INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
Twenty four air transportation specialists assigned to the 728th Air Mobility Squadron deployed from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to Southwest Asia to run aerial port operations in support of Operation Allies Refuge, Aug. 20, 2021.
The team comprises Airmen with various service and experience levels, from those who are only a year removed from high school to others with more than 16 years of service. Their deployment supports the U.S. military’s mission, directed by the President of the United States, to facilitate the safe, expedient evacuation of U.S. citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other at-risk Afghans out of Afghanistan.
“The 24 Airmen we are sending out today are the professionals that run aerial port operations, ensuring the smooth and efficient flow of passengers and cargo throughout the en route system,” explained Lt. Col. Jared Thompson, 728th AMS commander. “We bring order to the operation; safely and effectively moving passengers, cargo and aircraft in a highly tactical game of Tetris with operational and strategic impact.”
While deployed, the Airmen – affectionately known as “Port Dawgs” – will conduct a wide range of missions like greeting passengers at terminal counters, using forklifts and heavy equipment to move cargo and freight, checking luggage and servicing aircraft. They will also provide meals and essentials to the aircrew and travelers, track flights, collect critical data and coordinate efforts with agencies across the airfield and at forward locations.
“It’s definitely rewarding to be a part of something like [this],” said Staff Sgt. Sean Stubbs, an airfield controller who deployed as part of the mission. “We see a lot of this on the news and hear a lot about it, but not everyone gets a chance to be [part of the] direct support.”
Thompson credited his entire team for maintaining a constant state of readiness, which enabled them prepare and depart with little advance notice.
“I am very proud of this team of professionals,” he said. “Every one of them is ready to get the mission done. Being ready is a constant requirement, it is not something our team does last minute to spin up for a mission. They work to maintain constant mental, physical, spiritual and emotional readiness.
“Our Airmen live and train for this moment every day,” he continued. “This is a great day! Our Airmen received that tap on the shoulder, and the moment has found them fully prepared and absolutely qualified for that which could truly be their finest hour.”
To execute the short-notice mission, Thompson and his team requested and received support from numerous agencies at Incirlik AB.
“As with everything we do, none of it could be done alone,” he explained. “The 39th Air Base Wing, Team Titan, and the 93rd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron launched into action the moment we reached out. Every member of our team required something from our 39th Medical Group professionals. Whether it was a visit to Public Health or a renewed prescription, the 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron and the 39th Healthcare Operations Squadron were there to support.”
Thompson also credited the 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron for assisting with planning and local transportation support, as well as the USO for providing snacks and sundries to the departing team.
“And to top it all off, the 93rd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron provided airlift from Incirlik directly to the location of need,” he said.
While the Afghanistan support mission became a priority, Thompson lauded the 728th AMS Airmen remaining at Incirlik AB for picking up the slack.
“The mission here does not stop,” he said. “Our home team doubles and triples their efforts locally to ensure our away team can provide the needed support. In this case, our home-team Port Dawgs are working extra hours and literally processing their own teammates through their own aerial port for forward movement.
“Too often, members feel they were left behind when a portion of the unit is called forward,” Thompson added. “These unsung heroes running home-team operations are the critical backbone that allows all forward power projection to happen. I am very proud of our home team for their professionalism, dedication to duty and service to our nation.”
The 728th AMS is a traditional Air Mobility Command en route squadron, categorized as a tenant unit of the 39th Air Base Wing. The squadron advances effective and flexible global mobility operations by providing expertise in aerial port operations, aircraft maintenance, and command and control. The squadron’s area of responsibility includes Eastern Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.