733rd AMS on Okinawa unveils $12.7M material handling system
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — One way to keep the planes in the air is to reduce the time they spend on the ground.
And that’s what the 733rd Air Mobility Squadron’s new $12.7 million Mechanized Material Handling System is designed to do.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new system took place Tuesday afternoon with plenty of brass on hand to marvel at the three-level pallet storage facility and the two massive electric transfer towers that move the pallets around.
“I’m looking forward to driving this monster,” Air Force Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, commander of the Air Mobility Command, said with a broad grin during a brief speech before the ribbon cutting.
He said the new facility cuts the time it takes to process cargo.
“And if you increase velocity on the ground, it’s the same as adding airplanes,” he said. “By doing this, we’re really making money for our nation.”
The new system enables the 733rd AMS to more rapidly meet the needs of all services on Okinawa during peacetime, humanitarian relief, and contingency operations, according to 18th Wing public affairs officials.
The first phase of the project, from May to August 2004, consisted of constructing aircraft pallet build-up pits, lifting mechanisms and a built-in scale system.
Construction of the second phase began in November 2004 and was completed about two weeks ago. It includes two electric transfer vehicles and 14 staging docks to pre-arrange loads for rapid movement to the cargo aircraft.
Master Sgt. Mark Edwards, the noncommissioned officer in charge of aircraft services for the 733rd AMS, said the new facility easily knocks off 90 minutes from the time it takes to process cargo.
“In the past, all of our cargo had to be stored at a location out in the open, in a huge parking lot with a huge fence around it,” he said after the ceremony. “Here, we can store all of our palletized cargo indoors. I’d say we’ve eliminated a good hour and a half from the time it used to take us to unload.
“And as we become more familiar with the new system I am sure we can reduce the time even more,” he said.
Col. Jeff Worthing, commander of the 733rd Air Mobility Squadron, said the project has been long in coming.
“It represents a quantum leap in our capability,” he said. “When I came here some 20 months ago we were handling material the same way the Air Force had for decades. This system is truly an outstanding asset to our air mobility capability.”