Providers support Sherpa operations for Iraq, Kuwait

Story and photo by Spc. Michael Camacho
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — The Army-specific C-23 Sherpa is the chief mode of transportation for time-sensitive cargo to small or remote locations, and those with limited landing areas in Iraq and Kuwait.

The 56th Movement Control Team, 49th Transportation Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) oversees the movement of Sherpa operations at approximately 15 bases in Iraq and one in Kuwait, said Capt. Luke Davis, commander of the 56th MCT.

Despite its small size, the Sherpa's ability to land on improved and unimproved landing surfaces makes it an agile tool for military units in Iraq, said Davis, an Anchorage, Alaska, native.

"It allows us to get (supplies) to the Warfighter in hostile conditions," he said.

Davis said Sherpas move high-priority items that are needed within a short timeframe and cannot wait in a storage yard for a larger aircraft.

Medical supplies, repair parts and supplies related to force protection can be transported between bases overnight, he said. With supplies that are important to the safety of service members, time is a major priority, said Davis.

"In a situation where it's very time dependent … we utilize the Sherpa," he said. "It provides the command the ability to get parts to the right place in a relatively short amount of time."

The Sherpa is able to move a maximum load of roughly 3,500 pounds, said Air Force Airman 1st Class Brett Lambert, an air transportation and Sherpa operations coordinator with the 56th MCT. Cargo is loaded onto metal reinforced pallets that weigh roughly 150 pounds, he said.

Sherpas make shorter trips than their larger counterparts, who are better suited for long-distance missions, said Lambert, a San Jose, Calif., native. The Sherpas hop from base to base, dropping off cargo in a significantly shorter amount of time than a convoy could, he said.

While the Sherpa serves mainly as a cargo aircraft, it can also carry passengers, said Davis.

The Sherpa is a much smaller version of the C-17 Globemaster, said Lambert. A Sherpa can hold up to four pallets, or a maximum of 18 personnel and their baggage, he said.

In 2009, Sherpa operations moved 7,121 passengers and 1,996 pallets of cargo to various destinations throughout theater, said Davis. In January 2010 alone, Sherpas moved 332 passengers and 176 pallets of cargo, he said.

"When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight, you can really depend on (the) Sherpa to get it there," he said.


news photo
Airman 1st class Brett Lambert, an air transport and Sherpa operations coordinator with the 56th Movement Control Team, 49th Transportation Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a San Jose, Calf., native, tightens the straps to secure a pallet of cargo March 1 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq .
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Camacho)