 1.4 million tons of gear and personal belongings, to their technical school destinations, in more than 275 flights since March 2020.
Hill said the four traffic managers who work on finding transportation for graduates have learned how to use the GOPAX system effectively and set up a schedule of charter flights to pick up and transport the graduates. He said the bids which are accepted are those from airlines that are cost-efficient and meet safety and health protocols required by AETC.
"These traffic managers are helping to schedule the charter flights in addition to their regular duties of assisting processing, temporary duty, and deploying customers with their travel arrangements at the JBSA-Lackland Passenger Travel Office," Hill said. They also make arrangements to ensure the charter buses pick up the graduates once they arrive at their technical school destinations.
Hill said the dedication of the traffic managers who work on obtaining the charter flights ensures the graduates make it to their technical school destinations without delays.
“This process has been evaluated and perfected, and now moves trainees to 12 joint service military installations in a safe, secure, and cost-effective manner,” Hill said.
For now, and for the foreseeable future, the four traffic managers with the 502nd LRS will continue to help provide transportation options for graduates to reach their technical school destinations in the safest, most efficient way possible.