Aerial Port Unit keeps the big birds moving
OSAN – ”I wouldn’t trade my job for anybody’s,” says A/1C Frank Poinsett of his job with Det. 55, 7th Aerial Port Sq. “This is a damn good outfit,” he said. “I’m here for the second time and I like the way it keeps you on the move.”
The unit, with branches at Kimpo, Kunsan and Osan AB, operates the air terminal entry points in the Republic of Korea, Det. 55 is commanded by Maj. James Swain who says: “You never know what you’re going to get in on a flight.”
Last year approximately 2,800 aircraft, 28,000 passengers, 4,000 tons of cargo and 160 tons -of mail were handled by Det. 55.
Part of the 315th Air Div. based in Japan, Det. 55 handles the day to day unloading of plane’s cargo and passengers and reloading cargo and passengers for the aircraft’s new destination.
“Det. 55 handles all cargo from apples to helicopters,” says 1st Lt. William Godfrey. “I am really enjoying the diversified experience of my first assignment in the Air Transportation field.”
Osan is now the point of entry into ROK for air-transported explosives and is also the reception point for perishable food that arrives in Osan and is then trucked to PXs, Snack Bars and coffee shops throughout the ROK.
Det. 55 is composed of 60 hustling U.S. and ROK personnel who handle the big C-130 and C-124’s.
At the cry—”Here comes the first bird of the day,”—the men of Det. 55 are galvanized into action.
The Korean staff is “conscientious, hardworking1—they’re good people,” says Swain of his ROK personnel. “The supervisors here have to slow them down here rather than try to speed them up as is the case other places.”
“They can get more cargo on and off a plane than anyone I’ve ever seen,” said Swain. He said of the back-breaking loads that the ROK’s shoulder as a matter of course, “It’s absolutely amazing.”
Besides handling the cargoes and passengers from the 315th Air Div., Det. 55 performs the same services for the Korea-based 314th Air Div.
“This means that we prepare all the manifests and load all the cargo coming into the ROK’s three major .air terminals,” Swain said.
One of the busiest periods for the unit is during the weekly “turnaround” when men and cargoes from Japan are exchanged at Osan AB.
In case of war Det. 55 is prepared to dispatch a mobility team to set up air terminal operations any place in the world.
On the other hand, “In any evacuation from a country the aerial port personnel will be on the last plane out,” states Swain.,
“The biggest occupational hazard of this type of operation is the working in unfavorable weather,” said M/Sgt. Louis Wheeler.
“Yes,-” added Major Swain, “when I first arrived it seemed we were always unloading a plane in the rain or snow.”
“If there’s time for a break around here—you take it. It’s necessary to work extra around here, but it’s no problem—nobody complains,” Poinsett remarked.
Generally, Det. 55 works during daylight hours, but they are on alert 24-hours-a-day, 7 days a week “to service the big birds whenever they fly.”