By Sgt. Frank Sanchez III, 21st Theater Support Command Public AffairsDecember 11, 2009
ROTA, Spain - Even before the sun rose over the U.S. Naval Station, Rota, Spain, personnel from the Theater Aviation Sustainment Manager-Europe were working on the mammoth task of off-loading a three-story cargo ship filled with critical equipment destined for Afghanistan.
The TASM-E personnel provided key movement support Oct. 25-27 to the Soldiers of the 3rd Combat Avn. Bde., 3rd Inf. Div. based out of Hunter Army Airfield at Fort Stewart, Ga. The movement included an array of helicopters, containers and various pieces of cargo essential to provide continued support for Operation Enduring Freedom.
TASM-E, headquartered at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim, Germany, falls under the operational control of the 405th Army Field Support Brigade, located in Kaiserslautern, Germany. TASM-E has the mission to provide field, sustainment and limited depot-level aviation maintenance to both aircraft and aviation ground support equipment.
Unloading the aircraft from the ship requires TASM-E's unique expertise to ensure safe and efficient movement. The cargo ship is filled with stairwells, beams and steel support columns, making it difficult to offload oversized pieces of equipment.
The Army helicopters from 3rd CAB were towed down the ship's main ramp by TASM-E drivers, maneuvering large tractors. Ground guides helped to navigate the aircraft along a narrow throughway made even more challenging by ongoing construction in the naval station's docking area.
Lt. Col. Tildon Allen, TASM-E commander, talked about the challenges employees face conducting a mission such as this.
"When we are discharging a boat like this, it is loud, noisy and dirty. You cannot become complacent over a long day that lasts 12 to 16 hours. People have a tendency to start getting tired toward the end of the day. You have to be really cognizant of that and really concentrate to remain safe," Allen said.
Using caution is imperative because any bump to the aircraft could result in thousands of dollars in damages. The TASM-E crew safely moved all the equipment off the ship to the airfield without a single incident - no equipment damages or personnel injuries.
Al Partain, a quality assurance representative or TASM-E, talked about how this mission is a learning experience for the Soldiers of the 3rd CAB working alongside the TASM-E personnel.
When Soldiers from a deploying unit arrive with their aircraft and equipment, they want to get the job done quickly because they are relieving someone who has been downrange 12 to 15 months, Partain said.
"Some of these Soldiers are fresh out of Advanced Individual Training, and they have a thirst for knowledge," said Partain.
The TASM-E personnel, who are mostly civilian employees, take pride in working with the young Soldiers and passing on the experience they've gained over many years of working with Army aviation assets.
A number of UH-60 Black Hawk, AH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinook, and OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters, along with many other pieces of cargo, were moved to the airfield in Rota in order to begin preparations for the next leg of the journey. The TASM-E crew continued working alongside the 3rd CAB Soldiers as they reconfigured the helicopters for shipment. Many of the aircraft components were be removed and stowed when the helicopters were loaded onto U.S. Air Force cargo transport planes.
During the entire process, TASM-E employees were there to perform any needed maintenance. From the initial offload of helicopters and equipment from the cargo ship to arrival on the battlefield, TASM-E workers stood on the line with the Soldiers they support.