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'Special' APS Airmen safely handle hazardous, classified cargo

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Shen-Chia Chu
  • 436th AW Public Affairs
When one hears of the 436th Aerial Port Squadron, the first word that comes to mind is "cargo."

There are a handful of Porters who can say the cargo they handle is special. 
The Airmen of the 436th Aerial Port Squadron special handling section have a career that is definitely unique for a reason. 

"Most people don't know what we do, or that we're divided into many different sections in the Port," said Tech. Sgt. James Morehouse, 436th Aerial Port Squadron day shift special handling supervisor. 

From classified and hazardous material such as aircraft parts, oxygen bottles and paint, the special handling section takes care of it. 

"People may not think of some material as a hazard, but when it's thousands of feet in the air, it needs to be packaged and inspected a particular way so it stays together and intact despite the air pressure or turbulence of the flight," said Sergeant Morehouse. "We make sure all classified material is properly safeguarded and accounted for because if one of these packages are handled or certified incorrectly, somebody could die." 

On average, special handling receives and ships more than 60 tons of cargo every week.
"Everything is tracked by hand-to-hand receipt for confirmation because everything we receive is important for our mission," said Staff Sgt. Erin Lentz, special handling operations NCO and training manager. 

Moving everything from medical supplies to other cargo to the warfighter is something Sergeant Morehouse describes as meticulous and potentially deadly. 

"If we're not careful each and every single day on the job, what we handle could kill somebody," said the sergeant. "Every day, work is different. Something I've never seen before could arrive this afternoon that may need to be moved to warfighters right away." 

Shipments handled by this special section range from tactical vehicles to tents, kitchens, hot-water heaters and generators.

Like a passenger who checks in for their flight, specially-handled materials reserve their places on the plane to travel to their final destinations. 

"We inspect the equipment and paper work to make sure it's safe to fly on the aircraft, then palletize and load it on the plane," said the sergeant. "We could move anything from a pound to 100,000 pounds. 

"I've even sent parts of the Hubble space telescope to Cape Canaveral where they launched the space shuttle," he said. 

Sergeant Morehouse takes pride in the fact that his team understands the importance of this mission. 

"I love this job because I take pride every morning in putting on this uniform - whether I'm stationed at Dover or somewhere in Iraq," he said. "I am doing my part every single day by sending supplies to the warfighter."