***image1***Airmen deploying in response to Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in Southwest Asia can travel a little lighter now thanks to the new Expeditionary Theater Distribution Center at Al Udeid Air Base.
The base’s ETDC is one of three consolidated mobility bag distribution hubs that went fully operational this rotation, saving taxpayers an average of $51 million a year. It houses thousands of bags of equipment, chemical warfare gear, first aid kits, level IV body armor and plenty of replacement parts for the mobility bags.
“We make sure the people who go downrange have reliable equipment to perform the mission,” said Senior Airman Cheryl Burney, a 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron supply journeyman deployed from the 435th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Ramstein. “We check the equipment for damage, outdated items and damaged items. In a way, we’re responsible for (keeping Airmen alive).”
Since the base began storing equipment, the ETDC has grown exponentially, said Capt. Chris Esoldo, 379th ELRS readiness flight commander.
“It’s amazing to see how much the program has grown in the 10 months I’ve been here,” said Captain Esoldo. “We didn’t have the supply or return tents and we only had one third of the warehouse.”
The warehouse, a 120,000 square-foot storage facility, houses a newly finished $1.2 million racking system that can hold approximately 4,400 pallets and features state-of-the-art pivoting forklifts, called stock selectors. The stock selector has swinging front forks that allow it to maneuver in 5-foot walkways, compared to the usual 8- to 12-foot walkways reserved for traditional forklifts.
Stockpiles began growing when AEF 5/6 Airmen finished their deployments and turned their gear in to the newly formed ETDC. Since that time, Airmen and U.S. Air Force Central Command officials have helped the equipment stock grow, with the value constantly floating around the $100 million mark.
But this is just the beginning, Captain Esoldo said.
“This is just a stepping stone,” said Captain Esoldo. “I’d like to see Airmen receive their equipment at the LRS unit at their final destination.
Intra-theater movement can still be hindering because loadmasters have to add just that much more cargo to the plane when they could be moving bombs or aircraft parts.”
Whether or not intra-theater movement occurs, the ETDC has improved the Air Force’s ability to fight the war more safely while saving taxpayers’ money.