Who’s up for a challenge? Hawaii ‘Port Dawgs’ are …

Staff Sgts. Hui Jin Kim and Nathaniel Petraitis, members of 48th APS, remove a cargo net from a pallet during a training exercise.

Story and photos by Master Sgt. Theanne Herrmann

624th Regional Support Group Public Affairs Office

Computer-based training has its place, but how do we motivate Airmen to become the best at their craft? Stepping away from the office for hands-on training with their fellow “Port Dawg” tends to do the trick.

That is exactly what Reserve Citizen Airmen with the 48th Aerial Port Squadron are doing recently as they prepare for the Air Force Reserve Command’s 5th biennial Port Dawg Challenge.

“CBTs are a necessary part of what we do, but there’s nothing better than getting out and actually doing the job,” said Maj. Kenneth Ruggles, the APS commander. “These types of challenges motivate our Airmen, and help them improve their skills.”

Staff Sgt. Hui Jin Kim, Senior Airman Brian Garlejo, Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Petraitis, Tech. Sgt. Isaiah Laikupu and Senior Airman Kouyo Kato, calculate the proper way to balance the cargo given in a training scenario.

Air transportation specialists, also known as “Port Dawgs,” are preparing for the upcoming challenge in April at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia. Approximately 25 teams from across the country will compete in the three-day competition to earn the title of “best aerial port team” in the AFRC.

“What we’re doing is a condensed version of the Port Dawg Challenge,” said Senior Master Sgt. James Kenwolf, the unit non-commissioned officer in charge of programs. “It’s just a small taste of what to expect for our unit members who have never had the chance to compete.”

According to Kenwolf, the competition rivalry helps generate urgency and promotes a focus on accuracy and details. It also provides a chance to tout, “hey, my unit is number one,” and shows a team’s competence. It also serves as Esprit de Corps, inspiring enthusiasm for the Airmen.

Air transportation specialists are the Airmen who prepare aircraft load plans, rig equipment for airdrops, process passengers and load equipment onto aircrafts.

Master Sgt. Ricky Graham (left) and Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Petraitis, move equipment during a pallet-building training exercise.

The 48th APS plans to set aside time for each unit training assembly to focus on various skills within their career field. Recently their training included a cargo pallet build up, a sandbag carry for physical fitness, mental skills tests or center of balance test, and a quiz based on their career field.

“We’re looking to build a team and generate excitement for the competition,” said Kenwolf. “This type of training helps promote enthusiasm and motivates Airmen to become the best at what they do.”

The AFRC 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 build up.

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Patricio, (right), a member of the Air Force Reserve’s 48th APS, does a burpee exercise along with his teammates.

Training for the Port Dawg Challenge reignited Senior Airman John Bonilla’s passion for being an air transportation specialist.

“It helped me get a refresher of the things we do in our job,” said Bonilla. “I love being a ‘Port Dawg.’ I love loading planes … it’s such a great feeling when driving a K-loader up to a plane and loading the equipment, knowing I am doing my part.”

At the end of the day, competitions like the Port Dawg Challenge provide confidence and skill building necessary for developing combat-ready Airmen, who are ready to deploy worldwide anytime, anywhere.

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Category: Life & Leisure