Transit Center moves nearly 20K people--in one week

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lynsie Nichols
  • 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Service members at the Transit Center at Manas work side-by-side with Kyrgyz partners every day to support international efforts in Afghanistan by moving fuel, cargo and people. Last week, the team moved a record 19,827 coalition troops--the most since the installation opened 10 years ago.

Between March 19 and 25, various units here worked together to overcome a variety of obstacles including bad weather, maintenance delays, storage space limitations and personnel turnover. Some of the key players included people assigned to the 376th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, 376th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron Personnel Support of Contingency Operations office and the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.

On average, the 817th EAS Detachment handles 29 flights per week; last week they had 39.

"We brought an extra crew and aircraft from our main squadron at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey," said Lt. Col. Rob Schmidt, 817th EAS Detachment 1 commander. "Even with the additional crew, most of our crews had minimal time off between missions."

Schmidt is deployed here from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

The 376th ELRS is the key component in cargo loading, unloading and transport. On average, the squadron handles 143 missions per week; last week's total was 177. The Airmen typically move about 11,500 passengers each week. The "record week" saw thousands more.

"We had to ensure we had enough manpower and that we scheduled everyone's movement to guarantee we didn't have passengers and their bags on top of each other to the point that we couldn't efficiently operate," said Maj. Tom Klauer, 376th ELRS Aerial Port flight commander. "We also kept a high level of organization to ensure passengers were accounted for correctly."

Klauer is deployed here from Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

"We had challenges of not having enough storage for all the passengers' bags and not having enough space to hold all the passengers when we were trying to get them on flights out of here," said Staff Sgt. Juan Longoria, 376th ELRS NCO in charge of the baggage yard. "We also battled multiple issues with having capabilities to move our pallets and bins to where they needed to be."

Longoria is deployed here from Anderson Air Force Base, Guam.

In addition to providing standard personnel and administrative services, the 376th EFSS PERSCO office here in-processes all permanent-party and transient personnel. Last week, the unit processed 722 transient personnel heading to Afghanistan, 255 on their way home and 1,268 permanent-party personnel. And those were just from the Air Force.

Staff Sgt. Stacey Charfauros, a 376th EFSS PERSCO employee deployed here from Anderson AFB, started her new job just before the record week.

"When I first got here I thought it was really busy," she said. "Things were a lot crazier than I'm used to. At home station, we get only Air Force, but here we get all branches of the services (and coalition personnel)."

The influx of passengers was challenging enough on its own, but other factors made coordination between Transit Center units essential.

"Prior to the surge in operations, we had some flexibility in our schedule and were able to adjust relatively easy to delays," Schmidt said. "During the (record) week, ramp-space limitations in Afghanistan, bad weather and a couple of maintenance delays rippled through the schedule. A single event sometimes slipped or delayed missions well into the following day."

"The only way to handle a job like this is to knuckle down and do your job to the best of your ability, just the way you've been trained to do it," Longoria said. "If you have a positive attitude and a clear view of the big picture of why we're here, then it comes easy."

"During the week, we had all of our replacements coming in," said Airman 1st Class Alacia Hatten, a 376th EFSS PERSCO team member deployed here from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. "My biggest challenge was waiting for the traffic to slow down so we could help train the new people on their new jobs and responsibilities."

The busy week started with snow and other bad weather throughout the region, but it wasn't enough to slow the mission or dampen anyone's spirit.

"(It feels) great," Klauer said. "We knew just by the workload last week that we broke a record; but we process a lot of passengers each week, so everyone took it in stride."

"Last week was crazy, but now I'm very familiar with my job. The best way to learn is through experience," Charfauros added.

"It was great to hear the Airmen say they learned something new about themselves and their capabilities, even though it was a stressful week," said Chief Master Sgt. Raymond Brewster, 376th EFSS PERSCO team chief. "I'm impressed at the level of talent that each person has."

"It's always very rewarding to fly Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen on their first leg home," Schmidt said. "After spending as long as a year deployed to bare-base conditions in Afghanistan away from their families, they are always excited to be on their way to the Transit Center to catch their flight to the United States.

"It was great seeing the entire team come together to make sure everyone and their gear got where they were supposed to go," he added. "Whether standing on the ramp at the Transit Center or standing on an airplane at a downrange airfield, I am continually amazed by the capabilities and professionalism of our total force team."