509th Movement Control Team works to improve travel at Speicher
Story and Photo by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION SPEICHER, Iraq — Although military travel is not known for its comfort, a group of Airmen at Contingency Operating Location Speicher, Iraq, work hard to make it a positive experience.
The 509th Movement Control Team with the 49th Transportation Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade is a team of "green suits," or Airmen who deploy under Army units. The team is made up of Airmen from bases throughout the United States, Germany and Japan.
"We're like a pick-up basketball team," said Air Force 1st Lt. Jason C. Henry, commander of the 509th MCT and a Reading, Penn., native.
Instead of coming together for sport, Henry said the men and women on his team came together to manage air travel coming in and out of COL Speicher and try to make the process easier on service members and civilians.
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment the team has made in this regard was finishing the new passenger terminal, which had been in the planning stages since 2007, said Henry.
The $2 million project, which was completed in early November, brought travelers out of a tent and put them in a brand new hardened shelter with a few extra comforts. Henry said the 49th Trans. Bn. paid for flat-screen televisions in the terminal so travelers could enjoy movies while they wait, as well as receive up-to-date flight information on the new arrival and departure displays.
The terminal will soon have free wireless Internet as well, said Henry.
"It's all about quality of life," he said. "How can we make it easier on (service members)?"
Other projects in the works include a new parking lot and an improved baggage system that will shorten the walk travelers make to palletize gear, he said.
The main goal of these improvements is to separate the passenger terminal from the heavy equipment used in the area, said Henry.
"We're trying to figure out the best way to make it safe," he said.
The 509th works to improve more than the aesthetics of the travel facilities.
"When we first got here, customer service was lacking," said Senior Airman Salome Douglas, a passenger terminal representative and Germantown, Md., native.
Douglas said the new facilities have improved morale among travelers, but the most important contribution the unit made upon its arrival in August was to make customer service the main priority.
"Everybody is a priority and everybody is going somewhere," said Henry.
Henry said his team has gathered information from movement control teams throughout Iraq to improve operations and create a facility that rivals the terminal at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
"That's the vision," he said. "We're just trying to get there in the next 45 days."
The 509th MCT is scheduled to redeploy in February, but Henry said his unit will put together a plan so the team replacing them can continue to improve travel in the area.
"This is what we are doing here," said Henry. "Now build upon it."