Military News

Monday, October 05, 2015

Pushing Freedom

by Capt Jose A. Quintanilla
721st Aerial Port Squadron


10/5/2015 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- After 21 difficult stages covering a grueling distance of 3,360 kilometers, this year's Tour de France came to a conclusion as competitors from 22 teams crossed the finish line. The teams rode 225 kilometers daily for three weeks over both flat and exceedingly mountainous and challenging terrain.

Unlike the majority of racing sports where a single competitor wins the race by crossing the finish line in first position, in the Tour de France, each team has eight riders and a leader. The eight riders, known as domestiques, set up their leader for the win. They are charged with protecting, setting the pace and chasing down attacks by other teams for their leader to succeed.

"These guys know full well they, as individuals, are not there to win," said Senior Master Sgt. Wayne D. Donnelly, the 721st Aerial Port Squadron superintendent, during a recent squadron commander's call. "Their job is to create a clear path for their leader to speed forward past the competition, in essence, pushing him across the finish line."

Donnelly further assimilated this style of teamwork to what we do within the Air Force, where as supporting functions, we enable the mission to be executed - thus "Pushing Freedom" across the globe.

The 721st APS, located at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is responsible for the movement of passengers, aircraft fleet servicing, command and control operations, and moves more than 62 percent of Department of Defense cargo in support of five combatant commands.

Over the summer, 721st APS Airmen were challenged with uploading an open staircase truck and two fire engines onto a C-17 Globemaster III in support of President Barack Obama's visit to Africa. Our air transportation personnel sprang into action and developed aircraft load plans, requested updated Air Transportability Test Loading Agency letters and planned and coordinated the upload of these three critical assets with other base agencies.

With only four inches of clearance between the two fire engines, 721st APS Ramp Services personnel took extreme caution to ensure the vehicles were uploaded on the C-17 in a safe and timely manner. Communication was critical between the spotters, operators and aircraft loadmaster during the entire upload, which proved critical to mission success.

Having executed a timely and safe upload, the C-17 crew departed Ramstein AB en route to Kenya prior to President Obama's arrival. However, the 721st APS was still on the clock and ready to support President Obama when he passed back through Ramstein AB the following week. The APS Airmen executed flawless material handling equipment support and fleet servicing operations on Air Force One, ensuring President Obama was able to meet his other commitments.

And so, just as the Tour de France teams, we may not always be the ones crossing the finish line in first place, but our supporting actions are critical in placing our leaders in a position to make a positive impact in the world and in doing so, we are the ones who are "Pushing Freedom" across the globe.

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