AL ASAD, Iraq -- When aircraft parts are transported into Al Asad for the forward deployed 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing a group of sailors is in charge of pushing that gear to the proper place.
Mobile Air Cargo Handling Team 3, a reserve unit from Springfield, Mo., has 24 sailors in three locations throughout the Iraqi theater. Fourteen of those sailors are stationed here to help facilitate the movement of parts in, out and around the air wing’s area of operations.
“We work with the air wings’ Aviation Logistics Division and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26 very closely to expedite the movement of aircraft parts to the different forward operating bases,” said Lt. Cmdr. Joe Strenfel, the MACH team company commander and Ellington, Mo., native.
The team is in charge of organizing and palletizing all of the gear needing to be moved. Once it is ready to ship the team makes sure it gets on the proper aircraft and to its destination.
The cargo handling teams were first organized in January 2004 as a better way to facilitate gear movement during its “last mile” of shipment. From the time gear reaches Kuwait until it gets to the prescribed unit, MACH teams work to track everything. They make sure it gets to the hands of the Marines who need it to fight the Global War on Terrorism with greater efficiency.
When gear arrives on the airfield here the cargo handling unit trucks the gear to the logistics squadron for distribution. After supply handlers sift through the gear, they give the MACH team the parts that need to be sent to the forward operating units. Once the parts are identified the cargo handling team prepares the assigned cargo for shipment.
“The [Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26] is achieving extraordinary readiness rates here,” said Lt. Patrick Arteaga, the Al Asad detachment officer in charge and Webb City, Mo., native. “We like to think we are playing a role in their success. If they are achieving high readiness rates then we are moving parts fast enough.”
The MACH team works primarily with one squadron which allows them to focus all of their effort into making their one client successful.
“We are able to put all of our time and energy into helping the [logistics squadron] accomplish their mission,” Arteaga said. “If they are making their mission we are accomplishing ours. Our mission is to help them achieve theirs.”
“We are doing the job we we’re trained to do,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kathryn VanHooser, a Greene County deputy sheriff and Springfield, Mo., native. “We are an asset to the mission of the 2nd MAW. We came here for a challenge and we are stepping up to the plate and lending ourselves to help the war in any way possible.”
Many of the MACH team sailors left behind families, friends and steady jobs to deploy and assist in stabilizing Iraq.
“Deploying is part of being in the military,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Adrienne Bott, native of St. Robber, Mo. “I heard the unit needed people to deploy so I volunteered. We are helping the Iraqi people gain control of their country. It is an honor to do that,” said the wife and mother who left her family to deploy.
Mobile Air Cargo Handling Team 3 is a small unit with a big responsibility when it comes to operations on the airfield. Packing, palletizing and tracking gear as it travels through the country is a big help to units like MALS-26 who depend on their parts to be in the hands of aviation war fighters.
The team doesn’t fly combat missions or provide close air support but they do make it possible for the squadrons to stay on target. These sailors ensure accurate delivery of parts with on time service, allowing maintainers to continue the hard work of keeping aircraft in the air day and night.
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