SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) --
The 387th Air Expeditionary Squadron is a small unit. With about 10 assigned staff, and 20 quick-response aerial port Airmen, they have a small footprint. Their reach, however, is far more expansive than meets the eye. They have the responsibility of providing all levels of administrative support to about 390 joint expeditionary task and individual augmentee Airmen, bearing 72 Air Force specialty codes, and forward deployed to 11 countries.
These forward-deployed Airmen, better known as JET/IA Airmen, are working alongside Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in joint taskings in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
“JET used to be called ‘in lieu of’ because the Army, Navy and Marines had jobs where they didn’t have the manpower. They’d create these taskings and say ‘we don’t have the bodies to do this, and need the other services to pitch in,’” said Lt. Col. Gregory Rusk, the 387th AES director of operations. “We’ve got security forces, engineers, aerial porters, just about any Air Force specialty code you can think of filling a JET/IA tasking.”
With these taskings for manpower, the Air Force sends Airmen from across the spectrum of skill sets. Everything from security forces and vehicle operators, to financial managers and comptrollers are regularly tasked with JET/IA missions. They each have capabilities to serve directly under sister-service components. This is where the 387th AES becomes most critical.
Connecting Our People
These deployed Airmen aren't in a typical Air Force environment, and don't have Air Force "blue" assets and people surrounding them. This is where the 387th AES serves as a "blue line" these Airmen can trace back, for support from Air Force assets.
“What we do is serve as the blue line back to the Air Force,” said Rusk. “In these taskings, they don’t have someone in their chain of command that is Air Force and designated administratively as a commander. There are things that you simply need an Air Force commander’s signature for, or an Air Force first sergeant to handle; things like emergency leave, promotion, discipline and we do that for these Airmen.”
Additionally, the 387th AES handles moving these Airmen in and out of the theater, as well as other administrative support responsibilities. The squadron’s functions include logistics, personnel, travel, lodging and pay issues.
“We’re basically the command support staff for these lone Airmen, who are scattered across the area of operations,” said Rusk. “Wherever they are, I want them to know that we are here to help with whatever problem they have.”
Keepin’ it Movin’
The 387th AES also has 20 aerial port Airmen assigned to a quick reaction team. At a moment’s notice, the team can go anywhere in the area of responsibility to help move equipment and load aircraft.
“There was a big turnover happening at [another] location, and that base isn’t staffed with a port, so our guys went up there, packed everything and loaded the planes, and got that unit home,” said Rusk. “[The aerial port Airmen] play Tetris to an amazing level to get stuff onto a pallet and into an airplane.”
Taking Care of Airmen
Along with the aerial port Airmen, the 387th AES boasts a robust support staff ready to tackle any specific Air Force issues. This ensures the JET/IA Airmen are taken care of by other Airmen who understand and know the best way to handle any issues that may arise.
“Our mission, the care and feeding of these Airmen, is important because the Air Force owes it to these Airmen, wherever they are, to be taken care of,” said Rusk. “We owe them a blue line back to the Air Force, and no matter what issue comes up, another Airman is there to take care of them.”