U.S. Troops Process Cargo Trucks at Busy Airfield
By Army Spc. Elisebet Freeburg
Special to American Forces Press Service
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2009 Supplies and equipment to sustain the more than 20,000 servicemembers and civilians from 15 different nations at the world’s busiest military airfield arrive here daily.
Army Spc. Jose Ramirez directs a cargo truck to a parking space at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 14, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elisebet Freeburg
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
But not all supplies arrive by air. The 386th Movement Control Team has processed more than 25,000 cargo trucks through this southern Afghanistan base since May.
The 386th MCT, an active duty Army unit from Vincenza, Italy, deployed here to assist in the build-up of troops. Responsible for Entry Control Point 3, the 386th MCT's roughly 20 soldiers fill a multi-faceted role that includes processing trucks entering and leaving the base, as well as helping logistics units in contracting local trucks for convoys.
"We are the main supply here," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Williams, the detachment noncommissioned officer in charge from Savannah, Ga. "If trucks don't get in the gate and we don't deliver, nothing's happening."
Arriving cargo ranges from Army and Air Force Exchange Service supplies to disabled vehicles to food. When a truck reaches the airfield, guards inspect and X-ray it before it enters a holding yard. The 386th MCT soldiers then processes paperwork, called transportation movement requests.
With the aid of Slovakian troops, movement control specialists escort drivers to a designated holding area and call the customer to come and receive the shipment and driver.
"A lot of people tend to not take notice of movement control teams," said Army Sgt. Robert Gazaway, a 386th MCT movements NCO from Livingston, Calif. "But we're the guys on the ground, making sure stuff happens."
The truck holding yard at Entry Control Point 3 is about the size of a football field, Williams said. Depending on how troops line up and park vehicles, 150 to 200 trucks fit inside the holding yard.
"It's a good feeling knowing you're part of an important picture," Gazaway said. "Our part is to make sure the units get what they need."
Because of the sheer numbers of trucks coming through, customers normally have two hours to pick up their truck before the 386th MCT sends the truck and driver away. Drivers turned away must return the next day. When returning, it can take several hours for them to get searched and scanned again and back on the base.
Williams said he dislikes turning away drivers and their trucks, but needs to keep a cycle of trucks coming through to deliver goods.
"If you ordered this stuff, come and get it," he said. "[The drivers] have families, too." Williams added, however, that he won’t send away trucks carrying certain timely or high-importance supplies for servicemembers.
But the nine to 10 soldiers working the holding yard sometimes have to close it due to the high number of trucks filling the yard. "For a unit so small," Williams said, "we have a big, big responsibility."
The 386th MCT soldiers also collect paperwork as trucks leave the airfield and send it to their higher headquarters, the 484th Joint Movement Control Battalion, an element of Joint Sustainment Command Afghanistan.
Though it’s an American unit, the 386th MCT answers to the NATO commander of this multinational airfield, said Army Capt. Torrance Conner, the detachment commander, who is from Cherryvale, Kan.
"We show favoritism to no one here," Williams said. "That's the only way we can be."
With large commercial trucks moving through the yard's congested area -- sometimes at high speeds with unsecure loads -- Williams stresses situational awareness and proper personal protection equipment to his troops.
Other dangers can come from the drivers themselves. The 386th MCT soldiers once recognized two drivers as wanted men from posters in their office. They detained and transferred the drivers to the international military police here.
"It's a big job out here, but an important job," Gazaway said. "I think everyone here is proud of what they do."
(Army Spc. Elisebet Freeburg serves with the Joint Sustainment Command Afghanistan public affairs office.)