By Capt. Casey Staheli
913th Airlift Group Public Affairs
Airmen of the 96th Aerial Port Squadron triumphantly returned from participating in the 2017 Air Force Reserve Command Port Dawg Challenge at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia. The competition ran from April 25-27 and ended with the 96 APS becoming the first aerial port squadron to be a repeat winner since the competition started in 2010.
The 2017 PDC included 23 Air Force Reserve aerial port teams competing in the following 12 events, engine running off/on load, 25K loader/10k forklift obstacle course, joint inspections, cargo restraint, load planning effectiveness, pallet build up, passenger and cargo processing, air terminal command and control functions, fitness challenge, and a comprehensive knowledge test.
The 96th APS placed first in four of the events, scored near the top in others and even had team member, Staff Sgt. Malcolm Moe, recognized for the best team spirit by Brig. Gen. John Hickok, Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command deputy director of logistics, engineering and force protection.
The 96th APS leadership selected the 2017 PDC team. Interested Airmen had to submit applications that demonstrated general skills in their career field, specific qualifications for events, availability and a strong desire to win.
“Success begins inside each team member,” said Master Sgt. Morgan Abner team leader. “Knowledge can be gained throughout the process of training, but without the will to learn as much as they can, the individual will not help as much as the team needs.”
Since all six team members are traditional Reservists, who train together only one weekend every month, the emphasis on desire was important.
“We practiced for the past six months during unit training assembly weekends, and had a week before the competition to come on base and train more diligently, without interruptions,” Abner said. “But, the team members had to stay vigilant and determined to better themselves while they are away from the unit and base. One of the events at the PDC tested all team members’ knowledge about everything from general procedures, Air Force history and Air Force Reserve information. This information alone took more time to be proficiently studied than we are allotted.”
While studying as individuals and training as a 6-person team was important, Lt. Col. Jason Sheridan, 96th APS commander, was quick to recognize the other individuals and organizations that contributed to his team’s success.
“Master Sgt. Abner did an outstanding job ensuring the team was prepared to execute, even before the competition started,” said Sheridan. “But, I’d also like to thank Col. Chip Brown and the 19th Air Wing for their support and the use of their assets. We couldn’t have done it without them. I also want to thank Col. Anthony Brusca and the 913th Airlift Group. They consistently support us. This win was truly a team effort, and our team represented themselves, the 913th Airlift Group, and the 19th Airlift Wing extremely well.”
As winners of the competition, the 96th APS gets the honor of taking home one of the most unique trophies in the military. The Top Dawg trophy is a life-size bronze sculpture of a bulldog on a wooden pedestal. The trophy will reside with the squadron until the next PDC in 2019.
“I’m extremely proud of what our team accomplished this week,” Sheridan said. “The team’s focus, passion, and commitment were evident on day one. We didn’t want to simply show up. We wanted to bring the Dawg back to Little Rock.”
Aerial Porters are transportation specialists who often refer to themselves as “Port Dawgs.” These Airmen provide military logistical functions to aerial ports, including processing personnel and cargo, loading equipment, preparing cargo and load plans, loading and securing aircraft, ejecting cargo for inflight delivery and supervising units engaged in aircraft loading and unloading operations.
The PDC is a Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command sponsored event with the purpose of identifying, refining, and incorporating observed procedures and techniques that improve wartime mission readiness, demonstrate air and space expeditionary forces mission capabilities, promoting professionalism among and providing recognition for aerial port personnel, while generating esprit de corps within the aerial port community.