Reserve Soldiers, German counterparts sustain fight in northern Afghanistan
September 13, 2012
MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan (Sept. 13, 2012) -- Three years ago, an all-German staff was in charge of the Camp Marmal fixed wing passenger terminal. The International Security Force then decided to move Joint Sustainment Command - Afghanistan Soldiers into the terminal to run the rotary operations. What soon followed was the beginning of a joint operation mission between countries separated by the North Atlantic Ocean back home.
The 540th Movement Control Detachment, known as an MCT, an Army Reserve unit from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, works with German soldiers to move more than 1,000 passengers, or PAX, through the passenger terminal every day.
Since December 2011, the 540th MCT and their German counterparts have processed more than 200,000 International Security Force, or ISAF, customers through the terminal.
"When you can speak and understand each other then you can solve problems," said German 1st Sgt. Christian Rademacher, a passenger terminal chief with the Air Transport Wing 62.
Customers fly out of the Camp Marmal PAX terminal from Mazar-e-Sharif to other destinations within Afghanistan.
Soldiers and contractors book flights either through the CJ-1 command or Airlift Passenger Reservation System. It was only three years ago that Joint Sustainment Command - Afghanistan, known as JSC-A, Soldiers could only help rotary passengers, but now they are involved in the fixed wing operation as well.
"When I was here three years ago we used to print out their paperwork for them for the rotary section, but now they have access to both the CJ-1 command and Centrix systems," explained Rademacher. "Now sometimes the Americans have more information than us, which helps us work together better."
The Centrix system is a secure web-based system that allows air operators to view online reservations and flight information in real time. The U.S. military uses the system to track contractor helicopter flights, reservations and cancellations. Even though the system is secure like all computer programs, it can encounter glitches due to information overload.
"If our system went down we have a back-up through the German tower log system, which gives the terminal an outline of all that days flights," said Sgt. Justin L. McCubbin, a passenger terminal noncommissioned officer with the 540th MCT. "This is truly coalition effort that helps us share vital information with each other."
McCubbin said communication and sharing information are key to mission success because in some cases Soldiers are mission-essential personnel. Whether it's a general officer, chaplain or an enlisted Soldier, everyone has a mission that needs to be completed.
"Helping a customer to fly out is critical because, in a way, their mission becomes my mission, and it's good that most Germans here speak three languages so they still can help out the Soldier," McCubbin said. "We help Soldiers get to other forward operating bases and even redeploy unit's out of here as well."
The Soldiers behind the terminal desk interact with hundreds of passengers everyday, which forces them to deal with a slew of different personalities. Rademacher said even though it's impossible to make every customer happy, whoever is behind the counter will try to help the customers as best they can.
"I remember one time there was a Soldier who had to go on emergency leave and I got on the phone with terminals in Manas (Kyrgyzstan), Alaska and Iowa," McCubbin said. "Ultimately he got home in two days and it's moments like that, which make this doing this job worth while."
Even though the Soldiers are miles apart from there respective loved ones, the Americans and Germans have grown close to one another.
"We're here every day sitting next to each other for hours and when it's slow we all share photos, play table football and talk about life," Rademacher said. "We treat each other like we're one big family."
Together the 540th MCT and their German counterparts have shown that it doesn't matter what uniform a Soldier wears. In a war zone, all it takes is a common goal to bring everyone together.