History of USAF Aerial Ports
I've come to the conclusion that there is no simple or straightforward answer concerning the origins of today's aerial port squadrons and flights. The research has led me to a patchwork quilt of lineages that comprise the roots of these airlift support/cargo-handling units. Examples of today's aerial port unit ancestors include Air Cargo Control Squadrons, Air Traffic Squadrons, Air Terminal Squadrons, and Aerial Port Operations Squadrons. When you consider the aerial port functions at today's Air Mobility Command overseas enroute locations you can add the Military Airlift Support Squadrons, Airlift Support Squadrons, and the Air Mobility Support Squadrons into the lineage mix.
Those units involved in air transportation services have been assigned to numerous major and subordinate commands throughout the last fifty years beginning with the Army Air Corps Ferrying Command. Subsequent evolvement in their command alignment included assignments to the Air Service Command, Air Transport Command, Troop Carrier Command, Far East Air Forces, Combat Cargo Command, Military Air Transport Service, Continental Air Command, Military Airlift Command, Tactical Airlift Command, United States Air Forces Europe and Pacific Air Forces.
The theory of modern aerial port activity was born during World War II as a supplemental action to support mass airborne operations in Europe and the Far East. Petroleum, oil, lubricants (POL), ammunition, medical supplies and rations made up the majority of cargo moved by airlift. WWII is replete with examples of poor air transportation management. On D-Day there were five separate American air transport organizations in the European theater. Each was responsible to a different headquarters and was changed with a variety of tasks, which limited its availability in time of emergency. Quite often, airlift suffered a split responsibility in which tactical dominated the logistical.
Today all Aerial Port Squadrons/Flights and the enroute Aerial Port Flights (functional area within an Air Mobility Squadron) are aligned under the operational control of the Air Mobility Command (formerly Military Airlift Command). In years past Aerial Ports were operationally aligned according to their geographic location and whether they were constituted to support theater or strategic airlift missions (i.e. aerial port squadrons vs. air terminal squadrons).
Most of today?s bases, that have aerial port squadrons (Dover, Travis, McGuire, Charleston, McChord), have long histories with these units. However, bases like Donaldson AFB SC, Sewart AFB TN, Norton AFB CA, and Tachikawa AB Japan were major aerial port locations during by-gone eras.
Organizationally, all Air Force personnel involved in the air transportation business typically can trace their ancestry to the Air Corps Ferrying Command (ACFC). The ACFC, created on May 29, 1941, immediately began ferrying airplanes to Newfoundland. This organization's mandate was to deliver aircraft and provide airlift of personnel and supplies around the world.
On June 20, 1942, Arnold issued AAF General Orders that responded to conflicting organizational issues and set the pattern for most of the war's duration. This included creation of the Air Transport Command (ATC), which was responsible for all ferrying requirements within the United States and overseas. Additionally, the ATC was authorized to transport all personnel, mail, and mat?el for the War Department, with the exception of specific combat commands who had their own aircraft. The ATC also assumed the task of running all overseas airways, including facilities, communication, support, and related requirements. The Air Service Command retained only its continental flying tasks. The new Troop Carrier Command became the focus of airborne combat operations and ad hoc air transport function within operational theaters. Troop carrier assets were dedicated as theater resources, primarily responsible for airborne operations. They were also tasked with logistics support within a theater. This was the formal beginning of an important doctrinal distinction that still exists today: strategic (or intertheater) vs. tactical (or intratheater) airlift.
