KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Port Dawgs or Movers, it doesn’t matter the name, but the job is very similar across the branches of service and also across international military forces.
This became apparent to those in the 41st Aerial Port Squadron during a visit from the British Royal Air Force Reserve’s 4624th Squadron, known as “Movers”, during their visit to Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, April 21-25.
The BRAF Movers originally planned to compete in the Air Force Reserve Port Dawg Challenge, held at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga, but when it was cancelled the BRAF 4624th Squadron had to come up with a plan B.
Plan B: An invitation from Col. Reginald Trujillo, 403rd Mission Support Group commander, for the 4624th Squadron movers to visit Keesler AFB and conduct some combined air transportation interoperability and agile combat employment training with the 41st APS.
“The bottom line is it’s an opportunity to jointly train together as we prepare for the future fight,” he said.
“When Col. T. (Trujillo) invited us to come to Keesler, that is what we did,” said BRAF Warrant Officer Bob Adam, 4624th Squadron flight commander of C Flight. “Bringing the guys over here and the reception that we have had at both Dobbins and here at Keesler has been phenomenal.”
Knowing the ‘British were coming’ Master Sgt. Martin Guthrie, 41st APS assistant aerial port manager, set up a visit that included normal Port Dawg training, a mini version of the Port Dawg challenge, and some field training, which included training on firearms and improvised explosive device identification.
“We wanted them to get a feel for just a little bit of the training we go through including the training that isn’t job specific,” said Guthrie. “We do things they have never seen before, and they have showed us things we have never seen before.”
While the Movers and the Port Dawgs do the same mission technically speaking, they both load aircraft, the getting there is different.
“We deal with all aircraft types, C-130s, C-17s, British (Airbus) A400 (Atlas), and even a Voyager, which is a passenger aircraft,” said BRAF Senior Aircraftsman Paulina Griffiths-Jeans, 4624th Squadron mover. “Because we could load up a C-130, then turn around and load a C-17 or British A400 the next day or even deal with three different aircraft on the same day.”
Guthrie said that he has trained on the A400 before and described it as a cross between the C-130 Hercules and a C-17 Globemaster III.
“I think our Airmen would benefit from seeing firsthand the different systems our British partners use,” said Guthrie. “And to train on their aircraft would make them an asset to the Reserve as multi-capable Airmen.”
One difference remarked on was the netting system that the BRAF uses vs. the U.S. Air Force for the aircraft.
“In a way our netting systems are probably a lot easier and less complicated, but your nets are easier to handle than ours,” said Griffiths-Jeans.
Another difference that was mentioned was that the Movers of the 4624th have to learn every job of a Port Dawg, while in the United States, the jobs within the unit are separate, with members learning a specialty, such as the passenger terminal section or the hazardous cargo area.
“Our members may stay in one section their entire career as a subject matter expert, teaching those that come up,” said Guthrie. “While others become proficient and move to other areas of expertise.”
Having Airmen learn one area of expertise is a manpower detail, with the 41st APS having about the same number of personnel in their squadron as the BRAF Reserve has Movers.
“We have over 170 Reserve Movers spread out over four flights with both Part Time Volunteer Reserve and about 15 Full Time Volunteer Reserve to provide full time support during the month,” said Adam. “There is also a Regular Active Duty component of about eight guys, whose job is to support us and deliver basic movers training for about a three year tour and then move on to another post.”
Those jobs are similar to the Traditional Reservist and Air Reserve Technician, with active duty performing the basic mover training.
Another difference that Griffiths-Jeans mentioned was the time span for training. Their training, called Forward Movement Training (FMT) course is completed in 15 days for the Reserve forces; while the Reserve Port Dawg members can do their seasoning training over the course of 60 days.
But like the U.S. Reserve forces, they have the same basic commitment of one weekend a month and two weeks a year as well as the diversity within the unit.
“We have a diverse group of people from lorry drivers, lawyers, architects, and chief executives,” said Adam. “The challenge is trying to make it fun for the guys, keep them entertained, as well as keep their skill set up.”
Lt. Col. Stevie Lee, 41st APS commander, went through and visited during the activities that were set up for the visit.
One event included practicing the tie down of equipment or vehicles to an aircraft, which started as training for the BRAF Movers to practice with the equipment and ended up with a mini-competition and some good-natured ribbing.
“This type of event is great for morale, because, while primarily a learning experience, the competition also sparks excitement and fun,” said Lee.
Griffiths-Jeans said she loved trying out the equipment at the 41st, because while the equipment is the same, the controls are slightly different.
“Now when I do land in America, some of these guys may be driving the equipment at the aircraft I am marshalling,” she said. “At least I know how that equipment works now, I know what they are capable of. It will make it easier on my side as well. And I can even jump in and drive that equipment if I need to.”
Everyone agreed that the chance to get together has been a great opportunity, from the joint training, making contacts and sharing of knowledge and experiences.
“I think this experience with the British was good for our Airmen because it demonstrates the differences between our two services, even while we work to accomplish the same mission,” said Lee. “Exposing our Airmen to different approaches to similar challenges encourages them to think in new and innovative ways.
“We would love to turn this experience into an annual exchange, where we can not only host our BRAF partners, but also visit and see how they do business across the pond,” she said.