380th AEW Airmen deliver helium to AOR

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jeremy Larlee
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
While growing up in Columbus, Ga., Senior Airman Russell Chamblee worked for a construction company driving a 50-ton truck and trailer. Little did he know that the skills he learned then would be an important part of a program vital to warfighters on the ground.

Airman Chamblee, who is deployed from the 89th Aerial Port Squadron at Joint Base Andrews, Md., uses his driving ability to support The U.S. Central Command Helium Trailer program that enables intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the area of responsibility.

Trailers of helium are used to fill a series of lighter-than-air vehicles, also called blimps, which provide constant surveillance over the battlefield and coalition forces.

The 380th Air Expeditionary Wing supports the only current filling station for the helium trailers in the AOR. The 380th AEW delivers approximately 90,000 pounds of helium to the AOR weekly. Airmen from the 380th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron pick up the trailers and process them.

Airman Chamblee's role is to drive the 25-foot helium trailer into the cargo bay of a C-17 Globemaster III parked on the flightline.

The leeway for error in this operation is minuscule.

"The trailer has to be absolutely in the center of the aircraft so that you don't throw off the balance," Airman Chamblee said. "There is only a margin of error of about three inches."
The driver guides the trailer into the aircraft on his first attempt.

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Munn, also deployed from the 89th APS knew it was no easy task. Sergeant Munn was supervising the loading operation and pitching in when needed and said that it would take previous drivers four or five attempts to properly load the trailer into the aircraft.

"He really is one of our star drivers," Sergeant Munn said. "His skill makes the job a lot easier and less stressful."

Sergeant Munn said he enjoys working with the flight crew and he gets satisfaction working on the helium missions because he knows how vital they are to warfighters.

"We deal with load masters on a regular basis, we may not know them personally, but we know what each other's responsibilities are and we are able to work together well and stay on the same page," Sergeant Munn said. "We take pride in doing our piece of it. It makes you feel good to know the role you play in the big picture."

Airman Chamblee said he enjoys working with the flight crew as well, and said he envisions himself as a loadmaster on the ground.

Airman Chamblee said the next step is to share his knowledge with his coworkers. He plans to do some in-house training to share his tactics and techniques with his coworkers.
He said he really enjoys driving for the helium missions.

"These helium missions have been my favorite job to do in the month I have been here because they are so challenging," he said. "It makes me feel great to know I'm helping the warfighters on the ground in the combat zone."