Hawaii reservists compete in AFRC Port Dawg challenge

Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 48th APS work as a team at the fit-to-fight event at the Port Dawg Challenge, April 26.

Story and photo by Master Sgt. Theanne Hermann 624th Regional Support Group

Six Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 48th Aerial Port Squadron (APS) based out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, participated in the fourth biennial Air Force Reserve Command’s (AFRC) Port Dawg Challenge, April 25-27, at Dobbins Air Reserve Base (ARB), Georgia.

Twenty-three teams competed in the three-day competition to earn the coveted “Top Dawg” trophy, a full-size bronze sculpture of a bulldog, to put on display at their unit until the next competition.

“Winning the trophy means you are the best of the best,” said John Herring, Port Dawg Challenge exercise coordinator, Dobbins ARB. “The team who wins will have bragging rights for the next two years.”

This year, the 96th Aerial Port Squadron from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, earned the right to call themselves the best aerial port team in AFRC. The 48th APS team placed 12th out of 23 teams, placing second in the pallet buildup event and third place in the 10K forklift course.

Although the 48th APS did not take home the “Top Dawg” trophy, the experience of competing was invaluable, said Tech. Sgt. Eric Ignacio, of Honolulu.

“This is a really great competition,” said Ignacio, who has spent his entire career in aerial port operations. “It allows us to gauge ourselves against other units. It’s a competition, but it’s more of a scale of seeing where we are at and where we need to be.”

Aerial porters, known affectionately throughout the community as “Port Dawgs,” are responsible for processing passengers, preparing aircraft load plans, rigging equipment for airdrops and loading equipment onto aircrafts.

The Port Dawg Challenge evaluates each team’s ability to perform their duties in 12 events. The various events include a 10K forklift driving course, 25K Halvorsen loader driving and loading course, passenger and cargo processing, engines running off and on-load, a fit to fight course and pallet buildup.

“It’s fun to watch the various events and see how the teams handle the situations differently,” Herring said. “The policies and processes are the same but everyone throws in their own nuances and are able to take home new ideas to improve their own processes.”

Not only do these Airmen take home new ideas, they also make new friendships throughout the competition.

“We are a tight knit community with a great sense of camaraderie and family,” Ignacio said. “Anywhere you go, deployment or home station, if someone yells out Port Dawg, you will hear the response ‘Woof!”‘

There are currently 5,587 aerial port personnel in the AF Reserve, which make up 48 percent of the Air Force aerial port capability.

Brig. Gen. John A. Hickok, deputy director of logistics, engineering and force protection, AFRC headquarters, highlighted the global impact of aerial porters during the competition’s closing ceremony.

“In 2017, the Air Force Reserve is filling almost 50 percent of the area of operation requirements all around the globe,” Hickok said.

“Collectively over the past year, total force aerial porters have optimized teamwork, tactical and strategic-level insight, and exercised superior technical expertise to more than 200 locations, 390 units across seven continents,” Hickok said.

Ignacio explains there is more to being a Port Dawg than moving equipment and passengers around the globe.

“We are an intricate part of the military community,” Ignacio said. “When you have been a Port Dawg as long as I have, the more you see, the more you feel, you are a part of something bigger than yourself.”

One of the responsibilities of an aerial porter’s duty is the honor of being involved in the process of deploying service members to and from combat locations.

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Category: Sports