ETDC supplies gear downrange so deployed troops don’t have to

Master Sgt. Lisa Polarek
Kaiserslautern American

MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan – The 376th Expeditionary Logistics
Readiness Squadron’s expeditionary theater distribution center here is
leading the way in expeditionary mobility gear processing to make life
easier for thousands of deploying Airmen.

The center is part of an Air Force test where Airmen can deploy from
their home stations to the Central Asia theater without their A, B and
C mobility bags. When they arrive here to stay, or before heading
“downrange,” they are issued everything they will need from the ETDC.
Airmen are still required to bring a helmet, gas mask, web belt and

Master Sgt. John Bangs, 376th ELRS ETDC NCO in charge, said the Air
Force was spending millions of dollars on overweight bags. He said the
Air Force is also suffering from a loss of seats on flights downrange
because everyone needed to deploy with so much equipment.

The idea to build a supply of bags in theater was long overdue according to many logisticians.

“It puts less strain on people coming over here. They don’t worry about
toting more bags and it makes things run more smoothly. I’m eager to
help and be a part of this process,” said Airman 1st Class Pamela
Obenchain, ETDC technician.

Among customers, the idea was just as popular.
“I think not having to lug all of those bags back home is great. Not
only will it save the Air Force money but it will make the
in-processing time back home much faster and easier,” said Staff Sgt.
Celina Mallison, 376th Expeditionary Communications Squadron alternate
communications security manager.

Some Air Force career fields did not participate in the test such as
aircrew, security forces, civil engineering, combat control and the
Guard and Reserve Airmen, because their gear is tailored to their
individual unit taskings.

“We’re still collecting from (the last rotation) and we will turn those
bags into robust, serviceable ones,” Sergeant Bangs said.

The team of eight inventory the bags, then replace any missing items so the bag can be reissued.

“We’re a staging area for Afghanistan,” Sergeant Bangs said. “With less
weight (on the aircraft), people are quicker into the fight.”

The team was recently put to the test when a group from McChord Air
Force Base, Wash., transited through here. The McChord Airmen arrived
here with nothing, and the ETDC Airmen were able to get the bags issued
to the 15 people in an hour and a half.

“Sometimes we only have a few hours (to issue bags),” Sergeant Bangs
said. “The fact that my people were able to issue mobility bags in such
a short time shows how aggressive they are. They do whatever it takes
to get people downrange.”

According to Sergeant Bangs, the program is still in its infancy stage.
“We’re trying to get the bags to 100 percent,” he said. “Our intent is
to turnover 100 percent accurate bags to the next rotation so they can
issue them out.”

“It’s reassuring to know Airmen don’t have outdated gear as they deploy
forward to possible hostile environments,” said Staff Sgt. Ralph Ortiz,
ETDC technician.

The main beneficiaries in the new system are the deploying Airmen who will now have a lot less to carry.

“The ETD center sounds like a great idea,” said Senior Airman Isabell
Segovia, 376th Expeditionary Mission Support Group information manager.
“I won’t say no to a helping hand.”