By Staff Sgt. Nathan Hoskins, 1ACB, USD-C PAOJanuary 11, 2010
TAJI, Iraq - Soldiers and civilians traveling to and from here by aircraft now have a more comfortable place to wait for their flights with the grand opening of Ed "Too Tall" Freeman Passenger Terminal, Jan. 5.
The immense terminal, a project which has been in the works for nearly two years, will now be the main hub for all passengers arriving and departing the forward operating base by fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft.
With two large buildings where passengers can in-process for flights, wait and relax, and a vast helicopter pad, the terminal can facilitate approximately 300 people at one time, said Capt. William Bailey, commander, 384th Movement Control Team, 49th Transportation Battalion, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
The former passenger terminal, which consisted of two trailers with a couple of gazebo-type structures to keep the travelers from the elements, fell short when there was inclement weather, said the Huntsville, Ala., native who oversees the daily operations of the terminal.
"The new [passenger] terminal provides a sustainable area for the Soldiers to travel through so they're not out in the summer heat, winter rain, or any type of bad weather," Bailey said.
The facility was dedicated to Ed "Too Tall" Freeman, who was a UH-1 Huey helicopter pilot in Vietnam and Medal of Honor recipient. Freeman received the Medal of Honor for his acts of valor and heroism during the Battle of Ia Drag - the first air assault in military history and first major battle in the Vietnam conflict.
The Freeman terminal came together this past fall with the combined efforts of 155th Brigade Combat Team, the 384th MCT, and 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division - Center.
Taking on the brunt of the project was 155th BCT, which funded, planned and built the facility with the help of civilian contractors.
To ensure the facility would properly support aviation operations safely and smoothly, Chief Warrant Officer Gary Bottger, airfield manager, 1st ACB, provided technical aviation advice, which included expanding and improving the helicopter landing pad.
"The new terminal features a specially designed helipad for multiple, concurrent helicopter landings," said Bottger, of Salado, Texas. "It will safely host around-the-clock, large-scale passenger movements."
The first full day of operations at the Freeman passenger terminal, Jan. 4, revealed dozens of Soldiers with sleepy dispositions waiting to go home on leave during the early morning hours, but that didn't stop them from noticing the major upgrades.
"I like the new [passenger] terminal because it takes you out of the environment; it brings you inside where it's warmer," said 1st Lt. Nora Soto, deputy brigade S-1, 1st ACB, from El Paso, Texas. "Even during the summer it will be cooler in here,"
"It feels like an actual airport terminal - very professional," Soto said.
Others revealed their satisfaction without saying a word; simply having benches to sleep on said enough.
However, the Freeman passenger terminal is more than two empty climate-controlled buildings. The 384th MCT made sure travelers would have plenty to occupy their time while they waited.
There are flat screen televisions, books, phone booths, internet stations and wireless internet.
Among other improvements are covered outdoor areas for the passengers to wait under and a designated restroom facility - not the portable toilet shacks of old.
Although operations are running smoother from the Freeman terminal than from the old terminal, the goal of the new facility is to take care of travelers, said Bailey; exactly what is happening.