Senior Airman Wes Simmons, 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron aerial porter, guides a forklift as it offloads pallets that just arrived on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb. 5, 2013. The Aerial Port freight yard saw 104,000 tons of cargo transit through over the past six months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dobrydney)
Senior Airman Wes Simmons and Staff Sgt. Justin Klugh, 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron aerial porters, shift pallets that have just arrived on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb. 5, 2013. The cargo on these pallets is to be distributed on base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. David Dobrydney)
Senior Airman Lynn Libby, 455th Expeditionary Aerial Support Squadron air transport specialist, watches as Senior Airman Chris Cali takes a pallet of cargo into the storage area of the 455th EAPS freight yard. The yard has the capacity to hold 1,000 such pallets as they await forward transit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. David Dobrydney)
by Staff Sgt. David Dobrydney
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
2/6/2013 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- On the Department of Defense's busiest flightline, the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron freight yard is constantly bustling.
Over the past six months, trucks, forklifts and K-loaders have brought in, stored and moved out approximately 104,000 tons of cargo.
"It's kind of overwhelming at times; it's an unbelievable amount of stuff that comes in, said Airman 1st Class Zachary Edwards, 455th EAPS aerial porter.
The yard has a capacity to hold more than 1,000 standard Air Force pallets, measuring 88 by 108 inches, with an additional 500 pallets worth of space for wheeled vehicles.
Airmen in the yard have to keep up with the flow of cargo coming and going. Some days are busier than others, such as December 25, 2012.
"You wouldn't have known it was Christmas day," said Master Sgt. Bryan Creamer, 455th EAPS NCO in charge of ramp service, who noted that the Aerial Port supported 125 missions that day, when the daily rate is usually closer to 100.
Challenges include coping with snow and the constantly changing face of the base. One particular construction project, installing storm drains across the length of the yard, proved a particular problem.
"At one point they had actually split it in half," Creamer said.
Currently, any cargo that originates from Bagram is palletized for shipping by the U.S. Army Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group, which maintains its own yard. Future plans include streamlining the transfer of pallets by placing more highlines between the two yards. Highlines are platforms where pallets rest on a series of wheels, which enables them to be pushed from one location to another.
"We'll be trying to strategically place some of those [highlines] and use them to stage our outbound uploads, to facilitate a faster turnover," Creamer said. "They can put the cargo on the highline, push it over to us and we can just pick it up."
Creamer said this would reduce traveling distances for 455th EAPS vehicles from a quarter of a mile to approximately 150 feet.
While Creamer said the largest item he's seen come through the yard was a Maxx Pro MRAP wrecker, which tipped the scale at 62,000 pounds, that wasn't the most unusual item.
In October, he was approached by Polish servicemembers who asked for assistance with a rather historical load.
"Their logistics officer came down and asked if we could help them palletize a World War I tank that had been returned to them by the Afghan government," Creamer said.
Compared to modern tanks, Creamer said the Polish tank could have fit in the bed of a large pickup truck.
"It was hard to believe it was something someone would go to battle in," he said.
Whether moving the latest in military hardware to helping allies move valuable artifacts, Creamer is confident the "Port Dawgs" will always be up to the job, especially as they face their next big challenge: the retrograde movement as equipment and personnel begin transiting out of the country.
"No doubt in my mind," Creamer said. "The Airmen of the 455th EAPS have a 'can-do' attitude, no matter what you put in front of them."