Catfish Air helps service members, civilians travel efficiently
By Spc. Steven J. Schneider
28th Public Affairs Detachment
LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — Seven Soldiers of Catfish Air organize space available helicopter flights for about 6,000 people a month here. The flights travel all around the Iraqi theater and save millions of dollars a month by maximizing the helicopter space, said Staff Sgt. Norman L. Carey, 185th Aviation Brigade, NCOIC of Catfish Air.
Organized Space A flights weren't available in March when Carey and one other Soldier started scheduling people. The service came about to maximize space on flights in theater. Eight months later, the service has grown to where it's an essential part of operations on LSA Anaconda.
Before, those wishing to travel had to put in an Air Mission Request, which would take 48 to 72 hours to be approved, or they would have to convoy. Space A allows people to travel with about 24 hours notice.
"Without this service, we can't do business," said frequent flier, Jeff Soule, who works as what he calls a combat travel agent here. Soule said he does about 75 percent of his traveling through Space A.
"They're good, they'll actually take care of you," he said.
The Soldiers will start training KBR employees to take over the operation in November and Carey will stay on to supervise in December. KBR will have a large job to take over, according to Carey.
"Space A has really outgrown itself," Carey said.
The Soldiers have a difficult time keeping up, almost constantly taking phone calls and dealing with the steady stream of walk-in customers.
The work is hard, but the Soldiers know they help operations run smoothly and help keep people safe by keeping them off of dangerous convoys.
"The way I look at it, we're saving lives," said Spc. Joshua F. Sligh.
The 185th Aviation Brigade is a National Guard unit from Mississippi; it's unit nickname Catfish comes from a leading Mississippi export.
(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Staff Sgt. Norman L. Carey, NCOIC of Catfish Air, helps a customer plan future space available flights. Carey is one of seven Soldiers who schedule the hundreds of space available helicopter flights that leave LSA Anaconda each month. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven J. Schneider)