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MANAS, Kyrgyzstan --The 376th Air Expeditionary Wing is a diverse organization with a unique, multifaceted mission. Capt. Jared Eros is deployed as the Operations Officer for the 376thth Logistics Readiness Squadron and is assigned to the 349 Air Mobility Operations Squadron, here. The 376th ELRS operations constitute the largest on the Transit Center with more than 200 Airmen focused on “making it work.” (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo from 376th AEW/PA)
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376th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron - Making it work

Posted 5/19/2011   Updated 5/18/2011 Email story   Print story

    


by Capt. Jared Eros*
349th Air Mobility Operations Squadron


5/19/2011 - TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan -- The 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, located at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, is a diverse organization with a unique, multifaceted mission. The 2,000-strong military, civilian, and contractor force at Manas support Operation Enduring Freedom in four distinct ways: Air Refueling, Airlift, Onward Movement, and Humanitarian Assistance/Partnership Building. The 376th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, commanded by Lt. Col. Will Phillips, III, plays an integral part supporting each of the 376th AEW missions. The 376th ELRS operations constitute the largest on the Transit Center with more than 200 Airmen focused on "making it work."

The Mission
Air Refueling - The 376th ELRS is vital to the 376th AEW's Air Refueling Mission. The Fuels Management Flight oversees the operation and maintenance of the largest (4 million gallons) fuel bladder farm in the AOR which provides more than 100 million gallons, to include over 550,000 gallons of fuel to our coalition partners, annually for numerous transient and permanent party aircraft. The 376th ELRS Fuels Management Flight has enabled more than 3,800 KC-135 sorties and provided more than 215 million pounds of fuel in support of 5,100 missions in 2010. Additionally, the Fuels Management and the Vehicle Management Flights ensure a vast fleet of R-11 and C-301 mobile refueling assets remains in peak condition to meet the Warfighter's needs.

Airlift - The 376th ELRS Aerial Port Freight Section and Deployment and Distribution Flight work hand-in-hand to ensure that the 376th AEW's Airlift mission continues without interruption. Whether storing baggage for movement downrange or load planning for future airlift assignment, throughout 2010 the 376th ELRS team members moved and/or processed
More than 20,000 short tons of cargo in support of 1,100-plus C-17 cargo sorties, to include mission critical and high visibility Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Armored Vehicle movements. Notably, the team accomplished this while working amidst a constant state of facility construction and infrastructure modifications.

Onward Movement - The Transit Center at Manas serves as a key gateway into and out of the Afghan AOR and the 376th ELRS team plays a crucial role in supporting the 376th AEW's Onward Movement mission. The ELRS Aerial Port Flight, Joint Movement Control Center Logistics Plans, and Vehicle Operations Sections processed and moved more than 467,000 passengers (up to 55,700 passengers a month), and transported more than 25,000 short tons of baggage in support of both deployment and redeployment movements. The 376th ELRS Material Management Flight, consisting of Supply and the Expeditionary Theater Distribution Center, issued and receipted essential deployment assets such as Individual Body Armor / Fire Resistant Improved Outer Tactical Vest, and Cold Weather Gear to nearly 14,000 transient and permanent party personnel. While working together with other Expeditionary Wings and outside agencies such as the CENTCOM Deployment Distribution Operations Center and the Air Mobility Division, the 376th ELRS team maintained average deployment and redeployment times to less than 48 and 72 hours respectively.

Humanitarian Assistance-Partnership Building - A unique aspect of the 376th AEW's charter is Humanitarian Assistance and Partnership Building. This mission facet may account for a smaller portion of what is accomplished at Manas, but it is no less important. 376th ELRS personnel hosted numerous Aerial Port and Vehicle Maintenance Military-to-Military Exchanges with our Kyrgyz counterparts, attended various social and cultural events in and around the Transit Center, and supported the Honorary Commander program. The Vehicle Operations Section alone provided transport for more than 1,500 Air Force personnel supporting 232 various HA missions throughout the country.

Making it Work - From an infrastructure standpoint, the 376th ELRS worked hard to provide a more hospitable and safe work environment for its personnel, ultimately leading to process and efficiency savings. Recently, the Vehicle Management Flight celebrated a ribbon cutting event for a new 7,500 square foot general purpose vehicle maintenance facility. This new facility provides a warmer, better illuminated working environment than the clamshell-style tents used prior to construction, and increases the capability for simultaneous vehicle maintenance operations by 33 percent and useable workspace by roughly 50 percent. The new facility has been instrumental to the Vehicle Maintenance Flight maintaining an overall fleet Vehicle-In-Commission rate of more than 85 percent despite the sometimes harsh weather seen at Manas.

The Deployment and Distribution Flight's Traffic Management Office also leaned forward from a process efficiency perspective. In early 2010, the 376th ELRS worked to develop a process that would allow cargo not eligible for air transport to be shipped to our brothers-in-arms in Afghanistan. In conjunction with the Defense Logistics Agency and Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the team began to use what is now known as the Transit Center at Manas-Expressway, an 'off -shoot' of the Northern Distribution Network. The NDN is a network of multi-modal transportation routes which bring supplies from the United States and Europe into Afghanistan and the TCM-E created a viable 'on-ramp' to the NDN. Although the impetus was to reduce the logistics footprint at the Manas Transit Center, the solution also supplied low-priority cargo to locations in Afghanistan which had a demand for those resources. The TCME also resulted in the collective benefit of clearing the backlog of excess DLA equipment and vehicles, reducing the solicitation and contract coordination required for such shipments, and by saving more than $2.0 million in air transport costs. The Traffic Management Office coordinated ground transport via the TCM-E for more than 200 pieces/360 short tons of DLA assets valued at more than $4.0 million.

