ETDC keeps Airmen safe downrange

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- As one of the busiest aerial ports in the Air Force Central Command area of responsibility, the 386th is no stranger to Airmen transiting downrange. Depending on the mission, those headed out to other locations require a variety of protective equipment to help keep them safe while operating in what is often times austere and possibly dangerous locations.

Instead of having each person carry this protective equipment with them, the Air Force relies on expeditionary theater distribution centers – more commonly referred to as ETDC – to maintain an inventory of these items and to issue them as necessary to forward-deploying Airmen. This also prevents Airmen from having to take additional bags with them as they deploy.

The 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron maintains the ETDC here and they perform a variety of these services for forward-deploying Airmen.

“For the people who are stationed here and are going to other bases in the AOR, we issue them their applicable chemical gear and body armor,” explained Master Sgt. Brian Donato, 386 ELRS ETDC section chief deployed from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. “That way if something does happen, they have the protection that they need.”

The ETDC saves forward deploying Airmen time by preassembling equipment beforehand, which gets Airmen to the fight faster.

“We’ll build vests or assemble helmets,” explained Senior Airman Antonio Jones, a 386th ELRS mobility technician deployed from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. “We’ll do inventory on gas masks to make sure all the pieces are there.”

Issuing this high of a volume of equipment can also pose one of the greatest challenges to the ETDC, depending on the amount of people who are transiting downrange. An increase in Airmen going downrange means everyone working in the ETDC has to work even more efficiently without sacrificing the attention to detail needed to make sure each person has the required amount of gear, Jones said.

When they aren’t issuing equipment, Airmen at the ETDC monitor the shelf life of items such as gas mask canisters and inspect the durability of the armored plates that go into each vest.

“We go through and check the expiration dates on a regular basis to see what’s coming due and then pull those items before they get to the customers,” explained Donato. “And if somebody returns something that’s expiring in six months, we can pull it at the same time.”

For ETDC Airmen like Donato and Jones, they regard their work as rewarding, and they know they continue to play an integral part in keeping forward-deployed Airmen safe so they can complete their mission and return home.