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Hurricane relief mission: Airmen work through weekend to process relief vehicles destined for East Coast

Published: 03:33PM November 8th, 2012
Airmen work through weekend to process relief vehicles destined for East Coast

Staff Sgt. Sean Tobin

62nd APS Airmen secure a load bound for the East Coast.

Airmen from the 62nd Aerial Port Squadron worked through the entire night Friday and well into the afternoon Saturday to process more than 20 vehicles and support equipment destined for the East Coast to support Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

The vehicles, sent from the Seattle City Light power company in Seattle, and Bonneville Power Administration, in Olympia, along with utility workers from those agencies, are being sent to locations in New York and New Jersey to help restore electrical power to residents there.

“The utility workers will be the ones doing the hard work back east, but I’m glad to play a part in getting them there so they can help out,” said Tech. Sgt. Kyle Hersel, 62nd APS cargo processing supervisor.

Hersel’s job in the cargo deployment process is to ensure that all equipment going on a military aircraft is airworthy and safe.

This can prove to be a difficult task when dealing with large vehicles that are not necessarily designed to travel on aircraft.

“Most pieces of equipment we deal with here on a daily basis have special tie-downs and are built specifically to travel on military aircraft,” said Lt. Col. Robert Farkas, 62nd APS commander. “But these vehicles present a special challenge for us.”

That challenge is dealt with at all levels throughout the deployment process, beginning at the load planning stage, all the way up to the point of getting the cargo onto the aircraft.

Another cargo processing supervisor with the 62nd APS, Tech. Sgt. Carrie Lee, is in charge of the load planning process. Her job is to balance the requests of the customer against the capabilities of the aircraft. She is also in charge of accounting for and disposing of hazardous materials in the cargo.

For Lee, this mission hits close to home.

“My aunt lives back there, so it’s especially important for me that I play a role in this,” she said. “I can’t be there to help with clean-up efforts, so it feels good to be able to get the workers and equipment where they’re needed.”

Helping to determine whether the customers’ requests can be met falls on the shoulders of Port Dawgs like Airman 1st Class Joseph Flores-Constancio, 62nd APS cargo processing journeyman.

His job is to weigh and measure each piece of equipment going on an aircraft to ensure it will be able to be loaded without damaging it or the aircraft. He must also determine the center of balance of each piece, so load planners can determine the best placement on the aircraft to ensure the plane is balanced properly.

His task requires precision, especially with atypical cargo, such as the electrical utility vehicles. Some of the vehicles clear the top of the inside of the aircraft by only a few inches. Without careful measurement, an oversized vehicle could cause severe damage.

Flores-Constancio, a native of Mong Mong, Guam, said being able to be a part of Sandy relief efforts is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“I play a small part in this larger effort to help out those on the East Coast,” he said. “It’s small, but an important part.”

That sentiment is also felt by Staff Sgt. Bradley Burfield, 62nd APS joint inspector.

“It is very rewarding to be a part of this mission and getting this equipment where it’s needed,” said Burfield, who has the job of being the final inspector to determine airworthiness of the equipment before it’s loaded.

The Airmen of the 62nd APS, or Port Dawgs, as they’re called, live by the motto, “Whatever it takes.”

“When tasked with any mission, and something needs to go on an aircraft, we need to think about how this is going to happen,” Farkas said. “Whenever that happens, Port Dawgs will say, ‘We’ll make it happen - whatever it takes.’”