Supplying the various theaters resulted in the creation of a new type of air-supply group, whose only purpose was to air-resupply and supply ground units in a combat zone. The new groups original specifications were to: (1) carry ground troops and auxiliary combat equipment to effective locations in a combat zone, (2) maintain combat reinforcements, supply and resupply units in the combat zone and (3) evacuate casualties and other personnel from such zones. To this end a maximum of four (4) new cargo groups were planned. Seeing that these new units were to be carrying cargo into the heart of the battle, the new units were called Combat Cargo Groups. Attached to these groups were the Air Cargo Control Squadrons (ACCS). The 1st and 2nd Air Cargo Control Squadrons were awarded campaign honors for supporting the New Guinea campaign from Jan 43 to Dec 44. The 3rd Air Cargo Control Squadron was awarded campaign honors for supporting the New Guinea campaign from Jan 43 to Dec 44 and the Luzon campaign from Dec 44 to Jul 45. Additionally, the 3rd ACCS twice received the Phillipene Republic Presidential Unit Citation for services rendered in the defense of the country. The European and Pacific theater commands decided to activate several Air Cargo Reupply Squadrons and Detachments. These air transport support organizations were to have an allocated manning of 4 officers and 85 enlisted men for detachments and the squadrons were staffed somewhat larger. One of today's Air Force Reserve aerial ports (35th APS: McGuire AFB, NJ) traces its lineage to the 3rd Air Cargo Resupply Detachment, which performed with distinction in the China-Burma-India theater of operations. Two other Air Force Reserve Command aerial port squadrons trace their direct lineages to units that served in multiple campaigns throughout the Pacific Theater of Operations. The 27th Aerial Port Squadron (Minneapolis, MN) and 38th Aerial Port Squadron (Charleston AFB, SC) trace their lineages to the 2nd and 3rd Air Cargo Control Squadrons respectively. All of these forerunner units were Army Air Corps organizations. There may be others I have yet to discover!
In organizing the new Air Force in 1947, strategic airlift aircraft remained in ATC. Troop carrier assets moved to the new theater commands and the Tactical Air Command (TAC).
In 1948 Secretary of Defense James E. Forrestal took the first step toward reducing airlift duplication by consolidating the Army?s Air Transport Command and most of the Navy's Naval Air Transport Service into the Military Air Transport Service (MATS). A DOD directive of 1956 assigned virtually all remaining Air Force and Navy long-range air transports to MATS, which then became DOD?s single manager for airlift.
In June 1948 the Berlin Airlift began. Initially, the airlift was marginally successful, but soon, MATS took over the operation and brought in Maj Gen William Tunner to take charge. Building on the lessons he learned in the "Hump" airlift in World War II, Tunner expanded operations, streamlined the airlift support system, and improved efficiency through innovative management techniques. He emphasized using every minute of the day and established round-the-clock operations. With the successful outcome of the Berlin Airlift the 1940's came to a close. For those involved in air transportation the 1950's would remain a busy decade.
The Military Air Transport Service's Pacific Division augmented by planes and crews from the Continental Division managed strategic airlift from the US to the theater. To handle airlift within the theater, the Air Force created the Combat Cargo Command (CCC) and placed Maj Gen William H. Tunner in charge. General Tunner and his Berlin Airlift experts came to Japan to set up the Combat Cargo Command in September 1950. One of the first weaknesses they noted with the Korean Airlift operation was that the men who loaded and tied down cargo were not under the command of the Air Force unit that operated the aircraft. During the early months of the war, the Army Air Transportability Training Center, located at Matsushima Japan, furnished the personnel who ran the Aerial Port of Embarkation at Tachikawa, Ashiya, and Brady air bases plus smaller detachments at Pusan, Pohang, and Tague (during Pusan Perimeter days). This was done because they were the only people in theater who had a great deal of experience with the proper methods of loading and offloading aircraft. General Tunner argued that if his command was to operate the aircraft at top efficiency, it must have full control over cargo loading, offloading, tiedown, and terminal storage; passenger booking, loading and offloading; and other terminal phases of the Korean Airlift system. Formal requests to organize in such a manner were forwarded through Far East Air Forces to the Commander in Chief of the Far East Command, General Douglas MacArthur.
