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Services work together, keep convoys off streets

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (USTCNS) --- As Operation Iraqi Freedom continues, American service members are put in harm's way on a daily basis. The Department of Defense's various services are working together to make Iraq a safer place for American service members. This is the primary thinking behind the Tanker Air Lift Control Element, a mostly Air Force detachment working on the flight line at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq.

The Airmen, deployed from the 621st Air Mobility Operations Group based at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, along with a few Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, make up the almost 50-person detachment responsible for the loading, unloading and tracking of C-130 and C-17 flights within the OIF area of responsibility, said Tech. Sgt. Truman R. Burroughs, the detachment's first sergeant.

The flights move cargo and equipment to the different bases in theater, a task normally assigned to convoys.

"Each mission we complete has the potential of keeping a 16- or 17-vehicle convoy off the roads," the Lake City, S.C., native said. Operating an average of four missions each day, that is about 500 Marines kept out of harms way since the detachment began operating here in late January, he added.

"Those personnel can be freed up for other duties, or, if not needed, sent home," said Air Force Maj. Donald J. Brien, TALCE commander.

Throughout Iraq, Improvised Explosive Device and Vehicle Born IED attacks threaten the lives of anyone on convoy operations. The transportation of cargo by aircraft was implemented as a countermeasure to protect American lives.

"The aircraft are not exposed to the risks facing the convoys," the Ilion, N.Y. native said.

"Somebody said 'Why don't we fly between these [dangerous] locations?'" Burroughs said.

That is where the TALCE comes into play. The detachment's primary mission is to receive aircraft for support of operations in theater, he said.

The detachment is comprised of a TALCE commander and first sergeant, operations/command and control section, aerial port section, aircraft, vehicle and support maintenance teams, Office of Special Investigations section, security forces team, intelligence team, and a contractor liaison and contractors.

Dealing with both incoming and outgoing cargo, the planes are loaded and unloaded at the aerial port by Airmen, Marines and Soldiers using heavy equipment such as forklifts and loaders, Burroughs said.

Once outgoing flights are loaded, the TALCE tracks the flights and specific cargo using computerized systems, allowing them to see exactly where their cargo is at any given point in time. They also have the ability to track incoming flights and cargo.

After incoming cargo arrives, it is shipped aboard Camp Taqaddum from the flight line to the Supply Management Unit and on to the Traffic Management Office for further processing, and then on to its final destination.

Outgoing cargo is inspected for safety concerns and other issues before a move is authorized. Customs inspections are also done here if the flight is international, but most flights from the TALCE at Camp Taqaddum don't leave the area of operations, Burroughs said.

The deployment and utilization of TALCEs are not normally permanent, Burroughs said. They set up the operations and turn them over to another unit.

TALCEs are also implemented to handle "surges" in air traffic caused by units relieving each other or by operational requirements, Brien said.

"TALCEs were crucial from the beginning of [Operation Iraqi Freedom]," he said. "While the Army, Marines and other coalition forces were still fighting on the far side of the airfields, the assessment team was surveying the side under coalition control."

It was only a few days before TALCEs opened the airfields for aviation operations, providing for the movement of personnel and equipment necessary to operate the base and generate missions closer to the front, he said.

"Our numbers say a lot," said Brien. "But I cannot express how proud I am of [the TALCE troops]. They have stepped up to the task and have been clobbering it!"

Editor's note -- The 621st Air Mobility Operations Group mentioned in the following Marine Corps news article, was re-designated March 1 to the 621st Contingency Response Wing at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. The stand up of the 621st CRW was part of Air Mobility Command's evolution to support a new Air Force airbase opening capability. The CRW, supported by Contingency Response Groups, or CRGs, will gain additional functional area expertise to expand past capabilities to provide a consistent, trained, core airbase opening capability to the combatant commander.

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