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Airmen provide relief to China, test new initiative

  • Published
  • By By Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Kadena Airmen loaded more than 225,000 pounds of food, medicine and cold weather supplies onboard Pacific Air Forces aircraft here Feb. 8 as part of a humanitarian mission to China. 

U.S. Pacific Command coordinated delivery of the humanitarian supplies to the People's Liberation Army at Shanghai International Airport, China, as the country faced the most severe winter storms in the past 50 years. The supplies included cold weather gear such as blankets, jackets and mittens and cases of Meals Ready to Eat. 

Airmen aboard two C-17 Globemaster aircraft, based at Elemendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, delivered the much needed supplies to provide relief for Chinese citizens across 19 provinces. 

The urgent mission gave members of the 733rd Air Mobility Squadron here the opportunity to test a new "lean" initiative for the first time at Kadena--the use of an aerial port expediter or APEX. The APEX program allows transportation experts to load cargo on an aircraft while the air crew is still on crew rest, said Col. Timothy Bush, 733rd Air Mobility Squadron commander. 

The use of APEX, part of a larger AFSO 21 program called the Velocity Initiative, means that the load director on the ground takes the position of the loadmaster once the aircraft lands. 

"Ultimately, APEX is a force multiplier for both aircrew and aircraft," said Master Sgt. Timothy White, superintendent of air freight for the 733rd. 

In the case of the humanitarian relief to China, time was critical, and the use of APEX on the Elmendorf C-17 was instrumental in speeding up the delivery process. 

"I can keep cargo and airplanes moving without waiting for an aircrew to show up at the airplane, and that is a real benefit," said Colonel Bush. 

For the members of the 733rd, the opportunity to employ APEX for a critical mission like this made it even more meaningful. 

"We received the pallets of food, medicine and clothing from Camp Kinser before the [Elmendorf] aircraft got to Kadena," said Tech. Sgt. Korey Aschenbrenner, 733rd AMS APEX load director. "When it landed, we were ready to roll and load the aircraft. We saved almost eight hours of downtime for the aircraft because of the new initiative." 

Within 18 hours of Secretary of Defense mission approval, 18 cargo pallets had been delivered to mainland China to help relieve some of the hardships caused by the severe weather. 

"This was a unique experience for me," said Sergeant Aschenbrenner. "Instead of doing a routine shipment, we are loading aid supplies that will save lives. Timing is everything, and in this case, every hour that the aircraft is sitting on the ground is another hour that people are starving. I have a sense of pride knowing I'm helping save lives by having minimal downtime for the aircraft."