While awaiting formal approval General Tunner implemented an interim solution by organizing a number of Air Force Combat Cargo Support Units (CCSU). These units were modeled after the airhead units of the Berlin Airlift, but with important differences. The units were designed to be self-sufficient and were airlifted in with their vehicles, forklifts, tents, and mess gear to establish and operate complete air terminals under combat conditions. Additionally, they provided their own self defense if necessary. The Combat Cargo Support Units men offloaded the cargo, stored and guarded them, distributed them to the military consignees, and operated and maintained their fleet of trucks and fork lifts. Additionally, personnel trained to conduct air traffic control operations were attached to ensure a coordinated airflow was achieved. On the capture and occupation of Kimpo Airport a fleet of transports were dispatched immediately to establish an operational airhead. On the first transport planes were the men and vehicles of the Combat Cargo Support Unit. Upon arrival all personnel began offloading vital cargo, piling rations, gasoline, ammo, medical supplies and equipment on the grass adjacent to the strip. Not till nightfall on the first day did the men of the CCSU get a chance to put up their own shelter tents. Many slept on the ground or under vehicles, remaining fully clothed with their weapons at the ready. Just outside the airstrip, artillery thundered and small arms engagements were waging. Half of the CCSU men were manning a perimeter and exchanging gunfire with guerrillas attempting to gain access to the numerous supply dumps. The CCSU men even performed night infantry patrols for a week after the occupation of Kimpo. As the US Army moved north and occupied additional airstrips (Sinmak, Pyongyang, Sinaju, Wonson and Yonpo) the first Air Force units to arrive were typically the Combat Cargo Support Units. Similarly, as the UN forces began to retreat from North Korea after the Chinese entered the war; the last units to depart an airfield were the men of the Combat Cargo Support Units. Numerous times they were tasked to destroy all remnants of stranded cargo, ammo, vehicles, and equipment prior to evacuating their location. Inevitably, when the field had been emptied of everything usable, they were on the last plane out. Several times the Chinese forces were running in at one end of the runway while they were being airborne at the other. General MacArthur was so impressed by the performance of these "first in-last" out Air Force units that he approved General Tunner's recommendations to turn over airlift support to the Combat Cargo Command. The decision to turn over airlift support and air terminal operations to the Air Force was reached in January 1951 when the Army agreed to give up aerial port operations.
On February 2, the 315th Air Division activated a new permanent Air Force unit to operate all aerial ports under its control. The 6127th Air Terminal Group was stood up and immediately absorbed all Combat Cargo Support Units and made them detachments of the group. Headquartered at Ashiya AB, Japan, the 6127th inherited personnel and equipment resources at locations at the three major Japan bases (Tachikawa, Ashiya, Brady) and detachments at Pusan, Pohang, Tague, and Kimpo.
The 6127th ATG was to be a highly flexible unit, capable of sending a trained airhead team immediately into every newly occupied base and operating on its own until it could depend on the base organization for logistical support. This was a more involved process than was at first realized, because relatively few Air Force men trained in traffic procedures were then available in the Far East. On March 20 1951, the 6127th ATG finally took over the air and passenger terminals at Tachikawa, Brady and Itazuke. Several days later the terminals at Ashiya was added to the list and the Army was out of the Korean Aerial Port business. From then on the only Army involvement was the 8081st Quartermaster Company (Air Resupply) who retained responsibility for rigging, loading and kicking air drop supplies. There were numerous rough spots in the Air Force management of the Korean Airlift terminal operation at first, but they straightened out rapidly. The 6127th ATG demonstrated that they could do what General Tunner predicted reduce loading and offloading times, cut down on the ground time for aircraft, and get better aircraft utilization all around. Aerial Port operations as we know them today had arrived!!!
