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Improved Air Cargo Operations

To reduce the number of coalition vehicles and personnel required to travel Iraqi roads to deliver ground cargo, the Army’s 1st Corps Support Command and the Marine Corps’ 1st Marine Expeditionary Force worked together to find a way to increase the amount of cargo being flown into the Iraqi theater. Their efforts resulted in the creation of the Joint Air Cargo Operations Team (JACOT). The JACOT, the first interservice team of its kind, coordinates air assets in Iraq.

Before the establishment of JACOT, interservice cooperation was limited. The Marine Corps operated traditional arrival and departure airfield control group (ADACG) operations. It was responsible for loading and unloading passengers and cargo arriving on Marine Corps helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Across the airfield, an Air Force aerial port team and the Army’s 3d Platoon, 403d Cargo Transfer Company (CTC), loaded and unloaded all cargo from other fixed-wing military aircraft and commercial carriers. This operation worked, but it was inefficient.

In June 2005, the Marine Corps 2d Force Service Support Group Forward and Combat Logistics Regiment 25 took the lead in transitioning the ADACG and Strategic ADACG into the JACOT. The transformation included collocating the personnel movement side of the operation with the cargo movement side, including the transient billeting area for incoming and outgoing units. The efficiencies gained were vital to the successful deployment and redeployment of Army units in July, when over 8,000 Soldiers passed through the JACOT area of operations.

JACOT Organization

The JACOT is unique because it involves all four military services. It now consists of an Air Force tactical control element team, the Marines and Sailors of the 1st Force Service Support Group, an Army movement control team, and the cargo handlers of the 403d CTC.

The Air Force tactical control element team brought the much-needed Deployable Global Air Transportation Execution System (DGATES) technology to the operation. DGATES allows the JACOT to track all aircraft that pass through and the amount of cargo and personnel on each.

JACOT Operations

The division of labor is what sets the JACOT apart. The Air Force tactical control element team schedules flights, tracks incoming air assets, and observes all moving equipment on the airstrip to ensure that it is operated correctly. When an aircraft approaches the field, Marines and Airmen working in the air control tower notify the offload team—consisting of Marines, Soldiers, and Airmen—waiting at the intermediate staging point. When the aircraft ramp is lowered, the joint team offloads the cargo. The average offload time for a full C–17 is about 20 minutes.

Once the cargo is staged at the intermediate staging point, the Army team moves the cargo into the cargo yard, where it is sorted into designated lanes by Department of Defense Activity Address Code or Reportable Item Control Code. The cargo then is transported by ground to customer units within 24 hours.

The JACOT concept has proven to be very successful in Iraq. One benefit of having one central air cargo operations team for the Iraqi theater is that it provides a one-stop shop for cargo and passengers. The team has been able to use aircraft more efficiently and, as a result, has maximized air transport of passengers and cargo. Another benefit of the joint team is its ability to share resources, which has reduced manpower and equipment requirements for future operations.

As one JACOT member put it, “We’re one team. We’re here for one fight. We do the same thing; we help each other out. It’s a good feeling,”

Sergeant First Class Lupe G. Galvan is the Platoon Sergeant of the 403d Cargo Transfer Company at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is a graduate of the Platoon Leader Development Course, Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course, and Logistics Management Development Course.