AZ Air National Guard Unit strengthens US, UK military partnership
By 2nd Lt. Wes Parrell, 161st Public Affairs Office
/ Published March 18, 2021
GOLDWATER AIR NATION GUARD BASE, AZ -- Whether it’s providing air refueling support to international pilot training flights, or contributing a unique perspective during key State Partnership Program engagements, the Arizona Air National Guard’s 161st Air Refueling Wing maintains an active posture in supporting missions that strengthen America’s global military partnerships.
This was demonstrated in late January when Airmen here hosted members of the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force as they received delivery of two AH-64 Apache Helicopters. The 161st was approached by the U.S. Army’s Apache foreign military sales program office to help load the attack helicopters on C-17 aircraft for shipment to the UK.
Goldwater has the required secure ramp space for the project, and it has qualified air transportation specialists who ensure safety of flight as they process complex air cargo.
“Being within proximity to The Boeing Company in Mesa, and having adequate ramp space and facilities for service members to work safely and efficiently, our Wing was a logical choice to help facilitate this mission,” said Col. Patrick Donaldson, Wing Commander of the 161st Air refueling Wing. “Even with the challenges of COVID-19, Airmen from the 161st continue to contribute mission critical capabilities and support when called upon, and this was just another example of their continued dedication.”
Prior to loading cargo, air transportation specialists review and validate load plans created by contractors, and make corrections for safety, efficiency and practicality to ensure safety of flight before takeoff.
“Our Airmen are qualified to inspect cargo ensuring cargo chains and straps are used properly, hazardous material is secured and declared properly, and the load is balanced on the aircraft according to load plans and in coordination with onboard loadmasters,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matt Van Rossem, air terminal function superintendent. “They ensure cargo is shipped within international shipping regulations, documented properly, and when necessary, they processes non-aircrew passengers for embarkation and debarkation.”
Air transportation specialists also issue and maintain accountability for contractor Restricted Area Badges, provide escort to contractors when necessary, and ensure base security policies are followed. In addition, these Airmen serve as the liaisons between contractors and base agencies when coordination with aircraft maintenance, airfield management, and base leadership is required.
Missions like this not only help partners and allies, but also provide an opportunity for the 161st to maintain proficiency in coordinating international flight arrivals, airfield management and maintenance support for visiting aircraft, and learning different methods and techniques in aircraft cargo management.
“It is not every day that you get to work with loadmasters and aircrew from a foreign military,” said Staff Sgt. Joe Franzen, an air cargo specialist with the 161st Logistics Readiness Squadron. “Seeing the equipment and techniques they use, especially when handling unique cargo like an Apache, is an opportunity I am glad to have experienced.”
Staff Sgt. Chaz Bruno, an air cargo specialist with the 161st Logistics Readiness Squadron, has worked with visiting military partners at Goldwater Air National Guard Base for nearly two years and has seen the importance of this mission, even during the pandemic.
“The health and safety of all personnel has been a top priority of everyone during this mission,” Bruno said. “We follow public health guidance and taken steps to mitigate the impact COVID-19 could have because in the end our success directly impacts not only us, but our global partners as well.”
Goldwater Air National Guard Base is located at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and is the home of the Arizona Air National Guard’s 161st Air Refueling Wing, which operates one of the busiest air refueling missions in the country.