Cargo efficiencies are important, but the 376th ELRS paid additional attention to improving Onward Movement processes. The 376th ELRS worked with Maintenance and Operations Group leadership teams to refine gray tail flight Sequence of Events milestones. This cross-talk enabled each organization to have greater knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the behind-the-scenes work that occurs prior to launching an aircraft. As a result, and despite the deteriorating weather conditions of the winter, the 376th LRS successfully reduced flight delays by more than 25 percent, due in part to the implementation of the Wing's universal SOEs. In particular, the Fuels
Management and Aerial Port Flights benefitted from greater synchronization, as their specific functions require collaboration with Maintenance and Operations to achieve overall mission accomplishment.

The 376th ELRS also worked to increase fuels process efficiencies, correct production problems, and increase receiving capacity for the TransitCenter at Manas. Throughout 2010, the Fuels Team suffered several hard hose fuel ruptures resulting in small, contained fuel spills. The cause of these ruptures was attributed to the high operations tempo and constant exposure of hard hose lines to extreme hot and cold temperatures in the Kyrgyz climate. The Fuels Management Flight worked tirelessly with AFCENT A4 to procure and install collapsible hoses and valves, making it easier to fault isolate and identify product wear and defects before a rupture occurs. Thus far, Fuels Management replaced 3,000 feet of hoses and is expecting to replace 4,000 feet more in the near future. In addition to providing the 376th ELRS with a safer and more environmentally sound operational environment, the new equipment will allow the Fuels Management Flight to integrate with the newly acquired Fuels Operational Readiness Capability Equipment system, providing greater fuel facility efficiency. FORCE will soon be used as the standard fuels operating system in deployed locations and is currently being used at other installations throughout the AOR.

During 2010, additional fuel storage capacity was introduced to the Transit Center. In coordination with AFCENT A4, the Manas fuel bladder inventory increased from 14 to 20 bladders. While berms were constructed to encapsulate these new bladders, older fuel bladders were concurrently replaced.

Despite many outstanding accomplishments, the Transit Center at Manas faces operational obstacles and challenges. The 376th ELRS learned to work around and through many of these obstacles, as well formulate possible long-term solutions to each one of these unique challenges in the upcoming years.

Challenges and the Future - The first thing many visitors notice when arriving at the Transit Center at Manas is the large amount of construction underway to support the Transit Center's growing mission and airfield capabilities. The 376th ELRS has not been spared the effects of this construction, as evidenced by the current passenger terminal and ramp construction projects. In order to support a flightline expansion project, the freight yard will lose approximately 6,000 square meters of working space. The Aerial Port terminal yard has also been temporarily re-located, creating interesting logistics challenges for Aerial Port cargo and baggage handlers. Finally, the movement of the Traffic Management Office operating location from one area of the flightline to another is yet another example of how the 376th ELRS will accommodate the extension of one of the current aircraft ramps.

To compensate for the freight yard's loss of space, the Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron will expand the freight yard in the spring months by 7,000 square meters and install a pallet stacker which will increase pallet positions from 96 to 215. Other temporary solutions include working with the Expeditionary Maintenance Group and Expeditionary Mission Support Group to find storage space for critical assets requiring covered storage and conducting baggage operations outside of both the Freight and Baggage Yards.

With expansion of the passenger and cargo mission at the Manas Transit Center on the horizon, the 376th ELRS worked with 376th AEW Leadership to refine the concept of operations for Onward Movement of military personnel. Currently, the passenger terminal is physically separated from flightline operations and support functions. At most stateside locations, terminals are located on the flightline, making passenger processing and movement a more confined and precise operation. This physical separation created logistics challenges, increased transport times, and increased flight delays. The 376th ELRS and 376th AEW worked together to develop a new flightline command and control, passenger processing, baggage, and cargo/customs compound composed of four large fixed structures near the flightline. This new facility, while still in the planning stages, could create numerous process efficiencies to include reduced troop and baggage movement, higher levels of troop and cargo accountability, and increased visibility and integration of flightline command and control functions.

Finally, while the 376th ELRS can appreciate having the title of the "Largest Bladder Farm in the AOR," the maintenance and operation of such a large fuel bladder system is a significant drain on resources. The 376th ELRS Fuels Management Flight team members spend hours measuring fuel levels on bladders and quantities are, at times, difficult to verify, especially when weather conditions are poor. These fuel bladders are constantly exposed to the elements and the winter months' snow removal efforts can be both labor and manpower intensive. The large size of the bladder farm also makes it difficult to move fuel throughout the storage system, potentially causing fuel to stagnate and congeal. Furthermore, fuel bladders present the constant threat of rupture and the Fuels Management Flight spent more than 200 man-hours repairing leaks in one of the bladders. While a hydrant system may not ever be a possibility because of the fact that the airfield is shared with the host country, the 376th ELRS is looking to the future and recommended an eventual installation of four 1.5 million gallon above-ground storage tanks to accommodate the flying mission at Manas.

Process and flight infrastructure improvements increased squadron productivity and improved the quality of life for many of the 376th ELRS Airmen. Despite many challenges, the 376th ELRS will continue to support and integrate with the men and women of the 376th AEW and "Make it Work."

*Capt. Eros co-authored this story. About the Authors
Capt. Jared Eros is the Operations Officer for the 376thth Logistics Readiness Squadron and is assigned to the 349th Air Mobility Wing at Travis AFB, Calif. Capt. Mark Williams is the Deployment and Distribution Flight Commander for the 376th Logistics Readiness Squadron and is assigned to the 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines, Iowa Air National
Guard. Lt. Andrew Moisan is the Aerial Port Flight Commander for the 376thth Logistics Readiness Squadron and is assigned to the 62nd Air Mobility Wing at McChord AFB, Wash.



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