To resolve the lack of trained traffic personnel in theater, the 6127th ATG turned to the Tachikawa Loadmaster School for expertise. The schoolhouse was instrumental in training scores of 315th AD personnel to assume air terminal duties involving loading/unloading and tiedown of air cargo. Additional semi-permanent detachments were established at Hoensong, Seoul Municipal, Chunchon, and Chinhae. As new airstrips opened, new 6127th units were moved in immediately. As airstrips declined in airlift importance, detachments were reduced in size or closed and shipped to other locations. Because of uncertainty regarding the future of detachment locations, it was difficult and sometimes inadvisable to plan permanent buildings or major improvements. Undeterred the 6127th men used whatever supplies were accessible to improve their living and work conditions. Bricks from bombed out buildings were used for tent floors and walkways, lumber from wrecked buildings and packing crates was turned into furniture, and salvaged glass was turned into windows. Buildings that were repairable were cemented together with rice-paddy mud. The first semi-permanent buildings for the 6127th ATG were constructed at Taegue AB in 1951. Later semi-permanent terminal buildings were constructed at Pusan and Chinhae. The 6127th talents for building construction were given a real opportunity at Seoul. Only tents were erected at first, but the men quickly found enough scrap lumber to build a vehicle repair shop, flight line space control shack, air freight office, and dormitories for the men. This ingenuity was not limited to office/living facilities but included improvements to cargo handing and vehicle maintenance capabilities. Airmen built platforms consisting of 55-gallon oil drums filled with sand and rocks, and drove their vehicles on the homemade racks to expedite repairs. Other airmen took scrap steel from combat junk piles and welded sections together to build storage racks. Mechanics used blowtorches and scrap steel to make loading ramps for trucks to simplify loading of passengers and cargo into the airlifters. Others made hot and cold showers from scrounged pipe and reclaimed oil drums. In Japan, the 6127th ATG set about improving and enlarging the big Combat Cargo terminals at Tachikawa and Ashiya. Baggage checking stations, 24-hour snack bars, waiting areas and information desks were added to improve passenger terminal services. Detachments were established at Itazuke, Miho, Itami and Komaki air bases. Additionally, the 6127th assigned air terminal liaison personnel at Naha and Clark air bases and Taipei Airport to advise and assist users of the Korean Airlift system. During the big airborne manuever Operation Showoff (November 1951) the 6127th personnel assisted the 187th Regimental Combat Team in airlifting and airdropping the equivalent of 9,000 paratroopers. They provided cargo loading and manifesting support, return of parachutes and airdropped heavy equipment, and the loan of vehicles and equipment. In May 1952, the 6127th played important roles in loading cargo and troops of the 187th RCT who were rushed to Kojedo to quell prisoner war riots. In the fall of 1952, the 6127th supported the mass paratroop drop of the 187th RCT near Seoul and in Operations feint, the psedo-airborne attack on the central front. Altogether, the 6127th Air Terminal Group handled some 600,000 air evacuees, 5.4 million passengers and over 1.4 million tons of cargo. The casting for future USAF aerial port operations had been struck by the outstanding performance of this unique unit. One could conclude that the seeds had been sewn for concepts such as Mobile Aerial Ports (MAPS) and Airlift Control Elements (ALCE). During the first years of the decade, a stateside major command was exploring establishing a unit with similar air terminal capabilities with an added aerial delivery capability.
The Tactical Air Command, in conjunction with the Air Staff, began to draft requirements for the establishment of Aerial Port Squadrons.
On 19 Dec 1951, the Department of the Air Force issued T/O&E 1-1952T, which constituted and assigned to the Tactical Air Command (TAC) the 1st Aerial Port Operations Squadron. The unit was activated at Donaldson AFB, SC on 8 January 1952. The authorized strength of the 1st APOS was to be 8 officers and 201 enlisted men. Its capabilities statement, contained in the original order, was to handle 281.25 tons of cargo/and or passengers in an 8-hour period. See the reproduction of the order T/O&E 1-1952T for further details. Early Aerial Port and Aerial Port Operations Squadrons had Combat Control Team (CCT) and Loadmaster personnel assigned. CCT's and Loadmasters served with distinction and valor within the Aerial Port Squadrons until the 1960's and 70's when they were reassigned to flying units (loadmasters) and operations (CCT). One CCT member accomplished a world's first while assigned to an aerial port unit. On 25 November 1956, TSgt Richard J. Patton of the 1st Aerial Port Operations Squadron, made the first polar parachute jump during operations at the McMurdo Sound, South Pole. Once on the ground he directed the successful airdrop of a 13,500 pound Catepillar Tractor, the largest item ever dropped from a C-124.
