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Shipping Balad

Posted 12/9/2011   Updated 12/9/2011 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

12/9/2011 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- For most, establishing a battle rhythm, or daily routine, during a deployment is important.

For those who were deployed to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, just before it was transitioned to the government of Iraq, there was no battle rhythm because there was constant change.

"It was overwhelming, but it felt great. I was honored," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Palacios, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Traffic Management Office NCO. "I was glad to see my hard work noticed when I found out I was one of the last two chosen in my career field to see the mission through to the end."

"Our team processed an enormous amount of cargo in such a short time with no delays," said Staff Sgt. Katherine Dalkey, 332nd ELRS TMO NCO in charge, who is deployed from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. "Out of my four deployments, this has been the busiest but most rewarding one. It felt good to go home every morning knowing that I had made a difference."

In addition to work, changes were seen in all aspects of the deployed environment.

"There were a lot of things going on in the final days," said Palacios, who is deployed from Eielson AFB, Alaska. "It was harder to maintain communication with my pregnant wife and 1-year-old daughter back at home and with the steady workload, my hours went from 12-hour shifts to 14-to-17-hour shifts easily, with fewer resources.

"Living quarters at night looked abandoned going back to your (containerized housing unit)," said Palacios who is a native of Fort Worth, Texas. "Roommates were gone and where there were normally three or four people in the bathroom, I was the only one. With all that was going on and getting attacked more, finding out what you had in your (Meal, Ready to Eat) was one of the best parts of the day."

During these times, flexibility was key.

"We weren't trained how to close down and ship out a base," said Palacios. "TMO, as a whole, had to deal with everything all the time from all angles of transportation. We dealt with all Air Force units and (Department of Defense) contractors going to all different locations.

"As an example, all the vehicles we shipped didn't all go by airlift, they went by sea as well," he continued. "So we had to know the preparations and regulations needed for each mode. This was the first time I experienced a base where everyone on-shift held their own specific specialty since we had so much going on."

At the end, the 332nd ELRS Airmen were able to overcome the obstacles.

"My job was to make sure every unit did not leave cargo on base before they flew out, so I was one of their last stops before leaving," said Palacios. "I developed relationships with all the unit contacts for shipping cargo; with the amount of cargo each unit shipped, you can only imagine how many times we got to see each other on a daily basis. I can still remember all their names and where they redeployed or forward deployed to. I enjoyed seeing all of my customers leave safely."

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