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Reservist set benchmark at Kirkuk's aerial port

Tech. Sgts. James Killingsworth and Victor Rivera, reservists and aerial porters with the 506th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, help load supplies for the Iraqi military recently. The aerial port here comprises 25 Airmen, all from the 35th Aerial Port Squadron, McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. For the first time, Kirkuk’s aerial port function is now run exclusively by reservists without active-duty assistance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman SerMae Lampkin)

Tech. Sgts. James Killingsworth and Victor Rivera, reservists and aerial porters with the 506th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, help load supplies for the Iraqi military recently. Twenty-five Airmen work in the aerial port at the Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq. All of them are from the 35th Aerial Port Squadron, McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. For the first time, Kirkuk's aerial port function is run exclusively by reservists without active-duty assistance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman SerMae Lampkin)

KIRKUK REGIONAL AIR BASE, Iraq -- -- While reservists play an integral role in nearly every mission in the War on Terror, one unit of "Citizen Airmen" recently set a benchmark for their career field here.

Kirkuk's aerial port function is now run exclusively by reservists - a feat achieved at the beginning of the latest rotation. The changeover marks the first time reservists have run Kirkuk's aerial port function without active-duty assistance.

"The 22nd Air Force Reserve Command bought this site, and Air Reserves will solely run Kirkuk's aerial port from now on," said Senior Master Sgt. Bart Josefowicz, 506th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron superintendent. "This is just another example that shows reservists are truly part of the one-team concept and are filling critical needs in today's Air Force."

The aerial port here comprises 25 Airmen, all from the 35th Aerial Port Squadron, McGuire Air Force Base, N.J.

Each of the unit's Airmen volunteered to spend four months away from their homes and families to deploy to these foreign lands. This sacrifice springs from a sense of calling and patriotism, and is not uncommon among reservists, said Tech. Sgt. Jose Aviles, 506th ELRS aerial porter.

"It's extremely important for me, as a reservist, to volunteer for deployments at times when our country needs my service," said Sergeant Aviles, who also voluntarily served on deployments to Baghdad and Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. "There are times when active-duty Airmen just can't do it alone, and that's when it's so important for us to step up and support the mission."

The reservists also feel the deployment allows them to witness first-hand their vital support to the total war effort, Sergeant Josefowicz said. One of the primary tasks for these aerial porters is handling all incoming and outgoing cargo for Air Force, Army and other coalition forces.

"The operations tempo for this unit is much higher here than compared with home station - but it's also much more rewarding," he said. "We handle large amounts of cargo at the home station, but never see the end result of where it goes. At Kirkuk, the Army often pulls right into our area with forklifts to pick up supplies we unload.

"This often includes equipment and food - supplies they need to accomplish the mission," the sergeant added. "If we weren't doing our job inside the wire, all the other services couldn't perform their job outside the wire. It's satisfying to see the final results of our work."

While operating an aerial port without active-duty assistance may be a new concept, these reservists don't perceive any lapse of efficiency, said Sergeant Josefowicz.

"I have no doubt everything will run smoothly - all of our training is on par with the active duty force," he said. "Requirements these days for the reserve force are more than just one weekend a month and two weeks a year. Our people keep up with training on their off-duty time, and I have no doubt they are ready to step up to the challenges."

The aerial port serves as just a microcosm for reservists' role at Kirkuk, as "Citizen Airmen" have a hand in nearly every mission here, said Sergeant Josefowicz.

"I don't know the exact numbers, but the reserve force makes up a large portion of the Air Force community at Kirkuk," he said. "As reservists, we need to take pride that we answered our nation's call and are essential to success in Operation Iraqi Freedom."