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Total force Airmen keep mission moving together

Airmen from the 451st Aerial Port Flight push a cargo pallet during an engine-running offload of a C-17 Globemaster III Sept. 29, 2010, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The 451st APF handled more than 26 million pounds of cargo in the month of September. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Chisholm/Released)

Airmen from the 451st Aerial Port Flight push a cargo pallet during an engine-running offload of a C-17 Globemaster III Sept. 29, 2010, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The 451st APF handled more than 26 million pounds of cargo in the month of September. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Chisholm/Released)

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- When push comes to shove, that's how these Airmen get it done.

Airmen from the 451st Aerial Port Flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, are at the front end of the receiving line when cargo and passengers arrive at the base. They are also the last to touch it as it leaves.

These aerial porters, affectionately referred to as "port dawgs," are primarily responsible for processing U.S. military cargo and passengers on aircraft such as the C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster III or C-130 Hercules.

"We're one of the busiest aerial ports in the area of responsibility right now," said Chief Master Sgt. Rex Neff, 451st APF superintendent, who is also a Reservist who hails from Canton, Ohio. "At the end of the day, we're graded on our ability to generate airpower at KAF, and our marks are pretty high up there."

With numbers and stats this crew has to show, few people would be able to argue with the chief's point. During the month of September alone, these Airmen processed more than 16,000 passengers and handled more than 26 million pounds of cargo, to include downloading about 100 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles and uploading nearly 900 airdrop bundles.

"We're working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so we're very busy out here," said Capt. Daniel Frost, 451st APF officer in charge. "We're helping move anything from whole blood donations, to MRAPs, to airdrop bundles - which is probably the most important part of our mission because we're resupplying the warfighters with food, water and fuel while they're in the field."

Of course, being in the deployed environment presents some challenges to these "port dawgs."

"The distance we have to travel to and from the aircraft and to the cargo yards is our biggest challenge because it takes quite a bit of time, which is a lot different from having everything right in front of you back in the states," said Captain Frost, a Utah Air National Guardsman who calls Layton, Utah, his hometown. "But these guys overcome those challenges and work together as a great team."

This team, which features a mixture of active-duty Airmen, Guardsmen and Reservists from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Salt Lake City and everywhere in between, comes together every day to support the diverse missions of KAF.

"Anything you see that comes in on a U.S. military aircraft, we're the first ones to touch it upon arrival here so we can get it where it needs to go," said the captain. "These Airmen are out here working hard to support this demanding mission and I'm impressed by their dedication and resiliency."

In addition to making sure the cargo gets where it needs to go, the aerial porters also help passengers get on military flights. They also recently implemented a new system on base to allow passengers to sign up and receive confirmation or denial for their flight without having to travel to or call the passenger terminal - a program being implemented all throughout the AOR.

"We recently started this program so people can sign up online rather than coming to the passenger terminal," said Captain Frost. "It's great to know that we can now save our warfighters some time and also free up some space in the passenger terminal ... it's a much more streamlined process.

The Airlift Passenger Reservation System can be accessed here, where Airmen can requests seats on a U.S. military aircraft. Once approved, the member will receive confirmed seats on the routes requested and will also be able to check the status of the requests anytime online. One person may also request seats on behalf of others with their Common Access Card via a CAC-enabled computer. Members wishing to use this system can register up to 10 days in advance and will receive confirmation or denial two days prior to the flight. Confirmed passengers are still urged to call the aerial port for show times, and denied passengers can still attempt space-reserved travel.

"The next time you see a smiling face helping you at the outbound poassenger terminal, or some of our Airmen loading or unloading your favorite cargo aircraft, remember: the aerial port is here to help you," said Captain Frost.