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49th APF ‘port dawgs’ move Airmen, cargo around the world

GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. -- Filling the skies of Germany from 1948-1949, the U.S. Armed Forces partook in one of the greatest aerial resupply operations in history delivering means of survival to an entire population and two decades later on Aug. 19, 1969, when the path of Hurricane Camille hit Mississippi, the U.S. Air Force again responded by conducting one of the greatest humanitarian airlift operations in history – by airlifting over 5,000 tons of cargo. 

Just as the U.S. exercised its contingency and humanitarian capabilities during the Berlin Airlift and Hurricane Camille, the 49th Aerial Port Flight at Grissom Air Reserve Base continues to provide world class support to local and global missions; sustaining, enabling and protecting service members and Air Force capabilities dating back to 1973.

"Our mission at the 49th and aerial ports around the world is to move cargo, personnel, ammo, and vehicles from home station to and from overseas and other stateside locations," said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Thorman, 49th APF air transportation craftsman. 

Although the 49th APF dates its lineage to 1973, it was originally constituted as the 49th Aerial Port Squadron, but was deactivated in 1992. A decade later, it was re-designated as the 49th Aerial Port Flight and was activated in the Reserve October 2002. 

Senior Master Sgt. Laurie Latchaw, 49th APF deputy superintendent, a career logistics Airman with over three decades of her life wearing the Air Force uniform in both the active duty and Reserve capacity, is witness to the growth of the 49th APF since its inception. 

"The growth of this unit is one of my proudest accomplishments," Latchaw said. "We originally stood up [49th APF] with five people. Now, we have around 70 personnel and will soon be transitioning to a squadron with more than 100 personnel." 

After joining the 49th APF in 2015, Thorman, a seasoned air transportation craftsman with over 12 years of active-duty experience, says working in the expanding 49th APF offers a unique perspective for its personnel. 

"Aerial port is the best job in the Air Force," he said. "The personnel in the 49th bring different talents and perspectives coming into this job; many are new to the Air Force and are students; others are civilian cops; others work in IT, and some served on active duty." 

"During a recent UTA it was rewarding to see Airmen who don't work in the 49th every day, come together and have the opportunity to be involved in handling and preparing humanitarian relief for Haiti," he continued. "It's a rewarding job to be a part of providing aid to individuals that need it." 

According to Senior Master Sgt. Bradley Frank, 49th APF training manager, the basis of accomplishing any deployment relies on aerial porters. Additionally, aside from their main function as aerial porters – to process cargo and personnel – APF is also responsible for loading and unloading aircraft, performing joint inspections of cargo and equipment for air transportation and executing engine running on-loads/off-loads. 

"Every aircraft has different dimensions, and we have to ensure our cargo meets the height and/or weight restrictions," Thorman said. "Working with KC-135R Stratotankers at Grissom is unique in that they have a smaller cabin."

"The cargo we put on a pallet could go down range or go to Haiti for a humanitarian mission," Thorman said. "We are affecting the outcome of whoever is at the location we ship cargo off to, so to be able to see the full circle of Air Force equipment and personnel is very rewarding."

For one Veteran, Senior Airman Anthony Valezuez, 49th APF air transportation apprentice, he recently rejoined the Air Force after a 20-year break in service. 

"When I was on active duty, my AFSC was intelligence," Valezquez said. "Today, my civilian job when I'm not an aerial porter is in IT. When I rejoined the Reserve last April, I knew I wanted something different, something more hands-on. I let the recruiter pick my AFSC and I feel extremely lucky to be working in air transportation because I get to see the end product from start to finish." 

"Every AFSC in the Air Force is important, but being an aerial porter means sending out cargo and passengers all over the world to make sure every mission is accomplished," Thorman echoed. "Logistics moves the world."