Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar — Airmen with the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, are an integral part of the logistics and supply chain both in and out of the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. If a mission-critical piece of equipment or a service member needs moved, 8 EAMS is more than likely involved.
During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 global pandemic, 8 EAMS Airmen are busier than ever. From load planning to maintenance, cargo loading and tactical airlift, 8 EAMS Airmen are responsible for transporting an average of 10 million pounds of cargo and 5,000 passengers throughout the AOR each month, accounting for more than 36 percent of airlift operations in Europe and Southwest Asia.
“Our mission here is to execute rapid global mobility,” said Senior Master Sgt. John Anderson, aerial port superintendent assigned to 8 EAMS. “We do this with our total force Airmen who work 24/7 around the clock regardless of weather, temperature, or COVID-19.”
The 8 EAMs has moved tanks, helicopters, missiles, hospitals, command centers, food, blood, firetrucks, boats and more.
“If it fits on a C-17, Boeing 747, or C-5, we move it,” said Lt. Col. Michael Ridley, commander of the 8 EAMS. “This includes a mobile hospital for Afghanistan, cargo for every major weapon system in and out of this theater, ammunition to the front lines, and the defensive anti-missile and mortar weapons that protect our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines. We also move medical supply and logistics cargo which gets distributed throughout the entire AOR, supplying every embassy and military installation with critical medical supplies.”
Moving thousands of passengers and millions of pounds of cargo presents many challenges for 8 EAMS Airmen to overcome, especially operating in a global environment during a pandemic.
“COVID-19 has changed our processes,” said Anderson. “We require passengers to undergo medical screening and wear masks, among other measures.”
Airmen with 8 EAMS have also developed and implemented contingency plans for transporting COVID-19 infected personnel and decontaminating aircraft.
Our Airmen have risen to meet these challenges head on, said Senior Master Sgt. Charles Messer, maintenance superintendent assigned to 8 EAMS. Cargo and passengers must continue to be moved around the AOR, but in a safe and responsible manner.
Wear and tear on aircraft is another challenge. The 8 EAMS Airmen perform maintenance regularly on six C-17 aircraft as well as many large aircraft throughout the CENTCOM and U.S. European Command areas of responsibility.
“Maintenance is difficult in this environment,” Messer said. “Heat can have a pretty big impact on the aircraft and how we do our jobs.”
Despite these challenges Airmen have excelled, and sustained a maintenance success rate of more than 96 percent.
“We take it upon ourselves to work hard and push missions,” said Staff Sgt. Sydney Edwards, a crew chief assigned to 8 EAMS. “People need the equipment we have, from medical supplies to blood and munitions. There has to be someone keeping the mission going and we have a strong group of Airmen here to make it happen.”
The impact 8 EAMS Airmen have on the mission does not go unnoticed.
“The 8 EAMS is the backbone for the logistics chain strategically moving into the AOR and tactically moving around it,” said Ridley. “If we stop moving then supplies, ammunition, rations, weapon systems and warfighters stop moving. Despite COVID-19, Airmen of the 8 EAMS continue pushing cargo and maintaining aircraft around the clock because the warfighter doesn’t break for COVID-19, so neither do we.”