More than just a box

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace
  • 436th AW Public Affairs
I am a high-grade composite-plastic box.

My life as a box has been useful. Since my creation, I've been shuffled and moved from place to place.

My entire existence has built up to these past few years, for it was then I met my purpose.

Nearly every day, I am packed with hundreds of pounds of equipment, palletized and loaded aboard a Dover C-5 Galaxy or C-17 Globemaster aircraft. Soon thereafter, I make long journeys over oceans and am hand delivered to warfighters, who are in harm's way.

"'If it can fly, it will fly,' is a quote we like to use here," said Army Capt. Michael Ashton, commander of the 627th Movement Control Team and a Rockland, Mass., native who's serving a 15-month Iraq deployment. "The Air Force provides critical cargo and expedites the process of getting cargo to Soldiers fast."

I know how important of a box I am, and I know how quickly America's warriors downrange need me - they rely on my contents.

"My Soldiers never have to ask me 'Where is my equipment and when will it get here?'" said Captain Ashton. "They know their Air Force support units in theater and back in the U.S. work day and night to keep them supplied."

As a box, I can be pretty much packed with anything.

"Last week, (Brigadier) General (Alfred) Stewart told us a story of a small Special Forces team, who were surrounded by hostile forces and down to their last bit of ammo," said Capt. Shane Williams, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, an Erwin, N.C., native and deployed aerial port flight commander. "They called for a resupply and we delivered their much-needed ammo using an airdrop. (They) were able to fight back and extract from the location safely."

Airlifts and airdrops are a huge asset in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq. From boxes like me to armored vehicles, cargo can be flown over a drop zone and parachuted down to servicemembers waiting below.

"In the last year, my unit delivered 153,000 pallets using airlifts," said Captain Williams, who is deployed from Dover AFB, where he served as the 436th Aerial Port Squadron's Air Transportation Operations Center Flight commander. "This enabled about 46,000 military trucks to be re-allocated to other missions, and prevented nearly a million Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines from going into harm's way on convoys."

Still, I am not solely packed with war materials. A good portion of my payload is medical materials and blood. The wounded warfighters count on my contents to sustain life.

"If it were not for the deliveries made from Dover, the ground forces' missions would be significantly impaired," said Captain Williams. "Dover processes shipments of blood for movement to Iraq.

"We always have injured servicemembers here," he said. "Without the blood shipments, we wouldn't have the survivability rate that we do - the highest survivability rate of any war to date."

Many boxes manufactured with me travel to the Middle East aboard Navy vessels. While airlift is one option for moving boxes like me to the AOR, combatant command requirements are the drivers in determining whether airlift or surface transport is used. Generally speaking, the airlift itself takes less than a day.

"There is a bridge that spans from Dover Air Force Base, right into the heart of Iraq," said Michael Holt, 436th Operations Support Squadron chief of current operations and a Dover native. "Though the bridge is not constructed of cement and steel, it is a bridge all the same.

"The (436th and 512th Airlift Wings) have a vital mission of hauling large amounts of cargo across the bridge and placing it into the hands of the war fighter on the other end," said Mr. Holt.

"Without the air bridge, additional Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen (would be put) in harm's way, as they would be required to run more convoys," he said.

Of all the boxes it the world and all their uses, it's an honor to be an Air Force box - I am making a difference as soon as I am loaded on an aircraft.

"There are a lot of Airmen who come to Iraq from other bases and talk about how it feels to be in the war and be at the tip of the spear," said Captain Williams, who explained such isn't the case with Airmen from Dover. "Dover Airmen are already at the tip of the spear. Every day, Dover performs a wartime mission.

"We are making history," said Captain Williams. "In the (Central Command area of responsibilities) and at home station, we load and unload aircraft 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, and have been doing it for over six years - we aren't slowing down."

The Air Force is making history with airlift, surpassing historic operations such as Operation Vittles and the Berlin Airlift. As with crossing any historic boundaries, doing so rewrites text books and causes heroes to be born.

I don't consider myself a hero. I am a gray plastic box. I am seemingly plain and simple, yet I know my value to every conflict and every operation.

Though I am just a box, I am a box that helps keep my nation free.