Aerial porter's first deployment ...France

Airman 1st Class James Terronez, an aerial porter from Wichita, Kan., assigned to the 818th Contingency Response Group at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., secures a French military vehicle on a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster at Istres Air Base, France Feb. 4. The C-17's are airlifting French army supplies and equipment to Bamako, Mali, at the request of the French government. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Sarah R. Webb/RELEASED Airlifting French army supplies and equipment to Mali Airman 1st Class James Terronez, an aerial porter from Wichita, Kan., assigned to the 818th Contingency Response Group at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., secures a French military vehicle on a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster at Istres Air Base, France Feb. 4. The C-17's are airlifting French army supplies and equipment to Bamako, Mali, at the request of the French government. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Sarah R. Webb/RELEASED

Airman 1st Class James Terronez puts his training to the test for the first time in a deployed environment at Istres Air Base, France.

Terronez, originally from Wichita, Kan., is currently stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., assigned to the 818th Contingency Response Group as an aerial porter. He is deployed to France working under U.S. Africa Command, in support of the French government to move equipment and supplies from France to Mali.

Terronez joined the Air Force in November of 2011 and this deployment is his first time outside the United States. When he learned of his deployment, Terronez said he was excited to be part of something bigger, but he was surprised to be going to Europe.

"I didn't think I'd deploy to France," Terronez said. "It's been interesting to experience the job in this location, where I get to see new things and a different culture."

Working in a new environment can present challenges, especially at the beginning of a deployment, but the aerial port and stage management teams here work closely with the French to ensure mission accomplishment.

"We started off having to overcome a few issues," Terronez said. "The French weren't used to our requirements and regulations and the language barrier made things difficult. But we have been working together for a while now and have learned to communicate through hand gestures."

1st Lt. Cory Wagner, aerial port flight commander for the 818th CRG, said he is very impressed with the work of Terronez.

"A1C Terronez has really caught on quickly," Wagner said. "He's taken on duties outside of his scope of responsibility and excelled at every task."

As an aerial porter, Terronez must be knowledgeable about passenger and cargo movement functions, including transport aircraft types and capabilities. He must also know airlift transportation directives and documentation, cargo securing techniques, operation of materials handling and much more.

"We move anything that needs to be moved, whether it's for the U.S. or other militaries," said Terronez. "We also prep equipment to be transported, we inspect, measure and weigh cargo as well."

Aerial porters attend training exercises to prepare for issues that may arise while working in real-world situations. Terronez relied on lessons learned in those training opportunities to help him accomplish tasks in France.

"Training in exercises helped prepare me for what I'm doing here," he said. "In training, I usually load more pallets, but here we've loaded things like vehicles and different equipment."

As of Feb. 3, C-17 Globemasters from Istres have flown 30 missions, transported 759 tons of cargo and delivered 609 personnel to Mali at the request of the French government.