Airfield Group earns wings
Public Affairs Staff
As one of the Army’s premier power projection platforms, Fort Dix has a standing mission to help put boots on the ground wherever needed. As the inscription on the Ultimate Weapon statue in Infantry Park reads, "If they are not there, you don’t own it."
But "they" cannot get there without the help of the Fort Dix Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group (A/DACG), a team of three Soldiers and four contractors that works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to make sure service members get to where they need to go.
"Every mission is a different challenge," explained Staff Sgt. Glenn S. Johnston, A/DACG Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge (NCOIC). A/DACG’s primary mission is to help move mobilizing troops and their gear through the multi-layered aircraft boarding process at the McGuire Air Force Base Passenger Terminal.
"We almost live in this building," he said. "This is our second home."
And the Air Force personnel working at the terminal have become a second family to the A/DACG team, according to Johnston.
"We have a very good working relationship with the Air Force," he said.
"We have a great relationship," added Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Dixon, Passenger Service NCOIC, 305th Aerial Port Squadron. "The A/DACG is extremely good at what they do."
That expertise may be owed in large part to plenty of practice. Since Jan. 1, the A/DACG has conducted more than 200 missions, moving more than 25,000 tons of equipment and 27,222 passengers, including Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) employees. Passenger totals have increased by 5,000 per year for the past three years, Johnston noted.
"Our business just keeps on growing," he said, adding that the A/DACG mission isn’t only about the number of missions accomplished or units moved, but also about treating deploying service members in the proper manner from the initial mobilization briefing to training on loading and palletizing equipment, to the final step of putting troops on a plane.
"You have to be sensitive to the troops," said Johnston, who spent 12 years as a Marine before joining the Army Reserve in 1999. "You have to be respectful."
Johnston and his team also have to be familiar with differing load plans for the various aircraft used to move troops and equipment, whether that equipment is to be loaded onto the plane by hand or on pallets. Gear must be distributed properly when loaded or palletized to help maintain the aircraft’s safety in flight.
"Those pallets have to be perfect to go on the plane," Johnston said.
Air Force inspectors ensure the pallets are just that before they are loaded onto the aircraft, a process supervised by a load master. The entire process is truly a team effort between the Fort Dix A/DACG and the McGuire Passenger Terminal personnel and could serve as a model for joint operations.
"They’re very willing to work with us," said Dixon, who added that this A/DACG is one of the best he’s worked with in his 11-year career.
Of course, the A/DACG doesn’t only deploy troops – it welcomes them home as well. Nearly every weekend, Freedom Flights bring returning service members from theater to the Passenger Terminal for demobilization. Johnston and his team are there to welcome them and move them through the deplaning process, bringing them one step closer to home.
"Freedom Flights are the one flight we can count on almost every week," Johnston said.
And troops mobilizing or demobilizing can always count on Johnston and his team at A/DACG always being there to help take the next step on their journey, whether that be one step closer to a warzone – or to home.