Tag Archives: Air Forces Central

Best holiday deployed moments of 2014

By Tech. Sgt. Steve Grever
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Let’s face it, being deployed during major holidays feels a bit like getting a lump of coal in your stocking. Some deployed locations have Wi-Fi access for Airmen to chat with their friends and family back home during these special times. However, there are still many places so small and remote they don’t have the communication infrastructure to accommodate commercial internet access.

To overcome these challenges at some “undisclosed” locations, Airmen rely on different base services to help them feel the spirit of the holidays. In 2014, there were five events that warmed our hearts, and brought a slice of home to our Airmen serving at deployed locations around the globe.

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Military Appreciation Month: Spotlight on an Airman Week 5

Warrior of the Week: Senior Airman Kelly McGrathby the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Editor’s note: May is Military Appreciation Month, and we’ll highlight a different Airman and his or her job once per week for this month. We’re truly grateful for the hard work each Airman puts forth each day, and every job — big or small – contributes to the U.S. Air Force being the best Air Force in the world. Is there a military member you appreciate? Tell us in the comments below.

Meet the Transit Center at Manas Warrior of the Week: Senior Airman Kelly McGrath, a contracting officer from the 376th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron. McGrath is deployed from 92nd CONS at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., and is a self proclaimed “military brat” who hails from Livingston, Texas.

What do you do on a daily basis at the Transit Center at Manas?
I’m a contingency contracting officer for our one-person commodities flight. It’s my responsibility to oversee the government purchase card program for the transit center. I also support and procure entertainment contracts and procure all commodities as needed by our many customers.

What do you enjoy about being at the Transit Center at Manas?
What I enjoy most about TCM is that I’m in a completely different country and I get to experience a new culture. I also get the opportunity to meet new people. This is my first deployment, so I also like that I’m getting to be part of a very unique experience in helping to shut down the base here.

Why did you choose to serve in the military?
I was at a point in my life that I felt like I was just spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere fast. So, something drastic needed to change. I always knew the military was an option for me coming from an Air Force military family background, but I didn’t give it much consideration in the past. Initially, I thought I would never serve, but it’s funny how life goes. Now that I’m in the Air Force, I wish I would have decided to join sooner.

How do you feel about your contributions to the Transit Center at Manas mission and current operations in the AOR?
I feel like I’m making a daily impact on the mission through all of the purchases I make for my customers as well as the contractual and shipping issues that I work through on a daily basis. It’s been a very rewarding experience being a one-woman show for the commodities flight, and aiding my customers in meeting their purchasing requirements.

Time at the Transit Center at Manas:
4 months and 3 weeks

Time in Air Force:
3 years and 2 months

Greatest accomplishment:
Receiving the 2013 Air Mobility Command Contracting Airman of the Year Award.

Goals you want to achieve or meet while at the Transit Center at Manas:
I wanted to experience the local culture and make an impact by spending time at many of the local orphanages and the American Kant Corner School. I also would like to bench press 150 lbs. by the time I leave Manas. I’m current lifting 135 lbs. so I’m on my way.

Hobbies:
Reading, sewing, quilting, arts and crafts, cooking/baking, exercising (weight lifting and boxing/kick-boxing), photography and traveling.

Your best habit:
My attention to detail.

Favorite quote:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

Favorite movies:
Beauty and the Beast, Wall-E, Star Wars, Star Trek, Wreck-It Ralph, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Twilight.

Who is your favorite mentor and what did you learn from him/her:
My parents. They’ve always supported me in everything I do and pushed me to better myself. They helped shape me into the person I am today. I couldn’t have asked for any two better role models and mentors in my life.

If you could spend one hour with any person, who would it be and why:
It would be my grandpa. He passed away when I was about 4 years old, so I didn’t get to really know him and have him be a part of my life. What little I remember of him he was a great loving grandpa and his time here was too short.

PHOTO: Senior Airman Kelly McGrath, 376th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron contingency contracting officer, writes a contract for a customer at Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, March 22, 2014. McGrath’s responsibilities include overseeing the Government Purchase Card program here and supporting and procuring all commodities need by customers as well as entertainment contracts for the Transit Center and Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman George Goslin/Released)

121,000 pounds in 15 seconds

By Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
U.S. Air Forces Central

Their flight suits are soaked through with sweat, it’s 110 degrees outside and the smell in the U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III resembles a high school locker room — we’re 30 minutes into our 15-hour mission.