In early 1952, in order to meet future contingency requirements, TAC organized the 2nd and 3rd Aerial Port Operations Squadrons. These newly formed units were to combine all tactical logistical supply under one agency. They were designed as highly mobile, self-sustaining outfits capable of instantaneous worldwide deployment. In March 1953 the 3rd Aerial Port Operations Squadron was organized at Donaldson AFB, SC. Prior to settling at it's permenant home at Pope AFB, NC in August of 1954 the unit was activated at Altus AFB, OK (June 1953) and then relocated to Lawson AFB, GA. This unit is undoubtedly the oldest continuously active Aerial Port Squadron on record. Fortunately for the "Jimney Crickett Porters" the 1st and 2nd APS were deactivated in the early 1990's. In 1953 Aerial Port Squadrons moved oversees with the activation of the 4th and 5th Aerial Port Operations Squadrons to support growing need dor support of NATO forces in Europe, Turkey and North Africa. Initially, the 4th and 5th were activated at Donaldson AFB, SC but immediately deployed to Europe (Evereau AB France and Mildenhall AB England) and supported USAFE operations and manned multiple detachments/OLs throughout Europe, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern locations.. Late in 1953, the 6127th Air Terminal Group was augmented with personnel and equipment and redesignated the 7th Aerial Port Squadron. The 7th APS was headquartered at Tachikawa AB, Japan.
The men of the 2nd Aerial Port Operations Squadron (Sewart AFB, TN) made history during the construction of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line in the far Canadian Artic. During the first year of DEW Line construction the unit rigged for aerial delivery and participated in the airdrop of 17 bulldozers vital for the start of construction.
For the remainder of the 50's and early 60's TAC's Aerial Port Squadrons grew and perfected their functions. On 1 January 1963 they fell victim to a manpower reduction program and several units were deactivated. Troop Carrier Squadrons absorbed loadmasters and the CCT remained on site and became detachments of Communications Group. The overseas aerial port squadrons were allowed to remain in force. The 5th APS performed with distinction in furnishing terminal services support for the Congo crisis.
MATS became heavily involved in strategic airlift to Vietnam in 1964. With air superiority over South Vietnam, civil aircraft carried most of the passengers into the theater while MATS carried most of the cargo. In 1965 Congress passed a bill, which changed MATS to the Military Airlift Command (MAC), to more accurately reflect the combat role airlift had come to play.
Service in a SEA Aerial Port Squadron could best be described as "grueling sweat drenched effort interupted by moments of sheer terror". During this period aerial ports were still principally aligned by geographic location and tactical versus strategic airlift roles. Examples of this geographic alignment include the three Aerial Port Squadrons (8th/Tan Son Nhut, 14th/Cam Rhan Bay and 15th/Da Nang) in the Republic of Vietnam. The 2nd Aerial Port Group (Tan Son Nhut AB), a subordinate organization of the 834th Air Division (7th AF/PACAF), maintained operational control of these units.
At the height of the war in South Vietnam there were over forty active Detachments and Operating Locations (Dets/OLs) scattered from the DMZ to the delta. These Dets/OLs primarily were located at smaller USA/USMC/USAF airstrips to support tactical airland and airdrop recovery operations. Without a doubt these were the most dangerous assignments in aerial port history. Numerous examples exist whereby aerial porters fought side by side with base defenders, unloaded cargo while being rocketed or mortared, and recovered injured aircrew members from crashed aircraft.
One unit with numerous noteworthy accomplishments was the men assigned to the "Mobility" sections (MOB) of the three aerial port squadrons. This 40-member (+/-) section was tasked to deploy to locations whereby a permanent/semi-permanent USAF airlift support presence was non-existent. Aerial Porters found themselved TDY to dangerous locations such as the Marine base at Khe Sahn during the January 1968 siege or during the Lam Son 719 operations (Invasion Of Laos) of February 1971. Typically they deployed as part of a small team with Combat Control Team (CCT) members who coordinated the arriving and departing tactical airlifters (C-7, C-123, and C-130). Being tasked to fly as additional loadmasters was not uncommon for these MOB aerial porters. Their duty was professionally accomplished while living under the most arduous conditions. This unit truly reflected the "Do It In The Dirt" spirit of the Mobile Aerial Port Squadrons (MAPS) formed in the 1970's and 80's. During the 12 months beginning in December 1969, 14 Purple Heart medals were awarded, to the members of the 8th APS Mobility Teams and their attached Combat Control Team members, for wounds received under combat conditions.
