Alaskan Adventure Blog 2
By Airman 1st Class Ashley Ramirez, 146AW
/ Published June 08, 2011
ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The first night of the 146th Alaskan Adventure was a little different than I had expected. I learned when we touched down at Elmendorf that the 146th Airlift Wing apparently was not the only base that had decided to go TDY to Alaska during prime season. With other units being here for their TDY and other exercises occurring all over the base, there was very limited billeting and the Security Forces and Logistics Readiness Squadron were moved to an area called "Mad Bull." To get to this area, we had to drive behind the flight line, take the fork in the road, and turn right onto a dirt road and drive several miles up into the woods. No, I'm not joking... oh and go past the lake and the archery range and there it is! This gated 'camp site' had several small buildings, a set of showers and bathrooms and a giant fiberglass- looking dome structure that stood in the center. These were our facilities for the evening. I had never slept on a cot before, but luckily for me there were some other Airmen who had, and they showed me how to assemble my bed for the evening. They weren't that bad, but it was pretty interesting to see how everyone was adapting. I thought the Air Force stayed at the Hilton when we were TDY, well I thought wrong.
After moving out of our fiberglass Alaskan villa on day 2, the Public Affairs office moved into... well the Public Affairs office. That's right... Alex and I are literally sleeping in the office. We moved our cots into some empty offices and with showers in the locker room downstairs, we are good to go! The Security Forces and LRS also moved to other buildings. They are still on cots but at least there is no immediate threat of bears or moose there.
The next two days for all of our TDY squadrons were more or less getting their rhythm going for the next two weeks. We met up with the Airmen from Aerial Port and got a tour of the air terminal by Charles Carr, the weight supervisor and day supervisor for Elmendorf. He showed us where all of the active-duty Aerial Port members work. We were told all about the different areas of the warehouse; the special handling areas, spaces designated for certain areas and shipment locations as well as a peek into the giant freezer and refrigerator that looked like it was the size of my house! While on the tour Master Sergeant Bert Sherring, a day supervisor for the 146th Aerial Port, told me that the active duty Airmen here have about an eight-hour turnaround time for their pallet shipments. Meaning from the time a load of equipment or whatever come to the warehouse, these Elmendorf Airmen can get all that equipment unloaded from the vehicles, weighed, measured then loaded and secured onto pallets for the plane in about eight hours! Very impressive. Sherring also said that a lot of those pallets that are from the warehouse are shipped out to remote locations all across the state. There are certain areas that are in need of equipment, food, medical supplies, etc. that are not accessible from the ground or by roads. So that is when the Air Force comes in! Aerial deliveries are the 146th's specialty, of course. The Air Force often performs aerial drops with the pallets of goodies attached to parachutes, and the parachutes float safely to the ground in these remote areas.
After checking out Aerial Port, we were off to Security Forces. Although they were in the classroom, some of their lessons were very interesting. When I came in, the Airmen were learning how to read and use a compass on grid maps. Being in Public Affairs, I am obviously not familiar with grid maps so it was interesting to listen in. After hearing the instructor talk about reading the grids and colors on the map I couldn't help but ask myself, "Why not just use a Magellan? I know I have an App for that!" Well I guess I didn't ask myself very quietly, because soon enough I was being asked by Technical Sergeant Marco De La Cruz, who was instructing the class, what my question was... in front of everyone. Trying to save face and hoping I didn't come across as a total idiot I asked "Sir, why not just use a Magellan?" That question was immediately followed by "Well, what if you equipment breaks? The batteries don't work, or it's raining?" I knew I was being used as an example for a silly question... well at least I tried. As I went to go sit in the corner and be quiet for the rest of the lesson, realizing that I obviously knew nothing of tactical maneuvers and being seen and not heard was my best bet, Technical Sergeant Wayne Furhmann explained this answer a little more in depth. He said that although the technology may be great and quite useful in the field, that there actually were major problems with Magellan and other land navigation devices in the desert a few years ago. He explained that deployed members, in an effort to get an edge on the enemy, were bringing their personal GPS devices with them in the desert and using them while out in the field. While this made things easier and they were able to speak to each other using the 'Push to Talk,' their personal devices were not encrypted or using government signals. Meaning when these devices were used, they were using public satellite signals... that anyone could use... and that anyone could track... including the bad guys. So while these deployed members were trying to get the advantage by using digital tracking, they were actually giving away their position to the enemy. Hence, GPS systems are a no-no... unless they are issued by Uncle Sam. See... that's what I was trying to say!