JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Despite the cold winds, rain and fog, a training exercise between the 74th Aerial Port Squadron and Army North's Task Force-51 from Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston proved to be invaluable training for the Airmen and Soldiers here on April 5-6.
The units, Air Force Reserve's 74th APS and the 68th Airlift Squadron, and the U.S. Army North's (Fifth Army), Joint Task Force-51, took advantage of being in the same area to train. The training goal is to improve unit preparedness to move Task Force-51's vehicles onto a C-5A Galaxy aircraft to deploy in case of a natural or manmade disaster anywhere in the United States.
Task Force-51 is a full-time deployable command post, who assists local, state and federal responders with disasters in the United States, who have seen catastrophic natural or manmade disasters that exceed their capabilities.
"This is the first time we are doing a joint training exercise with Army North here in a Reserve capacity," said Chief Master Sgt. Debra Kelly, 74th APS superintendent. "The aerial porters are learning about the Army's vehicles and training the Soldiers on center of balance, and how to prepare Air Force documents, such as shippers declaration for when they need to go on a mission."
In addition, the aerial porters trained the Soldiers on making load plans, safety, weighing vehicles and coordinating with loadmasters on the first day.In a real world scenario, it is common for both services to work together.
"We always say the Army is our biggest customers because we move most of their cargo, " said Senior Airman David Castro, a 68th AS loadmaster. "Training like this is great. It helps both of us see what we could do better and what needs to be worked on more. There is always something new, especially with new equipment. It helps us build camaraderie because we don't get to work and train together a lot."
On the second day of training, the biggest challenge was loading "The Sentinel." It is an ominous, dark-colored truck which houses a command, communications and control module. It was the first time the units attempted to load it on a 433rd Airlift Wing C-5A.
Loadmasters from the 68th AS, who provide the pilot with precise weight and balance calculations to determine the plane's center of gravity, scurried back and forth to place shoring, small wooded tiles, under the vehicle's rear tires to lift the monstrous truck onto the C-5A's front ramp.
"It ("The Sentinel") is built on a freightliner (cargo truck chassis)," said Army Maj. Jamaal A. Mack, Task Force-51's logistics planner. "We have practiced loading it onto a C-17 Globemaster III, but we didn't know if the top would clear (the top) of the C-5. It cleared it by five inches."
Task Force-51 usually travels to disaster stricken areas within the continental United States. The exercise was an opportunity to for the Army and the Air Force to practice loading the aircraft, in case they need to use airlift.
"For us, we don't often use an aircraft, so having everything together like our hazardous declarations, labeling and marking, gives us that practice we need." Mack said. "I really think this gives good training for both the Army and the Air Force. It gives our Air Force brothers great training for whenever Task Force-51 is called, we can get out the door."
"On a Reserve weekend, we don't have this kind of equipment here to train our members, so this was a win-win opportunity to train with the Army," Kelly said.