The Tan Son Nhut based 8th Aerial Port Squadron was awarded campaign honors for supporting the Vietnam Advisory campaign (15 Nov 61-1 Mar 65), the Vietnam Defense Campaign (2 Mar 64-30 Jan 65), the Vietnam Air Offensive campaign (29 Jun 66-8 Mar 67), the Vietnam Air Offensive-Phase II (9 Mar 67-31 Mar 68), the Vietnam Air Offensive-Phase III (1 Apr 68-31 Oct 68), and the Vietnam Air/Ground campaign (22 Jan 68-7 Jul 68). The squadron was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the period 21 Jan to 12 May 1968. The 8th APS also received three AFOUA during the years 1963 to 1967. Detachment 5, based at Bien Hoa, received the AFOUA for the period May 63 to Jul 64.
The Cam Rhan Bay based 14th Aerial Port Squadron was awarded campaign honors for supporting the Vietnam Defense Campaign (2 Mar 64-30 Jan 65), the Vietnam Air Offensive campaign (29 Jun 66-8 Mar 67), the Vietnam Air Offensive-Phase II (9 Mar 67-31 Mar 68) and the Vietnam Air/Ground campaign (22 Jan 68-7 Jul 68). The squadron was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the period 21 Jan to 12 May 1968. The 14th APS received the AFOUA for the period Oct 66 to Apr 67. Detachment 8 received the AFOUA for the period Apr 67 to Sep 67.
The Da Nang based 15th Aerial Port Squadron was awarded campaign honors for supporting the Vietnam Defense Campaign (2 Mar 64-30 Jan 65), the Vietnam Air Offensive campaign (29 Jun 66-8 Mar 67), the Vietnam Air Offensive-Phase II (9 Mar 67-31 Mar 68) and the Vietnam Air/Ground campaign (22 Jan 68-7 Jul 68). The squadron was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the period 21 Jan to 12 May 1968. The 15th APS received the AFOUA for the period Oct 66 to Apr 67.
Thailand was the home of the 6th Aerial Port Squadron and its numerous Dets/OLs. The squadron was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period Jul 65 to Jun 66. Detachment 2 received the Presidential Unit Citation for gallant services from 11- 12 Aug 1967. Detachment 5 received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period Dec 65 to Dec 66.
The Japan based 7th Aerial Port Squadron supported the war efforts with distinction. Their efforts were recognized by being awarded four Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards for the periods Jan to Jun 61, May 63 to Mar 64, Jan 65 to Dec 66, and Jun 67 to Jun 68. Detachment 6 of the 7th APS received the AFOUA for the period May 63 to Mar 64. Two of the Vietnam based aerial ports (8th and 15th APS) were recognized for their vital contributions to national airlift by receiving the National Defense Transportation Association?s award in 1968 and again in 1969. The 2nd Aerial Port Group was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the period 21 Jan 68 to 12 May 68. Additionally it received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period 8 Nov 66 to 30 Apr 67. It received campaign honors for the Vietnam Air Offensive campaign from Nov 66 to Mar 67. The 834th Air Division and their assigned aerial ports were the recipients of the Presidential Unit Citation for their outstanding performance supporting operations associated with the Tet Offensive.
Several stateside aerial ports (60 APS: Travis, 61 APS: Hickam, 62 APS: McChord, 63 APS: Norton, 82 APS: Travis, 83 APS: Portland, and 93 APS: Andrews) received single or multiple Air Force Ouststanding Unit Awards for supporting the war effort in Southeast Asia.
The operational experiences of the Vietnam War and the Israeli airlift of 1973 convinced many senior US military leaders that the remaining organizational separation of Air Force theater and long-range airlift forces was an expensive anachronism in light of their over-lapping operations, aircraft fleets, and capabilities for mutual augmentation.
On the day of Yom Kippur, 6 Oct 73, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel. Faced with a two-front war and inadequate resources, Israel turned to the US for help. President Nixon directed an aerial resupply effort, code named NICKEL GRASS, starting 13 October. For 32 days, C-141s and C-5s flew 567 missions carrying over 22,000 tons of materiel. NICKEL GRASS constituted the first major test of the C-5, which moved nearly half the tonnage on only 25% of the missions.
