HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — The 67th Aerial Port Squadron is made up of nearly 200 reservists specially trained to handle cargo and passengers aboard military aircraft traveling around the world. From Humvees headed to combat zones to pallets stocked with humanitarian aid, the “port dawgs” of the 67th APS get things where they need to go.
The squadron is divided into various areas of expertise, including air terminal operations, cargo processing, ramp services, passenger services, special handling, and load planning.
“If you were to take a commercial airport and combine it with a company like FedEx or UPS, we essentially do the same things in terms of processing passengers and cargo,” said Chief Master Sgt. Matthew McElreath, who serves full time at the 67th APS. “But we move very different kinds of cargo – things like tanks, buses, and fire trucks.”
In addition to those basic responsibilities, the squadron also employs load planners to ensure aircraft are weight balanced, along with reservists who inspect hazardous cargo, such as munitions, to ensure safe flights around the world.
In the past year, Airmen in the 67th APS have traveled to numerous locations for hands-on training and real-world support, including Japan, Honduras, Germany, Spain, and Alaska. Most travel opportunities come during their annual tour – a two-week training requirement for reservists that typically takes place outside of Utah.
“We try to target locations that focus on getting our people the training they need to become experts in each functional area,” said Lt. Col. Keith Mecham, 67th APS commander, who also works full time as a civilian for the Defense Logistics Agency at Hill AFB.
The 67th also sends Airmen to compete in a biennial event known as the Port Dawg Challenge at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. The squadron vies against 23 aerial port squadrons across Air Force Reserve Command to test their proficiency in various critical tasks.
“I had the awesome opportunity to compete as part of a fantastic team in last year’s Port Dawg Challenge,” said Staff Sgt. Sierra Beers, air transportation journeyman, who also works as a pharmacy technician for the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office. “We were so excited when we placed in 6 out of 12 events, winning first place in the fit-to-fight, 10K forklift, joint inspection, and passenger processing events.”
Working one weekend a month and two weeks a year, Air Force reservists are expected to maintain the same level of training and proficiency as their active duty counterparts – a responsibility the 67th APS doesn’t take lightly.
“Even though the Reserve, Guard, and active duty make up a Total Force, I still consider it a great compliment when we are deployed or TDY and someone says ‘You’re reservists? We thought you were active duty,’” McElreath said. “This is a direct reflection of the professionalism and dedication of our members.”