Everything from a bolt to a bomb
By Senior Airman David Dobrydney, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 22, 2010
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Anywhere in the world, seven days a week, they are ready to stand and deliver.
The 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron Traffic Management Office is responsible for the movement of every piece of government equipment that arrives at or leaves through RAF Lakenheath.
"It doesn't matter what it is; it could be a simple bolt or screw to a container full of munitions," said Bill Pratt, chief of cargo movements.
At any given time, TMO is processing three or four major movements of equipment in support of 48th Fighter Wing operations to locations in Europe and supporting other agencies throughout the world.
"Where these units go, TMO had a hand in getting the cargo there," said Lt. Col. Adrian Crowley, 48th LRS commander.
The TMO workforce is made up of both active-duty Airmen and Ministry of Defence employees such as Mr. Pratt. Because of the high deployment tempo for military members, the MoD employees find themselves filling the gaps.
"If it wasn't for them, there are many training exercises for the fighter and rescue squadrons that we wouldn't be able to pull off with just our military workforce," said Colonel Crowley. "The experience and stability they provide is unprecedented."
For any deployment or temporary assignment, TMO's work starts long before anyone arrives at the location. As airlifting equipment can be costly, transport by truck and ferry is more common. This requires coordination with civilian customs officials, figuring out how to get the trucks to the location, and planning loading and unloading operations once the supplies arrived. Typically, TMO personnel are the first on site and the last to leave.
"These countries are still sovereign nations," said Colonel Crowley. "The more borders you cross, the more rules you have to overcome."
For the recent Anatolian Eagle exercise in Turkey, the logistical survey started three months prior to the first jet landing. Among the obstacles the TMO team had to overcome were bringing foreign truck drivers onto the Turkish base, which necessitated escorts at all times. There were also restrictions on cell phones that threatened to hamper communications.
"We worked with the U.S. Embassy, and they managed to get older phones that don't have cameras on them," said Mr. Pratt.
Ultimately, 340 tons of equipment was successfully transported to Turkey for the exercise. The 493rd Fighter Squadron, which took part in the exercise, greatly appreciated the support.
"There's a lot of pieces involved moving that much equipment across that many borders and we couldn't do it without their help," said Capt. Peter Lee of the 493rd FS.
While the deployments overseas command a lot of attention, there is also the day-to-day business as TMO processes approximately 150 to 200 individual items every day, whether shipping them out or accepting them into their 18,000-square-foot warehouse.
"The warehouse changes over every few hours," said Colonel Crowley. "I can go in there three or four times a day and it always looks different."
When large items go out, they need to be packed securely, most often in wooden crates. Before it can enter a foreign country, the lumber used in the crates must be heat-treated to kill any parasites. Lakenheath TMO is the only one in U.S. Air Forces in Europe with a kiln that can heat the wood to the correct temperature, said Darren Watson, installation dangerous goods advisor for TMO. Treating the wood allows it to be reused which has saved nearly $250,000 in lumber costs.
However supplies are packed or where they are sent, cooperation is the watchword at TMO, said Mr. Pratt. "In our mind it just one team doing the job together," he said.