In a Program Decision Memorandum in July 1974, the Secretary of Defense directed the Air Force to consolidate all strategic and tactical airlift under the Commander, Military Airlift Command (MAC), who became the specified commander for airlift. Theater airlift was managed by the MAC overseas air divisions (322nd and 834th) who were fully integrated within the total airlift system. "Seamless Airlift" resulted from a single system that featured airlift experts, who operated at each juncture, and who understood the entire airlift system to transport men and equipment from the US based "fort" to the theater "foxhole."
The pre-1992 structure had the MAC airlift divisions (ALDs) carrying out the planning, coordination, command and control efforts for the theater mission and transient strategic missions. The MAC airlift divisions worked in synchronization with the command and control center at the respective Numbered Air Forces (NAFs). The standup of the TACC essentially combined the efforts of the previous two MAC NAF command centers, and a portion of the theater MAC ALDs that managed transient strategic movement in the overseas theaters. The overseas theaters took over theater management aspect of the MAC ALD.
Airlift played a major role in Operation URGENT FURY in late 1983. With all Air Force airlift now under one command, the mission to Grenada was the "new" MAC's first combat test. During deployment, MAC aerial porters aided the movement of 11,000+ passengers and in excess of 7,000 tons of cargo.
Early on 20 December 1989, concurrent air assaults took place at Torrijos/Tocumen Airport, near Panama City, and at Rio Hato airfield, a major Panamanian Defense force base. Operation JUST CAUSE was underway. Over 30 C-130s and C-141s dropped Army troops. 2,500 more troops were landed the next day and aeromedical evacuation missions began taking wounded back to the US. The 6th Aerial Port Squadron, based at Howard AFB, was a key enabler during the heavy flow of troops and cargo transiting Howard AFB.
In 1992, the Air Force restructured and MAC's airlift fleet combined with the aerial refueling fleet to form the Air Mobility Command (AMC). AMC began to divest itself of all missions, which did not fit its vision of global reach, or strategic mobility. Shortly thereafter, AMC transferred its air rescue forces and its tactical airlift fleet of C-130s away. First, the overseas units were shifted to the overseas commands, and then stateside units transferred to the new Air Combat Command (ACC), which combined TAC with the strategic bomber forces of the Strategic Air Command. ACC would be a peacetime command responsible for training and equipping US-based forces to be provided to unified CINCs in time of crisis. Since tactical airlift had always belonged to the theater commander, the rationale drove airlift apart again. Late in the decade many of the tactical airlift forces returned to AMC fold with the exception of those C-130 units assigned to PACAF and USAFE. All aerial ports (active, Guard and Reserve) returned to Air Mobility Command.
Desert Shield/Desert Storm
The ultimate test for airlift came later in 1990 when Iraqi forces invaded and quickly took over Kuwait. For many years, the idea of a southwest Asian (SWA) conflict worried airlift planners. An 8,000 mile logistic pipeline would stretch the limits of airlift. President Bush began Operation DESERT SHIELD, deploying hundreds of thousands of troops and tons of equipment to Saudi Arabia, first to deter further aggression, and ultimately to push the Iraqis out of Kuwait. In the first thirty days, MAC planes had moved 91,000 troops and 72,000 tons of cargo into the area. Once people and cargo arrived in theater, over 17,000 C-130 sorties moved them from the debarkation sites to the many airfields and staging areas. Due to the size of the theater and the number of bases, intratheater airlift was essential. Despite its problems, including early chaos and a lack of precise accountability for a great deal of the supplies and equipment, which surged into the theater, airlift forces proved vital to the coalition forces and victory. By the end of the war, strategic airlift had moved over 500,000 people and 540,000 tons of cargo to the theater, an unprecedented amount. Rhein Main and Torrejon aerial ports were two of the busiest European location with 84% of the airlift missions transiting their location enroute to/from the desert. Scores of Air Reserve Component aerial porters were activated or served voluntary recall tours at multiple Conus/OConus locations during the conflict. In excess of 1700 aerial porters assigned to the reserve component augmented active duty ports or served in theatre. At every major Conus airlift location (Charleston, Dover, Kelly, McChord, McGuire, Norfolk NAS, Tinker, Travis, and Westover AFB) you could find ARC aerial porters manning the various duty sections within aerial ports. European locations included Mildenhall, Rhein Main, Ramstein, Torrejon, and Zarragoza AB, the same situation was happening.
