Behind the scenes: Yokota supports Nepal

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Members of Yokota Air Base, serving at the primary airlift hub in the Pacific region, often deploy to provide humanitarian aid to countries stricken by natural disasters. In recent years alone, the 374 Airlift Wing has deployed to support regional countries such as Japan after the Tohoku earthquake in 2011, the Philippines after typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and most recently, Nepal after the Gorkha earthquake April 25.

Typically, deployments are initiated by an official tasking -- a document detailing a requirement for a specific amount of personnel, equipment and aircraft to be sent to a determined location. Normally, the information is sent and is later passed down to the designated squadrons, however according to 1st Lt. Jeffrey Rearden, the 374th Logistical Readiness Squadron installation deployment officer, this wasn't a typical deployment.

With Yokota having a history of humanitarian support in the region, Rearden said that wing leadership knew there would be a need for them, so they initiated a proactive plan to have a mobility package ready. This meant Rearden and his office of log planners would have to work backward, building a deployment plan for an estimated, but unknown, mission.

"If we were to send aircraft to select locations to support Nepal, what would we need to bring?” Rearden said. “That is where the log planners came into play, we determined, with the help of other units, what was needed for each aircraft -- such as how many maintainers and what cargo."

Deployment lines were set up to ensure personnel tasked with standby status for the mission were ready. More than 180 members were processed, with a backup for almost every position.

"We didn't know what was required ... we didn't know what country we were going to or what medical immunizations would be required," Rearden said.

There is a lot of behind-the-scenes planning that goes into ensuring members are trained and ready prepared for deployments. According to Rearden, his team organized the tasking as well as they could with their given predicament.

Once personnel and equipment planning was sorted, they prepared the cargo. The 374th LRS completed a local agreement order and sent a bulk of the cargo work to the 730th Air Mobility Squadron.

"We are responsible of making sure the cargo is airworthy, which means there are no discrepancies, weights and balances of the cargo is accounted for, and, if there is any hazardous material within the cargo, that they are certified and able to fly," said Master Sgt. Rafick Khan, the 730 AMS airfreight section chief.

The airfreight section of the mobility squadron is broken down into three specialty shops: special handlings, cargo and ramp functions, and load planning. According to Khan, every shop was essential in processing the cargo for the 36th Airlift Squadron.

"These guys were eager to take hold of a real-world, out-of-the-ordinary job," Khan said. "They knew this cargo was going to help people. All the training they had received up to this point was about to be tested."

Special handlings Airmen ensured cargo was inspected for weights and balances and hazardous material compatibility. They conducted a joint inspection on the 11 cargo bundles and ensured the cargo was transported to their facility. Cargo and ramp function ensured the cargo movements with inbound trucks and the cargo itself were offloaded safely and by the books. Finally, the log planners loaded the equipment into a cargo tracking system.

Afterward, the cargo was set into a ready line to allow for an efficient and smooth loading process.

"When it was time to load, all we had to do was put it on K-loaders and bring it to the aircraft," Khan said. "We had everything ready to go within two hours of the cargo arriving to the cargo port."

The team processed more than 50,000 pounds of cargo, and according to Khan, his team put in more than 16 hours to ensure the cargo and equipment were bundled, inspected and organized to be sent to Nepal.

"Training and teamwork is key to short taskings like this," Khan said. "The training to get these guys prepared had a big payoff. Everyone knew there part."

After long hours of cargo inspections and preparing a deployment package, four C-130 Hercules and nearly 100 personnel left Yokota May 5 to aid Joint Task Force-505 in its mission to support U.S. Agency of International Development and the Government of Nepal.

"I think it shows just how flexible we are, being able to adapt on the fly," Reardon said. "There were so many moving pieces to this movement, but we were all flexible and patient with each other."