US, Iraqi air forces recover, return pallets to DOD system

  • Published
  • By By Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

BAGHDAD (AFNS) -- Air transportation specialists assigned to the 370th Air Expeditionary Air Advisory Group began  recovering more than $2.1 million in U.S. Air Force aerial port assets from Iraqi air force counterparts.

Aerial porters at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center have recovered more than 1,500 aircraft pallets and 1,600 cargo nets to date, which were used for foreign military sales cargo destined for the Iraqi military fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Mosul.

“The coordination movement was a huge undertaking,” said Tech. Sgt. Seth Lobdell, an air advisor for air transportation assigned to the 770th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. “We had to coordinate the movement with the Department of State, the U.S. Army and the Iraqi air force to be able to reclaim these items to be put back into service, saving the Air Force overall purchasing cost in the long run.”

Normally, the pallets would go unclaimed and would be lost within the system. The air advisors identified the need to reclaim the assets for the Air Mobility Command and Defense Department, eliminating the need to purchase more.

The 463L pallet, and its top and two side nets, make up the main air-cargo pallet system of the U.S. Air Force, averaging approximately $1,500 per pallet and net set. According to Lobdell, everything that goes on an aircraft in loose boxes needs to be placed onto these pallets and netted down, in order to prevent anything from damaging the aircraft in flight.

Once the pallet systems are recovered from aerial ports throughout Iraq, they’re inspected, cleaned, separated between good and bad and either shipped back to the U.S. or kept in theater to be used throughout the area of responsibility.

“This is a good program across the AOR, not only in recovering assets and saving the Air Force money, but in training and benefit for the Iraqi air force,” said Master Sgt. Robert Gage,  aerial port superintendent at BDSC with the 442nd Air Expeditionary Squadron. “As we recover these assets we teach the Iraqis how to properly store and maintain the pallets and nets so they can be reused and put back into the aerial port system. Once back in the system they can be used to transport cargo that is delivered to them through the foreign military sales and Iraqi training and equipment fund programs as well as aid in their fight against ISIS.”

The initiative that started at BDSC and Al Muthana Air Base has now spread to other forward operating bases, resulting in the recovery of additional pallets, according to Gage.

“There are air transportation specialists all throughout the AOR in Iraq that have been working alongside their coalition partners and reclaiming assets,” said Lobdell. “Right now the cost savings out of Iraq is huge.”

With more than $2.1 million in assets already recovered, Lobdell and Gage hope to pass the initiative  to the next group of air advisors to continue this cost savings process.

“It was really nice to work with our partners, the Iraqi military, to be able to accomplish this,” said Lobdell. “It’s something that started here and has been able to take off across the AOR. It’s monumental in the fact that several people have come together to make sure  all of this stuff flows back in and out of the country the way it’s supposed to.”