Air Reserve Component (ARC)
The Air Reserve Component, comprised of the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and the Air National Guard (ANG), have a long and proud historical association with aerial port squadrons. It's easy to note their vital contribution to the air transportation function when you consider that approximately 63% of USAF's aerial port capability lies within the ARC. In today's hectic operational pace, the reserve component aerial porters have been thoroughly integrated into most operational taskings. ARC aerial porters are routinely filling anywhere from 10-25% of the tasked manpower positions authorized for continuous operations such as Northern and Southern Watch. The operations associated with Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom has seen multiple ARC aerial port unit type codes (UTC) activated and hundreds of reservists volunteer for deployment on Manday MPA orders. Things were not always as seamless ARC aerial porters. As a result of the lessons learned during the Vietnam War, a decision was made to increase the numbers of air transportation specialist authorized within the ARC. The Military Airlift Command was stripped of 1638 605XX positions from the active duty roles and 1058 of these were transferred to the Guard and Reserve. By the mid 1970s there were over 70+ reserve aerial port units scattered across the nation with over 7000 authorized positions. Training was limited in most cases due to a lack of equipment and the restrictions placed on performing annual tours. At the time only six active duty locations were utlized to host reserve annual tours so a considerable amount of doubling-up units was encountered. Significant amounts of wasted manpower and lost training opportunities were the norm. Few of the MAC assigned active duty transporters thought of the reserves as anything other than a nuisance. That is, until the reduction in the active force that was imposed after Vietnam began to be felt and the reservists brgan to prove themselves. Improvements in the annual tour program began to be explored and adopted in the early 1980's. Annual tour teams began to be tailored in numbers and skills according to the host active unit's capabilities. Further, the teams began to deploy to overseas locations thereby expanding the training and mission support opportunities. The performance of the ARC aerial porters during Desert Shield-Desert Storm did more to reverse the negative imrpession of reserve aerial porters than any other single event. They had finally arrived and would be counted on heavily in all future "Global Reach" missions. Presently, there are 42 aerial port units (squadrons and flights) assigned to AFRC and 27 to the ANG. However you look at the numbers that?s a significant percentage of USAF's ability to provide global air mobility support in times of crisis or war. Activations of ARC aerial port units and acceptance of limited mission support tours in nothing new to ARC aerial porters. Six Air Force Reserve aerial ports were subjected to presidential recall during the Cuban Missile Crisis (early 60's). On 28 October 1962, the Air Force activated six reserve aerial port squadrons following the discovery of Soviet offensive missiles in Cuba. The aerial port units recalled were the: 11th Aerial Port Squadron (McGuire AFB, New Jersey), 14th Aerial Port Squadron (Ellington AFB, Texas), 15th Aerial Port Squadron (Donaldson AFB, South Carolina), 16th Aerial Port Squadron (Bakalar AFB, Indiana), 17th Aerial Port Squadron (Paine Field, Washington), and the 18th Aerial Port Squadron (Pope AFB, North Carolina).
President Lyndon B. Johnson mobilized Air Force Reserve airlift forces in January 1968 in response to the North Korean seizure of the USS Pueblo. On 13 May, to replace shortages in the Strategic Reserve, the Air Force mobilized three aerial port squadrons. The aerial port units involved were: 82d Aerial Port Squadron (Travis AFB, California), 86th Aerial Port Squadron (McChord AFB, Washington), and the 88th Aerial Port Squadron (McGuire AFB, New Jersey). The three aerial port squadrons were assimilated into Military Airlift Command aerial port operations at Travis, McChord, and McGuire, but members of the 88th Aerial Port Squadron deployed on temporary duty to the Republic of Korea in July to augment aerial port organizations. During this deployment, these mobilized Reservists represented more than half of the military aerial port work force in South Korea.
Aerial Porters: Still Continuing To Write History
Feb 21 2003 02:45:50:000AM