Air DropLike the majority of people who like to browse news on the war, I’ve seen many pictures and videos of supplies and cargo being dropped from an aircraft … the pallets of supplies float gracefully down and that is that. Never do I see the blood, sweat and tears that go behind getting those pallets to where they need to be.

The crew is alerted around 9 a.m. and arrives to the squadron 40 minutes later. They assemble for a highly detailed pre-mission brief that prepares the Airmen for what they will face during their mission.

Once processed through customs, it’s time to arm up and head to the plane. Today is my first combat airdrop mission; our location is somewhere in Southwest Asia. The air is heavy with humidity — you can actually feel the air on your skin. At this point, all we’ve done is place our bags on the C-17 and already our flight suits are drenched in sweat. Drops of perspiration are falling off the loadmaster’s face. We have 13 hours left in the day.

Even in the cargo bay of the massive aircraft, room is at a premium. More than 73,000 pounds of JP-8 fuel loaded on 40 pallets fill the aircraft from tail to nose, leaving just enough space for us to walk along the sides. The loadmaster’s voice comes over the speakers “ready for takeoff.” Within seconds our warehouse with wings is in the air.

Estimated time over target is two hours. The lights dim and things begin to cool off as we ascend.

As we get closer to the drop zone, Staff Sgt. Russ Johnson, an 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster, signals a 30-minute warning. My two partners are no strangers to documenting airdrops, but for me, this is a new experience.

I strap myself into a seat in the back by the door. The aircraft dives, dips and dodges its way through the mountains of Afghanistan — I eye up the closest pile of puke-bags in case things go south for this guy.

The door opens at about 1,000 feet above the ground. I knew Afghanistan was mountainous, but I couldn’t have been prepared for what I saw. The mountains are high and the aircraft is low. It feels as though I could reach out and touch the mountaintops — I wasn’t too far off.

It’s game time. Red light … yellow light … green light. Within two seconds, 36,500 pounds of JP-8 fuel violently races past me and out the aircraft, floating down to coalition troops on the ground. Our second pass drops another load.

Gearing up for our third drop, a stop is made at Bagram Airfield (BAF) to refuel and load up another 48,000 pounds of Meals, Ready to Eat. As we’re parked on the ramp, the doors open and the tail goes down. For anyone who hasn’t been to BAF, it’s a sight to see. A bowl of mountains surround the airfield. On the ramp of the aircraft lay two loadmasters enjoying the sunset on what appears to be a peaceful evening.

With one pallet left to load on the plane, sirens go off. The peaceful moment disappears as the crew loading the plane runs for cover because, make no mistake about it, we are at war.

Air DropThe news team and aircrew shelter in place on the aircraft. The sirens disappear and a new noise is heard. A pair of fighter jets and helicopters take to the sky. We all agree, someone is about to have a bad day.

More than an hour passes before the last pallet is finally loaded.

The sun is down and the sky is dark. Red lights illuminate the cargo area of the plane.

In preparation for the last drop of the mission, the lights dim. Looking through the viewfinder of my camera is a daunting task as visibility is close to nonexistent. We’re effectively an invisible flying Wal-Mart under the night sky. In a matter of 10 seconds, the doors open, the MREs blast out the door and we are on our way home.

Fifteen hours for about 15 seconds of actual action. Action that will keep my brothers and sisters fed, and their vehicles working.

The men and women of the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron from Joint Base Charleston are game changers. They allow coalition forces to sustain operations in some of the most austere locations on Earth. They are force multipliers.

Video: Airlift supports warfighter

Photo: (Top) Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Adams, an 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster, observes 36,500 pounds of JP-8 fuel fly out the back of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft over Afghanistan July 8, 2011. The C-17 dropped more than 121,000 pounds of food and fuel during a 15-hour mission. Supplies were dropped to U.S. and coalition troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri) (Bottom) Staff Sgt. Adams releases 48,000 pounds of Meals, Ready to Eat out of the C-17 on July 8, 2011 over Afghanistan during the concealment of the night sky. The crews also airdropped more than 73,000 pounds of JP-8 fuel during their mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)